Emily Putnam, sophomore, is quite the athlete. She plays volleyball, basketball and holds the number one position on Leesville’s varsity girl’s cross-country team.
Her competitive edge is evident, but so far she has not been able to conquer her strongest opponent—sugar.
The size double-zero Putnam is famous amongst her teammates for her love of dessert.
“That girl can really pack down some food—especially sugar,” said Allie Gallagher, junior. “I have seen her put down more food than the average frat boy or football player.”
Putnam describes her love of eating all things sugary as a talent.
“It’s a hobby and passion of mine to eat, and sugar is extra special,” she said. “I can probably polish off a whole bag of mini Reeses Cups without any water. Now that takes skill!”
Before cross-country regionals, members of the varsity girl’s cross-country team made Putnam sign a pledge to be sugar-free.
Putnam even developed her own mantra: Eat for fuel not for fun.
“Man I thought it was going to be easy,” said Putnam. “I just figured for breakfast I’d just switch out frosted Pop Tarts for those boring ones and move on, but then I realized I didn’t even know what to eat.”
In the book Sugar Blues, doctor and author William Dufty describes sugar not as a food, but as a dangerous drug that triggers “the release of the same brain opioides released when shooting heroin.”
These feelings are positive ones like pleasure, energy and euphoria.
Dufty mentions that people addicted to sugar have a high tolerance for it and need more to feel better much like a drug. Once sugar is removed from their diet, sugar-addicts experience many of the same side effects of rehabilitating opiate addicts.
Side effects include dull headaches, sadness, and exhaustion.
Much like the extraction from the cocoa leaf, sugar is extracted from the sugar cane plant and refined.
According to Dufty, “Both plants when refined create a white crystalline powder with damaging effects.”
Sugar begins as a natural plant, but when refined, all the nutrients and minerals are taken out of the sugar.
If substances that enter the body lack nutrients, they skip chemical breakdown and travel into the intestines. From the intestines, sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream causing blood glucose levels to spike fast and crash down violently.
When asked about changes in her body after three days without sugar, Putnam revealed that her body shook involuntarily, a common side effect of sugar withdrawal.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was sitting in class and my legs and shoulders were moving all around. It’s a hard fight, this sugar withdrawal stuff.”
Putnam also noticed symptoms of withdrawal in her cross-country workouts. “I couldn’t hit any of the times Coach McLamb assigned. I mean, dang it, I sucked.”
The second time I interviewed Putnam, she was polishing off a jar of Funfetti cake frosting with a plastic spoon, clearly eating for fun this time around.
“It’s my birthday, gosh darn it! I’m going to eat cookie cake, cookies, ice cream, candy, and all the freaking frosting I want,” said Putnam in defense of the frosting smeared all over her mouth.
Putnam realized she may have disappointed her teammates, but sees her addiction to sugar as an inevitable downfall.
“I’ve got a sweet tooth, and I’m darn proud of it. If that ruins my health when I am old, at least I will have enjoyed a few cakes in my life.”