(DISCLAIMER: I write this post as I eat a maple vegan donut from Whole Foods….which contains sugar, so just like you, I struggle with cutting down on sugar.)
Fed Up is a documentary voiced over by Katie Couric (remember, Today show host?), in which the documentary aims to expose the reason that as the fitness industry explodes, so does obesity- specifically childhood obesity. What is different about this foodie documentary is that it follows three young kids navigating through their self-esteem and trying to answer the question, Why do I keep gaining weight? as they crunch down on Special K chips or eat Cheerios for breakfast.
“Sugar is 8x more addictive than cocaine.” 8 times?! When they said this in the documentary I almost had to pause for a second. As a society the stigma we associate with being addicted to cocaine is horrifying- it’s one of those addictions that will ruin your life and send you to in patient rehab in the mountains, jail, or worse, death. Check out this brain scan of how the brain lights up in the same pleasure center when the subject eats sugar vs. when the subject does cocaine:
Still don’t find this concerning? Let me fill you in on some science behind sugar. Sugar is one of the most addictive substances on earth. When you eat sugar your body releases dopamine, the chemical your brain releases in the pleasure center of your brain. Therefore, you associate things like sugar with pleasure ultimately leading you to crave more sugar because of how good it makes you feel in that initial release. Then you crash right? Feeling sluggish in the afternoon, can’t keep it together around 3 o’clock because you feel so tired, so you grab that sugary granola bar and BAM you have the push to go the next two or three hours before your next fix. Sound like an addiction now?
The World Health Organization states on their website that, “roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits”. 6 teaspoons. Typically Americans are consuming well over 40 grams of sugar a day, most of it occurring before you even make it to 3 o’clock. Imagine sugar as cocaine, therefore meaning that you would be doing about a line every hour in order to stimulate the brain the same way you’re stimulating it when eating sugar in EVERY SINGLE MEAL and EVERY SINGLE DRINK.
Your liver is unable to process this much sugar. Why? Because evolution. Our ancestors never faced the onslaught of sugar that there is today and once upon a time sugar was a treat that they would find in a sweet berry that would only grow a few times a year and in certain climates. So when you consume a meal high in sugar, or drink a soft drink that has about 56 grams of sugar per serving (I’m looking at you Coke), your liver goes into overdrive trying to process all the sugar. The pancreas lends a hand at this point pumping insulin into your system to help regulate all the sugar, thereby helping the liver transfer the sugar into fat. Yes, fat. The sugar just doesn’t dissolve and dissipate into your system, it turns into FAT. Those people who are sitting around eating their Luna bars thinking, “But I’m eating such a healthy granola bar!” are putting into their body as much as 4 oreos worth of sugar. From one bar.
Cutting out sugar is harder than you think. It’s in everything. By making fat the enemy, the food industry was able to take out all this fat in their products and then pump them full of sugar. Sugar way cheaper and much more addictive so the benefit is for the food companies to have you believe that fat is the enemy. Buying the fat free salad dressing means you’re consuming twice as much sugar as your normally would. Buying the skim milk to avoid all this “unhealthy” fat in 2% is actually increasing your daily sugar intake leading you to gain more weight.
Losing those “extra stubborn 5 pounds” is a lot more complex than listening to the lies of the food industry by just simply cutting down fat. It’s delving into looking at labels and being extra aware of how much sugar you’re pumping into your body on a daily basis. Especially the artificial sugars that go by names like aspartame and maltodextrin.
I’m not doctor, not a nutritionist, and sometimes I like to eat a maple vegan donut from Whole Foods because I’m having a bad week. But at the end of the day the best advice someone can give you is not to cut the fat- cut the sugar. Read the labels, avoid processed food, eat at home, and don’t buy things with ingredients you can’t read. If the writings looks like it’s from outer space, it may as well be
Next time you’re at the store, take a look at the label of the granola bar you’re buying. Note that while everything else has a daily value percentage next to it, sugar doesn’t. Why? Food industry.
Protect yourself and do yourself a favor. Eat whole foods and ditch the things that come in boxes and plastic.