Today i’ve staggered into new territory. Last night was the first leg day at the gym for months, so I am actually staggering about, especially in the vicinity of stairs, but I digress. Not that I’m counting, but I’ve been off sugar for 523 hours now. I’ve never gone this long before without having any cake, chocolate, pastry, ice cream, or added sugar of any description. I’m pretty pleased.
However, when I was on holiday last week in Lanzarote, I had a few cocktails (Pina Coladas and a couple of Mojitos to be precise) and a couple of glasses of vino, albeit a considerable amount less than during my last visit to the island in May 2016. So to be precise I guess I have had some sugar as there would have been sugar syrup in the Mojito and pineapple juice in the Colada (and let’s face it, fruit juice is essentially just sugar). For me though, I can take or leave booze and I don’t have a mental battle as to whether I ought to drink or not. I can totally manage without it, so for me alcohol isn’t a concern. Yeah that’s probably semantics but I’m tackling what troubles me the most, and doing what works best. So for me, not eating anything sweet is ultimately my goal. To that end I’m counting 21 days clear.
When I decided to try to quit sugar for good (the day after nailing an entire tub of Haagen Dazs Pralines & Cream, truth be told), I found a free app called Quit That! to record my daily struggle. You can list as many things as you like, and it will give a countdown for each, but I’ve just got one, sugar. You can also estimate a cost, so I stuck down £2 a day, as if I were to nip to the local garage in the evening for a snack, I’d likely get a couple of bars of chocolate which costs about £2. Of course this doesn’t include any cakes I may have bought from the work canteen that day, so the likely cost is greater, but I didn’t want to over egg it.
I would say it’s been fairly easy, certainly easier than expected. I have to be honest though and say that I’ve been pretty carb heavy this week, so realistically I need to nip that in the bud as I’m just replacing one issue with another. So that’s the plan going forward.
One unexpected result of this endeavour is the sense of freedom not eating sugar gives me. Being able to just say to myself ‘I don’t eat sugar, end of’ means I don’t need to wrestle with myself in a shop. The endless arguments in my head have stopped, about whether to just have ‘one last hit’ or not. I’ve realised that a lot of my cravings are related to timings or boredom. So for example I left work today and the first thought that popped into my head was “it’s the weekend so I can pig out,” but then I checked myself. When I went into the local supermarket the other day to buy some cream, I was walking past the chocolate (it’s in the same aisle, randomly) and the boxes of cakes and I felt a real sense of loss. Can I really never eat this again? What, never? 😥 It sounds insane and I know some people reading this might think I’m being utterly unrealistic & completely stupid, but let me tell you how I view this.
Consider alcohol if you will, and the consumption thereof in the UK. Alcohol is a social lubricant, it’s a stress reliever, a considered treat, and something that we know isn’t really good for us, but the majority of the population are not alcoholics, so that’s okay. Alcohol tastes amazing, it brings people together and is the perfect toast to a celebration. Of course it has its downsides, namely raging hangovers, nights best forgotten on occasion and at worst can lead to violence and destruction. But you know, we can all laugh about getting totally bolloxed and tales of big nights out become legendary within a circle of friends. It’s completely socially acceptable though. Despite the fact alcohol can and does destroy the lives of some people, it’s the most acceptable drug out there.
Consider this: a friend comes to you and says that casual drinks every few weeks turned into a weekly thing, then a daily event, and despite the fact they know the health risks, they literally cannot go through a day without having a relaxing drink at night. Every time they think of cracking open another bottle they tell themselves that they really shouldn’t, but it’s such a nice wine, smooth and velvety, the most beautiful colour and the feel of just swirling it around the glass is so enticing. All day they’ve been looking forward to that first sip, the anticipation makes them salivate. They promised themselves last night that they wouldn’t have a glass tonight, but argg it was a stressful day, and they’re bored and have nothing else to do, so why not? They went to the shop and bought ingredients for a meal that they didn’t actually need, but it meant that when they chucked the wine in the basket it looked as though this was to complement the meal, and people wouldn’t assume they’d go home, drink all the booze and ignore the food. The upshot is they’re drinking every day, especially at weekends when they can completely go for it, and they know that the thought of not drinking for even a day makes them feel uneasy.
What would you say to them? Would you think nothing of it and posit that alcohol is just a part of life, and that c’mon, they would be crazy to stop drinking because everyone does it, or would you think their behaviour was a bit concerning? Would you try to force them to have a drink, just a little glass, teasing them for being resistant? I mean what are they going to do when it’s their birthday, or if they’re at a wedding or a special event? They can’t not drink, that’s ridiculous!! Would that be your response? I’d hope you’d acknowledge that for them it’s a problem, it’s something that they’ve lost control of, and that you’d support them. To me, this is what sugar does to me, I cannot control my consumption of it in any shape or form. I’ve been shopping and bought healthy food as well as chocolate to pretend I’m eating good food and the chocolate is a treat then just eaten the crap and left the rest. Other than the last 3 weeks I can’t remember a time in recent years when I’ve not had a biscuit, cake, pastry or chocolate bar during the day. The constant mental battle that comes with it is fucking exhausting.
I’m lucky enough to be able to control my booze consumption, or give it up for extended periods, and I don’t know what it’s like to be addicted to alcohol, but fuck me if my sugar habit isn’t an addiction. Medically it might not be – many people including doctors / scientists argue there is no such thing, and whether that’s true or not I have no idea – but it feels as bad to me. Nothing has ever had such a hold over me. I’ve been a secret eater since I was young, for as long as I can remember. Maybe 6 or 7? Possibly earlier. I’ve even snorted icing sugar, just to see what it was like! Seriously that’s not normal behaviour. If I had a bag of sugar in the house I’d eat spoonfuls of it no problem, hence why I don’t keep it in the house. I used to make up icing and just eat it. I’m partly writing all this down to a) remind myself what a problem this is for me, when my brain starts telling me the cravings are not too bad, so I can have a little and keep control of it (I can’t, been there, failed at that (repeatedly), and b) so other people can understand, or at least understand why it’s an issue for me.
So 21 days in to a plan with no end date. That scares the hell out of me in one respect, but it’s also a bit of a relief in another. I’m just taking it one day at a time.
Time for a cuppa I think, but just one thing left to say…