If you’re as old as I am, you may recall the DC Comics Superman/boy/girl/woman series which occasionally depicted a weird planet called Bizarro World, because all values were the opposite of that of Earth. Women went to Ugly salons to make themselves uglier, inept people were voted into important positions, and so on. You may check it out if you don’t remember: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bizarro_World
I mention Bizarro World here because it seems that the Earth is turning into Bizarro World. We have a thriving liquor industry where heavy consumers of alcohol are more likely to get into violent fights, drive cars recklessly at high speeds, and young people sometimes overdose and die in hazing events. Yet, marijuana– which makes users relaxed, happy, non-violent, and if they’re foolish enough to drive a car under the influence, they tend to do so much slower. Also, it is impossible to lethally overdose on marijuana, making it a much safer drug than alcohol on almost every front. But, here on our aspiring Bizarro World planet, liquor is legal while marijuana is not. Similarly, pharmacological drugs with nasty side effects are enthusiastically pushed by the medical profession while natural, herbal remedies are shunned. Marijuana provides pain relief for many, but the medical profession would rather we use Vicodin and risk addiction, constipation, and overdose potential. And, perhaps even worse in all this is that foods containing sugar and high fructose corn syrup are enthusiastically sold and even pushed as breakfast cereals, a “good way to start your day”. Bizarro World!
People who medicate themselves go to jail/prison, despite not hurting others and only, arguably, themselves. Why is self-medication a criminal problem and not a medical one? Portugal decriminalized all drugs and the result was a significant drop in crime and, unexpectedly, a reduction in drug abuse. Why is this not the clear solution here? Farmers cannot grow hemp here, which provides fiber for fabrics and paper at a much lower cost and environmental impact that trees, the oil from the seeds is very nutritious and high in omega-3 fatty acids and its protein is complete. The rationale behind this Bizarro World law is that our DEA cannot tell the difference between hemp and marijuana!?!?!? I guess our DEA is less education and able than Canada, Europe, and other more rational countries. Bizarro World!
Bizarro World’s similarities do not end with the above examples. We have a surplus of milk yet cows are injected with steroids to excruciatingly produce extreme amounts of milk, which are then bought by the government. We have companies like General Electric and the oil companies paying little or no taxes through various loopholes, while off-shoring jobs, all the while we have high unemployment, people losing their homes, and politicians asking we, the people, to pay even more taxes, while the ultra-wealthy pay less. The few criminal wealthy go to white-collar prisons where they get good meals, recreational facilities, libraries, and better conditions than most of us enjoy even on vacation. Fuel-efficient cars, available all over Europe are banned here, while politicians speak of their needs. I could go on and on with similar examples of every day absurdities. Bizarro World!
I am told that doctors are only required to take one nutrition course during their medical training, despite malnutrition being at the root of countless diseases. If I see a doctor for a malady, he immediately takes out a pad to write a prescription for some exotic medication whose potential side effects sound like a legal contract and whose television commercials drone on the side effects for longer than the good that the medication is supposed to do. Rarely, if ever, does the doctor ask what foods I had been eating. For THIRTY YEARS I was on blood pressure medication, without ever being asked about my sugar habits. Dramatically reducing my high-glyemic index foods– sugar, flour, rice, potatoes, and corn– has resulted in my blood pressure dropping to the normal range without the need for ANY medication. That no doctor suggested this solution in 30 years? Bizarro World!
I recently read that a blogger in North Carolina was threatened with prison for sharing his views on nutrition without a license from the Dieticians’ Board. They claimed he was providing dietary advice without a license!?!?!? So, let me understand this– in North Carolina, I would need a license to be writing about what starches have been doing to me???? If I tell you that I had a cold and got relief from lemon and honey, does that mean I am practicing medicine without a license? Bizarro World! And, from what *I* have seen, I am VERY unimpressed with the licensed “dieticians” I’ve seen, read, or listened to. Many get their training subsidized heavily by the sugar and grain manufacturers, so it is not surprising that these cereals are usually touted as a “great way to start your day”. Maybe it is for some, but for those that tend to get addicted to carbs, NOT! This is akin to advising people to have a glass of wine to relax, without taking into consideration that some are alcoholics. NORMAL people may do fine with a cereal for breakfast, even those that have more than 50% sugar, but most obese people are likely the ones for whom this is BAD advice. It certainly is for me. If I eat 1-4 “servings” of most cereals at, say, 7AM, I am famished again by noon. Yet, if I eat the same calories in the form of whey protein, cottage cheese, and fruit, I will be satiated until 3 or 4 PM. Hmmmm. And, if I have a 3-egg omelet with veggies, meat, and cheese, I am often not hungry until PAST my dinner time of 6 or 7PM. But, most dieticians will not tell you this. Maybe what they offer is best for skinny people. Only Atkins, Eades, Hellers, Montignac, and a handful of others seem to understand what refined carbohydrates are doing to us. The Obesity Epidemic resulted from our diets shifting into higher and higher glycemic index manufactured foods, often the NEW, IMPROVED FAT-FREE or LOW-FAT hype on the packages.
I think the Obesity Epidemic began in the 60’s. FAT became the bad word du jour. A large study of coconut oil consumption showed the hazards of — they thought– saturated fats, so polyunsaturated fats became in vogue. What the researchers didn’t realize that the time was that the coconut oil they used for their study was hydrogenated, and therefore full of trans fats, which are now known to cause inflammation in the arteries and scarring, which leads to plaques forming from serum cholesterol and subsequent restriction and blockage. About the same time, cholesterol became another bad word, so doctors(!) advised us to stop eating shrimp, lobster, crab, and other foods loaded with cholesterol. But, it wasn’t these foods that were causing it– it was saturated fats, so again fats were demonized. Along comes the manufactured food industry to the rescue: NEW, IMPROVED FAT-FREE. NEW, IMPROVED LOW FAT. But, these foods often had added sugar and salt, and people flocked to them. Without the fats to slow down the digestion of these foods, the blood sugar spiked from their consumption and susceptible people (moi) became addicted to them.
