Seasons of Joy: When you just want to give yourself a kick up the backside….

I’ve not been around blogland at all for the past few weeks to post any sugary updates, due to my older ones sitting some of their IGCSEs.  So here is a mammoth one 🙂

After I had been sugar free for six weeks I felt that I was not addicted any more.  In fact, I had questioned whether I ever had been, it had been so easy.  I have to admit to one week (y’know, that time of the month) where I had spent two days plotting my return to sugar land!  I kept writing my older children shopping lists which read: Mars Bar, Mars Bar, Mars Bar….well, you get the picture.  I stopped once my youngest twin told me in no uncertain terms that she would not be buying me chocolate and would not allow anyone else to so I was to GIVE UP asking!  That craving passed in a few days though, but I was surprised by how strong it had been.  Hormones make a difference, y’all!

Six weeks in, and I began to think about an entire life without sugar.  I am so all or nothing by nature, that moderation never occurs to me 🙂  I knew I did not want to go back to a place of no control, but the idea of no sugar permanently made me feel a bit sad.  I wanted to eat cake at birthdays and an Easter egg at Easter…oh and Christmas cake at Christmas (and I don’t even like Christmas cake!).  Basically I wanted to enjoy the benefits, without the downfalls.

Gary has one cider on a Saturday evening, and unless we go out for the night or it is a celebration, that is all he has.  I wondered if I could do the same.  I knew, from having given up coffee a few years ago for financial reasons, that once the habit had been broken it could stay broken with a bit of self control.  When I began drinking coffee again, it was lovely, but I only ever drink two cups a day, and rarely after 10 in the morning.  I had managed that allusive moderation.  Two cups of fresh coffee is perfectly reasonable, and as it has now been a habit for the past three years, I can honestly say two cups is something I can live with for the rest of my life.  It is so ingrained now.

Giving up sugar has done none of the things I thought it would, except teach me that I do have at least a modicum of self-control.  The weight remains stuck on those thighs, my skin is no clearer, and I honestly don’t feel any more energetic.  I have also had none of the bad stuff associated with withdrawals either – no headaches, fuzziness, no cravings I can’t control, no moodiness…. For me, I think the thing which I have learnt through all of this is that I can, with God’s help, control myself.

I think one of the things which made it easier was that I had a definite rule.  No sugar or sweeteners.  Period.  I didn’t need to have a conversation with myself – should I, shouldn’t I?  It was always no.  And I know myself well enough to know that I could not go back to saying no sometimes and yes at other times.  That said, I did begin to entertain the thought of maybe allowing myself to eat chocolate once a week on a Saturday.  So it would be an absolute no at other times but a yes to sugar on a Saturday.

That first Saturday…well, you’d have thought I was planning party of the year!  The plotting and planning I went to to have the most perfect chocolate experience of my life….  I hadn’t touched anything sweet for 7 weeks by this point, and was very much looking forward to the chocolate hit to come.  I decided to buy Gary and I a box of Lindor chocolates.  I kept them until that evening with Gary (and his cider), opened them with my tongue practically hanging out….  I ate three, one after the other….oh my, heaven was surely to come….except it really didn’t…I ate another one…and then another…only nothing.  I was disappointed.  Chocolate didn’t taste good anymore.  And there was no hit at all.  In fact I was beginning to feel a bit sick.  I gave the rest of the chocolates to my teens, who readily enjoyed them.

Mum had warned me that now I had tasted the chocolate I would probably start to want it more in the coming week, and because I had now given in I would be more likely to again.  She was right.  The next day I had a craving for it far stronger than anytime before.  But because she had prepared me for it, I managed to resist.  And did so for the whole of week 8.  Any time I fancied something sweet, I thought of Saturday, planning yet again a wonder-filled sugar-laden day.

The second Saturday came, and I began it with a Pain au Raisin for breakfast, and my son had bought me a Belgium bun which I had in the afternoon.  By tea time I had a thumping head ache, which I put down to having worked so hard on IGCSEs the week before.  I managed to eat the lasagna with mum and the rest of the family, but took myself to bed shortly after, this time Toblerone in hand.  I had a few pieces, whilst relaxing to a film.  The head ache got worse.  Once again I gave the remaining chocolate to my children.  And it suddenly came to me, that I had in deed had a side effect to not eating sugar and that was I didn’t get headaches anymore.  Before giving up sugar, I would have suffered a lot of headaches, but over the past eight weeks I hadn’t had any.  Sugar gave me head aches, and I hadn’t even known!  So you’d think that would be enough for me to reverse my previous choices for Saturday delectations….ummm, that would be a no.

During the ninth week, I again managed to stay away from sugar completely, apart from one Diet Coke when the temperature shot up.  (And can I just say as an aside, that the Diet Coke was every bit as good as I had imagined it would be!)  But within an hour or so I had a really horrible head ache.  So, it wasn’t just sugar, it was also sweetener.

That Saturday, whilst Gary and the older ones were at the Big Church Day Out, I was stuck at home with a daughter with very itchy chicken pox.  I say stuck because I had planned all sorts of wonderful activities for the two youngest (outside the house), and we couldn’t even go to the local park!  So I planned a day at home with as many home based activities that I could think up, most of which had their origin in food of the sugary persuasion (I don’t learn, do I?)  But it was Saturday and I was ‘allowed’…so I did…with alacrity!  And you know what?  The little ones and I had a marvelous day together.  That night the Ibuprofen came out to put my thumping head to bed.

The following week the cravings were unbearable, and over the next three weeks I ate numerous Toblerones that I neither wanted nor needed.  I had failed.  Again.

But I had learnt two things from failing.  The first was obvious.  Some how I needed to have an absolute ‘no’ attitude to sugar.  Eating some was never going to work for me.  I am all or nothing, and in this case it had to be nothing.  The second was that I stress eat sugar.  Stress is my trigger.  Over the past few weeks I have worked such long hours that even Gary asked me to reduce them a bit.  Marking the numerous past exam papers the older ones had been doing meant I was often working past midnight.  The knock on effect was too little sleep and in fact for about ten days I stopped sleeping all together.  I was exhausted.  And sugar became my friend.  I ate to give me the energy to mark one more paper, to teach one more lesson, to go through the syllabus with one more child.  I swear I never worked this hard on my own GCSEs!  Having learnt these two things I realise there are one or two changes I need to make in my lifestyle which may help me to be successful next time (because there is going to be a next time – I am not giving up giving up).  I have already mentioned one of them.  No must be no.  Always.  No exceptions.  And the other is to manage my stress levels a bit better.  Gary and I have both been working silly hours just recently, and so we have been throwing about ideas for both of us to work smarter rather than longer.  We will both be looking for ways we can reduce our work load.  In particular, I will be thinking up ways to reduce the GCSE stress, because whilst this year I had three children taking three IGCSEs, next year I will have two children taking six GCSEs .  The thought of it makes me shudder.

As I write this I am struck by how negative it all is, and yet a lot of good has come out of the past ten weeks.  I have discovered foods and recipes which are definite keepers in our house.  I have entered the world of raw, unpasturised and unfiltered honey (which is glorious by the way), and the world of seeds, nuts and superfoods.  And I have been teaching myself more about the nutritional needs of a menopausal woman.  All this to say, there has been an large number of positive things I have learnt, and applied to our lives.  All is not lost, I am down but I most certainly am not out.  I will conquer this, no matter the number of detours taken in the process.

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