I teach English at a Japanese university. In my classes I constantly try to reassure my students not to worry about making mistakes when trying to use English. Of course, this is easier said than done! I know this from my own efforts to use the Japanese language. There is a worry that takes over when your try to say something that you are not quite sure how to say. This worry can even venture in to the realm of mild fear because ‘making a mistake’ is embarrassing – nobody likes making mistakes. One possible consequence is that we avoid the attempt altogether.
Why am I sharing this anecdote? The reason is because I made several mistakes this week! I not only fell off my no sugar wagon, I fell off it a few times. As a result, I did not want to write this post. I did not want to admit to making a mistake, publically. What will people think? Will I look weak, and not serious about my quest? Even though I know that very few people are really paying that much attention to my little experiment, writing about it makes it real. The act of publishing my ‘failure’ is not something I want to do. It makes me feel like just throwing in the towel completely – I didn’t do what I set out to do so what’s the point in continuing? As I mulled this over for a couple of days, my thoughts started to shift. I realized that I was leaning towards the humorous adaptation of this post’s title: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, give up’! When I thought about this option, making the mistake did not seem such a bad thing. I don’t want to give up. Of course, I don’t want to admit to failing so soon, but I am thinking about it differently. The ‘fear’ of making a public fool of myself is not so strong. If anything, I want to prove (to myself more than anyone out there) that I can do this. I can get back on track, and still make it to the end of the semester in control of my sugar intake.
So, as I write the final sentences of this post, I feel better about my failure. I’m not worried about what others may think about it, and this is a big step for me. Huge actually. I am beginning to truly understand something that I heard Will Smith say in a video clip that I saw on Facebook this week:
The point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear
– Will Smith Will Smith on ‘fear’
I can happily share my mistake because I no longer see it as a mistake or a weakness. Continuing with my quest (with a slight hiccup) is a much better option than quitting, writing about it is giving me clarity and sharing it is certainly nothing to be fearful of. ‘Try, try again’ is how I choose to complete the title of this post.
A visit to Ichizenya一善や
To celebrate my first week of abstinence from the sweet white stuff, I took myself to a local cake shop cafe. Ichizenya is a fabulous little cafe on Higashikuramaguchi near Shirakawa Dori in the north east of Kyoto. As the name suggests, the decor is very ‘zen’ – minimalist and classy. It is a quiet spot and perfect for quiet appreciation of the homemade tasty delights on offer. In the past I have opted for take-out, but on this occasion I decided to savour the ‘whole experience’.
I was lucky. Despite it being a Sunday, and potentially very busy, I had the cafe almost to myself. It was quiet and perfectly suited to my book-reading, dessert-savouring plan. My choice was a simple strawberry tart with coffee and it was delicious! The pictures say it all really, so I see no need to plaster the page with tasty adjectives. One thing I will say though is that the flavour and enjoyment were definitely enhanced by the anticipation of going to the cafe. Not feeding the sweet monster all week, looking forward to ‘the treat’, and taking a good hour to relish the indulgence all served to make it the tastiest strawberry tart I’ve had in ages.
I have now almost finished my second week of ‘no added sugar’. I won’t lie. It takes a real effort some days to avoid giving in to the sweet things on offer wherever I go. However, the longer I stay on track, the more determined I am to keep going. Of course, I am contemplating my next visit to Ichizenya, or maybe some other equally inviting venue, but it is not a feeling of ‘oh my God, I can’t wait for a sugar fix’. Rather, I am feeling that it is simply a special treat.
On my first day of ‘no added sugar’ I was very surprised to see that someone had liked my first blog post! Wow! I had thought that my posts would float around in cyberspace going largely unnoticed. Knowing that even just one person has read my post is very motivating and it serves the purpose I intended – to keep me on track. So, thank you to my first ‘liker’ for that!
To sum up my first week of no added sugar… it’s tough! Sugar – or at least food, snacks and drinks that have sugar added – is everywhere. I live in Kyoto, Japan but I imagine the same can be said for most other cities too. For example, I picked up a ‘coffee to go’ from a convenience store and my usual habit is to sprinkle some cinnamon into my drink. However, I noticed it is actually ‘cinnamon sugar’, so I had to bypass that. I also ran some errands at a local household store and found myself pausing longingly at a display of chocolates (located between cleaning products!) which I had not expected to see. On another occasion at work someone had very kindly brought some chocolates in to share! Ordinarily, I would have taken one quite happily. However, knowing I would have to confess publically to not being able to make it even one week, I did not succumb. These are just a handful of tempting moments that stuck in my mind as I started writing this post.
The good news is that I have not had anything with added sugar for a week! It is too soon I think to feel any significant physical changes, but I am feeling a quiet glow of satisfaction. It is subtle, but being in control of what I am eating and drinking is definitely a good feeling. Another positive side effect is that I am spending less. It is amazing how the odd sweet snack here and there can add up over the course of a week!
In short, it has been a good start to the semester and I am looking forward to my first weekend treat at my local cake shop to celebrate my week of abstinence from the sweet stuff. It is also interesting to note that going to my local cafe, which was once a fairly ‘ordinary event’, has become more of a ‘special occasion’. I like that too! I am planning to properly indulge myself and truly enjoy every bite. Quite appropriate that the name of the cafe is ‘Ichi Zenya’!一膳や
For quite a while now I have been trying to do a couple of things: cut down on the amount of sugar I eat, and develop a regular writing habit. Seemingly, these two things are unrelated, but by writing about my sugar experiences I am hoping to unite the two things. Not that I eat crazy amounts of the sweet stuff, but I do find myself craving something sweet more than I used to. I have also been experiencing a few physical symptoms that I am curious about – achy joints, itchy scalp. Could these be related to my diet in any way? An additional goal here is to do a little research – read about sugar and its effects, as well as write about my experience. I haven’t written a blog before and the idea of publishing these goals and thoughts makes me nervous. It also is a way of keeping myself in check…doing what I set out to do! So, here’s my plan for the duration of one semester, from April 1st – July 31st (I teach at university so this feels like a good period of time to get focused):
- Cut out any foods or drinks that contain added sugar.
- Read about sugar.
- Write a blog post once a week about either my experience/feeling or something interesting I have read.
- Allow myself a once a week treat to a local cafe which makes homemade desserts – Yes, I want to cut out added sugar, but I also want to be realistic and come from a place of not denying myself ‘too much’!