It’s warmer here today. Nearly 62. Not exactly California warm but warm enough that I’m only wearing one flannel shirt. I’ve managed to get some time in the workshop this weekend and I finished reading that book I told you about last week, “Fat Chance, Beating the Odds Against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease” by Robert H. Lustig.
Reading is what I do when I can’t get into the workshop. I read all kinds of stuff – news, blogs, books, junk mail, cereal boxes and just the other day I went out to read the stuff written on the sides of my tires (not bad but the plot’s a little thin). Lately I’ve been following more blogs. I have a few favorites and there are a few I’ve deleted from my browser history vowing never to read them again.
One of my favorite’s this month was Charles’s post over on Mostly Bright Ideas (he has these great little cartoons too). “The Behinder I Get Part 1” is a fun reflect into the history of computers from the 80s. Yup both fun and depressing. Fun to see pictures of all that old stuff. Depressing to realize I used to work for the companies that made that stuff – all that great work I did then, is now just a layer in landfills around the planet (a few pieces did make it into museums).
Thinking about the 80’s also got me thinking about diets. It was sometime in that decade that my doctor first mentioned I had high blood pressure and needed to lose a few pounds. The diet he suggested was basically warm water and limp lettuce. I lasted about two days on the diet. When I mentioned this to my father, he showed me this article he’d read about a new theory called, “the set point.” I read it too and basically the theory went, “Diets don’t work because your body has decided what it will weigh and whatever you do your body/brain will defeat your puny little dieting plans…”
or something like that. According to the article the trick is to reset the set point. Don’t recall if the article actual said how to do that – come on, it was thirty years ago and I wasn’t really interested then.
Today I am kind of interested. My body seems to think I don’t weigh enough and keeps adding pounds even though I’ve mostly given up eating. Shredded wheat for breakfast, salads for lunch and not much more for dinner and I’ve put on ten pounds since Thanksgiving. Okay, I’ve had a few extra snickerdoodles and that extra plate of turkey – but not ten pounds worth.
So when I learned about Dr. Lustig’s book I had some hopes he knew the magic that would release the weight-loss-power of my daily lettuce.
Lustig’s book did prove to me that sugar is evil and that we as a society are consuming far too much of the evil white powder and it’s evil twin, high fructose corn syrup. Don’t miss understand – I find Lustig’s book and conclusions very compelling and when he leads his army to smash the HFCS tanks at ConArga, I’ll be there with my ax. I mean the dude is right and I can’t find a flaw in his science.
The problem I have with the book is that it is more about macro problems – problems that affect our whole society – rather than what the individual can do to affect their own weight. However he does have a section on that and it comes down to a few basics:
Sugar is processed directly into fat with a side order of toxins and raises your insulin level. Increased insulin reduces leptin, the thing that tells your brain your full and don’t need more food so you can keep eating. It’s kind of complex but eating too much sugar sets up a “metabolic syndrome” that convinces your body to store everything as fat and reduce the amount of calories you burn.
Lustig states that diets will fail because of this syndrome – you can’t expect a simple change of behavior to overcome your biochemistry. About halfway through the book I was in a bit of despair, but I could see a way to beat the biochemistry.
All is not lost and Lustig does offer a few things that can break the metabolic syndrome and affect a change in biochemistry. It comes down to reducing the insulin spikes and making leptin effective again. Here are the basic actions:
- Don’t eat sugar – especially drinking sugary drinks like sodas, juices and sports drinks.
- Increase you fiber intake, whole grains, fruits, veggies, etc. Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar and reduces the insulin spikes.
- Exercise. Any kind. Just move the body. Not because it burns fat directly but rather it helps clear out certain toxins; builds these thingys in your muscle cells that burn food even when resting and does lots-o-good things (go read the book for the whole list).
Now I look at what I eat and I don’t have much adjustment to make. I rarely drink sodas (okay, I had two last month, I admit it, call the sugar police) but do indulge in my weekly Starbucks flavored drink with – OMG, that much sugar? And did you look at this low fat yogurt I eat. Great they took out the fat and replaced it with 20 grams of sugar – Lustig points out that most “low fat” foods simple replace fat with sugar and the resulting food product isn’t really any better for you.
So here is my plan – no more of the sugary yogurt; a small unflavored latte once a week; find and remove any other sources of refined sugar. Then add more fiber to my diet – oh joy, more veggies and fruit. Finally, walk at least a mile a day and work up to two a day. Then see if that does any good.
My other plan is to ignore the whole thing and go to my workshop to work on more fun projects like this clock that I’ve almost completed. And the next book I read won’t have anything to do with health. Maybe a good spy novel or table saw manual.