October 30 is Sugar Addiction Awareness Day, so this is pretty much going to be Sugar Week. You are invited to absorb what it’s all about, at EndSugarAddiction.com, and then follow along for a sick-making ride through food addiction hell. And this might be a good time to print out the free posters (in PDF format, see illustration above), to give the kids a few days to get used to the concept:
This House Not Haunted by Junk Food
Sugar-Free Halloween House
Treats, Not Sweets
Some foods can be addictive, and they share some characteristics. They are “hyperpalatable” or “more-ish,” or “hedonic” foods whose purpose has more to do with sensual experience than with nutrition. And there is nothing wrong with that, up to a point. Hedonic foods usually contain sugar and/or salt and/or fat and/or exotically named additives. There is plenty wrong with that. Another thing that ersatz foodlike substances have in common is, they are highly processed and often dangerously refined (like cocaine.)
Foods are addictive to varying degrees and in different ways. Sugar fills every known definition of “addictive.” Broccoli, not so much. There are all kinds of foods in between, irresistible to different people in different ways. There is a whole field of study concentrating on the links between intolerance, allergy, and addiction.
Some people hoard cheese sandwiches, hiding them all over the house to make sure they are never caught short without a cheese sandwich. But a chocolate addict has no interest in cheese sandwiches. People are different in their susceptibility to addiction and in their substances of choice.
Also, they have different values and political considerations. Some believe that any attempt to curb an American’s access to potentially addictive substances is an intolerable incursion on personal freedom. Some believe that prohibitive legislation is the only way to save us from ourselves. Sugar’s detractors are labeled as crackpots by the majority of Americans.
The thing is, no matter how one feels about it or believes ought to be done about it, there is such a condition as sugar addiction, and one of the problems with it is, the stuff is impossible to avoid. Sugar is entrenched. Its presence everywhere is seen or felt as a natural phenomenon, no more amenable to influence than the weather. The “visions of sugarplums” meme is irrevocably embedded in our culture. The inability of children to resist sweets is one of the bedrock beliefs that we so much take for granted, there is no point in revisiting it. And that’s always a bad sign.
If you find it difficult to get excited about the sugar addiction problem, try a thought experiment. Read the labels on every food item in your kitchen, and whenever you encounter one of the many terms for sugar, mentally substitute the word “methamphetamine.”
When you see an advertisement for a soft drink, visualize the 10 teaspoons of meth in it. On Valentine’s Day, when you give your loved one a heart-shaped box of candy, pause for a moment to consider that every piece contains ketamine. When your kid goes out trick-or-treating, the neighbors toss little packets of heroin into his or her plastic pumpkin. When a relative gives your child an Easter basket, it’s full of opium. Run those mental movies a few times and see how you feel about it then.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!