Have You Been “Frucked?” Fat Chance…

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Key Points from Fat Chance: 1. Just eat real food, and many of your problems will be solved. Avoid restaurants, and read food labels carefully.
2. Exercise at least somewhat daily – not to lose weight, but to improve your health.
3. While not mentioned, meditation is an excellent way to reduce stress as well.
4. If you want to measure success, don’t bother with the scale. Don’t take your BMI. Just see if your pants are getting looser. That suggests wearing fitted clothing rather than the stretching variety. Then you will spot changes quickly, and be motivated to fix them.

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert H. Lustig, M.D., was an eye-opening book about the American food industry, and how it has created the obesity pandemic, even in countries where malnutrition is prevalent. It says that the low-fat diet trend– originally designed to reduce heart disease– morphed into a high sugar diet, which is even worse. The upswing in obesity rates and metabolic syndrome was concurrent with this dietary shift.

A few takeaway points:

1. Just eat real food and many of your problems will be solved. Avoid restaurants, and read food labels very carefully.

2. Exercise at least somewhat daily – not to lose weight, but to improve your health.

3. While not mentioned, meditation is an excellent way to reduce stress as well.

4. If you want to measure success, don’t bother with the scale. Don’t take your BMI. Just see if your pants are getting looser. Wear fitted clothing rather than the stretching variety. Then you will be able to spot changes quickly, and be motivated to fix them.

Further Reading: Learn how to eat healthfully and take control of your metabolism.

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The hard science and explanation of diet are highly recommended. It was really refreshing to see the extent to which hard science supports food in its natural condition, while avoiding processed foods. Here are some of the main points of Dr. Lustig’s argument:

Fructose is a big problem – we have all been “frucked” by the food industry. Unlike other forms of sugar, it goes straight to the liver where it is turned directly into fat. We were all told that a calorie is a calorie, but nothing could be further from the truth. While fructose is a natural substance, it naturally comes along with a good deal of fiber in fruit, which is critical to the metabolic process. Without the fiber, fructose causes “hypertension through increases in uric acid; high triglycerides and insulin resistance, through synthesis of fat in the liver; diabetes, via increased liver glucose production combined with insulin resistance; accelerated aging, due to damage to lipids and proteins; likely cancer, due to DNA damage, high insulin levels, and the fact that some cancers seem to use fructose preferentially for energy; and likely dementia, through insulin resistance in the brain.”

Fructose is perhaps one of the most direct and powerful tools to cause all of these medical problems. Other forms of sugar may be similar biochemically and should be avoided as well, but fructose is the best for disease development. Other than that, it is relatively harmless.

Well, clearly we will all just avoid fructose going forward. Easier said than done: “…of the six hundred thousand food items available for sale in the United States, 80% are laced with added sugar.”

The basic thrust of the book is that you should eat “real food.” That is either food that grows out of the ground, or eats food that grows out of the ground. If it needs a nutrition label, you are in the wrong place. He makes the point that if we all did this, it would be impossible for anyone without a specific medical problem (5% of the population) to become really overweight. I believe this is true.

Even if you are busy, I highly recommend reading the section on diet. He explains which dietary plans work, which are practical, and which ones are most appropriate for various health conditions.

As a second major point, he explained how hard science supports the use of exercise to improve health. “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for yourself. It’s way more important than dieting, and easier to do. Exercise works on so many levels – except one: your weight.” What happens is you build muscle and shed belly fat and liver fat–which cause critical problems for your health. Exercise can reduce insulin resistance and cortisol (stress hormone). How much and what type of exercise? 15 minutes per day of just about any kind may increase lifespan by 3 years.

That leaves the other area: chronic stress increases cortisol levels and can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Higher cortisol can lead to stress-induced eating and also stress-induced fat deposition. It therefore feeds into the same metabolic syndrome with diabetes, hypertension, etc. He recommends exercise as a means to reduce cortisol long-term. But meditation and mindfulness are also methods well-known for the same benefits.

There are a few points with which I would take issue. For instance, Dr. Lustig seems to feel human beings are not much more than a bag of hormones and brain cells. He feels we cannot control ourselves in the face of our biochemically-driven impulses and addictions. He also seems to harbor a good deal of frustration and distaste for the food industry and those responsible to govern it.

In conclusion, if we recognize our ability to control our impulses, he has given us very powerful tools to achieve our goals. We can find real food, we can exercise, and we can learn to relax. Now that we know the impact of these actions, we can prioritize them and achieve our goals.

 

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