“They Were Wrong”

First of all, I am now the proud(?) owner of a twitter account! I figured since all of the famous bloggers have one, and I’d like to think if I work hard enough I’ll be one such blogger,  I should take a leaf out of their book. You’re welcome to follow @yetunrefined for my thoughts of 140-character-sized proportions. If not that’s cool. Though if I may say so, I already have two followers. I’m pretty cool.

One of the people I’m following is @Bullying_org. They are an anti-bullying group, one of many fighting the growing threat to young children. Since I was in grade school, children have only honed their ability to tear people apart from the inside out. And I remember the bullies being pretty bad in grade school. I remember my mother telling me that the people were just being mean to me because they were jealous, but now that I’m older I understand that it was just cruelty for cruelty’s sake. Those who were never taught cause and effect never understand how their actions can follow a person for the rest of their life.

There is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful video by Shane Koyczan as part of the To This Day Project. He talks about the old rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It’s a mistake to teach children this, because not only is it not true, but it almost gives bullies an excuse. If words can’t hurt someone, it doesn’t matter what you say, right? Wrong.

I remember when the bullies first started coming after me I would fight back. Any rude comment had a snappy comeback. But bullies do not like being fought. I remember once my algebra class wanted to wait outside to let a popular kid in because he complained that he never got into the classroom first. As he had been a primary bully to me the previous year, this didn’t fly with me. I refused to bend. Even when they held me down to keep me from entering the classroom, I fought back.

The problem is, as we get older, the bullies get wiser. It’s no longer someone calling you “fat-ass” or “oompa-loompa” in the hallway. It’s the exclusion from being part of the group, any group. It’s the treatment that makes it very clear to you that you are different, and therefore worse than someone else. Sometimes people can be bullies and not realize it. A kid can say “All Middle Easterns should be tortured or bombed” and think he’s being clever, but he has no idea the fear he just instilled in the girl sitting next to him. What does that mean for me? He’s known me since the fourth grade, but does my ethnic background magically change who I am?

Even friends aren’t always enough to fight off bullies. A boy who made you feel so beautiful one minute can be completely overwritten the next by someone else calling you fat or your clothes ugly.

There are so many pieces of advice out there for kids being bullied. Let it roll off your back. It will pass. Surround yourself with people who make you happy. Tell someone. I feel like this is the wrong approach. Why should it be to the victim to adjust their life, when they aren’t the one who is wrong? It is not enough to teach people how to cope. Every person has the limit to what they can take, but there is no limit to the pain a bully can give. We are teaching victims to accept their pain, as if they deserve it somehow.

I am all for having a person stand up for his or herself, but a person should not have to defend their existence. A person should not have to live in fear of who they are, but should know that no matter what they matter. And we should not accept bullies. When a child starts screaming and throwing a tantrum, you teach them that it is unacceptable behavior. It’s the same principle. You should not accept bullies. I will not accept bullies.

One of my favorite speeches is by Robert F. Kennedy, given after Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination, called the Mindless Menace of Violence. I think that, while he is referring to physical violence, there is no better point to be made, and no more poignant word. “Mindless.” What other word can describe a person who sees nothing wrong with harming his fellow man. “Too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings.” If you get nothing else from his speech, I pray you pay attention to that line.

You see, the issue of bullying and pushing down one’s fellow man has not dwindled it has not been addressed. We cannot wait for the “right time” to take a stand. We cannot wait until we have children and they become so beaten down that they see no way out but strike themselves out from this world. Inaction is just as awful as becoming mindless. It’s not enough to tell the victims that their attackers were wrong, but it must be that we tell those who would mindlessly strike out and cause hurt they are wrong. They are wrong.

Feed Me Lies, Feed Me Sweet Little Lies

I just want to be clear, that my intention is not to lose weight or to live forever. I have long since gotten over my body image issues, and I can’t even imagine what I’ll do with my life if I get older than 80. However, I do have a concern for my quality of life, because I, like many people, enjoy being happy. And while I know that we don’t always have control over our emotional well-being, we are completely in charge of our physical well-being (unless a meteor falls on my head or something. That would totally not be my fault).

