Some years ago when I was probably in the 1st or 2nd grade, my parents took me with them to a dinner party at someone’s house. The details have long since escaped me, but the one thing that stood out and remained a fixture in my mind was that this family had a full sized bar set-up, and behind the bar was a refrigerator filled with Cokes* of all varieties. This wasn't the kitchen fridge, this was a totally dedicated area for drinks. I always remembered how impressed I was with the idea of having a refrigerator with no food at all, just a bunch of sodas and beer.
I have never been much of a heavy soft drink consumer, but ever since Eva and I could afford a second refrigerator in our garage or laundry room, we have always had it stocked well with bottled water, Fresca, Coke and the like. Okay, and beer, though that doesn’t seem to stay stocked very long.
Once our kids were older, we also began having decorative candy dishes around the house. The dishes are decorative, the candy is real. Generally, I was good for snagging one or maybe two pieces of candy every once in a while, but really, for the most part I could survive off my nightly bowl of ice cream and leave the candy alone.
Then something happened and around this past October, and I started eating more sweets. My first inkling was to blame it on Halloween. Eva bought a huge load of candy thinking we might have some trick-or-treaters, but I think instead, I ate most of it. Then Christmas came. Eva gave me a candy dish to take to work for my desk so people coming into my office could have a treat, though in truth, it was mostly me eating it. In retrospect, and I'm not even sure this is it, but it could be that with my father passing, I had these memories that involved him and his sweet tooth. Who knows?
Over a period of a month or two, I could feel the waistline of my pants getting tighter and tighter. I’ve always been a chubby kid, but seriously, this was getting out of hand.
Many people would be shocked to learn that I enjoy listening to a podcast called Here’s the Thing hosted by Alec Baldwin. Yes, the guy from SNL and the Capital One commercials. Regardless of what you or I think of his political views, the man is both funny and as I learned, one of the finest interviewers out there. If he does ever get a shot at hosting one of the late night talk shows, I’d be inclined to DVR it.
Anyway, one day he interviewed Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UC San Francisco. You can read the full transcript here. Dr. Lustig explained his research into the obesity epidemic as well as a lot of the historical aspect of our sugar in our country. Years ago, I survived life in the military and the need to maintain weight standards by using the Atkins diet as needed to drop quick weight, so I was already somewhat familiar with the evils of sugar-based carbs. Dr. Atkins actually points to the beginning popularity of Coca-Cola as the beginning of our obesity epidemic.
While I was certainly one to scoff at the New York City mayor attempting to ban large sodas in his city, I have to remind myself of how I was against the San Antonio city council banning smoking in restaurants on principle, but am ultimately glad they did it. I general, I am opposed to politicians regulating what should be personal decisions, but the real kicker here is, there is an assumption that governmental agencies like the FDA are in place to make sure what we eat is generally not poisonous. Mayor Bloomberg wouldn’t have to ban oversized soft drinks if they were safe in the first place, and since they are deemed legal (and foodstampable) by the FDA, you’d think they are. Of course, everything in moderation. I'm not here to advocate for Bloomberg or his tiny sized soda law.
I’m not trying to convert anyone here, at all. Live like you wanna live, I say. But for me, I made a conscious effort to stop eating sugar about a month ago. What does that mean? No more candy, period. No ice cream, no sodas, no donuts, nothing with visible sugar. I stopped putting Splenda in my coffee and stopped ordering half-n-half iced tea, opting for unsweetened, all the way.
Of course Eva reminded me as I cracked open a beer on a Friday night that beer has sugar in it. Well, I can’t save the world. In fact, according to Dr. Lustig, 80 percent of the US food supply has some form of added sugar in it, so I’m pretty much screwed if we play the “gotcha” game with those things I do choose to eat.
Since I retired from the military, there is no need for me to jump on the scale everyday, but I can tell you this; in the month that I have cut out the candy and sugar and such, I’ve dropped about 15 pounds and my pants are fitting a whole lot better. And frankly, I haven't missed the candy dish or the ice cream.
* To us, saying Coke is the same as saying soft drink or soda. You might hear someone say, "What kind of Coke do you want?" and the response could be, "Dr. Pepper."