Cracking the Cane

March 29, 2017

Once we are on our spiritual path, it seems there is the never ending journey of shedding what no longer serves, moving through blockages, changing aspects of ourselves which are holding us back, welcoming in the new.

One aspect which I have been grappling with for many years, decades in fact, is my diet. It’s often the first thing we start to work on in our personal development, and for me it has been one of the hardest to change. What I eat is a real barometer for how I am coping with life.

Over recent years I have been working on adopting a diet more in line with our ancient ancestors, before agriculture. It’s known as the paleo diet, and its basic premise is no or low grains, legumes and sugar, as our hunter-gather friends didn’t have a great deal of access to these foods.

I have found that, with some organisation and discipline, I could manage a low grain diet, but I really struggled to cut out the sugar. At best all I could manage was to replace it with natural sweeteners, and that meant getting through a lot of honey!


A few years ago I watched a film called ‘That Sugar Film’. It is a Michael Moore style documentary produced by an Australian chap, and his point is that we are addicted to sugar, and these so called low fat ‘diet’ foods are actually bad for us.

Since then it was in my awareness that sugar had a hold on me, but I couldn’t find it in myself to give it up, and so I just ate a bit more honey instead and pushed it to the back of my mind.

That was until January this year when something happened that completely changed my perspective.

I had a health scare.

I found a lump and was referred for tests for cancer. It was a routine procedure, but for a week or so I suddenly had the possibility of a potential end date in my life.

For the first two days, as the news sunk in, I looked into ways that, if I were diagnosed with cancer, I could self heal. One of these ways is to give up sugar, as it’s the sugar that the cancer cells feed off. As I mulled this over a voice inside me said ‘I don’t want to give up sugar, I won’t do it’.

Bang. There it was. That was the voice of the addiction. What I was saying was I would rather die than give it up.

I was astounded at how powerful the addiction was, and what a hold it had on me. So I decided there and then, in those few days, that I would give it up forever.

Now I understand that it takes 21 days to kick a habit, and for the body to reset itself and start to burn fat as the primary energy source. So with my sights set on the end of January, also my 40th birthday, I started my mission.

What an exhausting month that was. In fact I pretty much wrote off the rest of the month. I slept a lot, lay on the sofa a lot, and stopped doing very much at all. My body was wired to grab an easy source of energy to keep on going, and so once I stopped giving it that energy form, I lost my oomph. It carried on a few weeks more, and then rebooted.

So how do I feel now?

The biggest thing is the feeling that something no longer has a hold over me. It is a sense of freedom I just didn’t expect to get, as I didn’t realise I was held down so much by something seemingly so innocent.

My energy levels are consistent and I don’t get the peaks and troughs that I would experience before.

And I don’t get so hungry, so I eat less. Before, when I felt hungry, I would get a real craving, like an urgency that I had to eat something quickly, a panic in fact. Now that just isn’t there.

As a bonus, and a big bonus, I have lost weight – over a stone in fact.

What to consider

So my advice if this has resonated with you at all, would be:

  1. Take time out, and lower your expectations as to what you are going to achieve in your usual day-to-day activities during the initial weeks. I don’t say this lightly, as most people have an employer who expects a certain and consistent level of performance from their employees. But I don’t know how I would have managed to do this when I worked for the corporations years ago. I expect I would have had to take a holiday.
  2. Do some research first. Learn about what is happening to your body as you switch from sugar burning to fat burning. Having this awareness really helps during the process as your body changes and responds
  3. Understand what foods you need to give up. It’s not just refined sugar. It’s natural sugars, and also foods which turn quickly to sugar, including grains and legumes. These all need to go. After our body has reset itself, you can have them back into your diet from time to time.
  4. Prioritise your time. With any revised eating regime, I have found it’s all about making time to be in the kitchen. Without this, the temptation to reach for convenience foods is too great. So I set up speakers in the kitchen to listen to podcasts and music, and assigned myself to spending a good hour on food preparation most days of the week.
  5. The age-old advice of finding new recipes which will keep you interested and engaged, and resist the sugar grabbing temptations.
  6. Remember that sugar is said to be the third most addictive substance in the world, so this is likely not to be easy. As with most things which are a challenge, it’s a road to self discovery.


Recommended reading

A great author to follow is Mark Sissons. He has a few books to read, and recipe books too, as well as a regular blog. His 21 day total body transformation is a good start, although I wouldn’t have been able to manage the exercise part of his programme. Focusing on my diet was enough.

So, looking back on this year so far in some ways I don’t feel like I have achieved much. My to do list largely got put to one side, and it seems like I have been really unproductive. But actually I have ticked off a real biggie. If I do nothing else in 2017 I will have made a huge achievement.

It feels really good to have kicked a life-long addiction which was holding me down, and I never even planned it. That health scare turned out to be a real blessing in disguise – a wake up call from the Universe. Maybe, just maybe my next 40 years will be sugar free.

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in Anglezarke on the edge of the West Pennine Moors in Lancashire, England.
Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. This is a great article, 33 years ago my beautiful daughter was born so I looked into diet to make sure she grew up healthy. At this time I had 6 sugars in my cups of tea, so i stopped having sugar immediately me and my daughters mum kept sugar out of our diets as much as possible.
    Looked into sugar and it really is poison and not good for us, however I do like chocolate and cake but don’t have a lot.
    Must have been a jolt with the health scare Nicola, glad you were ok and the removal of sugar is wise. Also the rubbish about fat free and unsaturated fats, margarine, and really gimmicky low fats, are one ingredient less than flip flop foam or plastic.

