lose weight

Are You Ready to Lose Weight in 2016? 7 Things You Need to Know

Like many people in the world, I’m constantly trying to stay healthy, eat healthy, and lose weight. My New Year’s resolutions usually include some commitment to that cause. This year I tried something new. I decided to take the 30 Day Sugar Free Challenge in December. I felt so good, I’ve decided to do it again in January. I lost some weight. I feel better. I realize how much sugar there is in my diet and how many of the unhealthy things I like to eat include extra sugar, fat, and salt. No wonder I like PayDay candy bars.

What triggered my decision to go sugar free was my doctor telling me my tests indicated that I was “pre-diabetic.” I don’t want to wait around until I am diabetic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 29 million children and adults in the United States have some form of diabetes. I don’t want to be one of them.

According to the CDC, the death rate for people with type 2 diabetes is twice as high as that of people the same age people without diabetes. In addition, diabetes increases your risk of conditions such as:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • high blood pressure
  • eye disease, including blindness
  • kidney disease
  • nervous system damage
  • amputations

To which I say, “no thank you, no thank you, no thank you!” I’d rather lose some weight in 2016. If you’d like to join me, here are some things you should know.

  1. Our brains are hardwired to like sugar, salt, and fat

 Imagine that you are living in East Africa 200,000 years ago when Homo Sapiens first evolved. In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari tells us how our hunter-gatherer ancestors survived. We needed fat for calories, sugar for pleasure, and salt for taste. All these were hard to come by. Our brains evolved to “find these rare delights wherever we could and to eat as much as we could find.”

According to Daniel E. Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, “Since sugar is a basic form of energy in food, a sweet tooth was adaptive in ancient times, when food was limited.” We also needed plenty of fat which we got from meat and salt when we could find it.

  1. Sugar, salt, and fat are no longer scarce.

 It has only been in recent history that these once rare, life enhancing, delights were easy to obtain in large quantities. “Simply put, humans evolved to crave sugar, store it and then use it,” says Dr. Lieberman. “For millions of years, our cravings and digestive systems were exquisitely balanced because sugar was rare. Apart from honey, most of the foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate were no sweeter than a carrot. The invention of farming made starchy foods more abundant, but it wasn’t until very recently that technology made pure sugar bountiful.”

  1. The food industry is interested in selling more products.

 It probably is not surprising to you that the food industry is not interested in our health and well-being any more than the tobacco industry and the alcohol industry are. They care about sales and profits and they don’t mind killing us, as long as their products do it slowly enough that we keep them in business. A recent research study reported on the increased consumption of unhealthy products.

“Unhealthy commodities”—soft drinks and processed foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugar, as well as tobacco and alcohol—are leading risk factors for chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs).  The sale of these products is very profitable and is on the rise world-wide.

  1. Salt, fat, and sugar are bad for people, but good for big business.

In his book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Pulitizer Prize winning author Michael Moss uncovers the truth about how big business keeps us sick and tired, yet coming back for more, more, more. Here are some things he reports:

  • Every year, the average American eats 33 pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970).
  • We also eat 70 pounds of sugar a year (about 22 teaspoons a day).
  • We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table.
  • Extra salt, sugar, and fat, are added to our foods, without our being aware of it.
  • As a result 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 5 children is clinically obese.
  • Nearly 30 million of us have diabetes today.
  • In ten years it is estimated that 53 million of us will have diabetes, if current trends continue.
  • The economic cost of this health crisis is $300 billion a year.
  • However, the processed food industry, in the U.S. alone, accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales.
  1. Sugar, fat, and salt are addictive.

All the hype about eating healthy, cutting back on our sugar consumption, going on a diet are just that, hype. The giants of industry, backed by most of our government institutions would have us believe that we can control our weight through will power. But will power can’t overpower an addiction. Ask any alcoholic if they can will themselves to stop drinking or ask a cocaine or heroin addict if they can “just say no.”

The truth is that the food industry has us hooked. This was demonstrated by Dr. Adam Drewnowski, a University of Michigan researcher. Dr. Drewnowski had studied addictions and knew that you could reverse an overdose of opiates and save a life by giving an addict who had ODed on heroin a shot of naloxone. He gave the drug to those who were hooked on sugar and fats and found the drug blocked the effect and they no longer had a craving for sugar and fat. In other words it blocked the same brain pathways that are present in other drug addictions.

In his book, Salt, Sugar, Fat, Michael Moss offers additional evidence that sugar, salt, and fat are addictive and they are added to our foods because they are addictive. Think about it. From a business perspective, addiction is great. It gets people coming back again and again for their unhealthy, but very profitable,  products.

  1. It’s not easy going up against $1 trillion.

 Believe me when I say that with $1 trillion a year in sales, the processed food industry is going to do its best to keep you hooked (They also own the biggest weight loss programs, so they get you coming and going). Going up against them with your will power alone is a sure recipe for failure.

Most of us have little conception of how much $1 trillion really is. Here’s a thought experiment. Start stacking up $1 bills. The height of a stack of 1,000,000 one dollar bills measures 358 feet – about the height of a 30 to 35 story building. The height of a stack of 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) one dollar bills measures 67,866 miles. This would reach more than one fourth the way from the earth to the moon. That’s how much money we’re up against each year.

  1. If you’re serious about losing weight join a program.

So, the bottom line is this:

  • If you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off, you have to be very serious. Know that the food industry is very serious about keeping you hooked on sugar, fat, and salt, not to mention meat.
  • You’ll have a better chance of being successful if you get support. That’s why I’m doing the 30 Day Sugar Free Challenge. It’s a good start for me. But find your own program if this isn’t right for you.
  • Don’t get down on yourself if you start a program and then get pulled back to your old ways. Remember what you are up against.
  • Don’t give up, you’re worth it and joining with others can help you commit to health rather than support the profits of the food giants.

The food giants may have lots of money, but we’ve got lots of heart and soul. Together we can win. It’s worth the effort because we love ourselves, our children, and grandchildren. Make your resolution today or reinforce the resolution you have already made.

Jed Diamond, PhD, LCSW, is the Founder and Director of the MenAlive, a health program that helps men live well throughout their lives. Though focused on men’s health, MenAlive is also for women who care about the health of the men in their lives. Diamond’s new book, Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well, brings together the wisdom accumulated in 40 years helping more than 20,000 men, women, and children.

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