Why I Quit Sugar, Gluten and The Pill
I must admit, when I started to follow a gluten free diet at the start of January I didn’t think a) it would make all that much difference and b) that I’d be able to stick with it for long. I went gluten-free partly as a health inspired New Year’s Resolution and partly for a fresh start after another belly-busting Christmas in the hopes of achieving a happier tummy and healthier body.
On top of being gluten-free, I later found out about the much publicised and somewhat controversial I Quit Sugar eating plan. I decided to give it a try and haven’t looked back. On top of that, I’ve stopped taking the Pill (no, we’re not trying for a baby!).
Why so many changes? What the actual fuck, right?
Here’s my (somewhat depressing 🙁 apologies in advance) backstory:
Last year I mostly got to sleep at some ridiculous hour like 3 or 4am after my mind stopped whirling enough to let me sleep. I’d wake up anywhere between 7 and 9am then deal with the children, the house, prepare dinner for the evening (no energy for it in the afternoons) then start work in the office. If I made it to the office. There were plenty of occasions I’d lack enough energy by the time 10am came (no matter how much coffee I drank) that I’d be flumped bleary-eyed on the sofa struggling to cope with the hectic pace and variety of pressures and demands from work. In-between which, I’d be dealing with the demands of a revealed-to-be autistic toddler and a gradually deteriorating in mobility and other health aspects mother-in-law (who lives with us).
By 5pm I could barely see, never mind find the energy to make myself something healthy to eat. Takeaways, which were once an every-couple-of-months treat, started being ordered at least a couple of times a week. Processed food filled the freezer and, still desperate to feel slim, I’d deprive myself of the food that was in the house in between the times I caved and stuffed myself. After the family ate, it was back to work for me, because I hadn’t had enough energy in the day to complete all of the day’s tasks. I would work until 11pm at the very earliest. By the time Christmas hit, I was working til well past midnight and in the last couple of weeks before the festive break I had one god-awful week where, in order to catch up in time, I had three sleepless nights through which I just worked flat-out (not in the fun way).
Throughout all of this I was meant to feel sexy and have bed-busting sex that’d make a professional porn star envy my skillz.
My libido dropped through the floor and, although my job demands me to have orgasms (or at least try for them) as a sex toy tester, I found my natural desire to be absolutely nothing like it had been years ago.
A Gluten-Free Diet
The months are hurtling past at a, quite frankly, alarming speed and I’m (shockingly) still gluten-free. There’s been moments where I’ve not exactly fallen off the wagon, surprisingly – but I ate pearl barley by accident in a casserole and felt absolutely terrible afterwards (barley is one of the glutinous grains). I guess at least I know being gluten-free is making a difference.
Being on the gluten-free diet since the start of January has enabled me to think clearly and enjoy more energy than I did before. My tummy is calmer and much less bloated. It feels… right for me. I haven’t had medical tests done, I haven’t gone through the rigmarole of going to the doctors so I can’t say I’m actually officially coeliac/celiac. But if I feel better then I feel better; that’s enough proof for me that giving gluten the kick was the right decision. Feeling physically better has naturally led to feeling happier mentally and emotionally too.
Although being on a gluten-free diet was already really helping me and having a positive effect on my body, I realised that I was lapsing into some bad habits nonetheless. I found that the local takeaway did an option which, despite being laden with saturated fats, was gluten-free. It went from being a once-in-a-while treat to being a several times a week fix in order to cope. Just being on a gluten-free diet doesn’t guarantee that you’ll eat healthy foods, apparently. Bummer.
I Quit Sugar
A few weeks ago, after speaking with my good friend Cheryl Kaye (of hornygeekgirl.com), I decided to follow in her footsteps and quit sugar. I did it on the quiet because to be entirely honest I was sure I’d fail after a day. Maybe even the same day. I was sure that I’d get to lunchtime and have to have a glass of squash, a piece of fruit (yeah, fruit’s full of sugar and not the health food star you thought it was, apparently. Sad face) or a sugar laden but low fat yoghurt.
I do have a confession to make: I’m not absolutely and completely sugar-free. For the first 8 weeks while retraining your taste buds you’re not meant to have alcohol. 8 weeks! If this life change has any hope of working with me then that’s straight out of the window. I could try, but I’d probably end up making some deprivation-related decision like… oh I don’t know, emigrating to France to go work in the vineyards just for the after-hours perks or something. Not that I’ve ever given that any serious consideration. Honest.
So yeah, I do have a glass or two of red wine in the week (low sugar and actually quite good for you – so there) and some white wine at the weekend (not quite as healthy as red wine, but still better for you than alcopops, brandy, and spirits when mixed with fizzy pop – even the sugar-free but artificial sweetener laden versions). After all, I do have my new year’s resolutions to bear in mind as well.
When it comes to foods, I am avoiding sugar as much as I possibly can. If it says sugar, glucose, fructose or any types of syrup or artificial sweeteners (they trick your taste buds and kick start mental changes and cravings) then I won’t eat it. It’s amazing what you can find sugar in. Yoghurts, as mentioned above, were part of my day to day diet. I recently bought a gammon joint and it has sugar injected into it – not in any type of glaze, actually in the meat itself. I bought a cheap pack of skinless, cooked chicken but failed to look too closely at the ingredients (well it’s cooked chicken, why would you) but checked just in case and lo and behold: sugar and glucose.
Before you decide this all sounds entirely joyless and a recipe for nothing but doom, despair and ultimate failure, let me reassure you that I am absolutely loving my sugar free (well, mostly) life.
My saviour? Dairy.
