Oh, friends, I know you just rolled your eyes at this headline. Addiction is a strong word. It sounds melodramatic. It sounds like the sort of thing that the yoga loving, Whole Foods shopping, Vegan next door likes to spout off while rubbing Patchouli oil on her wrists. But let me tell you, it goes much deeper than that.
Sher and I originally dedicated this week’s podcast to weight loss, but as I delved into the research and my own personal experiences, I realized that there was a lot more going on here than Jenny Craig. Yes, of course there is an obesity epidemic in this country (one that has disgustingly spread to babies, if you can believe it) but more over, there is a metabolic disease epidemic happening which affects fat and thin people alike.
Most of my research has stemmed from Dr. Robert Lustig, the pediatric neuroendocrinologist who has recently waged a war against added sugar in our diets. His findings are staggering, most notably, 80% of the 600,000 items of foods we can buy in supermarkets have added sugar. I’m not talking Oreos, I’m talking pasta, hamburger buns, ketchup, juice. This is jacking up our hormone levels (insulin) and this, in turn, is causing metabolic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. A lot of Lustig’s new book Fat Chance is about policy, the FDA and how we got to this point – because basically various food companies want to make a profit by keeping its customers coming back for more. For example, there are 56 synonyms for added sugar. Most of the time, even if we read packaging vigilantly, we will miss the dreaded ingredient because the name is so misleading.
There is a lot of science in Lustig’s take. It can be difficult to understand why high fructose corn syrup is so bad for you. The gist of it essentially is that you can’t “burn” off this type of sugar (unless, perhaps, you are an endurance athlete). It gets stored in the liver, which is BAD. Today, the average person consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. Our body can effectively metabolize 6-9 teaspoons. To make it worse, half the sugar we are consuming is not dessert – it’s food items we think are healthy for us, like juice and whole wheat bread.
Lustig makes a compelling argument that sugar is an actual addiction, hitting the reward centers of our brains and causing cravings and feelings of depression when we don’t get it. The worst part is that we can’t avoid food, so decreasing our sugar intake is an uphill battle, but it’s one we must win. Lustig predicts that if we can’t get the sugar out of our foods, 65% of our population will be overweight in a decade.
The best way to beat the sugar odds is to eat a high protein, high fiber, low carb and sugar diet. This is why the Atkins and similar diets work so well. Real food does not require packaging. Shop on the periphery of the grocery store. Cut out juice entirely from your diet, and soda (diet soda too!) Personally, when I had 60 pounds to lose, I cut out these things, but it wasn’t ’til I stopped drinking alcohol that the weight really began to come off.
Most of all, give yourself a break. There is a chemical reason that you are struggling with your weight and possibly a conspiracy, too. But, even if you are thin, you are still at risk. Do yourself a favor and eat smarter. There are people in the world that want you around.
Check us out this week at the Heatley Cliff where we talk more about health and weight loss.
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