By Shelley Murphy
Last month after reviewing my holiday to-do list and checking it twice, I called my older son living in the Midwest to assure him I’d be baking his favorite seasonal treat—our traditional dessert.
“Thanks, but don’t bother making it, I won’t eat it,” my son said. Surprised, I praised him for his healthy resolve, and after saying goodbye, I merrily crossed off one task on my long list.
My son, with an unquenchable thirst for sodas and sugary drinks, decided to stop slurping the oversized beverages several months ago. It wasn’t due to years of my nagging or the calendar ushering in a new year, but his own resolution.
After discovering his coveted 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contained 39 grams of sugar, my son began making nutritional changes to his diet and eliminating sugary substances. “I figured cutting-out soda and sugar was the best way to start eating healthy,” he told me.
My son’s been strong-willed since the day he was born and, as a millennial, expects immediate gratification. So, it makes sense when he swore off sugar and soda he “quit cold turkey.”
He admits he struggled, saying he missed the sweet drinks most but by the third week he had no craving or desire for sugar. “At work when we get an email about donuts in the breakroom I’m the only one not to get up,” he said. My son, who once considered sugar his favorite food group, now eats kale—and likes it.
Annually the most popular resolutions include losing weight and eating healthier, and advertisers bombard consumers with gimmicks and fads promising shortcuts to reach healthy diet and fitness goals.
It’s probably not coincidental that this week, January 16-20, marks National Sugar Awareness Week (www.sugarawareness.com). The website challenges people to abstain from sugar for five days while sharing their experience including the physical, mental and emotional effect of a sugar-free existence.
The website warns that reducing sugar intake is no easy task as it is found in almost every processed food, and there are over 50 pseudonyms for sugar.
I realized this when I set out to stock-up on healthy food for my older son’s holiday visit. I grabbed the yogurt I’d been buying for years and read the label to find that its six ounces contained 27 grams of sugar. No wonder I liked it.
In San Clemente, year-round, The Noble Path Foundation (TNPF) is dedicated to supporting locals looking to make healthy lifestyle changes (www.thenoblepathfoundation.org).
Cindi Juncal, founder and president of TNPF, established the non-profit in 2012 and I joined her team soon after. Juncal’s mission is to “change the world by changing the diet and lifestyle habits of our youth since their health is what determines our future.”
TNPF invites community members of all ages to take its Awareness Pledge and kick-off the New Year by trading processed foods and sugar for real food. Participants taking the Pledge agree to adhere to the American Heart Association and World Health Organization recommendations for daily maximum sugar intake: 12 grams (3 teaspoons) for young children; 24 grams (6 teaspoons) for women; and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men.
“This is not the recommended sugar intake, sometimes people hear numbers and think that’s what you should shoot for; these guidelines are what the body safely metabolizes. If you go over that you run into trouble,” Juncal said.
While my older son’s holiday homecoming was too short, it was long enough for several of his friends to notice his fit transformation and ask the secret behind his healthy regime. They were amazed to learn his renewed wellbeing didn’t involve expensive equipment, memberships and supplements but free education, awareness and choices.
I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution in five years. Ironically, my last resolution was to cut back on sugar. This year it didn’t take the celebration of a special holiday to motivate me to renew my resolution but instead the inspiration of a special son.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 17 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.