Sweet things are made of this:

Sweet things are made of this: more sweet things. It’s true. I’m in the grips of a sugar and bread-product withdrawal so severe, I’m reminded of my early days in recovery.

A re-cap of the exciting events of our lives: we laid off the sugar and other carbs for three weeks before Christmas. Tyrhone wanted to lose weight (he did), and I wanted to lose my sugar-induced mood swings (the highs! the lows! living with me was like being on the set of the Bold and the Beautiful, just ask him).

Since getting sober four years ago, after a decade and a half of plying my body with alcohol, cigarettes and more, I have realised I’m actually insane enough without all that stuff.

I wish I were more even keeled, I do, but even without mind-altering substances, I am prone to drastic changes in my mood and outlook.

Yes, I realise there is medication for this sort of thing, but apparently, I’m not clinical, just, sensitive. To the weather, my facebook feed, the lady at the grocery store looking at me the wrong way, and well, food. I get high wrapping my lips around a soft ring of spongy goodness (otherwise known as a donut), then crash into a mid-afternoon coma (after which I seriously question whether my age is in fact 83, not 33).

I’m not a food addict (a serious and very real addiction, I might add), but I do use it. I guess on the spectrum I’d be at ‘problem eater’ status, but because I’m not overweight, I don’t necessarily look like one.

I’m reminded of my first recovery meeting, when I was convinced they would all think Tyrhone (my chaperone) was the one in trouble because he has tattoos and dresses like someone who doesn’t care much about appearances (he doesn’t, but now I know that alcoholics care very much about appearances, that’s why we’re so good at hiding it).

But I digress.

We did the low-carb, high-protein, moderate-good-fats and lots-of-leafy-greens diet for three weeks and I felt fantastic. So good, in fact, that when Christmas rolled around, I was kinda disappointed to break my new healthy habit.

Among the benefits I received were:

a) I slept like a baby at night (I swear there’s no better mood enhancer than a good night’s sleep).

b) I didn’t have my usual post-lunch crash where I am rendered a useless, fatigued mess, and

c) I had next to no cravings for sweet, bready products.

Plus, I didn’t feel like I was carrying a balloon around in my stomach all day, and apparently, I looked better. It felt like a bloody miracle. The thing that surprised me most was that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. Tyrhone and I enjoyed shopping for our groceries each day to prepare our unique version of scrambled eggs and chicken-wings-fifty-ways.

I always thought eating cleanly would involve long hours of boredom, but in reality, I found more time for writing, more energy for yoga and felt more alert and content overall.

Over Christmas I had a fairly indifferent attitude to carbohydrates. I ate them, yes, because it was the social thing to do and it’s hard not to when you eat out, especially in Mexico.  Mexicans looove them some sugar and bread, which I am sure has absolutely nothing to do with soaring rates of obesity and diabetes*.

*Huge wink.

Somewhere along the way though, I just fell off the wagon completely. Chocolate croissants became my regular breakfast and a meal didn’t feel like a meal without some carby goodness. It wasn’t as though I wasn’t aware of what was happening, it was just that I knew resistance was fruitless over the festive season, and well, I really bloody enjoyed it.

But the trade off has been that now we are back on track, making a final push for health and well-being before we set off for Guatemala early Feb, I am in the grip of a sugar and carb craving so severe I’m wondering if it’s all worth it.

As a recovering alcoholic, I have another added level of insanity which asks, “Well what else are you going to give up? Breathing??” while it waits for me to crack and say,”Fuck it,” to the whole damn thing.

But I know I have to be true to myself. Just as I know that living sober is my only chance at a healthy life, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I know what sort of eating makes me feel good too. I know it’s probably not possible to eat well all the time once we are on the road, but I do want to give it another go for the next couple of weeks.

‘To thine own self be true’ – William Shakespeare.

I’m not doing this for anyone else, and I’m no longer looking to the world for my road-map to life.

Because the world is nuts! Beautiful, but nuts.

Playa del Carmen is currently overrun with BPM festival goers. Today, my local supermarket was filled with hipsters in vintage Ray-Ban sunglasses and revealing tank tops (and that’s just the boys).

They looked good.

While I filled my trolley with fruit, leafy vegetables and meat, they pushed carts full of Redbull, Corona and heat-yourself pizzas with waife-ish nonchalance.

“Fuck yooooooooouuuuuu!!!” my voice of insanity screamed silently.

“How can they look that good and be so buff while eating and drinking all that crap, not to mention all the drugs they must be taking???!” it continued (because, according to my head, why else would you attend a music festival? The music? Not likely!).

I felt old and boring and miserable. It probably didn’t help that I hadn’t bothered to change out of my pajamas.

I confessed my insane thoughts to Tyrhone.

“Hey,” he said, “We were buff when we took drugs, that’s why they look like that.”

