Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Visualizing the Unseen Enemy

When Katie and I were in the 7th grade, we were selected to participate in this special summer program called Women in Science, where we got to hang out with other smart girls from our school and do nerdy, science-y things together like dissect frogs and sheep's hearts and learn all about different diseases and stuff.

I'll never forget how our first lab project on the first day of this program involved looking at the nutrition labels on Snicker's Bars and bags of Cheetos and measuring out and melting wax in amounts equal to the number of grams of dietary fat in each of these items. When we were done, we had these little test tubes full of fat-resembling wax, and we were supposed to be shocked into understanding just how bad these foods were for us. We felt cool that we had used Science to make visible a perceived threat that usually remained hidden.

Looking back on this little experiment, I'm incredibly struck -- first of all -- by how cruel it seems to try to shock adolescent girls by teaching them to fear fat at a time when they are just beginning to realize how much society will value them (or harshly judge them) based on the size and shape of their bodies. Secondly, it's so interesting to me how easily we accepted that dietary fat was the enemy, and none of us had ANY idea that it could be the sugar in those foods that actually caused more damage to our health and our waistlines.

This site that shows the amount of sugar in various foods and beverages totally reminds me of that fat-lab from all those years ago, only this time it gets the real culprit right.

I'd never sit down to 54g of sugar in cube form, even though I've had my fair share of King Sized Snickers Bars.

We never would have thought to measure anything in a Coke, since it's "Naturally Fat Free!", but check out all that sugar.


So what do you think? Does seeing the sugar content in a food deter you from eating it?