By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training, Tucson, Arizona
October 30, 2014
This past week has been a rather interesting time in my life. Here I am, once again without a job and very little money, and my car breaks down. Fortunately, I’m healthy enough to walk where I need to go, including the QT next to my house where I can get some cheap coffee. Each day, I put two packets of the raw sugar in my 24-ounce drink, adding a finishing touch to the equation. Of course, when I was working, I was getting the non-dairy creamer junk from Circle K that was basically sugar in liquid form. Even though I love coffee in all its forms, I still can’t drink something without a little bit of the sweet stuff. On Monday, after a good and hard workout with Jon and Christa, I got an Americano from Sparkroot while waiting for a bus downtown. Sparkroot makes their version rather bitter and strong, so I cut the taste with a little raw sugar they have readily available. Of course, this little side excursion caused me to miss my bus and get home an hour later than expected. I didn’t really care because I was at ease with my decision as I drank the Americano slowly that night, enjoying every last moment like I was about to start filming a porno with the drink. I didn’t care too much that I got home later than expected, because I was feeling pretty mellow and happy. On the other hand, I also got to witness a reason why stupid people will always be stupid (long story short, if you cause a ruckus at the bus station to the point where cops show up, you should either leave before they get there or better yet, don’t take a swing at one when you are surrounded by five of them). Read my hilarious Facebook post if you want to get the full gist of just how spectacular this theater of the absurd truly was.
As long as I can remember, sugar has always been a part of my life. Back in the day when my mom didn’t buy cereal that was sugar laden or the sugar laden cereal was out, I would get the bland stuff (like Rice Chex or Corn Flakes) and add about a teaspoon of sugar in an effort to make the food more palatable. I would constantly beg my mother for Little Debby’s, because who wouldn’t want the chocolate cream roll and the oatmeal cookies with the sugar paste in the middle. I loved the old Double Stuffed Oreos with a passion and my father would get angry at me regularly for eating too many of the Fig Newtons. One of the biggest biggest reasons why I loved the old Josta drinks was the explosion of sugar in each purplish swig. But since changing up my diet two years ago, one thing is for certain…sweet foods and drinks are just far too intense for me anymore. You can certainly blame the problem on the awakening of my taste buds, merely from the fact that a diet low in meats and dairy (which are highly acidic) can numb the taste buds. I doubt I can even handle the old energy drinks and sodas I used to drink on a regular basis. Heck, Gatorade comes off as a pretty intense experience! It’s only fitting I write about this as our country is embarking on the usual Halloween traditions of eating exorbitant amounts of sugar, i.e. candy. I was no stranger to the tradition, for the best day of the year was the day after Halloween when all of the leftover candy was suddenly half off at the grocery stores. I was a good neighbor, making little candy kits out of Milky Ways, Skittles, Snickers, Nerds and other good candies I wouldn’t mind eating in case I ran out of the stuff. Of course, my obsession to be a cool neighbor became too crazy and too expensive.
Sugar is not just some little additive we stick in our coffee everyday, for it is an extremely powerful force within our society that has the ability to shape minds and shape the economic structure of capitalism in general. Yes, it is that big of a deal, and amidst the million stories underneath the Ebola “outbreak,” the subsequent lawsuits about Ebola, the rampant jingoism associated, the enterovirus, ISIS, the college football play-off rankings and of course, the outright lies being spread by third-party political contributors, there is a little story that is kind of being forgotten about. Heck, I didn't even know about it until I saw the segment on a recent segment of John Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight.” (Conservatives of course are trying hard to lambast Oliver and the show, but one thing is for certain, the research team’s journalistic skills are top notch!) Anyway, the story is all about wanting to make a minor change to the health labels we see on all our food. While most people can fully understand that just about everything in our food has sugar in it, the battle is over how we should label “added sugar.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/04/us-sugar-labels-idUSKBN0G40X020140804
