10 Jul

Fat Chance

Posted by Jenna, Under reviews, weight

My parents, whom I am currently living with, can attest to the fact that I can’t stop raving about Fat Chance by Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF. My cliffs notes takeaway from this book can be summed up with the following statements:

  • The lipid hypothesis (fat makes you fat) is false*. Fructose is causing the spike in obesity and metabolic syndrome.
  • Calories are not processed equally.
  • Everyone has the responsibility to manage their own health and make good choices. But not everyone has reasonable opportunities to do so.

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Sneaking into the kitchen and eating gummi bears straight from the bag at 2 years old. I was a sugar addict practically from birth.

If you read the summaries of  Fat Chance on sites like Goodreads or Amazon you will see people declaring that the book says losing weight is impossible. This is a critical misunderstanding of Lustig’s message. What he is trying to communicate is that the combination of our food environment and the brain’s pursuit of pleasure makes it incredibly difficult to lose weight. And also that the excess weight we need to focus on losing is visceral (belly) fat because this is the type of fat that is associated with metabolic syndrome. The subcutaneous fat that makes up a wide variety of body shapes and contributes to the large thighs of some is only kept off with extreme diligence that most aren’t interested in maintaining**.  He believes that cutting out fructose/sugar is the key to losing the visceral fat, and after 5 months of nearly-eliminating added sweeteners in my diet I fervently agree.

I’ve read a lot of books about food and diet, but this was the first time that I was able to say out loud to myself “I am a Compulsive Overeater“. I realized that my overeating is a part of my unique neurological framework, and needs to be managed. Just as a diabetic manages their blood sugar, I must manage my food intake and environment. My brain loves to “take a hit”, and I was getting those hits from things like sugar and processed carbohydrates. Once I took those things away I found myself seeking out other avenues for the same effect, and thus far I’ve been successful in finding options that are personally rewarding without sending me out of control. Having young kids certainly doesn’t help any of this – screaming children raise cortisol levels, stress levels explode, and comfort food feels like the only solution at that moment.

I’m not going to attempt to explain in-depth the science behind Lustig’s claims, I would suggest you read the entire book if you’re interested in understanding his message, but I do want to touch on a few points that I found noteworthy.

The first is the myth that sugar is nothing but empty calories. I used to take advantage of this notion all the time, eating entire bags of gummi bears at once (a favorite of mine since I was a toddler, as evidenced by the photo above). Sugar is both a carbohydrate and a fat. Sucrose (commonly known as table sugar) is half glucose and half fructose. Fructose makes things sweet, but it causes chronic metabolic disease because it is metabolized as a fat in the liver. Glucose is metabolized as a carbohydrate. There is a lot of talk today about natural sugars versus processed sugars, and I have often heard people say that they avoid white sugar or high-fructose corn syrup but love to eat honey or agave nectar. After reading Fat Chance I now believe any type of added sweetener to be a problem. The fructose makes foods desirable and delicious, but outside of the usual fiber-filled context (like fruit) makes us fat.

In an interview with Diane Rehm there is an anecdote told by Lustig that illustrates this concept of natural context very well.

We actually did an experiment, my colleague Cindy Gershen in Walnut Creek, California, in her food science class. Took two students, gave one student six oranges and said, here, make juice. The kid makes orange juice out of the six oranges, a little over 12 ounces, drinks the whole thing down and says, okay, what’s for breakfast.

The other kid, we say, okay, here are six oranges. Eat the six oranges. By the time the kid gets to orange number four, the kid throws up and says, I couldn’t possibly eat another bite. Why? Very simple, it’s called fiber. Because the fiber is the thing that mitigates the negative effects of the fructose in fruit. Why? Number one, it delivers more of the nutrient downstream in the intestines so that the bacteria in the intestine can chew it up instead of you. So you don’t absorb all of it.Number two, it gives you the satiety signal sooner, because it delivers that to the end of the intestine faster, and number three, the fiber forms a barrier on the inside of the intestine, preventing the sugar from being absorbed so fast so your liver has a chance to catch up.

Orange juice is calorie for calorie worse for you than soda. There are 1.8 grams fructose/ounce for juice and 1.7 grams fructose/ounce for soda. Lustig comes out swinging for juice in the first chapter of his book telling the story of a little boy he treated:

Juan, a 100 lb. six-year old Latino boy whose mother is a non-English-speaking farm worker from Salinas, California, comes to my clinic in 2003. He is wider than he is tall. I ask the mother in my broken Spanish, “I don’t care what your kid eats, tell me what he drinks.” No soda, but a gallon of orange juice per day. On calories alone, this amount accounts for 112 lbs/yr of body fat. of course, some of that is burned off, and it might influence total food intake. I explain to the mother, “La frutta es bueno, el jugos es malo (the fruit is good, the juice is bad). Eat the fruit, don’t drink the juice.” source

The vehicle is irrelevant, it’s the payload that matters (it doesn’t matter were you are getting your fructose from, whether it’s HFCS, sugar cane, etc). One of my favorite quotes from Lustig is “Evolutionarily, sugar was available to our ancestors as fruit for only a few months a year (at harvest time), or as honey, which was guarded by bees. But in recent years, sugar has been added to nearly all processed foods, limiting consumer choice. Nature made sugar hard to get; man made it easy.

