An architect by profession and a cyclist by choice, 52-year-old Binota Nadkarni completed one year of her ‘no-sugar challenge’ on January 31, 2020. We took this as an opportunity to learn more about her journey, the hurdles she faced, and the changes she saw in herself with this major lifestyle change.
Why did she take up the no-sugar challenge?
Nadkarni says she started it about 1.5 years ago for a month after her friend got diagnosed with cancer and was categorically asked to lay off sugar.
“I wanted to do it to be in solidarity with my friend. Then after a while, my mother, who is a diabetic, was also strictly asked to completely go off sugar. She was not even allowed jaggery and honey. That’s when I decided to do it for longer, and give the challenge a shot for at least a year.”
The hurdles she faced
As someone whose children have flown the nest, Nadkarni remarks that not having sugary treats at home wasn’t really a problem.
“You tend to make fewer desserts when the kids aren’t home. So laying off jams, biscuits, cakes and puddings was fairly easy. What was challenging was giving up sugar in my tea. It took me a week to cultivate the taste for sugarless tea” she laughs.
Is there an alternative to sugar?
There are healthy alternatives to sugar such as jaggery and honey, and although they contain the same amount of calories (60 calories per teaspoon) as sugar, they also pack in some essential vitamins and minerals that the human body can benefit from.
Also, while jaggery and honey are absorbed slowly by the body, sugar is absorbed almost instantly, spiking blood sugar levels.
Nadkarni however, consciously refrained even from jaggery. “I got an HbA1c test done very recently — a blood test that shows you the result of how sugar has affected you in the last three* months— and my sugar levels were about 5.1 – which is considered to be good.”
*Editor’s Note: An earlier version indicated that the HbA1c test gave blood sugar results for every six months. The test is recommended every three months. The error is regretted.
“I had to learn to say no to sweets every time we went out. Even at weddings, I would earlier flock to the dessert counter, but now had a rein on myself and would not look that way,” she chuckles.
Also, what’s the most relatable about her journey is that she would give herself the leeway to always not obsess over labels. “For example, if I wanted to have a biscuit, I wouldn’t reach out for the obvious unhealthy options like cream biscuits. But if it’s a normal cracker with perhaps some hidden sugar, I would indulge myself once in a while.”
Changes she saw as a result of the challenge
“I’ve never felt lighter,” she quips. Though she may have lost only 4 kilos in the last one year, there has been considerable inch loss. She also mentions that keeping the kilos off becomes much easier with giving up sugar.
“I am a Goan, and I live in South Goa. Our staple is fish, coconut and rice. I didn’t give up on any of it. In fact, I would slather my toast with butter and also eat a good amount of cheese as part of my diet. My skin feels clearer, I feel lighter and my most fit by just moderating my sugar intake.”
The last word
An active lifestyle, along with a healthy diet is what Nadkarni recommends to all of TBI’s readers.
“I have been cycling 30 kilometres at least five times a week for a year now. It burns around 600 calories, and by the time I’m home, I’m famished. So then treating yourself to natural sugars such as whole fruits and dates are a great idea.” She says young mothers should especially take it up and cultivate this lifestyle habit in both themselves and their children.
We hope Binota’s no-sugar challenge inspires you to cut out processed sugar from your diet slowly so that you can experience the same benefits she did.
If, however, there are days when you want to take it slow or give in to the cravings, you can give this Natural Yacon Syrup a shot. Extracted from yacon roots, it is a natural sweetener and can be used as a spread and in your breakfast cereals or smoothies as a healthy alternative to refined sugar. Other great alternatives are Organic Honey or Jaggery Syrup. They can be used in your lime sodas, in salad dressings or even in your tea or coffee.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)