As I sit in a service station Starbucks staring into the Tall, Gingerbread latte I just paid £3.80 for, I’m sent crushingly back to my luke-warm winter reality, wondering why I even thought to write this piece in support of their festive drinks. “You don’t have any red cups?” I ask, ready to put my new, bendy £5 note back into my purse in protest. “No, not yet, sorry”, she says, looking confused as to why I’d even care, and like myself fails to realise that Starbucks have replaced their red Christmas cups with DIY colour-in ones.
After realising how truly basic I am, I pay and sit down with my drink ready to get on with the task in hand. Once I sulkily sip my drink, ignoring its mottled, magnolia cream topping, I remember why I am here. For the sugary taste of my Gingerbread Latte and to argue against a Twitter mob wanting to remind me of its poor nutritional qualities.
There are 258 calories in my drink. This would’ve gone up to 343 for a Grande and 412 for a Venti. The most calorific of all the festive drinks on the menu is the Fudge Hot Chocolate, with its largest size coming in at a total of 450 calories – or the equivalent of a bountiful plate of Spaghetti Bolognese.
Why do I care? I hear you wonder, given the very premise of Not Plant Based being to hand a giant “fuck you!” to calories, promoting to instead listen to your belly, body and heart, and to eat whatever, whenever, and however the hell you like. Well, after wasting years religiously writing down every calorie I consumed each day, and trying to spend the next day eating less than the one before, the truth is that I don’t care anymore. Calorie counting, I have come to realise, is a colossal waste of time, and although it might’ve helped me lose weight in the short term, it also made me miserable and a total control freak.
I am writing this now with a bigger cause in mind, despite not being huge on festive drinks myself (I’m much bigger into savoury than I am sweet). Last week a heated Twitter debate concerning whether we should have the calorie and nutritional content written on Starbucks festive drinks, and whether this information should be repeatedly shoved down our throats in the media every year. Here’s the tweet that sparked it all off, from a personal trainer and our lovely internet pal Hannah Lewin.
Loads of "OMG THE SUGAR CONTENT OF FESTIVE DRINKS" articles/tweets today. Firstly- these are very unlikely to be an "everyday drink" amongst majority, so less hysteria please. Secondly- NO food is bad/good. Thirdly- gingerbread latte @Starbucks is 👌🏻
— Hannah Lewin (@hannahlfitness) November 12, 2017
An onslaught of responses bombarded poor Hannah’s notifications, and very quickly two distinct camps were created: those who wanted repeated reminders of the nutritional info, and those who didn’t. Personally, I did think that both sides made very valid points, and as Matt Haig recently tweeted: “I am sometimes looking at an argument online and thinking both sides are incomplete halves of a whole that refuses to be joined.” Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert said: “for me, it’s about awareness, not sensationalism”, which is a great point, and I do believe it’s important that the general public be aware of what they are consuming. But this information is already available on Google, and by regurgitating it year after year, this is by its very nature sensationalist. I know that the news articles about sugar-laden festive drinks are click-baited and used to insight fear, because I used to be paid to write these articles (but probably never again after this, lol). Fear sells press, and we have all been groomed to fear calories and getting fat.
I usually stay clear of Twitter debates, because I’m scared of people being nasty pasties to me, but I threw my two-pence worth into this ring for this one.
Listing the sugar content on festive drinks is (IMO) comparable to someone joylessly barking out what your presents are right before you open them https://t.co/1Zaf43PvHb
— LAURA DENNISON (@lauravennison) November 13, 2017
Yes! Quake in your boots! Internet!
Please, if you have a friend who enjoys pointing out the calorie content of what you are eating just before you put that first forkful into your mouth, after you have been looking forward to indulging in this meal all day, get rid of them. Tell them to get out of your life right then and there. You don’t need that kind of negativity.
We are not stupid, humans. You are not stupid. I trust that you are not stupid. I believe in you! We all know how to Google by now, don’t we? I mean, Starbucks even has the balls to publish all the nutritional information of every food and drink item they sell on their own website! It’s available for everyone to read should they wish to. Even before Googling, we all already know that Starbucks festive drinks are not vegetables. Does anyone read the title Fudge Hot Chocolate and believe that this will be healthy? No they don’t. They are not designed to be healthy. Quite the opposite, actually. They are a seasonal treat.
Dietitian Ursula Philpot once told me when I asked how we can tell if something is too salty or too sweet, that I should “taste it”. I’m tasting my drink, and beyond the first few enjoyable mouthfuls, I am now struggling to finish it because my word it is too fucking sugary. Since recovering from bulimia and binge eating disorder, I have learned to read my body better, and understand what food and drink I need, actually enjoy consuming, and when to stop. Having suffered with these eating disorders before, I can also understand how difficult this will still be for some. If you happen to have a festive drink twice in one day even, the likelihood is that you won’t want one the next day. If you are struggling with this, you will probably also be struggling with some deeper, mental issues that need tackling first.
However, I believe that to have the calorie and sugar count printed on festive drinks is redundant and humiliating, especially for those who struggle to cut down on their sugar intake. Sugar, by the way, isn’t the devil, as Eve wrote here. It’s both an impossibility and unnecessary to cut sugar out of your diet altogether, unless you are a TV star millionaire who can pay someone to prepare all your meals for you (cough cough). Life is all about balance.
I believe that it is more helpful to educate people more widely about nutrition, than to let them judge whether they should eat or drink something based on how high or low the calorie number is. Ursula also told me that it is helpful to try to eat like a small child – having what you fancy when you fancy it. If drinking a sugary drink because you want a bit of something sweet isn’t eating like a child…I don’t know what is.
The aim is to live in a world where we can eat what we want, stop when we are full, and to most importantly be happy. If we can’t give ourselves a break and enjoy ourselves even at the most joyous times of year – Christmas! – then there truly is no hope for anyone.
Now drink your fucking egg nog.