i ate sugar

It was two chocolate croissants that undid me. I’d like to share how and why. I feel I need to, given that today marks DAY ONE of the new 8-Week Program that I spent ten months developing with Jo (and then Zoe, Jordanna, Stef, Jenn, Kate, Martyna, Shayne, Tom, Steve, and now Jane and another new Kate). I’d be a stinkin’ fat fraud if I didn’t. And, of course, I share only because I hope it Contributes Something Helpful.

Image by Greg Guillemin
Image by Greg Guillemin

So yesterday I ate two chocolate croissants. Let’s be sure: they weren’t even good ones. They were stodgy and filled with PUFA-drenched Nutella-like goo. And I’d already eaten a full breakfast. And ate them with extra butter. It’s not a big deal, of course. In the schema. Which is the point I want to make with you all, in case you’re making a big deal of “lapsing”. I really didn’t quit sugar to get all rigid. Nor to suggest that anyone else should.

Please note: this post has been updated a little to refine a few of the answers to queries in the comments below.

I ate two crappy croissants because I was having a flap. And the flap took me straight back to a well-grooved rut that I spent, ooohhhh, a good twenty years chiselling into my being. It’s the rut that I used to go to almost daily when I got hurt, uncertain, uncomfortable, wobbly. Stodgy, PUFA-drenched pastries were what I would drown myself in when the panic and anxiety in my gut got too much. The stodge was like a suffocating pillow I could jam down on top of the anxiety. It would work. For five seconds. Until vile guilt overwhelmed me. And the anxiety – now carrying the weight of a gluten-y, sugary pillow – would flare up again.

After I ate the two chocolate croissants, the same pillowy panic took over. I know some of you can feel like this when you “lapse”.

The rest of the day I felt incredibly ill. My thyroid symptoms kicked in. Sugar AND gluten in the one injection (gluten flares up my auto immune disease – I swell up in my joints, get foggy and weak). I should emphasise – the pain I was feeling was due to my auto immune reaction. When I was younger it was all about guilt and being caught in an emotional food cycle that I mention above. Although, to be honest, I know it will always be there, that pillowy panic, lurking in the groove. And sugar will often trigger it. However I now manage it, mostly with a way of eating and living that allows more freedom and gentleness. I should also emphasise – having a thyroid condition can cause unstable blood sugar levels and unstable moods…so you can see the cycle I can get caught in.

So maturity saw me get a grip. I now know what to do when I get off balance like this with my thyroid, and what to do when I “lapse”. I go for a walk. Get out! Move! So I hiked along some cliff tops and concentrated on calming down. I also sank into the ocean for a bit. I was not as emotionally open and grateful as I am normally with such experiences. I was aware of this. I witnessed how shitty I was with everything. I had to give in to it. Maturity just let it be a shithouse day (where previously I would’ve freaked that I’d even allowed a shithouse day to occur).

Then I collapsed. This happens to me less and less. Five years ago it was daily. I had to lie down under a tree for two hours. I drank water. I waited. I drank water. I rested. Around 5pm I was able to get up and drive to the next town. I ate a hearty meal of meat and vegetables. And was better.

This is how I recalibrate. Move. Water. Rest. Hearty food. And witness the whole ruddy lot, warts and pillowy stodge and all.

What triggered the flap? A bit of travel loneliness, solo existence listlessness (it gets so damn exhausting making decisions on your own, like where to today? Should I hike here or there? etc.), oh, and also emotional confrontation. A lovely Italian guy asked me out on a boat for the day..the email greeted me in the morning…and I couldn’t cope with answering it… Truth be known. The Italian guy told me I was rigid. Indeed, I can be. It was almost like I wanted to indulge the accusation and rigidly not say “yes” to the invite. Self-sabbotage. It’s interesting stuff.

I’ve been off sugar for almost three years now and when I do eat the stuff – and I can have moments like this reasonably often, especially when I’m travelling – I get prickly and anxious and unsettled and it takes effort to get back on track again – emotionally and physically for it’s the emotional trigger that really is at issue here. I’m cool with this process (of getting back on track again). I accept it. And I also see that the very act of getting back on track – steering my resolve, owning my situation – makes me stronger in all kinds of ways. There’s a bigger purpose to it all. The day of feeling gross and not enjoying much is not wasted (I’m sure you know the value of finding a meta-purpose for shithouse moments, yeah?).

I wanted to share this because I know so many of you who follow this blog are starting the 8-Week Program today. And I don’t think it’s helpful embarking on the journey thinking that it’s about perfection. Or rigidity.

I am not a guru. I’m working through it (sugar-free living, life, acts of self-sabotage) just as hard as you. I say this often – quitting sugar is an experiment. You see what it does, what it brings up, where it takes you. And I say this just as often – life is practice. It’s the practice, not some rigid finality, that is what it’s all about.

Don’t you think?

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