Sweet (In)Dependence.

Delicious vegan sugar cookies helped us ring the bell of freedom on Independence Day, as we struggled with our addiction to sugar. Photo by Christopher.

Delicious vegan sugar cookies helped us ring the bell of freedom on Independence Day, as we struggled with our addiction to sugar. Photo by Christopher.

While sitting on the lazy bike at the gym on Saturday, I glanced up from Louis Fischer’s book “Gandhi” to see Joey “Jaws” Chesnut cramming down his 68th hot dog to set a new world record and defend his title as part of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest which has been held on July 4 for the last 94 years on Coney Island in New York City. Call it coincidence, but as I read about one man fasting to create powerful social change, another man waved a large trophy in the air, while 1.5 million people like me sat watching it on national television.

As part of our most recent experiment in eating, Kerri and I have been spending quite a lot of time at the gym, planning menus, and doing our best to eat well, but the process has been quite challenging at times. There is food everywhere, most of it is sweetened or salted to a “bliss point,” and when people get together, it’s usually over a meal. The eternal invitation to indulge is hard to resist. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the power of vegan cupcakes during Father’s Day, but as Saturday was Independence Day the veggie dogs, potato salad, and sugar cookies at our friend Justin’s house were ready to be enjoyed en masse and pushed into the depths of my belly.

I went back to reading about Gandhi. More fasting. More political change. Then another glance up at the television. On a commercial break there was one ad proclaiming that you could “Use food to lose weight!” complete with before and after pictures. Another for a salad dressing that apparently had something to do with a man and his dog getting the paper (the sound was off). And on another television, a breeze of snack crackers danced around the screen as kids chased them into the house. Our culture is food obsessed, and utterly self conscious about our weight (rightfully so?). This duality is hard to reconcile in any meaningful way, and is exactly what I have been struggling with. At that moment in a room packed full of other people looking to be fit, it seemed comically tragic.

After the gym, I spent the morning preparing sugar cookies. This says it all.

But if that is not enough. I even made my own dyes for the frosting. A crafty endeavor stemming from a desire to not eat “chemicals,” or “artificial” food products. I think this is what literary people call irony, and our country’s attitudes toward health and eating are marinating in it. Regardless, while making the cookies I could not help but eat chunks of dough every now and then, and when they came out of the oven, it was easy to find the ones that had to be eaten (this one is a little too crisp, that one a little too broken). And so my physical exercise was easily overcome by the buttery baked biscuits of sugar.

I began to wonder what Gandhi would say about Joey “Jaws” Chesnut and an event such as this annual eating contest. I thought about my own struggle to eat well and get in shape. I wondered if it would ever really be possible to create lifestyle habits that are both bliss filled and healthy. If you have suggestions, please get in touch.

To the taste of sugar in my mouth,  the need to be fit, and a culture gone wild over it’s eats…

– Christopher

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Sweet (In)Dependence.

  1. My husband recently had a heart attack, so I went about researching nutrition, “smart heart diet”, etc. Despite buying a zillion books, I’ve found I learn more from browsing online than from all the books I’ve read! Thanks~

  2. jen

    i also wonder what the animals who unwilling participated in this event thought. how hard it is to watch us lose our connection to what we eat, me included.

    “I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merely with the beings called human, but I want to realize identity with all life, even with such things as crawl upon earth.”
    –Mohandas Gandhi

    Genesis 1:26 (the message version)
    God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
    reflecting our nature
    So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
    the birds in the air, the cattle,
    And, yes, Earth itself,
    and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

  3. nonegiven

    “After the gym, I spent the morning preparing sugar cookies. This says it all.”

    Hmmm, you probably don’t want to think about this, but…

    assuming you made the recipe as written, each of those cookies had about 6 teaspoons of sugars (refined carbohydrates from ground wheat flour and sucrose) that quickly break down and absorb into the blood, rapidly raising glucose and insulin levels. Plus the concentrated fructose (from the sucrose) passes through the liver for metabolism and is converted to triglycerides (fat).

    Even if you only had one cookie (highly unlikely, right?) and you didn’t lick the dough from the spoon & bowl, how exactly is this sugar bomb (really a fat bomb once it is metabolized) helping with sugar addiction?

    To see something really scary, go to nutritiondata.com to look up the inflammation factors of the sugar, flour, and high omega 6 fatty acids in the “spread”.

  4. TMK

    “I began to wonder what Gandhi would say about Joey “Jaws” Chesnut and an event such as this annual eating contest.”

    “Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it. -Mohandas Gandhi”

  5. …the solution? Get older… lol.

    Now that I’m 48 .. I don’t crave sugar so much… it just declines the need for that… and I seek out more healthy alternative.. fruits and veggies more..

    I used to eat so unhealthy in the 60s; 70s growing up and yet I’m in perfect health and weight at 48… so go figure??

    Spiritually I go to a 12 Step Program… (yesterday made 2 years).Having a God of my Understanding provides serenity …

    I call myself an Spiritual Agnostic…

    The 12 step Program is like being a philosopher in training.. each meeting we do another topic and someone takes that topic and than everyone shares for 3 minutes each..

    The topic could be on anything basically and brings me more emotional health which I think is relaxing my body and thus bringing me more physical health and energy.

    I like that the 12 Step Programs are spiritual and not based on a religion. (i go to Al-Anon).

  6. Brandi

    You said, “I wondered if it would ever really be possible to create lifestyle habits that are both bliss filled and healthy.”

    I wonder that all the time myself. I believe that it is possible, but we have to shift our perspective entirely from convenience-consumption (letting others grow/raise for us while we blindly trust that doing so is healthy) back to production (where we know exactly how our food was grown and much of the karmic story of how it got to us). The bliss comes in connecting what we put in our mouths with the labor we use to produce it, with the connection of knowing our food and/or the farmers and neighbors who grew it. Eat locally, eat seasonally, and then, I believe, we as Americans can develop our own food culture. If you haven’t already, you must read Barbara Kingsglover’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.”

  7. interesting material, where such topics do you find? I will often go

  8. Sonia

    I heard a story about Gandhi and sugar.

    A woman came with her son and asked Gandhi to tell the boy to stop eating sugar. The boy wouldn’t listen to her, but if Gandhi told him, she said, the boy would obey.

    “Come back in two weeks,” said Gandhi.

    She came back in two weeks and repeated her request. This time, Gandhi told the boy to stop eating sugar.

    “Why? she asked. “Why did you make us come back?”

    “Madam, I had to first stop eating sugar myself,” said Gandhi.

    ps–Christopher, you might be interested to know that Ghandi was a follower of Yogananda…from Encinitas’ own SRF.

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