Ah, the holidays, a time of magic, time with family and friends, festive activities, sparkly lights, and lots and lots of lots of indulgences. I dove into holiday indulgences like it was my job after a month and a half of severely restricted sugar and carb intake. I am here to tell you how it feels to go from 0 to 100 on the sugar consumption scale which, in a word, is awful.
I believe it was around November 6th that I said a sad farewell to sugar and carbs. I was extremely diligent at first, loosely following a ketogenic approach for the first two weeks. I loosened the strings a little bit after that, reintegrating things like wine, because I’m not a savage and life without wine isn’t worth living as far as I’m concerned. Another week after that, I integrated my Saturday “cheat day”, which allowed me the occasional splurge on a donut or cake or ice cream or chocolate or…the list goes on.
For most of that time, I wasn’t entirely sure it was worth it. I just didn’t feel that much better. Then, just as we entered the week before Christmas something miraculous happened: I had energy! I felt good. I was sleeping well. I was waking up on my own, at 5:00 a.m. no less, ready to rock the day. This was uncharted territory for me, but I was willing to run with it. Even though I felt wonderful, I had decided that Christmas would be my time to let loose, enjoy myself, and indulge in all my favourite holiday treats. This turned out to be a terrible mistake.
True to form, instead of gradually easing myself into carbs and sugar, I simply jumped into the deep end. Okay, that’s not exactly true. For the first few days at home, I kept my carb intake to a minimum. I avoided pannetone and brioche at breakfast, crackers and bread sticks at lunch, and I showed amazing restraint with baking. But then…I fell off the wagon hard.
There was dessert every day. There may have been a breakfast donut. There was sushi rice and twice-baked potatoes and daily wine and daily cider. There was afternoon chocolate. There were post-dessert chocolate ‘snacks’. It was a total shit show of sugar and carbs. If you want to know what 10 days of sheer indulgence after 1.5 months of more structured eating feels, here is what you’d have to look forward to:
–sluggishness to the max. You’d think all that sugar would give you energy to burn. It won’t. You’ll want to lay on the couch for hours on end.
–say goodbye to early mornings. Even nine hours of sleep will leave you feeling half-awake.
–say hello to feeling like garbage. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but somehow it is: eating garbage makes you feel like garbage.
–water retention! Oh the joys of barely being able to do up your boots, which you only have issues with when you’re retaining water like a champ. You can blame it on muscular calves, but you know you’re lying to yourself.
–“puffy belly”. This is my affectionate term for the immediate and noticeable bloat that comes from sugar and wheat consumption. Your snug-fitting pants will be your first cue that ‘puffy belly’ has come for a visit.
–mind-numbing headaches. Your body isn’t going to know what hit it, so when your blood sugar levels spike dramatically, look out for some raging headaches. Nothing will make you regret chocolate like feeling as though your brain is rattling around inside your skull.
I’m back off sugar and carbs for the time being, at least six days a week. I won’t trade my cheat day for anything. What’s clear to me after this little bender is that it’s really not worth it to go crashing back into sugar and carbs. I promise you it’s going to be a mistake. I promise you the treats won’t even taste as good as you remembered. And I really, really, really promise you that you will feel like a giant bag of garbage.