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I remember my sweet surrender


“The body doesn’t need sugar for nutrition, so it treats it as a toxin.”

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The rhyme was very catchy: “Sa-tur-day is doggies-day, Sa-tur-day is doggies-day!”

We would recite it and rhythmically tap our teaspoons on our coffee mugs and rap on the kitchen counters; while Voete – the family pooch – would roll his eyes so hard that he was able to see his own stubby tail.

“Oh hell! Not again,” his doggy brain must have been thinking.

Voete knew that when the weekend came around he’d get a Saturday morning treat; he was gracious and tolerant and probably knew how much it meant to us, so he went along.

We’d make him a special cup of sweet coffee, sit outside with him and lull him to sleep; then cover him with a blanky.

Of course we’d have a treat for ourselves too. We siblings had this special thing called “creamy coffee”. The recipe was simple: a teaspoon of instant coffee, sugar (at that time I was taking four spoons, which technically means that I didn’t know what coffee tasted like, because I was drinking coffee-infused sugar), and finally a few drops of hot water.

The aim was to have a mixture the consistency of a thick paste, then we’d stir for as long as it took till it turned from coffee-brown to a yellowish-cream colour; it was always a contest to see whose coffee had the lightest colour. We’d then add boiling water, some milk or coffee creamer and watch as a rich froth formed on the top of the drink. It was our own unique cappuccino.

In addition to the sweet creamy coffee I loved sweet treats – cookies, chocolates, fizzy drinks – you name them, I loved them.

I would overindulge.

Then just the other day I had some rare free time so I was watching some online lectures, when something caused me to sit up. “Sugar is poison” was the unmistakable message. “The body doesn’t need sugar for nutrition, so it treats it as a toxin.”

After that it became pretty technical, with biology, big words and concepts that I will not even attempt to explain.

One doctor spoke of “beta-cell burnout”. Beta cells are the “security guards” in the pancreas that alerts the body that there’s too much sugar in the blood, and that the pancreas needs to send “insulin trucks” to haul the toxins away.

However, too much sugar on a constant basis runs the beta cells to their limit and soon they just fail – the results should be obvious.

Alarmed, I decided to stop eating sugar for a day. It went OK, so I went for two, three, four days, and eventually I had not taken any “extra sugar” for two weeks – apparently we cannot completely avoid sugar because it’s added to almost every product on our supermarket shelves.

These days I use dried fruit and raisins or dates to sweeten my cereals when I crave some sweetness, which isn’t very often; but I am still struggling to dissolve the raisins in my tea!

It seems that though it may be difficult to beat the sugar addiction, it is possible.

It reminds me of the story of a frantic woman who – after walking for hours in the blazing sun to his ashram – came to Mahatma Gandhi pleading: “Please sir tell my young son to stop eating sugar. He gorges himself and I am afraid that it’s going to kill him. He will not listen to anyone who tries to tell him to stop!”

Gandhi told the woman: “I will not help you now. Bring the boy back in two weeks’ time.”

The following week when they returned, Gandhi called the boy closer, looked him in the eye and said: “Little boy, stop eating sugar. It’s bad for you.”

The boy sincerely promised to do his best to cut back on his sugar intake and ran off to go and play with the other children.

“Why couldn’t you say that to him two weeks ago,” the perplexed mother asked.

“Two weeks ago, I had an obsession with sugar,” Gandhi replied. “I first had to stop eating sugar before I could expect him to.”