Man. Food. Can’t just take a pill, can’t freakin’ figure it out.
Let me say this, first: I’ve been gluten free for about…seven years now. Ish. At least, December seven years ago is when I first stopped eating gluten, but I kept screwing up for the first six months or so. Screwing up in the sense that I thought I was eating something gluten free, and it wasn’t. I also kept choosing to eat gluten periodically for about the first six months, but by the end of that it was more of a “Oh, you made…cookies. Um. Okay. Sure, I’ll have one.” (Now? “Nope, sorry, don’t eat gluten.” Then: insert long story about someone in the family or neighborhood or little Bobby’s ballet class who also doesn’t eat gluten.)
Then, this year. Halloween candy. Candy corn. Not something that usually tempts me, evidently, because I have no memory of feeling traumatized by not having it, which is how I kept track of gluten in the first few years. I had this huge list o’ resentments (Cocoa Krispies, for instance, and Round Table Pizza), which was a fair way to keep track, because I didn’t have to “remember” anything; I just knew if I hated anyone eating that food in my general vicinity (or on television, or in a book), that was a food I could no longer eat.
But candy corn? Not in my mental database. And it’s been seven years. I don’t even check labels on food unless it’s new to me.
Man, I fucked myself up. No. I FUCKED MYSELF UP.
I’ve never experienced this level of physical pain from gluten. Back before I knew I was gluten-screwed, I felt terrible all the time. Braindead. Nauseous. Exhausted. Did I mention braindead? And I had headaches, but that was a lifelong thing. The only thing that wasn’t cured by quitting gluten was my insomnia, which I’ve had since birth. (Just ask my mom for her sleep logs!)
Last Friday, yo, I was in the most intense pain I’ve ever been in, short of migraines. I wanted to bury my entire body in cool sand and come out when it was over. You know the sitcom hangover? Where the afflicted character melodramatically shies away from light an sound and scent? Yeah, I’ve never had an alcohol hangover like that. (It should be mentioned that I don’t drink. Like at all. Because I’m not allowed. I’m no fucking fool and I’ve been to enough AA meetings to know I do not have the right to a chemical state of mind. Unless that chemical is caffeine.)
But man, I was in endless, eternal, purgatory-style pain, and for most of the day I thought it was sugar. I spent the entire day trying to imagine giving up sugar, freaking out a little about it. This is not the first time I’ve googled “tips quit sugar” or “how to quit sugar” or “quit sugar steps.” Wouldn’t it be funny if Google got fed up after you searched the same term too many times and shot back an Ask Jeeves-type “Oh, just bloody DO IT already!”
I’m a sugar fiend. I’m not out of control, exactly (gluten helped with that; when I ate gluten I bought the three pound bag of M&Ms…a few times a month). But it’s ever-present. And it’s present in that insidious way you know isn’t right, but is so ingrained you don’t fight it. I feel like I deserve M&Ms, or mini cupcakes, or another spoonful of frosting. Like life sucks, but this bite of buttercream will make everything better. And after all, it’s not like I drink, or smoke, or have an incessant porn addiction (SHUT UP). Sugar’s such a cheap high.
Let’s not go into how it’s a poison. Whatever, dude. To me the insane sugar-scare stuff is like “pot is a gateway drug” on the crazy meter. For some people, sugar’s probably the thing that kills them. Maybe. I guess. Ish. But most people are gonna keep chugging that Dran-O and live normal lifespans, so I can’t deal with the drama. You know what’s poison? Poison. Sugar’s a food. Is it toxic in high doses? Bet your fat, sugar-padded ass. Is everyone eating way the hell too much? Oh, sure. But poison? I barely have the brain power to worry about the things that are immediate dangers to my life, let alone sugar.
So for about sixteen hours I writhed in pain, searched the internet (but only on my phone, because I couldn’t stand the light of the computers, so I didn’t go anywhere near them), and prepared to make Major Life Changes, Like Today, Junior. It should also be noted that I consumed two entire bags of gluten free yogurt-covered pretzels, because in my past history of quitting foods, I’ve had better luck with a cycle of binge-feel like death-finally stop eating.
Then my brother got home from work, at eleven, and said, “Whoa, dude. You look even more glutened than you did yesterday.”
Turns out: candy corn, apart from being made of poison, also includes….gluten. And I’d downed a bunch of it, because the kid only wanted the pumpkin shapes.
I woke up the next day feeling slightly less like death. And just as devoted to getting free of sugar as I’d been the night before. (Told you: if I eat a food until I literally heave, I find it way easier to quit eating it. Plus, it’s a tactic that has that self-harm flagellation edge I like so much.)
Which brings us to today.
I’m not going cold turkey and throwing away everything in my house with “hidden” sugar. (It ain’t hidden if we all know it’s there, yo. It’s right there, on the label, with all the other creepy shit in your food.) I can’t afford three days of withdrawal. Single parenting a toddler here, yo. But I can definitely not eat candy (which I don’t even want today, still), or bake cookies and cupcakes. I can certainly spend more time trying to figure out food that doesn’t make me sad, which gets easier as I practice.
Also, I’ve got a character I’ll be writing…oh, sometime in 2015, who’s a hobbyist chef. He gets a starring role in, I think, the second of the three books taking place in New Halliday, which anyone reading the blog in July might remember from this unfinished project. I can’t wait to get back to it. I think…late January for Fairy Tales? With a…May release? Those are guesses, don’t hold me to them. So I can justify cooking on a couple of levels as research, which helps a little. I neither enjoy the process nor, usually, the results, so it’s a bit of a hard sell. A work in progress, y’all.
And I keep reading these lines from people who quit sugar, about three weeks in, that they wake up with…energy. Like, they’re actually awake when they get up in the morning. Me? It takes a bit. A lot. An hour, maybe. I used to try to get all the way to the day job before I was fully awake. But now? I like my life. I love hanging out with my kid, and I’d love to have more energy to run around with her. Feels like I’m tired a whole lot of the time, and while I’m a pretty decent parent (I don’t live up to my standards for me, but I do okay when it comes to my standards for you, if that makes sense), I would like to hear myself say “Baby, I just gotta sit for a minute” fewer times a day. (An hour.)
So I don’t know. This ain’t some kind of big proclamation. But today, I didn’t want to eat the candy corn that’s still sitting on my counter. I ate a lot of protein, and the fat I could manage, and I feel pretty good. That’s a start, maybe a small one, but it feels a hell of a lot better than constantly craving something that doesn’t actually make me feel good (I’m not even convinced I like the flavor anymore; I crave it, but it doesn’t necessarily taste good). And that’s at least one too many uses for “good” in one paragraph. Oy. Back to the grindstone. God, I hope you guys like Nick and Bernie, because this book is kicking my ass. (You’ll see more of them in The New Born Year, out soon at a bookstore site near you!)