Everywhere I look it seems that people are talking about sugar these days. Specifically, sugar’s evil powers: it is more addictive than cocaine, only 40g in a single serving makes a child’s immune system go offline, it destroys our teeth, makes our skin break out and possibly rots our brain, raising the risk of developing alzheimer’s-related dementia.
Sugar. How can it be that something that tastes so good can be so very, very bad for us?
My family doesn’t eat a lot of sugar, but we do have it regularly. My kids get to eat their halloween candy, and they also get sweet treats from the Easter Bunny and in their Christmas stockings. Over the past few years I’ve been slowly moving away from the sweets and towards other kinds of treats for the holidays, and our holiday-related sugar consumption has been going down instead of up. In fact, there is still a bowl of Christmas candy sitting on the very top shelf in our kitchen. I feel good about the fact that we didn’t actually eat all the candy that came into our house in December.
Still, I’m concerned about sugar. I feel the need to eat something sweet every day, usually after the kids have gone to bed. I can resist sugar cravings throughout the day, but once the house is quiet I’m searching out the chocolate bars or rustling around in the bag of chocolate chips. Chocolate is actually a pretty powerful substance, neurobiologically speaking. Fat + sugar + salt work on the brain’s opiate receptors in the same way as morphine, actually reducing pain. Combine that with the dopamine hit of sugar addiction, and it’s a powerful substance indeed.
I thought about quitting sugar a week or two ago, just to see what it was like. For the challenge of it, maybe. But then there was birthday cake, and white chocolate scones, and that tired, I-just-want-a-hit-of-something-nice period in the evening that I just couldn’t get my head around. Needless to say, I haven’t given up sugar yet. But the fact that actively considering this idea brought up feelings of confusion, aversion to quitting and compulsively thinking about chocolate means that there’s probably something there.
At the same time, I’m not binging on sugar every day. I’m the sugar-eating equivalent of someone who drinks a glass of wine or beer with dinner every night, but doesn’t down bottles of vodka every day. I’m a little bit hesitant to put our household on sugar-lockdown – what about the rebound effect, where forbidden items gain astronomical allure? I know that for at least one of our children, totally eliminating sugar from the family diet would be a Really Big Deal, most likely invoking a great deal of conflict and stress for a considerable amount of time. I don’t know. I have no answers yet, no clear idea of what, if anything, I am going to do. But I’m sure thinking about sugar a lot these days.
What is your family’s stance on sugar? Are you actively working to reduce or eliminate sugar, or do you happily consume sugar every day without worrying about it? I’m curious about where other families are at with this.