The Future of Weight Loss: Get Ready for a Whole New Strategy
by Amy Berger
In our politically correct times, overweight people have become the last acceptable targets. Crack a joke about almost anything else, and you’ll be met with dirty looks and stunned expressions. But fat jokes never seem to fall out of favor. Even worse than the jokes, though, are the moral judgments. Society heaps endless criticism on overweight people: they’re lazy, greedy, and undisciplined. If they just had a little more self-control, they’d lose weight. We hear it everywhere. The last place we should hear it is in our own heads. If you’ve been struggling to lose weight and blame yourself at every turn, it’s time to stop victimizing yourself and start operating from a new playbook.
Being overweight is not a character flaw. It’s a matter of having the wrong information. We’ve spent most of our lives listening to “experts” tell us it’s nothing more than a mathematical equation–as simple as eating less and moving more. How insulting. If it were that easy, millions of us wouldn’t be bending over backward, doing everything we can think of and still not seeing results.
It’s not just a matter of numbers. Our bodies are exquisite, complex systems, designed to run on foods that send certain signals to our brains and all our cells. Sugar and foods high in refined carbohydrates send mixed signals: we eat and eat, yet we never feel full. We load up on calories, but fall far short on nutrients. We become what some call “overfed and undernourished.” In this multi-part series, I’ll explore the unique properties of sugars and refined carbohydrates and shed some light on why these foods are so hard to resist.
If you’ve been playing an endless tape of self-blame and recrimination in your head, get ready for a new strategy. Being addicted to sugar–and carrying the extra weight to prove it–has nothing to do with greed or a lack of willpower. We’ve been fighting this battle in our minds, but the truth is, we need to shift the focus to our bodies. Eating certain foods when our brains and our blood chemistry scream out for them isn’t mental weakness; it’s physical addiction. It’s not about “caving” or falling off the wagon. It’s about every cell in our bodies being programmed to run on the wrong kind of fuel. Let’s stop asking why we can’t stay away from the ice cream, or why we can’t stop after just one cookie, and start asking what’s going on in our bodies to make us want more and more. Because there is something going on in our bodies, and our natural–and inevitable–reactions to the foods we eat are clear-cut physical processes, not moral shortcomings.
The most important thing we can do is get off the blood sugar rollercoaster. This isn’t easy; most of us have been riding it all our lives. And it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to reprogram the palate. But before retraining our tastebuds, we’ve got to reprogram our minds. We’ve got to have the courage to do the opposite of what we’ve been told. We need to have faith that what’s best for our bodies might run counter to everything we’ve been led to believe. If sugar and starchy foods set us up to want more of the same, it stands to reason that other foods–meat, eggs, vegetables, nuts, cheese–send our brains other signals. Signals that we’ve been nourished and have had enough. The reason we’re still hungry after a high-carbohydrate meal is that no matter how much we’ve eaten, our bodies are still looking for protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals–the very things our muscles, bones, skin, and hormones are built from.
Getting off the blood sugar rollercoaster means learning to distinguish between true hunger and hormonal hunger–when we legitimately need food versus when our blood and hormones are tricking us into feeling hungry. In the second part of this series, I’ll explore the role of insulin as the motor running this horrific carnival ride, and why staying away from sweet and starchy foods has much more to do with keeping insulin levels low than with maintaining an iron will.
It’s repeated so often it seems meaningless, but the old saying is true: knowledge is power. Once you open Pandora’s box and know the truth about sugar and refined carbohydrates, the demons come out and you can’t put them back in. People struggling with extra weight get attacked from all angles. Let your own mind be a safe haven. Be kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself, don’t belittle yourself, and don’t let guilt and shame keep you from moving forward. Arm yourself with the right information. What you put in your mouth is ultimately your responsibility. That will never change. But it’s a lot easier to make good choices when your body isn’t screaming out for bad ones.
Amy Berger is earning a master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport. A proud U.S. Air Force veteran, Amy struggled for years doing “all the right things,” but failed to see any improvement in her health and physique. Through shifting to nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods and intelligent exercise, she has transformed her body and self-esteem, and plans to share the lessons learned with those still fighting the battle. She believes weight loss is not a moral issue; it’s not about willpower, but restoring balance to our bodies and minds so that we don’t just survive, but thrive. Amy is especially interested in helping young women heal their relationships with food and serving as a source of common sense and sanity in the sea of nutritional madness. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.