A coke free week

Hi all,

2090370915_a73f319b07I’m writing at the end of what has been the first coke/diet coke free week of my adult life.  I’m torn between feeling embarrassed and proud of that to be honest, but the pride is the one that’s fighting its way to the fore.  A week without caffeine.  A week without Aspartame/Nutrasweet.  It’s also been a week without any other form of artificial sweetener, so no Sucralose, Sachharine or anything else either.

I feel pretty good right now to be honest, but it’s been a week of withdrawal symptoms, some I was expecting, some I wasn’t, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to feel as bad as I did.  I also wasn’t expecting the cravings that I’ve had to be as strong as they were, and that’s really helped me solidify some stuff in my mind about what this stuff really does to me.

Let me step back to the start of the week – I was feeling angry and determined to take control.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to take control of, but I was fed up with feeling helpless in the face of all of this, and was going to take control of something.  Diet coke seemed like as good a thing as any, but I wanted to go further and cut out all forms of diet drinks too – artificial sweeteners and caffeine were on the way out.

I was expecting the headaches.  They’ve pretty much gone now.  I wasn’t expecting the trapped wind and stomach pains.  That’s been quite interesting because I’ve had problems with those on and off for a while and hadn’t made the connection between them and me cutting back on Aspartame.  I’m now pretty comfortable that when I cut Aspartame out of my diet, my body responds by making me hurt.  It’s been really uncomfortable, and while it’s almost gone, it’s still there.  That’s quite disturbing.  I had pretty what I’d describe as mild flu symptoms to accompany the headaches and stomach pains too, which was nice – shivers, sweats, nausea – again pretty much gone now, but I had a difficult start to the week.  A few days later, I started to ache in all of my joints – particularly my elbows, which was a little odd.  That’s still there.

Now all of the above could be coincidence.  I’m no Doctor (I trust that doesn’t surprise you 🙂 ) so I don’t know that these symptoms were a reaction to me making significant changes to my diet, but I’d be willing to bet a significant amount of money that they were.

The cravings were very difficult to deal with, and made it pretty clear that there was something significant going on in relation to what I’d cut out – It felt as if I had a voice in my head, prompting me to drink some form of sweetened fizzy drink, and that then everything would be fine.  Everything.  I’d feel much better.  I wouldn’t hurt any more.  I’d be happy and everything would be back to normal.  Scary stuff.

Anyway, I’m pleased and proud to say that I’ve not listened to them, and at the moment at least, they’ve backed off.  It’s quite difficult to work out precisely which of the three things that I’ve stopped drinking is responsible for any of the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.  Caffeine, Aspartame and Sucralose are the three that I’d suggest are the culprits – I’ve ingested vast quantities of each of those daily for decades – Sucralose being the latecomer as I’ve sought out non-Aspartame drinks to replace diet coke with.

I went to a wedding on Friday, and decided to have a few glasses of lemonade to celebrate (I really know how to let my hair down).  I checked it was full-fat lemonade with no sweeteners in, and was assured that it was, and had three glasses of it throughout the day.  That was the first significant sugar I’d had throughout the week, and it really showed.  For starters, when I got home, I demolished a big bag of crisps that I simply hadn’t wanted to touch for the rest of the week.  Secondly, the next day, the cravings were back.  Not as strong as they’d been at the start of the week, but a definite difference that must be down to the sugar.

So let me summarise what I think I’ve learned this week.

  • First of all, the coke and other diet fizzy stuff that I’ve drunk for years aren’t good for me.  I’m going to avoid them from now on.
  • Secondly, I’ve learnt that when I’m not drinking that stuff, I don’t seem to want to stuff my face in quite the same way as I usually do
  • I’m not sure whether it’s sweeteners, sugar or what it is, but for now I’m going to say that it’s sweet stuff that really works against me.

I’ve lost four pounds this week – did I mention that?  Difficult to get too excited about it, having so much to lose again, but I’m going to hold that loss close to my heart, as a reminder that I’ve managed to cut out some really nasty things that have been a huge part of my life for decades, and still manage to lose weight.  That’s a good thing.

In the first part of the week, I drank water exclusively.  Later in the week I introduced some fruit juice, and over the last 24 hours, I’ve been experimenting with mixing fruit juice and sparkling water, while still trying to mainly drink just plain water.

I’m feeling good.

The Shrinking Man

Caffeine and Sweetener Withdrawal

careyWow.

This hurts.

It’s now the fourth day since I stopped drinking fizzy drinks of any kind, and have drunk nothing but water.  This has been the first time in my adult life that I’ve gone without some form of sugary or sweetenery fizzy drink for as much as a day.  That sounds so terrible doesn’t it?  How juvenile do I sound?  I’ve never drunk tea, and have no more than one or two cups of coffee a year when business protocol demands it, so I’ve always lived on sweetened drinks.  As a child and teenager it was usually fruit squashes, as an adult it’s been mainly fizzy stuff.  Coke was the main culprit at first (which probably goes a long way to explaining why my teeth are so poor) as diet coke used to give me headaches, but over time I got used to diet coke.  I rarely drink water, and that means that for my entire adult life, I’ve lived on sweetened drinks.

