Latest in Diet

Falling Off The Wagon

So much for giving up alcohol, caffeine and sugar.

In my defence, the run up to Christmas was never going to be the best time for such substantial lifestyle changes. After all, what is Christmas all about. Surely it’s about overeating, massive commercial consumption and excessive alcohol. Ok, it really shouldn’t be, but it kind of is.

Sugar has really been my downfall over the past couple of weeks. It started with the almond paste. It is a bit of a tradition in my house that every year I make two Christmas cakes – one for us and one to be shared between the grandparents. I make the cakes way back in October. I do this with good reason. Fruit cakes taste much better with a bit of time to ‘mature’. Also, I ‘feed’ the cakes with a bit of brandy ever week and the earlier they are made, the better fed they are by the time they get iced.

So, the cakes were already baked when I decided to quit sugar. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do about this since Mr Mummysgoneacycle doesn’t like Christmas cake (or mince pies, or marzipan – he’s weird). Still, they were going to have to be covered with almond paste and royal icing regardless of their final destination. So, in the middle of December I set about making the almond paste for the cakes.

By this point I had settled fairly well into life without sugar. I actually wasn’t missing it so much. I had developed new eating habits and was starting to get the hang of regulating my food intake by appetite rather than by myfitnesspal. People kept asking me if I felt better for it and to be honest, I wasn’t all that sure how to answer. I felt that my appetite was far better controlled. I was eating less but feeling less hungry. I felt very virtuous but I can’t say had noticed feeling all that different. This was a slight let down after reading all about the new found health and mental clarity I was going to find in my post-fructose reality.

There is another tradition in my house which goes hand-in-hand with the baking two Christmas cakes. Every year I ‘accidentally’ make far too much almond paste for the cakes. I am talking enough almond paste to cover at least three cakes. Every year I spend a couple of days browsing recipes for almond paste containing seasonal recipes like stollen and frangipane mince pies. Every year I fail to make any such things. Because every year, I just eat the leftover almond paste. In doing this I am ably assisted by my three year old and five year old.

Because, here’s the thing.

I absolutely love almond paste.

And when else do you have the excuse to make a massive lump of it?

So this year I gave it some serious consideration and decided that I was not going to abstain from all sugar while there was almond paste to be considered. I had read that the occasional ‘slip’ from fructose free was not a bad thing in that it reminds you why you have given it up.

So, over two days, almond paste was consumed. Really quite a lot of almond paste.

And then it was back to fructose free.

At least that was the plan.

The reality was slightly different.

It turns out that the almond paste was something of a ‘slippery slope’. Next it was a

mince pie. Just the one obviously. Or maybe two. Actually just a steady stream of them. Then there was the chocolate advent calendar which my mum had bought for me before I announced I was quitting sugar, and which had been left in the wardrobe. Then the Christmas chocolates. Just a few. Well, quite a few. Then the finished Christmas cake. And the Christmas trifle. And, and, and….

I have still stayed largely off the caffeine. I have had maybe five cups of coffee in the past three months and never more than one a day. Most of those five have been in the past two weeks though.

As for the alcohol. I had not totally given up my beloved red wine although I had cut back to one glass a night on the weekend. Ok, so it might have been a little more than one glass a night and a little more than just at the weekend over the festive period.

Maybe this is simply me justifying my falling off the various wagons, but I think it has actually been a helpful experience. Going back to eating sugar and drinking alcohol and caffeine has actually made me more determined to minimise or remove these things from my diet.

See, I didn’t really feel all the incredible benefits that I was expecting to experience when I gave up these things. But I have definitely felt the impact of putting them back in my diet.

For example, on 13th December my husband went out for a couple of drinks with a pal and this remarkably coincided with both children going straight to sleep at their bedtime. I effectively had the house to myself. Cue a film which my husband would hate (I can’t even remember what it was, suffice to say it can be happily labelled as a ‘chick flick’) and lounging on the entire sofa. The only thing which was missing was chocolate. But then again, there was that chocolate advent calendar hidden away unopened…. So I ate chocolates one to thirteen (well, I wouldn’t cheat and go past 13 would I?!).

I can honestly say that I don’t think I have experienced a manic high like the one which followed in as long as I can remember. I think it must have been a combination of the sugar and the caffeine in chocolate. I was wide awake until 3:30am. When I say wide awake, I mean absolutely hyper, manic, and a little bit mental. I went to bed at a reasonably sensible time but thoughts were flying around my head at a tremendous speed. I seriously could not even keep my eyes closed. So I got up again and did about a billion things at once, until 3:30am. It was incredible.

It was a little less incredible at 6:30am when the cry of “sun’s up, it’s morning time!” rang out from my daughter’s bedroom (Ellen is possibly the more reliable alarm clock, ever).

Here are some of the other effects I have been feeling as I toppled headlong off my various wagons:

  • I have not stopped eating. There is seriously no point at which I am not thinking about food and what I can eat next. Sometimes it’s actual hunger, other times it is just for the pleasure of eating.
  • My moods are a little more wild. I have found it harder and harder to stay calm as the children’s general mania over the festive period has risen.
  • I feel generally just a bit sluggish a lot of the time.
  • As my sugar consumption has risen, my vegetable and wholefood consumption has decreased.
  • That furry teeth feeling after eating sugar – I had forgotten just how unpleasant that was.
  • A general sense of unfocused vagueness has settled over me (this could just be the general ‘no idea what day of the week it is’ feeling of the Christmas period).
  • I feel pretty fat. I actually have no idea how much weight I have managed to put on in a couple of weeks. But regardless of the reality, I feel fat.
  • The longer I have been consuming sugar, alcohol and caffeine for, the harder it has been to complete my turbo sessions

So, a new year has now begun and it is time for some new years resolutions. I am still having a think about sporting resolutions but I am very clear on my diet resolutions for 2018:

  • No caffeine at all.
  • No sugar (fructose) at all.
  • No more than two glasses of wine per week.

So far, so good (I know, it’s only 2nd January). I have successfully resisted all the sweet Christmas leftovers for almost two days now. Not drinking alcohol is not really a problem until the weekend when I just fancy a glass or two. And the desire for caffeine wanes as I stop drinking a glass or two (or three) of wine a night. I have been to the shops and stocked up on avocados, eggs, spinach, macadamia nuts and greek yoghurt. I am overjoyed to find that we still have a fridge full of cheese leftover (some treats are still fair game).

I have to say, I am not looking forward to the sugar withdrawal again. I remember what it was like last time and I remember that it took weeks. I also really need the children to finish the Christmas cake for me – there is still half of it left and it really is the hardest thing to resist!