Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nothing to Worry About: The Global Sugar Conspiracy

Food.  Let's talk about food. I have so many other things to do, let's talk about food.

So, in terms of genetic endowment, my husband is the ultimate trust-fund kid. His parents are old enough to be my parents' parents. Yet Phil is only one year older than me. Yes, his mother gave birth to him when she was 48. Can you imagine?  Then you can imagine what a surprise it was when, two years later, his younger brother came along. What started out as one thing turned out to be Dave.

When Phil applied for life insurance, he got the coveted gold standard reserved for people who will never die.

Phil's resting heart rate is that of a marathon runner. No, he doesn't run. He doesn't even like aerobic exercise. His heart just doesn't want to beat that fast.

So, let me ask you this: Why does Phil obsess about diabetes?  He doesn't have diabetes. His parents were diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes in their late seventies. And his mother is 96.  Phil is 51. He can eat whatever the heck he wants.

But he's obsessed with diabetes.  And with documentaries that tell him that sugar is the main ingredient in an enormously powerful global conspiracy.  How many global conspiracy sugar documentaries can one person watch?  Phil has watched four or five. That's a lot of helpings of global sugar conspiracy.  And the message is always the same: Sugar is worse than crack cocaine.

Just last night he sat down to watch one of these things...while eating a salted caramel ice cream sandwich! (Surprisingly, only 17 grams of sugar--less than a fruit-flavored yogurt with 28 - 30 grams of sugar).

Because my son doesn't want to be shamed by his father at the breakfast table, he has voluntarily given up tasty cereal. He now eats cereal featuring dehydrated strawberries, just like your grandmother ate, if she let her strawberries dehydrate in the August sun, instead of using the plump, juicy fruit to make strawberry preserves, or strawberry-rhubarb pie, (with all of that hateful refined sugar).

Grandma and sugar: Two parts of a global conspiracy that will definitely give you diabetes.

My family has heart disease. We don't get the top-tier life insurance plan.

My grandfather used to drink milk and Pepsi (together in the same glass).  It was nonfat milk, but it wasn't Diet Pepsi. He also ate fudgsicles, because they were fat free--but they weren't sugar free.

He wasn't going to get diabetes. He was going to have a heart attack. He had Mallamars, those delicious marshmallow-graham cracker-chocolate cookies, concealed in a kitchen drawer. (No fat. Sugar.) For a special treat, he would indulge in iced-milk bars, which were  ice cream bars made with non-fat milk. Yuck. But thanks to sugar, they were pretty tasty.

Of course, nonfat milk is out, now; full-fat milk is in. Margarine is out; butter is in. Bread is out; meat is in.

I'm suspicious of the new regime, because I'm probably going to have a heart attack.

When our French friend told us that heavy whipping cream was not heavy enough and introduced us to creme fraîche, my hand trembled as I held  the small tub of dairy lard as if it were radon.  Every mouthful of velvety sauce made from creme fraîche was like Russian Roulette for me, except every chamber of the gun had a bullet in it that would detonate in my heart in fifteen to twenty years. Still, I enjoyed the sauce, because I am able to suspend disbelief.

My father used to go on diets, and when he went on diets, I went on diets. His tortured feelings about food became my tortured feelings about food. And my husband's terrible obsession with sugar and diabetes have already become my twelve-year-old son's deep sense of doom and gloom about sugar and diabetes.

Personally, I think that obsessing and worrying is more dangerous than food. I associate early heart attacks with a certain intensity of personality.  I am  wary of feeling overwrought in that way--angry or consumed by anything that makes me want to literally tear my chest open.

My greatest vulnerability is not diet so much as emotional intensity.  I have had to learn where to draw the line.

There are certain topics I choose not to discuss because they set off an emotional chain reaction that is roughly equivalent to two whole beef patties special sauce cheese pickles lettuce onions and a sesame seed bun. Supersized.

I wish my kid wouldn't worry about diabetes, because he's not going to get diabetes, so there's really no point to worrying about it.  I would rather he worry about being prepared for a piano recital or a test at school. Worrying is an important survival tool. I would be the first to extol its virtues. With worrying, as with food, you have to make good choices. His father chooses to worry about diabetes, and that's fine, because he enjoys his global sugar conspiracy documentaries with his ice cream, and that's not going to give him a heart attack.  But Josh already worries a lot.  He has some of my genes, and some of my intensity. He's got to learn not to worry too much.

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