Here’s what I really want right now: a cookie. Here is what I am having instead: leftover fettuccine alfredo. This could explain- possibly- why after more than two months without added sugar in my diet, I have yet to lose a single pound.
Not that I was trying to lose weight; I’m not. But I notice it in particular because whenever I describe the No Sugar Project to people the first thing they ask is about things I have noticed that are different. “Have you lost any weight?” “Are the kids better behaved?” “Do you feel any better?”
I hate to disappoint them, but the answers aren’t very satisfyingly definitive. No, I haven’t lost weight, but I do find that I seem to be hungrier and eat more. No, I don’t think the kids are noticeably calmer, but then again hyperactivity wasn’t a problem to begin with. In fact, soon after viewing the No Sugar Project’s inspiration (Dr. Robert Lustig’s YouTube lecture “The Bitter Truth”) we stopped buying juice altogether and began a family drink policy of milk or water only, and that was many months ago, pre-project. Consequently the before/after isn’t going to be as dramatic as it might be if up until December 31 we all regularly drank soda/juice/Gatorade, or those whipped cream-and-sprinkles concoctions that now that pass for “coffee.”
But I do feel better, healthier. I think. Sure, it could just be the placebo effect- I think I’m healthier, therefore I feel healthier. But then again, and I’m going to knock on wood very loudly before, during, and after typing this- neither my husband nor I has been sick since we began the no sugar project, and the girls have only suffered sniffles & a mild sore throat for about three days. For my husband, this is not so unusual: he is a health freight train. Germs mostly just seem to bounce off of him. As for me, however, my failure to celebrate February with an unpleasant illness- or series of illnesses- is notable. Again, coincidence? Placebo effect? Who knows.
Meanwhile, I’m still at the Mayo Clinic with my Dad and helping him navigate the maze of tunnels, hallways, doctor’s appointments and tests. I had heard it was an incredible place, and about that there is no doubt. My Dad and I have had about a dozen conversations about how in-a-good-way different Mayo is from the rest of the American health-care world.
In addition to a scheduling system that allows patients to efficiently zip through tests and consultations at an almost alarming rate, how ridiculously friendly and helpful every person one encounters here is, and the fact that the doctors routine consult one another about even the simplest test, prescription or diagnosis… in addition to all that they have Really Cool Stuff sprinkled about such as a multi-million dollar art collection, a lovely grand piano which fills the atrium with live music throughout the day, and a free patient education center where one can go to learn more about a diagnosis.
I was particularly struck by the existence of this though: on the Pulmonary (lung) floor, by no coincidence you will happen upon the Center for Tobacco Free Living. It’s something which I imagine wouldn’t have been remotely possible only a few scant decades ago, back when four out of five doctors smoked Camels. If you didn’t live through it, a good way to get a feel for that era’s attitude towards smoking it is to watch “Mad Men,” the wildly popular TV drama about ad executives set in the fifties. After about the first ten minutes and you’ll have seen every character smoking with such enthusiasm that you half expect them to pass the pack to both the children and the pets.
I wonder if one day we’ll look back and have a similar “what were we thinking?” attitude towards today’s orgy of sugar consumption. Do we think it’s a coincidence that there are now so many diabetics in our culture that they can support their own mainstream magazine? Are we wearing blinders because it’s so much fun to eat sugar, just like it was so much fun to smoke? Or because the sugar industry is so powerful and influential it can quash any attempts at regulation (such as a soda tax, for example?) just as Big Tobacco was once powerful enough to silence obvious medical concerns? Today’s Americans can hardly seem to pass up dessert after any lunch or dinner, just as yesterday’s Americans felt an after-dinner smoke was both a patriotic right and a well-deserved perk of belonging to modern civilization.
When I venture into the Mayo cafeteria I do manage to find a few things to eat- so far salad with cottage cheese has been my mainstay. Virtually everything else on the long cafeteria line- from the hot entrees and sandwiches to the puddings and sodas- has sugar in it… even here, at the medical equivalent of the Super Friends Hall of Justice. Nearby, at the coffee shop, as I sit and drink my tea I watch person after person after person pull Coke after Coke after Coke out of the drink cooler. It does make me wonder how many people are here at Mayo for some type of Metabolic Syndrome. And it makes me wonder if there will ever be a Mayo Center for Low Fructose Living.