The key is fiber, and most food processing removes fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel in the stomach which slows digestion, limiting the absorption of things like starch and sugar.  Insoluble fiber is a natural laxative that speeds up the passage of foods. (source) Can you see how an apple becomes the perfect package, with the sweetness of fructose to please your tongue but the power of fiber to speed up the passage of the sugar through your system and prevent some of the fructose from being metabolized as fat in the liver? Once you juice that apple and throw away the fiber you’re left with dessert. Another quote that helped me understand this concept came from an interview Lustig did with KQED forum:

Processed food is fiberless food. That’s basically what it comes down to. Processed food means that you’ve got to take the fiber out for shelf-life. And there are two kinds of fiber. There’s soluble fiber: which is the kind of stuff that holds jelly together, and pectins, and things like that. And then there’s the insoluble fiber: the stringy stuff, like, you know, cellulose, like what you see in celery. You need both. What I describe in the book is like it’s kind of like your hair-catcher in your bathtub drain. Um, you have this plastic lattice work with holes in it. So, if you take a shower and the hair is coming down, it blocks up the holes, but only if the hair catcher is there. So, imagine that the cellulose is the hair-catcher, and imagine the hair is the soluble fiber, blocking up the little holes. When they’re both there, it forms a barrier on the inside of your intestine.

You actually can see it during electron microscopy, that it’s a secondary barrier that reduces the rate of absorption of nutrients from the gut, into the bloodstream. And what that does is that it actually keeps the liver safe, because it reduces the rate at which the liver has to metabolize, the stuff. And if you overload the liver, what it does is it has no choice but to turn extra energy into liver fat. And that’s what drives this whole process. Is the process of liver fat accumulation, and the thing that does that the worst is sugar, especially when it’s not teamed up with fiber.

One of my favorite sections in the book is toward the end where he reviews a few of the diet plans popular at present, detailing why he personally thinks they do and don’t work. His thoughts on paleo, which are that it is too difficult for most to stick with and too expensive to be a widespread solution, reflect the ideas I’ve been developing over time.

Lustig is very sensitive to the plight of the lower class and frequently acknowledges that eating healthy is expensive. Lustig not only acknowledges the circumstances in our society which promote the obesity epidemic but proposes solutions (experts in the area of public policy say that this ideas are simplistic, but I enjoyed thinking through his suggestions).  The problems preventing the disadvantaged from losing weight include how difficult it can be to exercise in some neighborhoods due to safety issues,  stress and cortisol levels driving people to overeat, and food availability. He argues that we do not have a free market because food companies, farmers, and the government already decide what is available to us and this disproportionately affects the poor because of their limited choices. Over and over he rejects the idea that people are fat because of gluttony and sloth. The obesity problem we face today is about so much more than a lack of willpower.

I’ve been practicing what Lustig preaches since I started working to lose the weight from my second baby and at 5-months post-partum I’ve hit my pre-baby weight. I gained 50 pounds during my second pregnancy, and consider 15lbs of that to be baby, placenta, and swelling, which leaves me saying that I’ve worked off 30 lbs in four months. With my first child, losing the baby weight took me over a year. Next week I’ll show my progress pictures and talk more about specific things I’ve been doing to lose weight, but the simple answer is sugar addiction. I kicked my sugar addiction and feel like I’ve found the key to losing my baby weight for good.

*To read more on the history of the lipid hypothesis I suggest Why We Get Fat or Good Calories, Bad Calories.

**This, specifically, is the fat he is referring to when he says he will be surprised if you are able to “lose weight and keep it off for a year”.

55 Comments


  1. And this is why ever since I read my mother in law’s old copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, and actually started eating low carb, I believe everything that he says and Lustig is only backing it up. I am a food addict, too. I have had success losing on atkins but then I fall off the wagon and start binge eating again. I’ve been eating well for the last four weeks and have lost 23 pounds as of today. I am NEVER hungry. And i’m not even eating that much. I think about Weight Watchers and how I was nearly always ravenous and feeling like everything was restricted. Eating this low carb, no sugar way has seriously changed my life. You can eat some fat and protein and feel 100% satisfied for hours, or you can eat something high in sugar and/or carbs and be hungry again in 10 minutes. I wish people would stop saying that Atkins was “dangerous” and that it would cause heart disease. in my opinion, it’s all this processed crap and the presence of sugar in EVERYTHING that is making everyone sick. Only when it comes to discussing low-carb diets do people seem to forget that sugar ALSO raises cholesterol levels.

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  2. For me – it was reading the South Beach book back in 2004 and realizing how much sugar we intake, especially in juice! I remember as a kid – drinking 2-3 glasses of orange juice in one sitting!

