Shame Is As Toxic As Sugar

Shame Is As Toxic As Sugar

Shame is As Toxic As Sugar


As we move into Easter and the onslaught of refined sugar into our children’s little bodies, let’s be cautious of not poisoning their psyches with shame.
Yesterday I had a fairly innocent conversation that rang an alarm bell that I didn’t quite understand. You know when something happens or somebody says something and it puts a blip on your internal radar that says ‘something’s not right there’?
Well, it’s like that for me, sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on what the blip means but if you trust it, the wisdom there will unfold in its own time and always does. This morning when I woke up, the conversation returned and my discomfort with the content was crystal clear.
The conversation was around dealing with the effect of the sugar load that Easter eggs bring to our children’s diets and how tricky this time of year is to manage if you’re not ignorant and are aware of how much of  a toxic strain sugar puts on adult systems, never mind the smaller ones that our children inhabit.
The sheer amount of sugar that goes into Easter is enough to shock a child’s body and it does. It’s going to throw their blood sugar levels into crisis, their tiny little pancreases have to suddenly work really hard to manage the spike in blood sugar. Remember this is what the pancreas has to do because high levels of sugar in your blood will kill you, it’s toxic. The pancreas has to secrete insulin rapidly to get the sugar out of the blood stream where it is toxic and quickly into the cells. 1 tsp. of sugar is enough of a crisis from that regard – a standard Easter egg containing 100 times more, is a physical crisis. Your kids will feel glorious on the first sugar high, the pancreas kicks in with alarm to get insulin into the blood stream to lower the blood sugar levels and then the blood sugar falls and they crash. They suddenly feel ratty and tired and a tantrum generally ensues, they get into trouble, they suddenly feel thirsty or want something sweet to get blood sugar back up, they eat another Easter egg or a sugary drink and the whole cycle starts up again.
The general strain of this cycle is responsible for increasing rates of diabetes into adulthood as the poor pancreas is tickets by then. While this is going on, the immune system is compromised.
I’m insulin resistant and know much about how my health goes to lead if I don’t manage my blood sugar steadily.
Anyhow, this is our physical ‘norm’ for what we put children through over Easter and nobody is going to be as supportive of you, as me, in managing this and setting a new norm that benefits your family.
Here is my cautionary note though. Please can we be careful not to induce shame in our children for their natural desire to eat Easter eggs. The harm that shame does to any soul, and any psyche, is as debilitating as sugar if not worse.
There can be no health that comes from a child who is made to feel shame.
Please just bear in mind that Easter eggs invoke incredible excitement in children. Never mind children, my 20 year old son still wants me to buy him Easter eggs and still can’t resist chocolate all prettily dressed up in sparkly paper. The fact that shiny, exciting chocolate eggs appeal to children is totally natural, everything about the idea of chocolate and Easter is so seductive for children and whether or not we like it, it’s part of the society we live in.
That doesn’t make it right and of course, our job in the Jozi Real Food Revolution is to create new norms around eating real, healthy, wholesome food and starting to question social norms that are destructivesuch as sugar spiking children at Easter.
We win the battle and lose the war though, if we in any way create emotions in our children that are as toxic emotionally as the food is physically.
I would equate shame with sugar in this regard except that I think shame is actually even more toxic.
Children are going to want Easter eggs. Regardless of what you tell them, that desire in them will be there. At 38, I still find sparkly wrapped chocolate bunnies appealing, sugar is addictive and its lure is something adults battle to get past, our children are going to want to eat them with all their might. They are going to feel stupidly excited about the idea of getting eggs.
So in the conversation yesterday, a parent was telling me that they were banning Easter eggs in totality for their children this Easter and instead would be making a donation to charity on their children’s behalf. This all sounded good in principlebut as I said, that blip on my radar was making me squirm. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea at all.
And that’s why. I imagine these little children, having to suppress their desire for Easter eggs. They will be told that chocolate is bad, and that rather the money that would have been spent on Easter eggs was going to be sent to charity. Those children are going to feel shame. That parent will not have removed that child’s desire to eat chocolate bunnies like the rest of the children around them.  The child then sits with an emotional burden, a couple as I’m concerned and I just can’t be comfortable with this. The first burden to deal with is their natural desire for chocolate which they now have to suppress. Then they have to doubly manage the fact that they want something you’re saying is bad. That’s an intricate emotional mess for a little one to have to deal with.
