Sugar, Sugar 

I have always wanted to be one of those women who come home after a hard day’s work, throw their keys on the table and step into the shower, letting the hot needles of water wash away my day. You know the type? Skinny. You see them in movies, usually working in law enforcement.

Instead I am the sort of woman who gets out of her car and then headbutts herself on the garage door because I tried to open it without turning on the light but forgot it was locked and walked into it when it didn’t open. After finally getting inside and being knocked over by two dogs, I open the fridge and reach for the the most damaging food item I can find.

I have always had a very sweet tooth and my mother has always been a very good cook and baker. Years of coming home from school and being welcomed by a biscuit tin or coffee and walnut cake (oh how I love coffee and walnut cake) were fine when I was growing upwards, but then I started growing outwards and it has been a battle ever since.

Last year, a conversation with my Dr led me to try and alter my diet and deal with food cravings by increasing the level of fat in my diet, cutting out sugar and cutting down severely on carbs. As a result I have lost some weight, definitely have fewer cravings and have reduced my desire for sweet things. At the time, she suggested that if I wanted some motivation to help me get through the initial craving for sugar, I should watch a film called, That Sugar Film. I didn’t and I didnt – until last night when it came on TV.

The film is a documentary made by an Australian about sugar and the way it has become so ubiquitous in our food, the average Australian eats around 40 teaspoons of sugar a day without even realising it. Not surprisingly, the presenter – a fit, young man who lives a sugar-free existence and who is expecting his first child with his health conscious girlfriend does a Morton Spurlock and subjects himself to an insane regime in order to measure the effect a sudden injection of the white stuff has on his physical and mental well being. So far so predictable, but in between this narrative there are a number of good points being made – information about how the body breaks down different types of sugar and most scary of all how much sugar there is in ‘healthy’ food.

On the first day, for example, he has breakfast of a ‘healthy’ packet cereal topped with low fat fruit yoghurt and a glass of apple juice. That nets him a cool 20 teaspoons of sugar – half his target. Needless to say that as he continues, his blood tests reveal that his liver is under stress and getting fatty, he becomes more inclined to grumpy mood swings and his belly becomes bigger as fat accumulates around his waist. The interesting thing, though, is that he is eating no more calories than before and yet he is gaining weight.

In addition to him becoming grumpier and fattier, he makes the (perfectly reasonable) point that people who get juicers are doing themselves no favours, that he would never be able to eat four apples in one sitting, but that one glass of freshly squeezed juice has all the sugar and none of the fibre of its source product.

Despite his claim that much of the problem is packaging of ‘healthy’ food hiding all the sugar (in one sequence he eats eight sugar cubes between two wafer crackers to demonstrate the nutritional value of the health bar he was going to have) he does spend quite a lot of time looking at sugary foods – he visits America to examine their food choices and meets a family in a town that seems to live entirely on Mountain Dew. So the doco is a bit inconsistent, but it is bright and fun and it tries hard to sell the science commentary by mixing up the talking heads and having them spring from the labels of bottle and stuff.

Ultimately, he gets told how much damage the sugar has done, has one last sugar-packed meal (which is made up entirely of healthy snacks that are sold for kids’ lunch boxes), then returns to his normal diet, loses the weight and he and his girlfriend have their lovely baby who I have no doubt will be brought up with as little sugar in her life as possible.

The ending may have been predictable, but much of the content was enough to make you stop and think; food for thought one might say.

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