Sugar and Insulin
The problem is too much insulin. Weight gain is not because of too many calories, it is not lack of willpower, and it is not because of saturated fat – the problem is too much sugar and carbohydrates and the resulting overproduction and dysregulation of insulin. It is a hormonal issue. Understanding this is the first step to understanding what causes binge eating, weight gain, obesity and diabetes, and why it is not your fault. I believe, from both personal experience and scientific based evidence, that weight gain, obesity and our modern relationship with food is due to the addictive nature of processed carbohydrates and sugar, it’s use for emotional regulation, and HABIT.
Make Your Way
We will then begin working to reverse insulin resistance; the root cause of cravings, illness, inflammation, fatigue, prediabetes and diabetes. If you are on medications, we will work with your doctor to decrease and hopefully eliminate the reliance on expensive, unnecessary drugs that only provide temporary fixes and don’t resolve the root cause of chronic metabolic illness
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It is possible not only to prevent and control diabetes, but to reduce the risk of the accompanying inflammatory chronic diseases that follow, such as arthritis, hypertension, stroke, heart disease and kidney failure. We will work together to optimize your health and give you your life back!
This program is typically a 3-6 month commitment, depending on the severity of your disease process.
I can help you overcome sugar cravings and processed food addiction.
FOOD CRAVINGS AND SUGAR ADDICTION
My mother used to compare her addictive relationship with food to others’ with alcohol, but she thought alcoholics had it easier. “It’s not like I can give up food all together” she would say “I still have to eat to survive, food is everywhere and every day I have to decide what to eat”. She knew she had an obsessive compulsive dysfunctional relationship with food but didn’t know how to fix it. She wished she could simply go “cold turkey” like alcoholics. I wonder, if she actually had eliminated those specific foods she was most addicted to, if she would have been able to overcome her 60 year battle with food.
Yo-Yo-Dieting -The Biggest Loser was a very popular show a few years back. It was certainly very effective, with the average amount of weight lost at 127 pounds. Trouble was, most of the participants regained all the weight back, and then some. Low calorie, low fat diets combined with hours of exercise are simply not sustainable. Other than the general lifestyle barriers of fitting in hours of exercise every day, the main reason these diets fail long term is due to metabolic changes. In order to survive during starvation, our bodies adapt by lowering metabolism. Our bodies see a calorie reduced diet as a threat. The average decrease in basil metabolic rate (BMR) for the Biggest Loser was 789 calories per day and it remained that way for years. My mother was no different, she lost and gained 100 pounds multiple times, it took a toll on her mentally and physically, and every time she started another diet, it was harder to lose the weight because of her lower metabolism. It’s no wonder she was fat and cold most of her life.
Bad Advice -The advice we were given has failed. We were offered a food pyramid, told to avoid saturated fat and add carbohydrates. Over the past 50 years, we have changed our diets from 20% carbohydrates to 65-80%, following these recommended guidelines. However, we are sicker and fatter than ever. More people are pre-diabetic/diabetic than not. Heart disease, cancer, ADHD, liver disease and Alzheimers cases are increasing, not decreasing. Low fat, calorie reduction diets don’t work. They don’t work for weight loss and they don’t work for overall health.
Fasting vs. Calorie Reduction Diets– The only thing that ever really worked for my mother was not eating, essentially what is now being called IF, intermittent fasting. She knew it was the fastest way to lose weight, and it worked, temporarily. She would fast all week, before her weekly Weight Watchers weigh-in, and then she would come home and eat. My mom instinctively knew that fasting had amazing potential, that it was mentally and physically easier for her than calorie reduction diets, but the problem was that she didn’t know how to eat after her fast, and how to avoid the hunger and cravings. She didn’t come home and binge on avocado salads and pork chops. She turned to the carbohydrates, her drug of choice, and the cycle began again, she was hooked all over again. Sugar laden carbohydrates have no satiety, no feed back system that tell us when to stop eating, like protein and fat do. So, we are constantly hungry, and constantly craving more.