He was right. I came across some old photos the other day of the music festival we met at in 2006. We were so intoxicated, and we looked pretty good.

Young and wasted, 2006.

I look happy in the photos, but in reality, I was pretty miserable. I just hadn’t fully realized it yet. I still lived with the illusion that another drink, or joint, or pill or party or man was the answer to all my problems.

I love this quote from Chloe Caldwell, author of Legs Get led Astray, which says, “In my early twenties, I felt that my life could be one big experiment, and in my mid-twenties I am coming to terms with the fact that no, my life is actually my life.”

In my twenties I was happy and ignorant and invincible; selfish, arrogant and hurtful. In my thirties I’ve had my fair share of unhappiness, but most of that has come from cleaning up the wreckage of my twenties. The rest has been joyful, fulfilling, creative and real.

Imbibing a lootta sugar on my 33rd birthday…

So I’m back on the healthy eating bandwagon, because I know that within a week I’ll feel very different than I feel today. Just as I conned myself into recovery four years ago by saying, “Just give it a year. After that, you decide whether you want to drink or not,” I’m giving myself one week to kick these damn sugar cravings and feel like myself again.

The slightly less crazy version, that is.

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Sweet things are made of this: — 25 Comments

  1. I feel a certain amount of guilt for you dropping off the no sugar wagon, our presence and desire to eat ALL the food in Playa probably didn’t help. But I do remember how well you were doing and how easy you made it look. This time next week, you’ll be back there. Resist the sugar!
    Kellie recently posted..I’m sick already!!My Profile

    • Well I am glad you said it so I didn’t have to Kellie. Yes, I totally blame you for force feeding me that cheese cake and other cake and ice cream. But I forgive you 😉

    • Ha! Forgot you experienced the wonder that are Tyrhone’s wings! Although, he now does them just with a splash of soy and salt and pepper. Seriously good.

  2. Good for you!!! This topic probably represents how every single one of us have felt at times! Jim & I watched the documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead almost exactly two years ago and, while we’re fairly healthy eaters, immediately purchased a juicer and took on a two week vegan, totally unprocessed juicing diet. WOW, yes, we felt amazing, lost weight, slept great, but it was SO hard to not be able to have ANY bread or cheese or nuts or alcohol! Since then, we still juice, but with less stringent requirements, and that boost from the vitamins spreading into our system is certainly addicting in it’s own way. Hang in there, know that your feelings will turn around, and you’ll be better for it.
    Rhonda recently posted..Lingering in LovinaMy Profile

  3. mmmm….sugar, oh how I love my sugar, pastries, pudding, gelato, frozen custard, brownies, cake, pie… I love it all. I wish I didn’t. What I’ve learned though is moderation. If I deny myself totally then I go crazy for the treats, but if I allow myself a nibble here and there, or a piece of pie every now and then, it keeps me balanced. Being on the road has proven to be SO tempting, especially the Chai Lattes! Oh, how I love them, but I am super sensitive to caffeine and should not be drinking them, but life is short and I’m on vacation! Ha! Ha! But – joking aside – I totally know how you feel. Nearly 3 years ago I weaned myself off of caffeine and it made such a difference and certain foods (sugar) have a definite impact on my ability to sleep well. Once we return home it will be back on the wagon for me too!
    Patti recently posted..See the U.S.A. – 8: Baby it’s Cold Outside!My Profile

      • Frozen custard is like soft-serve ice cream only 100 times creamier, it is wonderful. Believe it or not I have never developed a taste for coffee or anything that is coffee-flavored. However, Abi is completely addicted to coffee, absolutely loves it to the last drop in the cup. We are currently in New Orleans and tonight we scarfed down freshly made still warm Beignets. Fabulous! But oh boy when we get home I’m going to go through some serious sugar withdrawal when I get back to my normal life!
        Patti recently posted..See the U.S.A. – 9: On the Road to NOLA ~My Profile

  4. Great post. I can really understand you and yes Mexicans love bread. A lot!!!

    I can really get the feeling you have – both when you eat sugar and when you don’t. I’m living on the paleo lifestyle and since I started on it I have got so much more energy. I still eat cake and ice cream from time to time. But the fun part is when I don’t eat it, I never miss it. But I don’t beat myself up when I eat a cake. For me it’s ok to do sometimes – especially because I never get the highs and lows anymore.

