Sugar is poison! It’s TOXIC! Most of all, we eat too darn much of it! Read on for why these are dangerous myths that could be making you feel miserable and ashamed of yourself.
I’m sure you have heard all the hype about how sugar is the other white drug, or read the updated guidelines on how much sugar we should eat as part of a healthy diet by the American Heart Association.
Being the notorious bookworm I am, I read the book Fat Chance by Robert Lustig to get a better idea of why this has become a hot topic. This books points out the ubiquity of sugar in the processed American food diet. It also makes a strong case for sugar being the leading cause of obesity, especially due to its addictive properties.
Does that mean I was addicted to sugar as an obese child? Before we delve into sugar addiction, I have a confession to make.
I’m not proud of how I used to eat when I was morbidly obese. Not only did I eat way too much, but I also ate the wrong kinds of food. But, there is one food I ate that fills me with the most shame. This food was something I would eat on a spoon.
It wasn’t loaded baked potato soup with extra bacon and cheese, it wasn’t a four scoop sundae with hot fudge, nuts and whipped cream. Though I ate those things with abandon, they did not make me feel as low as this single ingredient.
This single ingredient also scares me the most as a mother. Although my daughters are not enjoying it by the spoonful, it is a regular part of their lives.
I would dip a teaspoon into the sugar jar and stuff the crunchy white crystals in my mouth. Sometimes I would let the crystals evaporate slowly on my tongue, sometimes I would crunch them like candy, and sometimes I would just swallow the whole spoon and lick it clean. The ingredient is SUGAR.
I would only shoot my sugar spoon in secret. That was part of my problem. And part of my shame, even decades later.
How could I be addicted to sugar? My parents let us drink pop only once per week, dessert was only an occasional treat, and we only baked treats for special days. We ate a home-cooked meal for every dinner. Meals that often came from a box.
According to Lustig, pre-packaged meals include an extremely high amount of sugar. As the mother of a larger family on a budget, my mom had to restrict our meals to cheaper items that she could buy in bulk or with coupons.
Many moms today default to the same meals for convenience sake. By the way, Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist, which means he observes how kids are being impacted by sugar every day.
Some people believe that sugar is the root of all obesity. Not me. I still include sugar in my coffee every morning, and I prefer to flavor my oatmeal with a touch of brown sugar. My previous overeating included the white stuff, but it was not primarily caused by sugar.
My obesity was caused by eating whatever tasted good, and not caring about the consequences.
I have a sweet tooth, but so does almost every person in the world. Whether it’s the pleasure of enjoying an ice cream cone on a hot day, caramel corn at a ballgame, or turbinado sugar on top of your favorite muffin, we Americans eat (or drink) it all up.
According to New York Times, the biggest sources of sugar for adults are soft drinks, fruit juices, desserts and candy. A single 12-ounce can of Coke can have up to 10 teaspoons of sugar. The World Health Organization recommends a daily limit of 6 teaspoons. Even if you don’t drink soda, of the 600,000 food items for sale in America, about 80 percent contain added sugar.
As a health coach, I help my clients identify the right foods that support their health goals. Not surprisingly, I often ask my clients to be more critical of what is listed on a food label. However, I don’t tell my clients to quit sugar entirely. Even if they think they should.
This family made a big splash in the news for quitting sugar for an entire year. While I applaud this huge effort (especially with kids who may not have been fully onboard), I feel that this approach leads most of us to failure.
After all, most processed foods contain some amount of sugar, whether it’s one of the many aliases or the unnamed and often unknown category of “added sugars”. As a mom and wife, I cannot avoid ALL processed foods in my daily life, nor do I want to. Yes, I eat convenience foods when needed, and I don’t examine whether the sugar came from a tree, a bee, or a factory.
The biggest problem I see with demonizing sugar (like we did with fat back in the day!), is that there is a certain level of shame involved with eating it.
Moms might turn up their nose at other moms who give their kids a juice box, co-workers might spend 20 minutes at lunch sharing their amazing experience with Whole 30, or wives might nag their husband when he dares to put sugar in his coffee.
I don’t know if I was addicted to sugar as a morbidly obese kid.
I don’t like how often my own kids currently eat (or crave) sugar.
I don’t have any personal or professional interest in quitting sugar for good.
What I do know is there is no healthy diet which includes a daily shot of sugar on a spoon. There is no healthy diet which tells me that any food I love should make me feel shameful afterwards. I know it now, and I knew it as a kid.
My challenge to you today is to examine your eating habits for foods you eat either in secret or with a degree of shame.
Is it worth it to eat those foods anyway? What would your future-self think of that habit? Share your thoughts in the comments!