happiness is a piece of cake

It’s not you. Keep reading to find out what it is in this guest post by Renee Tarantowski Baude.


Not exactly but we do love it and crave it . . . the answer is sugar.

A few years ago I went to a Forks over Knives Conference in Chicago. It was 3 days of intense lectures, incredible people, and lots and lots of healthy food. We even took a field trip to a local Whole Foods for cooking demonstrations and food tastings. That is when I discovered the wide varieties of kale, lettuce, and was introduced to foods that were not in my local grocery store. Confession time: I had seen many of the veggies and fruits at the farmer’s market but was too embarrassed to ask what they were and how to cook them. What’s weird is I’m not a shy person and consider myself a foodie and STILL felt that way. At that conference, something changed in me. I knew I wanted to write and educate from a place of understanding and compassion.   

Me and Chocolate Cake


Photo credit to Renee

Do you have a best friend? I do. Her last name is Cake. In all honesty, I love her whole family. Chocolate, White, Vanilla, Cheese, and her cousins from overseas–German and Italian Wedding. It began in high school. Cake was 25 cents for a 4 inch by 4-inch slice. I ate lunch with my friend every day. On very bad days, my friend would show up more than once during lunch. Think back nearly 40 years ago–the ladies in the kitchen made these huge sheet cakes from scratch with homemade buttercream frosting. I can still taste that mellow cacao flavor.

In high school, I was also an athlete.  A slice or two of cake was fine.

In college, I was also an athlete and cake was less of an issue after I turned 21. Move over cake, I have a new friend in town.

During my 20’s and 30’s, I didn’t really think about food. I ate healthy foods. I didn’t like meat, dairy made me feel sick but I loved salad bars and throwing parties centered around food.  

The Spanish Test

I raced home from work, a daycare for special needs kids, to get ready for my college class in Spanish. I was running late, no time to eat so I grabbed a candy bar, goldfish, and an apple.  

As I’m driving on the winding back roads of California foothills feeling a bit woozy . . . I eat the apple and the goldfish. I park, race into class sit down with a few minutes to spare and devour my candy bar. I sit quietly waiting as the test is being handed out.

Twenty minutes into the test my stomach explodes in movement.

I scream.

Then I cry.

My baby decided to begin his soccer career during my test.  

I approached the teacher and told her that I didn’t think I could finish the test because the baby was kicking so much.

She looked at me with scorn and said: “You just fed your baby a candy bar, what do you expect him to do?”  

I got it.  At that moment I thought about how many candy bars I had eaten in my life, how much cake, how many drinks?  

The very next moment I thought about how I would change how I ate for the rest of this pregnancy and beyond.

I signed up for a prenatal nutrition class at the hospital and thus began a deeper understanding of food and nutrition. My unborn child was my teacher.

What is sugar?

Sugar is more than the white stuff you add to your coffee or put in the cookie recipe. It hides in almost all processed food. In the book, “The 10-day Detox Diet” by Dr. Mark Hyman it speaks to the cycle of sugar addiction. He says “foods that spike blood sugar are biologically addictive.” Pop, cookies, chips, bread, pizza. No wonder we find ourselves in a sugary food loop.

Did you know that sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine? In a 2009 study by Dr. Serge Ahmed, published in the journal Food and Addiction rats choose sugar over cocaine. We are hardwired to seek pleasure and reward.  

Sugars are carbohydrates. Sugar is not fat nor is it protein. Sugar is either a simple carbohydrate such as pop and juice or sugar can be complex such as a sweet potato. The difference between the two is the number of calories vs. the energy to break them down. When you drink simple carbs it goes right into your system, blood sugar levels peak and then you may enter the sugar loop. When you eat complex carbohydrates it takes much longer and more energy to break down those carbs which also keeps your sugar levels consistent.

Have you heard of Jason Wrobel? He grew up not far from where I was born in Detroit, Michigan. He created a great video that is worth the time to watch.

In a few minutes, he explains the ins and outs of sugar consumption. I’ve met Jason on several occasions and he is a smart and spirited young man. He genuinely cares about people and their steps towards health. I have his extremely informative book Eaternity.  I use is often as a reference guide in cooking and for health-related information.  

How to keep things in check?

I believe in a mindfulness practice and setting intentions. My personal goal is to live to 100 and I know I can’t get there by eating cake and drinking great wine every night. I find it helpful to begin with the end in mind, a Stephen Covey concept. We all need to ask ourselves what our goals are and how will nutrition play a role in meeting those goals.

As we navigate all of the information we have it can be hard to figure out where to begin. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Reaching our health goals are the same, one step at a time.

Share your story in the comments.  


Renee BaudeRenee is an Essayist on Mindfulness, Motherhood and Menopause. She lives mindfully: a simple, soulful, sacred life. Visit Renee at ReneeLove.com