HOLMSEY: Giving up my addictions

I have a sweet tooth – as a consequence, for much of my life I’ve been fat. Addiction of any kind isn’t good for you, and I used to enjoy two spoonfuls of sugar in tea. Naturally, I also favoured sugary breakfast cereals, ideally Frosties or Coco-pops – if not, those, hot buttered toast with great dollops of Oxford English or Roses lime marmalade.

Some weeks I’d buy several bags of wine gums, liquorice allsorts, caramels or Jameson’s ruffles – those dark chocolate coated pink coconut things. There’s an old-fashioned sweet shop near the top of Union Street, and the one in Lymington High Street is another marvellous step back in time. On the worst days, I’d by a pound or more, that’s four 4-ounce bags, and scoff the lot immediately. As they weighed them out, I’d try and pretend they were for someone else. I’d pass afternoons in a sugar induced stupor. Naturally I kept my shameful weakness secret, throwing away the empty bags and wrappers as quickly as possible.

Unsurprisingly, my lovely dentist, Martin, earned thousands filling or replacing my rotten teeth.

The cause of my sweet tooth was probably stress or unhappiness, but I’m naturally greedy, believing you can never have enough of a good thing. As is often the way, being overweight made me unhappy, but shifting the pounds is far harder than putting them on.

Recently, I’ve been successfully controlling the sweet tooth, and skipping the odd meal. I’m also exercising. Like all addictions, you have to really want to stop before you can. No amount of peer pressure can make you quit; it must be your decision. Over 30 years ago I stopped smoking, but my divorce from Tate & Lyle seems far tougher.

While in this self-improvement mindset, I’ve also concluded social media is just as unhealthy. It’s also a colossal waste of time.

Those of us who spend hours logged on, achieve absolutely nothing by doing so. I used to think I was just keeping in touch with family and friends. Now I think it’s antisocial and isolating, a way of feeling connected when you’re really not.

As well as scrolling, shamelessly, I posted images of my finest moments on-line, until I realised that was no different to boasting in person, which isn’t the done thing. “Here’s me with a celebrity; here’s me inside Buckingham Palace.” Yes, it may have been true, but who was I hoping to impress with my apparently exciting life? When you’re doing something extraordinary, are you focussed on it, or recording the event for Instagram?

I certainly never fished for sympathy. “OMG, you’ll never guess what just happened,” as some attention seekers do. (“PM me babe,” being the required response.)

These days all of us complain that we haven’t got enough time, but if we’re only spending the reported average two hours a day on this rubbish; that’s hardly surprising is it. Just imagine what you could do with all those extra hours – if you managed to quit the socials!

I’m increasingly concerned about privacy too; I know those awful algorithms work non-stop to keep me engaged. To Meta, I’m just one of billions of highly profitable consumers willing to be endlessly exploited for dollars. They blitz us all with ads; anything you even fleetingly think about results in hundreds filling your screen. Now even things I’m not thinking about are appearing! Are they reading my mind or just listening-in like our phones and Alexa do? These days everyone expects you to be on the socials; your employer is bound to be there. So you become a part of the company’s 24/7 marketing strategy, even at home or on holiday.

Social media is as addictive as sugar, so I’ve resolved to part ways with both – gradually of course.