I Skipped Sugary Drinks for One Week, and Guess What Happened?

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So much of my diet consists of sugar. For as long as I remember, sodas and other forms of sugary drinks have been my beverages of choice. Wherever my day takes me, my thirst quenchers are anything between a Caramel Macchiato and a Coke.

The idea of skipping sugary drinks for one week sounds like a challenge from the get-go. To be honest, I’m not sure if I can do it. Sticking to a plan and practising self-control are the two things needed to make this challenge work, and I have neither.

I came up with a one-week mantra that goes something like this:

  1. Say no to sugary drinks
  2. Say no to added sugar in coffees and teas
  3. Say no to eating fast food to shield my weak soul from soft drinks

I kept a journal of how it went, and here are my notes from the experiment.

Day 1

Starting my day with a mug of hot tea was easier than I thought. Maybe because I had plenty of sleep last night to substitute the need for caffeine this morning. While my mind did wander to the Oldtown White Coffee and Nescafe sachets in the kitchen, there’s something about steeping your own tea that feels very calming.

The real challenge came in the afternoon. After lunch, I normally make a cup of instant coffee to persevere through my napless afternoon. Without my instant coffee today, I felt sleepy and actually nodded a few times while writing the last paragraph of my article.

My concentration was all over the place at this point, so I played my music loudly to keep me going. There’s nothing that The Killers, Kings of Leon and Walk the Moon can’t fix.

I spent my dinner at home, so sweet temptations were averted until bedtime. So far, no soft drinks in sight.

Day 2

I confessed that my Starbucks-trained palette doesn’t fancy black coffee and Americano very much. Today, I decided to give my brother’s Mandheling Blend espresso a shot. Out of all days, I desperately need to be a caffeine-oiled machine today because I had a few article deadlines to meet.

Just like most coffees, the aroma was invigorating. However, without my standard two spoonful of sugar, it tasted unpleasantly bitter. During the first few sips, my eyebrows furrowed so much that I’m almost Worf from Star Trek. There was no other way to describe it.

Despite the bitter aftertaste, it did give me the jolt of caffeine to keep my writing momentum going. My energy level spiked for a few hours and I hustled the whole afternoon. By night time, my body slowed down and it was easier for me to fall asleep than usual, thanks to the absence of sugar and caffeine.

Still no soft drinks in sight.

Day 3

Today, my Mom pinged me from the kitchen: “Food is here”.

I was hungry, so I welcomed that message like good news. Just when I thought I could steer away from fast food this week, my Mom forgot that I was on a sugar-free diet and bought a MarryBrown burger with a soft drink instead.

Bless my Mom’s heart for knowing my love for fast food runs deep, but bless this burger because I had to enjoy it without Coke. I decided to ditch my soft drink in favour of iced water today. Basically, a self-made strategy that I hoped could fool my palette into thinking that it’s Sprite.

Well, it didn’t work. While chomping down my double-patty Tower Burger and cold fries, I felt mildly miserable. I actually caught myself sighing in between sips of iced water. Since I’m so accustomed to enjoying my burger with a fizzy drink, every bite felt plain and empty with water.

It was a lunch of sorrow than sweet, but I had to do it.

Just four more days, Coke.

Day 4

I always wondered the number of sugar-free drink options out there. I’m sure there’s something else I can drink besides Dasani mineral water.

After meeting my client, I decided to drop by the convenience store for a quick check in the beverage section. It was a very sunny afternoon and the perfect time to grab something to drink. In times like these, I would pick up a soft drink or chrysanthemum teas but not today.

After 15 minutes of reading nutrition labels and browsing my options, I realised that every freaking drink in the convenience store has sugar in it. I thought coconut water would be a good option, but it’s sweetened (just the way I prefer, to be honest). Even fruit juices have sugar in them.

After more browsing and glancing over a very svelte Coke, I paid for a bottle of mineral water and left the store.

