When I was ten years old in the Navy town of Norfolk, my friends and I would gather together the pennies we had earned throughout the week doing chores and losing teeth, and walked to our neighborhood drugstore for candy. Back then, candy bars cost only 10 cents each. We loaded up on as many different kinds of candy as we could: Snickers, Three Musketeers, and Charleston Chews were among our favorites. At Halloween, we shared and traded candy on the docks of a nearby lake. These are among my fondest childhood memories, and I do not recall but one chubby childhood friend.
Candy bars taste different these days. With Halloween only days away, I can’t help but wonder about the effect artificial sweeteners are having on our – and our kids’ – bodies. A recent report appeared in Nature magazine this month titled, “Artificial Sweeteners Induce Glucose Intolerance by Altering the Gut Microbiota.” This article looked at a new study on mice that may explain why artificial sweeteners (like too much sugar) cause an inappropriate “emergency” insulin response known as the blood sugar spike. Blood sugar spikes throw your body into fat-storing mode for hours, if not days. Sugar is like a drug. The sugar “high” can lead to brain fog in the short term, and fat gain and Diabetes Type 2 in the long term.
In the 1970s, why did a weekly belly full of candy bars or our annual Halloween binge not make us all fat and foggy-brained? What I have come to realize is that the candy bars of my memory no longer exist. Real sugar and real ingredients have been replaced with artificial sweeteners or highly processed sugar sources and various petro-chemical additives. Yes, as a kid I ate all the stereotypical kid cereals – but I wouldn’t touch them today. Today so many of us, children included, struggle to adequately nourish our bodies, and many of us don’t think about the amount of sugar or chemicals hidden in what we eat.
I am a 50 year old personal trainer, with 27 years of experience coaching weight loss. The worst big picture change to the American lifestyle is the rise of sugar as a food additive and chemical copy cats known as “artificial sweeteners.” According to the film Fed Up, 80% of all American grocery products have sugar added. Meanwhile, “artificially sweetened” products are touted as a healthier alternative. Look around and we know something is deadly wrong. We know the majority of America is overweight, and now 17% of our children suffer with obesity. Yet, Halloween candy sales have skyrocketed and are expected to reach $2.6 billion this year. Beware that the treat is a trick!
At my business, I ask my clients to draw a bold line between what is and what is not food. “Sugar added” or artificially sweetened products are almost always on the “NOT FOOD” side of the line; I call these chemical-laden, artificial, or heavily processed items DOOF, the literal opposite of food. Food nourishes the body! Instead of choosing a sugary soda, or an artificially sweetened soda, consider the fact that soda isn’t food. If you have a sweet tooth, eat only real sugar. Real sugar isn’t as hazardous as the chemical-laden stuff lining the candy aisles.
As for satisfying the trick-or-treaters, I figured out a safe solution years ago. When kids come to my door, I give out pennies and nickels instead of candy. There are treats that are food, like organic dark chocolate with raspberries, or chocolate almond milk poured over frozen blueberries. Of course, these “treats” may not satisfy until you have tamed a sugar-crazed or artificially-conditioned sweet tooth. But be persistent; stick to real food! Your body will thank you.
How do you stay healthy on Halloween? Write in the comments below or tweet us @WomenAdvanceNC on Twitter!