War on Sugar

When it was just the five of us and no diabetes it was the desire Franca and I had of eating healthier foods, produced more sustainably and responsibly, that drove us to declare war on sugar. It started, as many such conflicts do, as a simple disagreement over turf: our wanting food that was good for us versus sugar’s monopolistic saturation of the food industry. At the same time we were moving ourselves toward living more simply and off resources found closer to home and of the land, a rule of order that ensured our place as a steadfast enemy of industry. And finally, I was on a quest personally to lower my cholesterol without the use of prescription drugs. I had nothing against proven pharmaceuticals, but I felt if I could achieve the same results through modifications to my diet, I would be a better person for it. Plus, I hated the experience of having to take a pill everyday for the rest of my life. Now, of course, with insulin-dependent diabetes a part of our day to day lives, I feel ridiculous having even complained.

But such as the way things were back then, we chose Valentine’s Day, a symbolic gesture of our seriousness, as our date of revolt. Our strategy went like this: We would for a period of two weeks eliminate processed sugar from everything we ate. Everything. No cereal. No soda. No packaged snacks. No granola bars, no yogurt, no tasty coffee cookies.

Sugar was a worthy adversary, however, and an information-gathering, reconnaissance trip to the grocery forced us to add to the Do Not Eat watch list. Peanut butter, tomato sauce, chicken stock — yes, chicken stock, canned soups, canned beans, canned just-about-anything, crackers, chips, ketchup. This last one, especially, caused our family some heartache as our oldest daughter, Krista, was an addicted user, even dragging green beans through a pool of the red stuff in order to wash them down. Learning of ketchup’s betrayal, she immediately deserted and waged her own war against us as a full-time dissenter.

And so it went, with us rooting sugar out of concealment and it’s clever hiding places, banishing it from our cupboards and refrigerator shelves, and finding a more suitable, or in some case, no, replacement. Lia, for all of her six years, turned out to be an exceptional soldier, using her sharp, childhood inquisitiveness to sniff out the enemy on ingredient listings everywhere. Even Krista came around, by the end of the two weeks she had lost the equivalent of one grumpy pre-teen along with six unnecessary pounds.

The war ended eventually, as all wars should, and we made our peace with sugar. We had neither won nor lost. Sugar is back in the house again, but without unchecked reign over our pantry, so I suppose you could say we won the battle. Out of it grew new alliances: A garden, egg-laying chickens, closer friends at the farmer’s market, veggies that did not require condiments. Even my cholesterol played nicer, staying in check without medication for the entire next year.

Yes, we thought we’d done pretty well, and even if we hadn’t, in those days it was much easier to make light of our failures. Losing takes on different meanings depending on what’s at stake, and for us now, sugar — carbs, whatever you want to call it — is waging a fresh new war and the goals have become much loftier than life without a pill.

To read more on the perils of sugar, here is an in-depth article from Mother Earth News. In addition, there are plenty of myths surrounding sugar and type 1 diabetes, to see the facts please click here.

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