My mother is recently diagnosed with cervical cancer. To complicate the issue, doctors further discover an ovarian cyst of 17cm x 10cm x 12cm. That’s the size of a baby.
The cyst is without doubt fed on the sugar she eats. My mom is diabetic, and because she takes insulin injections, she thinks she can eat sugar; she doesn’t control her sugar intake.
Only after the cancer-and-cyst diagnosis, she starts to control her diet. But just a few days into her diet, she says, “I’m very hungry. I want to eat sweet things.”
You can’t blame her, sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine. Processed sugar is a recent human discovery when compared to our evolutionary history. More and more scientists and dietitians are blaming sugar, instead of fats, for our health problems; we need fats, our bodies can digest fats effectively.
Sugar, on the other hand, contains no essential nutrients. It’s bad for teeth, and causes liver problems, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
I started this project to accompany my mom on her sugar-free journey. Another reason is for my own health. I need to wean off my dependence on sugar. After each meal, I crave for desserts. The third reason is to raise awareness of this issue to people and encourage people to eat healthily.
These are the parameters I set for my detox: with so much food with hidden sugar, I can only eat natural sugar, including fruits and honey. When I eat at hawker centres or restaurants, I’ll try to avoid food that obviously have sugar, such as sweet-and-sour pork or hae mee tng. But if I’m not sure about the ingredients, I may order it. I’m not a fanatic, this is a lifestyle, not a rulebook.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
11.45pm. OMG. Sugar-free week starts in 15 min. Let me eat two ice cream cones now. Sister dagger-stares at me eating. Her OS, two???!! I feel judged.
Breakfast: 2 homemade softboiled eggs, a glass of fullfat milk.
MOM: Hey, I bought char siew siew yok rice with gravy for you.
ME: I can’t eat it! So much hidden sugar. [Any sauce, including salad sauces, are loaded with sugar.]
And I dash off to gym to escape from Temptation Island.
The only choice near my gym is this terrible restaurant. I choose the dish with most protein, fish and chips, but I don’t dip the tartar sauce, don’t add ketchup or chilli, remove the crust from the fish, and eat half of the fries. The fish is miserably tiny.
Pregnant HUCCALYLY whatapps: Hey, I’ve a craving for waffles. Wanna go?
ME: I’m on a sugar-free week!!
Booby traps everywhere!
Tea Break: After gym. This is easy. I have survived half the day without sugar. At the same terrible restaurant near gym…
ME: Can I have an Earl Grey tea please?
SERVER: do you want to take the tea set with a cake? It’s almost the same price.
ME: No! I’m on a diet.
Dinner: Vegetarian food, eggplant, bittergourd, and vegetables. (Eggplant may have some sugar.)
Ms Atas, who is traveling in Hokkaido, keeps sending photos of Hokkaido ice cream. Bitch.
Snack: 2 kiwis, some almonds, half avocado, and a glass of fullfat milk.
11.45pm: My mother has cooked a pot of white fungus-red date dessert, and my sister has bought Duke Bakery’s chocolate bread. WHAT?! JUST KILL ME.
Drink water, drink water, drink water!
My pee is white as Jon Snow. In my daze, I open the fridge, and almost reach out for the chocolate milk, chocolate bread, and juice.
NOOOOO. I reluctantly reach for other things.
Breakfast: half avocado, banana, fullfat milk.
Snack: 2 pieces of garlic bread.
Lunner at 4.30pm: I meet my friends for dinner but @ironsage wants natural light for his food photos. So we meet at 4.30pm, in between lunch and dinner.
They order homemade herbal tea, I have mineral water. I look with longing for their tea. We eat cze char: hokkien mee, fermented pork belly, pumpkin beancurd, and tri-egg spinach.
7pm: We walk to Ramadan bazaar at Geylang Serai. It’s hot and I want a drink but all drinks are sugar bombs. The food too, all the sauces and deep fried. This world is not made for fat people.
In any case, the queues are long until JB.
8.30pm: half a bowl of Ipoh curry mee and coke zero.
Snack: 2 kiwis.
There is something at the pit of my stomach that keeps pulling me to the fridge to search for sweets. At night, the urge to eat sweet food is terrible. I must have opened the fridge a thousand times. URGH. Resist.
I relish the lingering sweetness of mouthwash at the corner of my tongue; is my mouthwash really this sweet before?
