I finally stopped adding sugar to my tea and coffee. It has been about a month now. I feel confident that I can sustain this habit forever. It was not an easy journey, but much like learning to cycle or potty training your child – once you have done it, you are like “Hmmm, that was not so bad…”. 🙂
Now, tons of people already do this. For them, this whole ordeal might seem pointless – like, “what’s the big deal?” (or they might say ‘this is a jujube matter’ in tamil). To those people, I say, more power to you for having the discipline all along. Yay for you!!
But to the others who are still struggling, I know it is not easy, I feel your pain, I know your struggles, read on…and I hope you succeed soon.
1. I have failed before
It is not like I have not tried to avoid sugar in my tea/coffee before. Trust me, for the health nut that I am, I have tried it. BUT, I always justified my return to sugar in many ways in my mind. For eg:
1) Compared to others who struggle with alcoholism, cigarettes, after all, I am adding a spoon or 2 of sugar to my tea. Really, is it so bad?
2) What is the point of trying to get up early in the morning, if there is no sweetened caffeine to look forward to? etc.
I have tried adding coconut sugar to ease my way out. But, then I was stuck on coconut sugar. Also, when I ran out of coconut sugar, inevitably I would reach out for sugar “for just one day” that would then continue the cycle.
2. Fear was my biggest motivator
I finally broke the cycle when 1 morning I took my fasting blood sugar on a whim. It was 99. Now, I used to have fasting levels of 80’s or low 90’s. Given my history with my dad’s diabetes, this freaked the bejesus out of me. I went and checked my A1C levels a week later and it was fine. The doctor said my levels were normal and consistent with last year. She was, in fact, slightly amused (Grr….!!) with all my panic.
But, the shock of seeing my levels rise put me into frantic alert mode. Given one of my top goals in life is to put off getting diabetes much later in life, if at all [Both my parents are diabetic, so genetically it is a 99% probability]. Anyhow, this was enough motivator to shake me thoroughly. The first thing to go was obviously, cut off sugar in my tea/coffee.
3. Incremental decrease helps (to a point)
I can tell you very honestly, the first few days were super hard. The first cup without sugar, I just could not finish. Lots of self-pity – Of all the things I like, I have to give this up (boohooo, poor me…) etc., etc.
So, I decided to use blackstrap molasses as my crutch. Since blackstrap molasses has lots of iron, I thought this will give me a dual benefit of sweetening slightly and also giving me iron.
So, I added 1 tsp of blackstrap molasses in the beginning. This did help. Soon, however, the fear of sugar in the blackstrap molasses made me reduce those levels too. Now, I don’t know, at what point I broke off, but I managed to lose the blackstrap molasses also within 2-3 days. Why? – It was fear, plain and simple. The fear of getting diabetes (not logical, I know) > love for the sweet flavor.
4. Side Benefits – Reduce the after-sugar crash
In the past, adding sugar to my beverage inevitably led me to have “I am dying of hunger” feelings about an hour after consuming it.
I suspect it was the sugar highs and lows that confused my brain with hungry and tired signals. Now, my mornings are a lot more stable on a relative basis.
5. Side Benefits – Eliminate unnecessary cups
If I was not into nutrition, I could survive 75-80%% of my day using just chai. That’s how much I love to slug this drink. But, recently I realized that I was reaching out to tea/coffee for not just caffeine, but for a sugar hit.
For eg, I drink 1 cup in the morning. Sometimes, in about 2 hours, I used to drink another cup, even though my brain is fully on, (no caffeine needed), just to get a sweet hit.
Since the temptation of sugar is taken out, now I can avoid that extra cup. Another example, when I shop at Trader Joe’s I used to happily help myself to 1 cup of coffee with sugar (so sweet – brain happy – shop more :)). Now, without sugar, I have to ask myself, “Do you really want caffeine now?”
6. No weight change (but it doesn’t matter)
I am adding this inevitably, as there might be a follow-up question on this. I experienced no change in weight. That was never my goal.
But, just for fun, let us just consider the math on this: 1 tsp of sugar has about 16 calories. So, really throughout the day, it only averages less than 50 calories. Which I am sure I made up through eating that new chips that recently featured in Costco or that extra prasad I got from my temple visit, etc, etc…You get my point. The point was to control my sugar fluctuations, not my weight – Result achieved!!
I am happy to have gained control over the 1 thing that I thought will elude me. A few years ago, I remember telling my cousin who gave up sugar voluntarily, “Caffeine + sugar – one of the world’s heavenly combinations. how did you give it up so easily?” He shrugged. He is a disciplined person, he did not think it was a big deal.
Unfortunately, my tale is not one of discipline, but of fear. I hope you follow the path of my cousin, but even if it comes down to fear – hey, as long as you get the results that will benefit your body.
I wish you the best in all your health struggles. Remember, you are not the only one. There are many people facing similar challenges. May the force be with you :).
Be sure to comment about your experiences with this problem- successes/failures/struggles etc..
Remember, I am not a nutritionist or health professional. This is just my story.