By Cam Mather

Hi. I’m Cam. And I am a Sugar Addict.

Now you say “Hi Cam!” (Or at least that’s what they do in the ‘addict’ meetings I see portrayed on TV.)

I blame two things for my sugar addiction. Hummingbirds and my cousin Dave.

I could also blame large corporations and the fact that apparently it’s as addictive as heroin, or at least stimulates the same parts of the brain, but that would be too easy.

My cousin Dave is an easier target. Dave is neither a medical doctor nor a trained nutritionist. Dave is a Chartered Accountant. He’s an intelligent man, who eats well and runs marathons, but really isn’t qualified to offer medical advice on diet. And yet, somehow, something he said, probably decades ago, still influences my sugar consumption.

It’s amazing how something said off-handedly can stick with you and guide your behavior. It’s like how in the first Beverly Hills Cop movie Eddie Murphy is talking to Judge Reinhold who is reading something (a tabloid perhaps?) on stakeout and Reinhold says “It says here that the average North American has 5 pounds of undigested red meat in their lower intestine.” When I tell people that I don’t eat meat that’s the most often quoted statistic I get in support. I have no idea if it’s true, but it seems to have stuck with people.

One day my cousin Dave and I were discussing what we eat and he said, “I don’t worry about sugar because your body can metabolize it.” And there you have it, my rationalization to down a 2-litre bottle of cola with dinner every night.

The second reason I continue to consume the deadly white powder is the hummingbirds that come to our feeder. People constantly talk about their diet. “I’ve given up ‘wheat’ because…” “I’m not eating carbs because…” “I’ve eliminated refined sugars because…”

So when Michelle fills up the hummingbird feeder she dissolves sugar in water. And they fight over it all day. The rest of the time I find them in the Spotted-Touch-Me-Nots around the vegetable garden or in the gladiolas, sucking up the nectar of the flowers. Presumably it’s high in sugar.

Now, when people warn me that refined sugar is bad in terms of blood sugar spikes and energy crashes and things, I say, “Have you ever watched a hummingbird? Have you seen how fast they move? Have you seen their wings that blast away at like a bazillion revolutions a second? It’s insane! And they fly backwards! Oh, and by the way, every year they migrate to someplace like Paraguay, which would be like us walking to the moon and back, 11 times.” So don’t tell me sugar is bad for me. It isn’t holding the hummingbirds back.

This rationalization has been working great for years until “60 Minutes” did a show last season about sugar. Not only did they slam it for all the stuff that is common knowledge … leads to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, night sweats, restless leg syndrome, vampire fantasies etc. … They now seem to have a pretty good scientific basis to link it to cancer. Or at least to the idea that it feeds some types of tumors. For years I’ve known the health food mantra … “Sugar feeds cancer, sugar feeds cancer…” and yet I’ve continued to drink the Kool-Aid, as it were.

(If you missed that 60 Minutes episode, the link is here;;lst;2)

I have been winding down my sugar consumption. Many years ago I’d open a 2-litre (1/2 gallon) bottle of No-Name cola to enjoy with our Friday night pizza, and it was often gone by Sunday night. Or Saturday… Then I switched to cans. Now I have one can of pop on Friday night and one on Saturday. And one on Monday night if we have veggie burgers, which seems to go well with pop. But my consumption is way down. My friend Ellen harps on about how there are 9 teaspoons of sugar in a can of pop. This could be a myth too, but the image sticks with me.

I used to love sugared cereal but once I stopped drinking milk because I couldn’t handle the lactose anymore I gave up cereal. Periodically when it’s on sale for a ludicrously low price I’ll buy of box of Sugar Pops or Captain Crunch and eat it all in a weekend and feel like a dirt bag immediately afterwards. What a surprise.

Now I have fruit and granola first thing in the morning, sometimes with a splash of orange juice on it. But then I saw an article about the sugar equivalents in fruit and it’s way up there too! A peach is like 3 sugar cubes. A banana 4 sugar cubes. And since Coke and Pepsi have bought all the major orange juice companies, I suppose I might as well just pour cola on my granola.

But the stuff is hard to give up. It’s in everything and I love it. I’ve had vegan, wheat-free, sugar-free desserts and well, frankly, if I were on a ‘dessert’ island and that’s all I could get, it would take a long time before I’d love them.  (Michelle’s note: Cam has enjoyed many wonderful sugar-free and/or gluten-free desserts in the past. I don’t think Cam has ever met a dessert that he didn’t like!)

I have eliminated most of the sugar I put in my tea and coffee. I’ve cut way back on pop. I’m having a smaller bowl of fruit and granola now each morning before I head out into the garden.

But I’m NOT giving up cake. And I’m not giving sugar up completely. It’s just too darn tasty! Yes, I believe it is not essential for optimal health, and yes it may cause tumors to grow, but I cannot eliminate all the nasty chemicals in the world that cause those rogue cells to turn off their ability to stop growing anyway. So I’m not going to worry about it.

I am trying to moderate my consumption of it, but it’s hard. Luckily unlike heroin you won’t see my mug shot on the evening news when it turns out I’ve been robbing safes to feed my habit. And each day I shall head to the garden or to the woods to cut firewood and like the hummingbirds I’ll burn off the sugar that I do consume. Or in the words of my infinitely wise cousin Dave, I’ll just “metabolize it!”