Fast Food manufacturers learned that removing fiber from hamburger buns, replacing it with more starch and sugars, raised the glycemic index, thereby addicting susceptible people even more. I doubt that any sinister conspiracy was involved, but more likely was that sales went up after such a switch in buns, and perhaps the dilution of the meat with additional grain, so their focus groups naturally caused the buns and burgers to evolve into their present form. Ketchup and special sauces usually contain more sugar and high fructose corn syrup, raising the glycemic index even more. I think it would be fascinating to compare a 1950’s burger with a modern, fast food one.
To remind you about what high glycemic index means, it is the rate at which the blood sugar rises after ingesting a given amount of a particular food. It is dependent on things like fiber and fat– both of which slow the digestion and hence the absorption of the sugars– but also how a given food is cooked. Overcooking pasta raises the glycemic index; al dente pasta tends to be lower. Two basic things happen when blood sugar spikes– neurotransmitters– serotonin and dopamine– in the brain are released, just as they are from smokers getting nicotine, heroin addicts getting opiates, alcoholics drinking alcohol, and so on. This is the body’s reward system which encourages us to do things for survival. Carbohydrates in nature are a good thing, providing fiber, nutrients, and energy, but in a modern society with an abundance of fiber-free, concentrated energy foods, they can be addictive to susceptible people. Just as crack cocaine is more addictive than regular cocaine, because it is absorbed more quickly, these refined carbs are the crack cocaine of our diets and should be avoided for the most part, enjoyed only as infrequent treats.
The second thing these refined carbs do is related to the spike in blood sugar. A similar spike in insulin is produced by the pancreas. This causes the body to focus on digesting the carbohydrates, sequestering fat and storing excess calories as more fat. It also results in a crashing blood sugar 3-5 hours after a meal. People who have been eating like this for long often become insulin insensitive, from the constant exposure to insulin from poor eating habits, resulting in even more insulin being produced by the pancreas, which eventually often wears out and people become diabetic. But, this abundance of insulin also drives the blood sugar down as dramatically as it rose in the first place. This makes the person hungry prematurely, famished soon thereafter, and ready to kill for food not too long after that. This is also the reason for diets to fail– people cannot remain hungry indefinitely.
Avoiding high glycemic index carbohydrates is the first step to break this cycle and restore healthy eating. One can accelerate this by minimizing all carbohydrate consumption for a week or two, causing the body to alter its chemistry to burn fat more efficiently, converting it to ketones which are then used for energy. With a huge fat/food store that obese people have, hunger dramatically drops! Why? Because, effectively, people are constantly eating….their own fat for energy. A low-carb breakfast is supplemented during the day by the burning of stored fat, so lunch becomes optional and dinner time lacks the previous sense of urgency. “It’s 5 o’clock. I feel a little hungry…… OMG, it’s 8PM and I haven’t had dinner yet. I am a little hungrier.” And, there were times when I totaled my calorie intake and had only 800 calories, so I had to make myself eat a bit more to help assure proper nutrition. What’s “proper nutrition”? It is adequate protein (0.8g/kg body weight or 1 oz protein for every 77 lbs you weigh), and adequate minerals and vitamins. The rest is energy from carbs and energy and fatty acids from fats. We tend to overdo these last two in a modern society. Failing to consume sufficient protein will result in the body eating its own muscles to get necessary protein for other muscles and tissues. No one wants that– it is all too easy to lose muscles and difficult to rebuild them, especially as we age.
So, to summarize my message here today, we cannot rely on doctors or dieticians alone to guide us into healthy eating habits, though there are countless books, blogs, and information available for us. There is no simple way to know whether or not you are reading good advice, so confirm it ALL yourself, as much as possible. What if *I* am giving you bad advice? The only way you’ll know is to do enough research on your own to confirm or deny it. And, your health is THE most important thing to you– just wait until something happens and things go wrong– you may appreciate your good health all the more. So, if YOU won’t spend the time and effort to assure that you are following good advice and good eating habits, who will?
What about exercise? I rarely mention it, so is it unimportant? Exercise IS paramount to anything you do, but it does not mean the sweaty, time-consuming, painful endurance-tests that many obese people fear. Exercise is bending down to tie your shoes. Exercise is scrubbing the corner cupboard or mowing the lawn. Exercise is not circling the parking lot at the store for a spot near the door but parking further away and walking an additional 50 or 100 feet. And so on. Exercise is all physical activity and most of us do not get enough. You all know that. I don’t often mention it here for this reason– it is a given. My point in NOT mentioning it is that it is not necessary for weight loss, though it obviously helps, makes weight loss faster, and is recommended. I’ve lost 82 lbs since last July (10 months) without sweaty exercise. But, I walk, garden, play golf, and do other physical activities that are usually light enough to not perspire much but are heavy enough to be mildly aerobic, and aerobic exercise is necessary for good heart and lung function. But, you know that– our society makes the importance of exercise quite clear, unlike some of our other, Bizarro World, laws and attitudes.
In case you are a regular follower, yes, I am back on the wagon, broken the re-addiction, and weight loss is resuming. Yay!