Pretty much all children become crazed sugar addicts. My view on this is that sugar is just a fact and it is part of a varied diet. My husband’s view is that refined sugar – cakes, biscuits, sweeties, chocolate – is completely pointless, and your diet, health, teeth, digestion – everything! – would be better without it.
I find it hard to construct an argument against this. He is right! It’s simply that I love sugar and my husband doesn’t. I just love, love, love a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive. I love a cheeky slice of cake. I love a fridge-cold Kit Kat. And my challenge is to eat sugar in moderation, which is very hard.
The world is full of sugar – cheap and intoxicating. I have had to learn how to consume it in sensible quantities, by being exposed to it and adjusting my intake. I feel the same way about Kitty.
I just love, love, love a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive. I love a cheeky slice of cake. I love a fridge-cold Kit Kat.
She probably has, daily, a couple of chocolate biscuits of one sort or another – one or two with her lunch and one after her dinner. Occasionally she has an ice-cream for pudding. When she calls for a biscuit she is usually just hungry, so I always offer toast, cheese, apple, raisins, a banana – anything! – as an alternative, which she usually takes.
So on the days when she eats fourteen Kit Kats in a row, or a piece of cake the size of her head, or an entire bag of Haribo or three Chupa Chups, it doesn’t matter.
No-one believes me when I say Kitty watched TV for six months solid, but she did.
When I was pregnant with Sam and living in a sort of twilight hell of nausea and exhaustion, my childcare of Kitty consisted of her watching television and me passing her chocolate biscuits. For six months that’s what we did. Seriously. No-one believes me when I say Kitty watched TV for six months solid, but she did.
For lunch she had pesto pasta and for dinner she had chicken nuggets and chips. We were mired in an appalling diet. As soon as Sam was born and I had my wits about me again, I worked at turning things around. I could get off the sofa, and I could make different things for Kitty’s tea without having to lie down on the kitchen floor every thirty-eight seconds.
My point is that you can always bring it back from the brink; it’s easier than it seems.
I had the strength to say no to repeated requests for chocolate. (We also cut down on the telly, though Kitty had ended up watching so much that she’s subsequently become self-regulating. She will often say ‘I’ve had enough telly now,’ switch it off and go and do something else. I don’t mean to sound smug about this – this result wasn’t achieved without letting her watch a probably damaging amount of TV, but that’s aversion therapy for you … cruel to be kind.)
My point is that you can always bring it back from the brink; it’s easier than it seems. You can get trapped in a white-carb-and-telly tailspin, no matter how bloody posh and cultured you think you are, but if you want to, you can claw your way out, one day at a time.
The trick to turning a bad diet around is to cut down on the junk slowly and replace it with something else. Rather than saying ‘No, you can’t have a biscuit,’ say ‘I haven’t got any biscuits, but I’ve got a raisins/rice crackers.’ It helps if you get rid of all the junk in your house. It makes it easier not to cave in.
And if you don’t want to, if you’re not bothered that your kids watch telly all the time and eat nothing but chips, then fuck it.
They’re your kids. They’ll probably end up Prime Minister.
This extract is taken from Esther Walker’s new book Bad Mother. We’re going to be serialising it over the next few weeks but if you can’t wait for the next instalment, buy and download the whole book here.