Day 5

If you’re ever at Empire Subang, you’re likely to find me at Pho Vietz sipping two cups of Vietnamese Iced Coffee. It’s one of my favourites and really good, let me tell you that. Even better when you give it a good pour of silky condensed milk into its dark-roasted coffee.

Since I’m on a sugar fast, I made my way to Starbucks to decidedly annoy a barista with my order. For an odd reason, I settled for tea that afternoon.

Me: Do you have any non-coffee, sugar-free drinks?
Barista: We have hot teas
Me: Hmm, do you have any iced tea options instead?
Barista: Well, you can pick a hot tea and I’ll add some ice to it
Me: Okay, sounds good!

Then, the barista opened a leather-bound tea menu filled with a variety of tea flavours. So fancy! They have the popular options such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast. Since fancy is the theme, I opted for the Emperor Clouds and Mist Green Tea.

When the barista finally steeped my tea for two minutes and pour it into a cup of ice, I reached out for a sip.

It tasted like iced water.

I think because green teas have very light notes, so the flavour doesn’t sit well in a pool of iced water. To be frank, it would taste better when served hot. So, I walked around the mall and sipped faintly-flavoured green tea, which I paid RM11.10 for.

Just two more days.

Day 6

I was so bumped to discover this trick during the last two days, but I found a way to get around my distaste for black coffee.

It was a Saturday afternoon when my sister and I decided to visit Fluffed Cafe in Petaling Jaya. While she ordered the cafe’s famous pink latte, I opted for iced coffee.

Here’s the trick: In order to make the bitterness of the iced coffee bearable, I ordered a Ferrero Bar, which is a small decadent cake layered with chocolate and hazelnut. In other words, it’s sweet! You can pick other desserts in the cake display if you like. But there’s something about coffee and chocolate cake that make the combination a perfect fit.

What I did was alternating my sips of iced coffee with a bite of Ferrero Bar. I swear it worked! Just when the bitterness from my coffee overwhelmed my palate, the chocolate sweetness just punched it in the face to save me. I was basically savouring a boxing match of bitter versus sweet that afternoon.

Why it took me this long to come up with this idea is beyond me. Just one more day!

Day 7

The last day is finally here! Thanks to yesterday’s Ferrero Bar, I didn’t crave for anything sweet today. I’m feeling good as new.

I didn’t do much today except having lunch at Laguna Mabuhay restaurant for some Filipino food. I accompanied my sisig and beef kare kare with mineral water.

For dinner, my family and I dined at Nando’s where I ordered mineral water (again!) like it’s a newfound habit. I ended up my one-week challenge with a Hot Peri Peri chicken, sweet potato fries and renewed sense of determination.

Final thoughts

Honestly, I was tempted to cheat during the first few days of the challenge. Again, I’ve been savouring sugary drinks for as long as I remember. Therefore, it took a strong willpower to resist helping myself to some leftover sodas in the fridge, which I only knew about on the third day.

The biggest sacrifice of the week was refraining myself from instant coffees. It is the one thing I missed the most because I’m so accustomed to having it while doing my work. I haven’t grown to like black coffees just yet, but I’ll try to enjoy it with very little sugar in the near future. Just to get used to the bitterness of it all.

To my surprise, the absence of sugar and caffeine from my diet made me drop 1kg. It was a small margin of weight loss, but it’s better than gaining weight. If eliminating sugary drinks for a week can bring a slight weight loss, just imagine if I continued for a few months?

Will I continue removing sugary drinks from my diet? Not really, but I will definitely reduce my sugar intake. It’s a tough challenge to do, but certainly, a beneficial one when we have our health and wellbeing in mind.

Excuse me while I grab a cup of iced water to celebrate.

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If Cheng Sim can have it her way, she would live in a penthouse with an imaginary cat named Genghis. Since life has a sense of humour, she resides in Subang Jaya where she deals with their infamous traffic and subpar bak kut teh instead. She doesn't wreak havoc, but she writes at chengsim.com
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