First off, let's get this straight. I love sugar. Always have. It’s been a big part of my life since well, the beginning. My mom’s a great cook and is quite the pastry chef. Growing up, I remember my dad, brother, and I wouldn’t even be halfway through our chicken fried steaks before we were eyeing the counter for dessert. There was always something: chocolate cake, banana pudding, oatmeal cookies, pecan pie... always something. Something sugary -- and delicious.
But as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more concerned with what I put into my body. I have high cholesterol and have been on statins for years. That’s always puzzled me -- I eat so little fat. I laid off eggs, butter, and fried foods, but it didn’t seem to matter. I figured it must be genetic.
Then while looking for something read on a flight home from Oregon, I picked up a book called Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. In it he argues that the low fat diets that have been promoted non-stop over the last few decades are just... wrong. He contends that carbohydrates -- specifically refined carbohydrates like sugar, white flour, and starches -- are the true cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Right then I began to look at food very differently.
Could Mr. Taubes be right? I mean, I thought was eating a pretty low fat diet. I’d eat lots of turkey sandwiches, fruits and vegetables, nuts. That’s good, right? But almost every day I'd also drink a Dr Pepper, a handful (or two) of peanut butter M&Ms, and maybe a candy bar that caught my eye at some checkout counter. A little here. A little there. No big deal.
Then last year I watched Dr. Robert Lustig on "60 Minutes" telling Dr. Sanjay Gupta that sugar and high fructose corn syrup are basically poisons.
I started digging. I watched Dr. Lustig’s YouTube video “The Bitter Truth” and read Gary Taube’s cover story in The New York Time Magazine titled “Is Sugar Toxic?”. I began to look at nutrition labels closely. The news just got worse and worse.
I pitched the idea of making sugar the topic of Tremendousness’s first video release. We knew we had an improtant story to tell and the supporting data was everywhere. But we wanted to make sure that it would be a story that kids, adults -- everyone -- would want to watch. Our hope was to make a movie that didn’t just trot out the insane amounts of sugar in food, but instead told this story on a more personal level -- one that people can picture themselves in. We wanted to make a movie that talked about what sugar does to your body and the effect it has on our health over time.
We knew we needed expert advice to make sure that what we said was accurate. We wanted to tell a story with the most powerful, up-to-date statistics possible. So we reached out to Gary Taubes, the man whose research started this whole thought process for me. He not only returned my call but also became a helpful collaborator on the project. We are very appreciative and thankful for his advice and insights.
We hope this movie will become a conversation starter for families and friends everywhere, and that kids and parents will see that the solution is not avoiding sugar completely, it's more about helping kids -- helping everyone, actually -- make smarter choices when no one is watching over their shoulders.
"The Sugary Truth" closes with a quote from Ann Wigmore, an early holistic health practitioner, nutritionist, and whole foods advocate.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
We think we've made a pretty clear, compelling piece -- but that quote probably says as much as this video, or any article or book could.
Please let us know what you think of the project.
[Update: we just posted a printable PDF / blog infographic version of "The Sugary Truth."