    Anyway, just requested Fat Chance through my library – thanks for the rec!

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  3. Jenna … this is fascinating. So – let me ask you this: are the Paleo people right? Is it eating natural foods in natural “forms” the way to be healthy? I am anxious to see what you have been eating on a daily basis. And, pardon the intrusion, are you still nursing or pumping?

    Thanks!!!

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  4. This is so interesting! I just watched a documentary called “Fathead” the other day that pretty much disputes the way that Americans are taught to lose weight. I will add Fat Chance to,y wishlist!

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  5. Interesting. I’m looking forward to more about what and how you’ve been eating lately, as well.

    I’m very gradually working to cut processed sugar out of my everyday diet, in large part because I won’t feed the stuff to my son. I think I was fairly mindless about food before I became a parent, but now I’m more interested in feeding the whole family well.

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  6. Lindsay says:

    Thank you so much for posting! I’ve been a long time lurker and have to say watching you grow and change has been inspirational. I am a ftm of an 8 mo and I strongly believe that a life without processed sugars (or very limited amounts) is the best one you can lead. I can’t wait to read this book and am adding it to my growing list that contains “Cooked”, “Omnivores Dilema”, “Good Fat, Bad Fat”, “Fat, Salt and Sugar” and “In Defense of Food”. If only this knowledge were more widespread and easily understood. I am hoping and trying to work towards a change in the food industry but find it discouraging when I see how expensive it actually is to put good real food on our table. Have you read the blog “100 Days of Real Food”? Amazing! I highly recommend it :)

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  7. I completely agree that it is sugar makes people put on and keep on weight. I used to live in China and when I moved there I was overweight and within 4 months I lost 50lbs without even trying. Their food is very high in fats and oils but very low in sugar. Sweets are rarely eaten and most of the sweet things that you can get are terrible tasting. I think they just don’t know how to make chocolate, candies etc because it’s not part of their culture. The only things that are really avaliable for snacks are fruit, nuts and seeds. Cutting out sugars is definately the way to lose weight.
    Congratulations on you weight loss! It’s hard but worth it!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I’ll agree with this. I just got back from living in SE Asia for four months. I lost 10 pounds there and felt my best ever from eating Asian foods. I came back to America and in one month I’ve already gained it all back. We have too much junk food, processed frozen foods, sugary foods, and butter here. I barely had any of these things my four months in Asia. The American diet is rough.

    I do worry for Asia. They are like America of the 90′s right now – super sizes are popular and every 7/11 sells tons of sugary drinks and big gulps. I think they may end up like us and have an obesity epidemic in a few years.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I also want to add that portions have a lot to do with it too. Portions are way smaller in Asia. You never have leftovers like you do here when you go to restaurants.

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    Zoe Reply:

    haha, this is true…I am Chinese and I really haven’t found a Chinese dessert that I’ve liked. Like you said, it’s like they don’t know how to “do” desserts.

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  8. Amen! I had the hardest time losing weight until I finally looked into low-carb living. I cut out grains, potatoes, sugar, and even sugary fruits like watermelon. (Which work for some people but not for me.) I’ve steadily lost 2 pounds/week and, like other posters have said, I’m NEVER hungry. And I do enjoy what I eat: lots of salads, fresh vegetables, salmon, steaks, berries, fats, cheese…and one cupcake once a week. :)

    The thing I love about this is that, before, I would binge eat at times, even when I wasn’t even enjoying the food. I thought there was something deeply flawed about me, like I must be really weak willed. But now I know there’s just something about my body (likely insulin resistance) that just can’t stop eating starches or sugars. So I don’t keep those things around at all, and what do you know? I’ve yet to binge eat steak or broccoli.

    If I hear one more (usually thin) person say, “It’s simple calories in versus calories out” I will whack them with a carrot. That’s so wrong, and telling overweight people to “eat less, exercise more” is oversimplifying things.

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    Jenna Reply:

    Yes yes yes yes. All the things, yes.

    For so long I thought there was something deeply wrong with me, an incredible lack of willpower, and it was very disheartening. Now that I’ve stopped believing in eat less exercise more I am much happier (and like you, I eat a lot less without even trying).

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    Ellie Reply:

    How did you cut sugar without an incredible lack of willpower? I’ve been trying and failing to reduce my sugar intake.

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    Jenna Reply:

    I’ll add that to my weight loss post

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    Sara Reply:

    OMG hurry hurry. I am addicted to sugar in the worst way, and if you have tips I NEED THEM!!!

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  9. I must read this! As a social worker in an urban setting, I’m finding that I’m becoming really passionate about the relationship of poverty+nutrition. So, so many people stereotype low-income, overweight individuals. And our system is failing that exact group of people!!! From a top-down, systemic standpoint- there is so much change that needs to be made!!! (steps off soapbox) =)

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  10. My hubby has been saying this for a very long time. He had a crazy weightloss mainly due to running, cycling, hockey several times a week. Along the way he really looked into nutrition and recently has come upon similar research saying all calories are not equal. Which has always been my weightloss standby ie what you consume, must be worked off etc.

