Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Paralyzed by Paradox

I want to do the right thing. I want to save the world, the environment, my children's health. But I just don't know how.

I start with such good intentions, and I charge head first into the fray. And then I just...stop. Paralyzed. By paradox.

Take sugar, for instance. No, really. Take it. Because dealing with The Sugar Issue is bugging the shit out of me.

[Of course, I'm full of it. Because if I could just eschew all sweeteners, period, I'd be in great shape. But I like sweet stuff. Not the way lots of other people do, but I like it. And my kids? Like many, they live for it. And thus, into the fray I go.]

So: Sugar is bad. Especially white sugar: it's highly processed, a gateway to diabetes, blahblahblah. But what about brown sugar? What about raw sugar? How do those compare?

High fructose corn syrup? I know it's awful, awful stuff. But in the exceptionally long hierarchy of awful, awful stuff, where does it fall? Above white sugar? Below? Above artificial sweeteners? Below?

And what about artificial sweeteners? Definitely way up there on the Awful Stuff Ladder. I think. Maybe. Definitely bad for me, since they make me crazy, so that's an easy call. But what about my kids? What, especially, about my kid who struggles with weight and may indeed be at higher risk for diabetes? What do I put on or in her food?

Honey? Where does it fall on the scale?

Agave nectar? I've started seeing bits and pieces that point out it's not as good for you as you might think.

What about stevia? What's the deal with stevia, anyway? Healthy? Not? Can I use it in anything other than coffee? And do I want to? Because...what is that godawful bitter taste it seems to add to everything I put it in?

And that's only the beginning. I tried finding links to all the stuff I was mentioning above, and in 90 percent of the cases, I couldn't find a single objective article to point to, to even begin to sort it out.

In the end, what this means is that it's impossible to take all my good intentions, walk into a supermarket and think, "This is what is good for us; this is what is good for the environment; this is what I will buy." And so, with every purchase comes the guilt, and with the guilt comes the desire to just throw your hands up in the air and say, "Screw it. If it's going to be this impossible--if there's no way to win--I might as well just give them what they want." (Which in N's case would be huge buckets full of white sugar...and a spoon.)

And don't even get me started on local versus organic, paper versus plastic, disposable plates filling the landfills versus using water and energy and detergents to wash dishes every night, whether mercury-based CFCs really ARE the best thing for our environment, which type of fish to buy and whether it should be wild or farm-raised...

I hate uncertainty. I hate this.


Green said...

It's so overwhelming, isn't it? Someone made an interesting point to me once - when you're eating very little sugar, you'll be able to taste the sweetness in fruits, and when you're eating even LESS sugar, you'll be able to taste the sugar in a piece of bread.

I used to be like N. I used to eat sugar from the sugar bowl, DRINK syrup, etc. But when I was around 13, I somehow got into caring for my teeth, and slowed down on the sugar because of that.

Regarding all the other stuff, I do what I can, and for my sanity, let the rest go. I don't own a car, use the special lightbulbs, and reuse bags when going to the supermarket. When shopping for non-food items, I often say no thank you to the plastic bag offered, and put the items in a bag I have with me. Do I still use Glad ziplock bags? Yes I do. But I'm doing what I can. That's all you can do.

You could drive yourself crazy being the perfect little environmentalist but how good would that be for the environment in your house? Maybe challenge your kids to come up with one thing to be less wasteful and to eat healthier each month for the entire family to incorporate. Kids can be really creative.

For me switching to healthier foods is a slow process, and I'm okay with that because it's better than nothing. So now I only buy multigrain bread rather than white. I no longer buy white rice, but brown (or fancy healthy yet cheap shit at TJs). Take food items one at a time.

Ambre said...

Replacing white sugar with some other sugar isn't really that much of a benefit ;) The secret is to be healthy. But who wants to live like that?