Brunch: Ninja Bowl delivery via Feastbump for my family (restaurant reservation). I thought it comes with rice but it’s merely just ingredients, which are too wet. I cook rice and eat with the ingredients. There is probably sugar in the sauces and unagi.
Dinner: Mr Fitness wants to eat wonton mee and this cafe only sells wonton mee, with no other options. There is sugar in the sauce and the char siew.
MR FITNESS: Try this red bean soup. It has no sugar.
ME: No. How can it not have sugar?
MR FITNESS: Really. Try it.
ME: Don’t want.
MR FITNESS: It’s not sweet at all. No sugar. Try it.
I take a very tiny sip, a quarter of a spoon.
ME: You bluff me.
MR FITNESS: Haha. Now you have to start your sugar-free week all over again.
I get very very very furious.
ME: You know how hard this is for me? I’ve been trying so hard to resist sugar for the past 2 days. Sugar is everywhere. I’ve Ben and Jerry’s in my freezer. Every minute is hell. Every minute I’m thinking of eating something sweet. Instead of being supportive, you want to ruin my plans.
WOW. I AM a sugar addict. I go ballistic over sugar. Eventually when I calm down, I believe him that he truly thinks there is no sugar in the dessert. Anyway, it is my fault. I blame myself, I shouldn’t have been swayed; I should have insisted on my stance. When I say no, I should mean no.
Snack: a fullfat milk, buttered sandwich with an egg, 2 kiwis.
Today is an epic fail. Although I try to avoid sweets, the sugar comes mainly from the savory food. There is just so much sugar in our food.
Lunch: Sushi set at Tomi Sushi
Mr Fitness’s wound is infected and we are at the polyclinic until lunch. Japanese food uses a lot of sugar, but luckily this set doesn’t. We mourn the senseless tragedy of Orlando killing over lunch. I’m so angry—why must people hate people?
Tea: Starbucks iced americano. No frap, no cakes. I want to die.
Dinner: When the server asks me for my choice of salad sauce, I reply, “Any sugar-free dressing?”
She answers, “Balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil?”
I tear, looking at my salad. It’s so green and sour with vinaigrette. And it costs $15. Healthy food tastes disgusting and is expensive.
Supper: the salad must have digested, or maybe it’s because I have left half of it untouched. Greens are disgusting. I am starving.
In the fridge, there is a choice of half-eaten beef rendang or ice cream. I choose the lesser of two evils, and to congratulate myself for my wise decision, I wash the beef rendang down with chocolate milk. Ouch.
I need to get my family to cooperate and buy non-sugar milk. Beef rendang has sugar too.
Breakfast: To prevent my mother eating the ang ku kueh that she bought, I eat two pieces and drink a cup of chocolate milk. (She eats two pieces anyway.)
My family needs to make healthier, sugar-free choices.
Lunch: beehoon, fried fishball, and toasted tou pok. The tou pok comes with sweet sauce and chilli sauce. I dip the chilli sauce, which has sugar, but it’s minimal.
Dinner: Pepper Lunch curry rice with hamburg, leaving out half the rice. Japanese curry has sugar. Sigh. I drink herbal tea from one of the TCM shops. More sugar.
Supper: I am ravenous today. I eat a leftover of san lou he fen. But I still feel hungry. Then my body goes on auto-addict mode: suddenly I down 3 cheese tarts and a glass of chocolate milk. F**k.
Today is a tragedy. By the third day of this sugar-free diet, I have thought I got this figure out. But I don’t know what has happened today.
It’s ok. Be positive. If I binge for one meal, I shouldn’t give up. Let’s reboot tomorrow.
I go to the Place Full of Suffering and Pain aka gym. People must hate themselves to punish themselves at gym. It’s Leg Day, and I f***ing f**ketty f*** f*** f*** hate squats. Squats are the invention of demons.
Snack: I know protein shake is loaded with sugar. But it’s gym food.
Lunch: a banana, 2 slices of watermelon, chicken breast salad with blue cheese, walnut, dressed with truffled balsamic vinaigrette. Half cup of organic soy milk, no sugar.
Dinner: toasted artisanal sandwich with a sunny sideup, avocado, spinach, blue cheese, seasoned with orange salt, freshly grind pepper, and high grade extra virgin olive oil. A glass of fullfat milk.
I am so satisfied and happy with the meal!
