True Confessions of a Sugar Junkie
I have never been a drug user, not even recreationally. It was a scene that never appealed to me. Yeah, there was alcohol filled college parties and plenty of early mornings where the room would spin from the after effects. I never graduated to anything harder. Truth be told I had friends who swore by the chemical high but I didn’t like what it did to them. Quite honestly the other shit bloody well scared the hell out of me…
It’s 6:30am on some late November morning, 1976. Three kids, aged eight, six and three are sitting watching Commander Tom. Two of the three would leave to walk to school in about an hour and a half. The oldest one wanders into the dark kitchen hungry for breakfast…
Without hesitation, he opens the freezer slowly and quietly so as to not be heard and grabs a block of vanilla ice cream. Next the fridge for the chocolate syrup and the drawer for three spoons. Then it’s back to the cartoons and his sisters, feasting on ice cream, pouring the chocolate sauce directly onto each spoonful. The breakfast of Champions! Wait, stop, one more spoonful and then it has to go away or Mom and Dad will notice.
God love her, my Mom was not a morning person. The ritual described above would happen over and over in my youth. Sometimes my Mom would wake up just in time to see us off, other times we got ourselves ready and didn’t see her until we got home for lunch. Ice Cream, Easter chocolate, Halloween candy, potato chips, cookies all washed down with juice were breakfast staples in my youth. You name the sugar or simple processed carbohydrate snack and we probably ate it. Always leaving some at the bottom of the container in a manner akin to a teenager drinking his Dad’s booze and adding water to bring it back up to the line marked on the label.
I am a sugar junkie. It’s hard not to be. Most of us are addicts and don’t even know it. Sugar lurks in everything we eat. Some occur naturally, like in whole fruits, but most of it is added to our food in the form of HFCS or high fructose corn syrup. Most of us don’t know what HFCS is but I guarantee most of us eat something it has been added to every day.
I must admit, Bee Hive corn syrup was a staple in our home. On most nights, if I’d been good, approximately 12 hours after the ice cream breakfast I was pouring pure golden corn syrup directly onto dessert, my bowl of, you guessed it, ice cream.
The war on fat changed the way food companies flavour food. They moved away from fatty foods because of the perceived health risks associated with fat. The problem is it made food taste good. The war on fat unwittingly unleashed a bigger epidemic than fat ever did. In order to boost lost flavour the food industry turned to sugar. Sugar is considered more addictive than the cigarettes many of us used to smoke or the cocaine and heroin habits most junkies can’t kick.
On the topic of cigarettes, many of the same companies who lied about the effects of smoking for decades sunk their profits into food once the writing was on the wall in their own industry. Some of the biggest household food brands you trust today are owned by the remnants of the tobacco industry.
In six months I will turn 50. Overweight and amazingly not diabetic despite my sugar habit. Once about ten years ago I did make a conscious effort to change the way I ate. I lost 35 pounds, counted calories and limited sugar intake. As I approached my target weight Disney struck. A sugar coated rollercoaster ride through Orlando was all it would take to relapse into my sugar induced fog. I will say everything is sweeter at Disney. The sheer amount of food at each meal was enough to make a Cheesecake Factory plate look like a snack. Most of it, drenched in some tasty sugar laden sauce was enough to derail anyone’s well intentioned lifestyle change and that was before they brought out desserts. The portions were so big we shared most meals and still after two weeks in the swamp I’d packed on a whopping ten pounds of new insulation.
The negative effects of sugar and in particular fructose are well documented. It damages your liver in much the same way as alcohol. It interrupts insulin and leptin signalling tricking your body into eating more leading to obesity and insulin resistance. It causes metabolic dysfunction leading to weight gain, abdominal obesity, increases in LDL (the so-called bad cholesterol) and high blood pressure. Fructose also elevates uric acid levels which increase your risk of heart and kidney disease. The link between fructose, metabolic syndrome and uric acid is so clear that uric acid levels can be used as a tool to diagnose fructose toxicity.
I am not a doctor but I understand enough to know that sugar is an addictive time bomb, fueling a health epidemic we can’t even begin to fathom. The food lobby, like the cigarette lobby before it, is especially strong, pushing for less regulation and fewer controls on the sugars and additives used
in the foods we eat. My advice for you, well maybe myself, is to look carefully at what you eat. Make an effort to remove sugar from your diet. Especially fructose which is added to almost everything we eat. Eliminate processed foods, they are one of the worst sources of hidden sugars. I know that processed means quick in our busy lives but maybe we need to slow down, eat more whole foods and live healthier to enjoy a better quality of life as we get older.
So I can say I am an addict! Maybe those words will be the start of a change…
Copyright 2017 Greg Glazebrook, All Rights Reserved.