When I gave up refined sugar, I expected to maybe fell less sluggish, maybe need more coffee to get me going, maybe lose a little weight. Not only did I feel more energized, but I completely lost the need for any kind of caffeine. I slept great, all the time (except after the Tuesday Night Scramble to finish my condensed matter homework, but Tuesdays have never set well with me). I didn’t lose weight, but I did gain some impressive (in my opinion) muscle definition and got in pretty good shape. That may have been in part because I exercised a lot more to keep my mind off of the chocolate I couldn’t eat, but I’ll take it regardless.

But I still haven’t explained why I gave up sugar. Why not fat? Or processed food? First of all, I don’t eat a lot of fat in the first place, because I find it makes me sick to my stomach, which was more prevalent when I cut out refined sugar. And, since I’m a poor college student, cutting out processed food would mean I would have to severely limit what I could eat (which I did anyway) or I would have to buy better food, which I have limited funds for. Finally, refined sugar is so bad for you that you might as well take up smoking and become an alcoholic while you’re at it…

I recently watched a lecture titled Sugar: the Bitter Truth. I only watched about half of it, because it’s over an hour long and focuses mostly on the causes of obesity, but it was beautifully informative. The speaker is Robert H. Lustig, an extremely well-spoken man with a pretty decent sense of humor. I highly recommend watching.

Lusting explains that the current rise in obesity is caused by the influx of fructose (or “fruck’tuss” as Lustig pronounces it) in our diets, which comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup and the refined white sugar we’re all familiar with. As an example, if you drank one can (12 oz.) of soda a day, you would gain about 15 pounds a year. Yikes! Lustig goes on a bit about a “Coke Conspiracy,” but in the interest of conciseness I’ll let you watch that on your own time.

One of the big things from Lustig’s lecture is: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP AND SUCROSE (table sugar) ARE THE EXACT SAME THING AND THEY ARE BOTH BAD FOR YOU!!! Fructose is slowly taking over our diets. But why?

There was a point in time when the USDA, AMA, and AHA were calling for a decrease in fat consumption to decrease heart disease (there are pretty solid arguments showing that fat actually doesn’t cause heart disease, but we’re talking about sugar here). In processed foods, removing fat from the food decreases the taste, so you need additives to make it palatable. What better to add than sugar (Seriously, look at the ingredient list on foods in the store and look for “sugar,” “high fructose corn syrup,” or “sucrose”)! The amount of fiber in food was also decreased to improve flavor and increase shelf life. Soon we’re all going to be horses, munching on straight sugar cubes.

So what exactly does refined sugar do? Well I’m glad you asked. Even though you didn’t.

Refined sugar is responsible for the lovely browning that goes on in a lot of cooking, but this browning is actually a process called advanced glycation end-product (say that…one time…slowly). This process lead to inflammatory diseases such as asthma, arthritis, and periodontitis. As a person who has suffered from joint pain since I was 12, this was definitely a “WHAT?!” moment.

Refined sugar also does not suppress the ghrelin, which is the hormone that tells your body it’s hungry. In other words, when you eat refined sugar, your body can’t tell, so you eat more. Similarly, refined sugar does not stimulate insulin and leptin, which has to do with the receptors in these hormones not being able to process fructose.

When sugar is refined, it’s processed and purified to remove all the nutrients that are needed to help your body digest it. When these nutrients are removed they become….molasses. This makes brown sugar the ultimate identity crisis, since it is refined sugar with molasses added to it (blogger say what?).

Since refined sugar is so bad for our bodies, why refine? The answer is I HAVE NO IDEA. None. I have asked Mother Internet, but she’s not giving up her secrets. It’s like the Bermuda triangle. or Area 51. Or North Dakota.

I’m sorry if this was too much science to throw at you all at once. I promise I’ll give you something better next time. I’m going out for $2 margaritas later this week to celebrate my recent 21st birthday, so that should make a good story.

ALSO. I want to make it clear that I have absolutely nothing against North Dakota. I’m sure it’s a very lovely state. I was making a reference to Jimmy Newton, a TV show that you’re likely either too old for or too young for, and in either case makes me sad.