Monday, April 16, 2012

The End of Lent

I wrote a post a few days before Easter that my iPad mistook for a chocolate egg and consumed, never to be seen again. It was a brilliant essay - one that I couldn't possibly attempt to re-create - about my 46 days of abstaining from alcohol during Lent. And while we're on that subject: I thought it was 40 days of Lent, so why was this year more than 40? Hmm. Anyway, the short story is that I gave up alcohol for Lent, and apart from two "pre-planned exceptions" (a glass of prosecco on Blake's birthday, and a few miscellaneous drinks when Mom and Dad and I went to Paris - how could you go to France and not drink wine?! was the way I looked at it...), I did very well. After about 10 days in, I went and cheated slightly by buying some non-alcohol beer, and although it kind of made me feel like I was having a little something special, it doesn't really cut it when it comes to feeling like a refreshing post-work reward. Fortunately they also seem to make the bottles smaller (250ml compared to a normal 330ml, I believe), so at least when I wasn't really enjoying it, the end of the bottle arrived fairly quickly.


I believe the point of giving up something during Lent is for you to feel like you're sacrificing something, but in my case, I think this whole thing was just a bad idea. For starters, instead of just giving up my occasional glasses of wine or beer, I basically pretty much "traded" those for something else: in my case extra chocolate, cookies, treats that people brought in to work for their birthdays. On Ash Wednesday, I had a thought that maybe I would actually lose weight as a by-product of this abstinence, but man, could anything have been farther from the actual outcome?! I can safely say that if you drop a nightly glass of Pinot Noir and put in your mouth in its place something like a mid-morning Krispy Kreme doughnut, an early evening candy bar, a few assorted pre-bedtime cookies, and a flapjack for breakfast - you will not lose weight. Just the opposite! And the other thing I've concluded from this experiment is that life as an adult is simply more gratifying with at least the option of a fruity Beaujolais in one's grip. Now I have been known on occasion to drink probably a little more than I should (cue memories of those visits to doctor's offices where weekly alcohol consumption were discussed...let's see, it's probably about 15 given that I was out over the weekend, and then there was that leaving drinks with work on Thursday - ok, maybe it's more like 20, but in fact, that sounds way too high....I think I'll say "Six".). These days, however, I'm much more likely to have a decaf tea in the evening rather than wine which would just put me to sleep, but the thing about this Lent exercise was that it was very difficult not to even give myself the option. Whether I exercise it or not is a different matter, but there were some Friday evenings after a long work week where I just so desperately wanted a sip of something alcoholic in a kind of victory gesture to my current world of juggling motherhood and working outside the home, a kind of "Ha, you didn't beat me, not this week at least!"...but it's not so effective a message when you're trying to say it through a mouthful of half a dozen Pringle's (yes, I mean all at once) washed down with a non-alcoholic Beck's that tastes like the bit of water that comes out of the coffee machine's rinse cycle.


The day before Easter, Blake and I met for a quick coffee with Heids and her mum, and I was telling them about being so close to achieving my goal. "I bet you're looking forward to something with Easter lunch," they said, to which I jokingly replied, "I may just have something at breakfast!" As it was, we had some wine and a bit of champagne at lunch on Sunday, and that was it. Since then I've had the occasional sip of wine in the evening but am actually not even too bothered anymore, now of course that I am allowing myself to have it!


Riding the coattails of this "giving up", though, I decided I was going to try another month of abstaining, this time from wheat. In all honesty, I'm curious to see whether giving up bread will help me lose some extra pounds around my middle. You could argue that I could have challenged myself to give up simply cakes, cookies, and doughnuts (all the really naughty things!), but somehow I think I would have failed miserably at that, so I had to make the challenge even more stringent. My friend Sandro recently cut down on bread and pasta and felt more energetic (and also shed some pounds), and I don't have to read beyond the title of the best-selling book Wheat Belly to guess what I'd see. Although generally I encourage balance in one's diet, it will be interesting to see whether my digestion improves with the elimination of wheat. I started this on Friday, and so far it's gone fine. I do love bread, though - and, it's so easy! - and there have been a few times where I've thought, "Oh, I'd love a piece of toast!" (this craving wasn't helped much when Matt brought home two bags of bagels - it was buy one, get one free). But overall, not too bad so far. Mainly I'm amazed to think of all the things that have wheat in them: all the best cereals; bread, of course; pasta; and, oh yes, those offensive cakes and cookies. I'll make sure I eat other carbs as the point is not really to do anything unhealthy; I'm just curious to see whether I would have a positive reaction energy-wise, and possibly weight-wise, to ditching the wheat. I do count myself grateful not to have an allergy or intolerance to it, because I'm sure in a month or so I'm really going to look forward to a delicious piece of toast. And I'll toast to that!



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