I was born during the war on fat. It was no world for a kid but somehow many of us made it through. Tensions had been running high for some decades before my birth and our policy makers had been backed into a corner, it seemed we were losing the battle of the bulge. Worse, we lived in constant fear, knowing that at any moment we might suddenly drop dead from a fat-induced heart attack. That’s how the fat did it, we were told, and that’s how it got you.
I remember walking down the aisles at the grocery store, my eyes struck with labels declaring ‘fat free’ at every turn. There was a sense of community and it felt like we were winning.
The same again at school, every time I opened my lunchbox in the playground, there was always a tub of yoghurt, but the flavours varied, usually between strawberry, berry, peach and vanilla. Vanilla was my favourite and peach was a sad day. While the flavours changed, that little label declaring ‘fat free’ didn’t. It was a little reminder that we were still at war; the label told us that we were winning. ‘Fat free’ really said, ‘you are ok’.
I sometimes wondered how they got the fat out. Did a scientist put my yoghurt under the microscope and remove the fat with a tiny instrument? Or did the farmers put their dairy cows on a diet, declaring to them that we were at war with fat?
But then it all changed, I woke up one day to find that the world was entirely different. Fat was now okay, better than ok, it was celebrated. I couldn’t believe it; at first I didn’t trust it. Could it really have been a big misunderstanding, the classic tale of mistaken identity? Could fat be more complicated than just plain bad and could we have good fats? Good fats seemed like an oxymoron.
So was it fat or the sugar? Research was coming out hard and fast and all of it implicated sugar, I could somehow imagine that peach yoghurt was the villain in this story but I very much doubted any wrongdoing on behalf of vanilla.
At this point I was still eating foods made from dieting cows, I felt reassured by the ‘fat free’ slogans plastered across their faces. In the back of my mind though a niggling feeling was taking hold, I was starting to worry about the sugar content on the nutrition index of my fat free favourites.
I knew I needed to pick a side, should I continue to fight the old war on fat, the war I understood or did I need to make friends with fat, join forces and fight sugar?
I started to read everything I could find about fat and sugar. The countries with the highest rates of heart disease were also the countries with the highest intakes of sugar and refined carbohydrates, not just fat. It started to make sense, if everything was fat-free why weren’t we?
There were other factors to consider, those outside of fat and cholesterol, that could contribute to an expanding waistline and to heart disease. There was still sugar, particularly refined sugar.
Basically, it came down to what made sense, science made fat free and science made refined sugar. Nature made fat and it made some things naturally sweet. I went team nature so now refined sugar is out.
It just makes sense, cut out all of the items containing sugar and you are back-to-basics with fewer processed and packaged foods. Going sugar-free isn’t a new war it is about nourishing and fuelling our bodies with nutritious, wholesome foods.
These days I avoid sugar as much as I can. When I want something sweet I choose natural sweeteners like stevia or just good old-fashioned fruit.
My biggest hope for the future is that we make friends with good wholesome and nutritious foods so that future generations may live in a world without any prejudice towards good fats and wholefoods. I want their teeth strong and I want them to live in a peaceful time, where good natural food is plenty and refined sugar is no more than a legend of the past.
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