    I’ll have to pick up a copy of this book for him.

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  11. Thanks for the recommendation; I love books like this.

    My one beef is that it isn’t really that expensive to eat healthy food (we do it for less than $400/mo. with a family a five, which is far less money than food stamps would give us, for example). The difference is in education and know-how. People who don’t know how to garden may not realize the different qualities of produce available to them. People who have been raised on fast food are going to stick with fast food until they’re shown differently. I include the frozen meal type thing here in addition to fast food restaurants. Additives = bad!

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    Jenna Reply:

    I agree that eating healthy/organic/seasonal (whatever your thing is) can be economical, but there are three key things that need to be addressed – preferences for diet, working parents, and education. I’m on my phone so this will be brief but…

    I personally feel that a low-carb diet is essential for me to lose weight. If I want to buy humane/organic meat/dairy the cost of food skyrockets. Most diets I’ve seen that talk about eating healthy for little money don’t focus on humane/organic meat and use lots of grains/carbs.

    Having two working parents also complicates things. If all lunches need to be packed, everyone needs to be out the door early in the morning, and parents are both coming home at 5 and trying to have the kids in bed at 7, eating a diet entirely made up of self-made minimally-processed foods is much more difficult.

    And last, education. There are a lot of competing claims out there. Just last week a relative told me she was drinking pineapple juice to reduce inflammation. Lustig actually talks about the Latino boy I mentioned above and says that the encounter with the boy was his inspiration for the book because the mom pointed out that WIC provides juice to them. The poor rely on government programs to guide their nutrition, and government programs are still saying kids should be drinking juice and fat free milk (I say whole milk and no juice). Not only do we as a general public have to figure out what our approach and agree on it, but we have to have good ways to enforce those messages.

    I fall under the “sugar is addictive and should be approached like nicotine” camp though. I say ban added sugar from schools entirely. Especially elementary schools. Added sugar is not a nutrient.

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    Kristin ~ Bien Living Design Reply:

    I agree that education is HUGE and is the best way to fight the obesity epidemic. But how do we do it?? It’s so sad :(

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    Ellie Reply:

    Access to fresh produce is also a huge challenge. Here in the heart of Baltimore, most of the grocery stores that are available to the low-income population are full of produce that is already rotten by the time you get it home. Of course people aren’t going to waste money on food that is already bad! You’ve also got people whose lives are so difficult – I mean, forget having fresh produce, there are people who do not have a working stove or access to a kitchen or refrigerator. It’s not just a matter of education, although that’s an important part of it. But for people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, making sure it’s local and humane and vegetable filled enough is just not a priority. I want to ask my clients about this but do it in a way that isn’t like, “so you’re poor. What’s it like living on $1200 a month for a family of 3? What do you eat for dinner?”

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    Jenna Reply:

    Here here. Talking about food deserts is really crucial as well.

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    Jenna Reply:

    Oh shoot, is it hear hear? I am not sure about it and I feel sad about that.

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  12. Interesting. I literally JUST read this article that popped into my email and discusses some of the exact same things. It goes into more of the problems with government subsidies too. I’ll add Fat Chance to my Goodreads!

    http://www.hungryforchange.tv/article/how-turning-the-food-pyramid-on-its-head-can-help-you-lose-weight

    Full disclosure, I am eating my 6th serving of fresh, summer fruit today, and it’s only noon. I love fruit! I cannot imagine how it could have a negative effect on my body, but I guess everything in moderation… I could agree that 8 servings of fruit per day is not great moderation ;)

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  13. I totally agree. I discovered 5HTP when I realized that I had naturally low seratonin. Seratonin is created in your stomach and mostly created by carbs. Since my body doesn’t produce a huge amount, I would get super cranky without carbs/sugars.

    When I started taking 5htp I lost 15 pounds quickly just because my sugar/carb craving went away.

    It hasn’t been proven safe for breastfeeding or pregnancy, so for the last three years (and next one year) I’m stuck without it, but it is a great resource if you are trying to kick sugar.

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  14. I commented on your Facebook page but I feel I need to say it again: be careful.

    I agree to an extent with regarding fats etc – however I no longer believe that fructose is evil. I did super well with low carb for two years and then it all fell apart for me. I was binging, I was gaining and losing, I was waking up in the night with heart palpitations and constantly had a low body temperature in addition to being moody, anxious and stressed. I added some potatoes and fruits back into my diet and I am doing so, so much better now.

    There’s mounting evidence that removing fructose altogether is not ideal and can actually mess with metabolism – particularly the performance of the thyroid. The amazing feeling and whoosh of weight lost has been put down to an adrenaline/cortisol response that makes it very difficult for the body to lose weight again if it is regained (in my case thanks to medication and a life event that I responded to by eating all the things). I did great with low carb at first, for years, but when it became untenable for me to continue with it the results were kind of disastrous.

