No, you are not addicted to sugar

Yesterday I flew back home after a brief work trip that left me much more exhausted than I could have predicted given that I was only gone for a few days. Sitting glumly at my gate reading the same paragraph of one my APA guideline summaries over and over again, my pretence of studying was rudely interrupted by a loud gasp. I looked up assuming that someone had missed their flight or lost their baggage or far worse, had some sort of medical emergency. Far worse not only because of how terrible it would be for the person, but also because then the much feared “is anyone here a doctor?” question would be asked. We hate this, it sucks. We want to help, but no one wants to deliver a baby or manage a heart attack while wearing their oldest sweatpants and Hello Kitty travel sweatshirt. It does not inspire trust in your medical abilities. Anyway, the volume and intensity of the gasp left me in no doubt that someone had experienced some seriously untoward event. You can imagine my surprise when I realized the gasp had come from one of two well coiffed and perfectly groomed women setting behind me, neither of whom seemed to be in any real distress. As an aside, who are these magical unicorns who do not look greasy and dishevelled at the airport?

“Oh my god, would you look at that?” the flaxen haired unicorn with beachy waves (in MINNESOTA! I ask you) exclaimed to her friend. Let us refer to her as Pinky because she was wearing a pink sweater, her friend can be The Brain because that’s how my brain works.

“What’s wrong?” asked The Brain. “How shameful! I can’t believe it”, Pinky pointed and I followed her gaze expecting to see some poor motion sick sap vomiting in a garbage can across the walkway. Instead she seemed to be pointing over to a young girl who couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old sitting very calmly at a table with her mother at the bakery across from us. The girl was eating a rainbow sprinkled cupcake with the pure joy and abandon that only a small child with a rainbow coloured baked good can experience.  The Brain seemed equally confused and turned to her friend with a puzzled expression.

“How can she let her eat that garbage?  I don’t have any refined sugar at all. This is why we are having such an obesity epidemic in this country. Don’t people know how toxic this stuff is?” Her friend nodded excitedly and with the fervour of a newly recruited cult member who wanted to prove her merit, she added ” I know! It’s so addictive! I mean you don’t sell heroin in stores!”

What. In. Actual. Hell. Did I just hear someone compare a BAKERY to a highly addictive and dangerous drug? They went on back and forth for a while and I had to get up and move because I was at risk of suffering a rage induced stroke.

People, enough is enough. If you stand on the anti-sugar pulpit and preach, you need to take a minute to check yourself. I will admit that I do have a serious love of sugar which biases me here, but this goes beyond that. This here is a public service announcement. Sugar my friends is not a drug. Please do not chime in here with your ridiculous comments about those studies that showed that sugar lit up “addictive” centres in the brain. First of all those are not just “addiction” pathways, they are just general pleasure and reward pathways that happen to be intensely stimulated by drugs. Let me tell you what else lights up those pleasure centres; spending time with people you love, doing a favourite activity, cuddling your puppy. Are those things also addictive? Well, maybe puppy cuddles. Who can resist those chunky fur balls of love? Also, almost none of those studies have been done on humans. Hopefully your brain is slightly different from that of a rat.

Please do not disrespect and minimize those who struggle with addiction issues by comparing this to the latest diet fad. Substance use disorders have four main key criteria: impaired control, social impairment, risky use and pharmacological indicators (tolerance, etc.) which indicate that someone has an addiction issue. How many times have you failed to show up to work because you were at home snorting icing sugar and lost track of time? Was there ever a time where your need for that delicious glazed Tim Hortons honey cruller yeasty deliciousness resulted in you driving erratically as you savoured your bounty? Did you ever sell your daughter’s scooter just to get a hit of one of those Cake and Loaf Giant Oreos? No, because your brain has not been hijacked by a mind altering addictive substance.

See aforementioned Giant Oreos. They taste even better than they look. Go now, you will not regret it. Photo credit: Cake & Loaf Hamilton

Sugar is just the latest in our culture’s long history of fear mongering and vilifying foods in the name of “health”. Remember when butter was terrible and we were all eating margarine? Now a parent might get reported to Child Protective Services if they are caught serving margarine to a child. I am not saying you need to be freebasing granules of raw coconut sugar or injecting Grade A Canadian maple syrup into your veins (or am I?). There is a place for all foods in our diet so go out and have your cupcake and really take the time to enjoy it. Enjoy it like you are a 5 year old kid and get to have a rainbow sprinkle cupcake.

I am off to enjoy this deliciousness that is a reminder of my trip away. Best souvenir ever.