Sweetheart

Damn! I thought I had it licked, you know -I thought I had defeated sugar. I thought I could have my sweets and eat them, too. It’s one of those eternal quests, like Ponce de Leon searching for the fountain of youth, or the Grail thing that keeps coming up on slow news days. So you can’t blame me for hoping I’d made a breakthrough when I discovered diet Pepsi.

We all think we’re special, don’t we? We all think we deserve time on the pedestal. Well, maybe using artificial sweeteners just deserves a quick peek over the plinth, but I wanted to believe I was in the vanguard of those determined to fight excessive weight gain -deserved or not. I mean, someone had to get rid of smallpox didn’t they? So why not obesity? And why not other stuff? There’s a lot to do, I suppose, so I had to choose.

Of course, switching to artifice was replete with naysayers who insisted that lifestyle, not sugar was to blame for our bodily troubles. And the people who are hired to guide us through the labyrinth keep losing their ways. They seem as lost as the rest of us. First it was -I don’t know- Fats I think, that were the culprits. Or was it just saturated fats -they were careful not to blame the whole family in case they were sued, I guess. Anyway, it was fats that were making us, well, fat. I mean, it made sense and everything, but then again you have to be careful with blaming items just because they have the same surnames, eh? I notice they were extra careful when they switched the blame over to trans fats -probably because of all the gender issues.

But, never mind -they changed their minds again. Now it’s sugar. No need to worry about semantics with this one. It’s the real villain, all right. No mistaking it for anything else. Tart it up all you like -if it’s sweet, it’s bad… Probably, anyway -there have been some unofficial clemencies issued for fruits because of a technicality I don’t really understand: something about the kind of sugar they hide and how our bodies have managed to disguise it on blood tests.

You can only eat so much fruit, though, and without advanced technology, it’s really hard to cut apples up small enough to dissolve in coffee. Not everybody has a Walmart in the neighbourhood, so I have some questions about just how helpful pardoning fruits will be in the bigger picture.

And I’m tired of feeling guilty in Starbucks. People watch you there, make no mistake about it. There are cameras above those little milk stations where you load up your Vente darks. They used to only record the cream-users, but times change, and just like Facebook, so does what they upload into your file.

But I thought I’d beaten the system. I thought I could right the data wrongs of a lifetime of transgression -sorry. Just ‘gression, okay? Now I tease the camera a little with a feint over the sugar packets, and then ostentatiously reach into the artificial sweetener bin and grab a bunch. I felt it had to be done, and I could feel years of guilt peeling away. Forgiveness is sweet… sorry, honeyed -honey’s okay, isn’t it? I really had to fight the urge to stand up at the counter and show the barista what I was about to use.

But the elation faded -healthy is only noticed when it is contrasted with unhealthy and I felt I had crossed the boundary. I avoided bumping into sugar whenever I could, although you’d be surprised just how hard that is. It’s like trying to avoid touching anybody in a crowd. Like avoiding moisture in the rain. But there were some minor victories I managed to achieve by mindful shopping: I read the food guide on the little box that lists the contents. Diet Pepsi seems to have nothing at all in it. Sugarless cookies seem to have a lot of stuff with big words in them, including some pseudonyms -anyway, they’re never on sale, and you have to order some varieties online. I figure alcohol is fine, as well. I mean they don’t exactly list much about sugars or proteins and the like, so I take that as a no. Anyway, I assumed I’d pretty well aced dessert.

And then, as often happens nowadays, unbeknownst to me, somebody higher up changed their mind of a sudden, and awakened the Phoenix. Again. https://theconversation.com/artificial-sweeteners-may-make-you-fat-93452

I know it’s just a study, but they explained it rather well: ‘The new research, results of which were presented at ENDO 2018, the 100th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Chicago, looks at the effect that artificial sweeteners have on the cells that make up our fat stores. These cells have a glucose transporter (a protein that helps glucose get into a cell) called GLUT4 on their surface and, when we eat more sugar, the cells take up more glucose, accumulate more fat and become larger.

‘The researchers in this latest study found that the artificial sweetener, sucralose, commonly found in diet foods and drinks, increases GLUT4 in these cells and promotes the accumulation of fat. These changes are associated with an increased risk of becoming obese.’

When they start talking about glucose transporters I know I’m in trouble. They even named it GLUT4 to make sure I would know they meant business. And sucralose is the stuff I’ve been waving around -well, mentally- in Starbucks. It’s hard not to feel embarrassed about it. The only thing I could find that sweetens the message -sorry, how about lightens the message- is that sucralose may be okay in small amounts. ‘When consumed in low quantities, artificial sweeteners have been shown to aid weight loss, improve metabolic conditions, and even protect against injury during infections.’ Nothing’s for sure, though.

So they decided to go back to fruit. ‘However, with a supply of new, natural sweeteners on the market, such as stevia and monk fruit, we have plenty of them to choose from. These are based on fruit extracts and are aimed at providing a more natural approach to improving the tastiness of food and drink compared with their artificial counterparts.’ Why not, eh? Any port in a storm. But, read on –‘However, it’s too early to say whether these natural products are a safer option than artificial sweeteners or whether they, too, have the potential to increase the risk of obesity.’

I’m getting awfully tired of this. Fake news, data raking, profiling -and now they’re trying to Big Brother me into Animal Farm. I’m not gonna take it anymore. I’ve decided to go back to sugar. And fat. And butter… I may even start making bread. And as for the fruit: apple pie with ice cream. I mean, I’ve made it this far, eh?

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