The Cake Project

Over three months ago I pledged to give up sugary drinks for, well, three months.

“I will stop drinking sugary drinks for three months but only if 20 other people will do the same.”
A 1000ml box of Cranberry juice contains enough sugar to bake 1.17 cakes. A 500ml bottle of Coke has the same amount of sugar as half a cake.
I am promising to give up all sugary drinks, including fruit juices and cordials, for three months in order to improve my health. I do not include drinks that include alcohol, by the way, as one has to enjoy oneself once in a while and I think giving up alcohol would be a different pledge.

Twenty seven other people joined me, and together we have bravely fought the evil Coke, and all manner of other sugary evils, with the assumption that surely it must be better for us not to be drinking lots of, well, sugar. Did you know that a litre of cranberry juice has enough sugar in it to bake a cake? No? Well, now you do.
Today, the pledge finally ended.
Was it a success? Well, yes, it was. I really did give up sugary drinks for over three months, and the only time I broke the pledge was last week at a conference when I was suffering a bit of a sugar crash, and when the waitress mistakenly gave me an orange juice, rather than the wine I had asked for, I decided that in this instance it was probably better for me to drink the orange juice than the wine. I think I can be forgiven for that.
A few people, T'Other included, took the piss out of me over the alcohol clause, but I really haven't abused it. I haven't been sitting here of a lunchtime, necking vodka and Coke to fulfil my craving. I genuinely did switch from Coke to green tea and water with a squirt of real lemon juice.
The worst moment for that was when we were in Dallas for Thanksgiving and Kevin's lovely parents, who know I love Mexican coke, had brought up six bottles from Yuma especially for me. In order to keep the pledge, I made them drive me round McKinney until we found a proper 'liquor store' that sold vodka. Thankfully, they didn't think I was completely barking. (Either that, or they hid it well.)
So yes, I think that's a success.
On the other hand, the deeper reason for doing this was that I thought that if I perhaps cut out the sugary drinks I might just lose a little weight. Not that I'm fat, but I'm the heaviest I've been since my early 20s, and frankly I'm in no fit shape to be trying on wedding dresses with this sort of podge. From that point of view, the pledge was a total failure. I've not lost an ounce – I've actually put weight on. Bugger.
I think it was all the chocolate I ate to satisfy my cravings for sugar. D'oh.
Before you say it, I know that a reduction in caloric intake should be accompanied by exercise, but up until now I've had rather a lot on my plate and it's hard to take an hour out of your day when your 'to do' list only contains urgent items. I did start doing Pilates again, but then had my operation, so have had to give that up for a while. Years back I used to do it pretty regularly – every other day, or thereabouts – and I need to get back to that.
Of course, I can't do anything which involves my arm for at least another month, whilst the new scar strengthens up. If I use my arm too much, the scar will widen and that won't look very nice. I'm going to have to work out a new routine that doesn't involve the usual press-ups, sit-ups etc.
I think this pledge has had at least one lasting change: I drink green tea now. I learnt how to make it properly in Washington DC last year, (you pour cold water on the tea first, then water which is no longer boiling. If you pour boiling water on green tea you will singe the leaves and it will taste bitter), and I really love it, so I can't see me breaking that habit any time soon.
Meantime, I'm enjoying a vodka-free full-fat Coke with precisely no guilt whatsoever. Mmmm, lovely!

The Cake Project: End of week one

by Suw on November 10, 2006

So, I made it. I've got to the end of the first week without soft drinks. My subconscious has been particularly mean to me, however, as I've had a few dreams wherein I've drunk a can of Coke or a glass of orange juice, and then woke up feeling dreadfully guilty, but I can honestly say that nary a drop of soft drink has passed my lips.
I can also honestly say that I could kill for a Coke right now. Really, really kill for a Coke. I could just pop down to the corner shop and be back with a nice ice-cold can of Coke within five minutes. I could drink it in less, and dispose of the evidence and no one would ever know. Apart from me, of course. But 24 people have now signed the pledge, and I wouldn't want to let them down.
Besides, there's the honour thing too. I can be stubborn when I want to.
So instead, I may consider a cup of tea. Green, decaf green or white. Or hot water with a squeeze of fresh lemon, which is far more refreshing than it sounds. I might start buying bottled water as, even filtered, the stuff that comes out of the tap here tends to taste a little stale, and I'm noticing it a lot more now that I'm drinking so much of it.
But oh gods and little fishes, I could do with a Coke.

The Cake Project: Pledge successful!

by Suw on November 2, 2006

Much to my surprise, the Cake Project pledge has been successful, with 22 people pledging to give up sugary drinks along with me. Yay! In fact, the pledge deadline is not til 22nd November, so there's plenty of time for you to sign up if you still want to.
I decided that I would to give up sugary drinks from this morning, so I've not had a Coke or anything else all day. I'm going to keep this going until February 22nd, three months after the end of the pledge. I'm leaving it up to the other signatories to decide when they want to give up, so long as they've given up by 22nd November.
I'll give updated every now and again, just so you all know how I'm doing, and so that I know you know that I'm doing it.
Unfortunately, I had thought that I had found a replacement for the Coke and fruit juices that I normally drink, in the form of green tea. Now I never used to like green tea apart from in Chinese and Japanese restaurants. When I used to make it myself, it always turned out bitter, but I discovered when I went to Ching Ching Cha in Georgetown, Washington DC, that it tasted bad because I was scolding the tea. You have to put a bit of cold water in with the tea first, then add the hot-but-not-boiling water, and it tastes much better.
Sadly, though, a few cups of green tea later, I discovered that it actually has a fair bit more caffeine in than I am used to, and I spent most of yesterday quite significantly over-caffeinated. You might even say 'manic'. In fact, Kevin had to scrape me off the ceiling in order to get me to go to bed.
So, if I need a perk-me-up, instead of Coke I have green tea. But that's really not going to replace all the other crap I used to drink. Not sure what that's going to be, but I have to find something that's slightly more interesting to drink that filtered tap water.
Ah well, we'll get there. I'm just happy that the pledge was met and that I'm now going into my period of abstinence with a bit of moral support.

