Monday, July 9, 2012

How Sweet It Isn't

Temptation is everywhere. 

It is in the breakfast cereal aisle, in the form of something called Kellogg’s Chocolately Delight.  I rush quickly past, let Sophie grab Kevin some Life, and make a hard right towards the frozen foods.  Since when is it okay to have chocolate for breakfast?

It is served at snack time. Pretzels covered in whipped cream and sprinkles at 10 am, because it is the fourth of July.  How can we celebrate without sugar?  Then a there’s popsicle at 3 (Mommy it turned my tongue blue!) because the kids must be  brought back from their blood sugar crash with a second infusion. 

It drives by my house, every day, just before naptime, now rest hour, eerily tinkling a nursery tune.  Mr. Softee, the pied piper of summertime, stalking the neighborhood, luring children from their afternoon siestas.

It is at the bank, the MVC… anywhere children are expected to wait while adults must submit to paperwork, and lines, and plastic chairs anchored to the floor.  Lollypops, the true opiate of our young masses.

It is not unreasonable to say that Sophia can be offered or confronted with the image of a sweet five or six times a day.  Often more. 

I say no so often, it is like a mantra.  No.  No.  No.  We eat healthy food.  This is junk.  It’s fine to have an occasional treat, but your body needs vegetables, and protein and fruit. 

I yield far more than I would, if we didn’t live in such a sugar-obsessed society.  I don’t want her to be the child cramming her mouth full of Twinkies at the neighbor’s house.  I’ve heard all the stories.  But I open the door a crack, and suddenly, it blows open:

“You can have the snack at school, but then you can’t have a treat at the party later,” I warn.  And then at the party, everyone is having two or three treats, can’t she please have one?  Just one?  And then when I turn my back, one turns in to two. 

How to stem the tide? 

We are eating more refined sugar than we ever have in the history of people, and, I believe, are in complete denial about the ill effects.  The percentage of teens with pre- and Type 2 diabetes has more than doubled from 2000 (9%) to 2008 (23%).  And obese children aren’t the only ones who are vulnerable.  One does not have to be overweight to develop insulin resistance. 

This is a problem.  A preventable problem.

If Sophie was older, I think I’d have her do an experiment—measure the exact amount of sugar she consumes in a day.   Encourage her to research its impact on her health.  Then give her a sugar budget that she could work within.  Something reasonable but limited, where she’d have to decide how to spend her grams. 

But she’s not.  So, until she’s capable of rational thought in the face of temptation, I must set these limits for her.  It is hard to know where the tipping point lies.  This elusive line of demarcation between deprivation and indulgence.  How much is too little?  How much is too much?

How do others make this decision, I wonder. 

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