Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I ate sugar. Girls ate sugar; people ate sugar. We bought candy from the shop at our school and poured pixi stix into our mouths at recess. We drank sodas at the movies, giant sodas so big my hands could barely hold the cups. We craved sugar, enjoyed sugar, tasted sugar.
Then, one day, the world was swept off its feet by the possibility of a non sugar substance that sweetened things, like candy and soda and gum. This substance had zero calories and made Tab soda and sugar free gum a possibility. We were in awe. People at large were enamored with the idea that we could enjoy sweet things without the calories, without the carbohydrates, without the sugar, and without the guilt.
Sweet and Low became Equal, the better sweetener, and that became Splenda, the non-sugar made from sugar. Now, for sure there are people in this world for whom these non sugar substances were a miracle, people like my father who suffers from diabetes. For him, the entrance of sweeteners meant having dessert again, and enjoying it. It meant being able to enjoy an occasional candy and more than anything else it meant that he could have all the things everyone else could have. After all, one of the worst parts of being sick is feeling like you just want to be like everybody else. For people like my father and others whose bodies cannot handle sugar, the non sugar substances were a great invention, a miracle even. But, for the rest of us, they have become an addiction, an easy way to pay no attention to what we eat or drink.
A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with IBS, and as part of the process leading to that diagnosis, my GI recommended that I not have any artificial sweetener. After years of chugging diet coke and scarfing sugar free gum, sugar free ice creams, and even sugar free candy, the idea of not having sweetener sounded ridiculous and frightening to me. How many pounds was I going to put on if I chewed regular gum, or God forbid, drank a Coca Cola every once in a while, a regular old Coca Cola, in the red can?
Cutting out the sweetener made me feel better, but I made it easy on myself at first by not eating sweet things but eventually the cravings became too strong so I caved. I started with real sugar in my coffee, yum, and after a few weeks, I noticed hardly any difference in myself, weight or otherwise. Then, I ate dessert, then candy, and loved them both. Soda came next and, today, I drank a Coca Cola, the real thing. After a short walk at lunch I opened a cold can of Coca Cola. The drips of condensation moistened my hand and the first sip tasted divine. I enjoyed every last sip. Aaaaah, the real thing.
Is sugar really so bad? When did drinking a Coke become taboo?
People actually stared at me when I bought a real Coke at the store, looks of confusion on their faces. Doesn’t she know? Hasn’t anyone told her? You know, miss, I knew they wanted so badly to say, you can get that, but without the calories. Thanks, but no thanks.
I’m not gonna drink a Coke everyday but every now and then when the craving hits is it so terrible to satisfy that craving with real good old fashioned cane sugar, or even corn syrup? Studies, which I have not read, might say yes, if you can help it go with sweetener, but I say no. I say enjoy all things in moderation and maybe, just maybe, if you do allow yourself to enjoy a little sugar every now and then, the craving will stop and you can go on with your life and stop obsessing over a Coke. After all, I didn’t want another one after my first one today. Perhaps that is the lesson after all, the one lesson the dieters of the world need to learn, just as I did, that when we allow ourselves small pleasures, when we want them, and feed our bodies the “healthy foods” when we want those, our bodies guide us to a healthy lifestyle for us, individually tailored to make sure we do not hurt ourselves. So, go ahead, have a Coke. It is the real thing.
****If a doctor has advised you to avoid sugar, then by all means do so. This post is meant mainly for those individuals out there who are horrified by the thought of a real Coke, or a pack of laffy taffys, or a delicious taste of Bubble Yum, and not to discourage those who are actively avoiding sugar for health/physical reasons. To those persons I say good luck in your journey, and may the non sugar substance leaders find as many alternatives for you as possible.