The impact of the sugary drinks is relatively clear – my teeth are poor and I’m fat.  But what’s the impact of the sweetenery drinks?  That’s harder to see, but I’m going to stick my neck out and have a guess.  I’d suggest that there’s a great chance that the impact of the sweetenery drinks starts with damaging my teeth by mucking up the ph balance.  I’d also suggest that there’s a strong chance that they’ve contributed to my weight problems too.  I’m reading more and more suggestions that the body’s reaction to sweeteners is very similar to its reaction to sugar – cravings for carbohydrates can be triggered by both.  There’s a whole load of scary stuff out there in internet land about just what the chemicals in artificial sweeteners can do to your body, though it’s difficult to know what to put your faith in.

It’s safe to say that I don’t believe that the artificial sweeteners do me any good (I’m still fat 🙂 ) and there’s a very good chance that they’re doing me significant amounts of harm.

So I’ve stopped them.  And it hurts.

In the four days since I’ve stopped them, I’ve experienced severe stomach aches, an upset stomach, almost consistent headaches, flu-like shivers, sweats, nausea and what can only be described as very depressed moods.  I’ve had major cravings to go and have something sweet and fizzy, with the very clear message that if I have the sweet and fizzy drink, then everything will be alright.  That sounds very much like addiction to me.

On a positive note, all of the above had made me feel pretty rough, and it’s been really easy to not overeat, so I’m certainly going to lose a bit of weight while I’m feeling this poor.  I hope these symptoms won’t last long, though a bit of web research suggests that I’m hitting up against both caffeine and sweetener withdrawal, which can cause problems for weeks or even months.

This really isn’t easy, but I think it’s important in two ways.  First of all it’s a significant step towards me regaining control over my life, and secondly I think that I’m going to benefit from getting this stuff out of my life and my body.

I’m going to track what happens with this, and keep you posted.

My head hurts.  My stomach hurts.

But I’m feeling proud.

Laters.

The Shrinking Man

Anger and taking control

imagesI got angry on Saturday night.  Really angry.  Anger isn’t a normal response for me – frustration and deflation are familiar responses, but anger doesn’t come out all that much.  But I really was angry.  And that anger was directed at myself.

It was about 11:30pm, and I was sitting alone in my front room, watching the telly.  I’d eaten relatively well that day.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I hadn’t eaten well that day, but I hadn’t eaten awfully, at least until about 11:30pm.  Within the next thirty minutes, I’d eaten the remainder of that evenings Chinese takeaway, the remaining half of the large bag of crisps that I’d already started earlier in the evening, two-thirds of a pot of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food and three chocolate biscuits.

Now I’m aware that I’m a fat guy.  Honestly.  Even though I’m still surprised just how fat I look when I see photographs of me, I do know I’m fat.  But I don’t want to be fat.  So why am I acting like I want to be fat?  Am I fat guy who wants to shrink, or a fat guy who wants to stay fat?

Just to revisit that Saturday night, I need to clearly explain what was happening while I was eating that stuff.  First of all, I wasn’t hungry.  I’d been quite stuffed earlier in the evening after the Chinese takeaway, but hadn’t eaten anything after that.  Actually, scrub that – I’d had half a large bag of crisps, which is the equivalent of three normal bags of crisps.  But I wasn’t stuffed.  But I definitely wasn’t hungry.  And I knew I wasn’t hungry while I was eating all that stuff.  I was aware that I wasn’t hungry, and I was hating myself while I was eating it.  Now it’s really common for me to hate myself after I’ve eaten badly, but it’s not that common for me to be conscious enough to hate myself while I’m eating it.  I was eating way too quickly to taste the food, let alone enjoy it – I was wolfing it down really, but I was really having to force myself to eat it because I just wasn’t hungry.

Let’s sum that up – I knew I wasn’t hungry, it was physically hard to eat, I wasn’t enjoying it and I was hating myself for doing it, yet I still managed to consume, at a conservative guess, more than the recommended calorie intake for a man, in just half an hour.  All this at the end of the day where I’d already consumed more than the recommended calorie intake for a man.

I can’t explain it.  I really can’t.  But I’m angry.

I’ve spent what seems like my entire life watching from the sidelines while I harm myself, and that’s what’s made me angry.  I’ve always looked on while I’m doing this to myself, as if I’m helpless to control it, or to intervene in any way, and that stops here.  Well actually it stopped in the early hours of Sunday morning, but it stops.

I refuse to be a helpless observer in my own demise.  Point blank refuse.

I don’t have much of a plan here – I don’t want to start-up again on any diet plan or programme.  I want to be in control.

The first significant step that I’m going to take is this – I’m cutting out the caffeine and artificial sweeteners in my life.  I don’t drink tea or coffee, and have pretty much lived on fizzy drinks, either diet or regular, for my entire adult life.  I rarely drink water, even though I enjoy it when I do.  The first thing I drink in the morning is a diet drink of some sort, and the last thing I drink at night will be the same, along with pretty much every drink in between.  I have no idea what that’s been doing to me, but I’m pretty certain it’s not good, and it certainly hasn’t helped me lose weight.  So it’s going.

I’ve cut back on coke products before, and suffered from serious headaches, and have always gone back.  I’ve always replaced coke with lemonade or some other fizzy drinks, so I think I can say with some embarrassment, that I have never gone without sugary or sweetenery (my word – sorry) drinks for as much as a single day.  Not once in my adult life.

So for now, I’m angry, and I’m determined.  I will not be a helpless observer in my own demise.  I will take control.

And it starts with the drinks – bring on the water.

The Shrinking Man.