Here’s a simple question. How much is a gram of sugar? Much like yourselves, I have no real idea. When you hear on cop shows or reality shows talk about how many grams of a certain drug someone has, you have to take the dramatic word of the medium that the amount is criminal. On a recent Sons of Anarchy episode, some guys were talking about setting up a heroin empire with just two “kilos” of Middle Eastern poppy snuff. Yes, as an American, the very idea of the metric system bewilders me, and personally, I wish we did have the weights and measures of the metric system because them I would only be a shade under 14 stone rather than a shade under 280. Anyway, the various food producers of the country are apparently fighting tooth and nail to make sure we stay ignorant to the malicious finagling they are doing to our everyday foods. Initially, the unit of measurement that was going to be used was teaspoons, which in our rather visual based society has a pretty interesting indication of how much something is. We took teaspoons of medications when we were kids. We can visualize how much of a food can actually get picked up on a teaspoon. We all have our perceptions, even if it is incorrect. Food companies don’t want people to know how many teaspoons of added sugar are in the foods we eat, for they would rather use the ambiguous measurement of grams instead. Now it seems like a crazy argument, considering four grams equals one teaspoon, but it certainly makes a lot of sense. No one is going to know how tall I am when I say I’m 190.5 centimeters, but they will know when I say I’m “6 foot three.” So when you say something has 20 teaspoons of added sugar per bottle, it has a much bigger impact on the American mind rather than the 80 grams. Heck, when gasoline went out of control in regards to price, we were rather numb to the idea that it was even worse in Europe and Canada, especially since they have a “per-liter” charge on their gas sales (BTW, it is 3.79 liters per gallon). I remember hundreds of posts from furious Euros calling US citizens complaining about $4 per gallon of gas a bunch of pansies, merely because it was pushing six bucks in Europe!
Now of course, the perception of it all is not the only thing the food organizations of the United States are arguing about in regards to this mini-crisis. Led by The Sugar Association (which is a real thing!), these trade organizations are stating sugar is being singled out in regards to the obesity problem within America. The head of the organization even stated sugar is healthy and there has never been any studies to indicate this sentiment. Watch the John Oliver segment, you will love it.http://www.businessinsider.com/john-oliver-sugar-industry-takedown-2014-10
Now we have all had this argument before about what is the central cause of obesity. If anything, it is a big combination of bad diet, no exercise, lack of sleep and a general disdain for all things healthy (obesity as a glandular problem or a weird reaction to medications is pretty rare). You can say the Sugar Association has a right to defend itself, but in a lot of ways, science is making life pretty hard for the organization’s PR department. It has only been a year since we first started hearing about the effects of sugar on our brains. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobsullum/2013/10/16/research-shows-cocaine-and-heroin-are-less-addictive-than-oreos/ According to a lot of researchers, the sugar we eat, whether it be raw, processed or replaced with a substitute, affects our brains in ways similar to cocaine. Activating the same pleasure centers, we become addicted to sugar due to the elevation of mood and demeanor. It’s part of the reason why so many people become addicted to food, because sugar has essentially been added to everything we eat, even meat! So let me ask you a simple question. If sugar is basically as addictive as a drug we have criminalized, shouldn’t it be imperative that we know how much has been added to our foods?
Now here is the bigger problem….how do we reduce the amount of sugar we put in our bodies if it is in everything? First and foremost, I suggest the change in labeling, mainly to give the public a good idea what they are eating. You would think the diabetics of the world would be walking the streets with their fists raised demanding this! (and America has a lot of them!). The second part of the equation would obviously be pretty difficult, for that would mean showing a lot of self restraint and maintaining a good diet. Some of the obvious steps to maintain a low sugar diet is to eat foods that have less sugar, and make sure they don’t have any of the sugar “aliases” in the mix as well (i.e. sucrose, fructose, molasses, maltose, dextrose, agave syrup, honey and high fructose corn syrup). Most importantly, one has to maintain a consistent eating schedule, for cravings can become more intense. If anything, just reducing the intake of these types of foods will help in the weight maintenance department.
Once again, I won’t be providing any candy this year for the trick or treaters, but then again, I might have eaten half the candy by the time they would show up. It’s kind of a shame that one person decided to put a razor blade in an apple all those years ago, making a crazy urban legend become almost a matter of fact within the greater society. I wouldn’t mind handing out fruits to the various kids of the world. But then again, we’re being taught that fruits erode your teeth and can turn you into a future cast member for C.O.P.S. But then again, any food with regular sugar can do that as well! So why do we not hear any outcry in this regard? I guess the fruit industry needs to start a much more powerful trade organization.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.
When you read this blog you are reading through the eyes of someone who is winning the battle of real weight loss. Steve is not a fitness professional, but he is someone we can all learn from.
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