    I used to get that a lot. So much that I also quit alcohol for about two years. I did it because I never felt well when I drank. In Denmark it can be hard to give up alcohol because if you are at a family event or party you will be the only one not drinking. You and the children 😀

    Today I can enjoy alcohol but I rarely do because I don’t need it anymore to be happy. But I totally understand why you would never touch it again. It’s not really something you need. 😀

    Thanks again for your openness.
    Hans Jonas Hansen recently posted..Take a day off and see the worldMy Profile

    • Hey Hans, our diet is like a less strict Paleo, as we still eat dairy. Cheese is my treat!! Not having bread, rice, tortillas, potatoes or cakes is enough! Thanks for your comments :-)

  5. I loved this post. Recovery from the things we’re addicted to is always a process. Mine was the need to always get into damaging or go-nowhere relationships, sometimes knowing deep down I was! Awful, awful. We are human, are made to make mistakes so I forgive myself but now live with more awareness. Sugar was something I gave up as well, I use to be the woman who ate chocolate bars every other day, but sugar doesn’t do much for me these days. I do have problems giving up chips though. Good on you for always questioning yourself on where you are. Frankly, yoga is the best drug I’ve ever found and I’ve tried them all (well, not all), but food, drugs, sex, etc. cannot match what yoga has given me. :) Keep truckin lady! XO
    Jeannie Mark recently posted..Ripples of ChangeMy Profile

    • Yes on so many levels! Yes to yoga! I have been practicing for years but only recently I have gained a deeper spiritual connection with the stillness within the movement. It’s an ongoing journey, but my day always flows better after I do a class.

  6. Sarah I swear you have not aged!! I hear you, I feel so much better when I eat cleanly and don’t drink alcohol so it’s a wonder I don’t do it more. Why are we so resistant to the things that make us feel best?
    Kim recently posted..To kiss the worldMy Profile

    • I must have pickled myself! I don’t know, I guess it’s the instant pleasure thing, we humans are rather impatient when it comes to happiness, methinks!

  7. Wow, I love that quote by Caldwell that you shared. I think it’s important to approach life with a spirit of openness and trying different things, but it is true that we only get one go around and so you’ve got to make it count and recognize that if you really fuck things up, well, you can still start over, but it’s never from scratch. Have you ever read “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera? Something about Caldwell’s quote made me think of it, and while I by no means think it’s a perfect book, I think you might get something from it and it will certainly give you plenty to ponder!

    I have gotten into a bad habit of having a daily ice cream cone here in Saigon; they’re only 15 cents so it’s really hard to say no! Especially now that we’ve slowed down and have gotten into the habit of watching movies and tv at night, I’m finding I’m slipping back into my old ways of wanting to snack on all the things that are bad for me. Must resist but it’s SO HARD.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Chewing the Fat with Ways of Wanderers!My Profile

  8. I did a 3 month cleanse- essentially eating ‘clean’ – no processed foods, and it was amazing how much more energy I had and how good I felt. It’s so hard to get started and not give in to those cravings, but I think you’ve inspired me to give it another go.!
    Emily recently posted..Majestic PalenqueMy Profile

    • Wow. Three months is awesome! We thought three weeks was pretty good, but it was a start I guess. I think picking a time of year when you can keep going for an extended period is good. I could have kept going, actually, but Christmas and it’s damn delicious food got in the way :-)

  9. I find it so hard to avoid sugar and carbs on the road and have a much poorer diet these days then I did before I left England. I really need to work on changing that this year. Your healthy eating plan sounds like a great one and has inspired me to make some changes – I doubt I could give up carbs completely though, I just love pasta too much! Good luck with beating your cravings!
    Amy recently posted..Video: Three Months in ThailandMy Profile

  10. Oh carbs, how I love thee. Let me count the ways…

    It’s always hard for me because I’m a baker. I love baking. It makes me happy and, well, they don’t taste too bad either, so why not eat half a loaf of homemade bread? It’s organic! I know now that I cannot completely cut those things out of my life because I would be one sad chica, but I totally understand what you mean. I have a problem with carbs and there are days (like today) when it feels like my gut is especially unmanageable and I crave going back to the non-bread-filled Asian countries just to get back to losing weight! But you’re right, you have to find a way to make it work for yourself because it’s healthy and you want to treat your body the way it needs to be treated.

    I agree with Amy, it can be really hard to control your diet when you’re on the road, especially when there’s a free breakfast! But it’s also important to remember that we’re not on vacation – this is life. Something I conveniently forgot over Christmas when my family was in Cambodia with us and decided to carry on long after they left.

    PS-I may have a slight fruit shake addiction…
    Carmel recently posted..PIRANHA FISHING IN PAIMy Profile

  11. Ah the battle with food, a never ending problem for me and like Carmel I have a major problem with sweet things because I’m a baker. I’d never thought about it altering moods until you’ve mentioned it but as someone who has more ups and downs on a daily basis than is considered normal I might have to look into it! BTW that photo of you on your birthday is absolutely gorgeous, you both look amazing now and not a day over 26!
    Maddie recently posted..An update on life and our 2014 plansMy Profile

    • Oh man, it’s killing me. I’m in the states now and finding it hard to stay away. Why? I’m not sure. Oh, that’s right, because it’s DELICIOUS! Thank you Chloe, I love your work so it’s a real honour.