Things that go right today: there is no sweet food at home, planning ahead, eating at home, and discipline.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner: 3 plates of hokkien mee. I am working on a post on Best Hokkien Mee.
WHAT I LEARNT FROM A WEEK WITHOUT SUGAR
1. Sugar is everywhere. I am not aware of this before. You’d believe that if you avoid desserts, you can avoid sugar. WRONG. Sugar is in much of our food: wonton mee, char siew, rendang, ketchup, chilli, cereals, salad dressing, char kway teow, bbq sauce, etc. Even chicken rice with the dark soy sauce and chilli has sugar. Sugar is the addictive substance that makes you crave for the food; that’s why so much of our food has sugar.
2. Plan ahead. This sounds simple but life is unpredictable and working life is busy. When you’re busy in an unpredictable environment, determination to stick to plans is thrown to the winds.
3. Mindful eating. In the past, I just eat whatever I crave for. But this week has taught me to make choices, painful, hard choices of suffering. Instead of dry niang tofu with the sweet sauce, go for the soup version. Puke. I hate soupy food, they are for sick people, but I’ve to train myself to like them like Pavlov’s dogs. Train your mind.
One thing I realized from mindful eating is that sweet food tastes so much sweeter now. My tastebuds get sharper.
4. Don’t binge emotionally. But when I do like I did in Day 5, I try to bounce back on track the next day. Every day is a new start. And every little bit of effort counts; it accumulates. The important thing is DON’T GIVE UP.
5. Social life. When your friends visit a certain place, say bingsu cafe or high tea, what do you do? You can be antisocial and say no for one week, but you can’t keep rejecting your friends. You’ll be left with no friends.
The trick is to go to places with options so that your friends can eat something with sugar, and you can eat something without sugar while you look longingly at their food.
Also: if there is no choice and the place only serves sweet food, don’t get your panties in a twist. It’s ok to compromise once in a while.
6. Coordinate with people who love you. Rid your fridge of ice cream and cookies. Tell your family not to buy sweet food. Tell your friends you’re cutting down on sugar. Some friends will seduce you, some friends will jeer at you: “Aiya, don’t need to cut down on sugar lah. What for??? Just eat lah.”
This is how you should reply them, “I’m cutting down on sugar for my health reasons. If you’re my true friend who is concerned for me, you should support my decision. You shouldn’t make fun of me.”
7. The night is dark and full of terrible temptations. I don’t know why but it’s always at night that I crave for sugar. The best way is not to keep any sweet food at home. But if you have a sister like mine who keeps buying sweet food, good luck.
Sister: Hey. I bought salted egg yolk croissants. Are you still on sugar-free week?
Me: My sugarfree week ended 10 minutes ago. Yayyyyy!! BRING ON THE SUGAR.
Nom nom nom.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
Categories: 1. Cuisine
Thanks for the laughable entertaining read; a rather pathetic effort just like your $5 a day challenge some years ago. To think you are a Phd candidate yet you did not do your homework prior to embarking the challenge. “Natural sugars” (including fructose in fruits” have the same physiological effects as processed sugar & will continue to stress your pancreas. Weak..
While sugar is bad, Carbs is equally bad, if not worst, especially for Daibetic, Need to cut carbs to maintain a healthy HbAic. 2 pieces of garlic bread …… food like this Add up in insulin requirement …. I have been living well with low carbs
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do you know that there is natural sugar in fruits too? and lots of food you’ve eaten has “hidden sugar” too… hope you don’t get offended, i am just telling you. :)
Yup. I wrote in the last paragraph of the introduction that it’s ok to natural sugar like fruits—I don’t trust processed sugars—and that when there is no option, like when the cafe only sells wanton mee, then I shouldn’t be picky too. I wrote that it should be a lifestyle and not a strict imposition. So I gave myself concessions.
OMG I feel your pain but bravo for trying this. I tried to go low carb (which also means no sugar) at one time. NOT easy at all! Our food really has too much sugar. Even milk has carbs (lactose is milk sugar). I decided shorter life is easier than carb-free life.
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Thanks, Catherine! Haha. I don’t mind a shorter but healthy life too! The week was really painful but it made me rethink my food choices.
Just loved this post so much….how true, the torture of resisting is even worst at night…sigh. Looking forward to more posts like this 😊 also drooling over your Hokkien Mee round up.
Thanks! It’s so painful to go without sugar!
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