The boy and I watched a really quite interesting documentary recently. It looked at the effect of sugar on our children.
(Well, not our children, because we don’t have any children. Also not the children of our generation, because we are still children ourselves. We’re the mental age of 6, running around at 26 yelling “oh yeah, look at me – now i’m an adult I can eat ice cream and stay up till midnight”, followed closely by “blergh, brain freeze”, **yawn**).
It compared the fizzy drink companies of today, with the cigarette giants that were taken down during the 70s. And it was scary. Not purely because facts like “95% of the American population will be obese in twenty years”, and “40% of thin people are also fat” (with their internal organs cushioned with enough damaging blubber, that they may as well be obese) were thrown around liberally, but because it rung so true, and looked so much like the wool was once again being pulled over our eyes.
I consider myself pretty well educated on this stuff, so I find it shocking when I realise that my education is, most definitely, the exception, rather than the rule. My evenings entertainment was full of parents trying their hardest to help their overweight and unhappy kids by providing them with low fat “healthy” foods. I watched 92 minutes of Nutella (a low GI spread, made of nuts), white bread (one of the governments’, worldwide, recommended food staples), and even pizza (labeled a ‘vegetable’ within the American school dinners legislation, due to its tomato paste) being referred to as the best health choices, followed by heart wrenching tears of frustration when these children’s efforts weren’t getting the desired results.
Along with interesting comparisons to sugar and cocaine, this film took a strong stance, and blamed almost the entire state of obesity on Coca-Cola (well, they b;lame it on “the convenience food industry” – but that doesn’t have the same ring too it). Citing that “everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong” and that the food industry’s response to the 1977 McGovern Report, which outlined what we needed to be eating to be healthy, (think; the food pyramid posters you saw stuck to the back of the door in that one health class you had once at school) was to manipulate it to be what they wanted. Grabbing hold of the ‘low fat’ phrase and running with it – disregarding any of the other information outlined in the document (even trying to cover it up on occasion).
To be honest, I see where the producers of Fed Up are coming from, and in some ways they are right – it isn’t as simple as us being a nation of lazy overeaters. There is something wrong with a society that is full of products that contain a poison (yes, sugar is a poison). The blame can’t lie purely on our couch-loving, Netflix-watching shoulders, but neither can it lie solely on those of sugar-filled food makers.
We need to share this one.
Unfortunately, we also need to share the solution.
At one point in this documentary there is a scene (the saddest in my opinion) where one mother was literally in tears over the idea of removing chocolate from her diet. The milky treat had become such a huge and important part of her daily life, that the idea of cutting down – even for the health of her son – seemed so unbelievably difficult for her. That, ladies and gents, that is our fault.
We continue to wade into this addiction, understanding full well (even if not completely) that chocolate, that sugar, isn’t good for us – and don’t take the hard path. We don’t simply say no.
We are asking these companies to stop making what they are making. To change their recipes, or even, completely get rid of their product. Before we are willing to try ridding it from our houses.
Stephanie Soechtig’s Fed Up was a compelling, interesting and an important documentary that I urge you watch. Because if there is one thing I took away from it, it was that you and I, we are in charge of what we know – and the only way to stand up to anyone is to know as much as we can.
Whether it’s an argument across family dinner (I’m looking at you Dad) or deciding what to put in your trolly on your weekly trip to Tesco, the best way to arm ourselves against anyone, or anything, is to understand.
It takes time, it isn’t always the fun choice and it won’t come with a toy – but ultimately, the only way to fight against this is with our education and knowledge that what is going on to our supermarket shelves currently is wrong.
All you 26-year-old-six-year-olds like me (or hell, anyone), read as much as you can, watch, listen and learn every angle of this argument. Know your stance, what your choices are and the percentage of sugar in your 3pm snack. Do the maths (yes mum, you heard that right), because believe me, when you do have kids, you don’t want to be the mum who struggles not to put a bar of Dairy Milk above the health of your child.