Because I’m pretty sure Cavemen had their coffee with sugar…

I’m on a diet. I’ve done diets before, in varying fits of I’M GOING TO GET HEALTHY DAMMIT and I always achieve the same outcome (fail). It’s not that I want to lose weight (although shedding a few pounds wouldn’t hurt), it’s more because I’m in a current state of floppiness which sees me wandering around in a depressive, apathetic funk (in fact, the ‘wandering around’ stretches the truth a bit, I’m more of a sit-down-and-mope type). I try to shake myself free of the funk – with daily ‘routines’ and new fitness regimes and hobbies and spread sheets organising my diminishing bank balance into graphs and charts which visually tell me I don’t have any money, but the funk stays, and I feel gloomy. The gloom has got easier to ignore over the years, because I know it’s just a phase (a two to three month phase off the back of Christmas, usually) what’s hard to ignore is the constant state of lethargy that comes with it. My mind is in a permanent fog of half-thought thoughts, and I’m physically drained.

Last night I slept for eleven hours. Eleven. It pains me to even admit to myself, never mind broadcast it on the internet. But that’s the reality, people. And sometimes you have to face reality, and admit to shameful sleep patterns (on the internet) in order to change. A post-Christmas mope sets everything in motion. Here’s a scientific diagram which illustrates the mope theory that I just made up:

Mope theory

When I’m at my worst I sleep for far too long, and spend the day eating left-over Bolognese out of the fridge. With a spoon. Or my hands.

Usually when I’m plagued with this (or any other) kind of problem, I call Ghostbusters  my SIL and whinge about said problems to her. So last week when I called her, before I’d even started whinging about my apathy, she told me she was doing a Primal diet. Intriguing, no?

SIL: I’m on a primal diet at the moment. And seriously, I FEEL AWESOME.

Me: Really?

SIL: Okay, maybe not awesome, but like I have more energy.

Me: That could work for me… What’s a primal diet?

SIL: You eat like a Caveman.

Me: So… like… you eat buffalo?

SIL: [Pause] Er, it’s more meat, fish, and vegetables. Lots of vegetables. And butter.

Me: Sounds like my kinda diet.

SIL: Exactly! You just have to stop eating carbs and sugar.

Me: Oh.

SIL: Yeah. But it’s not that hard.

Me: Yeah, but carbs and sugar are my life!! Without carbs and sugar, there would be no cake.

SIL: I know… But you can eat lots of other stuff… like… meat.

So I checked out some websites, and filled my tired little brain with lots of information about the primal diet. It seemed pretty straight forward. For someone who eats leftover Bolognese from the fridge as a snack (sometimes using only her hands) I figured the caveman diet is quite likely to actually work for me. And so, on Monday morning, I woke up ready to be a caveman…woman… (cavelady??) person.

I start my day with a cup of coffee. Nothing comes before coffee. Coffee with milk and a seriously large amount of…huh…sugar.*

*Anyone who’s ever met me for coffee will have looked on in horror as I load my coffee cup with packet after packet of sugar. Sometimes friends struggle to focus on what they’re talking about because watching the sugar emptying process is so long and distracting. People in Starbucks tut and sigh as they wait for me to finish preparing my drink at the milk and sugar stand. I also stir my coffee excessively, which a lot of people struggle to cope with too. But that’s not really relevant here.

I debated the options. But there weren’t any. I considered just having my coffee as normal – after all, what’s one cup of coffee with milk and sugar? Is it really going to make a difference? But then, should I really break the first rule** of the primal diet with the first thing I consume? That’s setting myself up for a failure…

**The first rule of the primal diet is you do not eat carbs or sugar. And the second rule of the primal diet is you DO NOT EAT CARBS OR SUGAR.

Needs sugar

So I had coffee without milk or sugar. And it tasted horrible. It was so horrible that I’m pretty convinced I’ve only ever been drinking coffee all these years purely for the sugar content. I’ve had coffee without milk or sugar for the subsequent mornings, promising myself I’d get used to the taste. I broke that promise to myself. Because it doesn’t get better.

Aside from the disappointing coffee (which I’m painfully drinking every morning) everything else seems okay. In fact, I don’t really miss carbs or sugar, and it feels pretty good to no longer consume meals made up of mountains of pasta, half a garlic bread and an (optional) side salad. Various primal diet websites warned me of withdrawal symptoms for the first couple of days. But I was obviously hardcore and embracing the change. Because in those first two days, I was doing fine, just fine. Meat and veg was the way of great meals. And maybe I’d just stop drinking coffee altogether, eventually.

I wasn’t really feeling any negative effects at all apart from maybe still feeling a little sleepy… and also a little forgetful. I mean, I totally forgot to go to my contact lens appointment despite the reminder text message from the Opticians. And the reminder in my diary. And this note on my desk:

contact lens

But I can’t really hold the diet responsible – as I’m so inept on a daily basis it’s difficult to tell whether such an incident is carbs and sugar withdrawal related or just the norm.

On the whole, I was settling in pretty well to being primal. (RAAARGH!)

Until I woke up Wednesday morning, angry, and craving Danish pastries. I also felt tired. I felt more tired than I had in months. I had classes all afternoon, so I promptly sacked off my plans to go to the gym – figuring that any type of exertion would take up what little energy I had and leave me a zombie for the rest of the day. Then I went downstairs and shouted at my sugarless coffee for being pointless. Then I bashed my head on a shelf. Then I worried I had concussion. Then I lost two hours (I have no idea if those last two points are related).

