Monday, June 12, 2017

In Defense of Sugar

Recently, the hospital where I volunteer removed all sugary soft drinks and candy bars from the vending machines located throughout the building.  Several years ago, they stopped selling sugary soft drinks in the cafeteria, although I've noticed that they carry little 8 ounce cans of Coke occasionally.  Of course they offer juices and milk (including chocolate milk) along with iced tea, coffee, and diet sodas, but if you want a real Coke or Dr. Pepper, you have to come to the gift shop - we have a refrigerator full of all kinds of soft drinks - some diet, but most are your standard sugary drinks.  We also sell a variety of snacks, including candy.  The gift shop is jokingly referred to as the black market because of this.

Now, I'm not one to judge when it comes to whatever our customers choose to buy.  We are in a hospital, after all, and there are a lot of stressful situations that staff and patients are dealing with, and as I know from personal experience, sugar can help to calm you, to momentarily relieve some anxiety, to soothe when things are bad.  Never was that more apparent to me than when my mother was diagnosed with cancer six years ago - I'd be doing OK in dealing with all that I was hearing, and then suddenly I would feel overwhelmed and that's when I discovered the magical powers of Coconut M&M's.  I swear, they got me through some really rough times.  I no longer drink alcohol, so that might have helped in lieu of the sugar, but any case, it's not always appropriate to have a glass of wine, so candy was a better choice for me, regardless.

I can't tell you how many times a staff member has come in and bought 10 candy bars for their department, citing a stressful day.  Other times it's been 10 or more bottles of soda, for the same reason.  Working in healthcare is not always the most joyous thing, and for every happy event like a baby being born, the staff are caring for the sick patients, and while they are very, very good at their jobs, it still is emotionally taxing in certain situations.

Then there's the families of our patients.  A couple of years ago, I had a frustrated father ask me where he could get a Dr. Pepper - he'd been to the cafeteria and saw that there were none available, so came to the gift shop next.  I was so pleased to be able to open the fridge and hand him one; apparently his son had been in the hospital for several days and was finally able to eat, and his first request was for a Dr. Pepper and his dad was bound and determined to get that for him.  It's not a big thing, and yet it's everything in that moment.  And now, if that moment isn't between 9:30 am and 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, when the gift shop is open, people will have to leave the hospital to search out their sugary solace, because they can't even get something from the vending machines.

And I think that's wrong.

I understand that a hospital should promote good health, and have healthy options available - and this one does.  But they also should not be the arbiters of what they deem healthy, because a bottle full of chemicals, aka diet soda, is no healthier than a bottle full of sugar, aka regular soda.  And sometimes, you just need that swig of soda or that bite of chocolate to get you through a stressful situation.  Don't take that away from people.

24 comments:

  1. I get your point but it isn't the people who need the treat who are buying them. Trust me on this one. I have parents tell me that their kids don't drink pop or eat chips but when I walk in the room, the kid is drinking the mom's Mountain Dew or eating cheetos...

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    1. I'm sure you see your share of frustrating issues regarding nutrition with children, but that wasn't the point of my post.

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  2. Hmmm, interesting. There is so much in the news and even science reports about the evils of sugary drinks. But I get what you're saying. Life in the hospital is STRESSFUL, whether you're the patient or the family member or the staff. Educate, but that's not the place to take it away. Oh, and Diet Doctor Pepper? When I lived in Texas, I had Doctor Pepper once in a while. Then I tried the diet stuff--it tasted like really bad cough medicine!

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    1. I bet they could add a healthy vending machine alongside the one with the sodas and candy, and that one might do well - but in stressful times, don't take away a simple and quick coping mechanism like sugar!

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  3. I don't normally drink soda, but while my husband was in ICU for over a month, mountain dew was my go to.

    I think it's our own responsibility to monitor what we eat and drink. And I agree that I stressful situations like the hospital, soda and candy can bring a little piece of comfort.

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    1. And there you go - that's exactly why I think this stuff should be available. Hope your husband is doing well now.

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  4. I had never thought about it from that perspective, Shelley, and I agree with you - the midst of a crisis is NOT the place to be dickering over a person's food choices. Especially the little guy who wanted the Dr. Pepper - it's so much more that a can of sugary soda at that point, it's something an anxious parent can do to love and comfort a sick child. I hope the hospital where you work will reconsider their policy.

