I hear frequently from readers, more all the time, about their experiences with food, and this week, a woman who heard me on Connecticut Public Radio shared:
I am dealing with an office full of people that bring in desserts to share. I'm not having luck convincing them that this is as bad as smoking in the office. One woman brings in brownies every week, has been asked by the manangers not to, and she still continues.
There is plenty in this short statement worth noticing, but I focused my response on a hard truth I had to learn: The people in my world cannot be depended upon to act as I want them to. In fact, the obverse is far more likely: The people in my life can be depended to act in ways I don't want. They're busy on trying to act — and to make the world — as they want. Me too.
That doesn't mean I can't petition authorities for rules or other ways to mitigate ill effects. But if that, too, doesn't bring change, I am still ultimately responsible for my health, including for what goes into my mouth.
Even without the sympathy, awareness, and force of law — which, in a just world, will eventually come — there are still ways I can make my world safer. Please remember: I didn't devise these things, and I wasn't enthusiastic for them until well into my willingness to try them out:
* Get a real, sustainable, sensible food plan. Whole and minimally processed foods, in specific quantities, within specific planned eating times.
* Not as some might-as-well-be-a-death-sentence thing but as an experiment, give up refined sugar for, say, 30 days. Most likely, you've never done this, so you have no idea whether it would make a difference in your life.
If your choice is just to cut down a bit instead of really removing that stuff from your diet, don't bother. My suggestion isn't about calories; it's about other biochemistry, and if you're not going to really clean out, you won't get the chance to feel what difference it might make.
Maybe it'll make no difference, or no difference worthy of the sacrifice, but you can always go back.
The other thing to notice is whether you can do it. If refined sugar is neutral in your life, it should be easy, right? If you find you can't give it up, what might that tell you?
And finally on this point, I'm talking about really not eating refined sugar. This requires broader effort than you might think — more than just giving up ice cream. All sorts of processed foods that don't seem sweet have significant amounts of refined sugar in them: meats, cereals, dairy products, salad dressings, and on and on. The experiment is worthy, if only to get the true picture of processed sugar's ubiquity in our diets.
* Follow your plan as if it were a medical prescription. Like, something important to your health, which is not a stretch.
* Get some support for what you're doing. Check in with a sympathetic friend or family member on a regular basis. This should be an established check-in, even daily perhaps, and separate from any socializing you might do at other times. These calls would be a chance to state your intentions for that day, and if necessary, to discuss what didn't work out about a previous intention and how it could be avoided the next time. You might want to enlist more than one friend, to broaden your support base. There are also a number of groups that provide mutual support.
Another too -ong post, I know, but actually, the list of how to protect myself in a processed-food-saturated world is significantly longer still.