St. Louis Firm Attempts the Impossible: Stopping Us From Killing Ourselves With Sugar


       Oh sugar, why are you so terrible? | The Tremendousness Collective
  •        Oh sugar, why are you so terrible? | The Tremendousness Collective

Say it ain't so! Over at Gut Check, we love all kinds of eats -- including the ones that are not so good for you. We already know what foods up your risk for things like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, but there's something else: sugar. It seems like we can't eat anything these days! The visual storytellers over at the Tremendousness Collective, a St. Louis design company, realized a no-sugar policy isn't something most people would be happy about, so they decided to make it a little easier to swallow. (See what we did there?)

See also: -Are Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup Toxic? -A Ban On Soda Purchases With Food Stamps? Mayor Francis Slay Says It Should Be Explored -Guess Who's Fat? New CDC Data Says There's MO of Us to Love

The Tremendousness Collective produced "The Sugary Truth," a four-minute video aimed at educating people (especially kids and parents) about what sugar actually does to our bodies. "A lot of the infographics we saw around the Web were always focused on, 'We're eating 140 pounds of sugar in a year!' and 'That'll fill a wheelbarrow!' Stuff like that is sort of disconnect," says Tremendousness cofounder and illustrator Scott Matthews. "We're all parents, so we thought it would be a really, really great way to engage kids and make them think twice about the foods they're eating."

Specifically, the video focuses on processed sugars like the ones found in soda. The American Heart Association recommends that kids shouldn't have more than 12 grams of added sugar a day -- and a can of Coke alone has 40. Matthews predicts that in ten years, people will look at the sugar industry like Big Tobacco; right now there's a reasonable doubt as to how bad sugar really is, but the evidence against it is mounting.

Tremendousness normally produces visuals for paying clients, but it decided to make "The Sugary Truth" as a side project to show what it can do, but also to educate. The project had no funding, so the video could be about whatever Tremendousness wanted. Matthews began putting the script together in January before they came up with story boards.

Next: Putting together the video...without overreacting.

"I had the general sense of the video down, but how do we pull people in? I remember feeling so happy when I was like, 'I got it -- you see these little baby sugars sleeping, they look so cute!' And then it says, 'They're so sweet and delicious you just want to eat them up, right? There's the problem -- the way we're consuming sugar these days is killing us.' And then they turn into vampires. My kids loved that part, and they remember it," Matthews says.

The Tremendousness Collective collaborated with science journalist Gary Taubes, who wrote the book Good Calories, Bad Calories and a New York Times Magazine cover story on the topic. He helped the team refine the script and get the facts right.

"It's a very delicate tightrope to walk to talk about the possibility that sugar could be the fundamental problem with modern diets while not appearing excessively to be a scaremonger," Taubes tells Gut Check. "At the very least, we're consuming too much of these products and they're adding extra calories that lead to obesity. That's the best-case scenario."

OK fine, we get it. Sugar is bad, mmmkay? Gut Check was not happy -- isn't there anything we can eat and not feel guilty these days? "I agree, it does suck. That's for sure," Matthews says. "But if people just cut whatever they're doing in half, that would be a big deal." He showed the video to his two sons, and they loved it. "I do feel it is having the desired effect on them," he says. "They're not going to flip the switch and stop eating [it], I just want them to think twice about getting a refill on a soda or getting a soda at all."

Watch "The Sugary Truth" below, and let us know if you'll think twice, too.

Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at or follow her on Twitter.


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