Emotional Regulation -Refined sugars (sucrose, fructose) were absent in the diet of most people until very recently in human history. Today overconsumption of diets rich in readily available sugars has contributed significantly to the current obesity epidemic, with an estimated 80% of Americans overweight or obese. We have come to rely on these sugars to cope with the increasing stressors of modern life. We use food to calm anxiety, depression. loneliness. The cycle is never ending and the calming effects only temporary. And the more we eat, the more we want. The only way we can truly regain emotional stability is by giving up the addictive processed foods/sugar.
The Addiction – Overconsumption of sugar-dense foods or beverages is often compared to a drug addiction because there are many biological similarities. Processed carbohydrates and sugars provide a reward signal in the brain, similar to drugs like cocaine, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms that can lead to addiction. In a study conducted on rats, in 94% of the cases, the rats preferentially chose the sweetness of sucrose and saccharin over that of cocaine. The food industry knows this. Like any other addiction, we crave more to have the same effect. We don’t come home after a hard day at work and go straight for the cauliflower or rib-eye. We choose the sugary, mind-numbing, immediate endorphin releasing comfort food products like muffins, brownies, bread, pastas and candy. Choosing these foods, however, only makes us want more. If my mom came home after her week-long fast and Weight Watchers meeting and ate a grilled pork chop and a large salad with avocado and full fat salad dressing, it is possible her meal would have stopped there. But instead, she binged on pasta, top ramen, chocolate bars and chips and couldn’t stop.
Snacking Society – It is estimated that most Americans are eating or snacking on something 10-16 times a day, so we have a constant supply of the drug, glucose, in our system. What we are snacking on, and how often we are snacking, is a central problem. Food is everywhere. It’s at the tire store, the mini marts, at home. We have mid-morning school snacks, after school snacks, food is in our break rooms at work, at our athletic events, before and after practice. Food is used to celebrate at family functions. Our ancestors, the hunter/gatherers, and even our grandparents, didn’t eat 5, 6… 16 times a day, they ate 2 or 3 times a day. Sometimes, they didn’t have food for days. Feast or famine. They were forced to fast and their bodies naturally turned to their fat stores for energy. They survived because they relied on this fat for energy, and fat is a very efficient fuel. For most of us in today’s society, there is plenty of stored fat to use, an average of 90,000 calories, compared to about 2,000 calories stored as glucose. Our brains and bodies thrive on fat, it’s how were were built, and it’s how we should still eat today.
What to Eat – So what do we need to eat instead? Healthy fat, saturated fat from animals, high fat dairy, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and healthy oils like olive, avocado, nut, palm, coconut. What do we need to eliminate? Processed carbohydrates and sugars, and for some, this may even include fruit.
This is Not Easy – If giving up processed food was easy, everyone would be thin and healthy. We need to change our habits. We need to change the way we respond to stress in our lives and manage our emotions in a healthy way. We need to change our appetite regulation. We need to change our relationship with food. The rewards are endless. I can help you make these changes. I can help you overcome your addiction to food.
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THE OBESITY CRISIS – ONE ER STORY
“It seemed like I started getting sicker when I stopped eating processed foods”. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone cold turkey”, she said. “Everything seems to be going right through me”.
I work in the ER. I see people struggling with their health every day. I see people suffering, when most of the time, they shouldn’t be. This patient, I will call her Susan, was one of those struggling unnecessarily. She was 52, same as me, but seemed much older. She had called 911 because of a cough and weakness. We moved her from the ambulance stretcher to the bed using a “disposable” slider sheet our ER had recently acquired for every room. They were back-saving devices which were becoming commonplace and necessary. Susan was obese, and, as is often the case, diabetic as well. She had hypertension, atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure and lymphedema. She was on multiple medications that didn’t seem to be helping her health. I noticed she already had one leg amputated and had lost most of her fingertips. Then I saw her “good” leg which she hadn’t even mentioned as a concern – this leg was literally rotting away.
I removed the soaked through ace wrap and gauze from her leg wound that she told me she had changed a week ago. Her wound was greenish black and was one of the worst odors I’ve encountered, and I’ve been a nurse a long time. We immediately placed two IVs, put her on the heart monitor, started fluids and antibiotics. She started talking more about her attempts at improving her health. Following her doctor’s suggestion to cut out processed food, she indicated she made the transition in one day, “cold turkey”, going from what she had been eating for years, to whole food. She indicated that what came next was diarrhea, vomiting and coughing up blood. With tears of frustration and despair in her eyes, Susan told me “I just don’t know what to eat anymore”. More accurately though, her body simply didn’t know how to digest real food anymore.
