Amy of the Maisy Mak blog pretends to live by the ocean.
It’s easy to do. You just take a lot of pictures there and put them on your blog. Voila. Been to her blog before? Her About page is one of the most memorable ever. She interviews … herself. And asks all the tough questions.
She describes her kids as a “wily flock.” Don’t you just love that?
Her space is a wonderful 10 acres of mothering madness that includes such thoughtful topics as the 9 minutes in your day that have the greatest impact. Read that, seriously. It’ll change how you parent to some degree, guaranteed.
Amy’s smart, quirky, and eloquent.
But she also broke up with sugar recently. If you’ve paid any attention, you know cookies and me have that Bogey and Becall love affair that endures through the ages. She’s here today to tell a little about that break-up.
Are You an Addict Too? Saying No to Sugar and Saying Yes to Life
In January, sugar and I had a bad break-up.
For days I found myself trolling around the house at 2 in the afternoon craving an Almond Joy fix. At one o’clock daily, my mouth watered for Diet Coke on ice. In moments of desperation, my standards dropped. I began dreaming of old Easter candy, mango-flavored jellybeans, and gross marsh mellow Peeps.
The cravings lasted for days, until suddenly, they stopped.
I had to face the facts: this is what withdrawal looks like. I was a sugar addict.
The experiment of no sugar lasted one month as part of a self-imposed diabolical experiment. The process was one of the most eye-opening and empowering experiences of my life. (You can read more here).
Really? What’s the big sugar deal, you might ask. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal either – until it happened to me one cold month in the middle of New Hampshire. Introspection made me a bit chagrined. I’m a mom, a coach, a runner. I was already healthy…right?
Sadly, my mantra of “moderation in all things” wasn’t really moderate. It’s only uttered when rationalizing another piece of pie, taking a Tootsie Roll at the post office, sampling three desserts at a pot luck, and using it as bribery. I don’t think I’ve ever uttered that phrase when eating mushrooms.
You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide!
In (my) defense of parents everywhere, the road to addiction is a slippery one. As kids, we didn’t know that highly processed (and sugary) carbs like Pop Tarts, Frosted Flakes, and Little Debbie brownies could wreck our health.
We know better now, but it’s not so easy to quit. Our habits are engrained. And maybe we don’t care enough.
I was struck by this cultural sugar shift as I read Little House on the Prairie the other night with my daughters. Gone are the Laura Ingalls days when a few pieces of peppermint candy Christmas was a huge treat…sigh…
“Treats?” What’s that? Treats aren’t that special anymore. Treats are really more of a food group.
For a fascinating look on our love affair with sugar, read this National Geographic article: (“Sugar: A Not So Sweet Love Story.”)
All this white sugar love? The love is everywhere!
We use candy as a positive reinforcement for behavior at home, school, and church.
Children are encouraged to bring cupcakes and cookies to school for their birthday. It’s a “special occasion!” (that’s a lot of special occasions).
Sticky fruit leather, Gatorade, and juice boxes are handed out on field trips.
Lollipops are tossed out during Sunday School for correct answers.
We serve sugar at every book club, sports banquet, and Lego club.
School and club fundraisers are typically giant chocolate bunnies, candy bars, and Girl Scout Cookies. I even drive my children around to solicit the neighbors.
A candy dish sits at the bank register.
The sugar is even at the town dump! Every time my children help me throw trash away, the very nice man who operates the large machine hands each of my children a bite-size Kit Kat bar. The positive reinforcement sure works – never have my children loved dumping trash like now!
Did You Know? Sugar is As Addictive as Cocaine:
The American Heart Association doesn’t actually recommend any daily allowance of sugar, but no more than 6 teaspoons for an adult woman.
Guess how many teaspoons are in ONE coke can? TEN.
But even if you’re careful, sugar-loading is deceptive. Most packaged foods have that much (or more) in one meal or snack. Some of the biggest culprits are seemingly “healthy” foods like low-fat flavored yogurts, tomato sauces, fruit juices, granola bars and cereals. Ack!
We’re so addicted, that for the first time in history, our children’s life expectancy is lower than ours.
Sugar is addictive as Cocaine (Read This: “The Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward.”)
Sugar increases your risk of heart disease. (Read this study)
Sugar increases your risk of cancer and uses sugar as fuel (review )
The white stuff makes you fat (Read this article)
Hyped up on sugar, we know our children don’t concentrate as well in school.
The most frustrating part? We as parents are serving all these horrible addictions and diseases up on forks and spoons.
How We Stop the Madness:
Once, when I asked my friend how she got away with not buying Easter candy at Easter she looked at me and said, “I just don’t buy it.”
When I imposed some personal rules in January, guess what? I didn’t buy it. And if this mom doesn’t bring it into the house, everyone eats less sugar.
What if we said, “No, I’m not going to contribute to your future heart attack.”
What if we made sugar a treat again? What if we only ate a brownie once a week instead of handed it out at lunch time and then served cake and ice-cream at dinner? What if the only snacks our children could trade were hummus or green pepper slices?
Here’s what I believe: If you’re the person primarily in charge of buying and cooking food, then you are the single most powerful nutritional influence on your children.
I Can Do It, You Can Do It
Trying to reform my old ways, I now try to ask myself one question before I eat or serve something to the small, growing bodies in my house: Is it nutrient dense?
The answer to this question means avoiding all the middle aisles in the grocery store and saying no to most free food. Bummer. But hey, I feel so much better now!
There’s some good news too: After enough exposure, taste buds change. Which is why I now think vanilla yogurt is way too sugary and only eat full-fat plain Greek yogurt, flavored with a whole-fruit orange. Yeah, I’ve come a long way, baby.
Here are some recent alternative to family life and celebratory events:
The Leaning Tower of Fruit Cake (oh, it’s lovely!)
The Healthiest Birthday Cupcake (it’s a sock! And it was a hit!)
The Kale Bouquet (Happy Birthday, Grandpa!) (want image?)
What to tackle next?
Well, there’s always Valentine’s, Easter Baskets, Thanksgiving to Christmas, Christmas stockings…every major holiday, birthday celebration…
But we’re parents. We’re creative. We know how to find solutions for difficult problems.
I’ll Leave You With This
Perhaps the most eye-opening part of this whole experiment was the realization that addiction enslaves. I struggle like every other American parent, to feed my children in a land of such plenty. So many choices can be paralyzing.
But this is the great double-edged sword of modern life – choice. To quote Steven Pressfield,
“…the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.” From The War of Art.
I think that includes that perfectly engineered Twinkie that was scientifically created by neurosurgeons to trick your brain into saying, “MORE.”
Let’s choose free 🙂