How Sweet It Is

I never liked sweets much. Let me rephrase that, as it sounds as if I didn’t like candy. As a child (and still), I did/do like candy, but not the sweet kind. I went for the sour, the salty, the licorice that rips off the top layer of skin in your mouth (yum) and growing up in Denmark, I was lucky because there are an awful lot of those kinds of candy. It works for fruit, too - I love oranges, clementines, have been known to actually eat pieces of lemons for the fun of it (not often here in northern climes, but my first California lemon was an almost religious experience) and things like papaya, mango and ripe bananas are... Well, you don't want to see the face I make. In terms of chocolate - I adore dark chocolate, the darker the better, but back in the old country, even milk chocolate was pretty darn good. Moving to Canada was a shock for the taste buds. There are many wonderful things about North America, but dear god(s) in heaven, you people can't make chocolate. In general, actually, the level of sweetness of North American candy is out of control.

For most of my time here in Canada, I have noticed how much sweeter things are on this side of the pond, but it didn't become a real problem until I started Enbrel two years ago (has it been two years already?). The medication intensified the effect of everything and also made my body reject anything that wasn't good for it, which meant that I stopped eating sugar. No cookies, no candy, no chocolate and surprisingly, you can live without it. However, trying to find healthy snacks or healthy food without pots and pots of sweet in it? Virtually impossible. I once went hunting for healthy bread and because of a nut allergy was limited to the prepackaged ones and much to my surprise, found than if there was even a hint of bran or grain in the bread, large amounts of something sweet had been added to... I dunno, hide the healthy?

It's become a bit of a soapbox for me, ranting about the sweet. Especially about the sweet that's force-fed to children. You can almost get insulin shock from walking down the cereal aisle in the supermarket, where all the 'good for you'/boring cereals are on the top shelf and the bottom two shelves are packed with colourful sugared cereals, just in reach of children – how is this ethical? And don't get me started on pop. Oh! and while I'm in this area, let's talk about children's ice cream. Here in Canada, the only ice cream that I am aware of that is peanut and nut free and is specifically “for kids” is Chapman's. I have purchased Chapman's ice cream when desperate (ice cream used to be my hobby before I became lactose intolerant) and it is the sweetest, most plastic, foulest, has-nothing-at-all-to-do-with-ice-cream brew. What the crap are we doing to our children? Would quite so many of them be on Ritalin if everything they ate wasn't half sugar? Would the obesity epidemic be quite so bad if everything we eat wasn't half sugar?

And now to the interesting thing (yes, I know, it took me awhile). Having been off sugar for a long time has made me realize something: sugar is an addictive drug. After about a year on Enbrel, I desperately needed to gain some weight, healthy measures weren’t doing enough, so I started eating cookies and chocolate again. Or rather, I tried. I had to start slow (a quarter of the square of chocolate to begin with) and gradually increase it. I discovered two things about sugar: 1) when you're not used to it, too much make you sick (even ¼ square can be too much); and 2) the more you eat, the more you want. Doesn't that sound like an addictive drug?

I wonder if it’ll ever become a controlled substance?