Ten people have now signed up for my pledge to stop drinking sugary drinks for three months, so I have only another ten to go! If you're interested in giving up all those evil sugary drinks, please sign up before 22 November.
This is something I really want to do – even need to do – but it will be so much easier if I have some moral support behind me every time I'm confronted with the evil temptation of a can of Coke. Think of it as an opportunity to be the little wing?©d angel sitting on my shoulder whispering supportive phrases every time the devil of sugary drinks suggests that I mainline some Ocean Spray Cranberry and Blackcurrent.

The Cake Project: Now it really starts

by Suw on October 22, 2006

If there's a single undesirable side-effect of contentment within a relationship, it's the expansion of one's midriff. A year ago, when Kevin and I had started dating, I was a bit thinner than I am now, but a year of eating out and him cooking me crepes on a Sunday morning and overall general happiness has resulted in, shall we say, a slight enlargement of certain measurements.
And whilst there are several undesirable side-effects to travelling as much as I have this year, (which, yes, I know is not as much as some but it's still more than others), the worst is that I lost control of my diet. If you're a long-term reader, you'll know that I'm hypoglycemic and that a couple of years back I put myself on a six-meals-a-day-regime and it really helped. Well, all that's slipped. I'm back to drinking very sugary drinks, eating highly refined white bread, and generally doing things that I know are bad for me.
The result is that over the last year or two, more people have come to understand from first hand experience what I mean when I say that when I'm feeling a bit low on sugar, I get “militantly hungry”. Kevin has developed a knack of spotting when I need food long before I get that far, but still, it's not good.
So I'm back to where I was in June 2004, looking at ways to make me change my diet. My biggest weakness is, as it always has been, Coke and other sugary things. Now, giving up anything is not, of course, a physical challenge so much as it is a psychological one, and that's why I've been gathering stats. I know what changes I need to make, I just need the motivation to make them.
One day, when I was idly reading the nutritional information printed on the side of a 500ml bottle of Coke (and there's an oxymoron if ever I saw one… 'nutrition' and 'Coke' in the same sentence) and I realised that if you totted it all up, there's 53g of sugar in it. Now, I used to do a lot of baking in my childhood, and I know you can bake a cake with 100g of sugar… so that's just over half a cake's worth of sugar in a drink I can polish off within a few minutes.
Now, I don't mind the idea of eating cake, but I know cake is sugary so I don't eat all that much of it. Same way I don't eat lots of biscuits and rarely, if ever, eat sweets. I mean, a packet of Fruit Polos is something like 96% sugar… I hate to think what the other 4% is. So I can easily see that cakes and biscuits and sweets are sugary and it's really easy for me not to eat them.
It's harder with fruit juices, because part of my brain tells me that they're made of fruit so they must be 'good for me'. I've become a big fan lately of Cranberry juice, and Cranberry and Blackcurrent juice. I can down a whole litre of that stuff in no time. But it turns out that despite being a fruit juice, the sugar content is astronomical, with one box of Cranberry and Blackcurrent containing 126g of sugar. That's one and a quarter cakes. And I can drink that in a morning, easily.
When you compare amounts of sugar per 100ml, from drink to drink, you see that there's not much variation. Lucozade Original predictably comes out worst, because it's a drink that's supposed to be packed with sugar – it's an 'energy' drink after all. Schwepps Lemonade comes out best, with only 4g/100ml. Lucozade Sport looks like it does better than the Schwepps Lemonade, but it's deceptive – it has only 3.5g/100ml of “sugar”, but it has a bunch of other carbs in it, bringing the total carbs per 100ml to 6.4g.
Anyway, here's a pretty graph to illustrate:
Sugar Content per 100ml
Now, when you start thinking less about absolute comparisons and start visualising the amount of sugar in each container in terms of how many cakes it would bake, you can start to really understand how much sugar you are consuming.
Cakes per Drink
There be lots of sugar in them there 'innocent' Innocent Pure Fruit Smoothies (* figure is for the pineapple, bananas & coconut variety).
So, it's time to stop. Every time I look at a can of Coke, I will see half a cake. Every time I stare down a nice box of tart Cranberry, I will see a whole cake. Cake is my yardstick of choice – I can resist cake. And if I can resist cake, I can resist Coke.
You see where I'm going with this.
I pledge to stop drinking sugary drinks for three months, but only if 25 other people will too. Sign up before 22 November, just in time for the challenging Christmas period, and we'll help each other through. Trust me, it'll be worth it – I know from experience that just stopping drinking sugary drinks does make me feel better and I'm sure I can't be the only one who'd benefit.
So I'm up for it. Are you?

The Cake Project

by Suw on September 15, 2006

I'm working on a silly little project, but I need data. If you happen to be in the UK, and a drinker of non-diet soft drinks, can you take a look at the bottle and leave a comment for me with this data:
Full name of drink
Size of bottle or can in ml
Grams of sugar per 100ml (in the nutritional data, under “Carbohydrates, of which Sugar”)
I am only looking for British full-fat, non-diet drinks, not stuff like 'Coke Zero' or any of that malarky.
Results up here when I have enough data.
Thanks!