Amy Jenkins: Sugar is a mum's drug of choice

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The Independent Online

I have always thought sugar was a drug. But people look at me funny when I say it. Now David Kessler, the doctor famous for his battles with the US tobacco industry, has brought out a book saying just that. His theory is that there is a certain combination of sugar, salt and fat that is pretty much impossible to stop eating once you've started.

Snickers, for example, is "extraordinarily well engineered", he says; with its killer combination of salty peanuts, sugary caramel and fatty chocolate, it targets our brain's reward centre. "The food industry is hijacking the brains of millions of people and making them overweight."

I suppose we all know that you take your life in your hands when you open a packet of Hobnobs with the intention of only having one biscuit. I do know people who can only have one – myself included – but it's usually an act of heroism. It's not like it is easy to have only one – like having one apple, or one egg. If I do manage it I walk around congratulating myself and wishing there had been someone there to witness it.

Pringles, on the other hand, always defeat me. I have never only had one. I think it might actually be physically impossible. They even advertise with the slogan: Once you pop, you can't stop! I've always put it down to the MSG (which is a form of salt, basically).

So, like I said, I always thought sugar was the work of the devil, but what Dr Kessler's The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite tells us is that, really, it is all about the fat. It's true – I'm not that interested in sugar on its own; I don't like boiled sweets. What really does it for me is sugar and fat. For example – a clotted cream tea. Or salt and fat – kettle chips. Yummy.

Dr Kessler says that we need to re-programme ourselves so that we look at these foods and see them as destructive and dangerous. You might laugh, but there is an obesity epidemic going on. These foods are killing us – and this kind of re-programming is possible.

In my teens, I definitely looked at people smoking and thought they were cool. Now I simply goggle at those who smoke with undisguised shock. And, by the way, I smoked myself, for at least ten years.

Could our attitude to food change this much? What about something as benign and comforting as cake? In my new role as "Mum", I have found that there's a great deal of exposure to cake. A lot of mum action happens at tea-time (after nursery or school) and cake is often present to liven up proceedings.

Pink cakes, pretty cakes, humorous cakes, celebratory cakes. Am I really going to be able to retrain myself to see these as harbingers of evil?

And, by the way, there is a lot of social pressure around this issue. You can be ostracised if you don't eat cake. I'm serious. No one likes a mum who doesn't join in. No one likes a mum who fusses about what her child eats.

If you have ever tried to avoid sugar, you'll know how hard it is. A small shop attached to a garage, for example, will often sell not one single food stuff that doesn't have sugar in it. Sometimes you can't even find orange juice that doesn't have – completely unnecessary – added sugar. It is completely the norm, and health advice is all about sensible eating – willpower basically.

Imagine if, at the height of deaths from smoking, the Government had simply encouraged people to go on cigarette diets, to count their milligrams of nicotine like calories, to have just one or two cigarettes a day. Madness.

We'll miss Big Brother exposing us to ourselves

So farewell Big Brother. (On Channel Four at least – apparently, it may well continue as a minority sport.) It has been announced that next year's show will be the last, and the grave-dancing has started.

Big Brother, once the darling of the media, is now the scourge – almost universally regarded as vulgar and mindless. People are as snobbish as hell about the contestants – and so they're as snobbish as hell about the programme. It seems they think that people like this simply shouldn't be given airtime (shouldn't exist, even).

In my view, Big Brother is both brilliantly entertaining and wickedly profound. I'd even go as far as saying it has been the most interesting development in the use of television since television began.

Big Brother exposes us to ourselves and makes us think deeply about our behaviour and our relationships. It cuts to the chase and cuts to the quick far more effectively – and cheaply – than most drama can.

Feminism? It's a generation thing, Fay

I love Fay Weldon. If anyone else called feminism "instinctively boring", I'd be up in arms. But, when Weldon says it, 1) it makes me laugh, and 2) I completely understand. She's 78 and just about to publish her 29th novel. I think she's earned the right to speak her mind.

Her latest feminist message, simply put, seems to be: give up on men. She thinks it is a waste of time railing against men for not picking up their socks (this is true), and that not picking up socks is due to fundamental biological differences (this is not).

Now, while I have to admit that my generation of men do not, on the whole, pick up their socks, I'd like to point out that this is because their mothers (Fay Weldon's generation) did not expect them to do so – and they see no reason to change.

You might think, then, that these same men wouldn't be able to change a nappy, or make up a bottle, or deal with a screeching toddler at four in the morning. Wrong. They can – and they do. Brilliantly. This is because they've been expected to do it by my generation of women and they've seen a reason to change – they don't really want us to give up on men.