Letters to the Editor
I moved to Pocahontas County for my health, and things are looking up. We have a hospital that is coming back from the brink and offering more and better services. Most notably they are offering prevention services. We have a wellness center under construction in Marlinton and a wellness committee working on a facility in the northern end. We have several young folks working on growing local foods that focus on fresh vegetables. Our air and water are (so far) free of toxins.
So it was with dismay that I heard about the attacks on attempts to provide better nutrition in our schools. It seems that people are as passionate about their food habits as their religion. So this letter will make some people angry, and I don’t expect they will pay attention. But I am writing it for those who are concerned about the rise of obesity and diabetes among our children, and who still have an open mind – especially if they have any leadership role.
Sugar is addictive.
I am unaware of any scientific studies that have proved it, but everything I have experienced and witnessed in my 73 years confirms it for me. 60 Minutes had a segment about it this year http://www.cbsnews. com/8301-18560_162-57407294/is-sugar-toxic/ and Psycology Today covered it http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/eating-mindfully/201204/sugar-addiction. Here are the earmarks of addiction:
The more you get, the more you want.
You build up tolerance; in other words, if you are used to high levels of sugar, lower levels don’t taste sweet.
Conversely, if you get used to lower levels of sugar, you find very sweet foods overwhelming.
When you go without, you crave it.
You will sneak it, hide it, lie about it, whatever it takes to satisfy your desire. (A little honesty here you readers out there. Even I have joked that I am completely trustworthy about money, but you better hide your chocolate).
Well-known addictives such as alcohol and pain medications can be used in small amounts or when necessary by most people without problems, but using them all day every day like we do with sugar leads to dependency.
By sugar, I don’t just mean those white crystals. The South Beach Diet correctly identified “high glycemic” foods as starchy foods that convert quickly to sugar in our bodies. High glycemic foods include processed snacks like chips, pasta, packaged cereal, cookies, cakes and other products made with white flour. Soda has been identified as the leading cause of obesity because of the high level of sugar it contains and the fact that it has become acceptable to drink it all day, at meals, even bedtime. The sodas with artificial sweeteners may not contribute the calories, but keep the craving for sweetness going.
A person can think they are hungry when what they really have is a craving for sugar. Or their body may be craving the nutrients – proteins and vitamins – they are not getting from the empty calories in processed foods. Foods made with whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, are better because the fiber slows the rate of digestion and the sugar enters the blood stream more slowly along with other nutrients. Fiber is also found in fresh fruits and vegetables, and there are other health benefits from eating fiber. Years ago when my daughter visited some school friends, where they seemed to exist primarily on macaroni and cheese, she reported that the whole family had a problem with constipation. When I cooked for the High Rocks summer camp one year, a number of girls and a few staff complained of stomach cramps after the first few days, so they had the water tested. It turned out that those with cramps were not used to a diet with whole grains and fresh vegetables, and their bowels were just adjusting. By the end of camp, they were fine and even feeling better with a smoother working system.
Some of the worst effects of a poor diet are not visible like obesity. What we eat affects the way we feel, but it’s amazing to me that many people don’t make the connection. Eating a lot of sugar generates emotional ups and downs. Crankiness, depression, hyperactivity, headaches and nausea can all be the result of consuming high levels of sugar or other high glycemic foods. Eating packaged cereal with more sugar dumped on it, or glazed donuts, and little or no protein for breakfast results in a mid-morning low. Hating school may just be the result of a bad breakfast. Sugary or starchy snacks before bedtime interfere with sleep. Our children would be better students and more pleasant to live with if they ate a healthy diet.
It is hard to break addictions. Finding healthy foods that children like takes patience and creativity. And of course it helps if adults set a good example. Speaking of adults, another high glycemic food is beer. Now I’m really stepping on dangerous ground, but we all recognize the unhealthy results of drinking lots of beer. There are some good tips for getting children to eat better in a publication from the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center called “Health Connection” that appeared in my mailbox recently, so I would assume others received it, too.
A common complaint is that health foods cost more. That may be somewhat true, but you don’t have to eat “health foods” to have a healthy diet. A box of Frosted Flakes and a dozen country eggs come out to about the same price per ounce, but an egg or two makes a much more beneficial breakfast. Most snacks seem cheap in small packages, but are more expensive than an apple, a banana, or a handful of nuts from a large container. In the long run, many medical bills are avoided by a healthy diet.
I wish a healthy happy life for everyone, and I would be pleased to answer questions or suggest ideas about healthier eating.
If I had to sum it up in two words or less, that would be my description of “The Mystery of Gauley Marsh” performed at Cranberry Glades on Saturday. Emily Newton has directed a wonderfully unique performance, showcasing many talented county residents. The audience is involved throughout, and although spread out at times, due to the fact that we’re on a two-foot wide boardwalk, the audience is kept up to speed by...I can’t say too much for risk of spoiling the fun.
Of course, the blue skies and sunshine would have made any activity great on Saturday but I can’t help but believe that gray skies and the threat of rain would have made the performance equally delightful, and perhaps more mysterious.
I never would have guessed that I would experience the “theater” on a boardwalk. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sit in a theater again. My hat’s off to all those involved.