In amongst real news at the start of 2014, there’ve been headlines such as ‘The Sugar Trap!’ ‘No more sugar’, ‘Are you addicted to sugar?’ I’m bemused, surely there’s nothing new about the news that too much sugar is bad for us? But perhaps I’m not be the sort of person the stern admonishments are directed at? Although I have a daily chocolate habit and enjoy the occasional piece of cake, like most yogis, I eat my ‘5 a day’ and more. However I know there are people whose sugar habit involves gobbling chocolates or sweets in quick succession. My Mother-in Law was one – having polished off a whole box of chocolates in one go, she’d smile unapologetically and blame it on the ‘Latchmore sweet tooth’.
Remembering this and pondering the current anti-sugar obsession, I decided to sound out my students on the subject. As a starting point I read this quote in class: ‘The longing for sweets is really a yearning for love or “sweetness”’ by Marion Woodman. One student pointed out that our earliest experience of sweetness was bound to have associations with comfort and love, because it arose when suckling sweet milk at our mother’s breast. This explains why we might look to sweet food as a reward, or for comfort when distressed. Another student reminded us that sugar consumption at present levels is a modern phenomenon. In the past, only wealthy people could afford it, now it tends to be the less well off who are eating too much of it. The mums in my class talked about the difficulties in getting their children to eat healthy snacks in the face of peer pressure and the subversive effects of advertising.
We also talked about ‘how we eat’ being an important consideration along with ‘what we eat’. When sweet food is consumed on the hop, or any other food for that matter, then we’re not really paying attention to what we’re eating. This can lead to a lack of satisfaction on an emotional level, even when we’ve had plenty of calories. (so we eat more!) A chinese medicine perspective came from another student – he said that talking with friends and loved ones in a heart to heart manner whilst eating, was good for the digestion because of the association between the heart and the stomach.
I mentioned to my class the evangelical nature of a Style magazine piece by Calgary Avansino advocating a totally sugar free diet, and how this made me feel more steadfast in my three squares of chocolate a day habit. So the discussion moved on to the importance of balance and moderation. This can arise naturally and addictions lose their hold when yoga is practised regularly over a long period of time. We all agreed that a little sweet stuff would do us no harm in amongst a generally healthy diet, but it needed to remain just a little and eaten mindfully!