I don’t have a problem with alcohol. Anymore. When I was in my 20s I did. I drank a lot. Regularly. And once I started there was no stopping me. I was a sloppy, sexy, slutty drunk. A nasty, wild feisty drunk. I was the life of the party. I was hilarious. But the joke was on me.
Thankfully I stopped drinking. Life lead me down a sober path and then I realised I was using alcohol to numb my pain. I needed to be blind drunk to have a good time, to feel good about myself.
It took a mental breakdown, psychologists, and medication for me to deal with my real issues: Anxiety, low self-esteem and an extreme shyness. After that I didn’t need to drink so much. I still drink occasionally but most of the time I can contain it to just a few. I no longer enjoy feeling sloppy and messy. At a certain point of drunkenness I know when to stop and switch to tea.
I wish the same could be said about my relationship with cake. I eat cake like alcoholics drink booze. I cannot stop. Where most people can have one slice of black forest, one piece of brownie or a single chocolate chip cookie, I must have ALL OF IT. If I start that is it. No stopping till it’s gone. I’m like a shark who smells blood in the water, or a dog who smells a possum up a tree. As soon as so much as a crumb gets past my lips I am done for. I will hover around the plate like the shark circles its prey, I will bark up that tree all night until that possum comes down. I need to eat ALL OF THE CAKE. If you try to stop me, I will cut you.
It’s not just cake. It’s anything sweet and chocolately. M&Ms, cookies, sticky caramel slice. All of these things are like crack to me. I am not a one TimTam person. Any less than six in one sitting is a poor effort if you ask me!
Much like when alcoholics drink, my cake binging is not pretty. For only a little while I feel good. I get a kick out of the sweet, sweet goodness. For a little while I feel great. Chipper! And happy. Endorphins are released and I feel truly orgasmic. Like I am riding across a rainbow on the back of a unicorn. But then comes the drop. The plummet into darkness. The rainbow leads me into a black sea and the unicorn turns into a great white shark. The headache, the belly ache, the nausea, the whys, and the cries. Why did I eat all of that? Why? It’s bad for my body, so, so bad. The next day I feel crabby, snippy. And if it is rag week I feel even more crampy and sore than usual.
For years I tried to practice moderation. I tried and tried to eat just once piece. Just one cookie. But oddly enough, eating some is much harder than eating none. Something about sugar and white flour makes me want to pull out a tourniquet and inject the stuff into my veins.
I knew sugar was doing me no favours. The same I knew about gluten. I cut most gluten and sugar out of my day to day diet, only indulging when out, or on “special” days. Funnily enough a lot of special days kept happening and on those special days I’d be that person eating the slice like a rabid dog. It was embarrassing. Like watching the alcoholic knock back a whole bottle at a casual brunch or child's birthday party.
Last year at fashion week was a great example. Media lunches are the best. Bagels, croissants, pizza. So many delicious meals were provided and I ate them all. I even ate Mariana’s. At one point I made her go and get me my third cupcake. I couldn’t go up to the buffet again. But she could! By the end of the week I looked four months pregnant. So much so that someone actually asked me when I was due. Why was I so bloated? Why?
“Well,” Mariana replied in a quiet voice “you did just eat four croissants”.
I narrowed my eyes at her. I wanted to deny it but I couldn’t. The truth was, I had a problem.
It wasn’t until I met healer and yoga teacher Samar Ocean Wolf Ciprian that I learned just how much of a problem my sugar and wheat addiction was. During a two hour consult, in an attempt to aid my grumpy, pained uterus, Samar talked to me at length about diet. I actually thought before I went to the consult that my diet was okay. And it was. Except that I wasn’t counting the food I was eating out of the house, or the food I was eating out of stress. Samar put it bluntly: White flour and processed sugar are poison. They have no nutritional value. They are basically just robbing your body of nutrients and minerals, as it actually uses your body’s stores to process them. And in my case gluten was affecting my immune system and giving me headaches. It is also possible that it was adding to my hormonal mood swings and my period pain.
The thing with gluten is there is no point in reducing it. You need to completely cut it from your diet in order to reverse the damage it has done to your digestive and immune systems. This can take anywhere from three months to a year. After I left Samar I knew I had to cut gluten. I knew too that I had to reduce my sugar intake and eat fruit for my sweet treats instead.
Cutting gluten was surprisingly easy. I eat homemade muesli for breakfast. I get my gluten free oats here. Oats are actually gluten free in themselves, but they are so thoroughly contaminated by the other wheat products processed in the same factory that it is crucial to buy gluten free oats. Bread is not too hard to find. I don’t eat a lot of bread, as I learned to reduce my intake when I was trying to just eat “some” gluten. My favourite gluten free bread hands down is Thoroughbread. It’s made not far from Wellington and is preservative free! And it is so soft you can actually eat it untoasted!
The best thing about quitting gluten is that it has made quitting sugar so much easier. Basically I can no longer eat the cake on offer at social functions. Even if I wanted to eat the sweet goodness I can’t cus it’s tainted with the gluten. It’s fraternising with the enemy!
In the last 10 weeks I have had one slip up where I ate some cake. I developed a huge migraine and felt quite fluey the next day.
I still bake occasionally. I use a mixture of buckwheat flour and rice and tapioca flour. As sugar substitutes I use pure maple syrup, raw honey, coconut sugar, glucose powder and rice malt syrup. I stay away from anything that doesn’t have calories because that just ain’t right. Instead I opt for sweeteners that contain nutrients or are very low fructose and/or low GI. Because I am human I do eat a little bit of chocolate every night. I opt for Whittakers 72% chocolate. It’s so rich I only need one or two pieces and I am done. It’s so good to be able to stop and only two pieces! I never thought I’d see the day!
Quitting gluten has made me much more aware of what I am putting into my body. Before I didn’t really think about it that much even though I thought I did. Lover-man eats potato chips. Most nights he has a small bowl of chips and usually I will eat two or three of them. After inspecting the bag I discovered his chips contained gluten! Potato chips! Coated in flour! Who’d a thunk! Not only that but they were full of crap. Trans fats, MSG, rubbish. He now buys a more natural kind of chips that are gluten free, MSG free and trans fat free. They look like actual sliced potatoes and taste delish!
I feel so much better in myself now. I eat better. I eat much less rubbish. I feel healthier and less grumpy. I have more energy and my pants are falling down. Instead of feeling sad when I go somewhere and can’t eat the cake, I actually feel good. I feel like ‘yay! That’s one less piece of cake that I would have eaten!”
The only downside is now I am one of those hipsters at the café who asks “Excuse me, does this contain gluten?”