When I last posted on this topic (16 November), with the same heading but ending with a question mark, it had been a whole month since I last ingested caffeine and aspartame or any other sweetener. Today is the celebration of a whole four months of not taking any such substance that, I’d learnt after several attempts to give it up over the previous couple of years, was giving me mouth ulcers, heart palpitations or a day of constant yawns. And who knows what else I couldn’t see.
Four months! I think I can safely say that habit is well and truly kicked.
It’s also dawned on me that this is probably the longest spell for 30 years or more where I’ve gone without. I know I was regularly on the full sugar Coke since I was at least around 13. About this time I and a school mate of mine were building our Saturday car and window-cleaning empire; laden with cash after a day of hot, wet, hard work we would blow it all on the vinyl record stall at the local market an hour before closing time. And bottles of Coke or Dr. Pepper.
While I did eventually move on to Diet Coke after many, many moons, it’s really only been in the last few years of trying to change lifetime habits that I’ve sought to question for myself how I personally feel after eating or drinking unnatural products or chemicals (which has now extended into questioning sugars and carbs, but that’s for another day).
There are acres of online and print media arguing one way or the other the “myths” or “facts” of the long-term use of caffeine or man-made sweeteners (or sugar, or carbs, etc. etc.). One of the more recent has been this article on whether sweeteners accelerate the onset of diabetes.
All I know, from personal experience, is this: 3 to 4 times or more in the last 2 to 3 years I’ve sought to stop ingesting so much caffeine or sweeteners, suspecting a link between that and how I was feeling. And 3 to 4 times or more the same symptoms that had developed after a couple of months of regular Diet Coke or any other diet drink (mouth ulcers; heart palpitations; yawning all day) stopped and cleared away within a few weeks.
And now I’ve been free of those symptoms for 4 months!
Says it all.
The next real challenge is the addiction of sugars and processed carbohydrates. This will be a tough one, as I started at an early age: my Mum told me recently that when I was 3 years old 3 chocolate Easter eggs were left on the kitchen table for the following Easter Sunday morning. Instead of finding pleasantly wrapped Easter eggs for the family they found a very unwell small child adding vomit to the pools already over the kitchen floor: I’d somehow managed to clamber on to the table and devoured all 3 chocolate eggs in one sitting.
I am coming to that point of recognising that I may need to simply just stop eating the stuff. As my coach, Rory Coleman, told me (scathingly!) recently, while the cycle of eating what I like and then exercising it off in time for the next endurance challenge has worked thus far it won’t work forever.
In fact, I can speak from experience, the older one becomes the less successful that technique is!