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    1. That's it - don't take away a stress reliever in times of crisis. I mean, it's not like they are buying cigarettes at the gift shop or vending machines...there are worse ways of dealing with stress than a dang Coke.

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  5. It's always been my stance to let people make their own decisions for their lives, so in line with that, I do agree with you. Lately, though, I've been reading so much about cancer because of my own mother's brain cancer journey, and I am beginning to change my own mind about sugar and...well, crap, in general! So I'm torn because I most definitely do not like people's choices being taken away...but in a perfect world, I'd also wish only the good stuff would be available to all humans for the best and healthiest possible life, too. I prefer being educated on what the best decisions are. Yet-- I look at my mom, whom we are all trying to help make better choices in an effort to prolong her life (going for a walk, eating nutritious foods, drinking lots of water etc) but she is so darned tired, she just doesn't give a damn about the "fight", at times reaching for the bag of potato chips or sweets when I offer some fruit or a salad instead. And I can't force her to do what she doesn't want to do. Argh...life is just frustrating in general! So I totally feel what you're saying in the end...life is hard...don't make it harder by taking away the simple joys:/

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    1. No worries, I appreciate hearing your thoughts! And yes, in a perfect world we'd all only eat the best, healthiest foods and in turn would be rewarded with not ever getting cancer, but unfortunately even if we did everything "right" it still might happen, which just sucks. I feel your frustration and I hope your mom is doing better.

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  6. I agree. I don't drink soda but it's up to people to find their own healthy.

    I like deserts. I would hate for places to ban them because they have too much sugar.

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    1. I will say the hospital cafeteria does sell desserts - tiny pieces of cake, which I'm sure are perfectly portioned out ala health guidelines. It's kind of funny to see people coming in the gift shop (for their COKE, haha) with an itty-bitty piece of cake in a to go box.

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  7. Yes, hospitals are by their very nature stressful places! And comfort, of whatever variety, should be on offer.

    I think the important thing is that there are also healthy options available. I recall trying to get something healthy to eat in a hospital cafeteria once and being appalled by how few non-junky choices there were. This was a number of years ago though, so hoping things have changed.

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  8. I'm curious - can one buy cigarettes there?

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    1. Oh gosh no - I mean, this is Texas, but still - the hospital is a no smoking zone entirely.

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  9. I think in any break room at the hospital there are tons of homemade things brought in. For staff at any rate. I always marvel at how people need to justify what they get to workers. There is no shame in eating. Just buy it and leave it at that. Back in the day when I worked at Subway, a woman would come in for her "hard day" cookie. She had a hard day pretty much every day and I just thought why doesn't she buy the cookie and not have to explain it? Sugar is not evil.

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    1. It'd be nice if we (the royal) could lose the guilt that can come with a treat - just have it and enjoy it!

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  10. I think limiting choices is wrong. Are all doctors, nurses and other health care professions healthy? Would not of them ever drink a coke or eat cookie? Why then, are they dictating what their visitors should be doing.
    We are all human. I try to do what is best for myself. No one else should be in control of that.

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  11. So if my hospital quit selling sugary drinks or sweets, there would be an uproar! Haha! I still remember my first request after a very long and very tough/painful labor with my son - a Dr. Pepper. That was the best Dr. Pepper I ever had!!

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    1. See?? Sometimes, you just need that dang soda!

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  12. I agree with you, Shelley. I stopped drinking pop in 2009, but realize not everyone stopped! It seems odd to me that they stopped selling these items at your hospital. I feel it will only make acquiring them inconvenient, but won't be an aha moment or anything. ("Aha! They don't sell it, it must be bad for me! I must stop eating/drinking it!" We still obtain it somehow.

    Up next: "all able bodied visitors must take the stairs" :)

    Side note, back when you & I had our children Shel, they allowed smoking IN hospital where my kids were born. I hated that, as my room was across from a lounge. Yuck. I view this as progress, since as the patient I could not get away from it.

    Prepare to place orders for the junky stuff often!
    Chrissy

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    1. Ugh, I remember the days of smoking being acceptable in hospitals.

      Regarding the stairs, not too long ago I had a couple of fit women in the gift shop complaining that they could not access them and were forced to take the elevator - I checked in with my supervisor, who said it's for security reasons, because certain floors (like the nursery) can't have the public getting access w/o going through a security monitor. But they do have an outdoor walking path, because everyone wants to be walking outside in the hot Texas sun. ;)

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