Class Notes, Week 12: Sugar high

The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is part of that weekly assignment.

Tonight I attended a sattvic nutrition lecture called, “Are you a sugar junkie?”

On the way to the lecture, I ate a giant chocolate chip cookie.

Yes, it’s safe to say that I am a sugar junkie.  I love sweets.  Cookies, cakes, cupcakes, chocolate bars, you name it.  It’s something I’m not willing to sacrifice because it’s a wonderful life pleasure.  In moderation.  Most of the time anyway.

But this lecture, given by resident Moksha yogi Lance Hoagland, went beyond decadent desserts.  We took a deep dive into the sugar that exists in everything.  EV. ER. Y. THING.

Lance opened his lecture by holding up a one-pound bag of sugar and asking us, “Do you think you consume this much sugar in a year?”  As we each internally mulled it over, he startled us with this troubling statistic: The average American consumes 150 lbs. of sugar each year.  That is the equivalent of 150 of that very bag he held up!  In 1850, this average was more like 10 lbs.

Yikes.  No wonder childhood obesity and Type II Diabetes are on the increase.  Sugar, sugar and more sugar leads to weight gain and all sorts of health problems.  Even scarier, Lance splashed across the screen this quote from the book The Blood Sugar Solution:

“We are raising the first generation of Americans to live sicker and die younger than their parents.  Life expectancy is actually declining for the first time in history.”

The reason for this, among other factors, is diet.  It’s terrible, especially in America.  I think everyone can agree with that.  Processed foods and genetically modified foods are readily available, cheap and often make time in the kitchen “quick” and “easy.”  Sugar, caffeine and salt — the trifecta of addictive ingredients that food businesses know will keep people coming back and spending money — are foodie staples in this country.  I’m certainly guilty of indulging in all three, especially with my Starbucks latte order.

Frightening stats and quotes aside, Lance provided basic knowledge that will empower me next time I’m shopping at the Whole Foods or Jewel.  The biggest culprit is high fructose corn syrup — it’s cheap, it’s addictive and it’s injected into so much we buy.  I’m going to be more vigilant about this ingredient specifically.  Even Whole Foods, which at one point had a mantra of not selling food with corn syrup, now sells it.  Sigh.  However, just because it’s unavoidable at even the “healthiest” of grocery stores doesn’t mean I have to stuff my shopping basket with foods that contain it.  I just need to be smarter.

Lance’s most practical piece of advice: Read the ingredients.  If your grandma doesn’t understand what they are, it’s probably best to leave it on the shelf.

I’ll spend a few extra minutes doing just that next time I go grocery shopping, and see how it impacts my purchases.  It will be an interesting exercise, as I usually blow through my grocery list without much thought to ingredients.  I trust labels, especially at Whole Foods.  But, I want to fuel my body with good stuff, not ingredients that can trigger illness, weight gain, etc.  If I truly want this to be my diet mantra, I need to be a smarter consumer.  A fellow teacher trainee likened this approach to buying a car: If you have the ability to buy a safe luxury car versus a beat-up clunker with questionable brakes, which would you opt to invest in?  Why can’t we invest in our food as we do purchases such as cars?  (It’s a thorny question, especially when we get into the socio-economics of class and food deserts, but she had a valid point.)

Oh, another thing I’ll start: Ask the Starbucks barista to cut the syrup pump count in half with my latte order.

But I won’t be giving up the cookies, cakes and sweets just yet.

Simply raising my own awareness to sugar, and ingredients in my food overall, is a noble start to a healthier diet.

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