I am currently in the middle of a 21-day sugar detox – no sugar, no alcohol, no processed foods.
This week while searching for something to watch, I came upon That Sugar Film – a 2014 documentary by Australian actor and director Damon Gameau.
It seemed only appropriate as I am trying to understand what role sugar plays in my life that I check it out.
In the film, Damon is awaiting the birth of his first child and having led a mostly sugar-free lifestyle for the past three years decides he wants to understand the effect of sugar on the human body as it has become so prevalent in our diets worldwide.
With the help of a team of doctors and nutritionists, he decides to consume the equivalent of 40 teaspoons of sugar per day – the average daily amount consumed by Australians – for 60 days.
He self imposes a rule that all the sugar must be hidden in low fat foods. No soda, no confectionary and no ice cream.
Basically 40 teaspoons without eating sweets or junk food. He will also maintain his weekly amount of moderate exercise.
Damon’s focus on these low fat foods is that in the 1970’s the sugary industry institutionalized the low fat movement. Sugar was exonerated.
The problem is that low fat doesn’t mean low sugar. (My friend Craig does an excellent job explaining in this blog post how we came to that thinking.)
As you might imagine, Damon gains weight over the 60 days. The increase in his daily consumption of sugar leads to him accumulating visceral fat – body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity around a number of important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines.
When you accumulate a lot of fat in that area it increases your risk of metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Damon gained almost 19 pounds, added 7% body fat and increased his waist size by almost 4 inches.
That’s insane! Further, his triglyceride levels almost doubled. Tryglycerides area a type of fat (lipid) in your blood that at a high level can increase your risk of heart disease.
Towards the end of the 60 days, Damon had become moody, lethargic and generally felt unwell. He never felt full as the more you eat high sugary foods the more you want to eat sugary foods.
Your insulin levels spike and then crash and the body’s only way to try and stabilize you is by craving more sugar.
He had put his body through the ringer over a short period of time and the culprit was clear.
The amazing fact was that his daily caloric intake had not changed. The sugar industry has pushed this idea that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie.
But that is just not true. Further, our Western culture tells us that if you are overweight that you need to either exercise more or eat less. But you can’t just cut calories because the source of the calories matters.
The film moves at a good pace. We don’t have to suffer through everyday of his sugar diet. There are some visual flourishes and celebrity cameos that help explain all the history and science behind sugar.
He takes a trip to visit an Aboriginal tribe that felt the effects when sugar – in the form of soda and other treats – was introduced to their diet.
Damon also goes to America to learn more about the how and why. He even makes a devastating pit stop in Kentucky to see first-hand “Mountain Dew Mouth” – a scene that will quickly make you run around the school yard slapping soda cans out of the hand of every kid.
The documentary is eye-opening and it is making me really question how, if at all, I want to allow sugar back in my life post-cleanse.
“That Sugar Film” is now available on Amazon Prime, iTunes and Google Play.