Pagans celebrate the new year at Samhain, the traditional start of the seasonal cycle; but I think many would agree that the return of the Sun marked by the winter solstice and the coinciding start of a new calendar year makes many of us think of new beginnings.
I decided this year, as so many people do, that I need to improve my health. I gave up alcohol nearly 2 years ago, which was such a good decision but noted I have since gained weight and developed an unreasonable sweet tooth!
When I visited Glastonbury this year for the solstice I spotted a book in Gothic Image called "Sweet Poison: why sugar is making us fat" by David Gillespie - which has proved to be quite a revelation! It explains the addictive nature of sugar and the science behind why and how the obesity epidemic correlates with the increase of sugar in our food.
Remember when we were told that fat makes us fat and gives us heart disease? Well science has since proved that fat, particularly saturated fat helps us feel sated so we eat to our calorific requirements and stop. In contrast sugar (specifically the fructose half of plain old sugar, rather than the glucose half) can only be metabolised by the liver and the calorific value is not registered by the hormones that tell us to stop eating. Additionally fructose is converted to fat in the body more readily than other carbohydrates, elevating triglycerides and bad cholesterol, despite being classed as low GI!
Our bodies are only designed to metabolise fructose as whole fruit and vegetables, perfectly packaged with fibre, rather than juiced, extracted, concentrated and added to nearly every food stuff on the supermarket shelves. Even honey has a high fructose content and urban honey bees have been found to gather sugary substances from our industrial waste instead of flowers, which contaminate their honey!
How can we avoid sugar? Go back to basics and eat real food from the Earth. The food industry relies on us needing convenience, telling us we just need to 'moderate' whilst encouraging us to eat 'healthy' low-fat foods made more palatable with sugar, and 'healthy' and 'natural' fruit juices which contain more sugar than a can of Coca Cola!
Butter, cheese, milk, plain yoghurt, eggs, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts/seeds, wild fish (not farmed) and meat (if you are not a vegetarian) or other vegetable proteins are all proper nutritious food - real energy from the land instead of manufactured. Homemade bread does not even need any sugar, the yeast works well from the glucose in the wheat and lactose if you add milk to the liquid content.
It's how our ancestors ate and should be an important part in pagan life. That's my new year's resolution :-)