When I was in college in my early 20’s maintaining a healthy diet and weight was a struggle. Most of the struggle had to do with the fact that I knew next to nothing about nutrition. I loved the sport of body building so what little “knowledge” I had about nutrition primarily came from the muscle mags. At the time in the 1990’s they were still promoting the bodybuilding diets of the 70’s and 80’s which said to lose body fat you had to eat less fat. PERIOD! It seemed so logical at the time. Fat makes you fat, protein puts on muscle and carbs give you energy. But if that were true then why did I feel so bad? Why did I feel like I needed to sleep constantly? I got plenty of sleep at night and I exercised regularly. Shouldn’t I be energized since I ate all of these energy providing carbohydrates and sugars? And shouldn’t I be lean since I was eating low amounts of dietary fat? But that wasn’t the case. I could barely stay awake in class even after 8 hours of good sleep the night before and my belly was slowly getting fatter!
No matter how hard I worked out things didn’t get better until I read a bodybuilding book called “The Anabolic Diet” by Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale. In his book Dr. Di Pasquale outlined an idea that had never occurred to me: eating sugar (not fat) makes you fat. To understand why you simply have to understand the first step of my Fat Loss Model which was discussed in Episode 13. Sugar not only halts the first step (Liberate), it reverses it and causes you to rapidly store body fat. It does so for three primary reasons: 1- extra sugar means extra calories which will generally help you pack on pounds no matter what type of excess calories you consume. 2- When you have a lot of sugar in your system (from the sugar you have eaten) you will always try to burn that sugar before you will dedicate any energy to burning body fat. Excess sugar is too dangerous to allow it to stick around. And 3- When you eat excess sugar you release a hormone called insulin which is a perfect fat storage hormone. So if you want to become fat, the easiest way is to eat a bunch of excess sugar. You will pack on the fat and feel like crap just like I did when I was a young adult. It is interesting to note that eating fat does not make you release the fat storing hormone insulin. So that is partly why when you switch to a low carb/high fat diet (Atkins, Paleo, etc.) that you can lose body fat.
It’s important to understand that “sugar” refers to more than just added table sugar. Anything that contains starch will quickly turn into sugar after it is ingested. This includes wheat, corn, potatoes, rice and other grains and carbs. So it’s really all carbs (especially refined carbs) that are the culprit. Even fruit juice can cause weight gain due to excess sugar, even though it is natural sugar. Sugar is sugar and all sugar makes it tough to lose weight. But still, some sugars are even worse than others. The worst being the syrups like high fructose corn syrup and agave syrup which is as high or higher in fructose than high fructose corn syrup. Consumption of any sugars in excess (especially high fructose syrups) can contribute to the development of the destructive disease known as type 2 diabetes. This should be motivation enough to reduce the sugar in your diet because diabetes can make it very difficult to lose weight and will lead to damage (sometimes permanent) to your eyes, kidneys, brain and other important tissues and organs often leading to amputation, heart disease, cancer and premature death.
But it’s never too late to improve your diet and your health and eating foods that are lower in sugar and higher in nutrients is a great place to start. If you are like me or hundreds of my patients, you will probably notice an improvement in your weight as well as better energy and mental clarity within a few short days or weeks of making the change.