I have to preface this post by stressing that I avoid sweets of any kind. Doesn’t mean I don’t have them, but the instances are few and far between, and that’s one of the reasons that I don’t crave them. Just as you may have heard people who have switched to clean eating say that after a few weeks, their desire for sugary/fatty foods disappears, I feel that my lack of exposure to that type of food is why I find it easy to ignore it.

However, even I am not immune to the siren song of the most addictive of processed hell- foods. Here’s a personal example:

"Difficult to resist, the Dark Side is."

My family and I were at a reception where coffee, juice and doughnuts were served. Now, an offering like that makes me break out in hives (even bagels & cream cheese would have been better), but until I have enough money to create “healthy food” endowments for the places that I frequent, I’m stuck. While I got coffee, my husband got that obscene fried frosted round thing. He offered me a bite.

I accepted, not sure why, maybe just because it’d been so long since I’d tried one. I don’t remember the exact order of the events that followed, but I think  saliva flooded my mouth, I got a tingling sensation, a major sugar rush that warmed my whole body…all of which preceded an Id-like need for another bite. I don’t know how much more I consumed before I came to my senses, but the intensity of my lustful reaction took me aback. It was then that I decided doughnuts were the creation of the devil and should be rounded up and burned at the stake.

For that moment that I was under the doughnut’s spell, I had an epiphany of sorts. I saw how easily one could, with minimal practice, polish off a half dozen doughnuts before realizing what happened. Those junky abominations are engineered for lightening-fast consumption. You hardly need to chew the thing before it dissolves! The rapid sugar delivery to the bloodstream is drug-like.

Food doesn’t twack me like that most of the time, but this one did. And then I thought, if it made me, a true sugar shunner, suffer a momentary lapse of reason, how much damage could it do to someone who is more susceptible to the influence of these foods? How much would it test someone’s resolve…and what are the chances that, hypnotized by the promise of a blissful sugar stupor, one would even remember to resist? In general I try to offer kinder, gentler suggestions for changing eating behaviors, but in this case I’d recommend that you never let one of these arteriosclerotic bombs near your lips.

No, not even into your line of sight. Stay away!

When I picked my kids up from school yesterday, I asked them the same questions I always do: whadya learn, did you play nicely, whadya you eat for lunch. I used to pack their lunches, but they decided they wanted to  eat a hot meal from the school cafeteria just like their friends do. I initially sniffed at the idea, but after learning more about California’s school lunch guidelines, I acquiesced.

I discovered that for my son, one of the perks of eating from the cafeteria is that he gets a choice of regular (“white”) or chocolate milk. Guess which one my son chooses. That ruffles my feathers because I know of the problems associated with liquid calories, but I recognize that while I cannot control what he has at school, I’m still the nutritional overlord at home and don’t budge on healthy eating principles there.

Yesterday, my son announced that he had “white” milk for lunch. My daughter explained: there was no chocolate milk available, only “white” milk, so most kids didn’t drink milk today.

Why is this an important point? Because there’s been a push by the dairy industry to slow the decline in milk consumption by fighting to keep chocolate milk in schools, arguing that when chocolate milk is removed, kids choose less nutritious drinks. The National Dairy council contends that kids don’t drink enough milk as it is, although one wonders how much milk consumption would be deemed “enough” by the organization that has a vested interest in selling as much dairy as possible.

Regardless, my daughter verified that without chocolate milk, kids didn’t drink much of the other stuff. There were no other drink options available besides water, which did not strike me as a negative, but the situation may be different in other school districts.

The behaviorist in me recognizes a bigger problem, however. Children aren’t drinking chocolate milk because they feel the need to get more milk in their diet. They’re drinking it because it’s sweet. By loading milk with sugar in order to coax kids to consume it, we’re basically shaping an addiction to sugar. The more that chocolate milk is presented, the more that kids will demand it in and out of school. That’s not limited to chocolate milk, it encompasses all the other foods they’re consuming. The more sugar that’s in food, the greater the expectation of sugar is, and the greater the resulting demand for a higher level of sweetness. This isn’t rocket science, this is basic learning.

Think I’m picking on the poor kids by wanting to take away their sweetened chocolate milk? Think it doesn’t matter, ‘cuz they’re just kids? Guess what? Those children will grow into adults who will spend lots of money searching for ways to drop the extra weight they packed on because of their sugar addictions. And the majority of them will not succeed.

Yes, it matters.

If you watch only one video this year, let it be this one. In “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”, Robert H. Lustig, MD, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California San Francisco, beautifully illustrates the dangers of sugar, specifically fructose, identifying its role in the obesity epidemic (and it’s a HUGE one), describing how the body metabolizes it (and not in the way you’d like it to) and providing motivation for getting it out of your life. Lustig does an exceptional job of breaking down the biochemistry into lay terms. If you’re not ready to kick your soda and sugar habit after watching his lecture, you obviously weren’t paying attention.

More about this in a future post.