Monthly Archives: April 2016

That Sugar Film

In spite of (or perhaps because of) my skepticism about “I Quit Sugar” and the whole anti-sugar movement, I was curious to watch That Sugar Film.

All in all, I found it to be a well put-together documentary presented by seemingly sensible and fairly intelligent (albeit lay) people.

Damon Gameau, a clean-eating (thanks to his girlfriend) hipster-cum-hippy decides to start consuming the sugar intake of the average Australian (apparently 40 tsp, or 160g per day). He undertakes to consume this sugar in the form of “non-junk” food- no fizzy drink, lollies, chocolate or ice-cream. In order to consume all this sugar he does eat a lot of food which I personally wouldn’t consider “healthy”, but your average Joe Blow probably would (low fat flavoured yoghurt, processed cereal, iced tea, muesli bars etc).

His “expert” panel, which he consults regularly, consists of David Gillespie, a lawyer who wrote “Sweet Poison” (hmmmm, conflict of interest maybe?), a nutritionist (fair enough), a pathologist (not entirely sure of his relevance except to recount Damon’s blood test results- he fizzles out toward the end anyway, as David Gillespie evidently earns himself a science, possibly even a medical degree over the course of the two month experiment) and an actual doctor whose exact role I was unsure of, I think they were too. Gary Taubes (author of “Why we get fat” and somewhat fanatical “investigative journalist”), is introduced early on and is consulted more and more frequently as the film goes on. Not an endocrinologist or a biochemist in sight.

Basically, the film does a good job of telling us sugar is bad for us and that it’s everywhere. Correction: it’s in just about every processed food you might buy. It’s added to a lot of foods many people don’t think of as unhealthy. It contributes to weight gain and diabetes and really has nothing good about it.

The film touches on the fructose debate with the argument about our livers converting it straight to fat. Happily, it doesn’t victimise poor old fruit or suggest we shouldn’t be eating that.

The film leaves the calorie issue until late. Damon claims to eat 2300 calories per day on his “normal” (low sugar diet). He then says he’s eating “pretty much” the same number on his high-sugar diet, although it’s pretty hard to count them, “obviously”. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to count calories when he’s counting grams of sugar without any problem. The nutritionist at the end, though, says he’s eating the same number. I’m slightly dubious about this, given his claims of being “unable” to count calories but anyway.

The film strays into an “us vs them” vein at one point, which started to annoy me. Damon questioned a “physician scientist” (whatever that is) who was the first to really talk about calories. The scientist very sensibly pointed out that if you obtained too many of your calories from any one source, such as French fries or white bread, not just sugar, you’d probably feel dreadful as well. Damon then asked him (apropros of nothing) if he received any funding from Coca Cola and he said “yes, they fund my research”. I just found this deliberately and annoyingly provocative. If they wanted an “unbiased” view why did they ask a Coca Cola beneficiary for their opinion, only to then pretend to “expose” them (as if it was some kind of conspiracy). Moreover, maybe the film makers should look at their own “experts’” unmade disclosures, rather than asking/paying two non-scientists who’ve made a career out of writing “anti-sugar” books to give an un-biased opinion in a film about sugar. David Gillespie, the lawyer, even takes it upon himself at the end of the film to diagnose Damon with “well established fatty liver, well on your way to full-blown cirrhosis” on the basis of a slight rise in Damon’s liver function tests. I think that’s a big call in the absence of an ultrasound- oh, and a doctor!!!

So it sort of ends with a “sugar is poison” feel to it. Earlier in the film, Damon takes 4 apples and juices them, and points out that most people would eat maybe one or two apples but that it’s easy to drink 4 juiced apples. Which is true. But I’m not sure that really says anything about sugar, it’s the processing which removes all the good stuff and leaves behind sugary water which we can “slam down fast”. (Speaking of which, I’d love a Solo right now…..)

So what can we/I/anyone take away from all this? At the end of the day, I think the film’s basic message is probably a good one. Eat less sugar by eating less processed food and more simple, natural, unprocessed food. Whether this makes us healthier by virtue of the sugar reduction, the calorie reduction or the increase in good fats and fibre, hardly matters. It’ll make me re-think my Saturday afternoon ice-cream, at any rate!!!!!

Which wolf are you feeding?

I’ve been listening to past episodes of the Slow Home Podcast and the other day heard Brooke recount her interview with Eric Zimmer and the parable of the two wolves.

So apparently this is a Cherokee Indian tale about an old man talking to his grandson. The old man says: “Inside all of us is an ongoing battle, between a bad wolf and a good wolf. The bad wolf is everything undesirable in us, it is anger, jealousy, greed, pride and selfishness. The good wolf is the opposite, it is kindness, patience, generosity, humility and calm.” The grandson thinks for a while and then asks “Which wolf wins in the end, grandfather?” and the old man replies “Whichever one you feed.”