    Congratulations on conquering the addiction of sugar…

    1. Hi Pete, Thank you for the congrats 🙂 I didn’t know that the low fat things are one ingratiate away from flip flop foam!! Goodness me. Although I can’t say I am surprised… I love chocolate – but that is another story/ blog about that little battle!

  2. Thanks for the article Nicola. I guess the positive from your health scare is beating your addiction to sugar. This subject is really close to my heart because I reduced sugar last July and I’ve lost over 6 stone. After 30 years of miserably struggling with my weight and trying every crazy diet available I feel free and happy. I wish I’d known how destructive and addictive sugar can be. It isn’t easy to go against society as sugar is everywhere and eating cakes etc. is marketed as self care and being social. Hopefully your story will make others think. Thank you.

    1. Goodness Suzanne, what a story you have! That is an amazing achievement, 6 stone, and that being sugar free has brought you freedom and happiness. Just wonderful to hear 🙂

  3. That is a very good read, and what a lesson it is, as veggi/vegan I am still alarmed when I read about stuff like this. I actually gave up caffeine 5 or so months ago and feel very good without it, I have substituted my sugar with “coconut sugar” and only use it on cereal, yet I still must be consuming hidden sugar in my diet. The diet you mentioned sounds really interesting.
    May I suggest a meme for future generations “no sugar, natural energy”
    may work who knows!?

  4. Inspiring read dear Nicola, I am on that journey too – over the years I have kicked the fags, given up alcohol (I am a recovering alcoholic) and finally realised last year the sugar had to go, this has been a biggie, as I heal emotionally and spiritually I trust it will get easier, but it is a battle. I joined a programme to quit sugar last year which helped a lot.

    You look amazing by the way and I bet you feel amazing too – like the title of your blog would call it Co-Cane! lol

    1. Really interesting to hear this Carole, and all that you have overcome. Really inspiring. Yes, I do feel amazing … now… its taken a few months for all the sugar to leave my system it seems, and get my energy fully back. Worth it though!

  5. Amazingly well done Nicola! So proud of you!!
    Chris Cassidy I am wondering what you are substituting grains and kegumes with in a vegan diet? I cook a lot of vegan dishes but am a really fussy eater! I realise that Nicola’s Paleo diet would include meat,which is obviously a no go so i would really struggle to lose lentils, wild rice ( although a seed) and quinoa etc. Inspiration needed please 🙂

    1. I eat quinoa and lentils, I do enjoy cooking tofu -big fan- and all things soya and am a lover of fresh veg, …but as said there are 12 free range rare breed hens on my wife’s aunts farm.. close by and the eggs are very good. So I am not a vegan although love to cook vegan grub, but I wont wear leather etc..

      1. Sounds like you have your choices really well thought out Chris – thank you for sharing 🙂
        Yes nothing quite matches a local free range egg 🙂

  6. Thank you Lisa 🙂
    If you are vegan then I don’t believe its possible to do the paleo diet, as you need to get your energy from lentils, rice etc as you are doing…

  7. Well, you certainly looked sensational on Thursday night X. I am starting with awareness and moderation. And the wonder that is the darkest chocolate I can get my mitts on 😀 Tis enuf for now me thinks … 🙂 X

  8. Oh thank you for saying, bless you 🙂
    Well dark chocolate ain’t so bad you know. Its the stuff which is full with sugar that is not so good. I was never any good at eating chocolate in moderation! x

  9. Hi Nicola, inspirational story, I gave up sugar years ago but biscuits are my let down and chocolate, though I have reduced my intake and like yourself follow the Paleo diet or should I say way of eating and have lost weight, in fact I went to my local surgery for my stroke check and they were very happy that I had lost weight.

    1. Hi Ron, well done on loosing weight and getting the thumbs up from the Doctor. Biscuits and chocolate were my fall down many years back – I had adversion therapy for them so have been biscuit and chocolate free for about 8 years. They are just so yummy aren’t they!

  10. This blog has been so informative, I just love reading them. I started this morning with
    Finding time for a Spiritual Practice and have just continued to follow your threads with sugar.
    Probably lockdown cabin fever, at the moment feel so de-motivated, anyway, from my armchair I decided that I will enjoy doing what I do love to do and that is read,
    I have felt really inspired by your blogs I have read. I do have auto immune arthritis, so sugar should be off my diet and although I think I don't eat loads of sugar, have actually realised that I do!!
    So, I have just downloaded Mark Sissons book onto my kindle and will continue to research. This is so interesting, and vital to our well being and longevity.
    Thank you so much for your inspiration, wonderful informative blogs. A journey first to consult with my guides and get myself back on track. Love Bethan X

    1. Hello Bethan, what a message to receive. I am so delighted you have enjoyed this blog and our others too. The sugar thing is interesting isn’t it? When II looked into it I was amazed at how much I ate – its hidden in so many things. The Case Against Sugar is another excellent book by Gary Taubes. After I read that I felt that coming off sugar was a revolutionary act! Now I eat very little – I have brought it back into my diet, well honey, but I don’t eat much at all as its too sweet for me now.So pleased we crossed paths 🙂 x

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