Slow living and conscious thinking have been the mantra in my life. I gained 26 lbs during my pregnancy and ordinarily, the thought of losing that baby weight seemed like an implausible challenge that I was bound to fail. But here I am, 3 years post my daughter’s birth, having lost all that baby weight and more so, putting me at my desired BMI goal. But that’s not the shocking bit – I did it all without going on a ‘diet’.
I am not and have never been on a strict diet or regimen that I had to religiously follow. It was a culmination of small tips and tricks here and there, which I would like to share with you today. A side note and cautionary reminder- All of this is based on my personal experience and has worked in my case. It was never about losing weight at all. The philosophy I follow is one that focuses on changing habits on a day to day basis- as only this will offer you a successful and stable long term result.
I started with small and slow changes initially helped me increase my metabolism- this allowed for some leeway to gorge on some sinful treats on long weekends, trips or holidays. This is highly recommended- if you go into a diet plan thinking you won’t crave anything, you will fail.
Here’s the main thing- Sugar is one of the biggest culprits out there for weight-gain. We all know why. To my surprise, I realized that unless I completely eliminate sugar or at least reduce it to a drastic extent, I’m never going to be able to keep off the weight I manage to lose. So keeping that in mind, here’s my journey.
Saying Adios! To White sugar
As my first step, I had to get rid of white sugar. This is the most chemically processed of the lot and hence the most addictive. It also has the highest amount of calories’ almost 387 for every 100 gms. I finished the last ever pack of white sugar in my kitchen and said goodbye- and to this day, it hasn’t come back. Getting rid of it was as simple as emptying the last canister of white sugar at home and going for an alternative.
Hello! Brown Sugar
The calories in brown sugar are slightly less when compared to its white alternative, but the major advantage lies in the fact that it is less processed. Further, you need a lesser amount of brown sugar to reach the same satisfaction thanks to its earthy, rustic flavour. I started using brown sugar for tea and coffee- and it definitely improved the taste. But, sad as it is, most health experts claim that brown sugar isn’t the end all be all- and so I had to find yet another alternative.
Welcome Home, Jaggery
The traditional Indian sweetener entered my kitchen and to this day, it has not left. Jaggery in its organic form is far less processed and comes with a lot of health benefits due to it being high in molasses. An interesting fact I recall is, when my mother suffered from low haemoglobin levels, doctors asked her to have about 100g of jaggery every day since it’s naturally fortified with iron.
You will see two types of Jaggery in the supermarket. A clean and light brown in colour and a muddy and dark brown one. You can guess which is better- the latter is less processed and often organic in nature. A good tip is to keep powdered jaggery ready for when you want to add it to your drinks or meals.
Another trick of the trade I can share -you must never boil jaggery with tea or milk during the cooking process. It will curdle the milk. After you’re done making your drink with milk, mix in the jaggery powder. You won’t need to stir it, as it will naturally dissolve.
More Alternatives- Honey
I also use honey as a sweetener, to change up the flavour. Always remember – As per Ayurveda, never boil or heat honey as it will form toxins and can prove to be very harmful. I tend to use honey for my early morning Lemon-Honey detox drink. Please also note that honey should never be added to hot but to lukewarm water.
It’s all about (self) control
I have yet to explore Stevia – a natural plant-based sweetener, palm sugar, palm jaggery and coconut sugar- but once the Kitchen was sorted out to the best of my knowledge, it was time to change my habits slowly.
Most Awaited- Tea and Coffee: The moment it would rain, all I could think about was a hot cup of masala chai. If it was cold, I would snuggle up in my quilt and sip my favourite filter coffee. But slowly, I changed some of the rules. I have made a switch to herbal tea, without milk or sugar. Another option I’ve tried is green tea with honey. Although, when it rains, I still indulge myself with a hot cup of masala tea with jaggery.
Breaking up with cookies and cakes: I have given up all traditional market baked goods. I have recently started baking, and I use organic jaggery in the place of sugar. My daughter does the same, for obvious reasons. I have also stopped eating cakes and pastries at birthday parties except for family birthdays- sometimes even I can’t say no to a gooey chocolate cake.
Leave the last course with a smile: When the waiter returns with a menu card again and recommends the chef’s special dessert of the day, smile and say: “Check, please”!
Love Hate Relationship with Indian Sweets: I’ll be the first to say it- I find it impossible to resist Indian sweets and this makes them the single biggest deterrent in my mission to quit sugar. But, like me, if you think that Indian sweets are unhealthy and only result in weight gain, then we are all wrong. Famous Indian dietitian and nutritionist – Rujuta Diwakar, talks in her book on “Indian Superfoods” about Ghee, also known as clarified butter, and its benefits. It is one of the best superfoods out there, but the western look on diet as side-lined this as an unhealthy ingredient. Sweets like Puran-Poli (made from gram flour, jaggery and ghee), dry fruit ladoo, besan ladoo and wheat ladoo are actually good for health if eaten in moderation and at the right time.
You see that I have made many rules, some of which I have happily broken myself on and off. Yet, my mission to “quit sugar” is still a work in progress and hopefully, by the coming year, I would have gained complete control over my sugar intake. Here are some of those rules –
- I will only have my sweets made my mom (mom-made), which I only get when I visit home once or twice a year – Nope, this obviously didn’t work. There is no way I was staying away from sweets 364 days a year.
- I will not buy any sweet, and make them at home instead – if I can get over my laziness that is
- If someone gifts me a pack of sweets, I would return a smile and distribute or donate it as soon as possible – this one’s a win-win for everyone!
- I will not eat any sweet throughout the week and on one of the weekends, I will enjoy the one sweet which my mother-in-law brings, to celebrate my determination
I have placed post-its all over the house to motivate me. The last lap of this journey, which is controlling these sweets is still in progress and I am hopeful that my foray into Yoga will help me achieve more self-control.
Sugar, as such is not bad and one should move from added sugar to natural sugar and has to be regulated as you age. I also try to satiate my sugar cravings by eating more locally available fruits like mango and sapota. So, if you are with me, sailing in the same boat, then do share your experience and success stories.