I knew I had a carbohydrate addiction when I was 14 years old and I read an article in Self magazine. It noted that the post-dinner cravings that alternate between sweet and salty were a huge indicator of a carbohydrate addiction and well, that was me to a tee. Every night it was, “Oh! I want ice cream! I want popcorn! I want chocolate! I want potato chips!” Back and forth, back and forth until bed time.
It’s only now that I’m doing something about it. I’m feeling much healthier, I have so much more energy, I’m sleeping better, and I don’t get the 11AM sleepies anymore. But going from being completely enthralled with sugar to attempting to ban it completely has its negative side affects. I binge now. I never did before (or, rather, never called it that because I already had a steady stream of sugar entering my bloodstream all day), so it’s a little alarming when I go off the edge and just start inhaling pints of ice cream. Also, after eating almost any carbohydrate, the blood sugar spike is more pronounced, so the come down is more jarring, as is the lingering desire for more. BUT, I’m still happier now than I was last year, 15 pounds heavier and calling myself hypoglycemic.
Due to my improved health and well-being, I feel a bit more passionate about others finding moderation in their lives. I would never suggest anyone jump into a low low carb diet, or the paleo diet, or any health regimen just because it has helped me. That said, I don’t feel like I’d be exaggerating if I said I bet 75% of Americans are addicted to sugars, if not more. They may not binge, they may not be overweight, but our dependency on carbohydrates is not isolated to a select few.
[Note: Have I done research on this? NO. Feel free to throw some real data at me, if you have it. I don't feel like googling this right now, I just want to speak on what I've seen and what I feel could very well be true. If you want the numbers, go ahead and search for yourself or leave a comment and ask for them and I'll do some digging later.]
Now that I’m observing others’ eating habits a bit more (Yep, I’m a creeper) I’ve realized that this carbohydrate dilemma starts much earlier than I’d once thought.( I sort of always figured my addiction began when I hit puberty and garbaged up on beef jerky and Oreos all summer, but now I’m thinking that was TOTALLY wrong.) I’ve watched 2 dozen little cousins grow up before my eyes, so I’ve kinda got a handle on how many parents feed their children. But seeing as two little ones are in my care 5 days a week, I’m going to use them as my example.
Graham, from age 6 months to 10 months, was fed strictly organic baby food. Every day the kid’s face was smeared with green beans and sweet potato, oat cereal and turkey puree. No salt or sugar added. No preservatives. About as pure and healthful as you can get. But as he neared his first birthday, the little guy was making it clear that he wanted to chew on stuff. Now, it is SO EASY to take a sweet potato, bake it, and cut it up. It takes no brains or culinary skill to steam broccoli. Graham’s parents could still be feeding him salt-free, organic food, just made themselves. But no. They’re giving him canned green beans swimming in salt. They’re giving him salty and sweet crackers rather than his veggie puffs of the past. His mom even said to me one day, “You think if I cook a sweet potato in some butter and some sugar he might eat it?” WHAT?!
I remained calm that day and told her, yes, he’ll eat it and love it. But he’d eat it and love it without the butter and sugar because he’s a baby. He’s never had that stuff, so he can’t miss it if it’s not there. But what I wanted to say was “ARE YOU STUPID?”
Sorry, I’m passionate about this. And here’s why.
Edy, just a year older than Graham, won’t eat any vegetables. The food they keep in the house for her is macaroni and cheese, Kraft American Singles, processed chicken nuggets, waffles, etc. Her parents told me when I started working for them that she won’t eat any bread product without butter, and I did see, at first, that they were right: Edy didn’t ask for toast in the morning, she asked for butter. She likes apples and strawberries, but won’t touch other fruit. She is two. She is too young to be picky. Clearly, somewhere around her first birthday, her parents deemed that the above mentioned processed CRAP was appropriate toddler food and stopped giving her the wholesome stuff they spoon fed her before. Because, if they had just given her all the same stuff she was eating at 8 months only in bite-sized pieces instead of mashed up, she would still happily be eating peas. But instead she throws the peas at me. Her parents let her try their pop and now she wants orange soda instead of orange juice. A few weeks ago I said brightly, “I like broccoli,” and her reply was, “I can’t like that. I like…birthday cake aaaaand chips aaaaaand cookies aaaaand…” The list continued like that.
Now, over time, she hasn’t seemed to notice or care that I stopped putting butter on her food. She eats whole wheat pancakes naked, no butter, no syrup, happily. We baked a banana bread, but I called it “cake” and she was thrilled to death. She has some of my eggs every morning, and frequently tries the tuna salad or quinoa I bring for lunch. She’s not eating a wide array of foods, and 90% of what she does eat has sugar in it, but it’s an improvement. Unfortunately, her mother LOVES to undermine me. On banana bread day,when her mom came home and Edy asked for a piece of her “cake,” Mommy dearest buttered a slice. (Why? Why did she butter it? I DON’T UNDERSTAND.) Any time Edy has tummy troubles her mother attributes it to the “strange food” I let Edy try, and thus she’s not supposed to eat my food anymore. The parents complain that Edy is so picky, but when they get ready for dinner they ask their two-year-old if she wants grilled cheese or noodles. (She’s fucking two. Why should she have any say at all?!) If they just put food in front of her and insisted she eat it, after a few weeks of whole plates of food ending up on the floor, the kid would eat everything. But they let her call the shots and thus, the kid is a sugar fiend.
And I’m just the nanny who has to do as I’m told or rick losing my job.
I don’t ever plan on being a psycho mom who never ever lets her kids eat birthday cake at a party. But I don’t want to set them up to be unhealthy either. I’m seeing first hand that starting way too young we’re pumping sugar into children like it’s their life force when what their tiny growing bodies really need is Vitamin D and protein. Why should Graham have had a cake at his birthday party when he gets so excited over applesauce?
Eh, what do I know? I’m just a stupid girl wanting health and happiness for all and the kids are just the future sugar-addicts of America.