The child knows he wants the chocolate. That makes the child a totally normal child. Except here, he or she is being asked to feel bad about their natural desire. That unfortunately is the effect of the well-meaning effort of the parent here, I fear.
The child has to sit there dealing with the fact that they know that they want chocolate. They know that the idea of sending money to charity instead of an egg doesn’t appeal. Now they have to feel bad about the fact that they feel this way. That’s shame and that’s not right and shame cripples souls.
Shame says, I feel bad for WHO I AM. People can be complexed about what they do or what they have but to think that elements of who you are are ‘bad’ is shame and it is toxic emotionally as sugar is physically.
So, can we find ways to work within the system? The fact is that exciting looking; colorful chocolate Easter eggs are going to be all over the place over this period.
How can you manage the effects of this while not making your children feel bad for their very natural desire to eat them?
I don’t have all the answers. I’m reviewing how I deal with this with my own daughter very carefully. I’ve made some mistakes, I’ve made my daughter idolize ‘normal food like white bread sandwiches just because they’re such a novelty for her because we don’t eat sandwiches in my house. The way we eat sits so far outside the normal and I’m already seeing places where this has harmed my daughter and I’m having to do things differently.
I’m learning that I have to be very careful about how I manage how she feels about being drawn towards cake at parties and white bread sandwiches when she has a food activist as a mother and knows that there is disapproval in mum’s psyche about this food. What a bind for a child?
Of course I only have the best intentions and that’s why I do what I do, and I’m not going to feel shame either for the mistakes I’ve made and will continue to make as a parent, shame is toxic, I’m not going to entertain the idea of absorbing it, and my job as a parent is to lead by example and I don’t want my daugther to ever feel shame about any aspect of who she is.
Yet, while there is disapproval around food, I load the food then with energy and she has to manage the tension and that’s not right and I don’t want you to do that either. Food must be joyous and tasty and exciting and must feel nourishing and loving.
So I’m working this out bit by bit. I have the hindsight of raising a delightful 20 year old son and he keeps us level – he’s the one that told me to stop taking health food to class parties as he was fearful that it would socially isolate her. What wisdom.
We tread a fine line here in wanting to raise our children on healthy food and establish new ‘norms’ while situated in a society that has it all backwards and has sugar, refined food and chemical soup as it’s norm.
It’s not an easy road to work, it is fraught with battles. Let’s just be mindful that we have to be as protective of our children’s emotional and spiritual health as we are their physical selves.
To save them from the ravages of sugar but to harm them emotionally in the process is to win the battle and lose the war.  Let’s try and find ways to make them feel pride for their choices and work with their innocence.
I’m still trying to work out how to get round this. My 20 year old son, bless his heart, he just won’t grow up in some places, is the person in my family that insists on an Easter egg hunt every year. Every time I speak of him, I get momentarily overcome with love, he is a national treasure to me, anyhow, so we’ll be on the south coast this Easter and Daniel is already talking about the Easter egg hunt and in the process is handing down this tradition to Kiara who is 6 and silly excited. Naturally.
I can’t think of anything worse than an onslaught of sugar that comes with a garden full of Easter eggs and yet don’t want to ruin the sense of occasion and joy that Daniel hands down to her and creates for us all, nor make her feel shame for the fact that she is silly excited about the idea.
Daniel is all about ritual and tradition and occasion and is the undying spirit of all that in our home, it’s his gift to his sister and that’s sacred turf.
So how do you manage this?
What if we buy our children one special egg and you make something really special of it? Whether they choose it, or make it, or I don’t know something special about that one. Then you ask well-meaning family, if they could rather buy a small gift rather than Easter eggs so that the child doesn’t feel deprived, they just get something different? Something that as is exciting as chocolate? You just don’t want every single family member bringing eggs and then 20 around.
Still do the Easter egg hunt but wrap up small gift as part of it so that you lessen the volume of sweets perhaps but there is still something fun going on that distracts them from the sugar?
If you have ideas, please share them.
We want to change the norm – that is the Jozi Real Food Revolution but while we’re in this context, we need to work within the system and be mindful that our children are living in this society, trying to fit in and feel ‘normal’. The changes we make mustn’t be at the cost of their emotional health and mustn’t induce shame in any shape or form.
It may actually be worth getting in an expert to help us with this. How do we raise healthy children without making them feel shame for their own desires around sweets and without making them feel too ‘different’ as my daughter did by not eating sandwiches?
I’ve loved chatting to you. The Jozi Real Food Revolution is as much about having real conversations like this.
 
 
 
 

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