My dear aunt Sunita e-mailed me recently. “Ravi, I have been following the Ravionhealth diet and lifestyle religiously, but I haven’t lost much weight!”. I was intrigued, because I now have over a hundred people following my diet, and the only person who has not shown results is a friend with a thyroid problem. It was time for a forensic investigation at Aunt Sunita’s home!
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I knocked on her door. “Helloooo!” said the familiar singsong voice and the million-watt smile, but I could see what she meant when she said that my diet was not working. Aunt Sunita was as rotund as ever, looking like the most eligible bachelorette in Uganda*.
After the pleasantries, I made a beeline for her kitchen, and started my investigation with the refrigerator. Full of fresh vegetables, whole milk, cheese, dark chocolate (85% cocoa), paneer, eggs, mayo, butter, and not a juice in sight…so far an A+ from me! The freezer was full of fish and frozen chicken and no problem there. Next I looked in the cupboards, and there was no sign of cereal, rice, pasta, flour, sugar, honey, and now I was starting to really worry…how can Aunt Sunita be putting on weight with a kitchen stocked like that?
“So Auntie, tell me what have you been doing since you started my diet?” I asked, and I wondered if she was simply eating out all the time.
“Not much, son! Have been staying home. Can’t really eat out much in India because the vegetarian food in restaurants is full of sugar carbs.”
Now I was flummoxed. Was she that random person who won’t lose fat no matter what she eats?
As I was trying to work through this problem, the doorbell rang. “Oh, it is my mahjong group!”, said Aunt Sunita as she waddled to the door and let in four other aunties who were all plus-sized.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with…
The Jim Rohn quote danced in my mind’s eye as I looked at the kitchen table, now occupied by this gaggle of famine-prepped aunties.
“Son, this is how I spend my afternoons these days. We meet mainly at my place for mahjong and a little gossip.” Aunt Sunita smiled at me.
I feared that the end of my investigation was near. I went to the living room and browsed the daily papers, lost deep in thought, until the familiar “tea-time” call from my aunt’s cook an hour later. I walked back into the kitchen/dining area, and there was the answer to my question on the table, a whole spread of potato samosas, flour murukus, potato and paapdi chaat, rice crackers, corn chips and dips, you name it!
“Auntie, what is all this?” I was aghast.
“This is just for when I have guests, son!”
“But you have guests every day for mahjong, auntie!”
“Yes son, but it is only for tea time!” my dear Aunt Sunita smiled as she tucked into a fried potato triangle.
“But where do you keep all this stuff? I didn’t see any of it in the kitchen!”
“Oh it’s not for me, so I keep it in the guest cupboard!” she pointed to the dining room cupboard, where I could see the words in clear typeface “Guest Cupboard”.
As I left Aunt Sunita’s house, I marveled at the power of sugar addiction. It is no different than alcohol or any other drug, in that once you develop a dependency, the addiction will create a delusion that you don’t have a behaviour problem, and that whatever symptoms you are experiencing are beyond your control, i.e., genetic.
Here was my aunt, a perfectly sane and reasonable person, who simply put all her junk food into a cupboard marked “guest”, and ate healthy food three times a day. But she simply put it out of her mind that since going on my diet she had joined a daily mahjong group that met at her house, and she put away at least a thousand calories of sugar from the “Guest Cupboard” daily while entertaining her guests. She was by no means the fattest of her mahjong group, so she never feels out of place when she is in their company…quite the opposite!
Breaking sugar addiction is an extraordinary achievement for some people, the same as quitting smoking, while other people do it with ease. We have to sympathize with our sugar-addicted loved ones, be patient with them, and ultimately respect their choices. But it is not impossible.
Aunt Sunita, I will find a way to rid your home of the poison cupboard…eventually!