On being a sugar fanatic for over two decades, my usual intake of something sweet a.k.a. desserts; ranged anywhere between four to six helpings a day. So, imagine my horror when I find out one afternoon of an unwelcoming hot weather and a gloomy mood that we had run out of treats!!
To understand the intensity of my reaction to this situation, I think its only fair to explain my love for food first. I hold the principle of never wasting food on the highest pedestal in life, next being never-say-no to trying something new or something familiar out of a different kitchen. I also believe that I’m a growing child who needs her three full meals and two mini-meals each day. I was known for being the person with a stash of candies and a backup stash and a backup-to-the-backup stash.
So, given my horror of not finding anything sweet, I left my lunch on the table like an unappreciated ex and waltzed out to first procure my fix. While the gooey cake appeased my mind and I got back to my meal eventually, it was at night when the conscience was innocent and my demons crept out. It was in the darkness that I became privy to my situation. Not only had I disrespected the hot meal waiting for me, I’d also acted like a little brat!
Coming to terms with my actions, I took a decision. I promised that I’d not touch sugar and sugared items for a whole of 30 days starting that very night. Was this a punishment? I’d like to think that I was just trying to prove to myself that I’m not a brat and definitely not a sugar-dependent (we all knew I was fooling no one but myself!). But what is the fun in a challenge if everyone thinks you can do it, right?
Beginning the next day, I started declaring to just about anyone and everyone that ‘I Quit Sugar’. It didn’t matter if they asked or not, whether they cared or not, whether they thought me capable or not. All I needed was to make myself believe that I was doing it. I mean if enough people knew about it, some were bound to ask me about the progress after a few days, weeks or a month and someone was bound to see me when I almost slip and ask me what happened to quitting, right? I thought it the best way to keep me in check without anyone really crowding me about it.
While it was all things gay and jolly for the first couple of days, it took a whole lot of detours to avoid dessert stores, cafes and ice cream stalls and birthday parties to stay away from the temptation. But the issues arose when my body figured how I was fooling it every time it craved something sweet and my mind refused to co-operate. By the end of the first week, I realised how vulnerable I had become.
So starting week two, I made some rules.
- I told myself that not all things sweet have sugar and non-sugar can still be sweet
- I decided to spend time physically buying fruits and picking the season specialties along with the round the year offering
- Don’t be too harsh on yourself for craving, but do not cheat
Now that I look back I’m surprised how six months have gone so fast. I’ll admit that I’ve had occasions when I didn’t just think but did go all out with a large ice-cream, a cupcake or just some brownie. But for most of it, I know I’ve made tremendous progress. Now I can go multiple meals with no dessert craving. I’ve come up with innovative ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. And most of all, I feel like a winner!
Here are some things that had me sailing through it all:
- DON’T GO HUNGRY
I realised that staying hungry for long made me an irrational thinker. The moment I started paying attention to my stomach, I wasn’t munching on cookies or candies thoughtlessly.
2. SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED WATER
While listening to my stomach better I also realised that a lot of pangs were just false alarms. I just needed to hydrate myself better, so I started carrying a water bottle everywhere I went. (BONUS: I was unknowingly being an environmentally more responsible person by not buying single use plastic bottles as often)
3. TRY THE FRUITS
Like I mentioned I started to physically go and select fruits for my consumption. On looking back, I think I felt more involved and in control when I spent time picking each fruit. It also made me look forward to consuming my purchase. I used these when the need for dessert after a bad day or a fancy meal got uncontrollable.
4. EAT THOUGHTFULLY
I started spending time on reading the ingredients on the boxes that claimed to be sugar free. From healthy cookies to breakfast cereal and energy bars, they were all loaded with sugar in one form or another. There are so many synonyms to sugar, you’d be surprised (https://www.powerthesaurus.org/artificial_sweetener). As an Indian, I found myself drifting towards Poha (flattened rice), Suji (semolina), Puffed Rice and Daliya (Indian Quinoa) as my go to options, with a huge volume of vegetables.
5. CARRY YOUR S.O.S. PACK ON THE GO
I designated a zip lock pouch to a mix of raisins, almonds, unsweetened dates, dried apricots and figs, with some cashews and pistachio. (Eating more than a date a day is usually not advisable due to its high natural sugar level and fibre content)
This was my SOS pack that was with me at all times, just like water. It was for times when I needed that instant energy rush or had an unexpected craving. (BONUS: by not buying packaged snacks on the go, I saved money that I didn’t know I could in the first place.
6. THE RIGHT ENERGY DRINKS
From Gatorade to RedBull, I was left with rummaging through alternatives. I found fresh coconut water, salted lemonade (with water not soda) and buttermilk as my new frequenters. Since I wasn’t really big on packaged juices and colas ever, this was a relatively easy shift. (BONUS: this made me environment friendly with reduced consumption of packaged drinks and also improved savings.
7. BLEND IT ALL
On some days, when I wished for a thick shake, I started blending my own smoothies. With unprocessed oats as a common ingredient to make it thick and filling, I tried-
- Banana and strawberry
- Apple, muskmelon and cinnamon
- Kiwi, strawberry and mint
- Guava and ginger
- Pear, apple and raisins
- Mango and mint
- Carrot, apple and ginger
- Kiwi, watermelon and mint
I found Drunken Monkey (a smoothie bar), for lazy days and also for inspiration.
(BONUS: I’m more open to experiments and creative with my food. And a reusable glass bottle that I try to carry every time I’m going to the juice bar)
8. GO BLACK
On days when I couldn’t open my eyes, I moved my cappuccino to an espresso or Americano. I was introduced to an ‘Americano Mojito’, which worked well too, it was an Americano with a dash of lime and some freshly crushed mint leaves. (BONUS: unintended savings by skipping sides and fancy brews).
And on days when I wanted chocolate, I’d eat a small piece of dark chocolate (85% to 95%). I had to eat it slow and never managed to eat more than a piece or two at a time, but the taste grew on me. (BONUS: bribing me isn’t as easy anymore, and I developed the taste for something fine and classy)
9. SALTY PEANUT BUTTER
On days when I wanted a breakfast bowl, it was getting difficult to like them without the side of peanut butter. So I tried making my own batch. Followed the easiest YouTube DIY recipe and just skipped the adding sugar step, instead added some rock salt, to taste. This works well as a dip for fruits and vegetables, with toast and in wraps as well.
10. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
And the most important thing- fake till you make it. I spent a good portion of time pretending to be okay and unaffected. And before I knew it my mind started believing that I was alright without sugar and that I wasn’t really missing out on much. And today, it isn’t a challenge but just how I’d like to eat.
Now that it has become second nature to do most of the above things it doesn’t feel like a challenge anymore. Some days I do slip but I don’t want to be too harsh on myself provided I don’t make slipping a habit. I do allow myself cheat days (birthdays, anniversaries and other such celebrations) where I don’t fix a set number of servings, but just am all ears to my body.
You wonder what I gained from putting myself through all this?
- Me enjoying my meal is not dependent on the dessert at the end of it anymore
- I’m now naturally active without the artificial glucose intake
- My body has re-learned to breakdown the glycogen to glucose by burning my body fat
- My skin is acne-free and hair is relatively healthier
- I have a sense of achievement and better self control