Won’t You Live On Sugar Mountain?

Won’t You Live On Sugar Mountain?[1]

I’m having difficulty typing this because I’m holding an ice cream, specifically a Bulla Crunch Vanilla ice cream: Ingredients for which include the numbers 476, 412, 407, 322, 500 and 160b. This ice cream contains 16.4 grams of sugar.

Since 2008 every month or so my friend and I quit sugar. We get out a packet of textas and draw up elaborately illustrated contracts; fuelled by optimism we draw broccoli florets punching out cupcakes or write in block letters ‘Sugar is the devil’ and then we find his sister and force her to sign as witness. ‘You guys are doing this again huh…[2]’ The sugar contracts are legal documents and feature promises such as: We the undersigned will quit sugar for the next three months. Through trial and error we have arrived at a system of realistic loopholes; clauses allowing for the moderate consumption of dried fruit (Lynden) or red wine with dinner (me).

At the time of writing my friend and I are writing a concept album about our battle to quit sugar, the lyrics of which we plan to send to Prince. We have spent years grappling with our contracts. Occasionally we worry that honey is like methadone. Sometimes a mutual friend alerts us to the fact that agave syrup is pure fructose or a naysayer sledges honey. Or I will wonder if I am consuming too much fat to fill the void that sugar left. I question the health implications of dropping kilograms by eating as much blue cheese as I want (read: a great deal of blue cheese) but ultimately we know it is the right thing because it leads to emotional clarity and an excellent complexion. When you cut out sugar you cut out the food Michael Pollan was warning about when he wrote ‘Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.[3]

The latest contract I lasted for over a month and was feeling like a legend and then I felt anxious about something and ate a block of Top Deck. My friends know this side of me: the side that turns to sugar in times of stress. Last year I woke up groggy to find traces of last night’s Cadbury Snack on my phone. (see: snack texting) My friend’s plead with me to at least eat Lindt 85% Cocoa but I am insanely drawn to the synthetic pineapple flavour of Snack. My Snack habit undermines my role as food politics writer.

Last week I fell off the wagon and Lynden sent me a text: Hey how’s the sugar contracts going? I’m struggling. Not that I’ve eaten any refined sugar its just that I’m caning all the loopholes like dried fruit and honey…I think I need to tighten it up.

I wanted to lie. I wanted to write back about how I had been reading studies of agave syrup being just as bad as HFCS. About how I had quit honey. About how sweet broadbeans were beginning to taste. But I decided to be honest about being a  sugar junky and wrote back: I have been eating a lot of sugar! I need to start over. I was eating sugar to avoid emotional truths again!

This week it was Lynden’s birthday and I got a text that read: I blew the sugar contracts big time. Lets resign. Holy Moley.

But I figure if I make a public pledge on Dolphin Lettuce Tomato to quit sugar it will happen. So, without further ado…

I, Sarah Coles, hereby quit sugar from today until 15 September 2012. [Loopholes include: maple syrup to get through the first week, the occasional red wine, and minimal honey]

I phone Lynden to celebrate and he tells me he has decided to quit sugar completely. No honey. No sweet stuff. ‘But what about red wine?’ I plead. ‘No’, he says, ‘I’m going no loopholes. Uncharted territory.’ I decide that I am not allowed to have maple syrup or honey. But I’m reading Slow Food Revolution Carlo Petrini In Conversation with Gigi Padovani. It is winter. I am a Leo. There is no way in hell that I am giving up red wine.


[1] When you think about it Neil Young probably wasn’t singing about actual sugar.

[2] She started her own sugar contract last week

[3] Michael Pollan in his 2008 book In Defense of Food


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