The day spiralled into a myriad of confusion and irritability. At lunch, I got stuck with a plastic fork and spoon to eat the world’s most boring salad (thanks, M&S Food). In a starvation-fuelled fury, I clawed open a bag of ‘nuts and seeds mix’ causing the bag to tear right down the middle (and nuts and seeds to pour all over my lap). I glared at someone for half an hour on the train for using their phone having not turned off the keypad tones. Then, before my class I (bizarrely) “treated” myself to another black coffee sans milk and sugar, which was as equally revolting as the one I’d had that morning.

By the time evening hit, I was in a foul mood. Having learned that some good quality dark chocolate (80% cocoa solids) can occasionally be eaten on the primal diet, I took the opportunity to buy some for the train journey home, to cheer myself up. Sadly, I scoffed a 100g bar of Green & Blacks in its entirety, between fits of sobbing. Despite knowing that every mouthful was un-doing the last three days of hard work, I didn’t stop eating it. And it was only after I’d licked the melted remains from my fingers, that the diet-guilt set in.

For years, I’ve accepted my coffee addiction. It’s the norm. I’m a writer. We’re supposed to have coffee all the time. What I never realised, however, is that I’m actually addicted to sugar and carbs. And (apparently) chocolate.

I only hope that after this week, I’ll be done withdrawing – and maybe next week, after I’ve stopped going mad and having epic, eleven hour sleeps, and bars of expensive bitter chocolate I can’t afford (according to my spreadsheet), I will start to feel more energetic. And maybe also look like this:


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Comments: 10

  1. Nick Bryan March 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm Reply

    I have marginally more sympathy for your plight now I’ve realised the Cave Diet stops you having milk as well as sugar. Pure black coffee is not something I greatly enjoy.

    • Jo and the Novelist March 17, 2012 at 10:15 am Reply

      I can’t even face having a cup of coffee this morning, because the very idea turns my stomach. Congratulations, paleo diet. You are the one thing to stop me from drinking coffee.

      This is a pretty sad day for me.

      • Jennifer August 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm Reply

        You can have Stevia and full-fat coconut milk in your coffee. Not quite the same as regular sugar and cream–but WAAAYYYY better than black coffee. YUK!

  2. Simone March 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm Reply

    Oh no! I’ve been on a diet since I was 13 years old. I think it’s a socially acceptable form of torture. I’ve been on the no carb diet and guess what? I lost about 20 pounds! And guess what else? I gained it ALL back, PLUS an additional 10 pounds for safe keeping.

    I suffer from body dismorphia and I blame Hollywood for brain washing all of us women into thinking size 2 is the norm. It’s not.

    These days I try to eat organic foods, very little processed crap, and if I want desserts, I go vegan because they’re easier to digest (for me). And I run 2 days a week and do yoga 2 days a week, and sometimes walk 1 day a week. Mostly for mental health.

    The MOST important thing I’ve learned is when I’m starving myself I’m fucking miserable and so is everyone around me. Who am I trying to impress? If it’s me, than I better start loving this body regardless of what size I wear and do the best I can. If it’s someone else, then I need to talk to my therapist about it. :)

    OH MY GOD – clearly this subject matter resonates with me.

    • Jo and the Novelist March 17, 2012 at 10:19 am Reply

      This is predominantly for mental health and getting back some much needed energy. When I feel tired, I’m even less motivated to do… anything. So then I get all depressed about the fact I’m not doing anything and it’s just a bit of a loop I get stuck in.

      Overall, I’m pretty happy with the diet. I’m just struggling with unsweetened coffee.

      I think ‘diet’ is one of the worst words in the english language.

  3. alonewithcats March 17, 2012 at 10:50 pm Reply

    I drink tea now. You’ve given up coffee. The Mayans were so right. THE END IS NEAR.

    Sometimes I sleep for 10-plus hours so I can spend less of the day feeling crappy about how I have no social life. Yesterday, I stayed in bed til 4 p.m. I’m not proud.

    • Jo and the Novelist March 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm Reply

      That’s something to be proud of. I usually give up around midday because guilt sets in. Be proud you pay no attention to that guilt. Besides, staying in bed is the best, and not in the least bit depressing. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself every morning when my alarm goes off and I ignore it and sleep for another however many hours.

      I can’t believe you’re drinking tea now. When did this happen? Why did you not consult with me first? What kind of tea are you drinking? If it’s not PG Tips we have a problem. Coffee is still on the go. I may or may not still be slipping in a little sugar to make it go down easier ;)

  4. The Suniverse (@TheSuniverse) March 18, 2012 at 8:17 pm Reply

    I have so many things I want to say, and yet I am so tired and full of half-formed thoughts of:


    Nick – No milky? What?

    Simone – Dieting forever is gah! Stupid Hollywood! Vegan chocolate upsets my tummy/

    Alone – Sleepy bedtime lounging to get rid of the day – been there.

    I’m in the midst of wondering what the hell I’m doing about anything. Diet? The crazy? Depression? All jumbled up.

    Let’s all make a point of getting together, please.

    • Jo and the Novelist March 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm Reply

      Those are the kind of half-thoughts that loop through my head. Although yesterday I might have cheated a little and had two coffees. This made me SUPER ALERT and chatty. Sadly, there was no one around to see it.

      I agree, everything is all jumbled up at the moment. When will it get unjumbled?

      Maybe we should get together? We can drink tea and do karaoke and play Wii bowling. I vote you all come to the UK – all in favour say I…

  5. Rik March 21, 2012 at 12:51 am Reply

    You know you can get 85% cocoa Green and Blacks? Now that’s the good shit.

    (Although you really should get used to snacking on raw steak).

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