    I am not convinced that we need low fat or that we need grains – but I am no longer convinced that fructose is the problem. Added sugar is one thing, but a ban on apples and nectarines and peaches? I just can’t support that any more based on my own experiences and extensive reading.

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    Jenna Reply:

    I talked about this on my Facebook page, but I haven’t seen Lustig advocate for the removal of fructose from our diets. The problem is *added fructose* out of context. I was actually surprised when he spoke about an Indian family who ate a lot of white rice and naan and said that he didn’t think the white flours were especially uproblematic. I have always wondered why cultures with lots of white rice or white flour aren’t obese like we are. In: the typical breakfast is white bread, sausage, tomatoes. My interpretation of Lustig’s argument is that the problem is the removal of fiber combined with added fructose. Eat fruit seasonally, treat honey as a very rare fruit. But I’ve never seen him argue that you can’t ever have any.

    I eat low-carb, but I don’t eat no carb. For me that means not allowing wheat (it’s a trigger food for me) and making potatoes or rice a very small side portion of my meal instead of the foundation. Extreme carb limitation would never be sustainable for me.

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    Hannah Reply:

    I totally see what you are saying and in all fairness I haven’t read the book and have mostly read excerpts and responses to his work. I think my issue is the way that his message (what I have read of it) is presented in such a way that it is easily interpreted as ‘eat fruit, get fat’. I feel as though all fructose is thrown in with processed, high fructose corn syrups etc when the fact is that they’re entirely different beasts.

    I guess I now see it as throwing the baby out with the bathwater – something I did for years and, in my opinion, to my detriment so I can become a bit impassioned in my defence of fruit, haha :)

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    Steph Reply:

    I totally agree with this… I eat a relatively low-grain diet but I’ve never been able to sustain an extreme low-carb diet. What has seemed to work for me is taking out grains as the building block of my meals and eating just a small side amount of rice or quinoa or something on occasion. I hit the fruits pretty hard, too, without a problem, so the fiber argument makes sense to me. What has really helped me, too, is realizing that healthy fats are good, because avoiding both carbs and fats is just too difficult to sustain long-term. Thanks for the post, Jenna!

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  15. The story about the oranges is fascinating! I’ve never understood feeding toddlers and kids juice regularly. Would I feed him a pixie stick every day? no. Then why would I feed him juice? or soda for that matter? Sounds like you’re doing great but I would be interested to hear where you’re at now in terms of meat eating. For a while you were nearly vegetarian and then you seemed to have gone in the other direction. I’m curious not only from the “diet” standpoint but in terms of your ideas about the environment etc. Also curious to know how TH feels about this as someone who doesn’t really need the weight loss component. Such an interesting topic!

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  16. I’m a major sugar addict, and I know I need to cut it out but I have virtually zero willpower. I’m currently at the end of my rope searching for a job right now, and after being turned down today (again) in favor of someone with more experience, I came home and ate my feelings in raw cookie dough. How do you find the motivation to stay away from sugar?

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    Steph Reply:

    Sorry to hear about the job, that sounds like stressful news.

    In my own personal experience, losing my sugar habit wasn’t about motivation but about making it easy to avoid sugar… For me, going cold turkey on pure refined sugars 98% of the time was really important for about three months to get over it. I’m not sure it works for everyone, but that was my experience – I think it has something to do with cooling down the addiction pathways in your brain. I certainly have food binges now and again – but it’s strawberries instead of cookies – and I can have 1-2 cookies or 2 pieces of cake and not keep jonesing continuously for more.

    So how to make it easier for yourself?

    (1) Bring sugar-snack alternatives into the house, and eat well during the day.

    I think we all stress eat to some extent, but my approach has not been to fight it but to go with it. You can’t deprive yourself and win the battle. Find low-sugar, whole alternatives that you love to snack on. For me, it’s berries, oranges, Larabars, coconut milk smoothies, baker’s chocolate (bitter but emotionally satisfying for me), nuts, almond flour baked goods made with minimal honey. I really like coco milk especially because it has a hint of sweetness and the fat is really satisfying. (Native Forest is a great brand of coconut milk, their cans are BPA-free.) I adore banana smoothies and that helped me a lot – some people argue they are too high in sugar and blending breaks down the fruit fiber too much, but it works for me. I also just love berries ! And if I eat a quart of them, I don’t beat myself up.

    I also notice that the times I do lapse are when I’ve skipped a meal, I’m flagging on energy, and don’t have healthy food on hand – so planning meals ahead is also very important…

    (2) Get the sugar (*gulp*) out of the house!

    For me, environment is huge. In the beginning I could only avoid refined sugar if I simply didn’t have it in the house, and didn’t bake / cook with it. When we’re stressed and looking for something to eat, those addiction pathways in the brain are already hot. So if you have the sugar around – in the form of cookie dough or anything else – the battle’s a lot harder. It’s not a matter of discipline, because that sort of “hot” temptation is going to overwhelm almost anyone.

