Anyone who has thought even a little about their own health, is aware of the ill-effects of sugar. Specially, the refined sugar, the white sugar or its relatively innocuous cousin, the so called ‘brown sugar’. Curtailing sugar consumption is essential for any weight-loss program.
I have a sweet tooth from childhood. The sugar problem was compounded by my addiction to sweet tea and coffee.
I could live with bare minimum sweets or cakes and even gave up the aerated drinks like coke, pepsi as well as all canned juices that contain humungous amounts of sugar.
The problem basically came down to five-six cups of tea and coffee that I was having.
And this problem was deep rooted. My addiction to tea dates back to my student days when I just loved to sit down to study with a cup of tea. I always kept a tea kettle, tea bags, sugar and dairy creamer in my room during the engineering and the MBA.
It didn’t take much for my fellow students to realize that a fresh cup of tea was always a possibility in my hostel room. What kept them away was my refusal to make the tea for them. I told them,’ This is self-service. If you want it, please make it yourself.’
Thanks to their laziness and propensity of Indian boys to not touch anything that has a remote semblance to kitchen equipment, my hostel room was saved from becoming the neighborhood tea corner.
But my tea (and occasional coffee) habit continued or even worsened. If I had to do any work requiring concentration, I needed to sit with my cuppa. And the cuppa always came with two tea-spoons of sugar. That meant ten to twelve tea spoons everyday.
As I became acutely aware of this issue, I tried to reduce or give up tea and coffee multiple times. But I failed, everytime.
While I was writing my book, I developed a liking for coffee and slowly black coffee. I noticed that I liked the flavor of coffee more than its sugary taste and tried having coffee with less sugar. I also noticed that a cup of black coffee was more effective than a cup of sugary tea in keeping you alert for a longer duration.
Still, due to my addiction to tea, I needed to have a cup of tea with breakfast and few more times during the day. Every couple of hours, I was having this irresistible urge to have sweet tea. And I knew the harm that it was doing to my body. (https://www.kaylaitsines.com/blogs/education/65473923-what-does-eating-refined-sugar-do-to-your-body) Keeping your weight to desirable level or weight-loss is difficult with high sugar consumption.
In addition to the accompanying harmful sugar, (not green) tea and coffee are acidic drinks and cause inflammation that has its own consequences. (https://www.livestrong.com/article/319791-side-effects-of-tea-coffee/)
As I was struggling to control this problem, one fine day, I had this brilliant idea.
Divide and rule.
I understood that the problem was two fold:
- My craving for sugar
- My addiction for the chemicals – caffiene in coffee and Tea
Whenever I had tea or coffee, I did not know if I was having them to satisfy my sugar craving or my caffeine addiction.
So, I resolved to have tea and coffee without sugar and satisfy the sugar urge with natural sugar sources like bananas and other sweet fruits.
Initially, I focused on breaking the combination of sugar with tea and coffee. So, I would have a banana or apple everytime I felt like having tea. Then, followed the fruit with a cup of sugarless tea or coffee.
To my surprise, half the time, I didn’t feel like having tea or coffee after eating the sweet fruit. This was my eureka moment. I continued this practice for a couple of months.
It helped me understand when I needed sugar and when I needed caffeine.
Only when I felt very drowsy or lazy during the day, I have tea or coffee, that too without sugar.
Gradually, my urge to have sugar also came down. This was the result of having natural sugar in the form of fruits. The natural sugar in fruits is released slowly into the blood stream because it is complex and the body takes time to break it down.
But the refined or white sugar is quick to dissolve in our blood stream and also gets digested quickly, leading to a quick sugar urge after a short interval of time. This was the reason for my frequent tea consumption and I was getting an overdose of caffeine as a by-product.
Frequent doses of sugar into the body result into a continuous cycle of blood glucose level shooting up and falling down. The body secretes insulin to control the blood sugar level. When the cycle of blood sugar shooting up and down is too frequent, the body develops insulin resistance which is commonly known as type 2 diabetes. Once that happens, you are anyway forced to give up sugar.
Now my body does not get ten to twelve tea-spoons of white sugar. But I am not getting any urge to have sugary tea or coffee.
I have continued to have moderate consumption of sweets, ice-creams, cakes at the rate of one small portion everyday. I don’t believe in extreme or over-deprivation. Such extreme steps can back-fire and one may later start consuming much bigger quantities of sweets.
By breaking down the problem in two parts, i.e., sugar and caffeine, my consumption of both is drastically reduced.
This helped me reduce at least ten tea-spoons of sugar everyday. I reduced my tea-coffee to a total of four small cups. This is still high but I am moving in right direction.
I do not feel any irrepressible urge to have tea and coffee before doing any work, unlike before.
I feel more independent and free from the clutches of this widespread addiction.
I have developed a taste for black coffee without sugar and love enjoying many flavours of coffee. These flavours are lost when you add milk and sugar in the coffee.
The sugary tea and coffee is just a vehicle to supply the kick of white sugar to the body. When you are free from this addiction, you feel free and independent.
If you are already free, then you are a lucky person. If you are not, I hope this story will help you chart out your own path.
If you are happy with what and how you are, do relish the feeling!
One word of caution on artificial sweeteners (even the ones touted to be natural). These substances are difficult to break down and have to be excreted as they are, from our body. Most of them are not digestible and are known to cause avoidable side-effects. Please do your own research on any artificial sweetners you may want to consume.
Personally, I never felt like shifting my addiction from sugar to artificial sweeteners. It would be just like changing your crutches and that too, to a more dangerous one in the long run.
A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.