off the cuff

Unsweetened yet sweet

I hung in there for the next ten days sugarless and yes, a little joyless

Madhavi Ochani, Special to Gulf News
17:37 March 19, 2017

Having broken five of my weighty (two of them weight-related) New Year resolutions by Day 15 of sweet 17, I was devastated. I know I have the willpower of a kid in a candy store, but 15 days was abysmal even for me. I needed a dignified comeback. Last month, 30DaysWithoutSugar (with a hashtag of course) was just trending everywhere in the UAE and I was carried away in the wave. It’s OK to think you can do something but well, actually doing it, that’s a whole new ball game altogether.

I’m a sweet tooth. Cakes, pastries, cookies, ice-creams, night or day, bring it on, I say. So for me it was going to be like a break-up. Four decades of romance going awry.

Should I go cold turkey or cut down gradually? I’m a non-vegetarian, so cold turkey it was.

On the morning of my supposed 30-day challenge start, I questioned if I was rushing into it, but stuck to my guns. The stubborn streak that my husband comments on was probably doing some good for a change.

Day 1

First battle to be won was the morning cuppa. I like my tea strong. And yes, sweet. Two teaspoons, overflowing the spoon, so might be two-and-a-half, now that I reassess. And now, not even a grain of sugar. It tasted like a vile medicine you are forced to drink. No gain without pain, I told myself as I sipped it.

The rest of the day was spent thinking and obsessing over sugar, but not adding it to anything. No sugar, no honey, no sweetener. It was really hard.

Next three days went similar to Day 1, albeit there was a growing sense of achievement as I went to bed each night. Then came the dreaded weekend. How do you abstain on weekends? Well, with extreme difficulty. All sugar lovers would agree.

Somehow got through it with severe mental reprimands to myself and averting my eyes every time I was in the presence of the lovely S in any form.

Week 2

I no longer liked tea. You know how you meet couples who you like. Once in a while, you meet one of them separately and they no longer seem fun. It was that way with tea and sugar for me. My tea was great because of the latter. I wasn’t a tea lover, but a sweet-tea lover I realised.

Start of Week 2, I was now researching the pros or health benefits of having sugar. I mean everything is supposed to have two sides, right? Sadly, the internet data didn’t really convince me.

I hung in there for the next ten days sugarless and yes, a little joyless.

The halfway-mark came and went, but apart from a little self-congratulatory note there was no boisterous celebration. Didn’t want to count my chickens ...

By the last week, my sugar cravings had genuinely disappeared. No lusty stares at bakery displays or gorging on desserts in buffets. Not even the mandatory second cup of tea as always under the guise of ‘wintry weather changes’.

My clothes now thanked me for at last providing them some breathing space, the energy levels seemed at record high and the flu bug had kept away, so Dubai Health Authority’s claims of weight loss, higher energy levels and boost in immunity seemed to be working. Even for me.

The very last day of my challenge was a Red flag. I mean literally Red everywhere I looked. Yes, Valentine’s Day. Every year, there’s the heart-shaped cake and candy, which happily gets me through the next few days but this year, just a red hot lunch (sizzlers) with the hubby.

As if it was the final test, as a Valentine’s Day promotion, the restaurant offered us a complimentary sizzling brownie. I love complimentary goodies (have occasionally even asked for seconds, don’t judge me!) and it was after all the last day, so could actually make an exception.

But when I smiled and refused that, my husband looked at me in disbelief and almost fell off his chair and I knew I had managed to climb my Mount Everest.

Madhavi Ochani is a freelance writer based in Dubai