K and I just got back from a weekend in the Cape Winelands, and boy was it awesome! We packed up the car and headed off with our good friends Gin and Tonic on Friday afternoon, bundled up against the chilly Stellenbosch weather and ready for some great food and wine.
See, Sellenbosch is one South Africa’s top wine-producing regions, and it’s also a famous university town where K studied. I knew this weekend was going to mean a little indulgence, but I had no idea how far I’d fall from the wagon.
My cheating confession
Between our pub crawl on Friday, Bastille Day celebrations in Franschhoek yesterday (Franschhoek – the ‘French Corner’ – being another renowned wine-producing area) and the fresh food fairs, wine farms, restaurants, fast food joints and craft markets we trawled, my GI system experienced an onslaught bar (n)one.
Most of my cheating took the form of copious amounts of booze – the ‘not allowed’ kinds like Jagermeister, sparkling and sweet wines, energy drinks (to make Jagerbombs – Jagerbombs!!) and tequila (though I think tequila is actually ‘legal’, as it’s made from cacti). But there was also nightshade veg (tomatoes at breakfast and lunch, and some fries), as well as an embarrassingly large amount of chocolate, including a chocolate sheep. In fact, I pretty much ‘forgot’ that tomatoes were nightshades. Did I leave my AIP brain at home?? It felt like it.
My ‘tips’ for cheating
This weekend was a PROPER cheat. Two days of diet debauchery. I do NOT recommend you EVER cheat as severely as this. But, if you do go hurtling off the wagon head-first into a pile of cheese, here are a few tips that I can share, purely from my experience.
1. Avoid gluten, even when cheating. My nutritionalist explained to me that gluten can take up to six months to leave your system altogether. One cheat is NOT worth undoing all that work. Have a gluten-free pizza or pasta, or have cheese or any chocolate that doesn’t contain gluten. There are ‘safe’ cheat foods and naughtier cheat foods, and then there are the cheat foods that can set you back months in your healing. Try not to have those.
2. Realise that cheating is inevitable. I cheat about once every two months or so. That’s six times a year. It’s not great, it’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s something I’m hoping will continue to decline in frequency over time. But it’s a FAR cry from where I was, and I’m making progress and trying my best. Just forgive yourself and move on (but don’t forget! And don’t eat gluten!).
3. Prepare for pain. There’s a reason you’re on the diet you’re on. Today, doubled over in pain as we drove home from Stellenbosch, I remembered just how great it feels to eat clean. Although the pain sucks, it’s also an effective way to keep the cheating to a minimum. Just remember how shit, literally, it feels to cheat. Remember this pain, nausea and desire to curl up and die.
4. Recognise when you’re in a ‘high risk’ situation. For me, it’s when my friends are buying rounds of drinks and the wine is flowing. I realise I can’t be in these kinds of situations without cheating, so I need to avoid them or keep them to an absolute minimum. It also helps to have people around you – for me, it’s K – who will remind you about your diet and castigate you for cheating. It sounds horrible, but it’s necessary and it works!
5. Stop as soon as possible. Don’t think that just because you cheated on Friday night means you should just write off the whole weekend and keep cheating until Monday – because come Monday, you’ll have another excuse to keep cheating until Friday – and hey, then it’s the weekend again! Cheat, then stop, or you never will.
6. Cleanse. Don’t stop your meds or your supplements. Don’t stop drinking two litres of water a day. Treat your body as if it’s flaring, because that’s probably how it’s feeling – sore, bloated, gassy and uncomfortable. It’s already had to do enough work processing the bad stuff, so give it a break and go back to basics. Stick to plain veggies, plain cooked meat, eggs (if you can tolerate them) and bananas. Even if you can tolerate dairy, it may be wise to cut it out for a bit – it’s known to aggravate a sensitive stomach. Also avoid coffee, alcohol and fruit juices, and stick with herbal teas and broths. You know what your body likes when it’s feeling bad, so feed it those things only.
7. Don’t stress. You screwed up and you’ve already done damage to your body. Stressing about it will only make it worse – just think about how your stomach feels when you’re in a state of tension and anxiety. Stress will only exacerbate your symptoms and prolong your healing. Be kind to yourself.
Do you have any other tips for cheating? Or perhaps any tips to help me stop cheating?? As you can see, I could really use all the help I can get!