It came as a big surprise. The trauma of turning the Big 4-0 had just begun to subside when I woke up and realised that in 6 fast weeks I was going to be 41. My father’s favourite saying screamed in my head: “Life is like a toilet roll, the closer you get to the end the faster it goes.”
The knowledge that I was currently unravelling faster and faster to certain death catapulted me into something I had not done since I was a serial-detoxing teen. And that is: going on a health kick.
Since Finn was born just over five years ago I have been largely surviving on litres of caffeine and unhealthy quantities of refined sugar. Before pregnancy I would turn my nose up at dessert and smugly say, “I’m more of a savoury type of person, thank you.”
Now, if I don’t eat at least one chunk of chocolate cake and a fistful of a winegums a day, I stop functioning. Or I start putting extra spoonfuls of sugar in my coffee. It is no surprise, really. If you haven’t slept in five years due to two babies, a career and a little a book you just had to write, then you have to get your energy from somewhere.
But when it became apparent that I was clearly never going to stop ageing I decided that I must do something about my health. Not one to go gentle into the good night, I decided to throw myself into the darkness by stopping all caffeine and sugary foodstuffs (including bubbly which unfortunately has an extremely high sugar content, even the dry stuff).
Have you ever tried to stop drinking coffee? It’s like coming down with swine flu and a migraine at the same time. I’ve thankfully never had either, but I cannot imagine it’s worse than life without coffee.
The sugar free diet is no easier, made infinitely more challenging by working in an office with 50 women who insist on bringing in sweet baked goods at least 2-3 times a week in celebration of their birthdays. It is easy to consume your bodyweight in cake on a weekly basis round here, but not so easy to watch your colleagues blissfully consuming cream and caramel cupcakes, while you stare into your rooibos tea.
It’s been a bloody ordeal. Though it has been three weeks now and as I’d been told most of the side-effects of the caffeine withdrawal have subsided. The headaches are gone and I am only occasionally hit by spells of achiness. But I am yet to shake the feeling that I’ve lost a long-term friend. Whenever I’ve felt a bit low, tired or even a bit bored I’ve turned to my cup of coffee for comfort and a lift. I have yet to find something to replace that with. Aunty Rooibos and I have just never clicked in quite the same way.
Yesterday Finn declared: “Mom, I know why adults are always so busy.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because they know they’re going to die soon.”
And as far as I’m concerned the same can be surmised for why we go on health kicks.