Sweeter without sweets

Camas 12-year-old gives up sugar, inspires friends and family

Ty Barnes, 12, and father Brody Barnes,38, pose with Ty's $500 prize for going a year without eating sugar. Ty and Brody have since started a new challenge together--they both will go one year without eating sugar and junk food. (Contributed photo courtesy of Jennifer Barnes Photography)

When you’re 12 years old, it’s tough to avoid sugary treats — whether it’s a birthday party, a candy prize at school or a visit to grandma’s house, sugar is everywhere.

Odyssey Middle School student Ty Barnes knows this all too well. The seventh grader has avoided eating sugar for more than a year and recently committed to this lesson in discipline and healthful living until at least April 2019.

Barnes said he and his family all took a break from eating sugar after a treat-filled holiday. Afterward, he and his siblings decided to propose an idea to their parents.

Ty Barnes and siblings, Alliyah Barnes, 13, and Boston Barnes, 9, asked their parents if they’d give them $100 if they could go three months without eating sugar.

Their dad, Brody Barnes, took the children up on their offer.

All three children succeeded in sugar avoidance for three months and their parents doled out $100 times three.

Ty said the first couple weeks were hard.

“It’s like, ‘aw that tastes so good, I wish I could have it, but I can’t,’ and after a while it gets easier because everyone that you know really gets used to it and doesn’t really offer it to you,” Ty said.

After the first three months, Ty decided to continue with his challenge and succeeded in lasting one year without sugar. His parents, including mom, Jennifer Barnes, rewarded his efforts with $500.

By this time, Ty had felt the benefits of cutting out added sugars from his diet.

“I feel like in all ways I’m cleaner,” Ty said. “I’ve lost weight and have been more toned.”

The no-sugar lifestyle also has helped him perform better in soccer, swimming and lacrosse.

Ty said he will have natural sugars, like fruit, but limits himself to items that contain fewer than 5 grams of sugar.

“I won’t take a bite of anything else that has like 6 grams of sugar because I look at it as a ratio,” he said. “Like, yeah sure, it has less sugar, but it could also just be a smaller portion. It’s still the same sweetness and I would kind of feel ashamed if I did that.”

Jennifer Barnes said her son has shown great discipline during the past year and a half.

“I think there’s certain people who feel worse for him than he feels for himself,” she said.

While Ty has settled into the no-sugar eating routine, he admits that there are a few things that make him think twice.

“Most of the time it’s pretty easy, but one thing still grabs my attention every time … is my aunt’s cookies, because she works at a cookie shop and makes all these cool sodas and cookies that are really good,” Ty said. “I haven’t cheated because otherwise I would feel crappy for like two days because I’m just not used to that much of a sugar intake.”

Ty’s new way of eating has influenced some of his friends and family members, and the 12-year-old Camas student said he would encourage people to take this step toward healthier eating habits.

“Just be prepared to have it be hard for the first week or two,” he said. “Then just keep plugging along, because it will get much easier.”

Ty has inspired his father to join him on his health quest. The two have committed to not just going sugar-free but also junk food free. For Brody, this means no alcohol, nachos or unhealthy fast food.

Ty’s parents have said they’ll give him $200 after his second year without eating sugar, to “sweeten” the deal.

“He is thrilled and excited,” Brody said. “I’m excited, too, and am thankful that he’s inspired me to be healthier. It will be fun to do it together. There is plenty of very healthy and tasty food to eat. It’s all about choices.”