Giving up sugar and snacks increased my energy by an insane degree.
Well that was a long title.
I have no need for short titles anymore because after years of always feeling kinda okay, but also kinda blah, I now have more energy than the Hoover Dam. Or, like, you know that thing where your vacuum doesn't suck as hard so you clean it out and then it's like "woah, I never knew you could suck this much!"
Well these days, I'm sucking hard and often. And you can too!
Unless, that is, the day of the month is evenly divisible by 10.
I'm writing the first draft of this on January 30th and that means it's snack day!
Where all your energy is going
You have a fridge and it's pretty great, right? I bet you also have a cupboard full of food and that's also fantastic. So you get a little hungry, but you don't have energy to cook a full meal so you grab a cookie while you're trying to sort out what you're really gonna eat, but you still don't know so you grab another cookie. And eventually you give up and go back to the couch or your desk because two cookies was enough to keep you going.
If this sounds familiar then you were doing the same dumb shit I was doing.
In my head, it sounded like this (but with circus music in the background):
"It's only two cookies, that's no big deal. And well there are only three left in the bag, so I'll finish off this bag, and then not buy more."
*cut to the next day*
"Man that was a rough day. I'll stop at the store on the way home and get some chips and watch a movie tonight."
*two days later*
"Hey, Oreos are on sale!"
The double-stuffed conspiracy
When I thought about it, there were two very clear things happening
First, I was snacking too much. (I do love me some snacks.) But I wasn't measuring it or thinking about it so I had no idea the extent of the issue. It's so easy to forget the past, y'know?
It's so easy to convince yourself you're living better than you are.
Second, I wasn't eating enough actual food. The snacks would suppress my already-low appetite so I could go back to working as soon as possible. I would have one real meal per day, maybe two if I had a decent breakfast also.
Third†, a lot of the "healthy" parts of my diet had WAY more sugar and salt than I expected. Some yogurts have as much sugar as pudding, sure, I think we all know that. But shit, All-Bran has more sugar (by weight) than most of the yogurts! Cheese is full of salt, sure, but canned tomatoes? Didn't see that one coming.
"So what?" you say, "Food is full of crap. We know that."
And you're right. I knew it also. But reading all those labels and doing math? No thanks, sir, I just want put dead things in the hole in my face and watch Ant-Man.††
Just get to the damn system already
The best systems have concrete rules. "Eat healthier" is a terrible new habit to attempt because it's impossible to say definitively that you're sticking with it yes or no. You gotta have something to measure and it's gotta be EASY to measure. The minute you bring a pen and paper into the game you've lost.
So I thought about the halo effect†. That is, how a single strict habit indirectly influences similar habits subconsciously. In my example, I thought about giving up Doritos forever. I'd have a farewell Doritos party, invite all my friends, and say goodbye to the coolest ranch I'd ever visited. It would be the only thing I gave up but I could picture myself in the chip aisle thinking, "well, I can't have Doritos, so I guess I probably shouldn't get anything."
But man, the COMMITMENT. Forever is a tough sell. I couldn't say goodbye.
Then I thought about cheat days. It's an age-old dietary concept in which you can eat whatever you want on a certain day.
This gets past the commitment issue, but every week still seemed like too often to do myself any good.
So instead I decided I would consume no cookies, chips, chocolate, candy or soda, except on days that are evenly divisible by 10.
And that was it. It was clear. It was simple. It had the word 'divisible' in it. And while it was intended to just be a starting point, it has turned out to be plenty all on its own.
Christmas Snack Day
I call them my Snack Days. (I don't call it a "cheat day" for several reasons I'll explore in a later post probably.)
They last from midnight to midnight. And I can eat ANYTHING. Though normally I'll gorge on chips and chocolate bars. Less so cookies, as it turns out, b/c I don't want to use up my snacking budget on them.
I love snacks and I don't think that'll ever change. But now my snacking is focused. I've gone from an amateur to a pro. I have a special snack-day kit and storage to keep everything fresh between days. I go to specialty and import snack shops to find unique items.
Like with art (or sex), constraints made it better.
And every 9th or 19th or 29th, it feels like Christmas Eve did when you were a kid. "Santa was here and left a big pile of shit for me to eat!"
Back to the energy thing
I have so much energy now I seriously don't know what to do with all my time. I work a ton still, but I've also been looking into a lot of old hobbies like writing (hello!) and reading and playing music and following motorsports.
The halo-effect did in fact take effect. I rarely eat prepared frozen meals like pizza or certain boxed pastas that are popular in Canada, made by Kraft and that you typically eat for dinner. Because, even if a dinner of KD would not be breaking the rules, it doesn't feel ... right?
I'd always assumed healthy eating was key to feeling good but it wasn't until I turned snacking into the focus that I began to eat healthy.
I can't say why this works for me, or if it will work for you. The mind is a pretty fucked up place and they all function in their own unique ways. But sometimes you can use that to your advantage.
† "You said there were only two, you lying bastard!"
†† Don't watch Ant-Man. There are better ways to get your Rudd fix
††† No idea if that's what people actually call it but you totally believed me