I’m realizing that for a long time, I essentially had an eating disorder. I’d become super afraid of consuming carbs and sugar because I seemed to get more of a sugar rush than other people, and also more of a crash. I’d attributed this to being borderline hypoglycemic (this is official. I’ve had my blood sugar tested).
I was so convinced that sugar and carbs were making me sick, in fact, that when the Atkins diet became all the rage I hopped right on board. I mean, carbs seemed to make me feel sickly and the Atkins diet supposedly gives people an amazing burst of energy and they feel great all the time, so this was relevant to my interests.
Except I felt like shit on Atkins. The diet is supposed to make you feel icky for like three days as your body switches primary fuel sources from carbs to fat, but on day three or so, you’re supposed to leap out of bed feeling amazing. I was on Atkins for months and felt absolutely drained and draggy the entire time (I kept with it because I’m a stubborn asshole and figured surely the burst of energy would kick in any…day…now…). And if I accidentally did eat more than the recommended amount of carbs/sugar in a sitting? It fucked me up even more. I know it sounds melodramatic but I am being absolutely serious: one day when I was on Atkins I made myself some cottage cheese pancakes (thinking “animal protein doesn’t have a lot of carbs so this should be safe” but lactose, dude. Lactose.) and ended up straight-up lying on the floor crying because I didn’t have the energy to move. Like, at all. My limbs felt like they each weighed a hundred pounds.
A few years later I hired a nutritionist to get my eating habits sorted out, and even he didn’t know why I reacted to Atkins like that. He said he’d never heard of that happening to anyone. And this was a highly accredited dude who was recommended to me by someone I respect!
But I finally connected two very important dots the other day.
I have celiac disease. Celiac disease causes intestinal damage that keeps a person from properly absorbing the nutrients in their food. But as far as I know, sugar doesn’t need the get to the intestines – it starts absorbing right way through the stomach lining. Or maybe it absorbs through the intestines (Google can’t seem to make up its mind on this), but clearly – trust me on this – the damage from celiac disease doesn’t impede that absorption process at all.
For years and years I knew I was a sugar/carb addict and felt ashamed of my lack of self-control. I’d cut out refined sugar and try to eat only complex carbs – the healthy kind we’re all supposed to focus on – and even then I’d go batshit-crazy on them and not be able to stop. My portions were all wonkus.
You guys, I WASN’T ABSORBING THE NUTRIENTS IN MY FOOD. CARBS WERE MY ONLY SOURCE OF ENERGY. I was basically walking around with malnutrition and sugars of various kinds were the only fuel my body could properly process, and I cut those off, too, so then if I tried to have just a little bit of pasta or something my starving brain would make me inhale ten pounds of it just to have something sustaining me, and I’d berate myself for being a weak piece of shit, for giving myself an intense hypoglycemic “sugar crash” that made me feel drained and lethargic after. Except it wasn’t hypoglycemia doing that, it was the gluten in the pasta plus the fact that my body’s base state was “chronically malnourished” (so, maybe less of a “carb crash” and more a “temporary lift followed by going back to normal” where “normal” means fatigued and derpy) plus perhaps that I wasn’t absorbing any of the nutrients that would slow down the absorption of the sugars.
Then I went on Atkins, which meant never taking in any fuel my body could properly use, so of course I never had any energy. It also meant I ate little-to-no gluten, so my intestines started to repair themselves, which was key to me realizing something had been very, very wrong with my body up to that point, so there’s a silver lining. But it kills me that I lambasted myself for a lack of willpower for so long over my carb cravings when in fact I managed long periods of being extremely low-carb even though this denied my body of its only energy source, rendered me completely fatigued and burned out most of the time, and was literally starving my brain.
Now that I’ve been off gluten long enough for my intestinal damage to have repaired itself, I’m finally experiencing that thing everyone always says about eating nutritious food making you feel better. I’d thought that was a myth, since I always felt just as shitty being vegan as I did eating McDonalds as I did being paleo. But now I do feel a difference when I eat my veggies, and it’s surprisingly immediate. And I can eat (gluten free) pasta now in moderation; I guess my body is absorbing enough vitamins that it doesn’t depend on the pasta in my meal as its main energy source anymore, so now there’s a sort of natural stopping point where my gut or brain or whatever says “Okay, that’s enough carbs” all on its own. So on one hand, I eat a lot less spaghetti in one sitting now than I used to, but on the other hand, dude I can eat so many carbs now and not get fucked up!!! I mean, the moderate amount of pasta my body enjoys these days before it says “enough” doesn’t really make me feel high, just good.
I really wish I’d figured this shit out a few decades sooner. 😦