One of the most frequent questions in the Normal Eating Support Forum is whether to cut out sugar in the early stages of recovery. For most emotional eaters, sugar is a two-edged sword: They feel out of control with it so cutting it out completely seems like the only solution. But when they cut it out completely, they eventually end up bingeing on it.
Is this apparent addiction physical or emotional, and what is the way out? Is it possible for an emotional eater to become a normal eater who eats sugar occasionally, as described in Part 2 of this series?
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.
Great lecture by Gary Taubes on the true causes of obesity that explodes many common myths – including the widely held belief that obesity is a simple matter of calories in exceeding calories out. You think this is obviously true? It’s not. Watch!
Right now I eat a junkfood diet and have for decades. I don’t eat fruit or vegetables hardly ever. I never learned to prepare dinner every night. I live mostly on pizza, hamburgers and fries, Chick-Fil-A and restaurant food. I also have a sugar jones. I fall asleep, wake up an hour or two later and then when half awake go down and binge on cookies, candy, cake, and other sweets.
I understand stage one is about legalizing all food. I know I have to stop thinking of these foods as “bad” and beating myself for eating them. How can I lose my shame over eating these foods?
She is right that there is no shame in food choices – ever – and that you have the right to eat whatever you want. But she is wrong that the foods she’s eating are not “bad”. They’re pretty bad nutritionally, though she still has ever right to eat them. It’s also not true that the first stage of Normal Eating is “legalizing”. She’s confusing Normal Eating with some other attuned eating programs that I think make a serious mistake.
A few days ago, director and comedian Kevin Smith was thrown off a Southwest Airlines flight for being too fat. He’s been speaking out about it, calling it “humiliating” and “the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.” Two days ago on Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday), late night comedian Craig Ferguson made fat prejudice the subject of his monologue. It is hilarious.
Editing Note: This post and the previous post originally were one long article.
In my previous post I explained why nutrition information has a role in the non-diet approach – not as a rule, but as information. But with all the contradictory nutrition advice out there, is there really such a thing as “good nutrition”? There is not one single nutrition principle that isn’t contested by someone somewhere. Doesn’t this mean that there are no reliable facts about nutrition, and everything is subject to reversal?
Actually, no, though it can feel that way at times. While many details of nutrition are speculative, some principles are backed by voluminous research. So how do you separate proven facts from tentative theories presented as facts, or outright misinformation?