October 13, 2011 § 1 Comment
I can pinpoint almost the exact moment when the other person’s face changes. If there were words running across their forehead like a stock ticker they would read: “Uh-oh. Here it comes.” It’s that moment when I start telling them about the No Sugar Project.
By virtue of the project I’ve initiated here, you might be tempted to think I’d be a pretty good in-person advocate of No Sugar: proselytizing at every conceivable opportunity, keenly expounding on a handful of key salient facts and shocking statistics, handing out my little business cards printed with my name and website address like they were, well… candy.
But I’m so not like that it’s kind of ridiculous. So when I’m at a bonfire party, say, like we were last Saturday night, and my daughter runs up to me complaining about the fact that there isn’t anything to drink but apple cider and what should she do… then, to the curious person I was talking to, I go into Explaining Mode. Half apologetic, I relate the Reader’s Digest version of our “Family Project,” carefully monitoring the listener’s face for the tell-tale switch from curiosity to boredom, repulsion, defensiveness.
Of course, most friends and acquaintances are way too gracious to express these reactions outright, instead I get the forehead ticker. Something every-so-subtle shifts in their posture towards me and they assume the expression of someone who is politely interested, yet has no intention of changing any aspect of their current life, thank you very much. They are ever-so-subtly on their guard, as if I had casually turned the conversation towards the fact that aliens talk to me through my toaster oven.
At the bonfire I got several different variants of this reaction throughout the course of the evening. It’s hard. Even though I am a “True Believer” to the Sugar-is-a-Toxin cause: I am a writer to the core, and extemporizing is not my strong suit, to put it kindly. Instead, I much prefer to sit and put words together, reviewing them until it all comes out right- waaaaay better, more convincing and interesting than I ever could have described in person.
Plus, I’m just really, really bad at being persuasive. I would have been the worst debate team member ever. Whereas my husband is frequently described as the kind of guy who could sell snow to eskimos, I on the other hand, would have a hard time selling lemonade in the desert. In such a conversation, I can’t help but feel anxious that the other person will feel put-upon, like I’m trying to tell them What To Do– like I’m sooooooo smart that I have all the answers.
Not everyone reacts this way, of course. Every so often I’ll end up talking to someone who is genuinely intrigued by No Sugar, doesn’t feel threatened, and asks questions that are clearly motivated by actual interest. Then it gets kind of fun.
Anyway, like all parties in Vermont this was a potluck, so I decided to let dessert do some of the talking for me. I brought my Famous-In-Our-Family No-Sugar Coconut Cake, which you may recall is a recipe from David Gillespie’s terrific “how much sugar” website. Even though I’m painfully awkward about it, I tried to encourage everyone I spoke with to try the cake. In some cases, for all their enthusiasm I might as well have been offering them Castor Oil Pudding.
But after the first bite a new look came over their faces, and the stock ticker changed. “Oh!” It now read. “This not only tastes like dessert, but- actually- a really good dessert!”
My favorite part was watching people come over and take a piece who had no idea that it was any different from any other on the buffet table. “Oh!” one woman exclaimed, “It’s still warm!”
“Really?” her companion asked. “Get me a piece too, will you?” Before long, the entire cake was gone.
And, I am happy to say, sitting among a host of pies and cookies, it was the first dessert to go. It probably helped that most other desserts seemed to be supermarket purchases- cookies in plastic boxes, pies in aluminum tins with stickers on the cellophane. Delight in my culinary success, however, turned to dismay when my children came to me complaining bitterly that the only dessert they were allowed to have on the table was gone and they hadn’t even gotten a piece. Whoops.
I promised up and down that I would make another one, just for us. Tomorrow. I promise. Satisfied by my assurances, they went back to whooping with their glow sticks in the dark.
Beyond promising another Coconut Cake, I don’t have all the answers, of course, any more than anyone else. We’re all just fumbling about trying to do the best we can in a world that moves faster and faster every day. We want to protect our families and ourselves but feel frustrated by the lack of answers and the potential for disrupting our life, our routine, what we have come to understand as “normal.” Don’t mess with my world,” those forehead-tickers seem to read silently, “I have a hard enough time as it is without you telling me I can’t use convenience foods or have a soda when I want to.”
I know. It’s a message that’s hard to hear. And there aren’t lots of clear answers… yet. But I firmly believe there will be, and when they start to come we will look back and be amazed all at once that we didn’t see it before… just like with cigarettes, or lead paint, or DDT or BPA. Toxins that were really fun or convenient until we realized- they were killing us.
I don’t want to make people’s lives any harder than they already are. I don’t want to take away joy. But after all I’ve read and experienced, I can’t help but wonder what causes all these modern maladies? Why are so many people so sick? What’s up with skyrocketing diabetes/obesity/cancer/autism/heart disease/weird new allergies? No Sugar isn’t the answer to all these things- but given it’s overwhelming prevalence in our society, it’s pretty likely to be the answer to some of them. And maybe a lot of them.
Couldn’t we turn our stock tickers off long enough to begin to find out?