After seeing an ad for show that described sugar as the enemy of the 21st century, I thought I needed to bring a bit of perspective to this fashionable belief.
By no means is this list exhaustive and they are in no particular order. And no I am not being paid by BIG sugar, or anyone for that matter as I work for myself.
- Civil war
- Domestic violence
- Being overworked to the point of high stress
- Inadequate sleep
- Our culture’s obsession with always being busy
- Our culture’s weight bias and weight stigma
- The believe that anyone above a BMI of 25 should lose weight for health
- Relentless promotion of an image of the “ideal” female or “ideal” male body which doesn’t actually exist due to digital manipulation/air brushing etc
- Highly restrictive diet programs that claim not to be pyramid selling schemes but really are
- Minimally qualified nutrition “experts” who claim their way of eating is the only way and everyone should do as they say, not always as they do
I want to discuss a few of these in relation sugar.
When people are working long hours, stressed out of their mind and not getting enough sleep – a common product of our culture’s constant drive to always be doing something, earning more, achieving more, being more – it’s not unusual to reach for more highly processed sugary food to get through the day. When we don’t have time to organise lunch, convenience food is often the quickest, easiest thing available.
So is the issue here the sugar, or is it much more complex and tied up with the need to earn a certain amount of money, to feel worthy and that you’re doing enough, to meet the demands of a culture that always seems to demand more, or to escape relationship problems? Combine this with the abundance and ease of attaining the sugary food and it’s a match made in heaven for the food industry.
When people are constantly exposed to thin, lean or “ripped” bodies, and these bodies are held up as the picture of health, happiness, attractiveness and success, people are encouraged to feel their bodies are not good enough, not thin enough, and they should work to change them. When we misguidedly equate health with weight, this reinforces the desire to be thinner. All this contributes to a culture of dieting and restricting food, especially “forbidden” food, which is usually always followed by episodes of over-eating or binging on the very food that was restricted, often the “forbidden” sugary food.
So is the issue here the sugar, or is it much more complex and tied up in many people’s unhappiness with their appearance (and sometimes lives), the desire to look a certain way as driven by various industries and the heavily promoted and misguided notion that anyone with high BMI should lose weight? Combine this with the belief that some food (especially sugar) is “bad” and should be completely avoided, and you have a recipe for a “what the hell, who cares” shame fuelled eating session that doesn’t help anyone.
Pardon my long sentences…
For those of you thinking, if the sugar wasn’t available people wouldn’t be eating too much; is it really the sugar that’s the problem or is it the overabundance of sugar in our food supply driven by capitalism and politics?
The message here, in case I need to spell it out to those who truly believe sugar is evil, is not that we can eat as much sugar as we like and be perfectly healthy. The message is that health is so much more complex than just what we eat and certainly just one component of food.
Yes many people could benefit from eating more fresh fruit and veg and less sugary foods, but many/most of these people also need to address the other complexities of life and being human as discussed above.
So please let’s not oversimplify health to be about too much sugar.