    Depending on your personal situation – husband, kids, roommates, etc, getting sugar out of the house or out of reach might be tough but I do think it’s crucial.

    (3) Read labels.

    The only way to get sugar out of the house is to control the shopping and read labels – don’t buy *anything* with sugar in it. You’d be shocked – it’s in everything (tomato sauce, etc)! Take advantage of the fact that when you go shopping, those pathways aren’t as hot, so it’s a lot easier to avoid the temptation.

    (4) Don’t deprive yourself!

    We already talked about the importance of finding alternative snacks you love, but in general I think we have this idea that we fail because of lack of self-discipline. I think that’s kind of damaging, because in my experience, the more self-discipline is tested, the more it fails you. So I think it’s important to avoid the whole temptation-failure cycle to begin with and not allow yourself to feel too deprived.

    For example, if you have special occasions where dessert will be served, be prepared and bring an alternative low-sugar treat or baked good …

    It’s definitely not easy but it’s not about perfection, either… I think it’s taken me about a year to finally feel I’ve shaken the sugar thing :) The start of my journey was a book on the topic of overeating and sugar addiction called “The End of Overeating”. It’s a little repetitive but it helped me to understand some things about myself…

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    Jenna Reply:

    Can we be best friends? I could have written so much of this. I am on my phone, and can’t see your response anymore, so won’t reply to everything specifically. But, a big huge yes to controlling your environment. And giving yourself a large window of time to get over what I consider to be the sugar addiction. I will talk in my post next week about how I needed to replace my old sugar hit with something else, which I guess coinciding with my departure from Mormonism became wine and coffee. Telling myself I can have a glass of wine as I get ready for bed is usually enough to help me make it through the day without indulging.

    When it comes to sweets now, I still eat them as I allow myself to indulge once a week, But I’m much more selective about what I eat and, unlike before I will pass things up if they don’t need my personal standard for what I want to eat. For example, we were at my grandmas house on Sunday and she was making ice cream in the ice cream machine using crank. Normally I would have had a huge bowl telling myself that it was a special occasion, but I decided to look at the starter she was using to make ice cream with and noticed that it was made with corn syrup and some other things that don’t really interest me. I decided that if I wanted to have ice cream it would be something that is made fresh, completely from scratch. And I sat around talking to my family members eating big bowls of ice cream and didn’t feel deprived at all. Weaning myself off of the sugar addiction has allowed me to be much more mindful and deliberate about my indulgences then I ever was before. It helps that I am a bit of a food snob as well. :)

    We went to Portland For a romantic getaway, and I find out all of my indulgences beforehand. I was able to go on vacation, enjoy myself, and come back without feeling gross and out-of-control. It wasn’t perfect, but it was so much better than before.

    I dictated this on my phone using Siri so I hope it makes sense. I wish we were next or neighbors so I could come hang out at your house all day knowing that you wouldn’t be baking cupcakes every time tempting me and driving me crazy.

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    Colleen Reply:

    Not trying to be argumentative, but how is drinking wine any different from drinking juice?

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    Jenna Reply:

    There isn’t much of a difference, both are indulgences! (Though the mediterranean diet study that came out this year suggests averaging 7 glasses of wine/week can be very good for you).I personally would not find 4 oz of any kind of fruit juice as satisfying as an equivalent amount of wine.

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    ariella Reply:

    Something I do that really helps is rearranging my fridge and cabinets so the food I see first is the food that’s good for me. I put dips and spreads in the produce drawers instead and fill the shelves with fresh produce. Put the small amount of sweets you keep around on high shelves amd behind other foods. For me, I eat the worst when I haven’t planned and I’m hungry and rushing. If the first things you see are good foods you’ll reach for those instead.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I love this Ariella! What a great technique.

    Reply

    ariella Reply:

    Last thing :)
    Everyone talks about not depriving yourself and treating yourself to indulgences, but they always mean indulging in food. For me that doesn’t work because if I eat a little I want to eat a lot. And then you’re still treating food as a reward and bad food is this special awesome stuff you get to eat when you deserve it. You need to find something about the process that you enjoy and treat that as your indulgence. If you love music, download one new song before each workout and make that the thing you look forward to. Jenna has mentioned that she uses a reward system when she loses pounds, and that’s an awesome way to focus your mental energy on something positive and non food related that is about giving to yourself. I LOVE working out, it does awesome things for my mental health and I love pushing my body to do things I didn’t think it could. On days I don’t work out it’s hard for me to stay focused on eating well, because that motivational point of my day is gone. Food for me is only valuable in that it affects my workout. You need to find that thing that your food and exercise affects and make that your center.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I also find that eating “just a little” and then not obsessing over another bite is extraordinarily difficult (though I’ve been practicing pushing my dessert away when a realize that I take a bite and it’s no longer as good as the first bite, and I think maybe it’s a skill I can develop?).

