Weight regulation is not a simple matter of "calories in, calories out". Sugar causes obesity disproportionate to its calories, and (surprisingly) no-calorie sweeteners actually cause weight gain. How can you gain weight from something with no calories? The body learns to associate the taste of a food with how much energy it gives. When sweet taste becomes associated with zero calories: (1) people’s metabolisms slow, (2) they eat more – and since their metabolisms are slowed, they gain more from what they eat.
That’s bad enough, but no-calorie sweeteners – even stevia – may contain other serious health risks. This article cuts through the complacency and hyperbole to give you the facts.
People drink diet soda to avoid calories and keep from getting fat. Yet study after study shows that daily use of artificial sweeteners is strongly associated with obesity. Do overweight people tend to drink diet soda, or does diet soda cause people to become overweight?
A number of recent studies make it clear: artificial sweeteners cause obesity. They confuse the body, causing appetite to increase and metabolism to slow. When something tastes like it should have calories but does not, you eat more and get fatter from what you eat. The same effect has been found with fat substitutes.
You can’t get something for nothing. Everything you consume has a cost. It’s ironic that the cost, in this case, is obesity.
In Part 1 of this series, I described how sugar is implicated in a wide range of illnesses, from heart disease to cancer, as well as causing obesity. Many scientists researching the relationship between sugar and disease have stopped eating sugar as a result of their findings. But is it necessary for health to stop completely?
And is it necessary to eat for health? Sugar does pose a serious threat. But just because a food is unhealthy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it, or that it’s wrong or bad to eat it. What you eat is not a moral issue, there are other considerations besides health, and it’s your life. There’s a big fallacy in the non-diet world that there are “no bad foods” and that is why you can eat all foods. I say something very different: There are bad foods, but you are still entitled to eat whatever you want – just do it with your eyes open. If you deny that some foods are bad for your health, then you can’t take responsibility for your choices.
The purpose of this article is not to tell you what you "should" eat. It’s to give you information that you can use as input for your own decision.
New research shows that sugar is a direct cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases, as well as obesity. It’s not that the empty calories in sugar cause obesity, and then obesity indirectly causes these diseases. Sugar causes obesity in ways far more insidious than empty calories, and it causes these diseases directly – not indirectly through obesity. Sugar is a toxin – a "chronic" toxin in that damage takes many exposures. I love sugar as much as anyone, so I didn’t want this to be true, but there’s no doubt that it is.
There’s another serious problem with sugar for anyone using the non-diet approach. Sugar seriously interferes with your body’s hunger and satiation signals in multiple ways. When you eat sugar, you never get the "off" signal.
How much sugar can you safely eat? I’ll talk about that in Part 2. Artificial sweeteners are not a way around the problem. In Part 3, I’ll describe the evidence that artificial sweeteners cause obesity through a different mechanism. Part 4 will talk about the addictive aspects of sugar – both physical and emotional – and how to deal with it.
Habits are automatic behavior cued by context (where you are, what you’re doing), performed without intention, and with minimal thought. In Part 1 of this series I described how they’re created and why. In Part 2, I described three strategies for blocking or interrupting habits that have already been cued. In this third and last article in the series, I will describe the most effective way to break a habit – avoiding the cue – and how to create new, positive habits.
There are thousands of blog posts about how to break habits and create new ones. My advice will be a little different. As with the previous articles in this series, the strategies I recommend are based on controlled studies written by psychologists and published in refereed professional journals.
In Part 1 of this series, I described what habits are, how they are created, and how you can tell the difference between emotional eating and habit eating. It takes many rewarded repetitions for a habit to be created and that’s good, because once habits are created they are extremely hard to break. Habits are automatic behavior cued by context (where you are, what you’re doing), performed without intention, and with minimal thought. When performing a habit your mind is not engaged, and that’s a huge obstacle to change. Resolving to do better, an effective strategy for non-habits, doesn’t help with habits, though thousands of blog posts offer this type of advice.
In researching this article, I read controlled studies written by psychologists and published in refereed professional journals to find out what really works. There are two general strategies: (1) avoid the context that cues the habit routine, or (2) block or interrupt the habit routine after it’s been cued. Avoiding cues is most effective, but not always practical. I’ll talk about that in Part 3 since it’s related to creating new habits. In this article I’ll describe three strategies for blocking or interrupting habit routines after they’ve been cued.
Sometimes you eat because you’re hungry and the food tastes good. But often you eat because it’s noon and you always eat at noon. Or you just got home and you always eat when you first get home. You may not be hungry and the food may not be tasty, but you eat it anyway. Then afterwards you think, "Why did I eat that? Next time I won’t!" But next time, you do it again.
This is habit eating. Habits are overlearned behaviors that are cued by something in your environment (for example, time of day or just arriving home), and performed automatically with little attention or thought. Habits are not goal-directed – you’re not eating to satisfy hunger or experience taste. So why are you eating??
This wonderful talk is by Dr. Brené Brown, a researcher professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work. It’s entertaining (you won’t be bored!) and touches on some profound truths. Very worth watching!
From the moment you are born, being fed is strongly associated with comfort and love. For infants, food and hugs go together, and that emotional imprinting stays with you for life. Cooking for someone is a way to show love. A box of chocolates is a traditional gift of love on Valentine’s Day. So it’s no surprise that loneliness is one of the most common triggers for emotional eating. Food is an emotional surrogate for love.
Everybody feels passing loneliness now and then, but that’s not the kind of loneliness that people eat over. The kind of loneliness that you eat over is the aching kind that feels never-ending, and grows out of another problem that needs solving. Sometimes loneliness is situational – for example, moving to a new place. But if you’ve had plenty of time to develop social contacts and you’re still lonely, you’re "chronically lonely". That’s the hardest type of all, and the subject of this article.
Why do chronically lonely people often feel lonely even when they’re with other people? Why do they often resist spending time with others? Why do they often find it so unbearable to be home alone in the evening? And what is the solution?
A lot of emotional eaters eat fast – not just a little bit fast, but extremely fast, minimally chewing their food, and raising the next bite to their mouth before the bite they’re chewing is swallowed. Everybody knows the reasons not to do this:
You barely taste your food or experience having eaten it, and thus need more to feel satisfied.
Your body doesn’t have time to give you physical cues of satiation, so you eat painfully past full.
Insufficient chewing causes problems with digestion that are uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
Slowing down is desirable, but the tricks people use to do this – eat with the opposite hand, count your chews, or (most bizarre) use an iPhone app that rings a bell when you’re allowed to take the next bite – are as “tail wagging the dog” and doomed to failure as dieting to control emotional eating.
If you want to stop emotional eating, you need to understand why you’re doing it and address the underlying issues. If you want to stop fast eating, you need to understand why you’re doing it and address those issues. So why do you do eat so fast?