With so much information and mixed messages around sugar, how do we clearly teach our children about how eating too much of it can negatively affect our body and mind?
Actor, father-of-one and author of That Sugar Guide Damon Gameau swapped his low-sugar lifestyle for a sweeter few months, with the damaging and freaky changes to his body being the catalyst to create That Sugar Film – an entertaining and easy-to-follow documentary about sugar that kids (and adults) will actually want to watch.
In an personal challenge Gameau swears he will “never do again”, the Australian television star took on a 60-day “experiment” to pack his usually low-sugar diet with an additional 40 teaspoons of sugar each day.
This may may sound excessive, but alarmingly 40 teaspoons is the amount of sugar many of us consume on a daily basis, knowingly or not.
The rules were to stick to his regular exercise routine and to only consume sugar in the form of perceived “healthy” foods, things like cereal, low-fat yoghurt and fruit juice.
For the duration of the experiment he was monitored and tested regularly by health professionals who were alarmed at how fast sugar’s negative affects were spreading through his body.
By the first fortnight, serious negative changes were seen in Gameau’s organs, blood levels, physical appearance, weight (he gained girth fast, particularly around his belly) energy levels and moods.
Fatigue and lack of focus took over his normally clear mind as he began to register how fast and furiously sugar had taken its toll. While it was tempting to surrender, he stuck with his two month “goal” for the sake of the next generation’s health education.
Gameau travelled to many international communities meeting people whose health – and in many cases, their life – was being compromised due to sugar. Perhaps most memorably, Louisianian teen Larry whose teeth were completely decayed and gums riddled with bacteria from being addicted to Mountain Dew since he was a toddler. Larry lives in pain and is aware what causes it, yet he continues to drink the sugar-filled fizzy each day.
The findings highlight what studies have shown us for years: on a global scale, we are getting sicker, all the while sugary food and drinks companies (and no doubt their advertising agencies) get constant healthy boosts to their bank balance.
“The objective was to get the message through to people who need to see [the film], and children,” says Gameau.
“I get it, there’s a lot of information out there about sugar, but there’s still a long way to go.
“We’ve woken up a lot to the negative impacts of smoking and how the companies selling it to us are doing so purely for profit, but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to understanding what sugar is doing to our health.
“We’re bombarded by fearful images and messages and we too could have easily made this a fear-based film, but that is not how we want people to feel after watching it.
“I obviously did something really dramatic by suddenly introducing so much sugar than my body was used to, but it wasn’t just how I felt physically that was most surprising, it was the mental shift. I’ll never do it again.
Gameau was relieved to return to his usual diet, consisting of boiled eggs, avocado, full-fat yoghurt as breakfast options, quinoa salad with tuna and a banana or smoothie for lunch, and a protein-based dish with lots of vegetables for dinner.
He snacks on almonds, and for a treat he’ll enjoy a small amount of dark chocolate. When Gameau and his wife dine in restaurants they’ll order what they want, but be aware about what’s in their food.
“I personally never want to feel like that again, but for many people that’s all they’ve ever known, and it’s not our fault.
“We’ve been misled for years, living our lives without realising that we can, and should, feel better.”