    I’m not sure I can write a post about it without sounding like an ass – but I kind of want to address how much easier weight loss is when you have disposable income. I have set some rather extravagant rewards for myself, I can join a gym, I can buy food that feels indulgent without being unhealthy (smoked salmon), I can arrange childcare, I can buy new clothes when I shrink out of old ones and as a reward for meeting my goals (though I thrift mine which makes me happy on several levels).

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  17. I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t need to lose weight, but I do want to eat healthier! I am a carb & sugar addict, mainly in the form of cereal! It’s sick. If I don’t watch myself, I will eat an entire box of Frosted Mini Wheats in a day! Same goes for OJ, which is why I don’t buy it anymore – I drink and drink it until it’s gone and then feel like crap :(

    I think I’ll download the book for my husband and I both to read – thanks for the review!

    Reply

    Ellie Reply:

    They do not put enough mini-wheats in the box. It’s not you, it’s Kelloggs.

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  18. I understand what you’re saying. I just can’t help but wonder if there is a better way to be healthy, one that is long term and would be more successful, than what’s being proposed by this author.

    I over eat and I love sugar. So I’d say that I am a food addict and sugar addict.

    I haven’t read the book but from what I’m reading here, the solution seems to be “Just stop” and you’ll lose weight, feel better, be healthier, fit into those jeans..whatever. It may be hard but you should “Just stop.”

    I wonder about this with my own life too. Is it really the sugar that’s the problem, or me?

    And if it is me, how do I deal with that in a healthy holistic way? Is it enough to “just stop” or would it be more helpful to figure out a way to live in a world that is both satisfying and healthy to my pallete and my emotional well being?

    I would argue that if you call yourself, or anyone really, a food/sugar/whatever addict that stopping is a short term solution.

    I would suggest that we sugar addicts take a harder look at ourselves and figure out why they have this not so great relationship with food and/or sugar- because when we are able to really look at ourselves and deal with whatever is driving the addction, only then will we beat it.

    To just stop works for some. I know this. I also anticipate people saying “Well I knew Becky’s mom Jane who quit ___ and never looked back!”- and that’s TRUE, but people like that are the exception, not the rule.

    The majority of us can stop for a while and then something derails us.

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  19. Okay, first of all, fructose is not a fat. Plain and simple. Nor is it metabolized as a fat. It is converted to glycogen (long term carbohydrate storage). Once your glycogen stores are full, then excess fructose is converted to triglycerides (this is where the fats come in). But hey, guess what? Excess glucose is converted into glycogen too when you have more than you need, and can also be converted into triglycerides.

    Your body needs carbohydrates. The oxidation of glucose is what drives the formation of ATP. For anyone who hasn’t taken college level biology or chemistry, ATP is what are body uses to do work. With out carbohydrates, there is no ATP. Without ATP, you die. Except the humane body is smart and has a back up plan in case there isn’t ATP. It’s called Ketosis, and it’s what happens when you eat a low carb diet and glycogen stores are diminished. Ketosis should not happen. Your body is basically in starvation mode, but who cares as long as you’re losing weight, right? Oh, and you know what your body produces as a by product of ketosis? Acetone. Yeah, that stuff you use to take nail polish off.

    Fructose is not the cause of the obesity epidemic, nor is fat. Eating more calories than you burn is, plain and simple. Eat a balanced diet (which, by the way, current recommendations for the average person are approximately 15% calories from protein, 55% calories from carbs and 30% fat) high in fiber, low in saturated/trans fats, low in process foods, and get some physical activity in every day, and you’ll be fine. There is not need for fear mongering because of an study with no experimental controls with a sample size of two.

    Reply

    Andie Reply:

    This is the truth. She is explaining the biochemistry. Fructose and glucose are not fats, they are carbohydrates!

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  20. For starters, I think you’re misunderstanding what “empty calories” are…Sugars are empty calories due to their lack of nutritional value. There’s no myth about that.

    And to reiterate what Caitlyn said, sugars are not fat however if you don’t use the sugar you consume as energy, it is converted to fat. So yes, added sugars are detrimental in the sense that if you are consuming a balanced diet, your energy is coming from a few different sources in the form of (all forms of) carbs, fat, and protein and isn’t in need of the extra added sugar, which in turn gets stored as fat.

    I also agree with what Caitlyn said in that fructose (or sugar in general) is not the cause of obesity alone. Eating more calories than you burn is the reason why people gain weight. This is a hypothetical (and extreme and unhealthy) scenario, but if a person were to ONLY eat fruits and juices in say the amount of 1000 calories a day, and worked out for 2+ hours a day burning 1200-1500 calories a day, guess what? They’re going to lose weight. They’re using the calories they ate from their juices and fruits to fuel most of their workout, and then their body needs to take stored fat and convert it to ATP to fuel the rest of their workout.

    You’re complicating a super simple concept by over analyzing it.

