Ugh. So this post has been a long time coming. For a long time it was a bit of a half-baked, uninformed thought sitting at the back of my mind, but I’ve done some research and tried some things out and I’m finally at a point where I feel like I can confidently deliver this information.
As you’ll know if you have been reading along, I recently attempted Whole 30. That experience threw a lot of things into sharp relief for me – how messy my eating habits truly were, how I do in fact have a slight intolerance with dairy, how much better I feel when I eat well. I also lost ten pounds in the space of two weeks. Some of that was water weight, obviously, but some of it was fat – a dress that I bought back in March now fits much better than I did when I purchased it. I was no longer falling asleep at my desk at 2:30pm in a post-lunch crash. My digestive system was happier than it had been in years. Bloating was gone. All of this caused me to take a closer look at my overall nutrition.
As you all probably also know, I usually scoff at ‘trendy’ or ‘restrictive’ diet practices. I stand by that – I think that cutting too much of anything out of your food is extreme. Whole 30 was too extreme for me – I see no reason not to eat lentils and some grains. I also think Keto is too extreme, and that people don’t often do it properly (people on a keto diet often neglect fruits & veggies, meaning that they are lacking the vital nutrients that come from those sources). But for all my nay-saying and poo-poo-ing of these diets, I have found something that should be eliminated: refined sugar.
I’ve said this before, but I’m taking it to a new level because of what I’ve learned. Please enjoy a short history lesson below.
Back in the 1960s, heart disease was starting to skyrocket, and scientists were trying to determine a cause. There were two emerging schools of thought surrounding nutritional causes for heart disease; one pointed towards saturated fat as the culprit, and the other pointed at refined sugar. Sugar companies weren’t pleased with this turn of events, so they hired scientists (the laws/guidelines that we have in place in science to prevent conflicts of interest didn’t exist back then) to conduct what was essentially rigged research to point the finger at saturated fat. The problem was, the fact that these studies were sponsored by these large sugar corporations was not widely publicized – so the scientific community latched on to saturated fat as the ‘bad guy’, and this research coloured all research going forward. Blaming saturated fat for heart disease and obesity is basically the reason that margarine exists – butter was too full of saturated fat. Same thing with ‘fat free’ yogurt. But do you know what they added to these items to replace the fat that was removed? SUGAR. Some scientists tried to go against the grain and investigate the link with sugar, but they were promptly discredited by the scientific community. Remember the Atkins diet? Most of us think ‘Atkins” and think “crock of shit fad diet”. In actuality, Dr. Atkins had very solid research that backed up his low-carb, high fat/protein diet, but he was the subject of a smear campaign by the scientific community and all of his success was disregarded. (His patients actually lost a lot of weight on his program.) This has recently come to light and is being called ‘the sugar conspiracy’.
Fast-forward to the 1990s. Little me is attending school with kids whose lunch boxes are full of fat-free yogurt, dunkaroos, lunchables, etc. All of these claim to be low-fat…. and yet the number of obese kids in my classes is on the rise. It doesn’t make sense. We cut out the fat! The number of obese people has steadily risen since the 1960s, despite our best efforts to eliminate fat from our diet. It turns out, we may have been doing the exact opposite of what our bodies need.
I’m sure you’ve all been told at one point or another that eggs aren’t actually that good for you – mostly because they’re high in cholesterol. AS IT TURNS OUT, the kind of cholesterol that you eat (in foods like eggs) doesn’t really impact your blood cholesterol, which is what results in hardened arteries. In fact, many studies have shown that eating foods with cholesterol does not impact your blood cholesterol AT ALL. Sugar, however, does. Refined sugars are somewhat processed in the liver, and the liver actually produces cholesterol. This is the cholesterol that ends up in your blood – and it results from sugar being processed in the liver. So all these years we’ve been moderating our intake of eggs, when there is absolutely no reason to do so. One scientist I saw quoted in an article actually said that eggs are a great nutrient-dense food and don’t deserve their reputation. We really should have been avoiding sugar.
There are links between sugar and heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. And to be clear, when I say ‘sugar’ I don’t mean the naturally occurring sugars in fruits – those are totally fine! It’s the refined, processed (white) kind that’s the devil. And the really bad news here is that it’s in everything. You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. Added sugar comes in a million different forms and hides under many different names. I have found it added to chicken broth. SERIOUSLY. Why does chicken broth need sugar?! The only way to avoid it is to make food yourself, avoiding these additives. That’s why I always tell people how crucial cooking your own food is to weight loss success. That’s the only way you can really ensure that you know what you’re eating.
I know all of this sounds super unsustainable. It is, realistically, because of the fact that sugar is everywhere. My commitment as of right now is to eat no added sugar Monday – Friday (5 days a week) with some flexibility on the weekend. This is about much more than weight loss now, it’s very much about my health. I’m really frightened to see what happens as my generation ages, given the kinds of foods that we’ve been raised on, and I’m hoping that it’s not too late for me to change things at 24 years young.
If you’re interested in reading more about the effects of sugar on our bodies, check out this article: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/07/the-sugar-conspiracy-robert-lustig-john-yudkin
Let me know what you think – and take care of yourselves!