It is a fact of life that some of the things we enjoy the most are the ones that do us most harm. Drinking, smoking, falling in love, recreational drug use, driving too fast… Hedonistic pleasure is what makes life a little bit better and a little more dangerous. And I would say the same could be said for eating carbohydrates.
I’ll admit it, I am a full-on carb addict. Nothing makes me feel better than a large slice of cake or a thick peanut butter sandwich. And I know I’m not the only one. Which is why I think it’s so unfair that carbohydrates are Enemy Number One when it comes to weight loss and maintaining one’s figure. Where else can you find that chewy and soft texture? It sure as hell doesn’t come in the shape of a Ryvita or a handful of dried cranberries.
Earlier on this year I gave up bread for about three months, and it was much harder than I thought it would be. Firstly, sandwiches and toast are a staple part of any student’s diet, so I had to completely re-think what the average day would bring in terms of food. Secondly, my normal hangover cure involves a large quarter-pounder meal and three hours on the sofa. A bowl of Special K and a banana just didn’t have the same restorative effect. Thirdly, once you start looking, bread is everywhere. Lunches bought from Pret or similar had to be salads or soup, but even salads have bloody croutons in them and the soup comes with a roll. When you haven’t had bread for several weeks and willpower is low, that roll, as stale and shiny as it may be, starts to look mighty tempting. There are some moments in life where only a bacon sandwich will provide the answer.
This bread-free phase of my life came to an end when I went on a ski trip to France. One cannot be in France and not eat bread. It’s against the law. I had also found myself substituting bread for cake, which kind of defeated the whole purpose of the exercise. Also, cereal is much more expensive than bread, so my new breakfast plan was making an unwelcome dent in my student loan. However, despite my bread-ban-induced depression, I did find that I had more energy during the day. Maybe two slices of granary toast with a heavy layer of jam wasn’t the best way to wake up. It’s commonly acknowledged that too much wheat in your diet can make you sluggish, bloated and heavy, and bread certainly sits in your stomach like concrete for a good while before releasing its energy. So there I was, bright eyed and bushy tailed, much better in terms of physical health due to quitting my bread habit.
I have tried twice since to give up bread in the same way, and both times have failed emphatically. I want to have back that feeling of alertness and the ability to go through the day without wanting a nap, but it seems like the urge to have a mouthful of doughy yumminess is too strong. Perhaps I partially counteract my carb addiction with a healthy amount of exercise, but I can still feel myself beginning to put on what one might call a ‘winter layer’. Matters aren’t helped by working in a restaurant where the only thing available to eat without paying for it is, you guessed it, bread. A huge basket of it, home-made and hot from the oven. Irresistible stuff. I could also blame living at home on my inability to kick the carbs. For my father, no lunch is complete without a bit of bread and cheese. My mother is as bad as I am. And my brother can eat all he likes and never put on weight – damn that male metabolism. So, short of padlocking the bread bin and having meals by myself, the only solution to this is sheer willpower, and I’ll admit that I don’t have excess reserves of the stuff. Maybe I’ll be better once I live on my own and am in charge of the food shopping.
But for now… Hi, my name’s Charlotte and I’m a bread addict.