Saturday, January 07, 2017

Cutting chai

"No teh halia???" He asked.

"No teh halia." I answered calmly.

He looked too stunned to continue entering my order into his machine.

Okay, let me start at the beginning. So there is this tiny Indian restaurant near Xena's school where I grab a quick lunch once a week or so, before picking her up. And no matter what food I order, I always always order a teh halia with it. Teh halia is Singapore-speak for ginger tea. (The other important teh here is teh tarik, which always reminds me of Sunny Deol and I imagine him as a tea addict, going, "Teh tarik pe tarik pe tarik!")

So last week, when I placed my order without a 'and a teh halia' suffix, it caused quite a stir. The guy at the counter Purshottam (actually I don't know his name but I refer to him as Purshottam -- if you've watched TVF's 'Permanent Roommates', you'll know why. Basically, he's a devar-figure in my life.) shook his head in disbelief as he entered my order.

I walked over to my table and sat down. Barely had my bum descended on the chair when a hand appeared out of thin air and deposited a cup of teh halia on my table! I looked up and it was the other guy (I really should think of a name for him too). Apparently, as soon as he'd seen me enter the restaurant, he'd started making the teh halia! Erm. So I told him (rather nervously, for I knew what was coming) that I hadn't ordered it.

"It's teh halia," he said, blankly.

"I know. But I didn't order it."

"You didn't order teh halia??" He asked, still kinda looking blank.

"Yep, that's right."

Trying not to give away the hurt+shock on his face, he picked up the cup and went back.

I could hear him say to Purshottam, "She didn't order teh halia."

"Yes." said Purshottam.

Their collective disappointment in me was palpable.

I was feeling really bad, and under normal circumstances, I'd have accepted the tea since he'd made it already. But this time I couldn't. I simply couldn't.

Viv and I are doing a 40-day no-sugar-no-alcohol challenge.

Here's the thing... I'm not very sure exactly why I am doing it though. It's not like we are overweight/unhealthy, or big sugar or alcohol consumers, expecting some kind of miraculous body transformation by undergoing this challenge. But before we embarked on it, I did sit back and try to go over our sugar/alcohol consumption. Neither of us drinks tea/coffee on a daily basis, we don't buy juice, we generally don't order sweet drinks at restaurants, and we don't go and party over drinks every weekend. I don't like ice-cream, Indian desserts, or cake icing, so I rarely have them. I never step foot into a Starbucks.

Once in a week or so, when I have company or if I'm at Purshottam's restaurant, I have tea. And since I don't have it every day, when I do have it, I don't hold back on the sugar. I'm quite unapologetic about liking my tea sweet.

I also bake a lot, but most of it is meals and not really cakes. The exception would probably be brownies, which I used to make almost 2-3 times a month because both Viv and Xena love them. The other source of sugar would be the occasional moscato that accompanies our Netflix sessions, or when we have a party. We eat out at least twice a week, and there's bound to be a lot of sugar in outside food, even in food that is not typically considered sweet, such as a bowl of tom yum soup. And then there's all the added sugar in stuff like salad dressings, ketchup, pasta sauces, etc.

Doesn't seem like very little, and doesn't seem like a lot. So what I really want to see is what the 40-day challenge would ukhado. I also need to take into account the fact that I have changed two variables at once (upped my gym time to 45 min this year), so any fitness-related 'results' would not be purely because of the challenge. I'm just curious about what it would do. And whether at the end of the 40 days, my body would reset its sugar-meter to the point that I can't even look at a slice of cheesecake. (Sounds very unlikely, if you ask me.)

Here's the thing -- even if nothing happens, I don't think this will be a futile exercise. I'll at least be armed with all the knowledge I've been gathering about stuff that has added sugars. Did you know, for instance, that Maggi noodles' seasoning has sugar? Holy cow. Sometimes, I just want to go for something without reading the food label, but the next moment, I chide myself, read it and then put the item back.

The other day, I almost 'cheated' without realising it. Xena couldn't finish her bowl of grapes, and out of habit I just grabbed the last one and popped it into my mouth. Before I could bite into it, I remembered that the no-sugar challenge extends to fruits too, and the next second, I was PTOOSHING it out of my mouth straight into the bin. Good girl.

Viv has an unopened can of Redbull in the fridge (leftover from our new year's eve party) and he says, "The true test will be to see how long that can remains in the fridge." He used to drink Redbull many many years ago, but after we found out more about its effects on the body, we completely shunned it. Now we buy it like once a year or so, e.g. if there is a big party and we need multiple drink options. So the fact that the can, joblessly sitting in the fridge just like that, has not tempted him, is quite amazing. Good boy.

Realistically, I think this is what will happen after the 40 days -- I won't give up sugar forever but I will become very sugar-conscious (e.g. no need to have birthday cake at every party that Xena gets us invited to, no need to smother that samosa/pakoda with ketchup, no need to reach for a big helping of sweet fruits because "fruits are so healthy"), and I will hardly have alcohol.

So that's that. Let's see how this goes and what this does. So far, so good. The giving up alcohol has been super easy, mainly because we never drink that much anyway. In fact, last night, we had dinner at Cafe Iguana and we didn't order their margaritas. True fans of Cafe Iguana will tell you what kind of blasphemy it is to step inside Cafe Iguana and not order their margaritas. We had never done that before. Ever.

I've also managed to cut out the sugar pretty easily. But the one thing I miss is my beloved teh halia. A few friends have been telling me to simply have it without sugar, but that is a grave insult to teh halia. To me, that's unthinkable. I might as well not drink any teh halia, than drink such a heavily compromised version.

But once the 40 days are over, no matter what I decide to do about sugar for the rest of the year, one thing is for sure -- I will break my fast with teh halia.

And I will shock Purshottam and co. all over again. 


Arun said...

No-sugar ought not to extend to fruits. Well, modern grapes, perhaps; but all other fruits put their sugar in with ample amounts of fiber and other good stuff. (Grapes have been described as 'little balls of sugar' by sugar critics.)

My policy is that I have a limited sugar intake per day, and will use it on where it suits best. E.g., I enjoy unsweetened tea (ginger tea or otherwise) and so don't use my sugar quota on that.

Ranjani said...

Good going Sayesha. My new year resolution is to eat a meal(lunch for dinner) consisting of only Fruits/veggies/pulses. The idea is to increase the consumption of whole foods. Planning to do it for 2 months.

Good luck on your resolution!

- Ranjani