Apparently the human body can process the naturally occurring sugar, lactose, which is found in ‘proper’ dairy products (real cheese -none of that neon orange squeezy stuff thanks- and full fat milk, and natural yoghurt). A line on one of the I Quit Sugar websites stuck with me: it works for the French. I thought about the traditional French cuisine, seafood, meats, a variety of delicious cheese, a tot or two or three or four of wine (and yes, a load of bread which I’ll have to forgo but never mind) and thought yes. I can do that.
If you’re wondering what the hell I’m eating on a daily basis which is making me feel still physically full, not leading to any cravings and is healthy, gluten-free and sugar-free, you’re in luck. I’ve been taking photographs of some of my meals and (gasp) not actually uploading them to Instagram immediately.
In the morning I find I need my breakfast (usually completely natural yoghurt with various untreated nuts and some seeds, especially chia seeds) along with my coffee now (and no I am damn well not giving up coffee), whereas before I’d just want my coffee and wouldn’t find my appetite til midday at the earliest. I thought this was a good thing, that suppressing my appetite for longer meant I ate less. What it actually meant was a daily cycle of starving all morning when I was working my brain the most, then eating increasingly rubbish sorts of foods from mid-afternoon until finally ending the day with a full on crap food binge – promising myself that the next day would be different. It hardly ever was.
For lunch I tend to have a big bowl of porridge (just natural oats, not Ready Brek or types with added gluten) – weird perhaps but it works for me – which I make on the hob and with a half water, half full fat milk mix. Nothing to sweeten the oats – no sugar, no Splenda, no honey, no syrup, nothing. I line my bowl with 5 or 6 frozen cherries then pour my porridge on top. It’s amazing. Hot, filling, natural, good for me.
For dinner in the evening I have potatoes, fish, green vegetables, different types of cheese, or gluten-free, sugar free meats. A combination of the above.
As fruit is ‘nature’s sweeties’ I haven’t been eating as much fruit. Dried fruit is even worse, absolute sugar bombs. The only fruit I’m having is the frozen cherries with my oats, the amount of fructose in berries is quite low apparently. I had been eating a square or two here and there of 90% dark chocolate but I’ve phased it out due to still not feeling happy about the sugar content.
Drinks are difficult as there aren’t really any delicious non-alcoholic drinks which don’t have either sugar or artificial sweeteners. I’m sticking with plenty of water through the day, some coconut water (although it’s bloody expensive) and a wine treat now and then.
Stopping The Pill
About a month ago I made the decision to stop taking the Pill (I was on Cileste). I’m in a long term relationship with my male partner and we don’t need a barrier type of contraception during PiV sex (or any other type of sex). The Pill seemed such a good solution as it meant we could enjoy all the skin to skin sensations of whatever type of sex we decided to have, without anything coming between us or interrupting. I’d been putting my diminishing sex drive down to work pressures, family responsibilities, age perhaps, life in general… but at the back of my mind I’ve known that the Pill can have this sort of effect on libido.
Eventually it reached the point where the bedroom seemed to be simply another work place… a research ground for my business rather than the enjoyable space where my partner and I share intimacy and sexual pleasure. I wasn’t at all happy with that and I needed to reclaim the bedroom and our sex life for us… more to the point I needed to get it back for me. Yeah, I’ll be a bit selfish about it – I believe it’s perfectly ok to be a bit selfish about the pleasure you get from sex.
So, after discussion with my partner, I stopped taking the Pill. After all, what’s the point of taking the Pill for contraceptive purposes if it means I don’t have the desire to have sex? As I said to my partner, I’m sure he’d rather have more sex with me while using condoms than a diminishing amount without them.
It’s been a month now like I say, and I have seen an improvement in my libido already. The fun aspect of sex is returning, my sex dreams are coming back, I’m enjoying a colourful sexual fantasy life again and the spark of mischief is back in my eyes. Or at least, that’s what he tells me. I’m not back to 100% rampant sex potential just yet, but it’s definitely out there on the horizon rather than a much-missed memory from the past.
I’m going to update this in a few months when hopefully my libido will be back (with a vengeance) and I’ll be writing a blog post moaning about how sore 5-times-a-night sex makes me and asking for charitable donations of buckets of lube.
Even if my heightened energy, deeper sleep at night, the feeling that I’m toning my body and losing weight and that I’m healthier all round is all somehow psychosomatic, I really don’t care. The positive effect of the changes I’ve made and continue to make means that even if it is mind over scientific matter I’m still on to a winner for my body, my circumstances.
Other people might be able to eat what they like, get to sleep at a reasonable time, get up early and hit the gym for a couple of hours before work. Time has proven that this doesn’t work for me. I needed to tackle my problems, my situation with regards to diet first, then I could find the energy to put into physical exertions.
Straightening myself out physically and diet-wise gave me the clarity to see where I might be going wrong with my sex life. My waning libido needed the kick from stopping the Pill, and resetting my body back to its own natural levels seems to be helping in ways I never foresaw when I made the decision to cut out gluten from my diet after Christmas 2015.
So that’s my update on where I am at the moment, and a little personal post/diary entry about the effects of going gluten-free and sugar-free and Pill-free on my health and sex life so far. If you’re in a similar position I’d love to hear from you, and if you’re considering making any changes to your life or have been on the gluten-free diet, I quit sugar plan or ‘Pill-free to boost your sex life’ plan too then I would always welcome support and helpful tips. I know feeling ‘the best me I can be’ wasn’t ever going to be an overnight occurrence, and I’m not the most patient woman at the best of times. I felt like this year was my last chance saloon to feel properly physically, mentally and sexually happy however, and the importance of that is keeping me on track so far.