Immediately I realised how universally applicable this parable probably was. It doesn’t take much digesting to understand it, you hear it once and it’s there, in your head. Since hearing it, I’ve been thinking repeatedly “Which wolf will I feed?”

So far, I’ve been thinking about my wolves when it come to the most basic of choices. Do I complain about my sister not thanking me for the birthday present I sent my niece, do I send her passive aggressive texts that try and make a point that she should have said thank you? Which wolf do I feed? I can feed the resentment and anger or I can let it go and just be nice. Do I eat the whole block of chocolate? Feed the bad wolf- the lazy, over-indulgent, mindless side of me, or do I feed the restrained, mindful, responsible one? Do I snap at the kids because I am tired and they have asked me the same question for the hundredth time today? Do I feed the impatient, selfish, childish wolf, or do I feed the kind and patient one?

I then went and listened to the actual podcast in which Brooke interviews Eric Zimmer and her final question to him is “What do you think are particular traits or habits of people who mostly choose to feed the good wolf?” He tells her the things he believes are the most important are:

  • Awareness that there is a choice. No matter how big or small the issue, we choose how we respond
  • Awareness that feeding the good wolf is an ongoing process and a means to an end. You may not always feel like feeding the good wolf, but if you want the better outcome, you’ll feed it regardless.

Food for thought (and wolves!) I have subscribed to Zimmer’s own podcast, The One You Feed. Perhaps that’ll be number 4 in my list of favoured podcasts!!

Our Family Mission Statement

Bleuch….. nothing makes me roll my eyes and write off a blog post quicker than this heading. Lately it seems everyone is writing “family mission statements”. After hearing on a podcast today yet ANOTHER person (a man- so far I thought it was only women writing these things) talk about a “family mission statement”, I tried to put my finger on just what it was that makes me recoil from the idea of writing one for the L family.

Firstly, it’s cheesey. I mean there’s a certain cringe-factor about it. Which is a bit of a non-reason, but for me a mission statement carries associations of evangelical, all-American, lip-servicing Joneses showing off what decent, thoughtful, mindful people they are. I just think it’s kind of contrived and phoney. I’m not really one for having framed slogans and the like dotted around the house, whether they be fridge magnets saying “Kiss the cook!”, coffee mugs with some obvious statement about caffeine and mornings or framed “quotes” in white writing on a pastel backgrounds hanging on the wall.

So is it not just my “thing”? And should it be? I think if I suggested to Mr L that we sit down and write our “family mission statement” he’d think I’d gone nuts. “Why do we need to do that?”, I think he would say.

And that, really, led me to the answer… Why do people feel the need to write a “family mission statement” and, more importantly, why don’t I?

For Mr L and myself, our values for life are pretty closely aligned already. Maybe there are some couples whose values aren’t, I don’t know, but I wonder why you marry someone who doesn’t mostly feel the same way about things that you do. I mean, Mr L likes to watch sport on TV while I’d rather be watching Teen Mom or some such trash, so I’m not saying we like exactly the same things on a day to day basis, but overall, we have the same basic priorities. We like to get out and do things, value experiences over stuff, and generally try to avoid pretentious people, things and fads. Those are the values we try to instill in our kids, too. It’s not like we sat down before we got married or when I was pregnant with Master L and said “Right, how are we going to raise our children, what sort of parents are we going to be, are they going to wear designer clothing or hand-sewn clothes?” How could we have known, for a start? But I felt secure enough knowing that our basic principles were aligned that I didn’t feel a big discussion was necessary. Of course, it’s not like we never even speak about these things, it’s just that we don’t really feel the need to be prescriptive about them.

All the mission statements I’ve read so far seem to state the obvious as well. I haven’t read any that say “We aim to sit inside watching as much TV as possible and be really mean to everyone we meet”. Do you really need to be reminded of your own core values constantly with a written set of instructions? And if so can they really be considered core values?

I find them vague, as well, which is probably because their purpose seems to be to cover every imaginable situation for an infinite length of time. I’m fairly confident the issues that we face now with preschoolers aren’t the same ones we’ll face with teenagers (although with Miss L I sometimes wonder) and that we’ll need the be flexible and sometimes innovative to make decisions about the issues that will come up later in life. And again, we’ll be guided by our own basic principles, which we carry around with us all the time, in our heads and/or our hearts. I for one can’t see myself dashing home to consult the mission statement before deciding whether to let Miss L stay over at a friend’s house and miss a family camping trip. And somehow I don’t think Mr L will be, either!