We have forgotten how to nourish our bodies and our bodies have adjusted. Our bodies have forgotten how to function. We have epidemic rates of diabetes and obesity, and along with the accompanying chronic illness and autoimmune disease, our health care (sick care) system has become overwhelmed. The only way to shift this paradigm is to teach our patients how to take care of themselves better. Like many patients, Susan needed our help, she needed our guidance, patience, time and empathy. We had let her down.
Most doctors today are allotted an average of 7 minutes for each patient. This obviously isn’t enough time to address every question or every problem the patient has let alone time to teach, inform and provide resources. Susan’s doctor had told her the right thing, to give up sugar and processed food, but it seemed she really didn’t know how to put that advice into action. Susan had multiple chronic disease processes, she was on a long list of medications, was an amputee with a prosthesis she had outgrown, lived alone and had no support. She had just put her dog down because she could not care for him. She was doing the best she could.
I asked her more about what “going cold turkey” meant to her. Usually that was a term people used when giving up alcohol or drugs. To her, however, food was her drug of choice, so giving it up was no different. She was addicted to sugar and processed food. She went on to tell me more about how she had tried to change her eating habits. “I am eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and a little meat”. “I even tried apples and tomatoes but still can’t keep it down”. With the amount of confusing and contradictory information available today, she didn’t know how to make a smooth transition to real food. Her definition of healthy eating was simply “fruits and vegetables”. Trouble was, her body didn’t know how to process this food anymore, how to process the fiber and bacteria that are in real food. In short, her gut needed to heal and it wasn’t going to happen overnight.
Changing her diet was not simple or easy for Susan, but she did try. I’m sure this was not her first attempt at changing her diet, and likely would not be her last, and without support she would continue to feel frustrated and hopeless. It was not her fault.
So what the heck are we supposed to eat? Plant-based? Vegan? Vegetarian? Carnivore? Keto? Paleo? And what is Paleo anyway? Are we supposed to hunt mammoths? High fat, low fat, no fat? What’s the deal with eggs and bacon? What about saturated fat? Where does vegetable oil fit in? And now we are supposed to fast too? It can confuse anybody.
Unfortunately there is no one size fits all when it comes to optimal nutrition, or a healthy eating plan. But there is a one size fits most and like Susan’s doctor indicated, most of us will do well to cut out processed foods and sugar. But what does that mean exactly? The easiest way to look at it is that anything in a package, with a label, especially with a label that has more than 3 ingredients, is usually processed.
“But I don’t eat sugar” is one of the most common things I hear people say. We often think of “sugar” as just the white stuff that’s added to coffee and baked goods, but there are over 50 different names for sugar now. Since the food industry wants to keep selling products, they are getting very creative with their labels. When looking at labels, think of them as warning labels. They sneak these hidden sugars into everything, including breads, pastas, muffins, bagels, waffles, pancakes, cereal, and even items labeled “no added sugar”. Sugar from natural sources or not, whether in fruit or fruit-eos is still sugar, your body knows no difference, so some people may have to eliminate fruits, it depends on personal goals and levels of health. Most beverages should be avoided, but especially beer, fruit juice, soda and wine due to sugar content. Sweeteners are a bit controversial but can generally be used on occasion or as a transitional item.
One last point. As mentioned, the biggest first step to improving health is to cut out processed food, with its sugar and seed oils, but the second step, almost as important, is to replace these items with more than just fruits and vegetables, like Susan did. It is simply not sustainable or healthy. Replacing these items gradually, with nutritiously dense foods, including non-starchy vegetables, protein and healthy fat, will allow your body to heal and will allow for satiety. There is no need to suffer or deprive.
Susan ended up being flown out by helicopter to see a surgeon. I don’t know how she is doing, unfortunately I am rarely able to follow up on all of the patients we see, but my guess is she lost her other leg and along with it, the small amount of independence she still had.
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