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Warning: May Contain Sugar
They’re staring at me. The muffins… they have eyes. They also have sugar, which is my forbidden food for the next few days. It’s been only about seven minutes, and already the muffins – the beautiful, chocolate muffins – are begging my attention. Muffins, especially of the chocolate sort, are packed with sugar. You know what else has sugar? Bacon. Bacon – of all things – has sugar. My vice, edamame, has sugar! Even the seven-grain bread that compliments my sugarless sandwiches has over five grams of fructose product. I’ve already raided the refrigerator (to scope out my food supply for the next several days, of course) and found only a few acceptable, sugarless snacks. Olives! I found olives. Olives make for a good breakfast, right?
My mother, a cruel and conniving creature, just offered me a Craisin. A Craisin! Do you know how much sugar is in a Craisin? I have decided to loosen my parameters slightly, but, rest assured, only because of the Food and Drug Administration’s orders. Natural sugar, like the sugar found in oranges and strawberries, is acceptable as part of my experiment. After all, I can’t give up sugar and my three to four servings of fruit daily. You have to cut a girl a break some time, you know.
In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, I have decided to abstain from foods that contain any form of processed sugar in order to test his theory about “voluntary poverty.” In the summer of 1845, Thoreau moved into a cabin at Walden Pond, with the intention to live there with only the bare necessities for two years. By giving up everything he deemed superfluous, such as a kitchen and meat, Thoreau attempted to prove that simple luxuries hinder us, not help us. Thoreau resided in his cabin at Walden Pond until September of 1847 and, in 1854, published Walden, in which he made several assertions about the nature of luxury. In Thoreau’s mind, dependence on luxuries can lead to isolation, ignorance, and laziness. You’re thinking, isolation, ignorance, laziness? I don’t think so. How can such luxuries lead to these horrible things? Allow me to explain. Every Thursday night, my couch turns into a prison, and I the prisoner, all because I am glued to NBC’s comedy hour. I have missed real world opportunities because of my television. My TV Guide is my date-book! Instead of walking my overweight dog, or playing with the neighbor’s kid, I sit on my couch and watch Steve Carell turn a mundane office into an awkward and unprofessional workspace every Thursday night. Nevertheless, I refuse to give up my Comedy Thursdays, because I am dependent. I need television. Television is my drug – I am incredibly hindered by it, but completely addicted.
Thoreau’s experiment was a bold one, and, in today’s world, nearly impossible. We have become so accustomed to unessential things (cars, televisions, anything with fructose printed on the Nutrition Facts label…) that it is difficult even to imagine our lives without them. I can’t even begin to imagine giving up my Thursdays, and I’m not about to. When assigned this project, my first thought was, give up television for a little while. I thought about it, but it seemed a little dry. I needed something that was unusual and imaginative. I needed sugar.
Sugar is in everything. I know what you’re thinking. It can’t be in everything. What about salty foods? No, no. Please, don’t be fooled by flavors. Those wretched, evil companies, like Kraft Foods and PepsiCo, stick sugar in absolutely everything possible just to make a quick buck because sugar gives you a high that leaves you craving more. Now you’re thinking, oh, that’s why I can never stop at just one peanut butter cup… You know what else? Sugar, which is one of the cheapest preservatives, guarantees that your macaroni will have a longer shelf life. So how is it humanly possible to give up sugar? Let me tell you, it’s not.
I started this assignment with both a sense of determination and irritation. A day or so passed, and I was doing well. That’s when it happened – my first slip-up. It was innocent – I assure you, there was nothing premeditated about it. I was casually traipsing around the kitchen while on the phone. I opened the cupboard – a fatal error – and absentmindedly took a small handful of chocolate chips. I ate one, and another, and then five more. Then it hit me, I had just cheated. My first thought was, what should I do with the rest of the chocolate chips? Then, remorse. What would Thoreau think of my inability to hold true to my promise for more than a day? I stashed the evidence and absconded with my shame. I lasted a whole five days with only a few accidental slips. Then, I took an unfortunate turn for the worse. Before you start yelling, allow me to explain. I was at a bakery for a quick meeting, when I noticed a small pyramid of cake samples in the corner.
“Free cake!” the owner called. “Cake’s from yesterday – we have to get rid of it!”
Being the kind and generous person that I am (and modest, too, I know!), I decided to do the run-down bakery a favor. So, I grabbed a few samples – one of each flavor. I swear, this experiment completely slipped my mind when I first took the samples (my short term memory was severely and inexplicably damaged when I decided to give up sugar). You’re thinking, well, this doesn’t seem so bad. It gets worse – don’t say I didn’t warn you. I returned with my samples to my table and started consuming them. My unforgiving friend pointed out my mistake rather rudely.
“You can’t eat sugar! You cheater!”
Well, I didn’t just sit there. I had to defend myself. “I am not a cheater! You’re a cheater!” (Hey, I didn’t say my defense was good.)
“You’re eating sugar! I’m telling Mr. Mattson!”
“Don’t tell Mr. Mattson! What are you, five?”
“You’re the one eating sugar!”
At that point, my friend stole the samples from me and placed them on another customer’s table. This is when it gets bad – brace yourself. I got up from my seat, with cake on my hands, face, and shirt (I don’t use a fork when eating cake) and retrieved my cake samples. Then, I finished them. I don’t know what I was thinking! (Besides, of course, I love cake.) It only gets worse. I finished my samples and returned to the cake pyramid and took more. I have to say, that was d**** good cake. But, I ruined it! I ruined the experiment! How can I possibly live with myself? Now that I’ve ripped the bandage off, I have to make my appeal.
I don’t know if my temptation or my rebellious spirit made me cheat. But, I can tell you one thing: I learned something from this experiment – maybe even more than if I hadn’t cheated. You see, I had to cheat. I lost my sense of self control. I discovered that I am a slave to sugar. I’m addicted! It’s in everything, sure, but that doesn’t mean I have to eat it. But I do. I do eat it! I eat it because it’s in everything, and it’s easy, and it’s good! Now, the Thoreau bells start ringing. Luxuries hinder us! They lead to isolation, ignorance, and laziness! Ding, ding, ding! Sugar has boxed me into a world with no interesting ingredients! It’s always sugar, sugar, sugar – no mustard seeds, or avocado leaves, or chestnut jams. I use sugar because it’s easy. I don’t need to go to a strange grocery store to buy sugar. I don’t want to go to a strange grocery store, either, because I’m lazy. I have become restricted to only convenient ingredients, which has made me positively ignorant of exotic ingredients, which has made me too lazy to buy the exotic ingredients I need to make sugarless food! Ahh! Deliver me!
Before this experiment, I don’t think I quite realized just how much sugar hinders me. I could be out inventing interesting flavors with a broad array of ingredients, but, instead I stick to the cardinal three (sugar, salt, and pepper, that is). I’m not going to promise a permanent sugar-fast, but I have decided to cut back. Also, you might be interested in knowing that I wrote this on a Thursday evening, with the television off. Growth.