My affair with agave made sugar no less sweet

My affair with agave made sugar no less sweet

My affair with agave made sugar no less sweet

I’ve recently realised just how much I’ve allowed myself to be duped by the promise of so-called ‘health’ foods.

I’d addressed long-standing cravings for wheat, sugar and dairy, consigning them to the bin of former misfortune, knowing full well they were the go-to foods whenever I needed to munch instead of facing the truth of what I was trying to avoid, whatever it happened to be that day.

The end result would be an inevitable disaster for my body to deal with – from discomfort and bloating, through arthritic pain, blood sugar dives and drowsiness, to clicking joints. Not nice. So I’d stopped. Cold turkey.

I’d ditched the sugar, the syrup, the honey and all high-glycaemic indexed fruit. I’d added to that all gluten, wheat and dairy products and really thought I was on top of my game. All my symptoms had vanished, natural weight resumed, vitality increased, sleep improved, digestive system tickety-boo.

However, I began to realise that why I was eating food hadn’t changed at all.

I’d merely substituted my old familiar food friends for a new set. Like moving towns and making a whole new life for yourself only to realise you dragged your old self with you and nothing’s changed; you’re colluding with the same demons, they bring up the same stuff in you – just the people, names and places look a bit different.

So what happened?

Within a short space of time I’d unconsciously identified a handful of what were considered ‘healthy alternatives’ as my comfort foods. A friend introduced me to a sugar-free, dried fruit bar with a few nuts thrown in – all natural, full of nutritional integrity supposedly, but immensely rich and dense. Great for a busy girl on the run, but every time I ate one I could feel a burning sensation in my stomach and my pulse would race soon after.

Nevertheless it served a purpose as my new pick-me-up and numb-me-down, even though my body was telling me the combo was too strong for my system.

My pièce de résistance was a totally fabricated form of non-dairy ice-cream. Pure surrogation, containing nothing but cashew and agave. I’d been told by people I felt should know about these things that agave was ‘good’ – sugar being ‘bad’ of course – and that it was a form of fructose not sucrose, so that of course made it OK.

It also had one of those marketing stories accompanying it about the Aztecs, food from the gods, that sort of thing; further enhancing the credibility of the purchase presumably.

But it was a route for a familiar craving for me and I quickly switched to ‘using’ this simulated dairy tub whenever I felt a bit low, anxious or lacking self-worth.

I came to realise that I hadn’t really dealt with the issues behind the cravings at all. I had merely transferred my affections to so-called ‘health food’ alternatives, and the way in which I was eating them was the same.

My problem, not the food manufacturers', for manufacturers will always cannily identify where they can leverage and manipulate our preferences, here by reshaping and reworking so-called health foods to their balance sheet advantage.

But frankly, sugar is sweet, by any other name.

Agave makes my body racy just like glucose, just as drowsy and lethargic. It still dulls my senses, my brightness, my alertness and my essence. In my book, that means it’s not good for me. Anything that sets me a-craving another spoonful can’t be good for me. A moment on the lips, an hour or two of dips. So it was easy to cut my affair with agave.

I now know that only I can truly discern what is right for me to eat and to do that by listening to my body, to how it feels and responds around different foodstuffs. Not by being influenced by friends, marketeers or health practitioners. Not being taken in by the latest food fads and fashions. I am my very own chemical laboratory, my own unique research project and my findings are always that my body knows best.

I still get cravings from time to time, but now with nothing to ‘use’ to respond with, I’m becoming more discerning about how I feel when I get an urge to eat something. I am beginning to take a moment of reflection when I notice I’m motivated to distract or dull myself, reward or console myself with food.

I don’t get it right every time, but by making this stop, I give myself that moment to understand what’s really happening and why. It’s a much healthier, supportive process all round.

I’m not perfect, and I still seek out something comforting on occasion, but I have a renewed commitment to taking full responsibility for my relationship with food, one that makes me captain of my own ship rather than putting my trust in captains of the food industry.

  • By Cathy Hackett

  • Photography: Susannah Williams