One rainy day last week, we did abbreviated studies and then spent the remainder of the morning watching Fed Up, a documentary about the food industry and, in particular, our children and the obesity epidemic.
I highly recommend it. The children (just the younger three—my older son was at work) were totally into it. I had to pause the movie multiple times to answer their questions and check their comprehension. (And now I want my husband and son to watch it, too.)
Some key points (as I remember them—don’t quote me!):
*Out of 23 rats who were given the choice of cocaine water or sugar water, 20 chose sugar water. Sugar is addictive. Our culture is addicted to sugar.
*In the same way that we are now appalled at how doctors used to endorse cigarettes, our future selves will be shocked at how we are—right now—so accepting of the sugar industry.
*A third of our population is obese. Another notable percentage is TOFI (thin on the outside, fat on the inside). Together, over half of our population is physically sick.
*Our government does not have our children’s best interests in mind. As they said, “The fox is guarding the hen house.”
*Parents are in charge of their children’s eating habits, yes. But, and especially for school children who are eating cafeteria lunches and exposed to lots of prepackaged snack food, it’s like fighting an uphill battle. Processed junk food is everywhere. Socially and culturally, the odds are stacked against our children.
*Did you ever notice how nutrition labels don’t list the daily percentages for sugars? Thank the sugar lobbyists for that lack of information. They don’t want us to know and have fought hard for the right to keep us in the dark.
*What is the daily allotment of sugar? According to the movie, it’s ten to twelve grams, or roughly three teaspoons. (Though I’ve read elsewhere that it’s up to 25 grams for an adult.) The point is, we should be eating practically no sugar.
And here’s where I got confused. One cup of whole milk has 11 grams of sugar, and one apple has about 19 grams of sugar, ba-BAM. That’s your daily allowance of sugar, so forget about that small scoop of brown sugar on your morning oatmeal, that half-teaspoon of sugar in your tea, the little puddle of ketchup with your oven fries, the home-canned applesauce, or the raisins with your mixed nuts. A cookie? A muffin? Syrup on a pancake? Jam on toast? No way. You. are. done.
Which doesn’t quite feel fair. I mean, raisins are good for you, right? So are they just talking about added sugars? Perhaps. But they clearly said that sugar is sugar is sugar. There are many, many names for it, but they all—even honey and maple syrup—have the same adverse effects. This gave—gives—me pause. Any way you look at it, we’ve got to cut back.
After watching the movie, I did some obsessing. I hung out in the pantry reading labels. I studied our dinner plates. I fretted and stewed. Sugar is everywhere! It seems so impossible! But now, after a few days of thinking, incorporating, and reevaluating all the information, these are the nuggets I’ve carried with me.
1. I am addicted to sugar.
2. Just say no to Twizzlers!
3. Be enormously leery of packaged foods: crackers, mixes, dressings, yogurts, etc.
4. Buy food in its natural state. Better yet, grow it myself.
5. Beverages are real killers. Drink water.
6. Make my own desserts.
All these things, I knew already. But it was good to sit with the problem for awhile, to examine the facts, to wrestle with the issues, and to scrutinize my habits. Over time, I can grow desensitized to the bigger picture and blind to the little details, becoming the passive consumer that I’m supposed to be. The movie was just the kick I needed.