I had a glucose tolerance test at my last prenatal appointment and, although my levels were not quite high enough to warrant a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, I was nonetheless sent to a nutrition class to learn about the proper diet for stabilizing blood sugar. One thing the nutritionist told us was that contrary to popular belief, it’s OK to have some sweets; we just need to make sure to account for them in our total carbohydrate intake, and to eat them with meals so the sugar is absorbed less quickly.
Of course, unable to leave well enough alone, I spent my spare time for the next few days doing searches on gestational diabetes. (Yes, even though I don’t technically have it. I can do some pretty obsessive worrying at times.) I came across several sites claiming that people with GD, or diabetics in general, need to completely eliminate refined sugar from their diets. A popular line of reasoning was that since nobody really needs sweets anyway, it was better to be safe than sorry and cut them out entirely. Often this was delivered in a tone that seemed to chide people for wanting something that was simply pleasant, rather than nutritionally necessary.
I’m seeing that same tone a lot in conversations about the HPV vaccine. Nobody needs sex to survive, they say. So people should just exercise self-control (where “self-control” means no sex, ever, unless they’re in a heterosexual marriage), and then they wouldn’t have to worry about all these diseases.
Fortunately, these days most nutritionists don’t recommend cutting out all sweets even in a diabetic diet. In fact, studies have found that patients whose diet plans allowed for the consumption of refined sugar within certain guidelines were more likely to comply with their diets, and thus to keep their blood sugar under control, than those who were told they had to abstain entirely. Sure, it’s not a purist approach, but it works.
If only we could apply the same lesson to sexual health. Recognize that people like sex, and work with them to find ways to incorporate it into a healthy lifestyle, rather than constantly fight and chastise them for daring to want something that brings them pleasure.