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The Story of a Cookie

As more and more evidence emerges about the profound effects of diet, movement, and sleep on our health and well-being, we all need to do everything that we can to educate our children, and ourselves, about how to be well every day. Obviously, your children spend most of their day with us at school, so it is incumbent upon us to ensure that our learning environment promotes well-being at every opportunity.

Whether we are talking about movement within classes, food choices, or homework and its impact on sleep, we have lots to do. And it’s going to be hard work.

Over the next year, Wooster School will be doing more to partner with parents on how we can create healthier lifestyles for our children while also empowering them to create positive habits for themselves through knowledge and behavior choices. Stay tuned for announcements about our more comprehensive planning in the future.

In the short term, we are going to continue to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. To that end, I sent out the following message to our faculty, and Upper and Middle School students today.

Good Morning,

The Parents' Association wanted to do something nice in the Valentine’s Day tradition today, so we agreed that giving everyone a cookie at lunch would be nice. We also have candy grams going out today, and I am sure that many students and faculty members will be sharing lots of other sweet confections with each other.

To be honest, I love chocolate in its many forms - candy, cookies, cake - you name it.

Though I love sugary stuff, when I read a book called Eat, Move, Sleep a few years ago, I learned that I was making all kinds of bad decisions about eating sugar. I learned that because the effects of sugar are long-term and varied, they are also more insidious. The reality is that excess sugar intake over time can be a major disruptor to our metabolism, contributing to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and likely cancer as well. Do a little googling about these diseases and what is happening with them in our country and you’ll see what I am talking about.

Because Valentine’s Day can tend to be about excess in terms of candy and sweets, I thought it might be a good day for you to start thinking about how much additional sugar you put in your bodies each day. Some of you may already be doing this.

What is excessive? Well, the American Heart Association and other organizations recommend that adults (and teens) not take in more than 50 grams of added sugar a day. “Added” means that you don’t have to count sugar that you get from eating things like fruits and vegetables.

How much sugar does the average American adult or teen ingest in a day? Something like 150-200 grams! Where does it all come from? This is a very short list:

  • Plain Bagel w/ Cream Cheese: 8 Grams
  • Starbucks Carmel Frappuccino: 66 Grams
  • Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll: 59 Grams
  • Nutrigrain Cereal Bar: 13 Grams
  • Frosted Flakes Cereal: 10 Grams
  • Orange Juice: 33 Grams
  • Grape Juice (12 oz.): 58 Grams
  • Nerds Fun Size Box: 12 Grams

Why is there so much sugar in everything? Because sugar tastes good and has addictive qualities. Most corporations who sell food know this and exploit it to get you to buy more of their products. They don’t seem to care that over time, too much will make you sick.

So, I am not telling you to stop eating added sugar, I am just suggesting that you start paying attention and being smarter about it. As a school, we are going to start trying to be more intentional with helping you to develop healthy habits and behaviors. Today’s habit is keeping track of your daily sugar intake.

So, each of these cookies has 15 grams of sugar. When lunch rolls around, maybe you’ll decide to have a cookie because you are still under your limit. Or maybe you’ll decide to pass because you’ve already exceeded your limit, or know that some additional candy is on the way today.

The important question is this: Will you have any idea how much additional sugar you have eaten today?

Either way, be good to yourself, and be smart.

We still love you whether you eat the cookie or not.

Mr. Byrnes

Posted by Matt Byrnes in Learning, Thinking, Community on Tuesday February, 14, 2017 at 02:13PM


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Matt Byrnes

Matt Byrnes
Head of School

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Non-fiction for Fun:

The Boys in the Boat, Daniel J. Brown

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An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle, Rick Atkinson

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About School, Thinking, Teaching, Learning, etc.:

Why Children Don’t Like School, Daniel Willingham

Lots of neuroscience well-connected to the life of school, teaching, and learning.

Make it Stick, Peter Brown, et al.

More neuroscience but a deeper dive into how we (and students) can “forget less” if we make some changes to our behaviors, routines, and assessments. Our faculty read this past summer.

Leadership, Innovation, and making things work:

The Hard Thing about Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

How successful start-ups and innovators work.

Things a Little Bird Told Me, Biz Stone

Twitter Founder writes about his journey -- a great read for any teenager or parent of one.

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