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  21. I am now losing weight (down 32 pounds since April), not as a biproduct of a low-carb diet, exercising every day, etc. but just by reducing portions to the sizes they should be. I felt like I was starving for a couple of weeks. Then I started feeling full after small meals. I have more energy, I look better, and I’m in a better mood. I still eat refined sugars and flours even though most of the time I go for whole grain and unprocessed foods. I love food and I’m not going to deny myself coffee ice cream or garlic bread just because refined carbs “make people fat”. I eat a small amount of the crap foods because I balance everything else out. It really is just a matter of calories in, calories out.

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  22. Hi Jenna,
    Have you considered reading It Starts with Food and doing a Whole30 diet? My husband and I just did a Whole30 in order to break the sugar carb dragon and realign what our body needs for energy.

    The basic idea is: 30 days, no alcohol, no sugar (not even naturals like honey or maple syrup), no processed foods, no legumes, no dairy, no grains (including corn), no soy.

    It was challenging, but since we were doing it together we had great results. We had to plan out each meal of each week and our grocery budget shot up from $50/week for three people to over $100/week, even though we were no longer buying alcohol, and even though we have a side of beef in the freezer.

    It’s one of the most amazing things we’ve ever done. Besides the weight loss that occurred, our bodies became so much healthier. The idea is that you close your leaky gut and quell your body’s inflammations and it healthy again, and then you can add back in foods and see how your body does. Seriously, you don’t really realize that soy makes your knees ache until you remove most of the other variables, or that dairy makes your tummy cramp up. You think you feel just fine, and then you learn that you could feel way better.

    Our two year old took the ride with us. She doesn’t drink dairy anyway, and we kept her yogurt and cheese, but otherwise she ate what we ate.

    But THE MOST AMAZING THING was not being controlled by sugar. I really didn’t need something sweet after dinner/lunch after the first two weeks (the first two weeks I had a date or two after meals for the sweetness). A small handful of cashews would carry me through to the next meal. A full breakfast of eggs and greens and meat would keep me full all the way to a late lunch.

    We feel amazing, and instead of eating boring food, we ate really well. I found awesome Whole30 compliant recipes online.

    And RE: some comments above–yes, the body does need carbs. It needs fruits and veggies, which have PLENTY of carbs in them.

    Anyway, just our experience doing something completely out of the norm that actually worked.
    Cheers,
    Kate

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I tried to start Whole30 last June – unfortunately I started experiencing morning sickness the same week I started and it was NOT a good experience. Pregnancy meat aversion isn’t conducive to a successful Whole30 run :)

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  23. Hey Jenna, are you attending/have you considered OA (over eaters anonymous) meetings? I see a lot of my mother’s journey with weight loss in your own, and she has struggled with a lifetime of an unhealthy relationship with food. However for the past six years or so she has kept her weight at a stable and healthy number, and while she is very active and avoids sugar entirely as part of dealing with her sugar addiction she gives most of the credit to her success to her daily OA meetings (she is a sponsor now as well as a member — it’s the same system as AA or NA or SA).

    She writes a blog about food addiction and I’d be happy to send it to you or put you in touch with her if you are interested in incorporating OA meetings into your journey to healthy and happy :)

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I’d love to see her blog!

    I’ve considered OA based on positive reviews I’ve heard, but traveling husband+young children makes that kind of thing difficult. Right now I’m in a good place, but it’s nice to hear a positive recommendation for a place I can go if I’m feeling like I need something more.

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  24. I have to agree with Jeanna that you seem to think the phrase “empty calories” means “has no calories” or maybe “the calories don’t count”. Empty calories means calories that you take in that provide no nutrition. When you’re trying to lose fat, then you can’t afford to consume calories that don’t have any nutritional value – every calorie you eat has to count for something.

    Also, no fructose is not a fat. Caitlyn’s explanation is spot on.

    I see a lot of people who read a book on weight loss and eating and immediately that book is OMG THE GREATEST THING EVER AND RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING. Until the next book comes along and that book is OMG THE GREATEST THING EVER … etc. Don’t get sucked into that. Read a lot and use your common sense and some research to see what is consistent across multiple sources (and is not Internet rumor).

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  25. I’m a little confused. How would one “take advantage” of empty calories? They are still calories; they just don’t have much nutritional value.

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  26. I’ve gone in and out of eating a lower-carb lifestyle and I’m always happier when I get “into it.” I find it takes me a serious two weeks of cutting out all sugar and processed carbs to stop craving it as much. Those first two weeks are the hardest because you feel physically bereft when you can’t get the foods you crave. I promise to all those out there: listen to Jenna and treat it like a nicotine addiction! Here’s what works for me–if I’m going to eat carbs, I eat them at breakfast- steel cut oats made with almond milk (tastes a bit sweet) and some cinnamon. For the rest of the day, I only eat “slow carbs” such as beans and lentils. I love to cut up half a sweet potato in the shape of fries, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 400 until browned. I dip them in half an avocado mashed up with lemon and salt. I like stir fry without the rice (sprinkle with chopped nuts and a squeeze of lime), crustless quiche, and this slow cooker recipe from the NYT http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/06/30/magazine/bittman-slow-cooker.html.

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  27. This is fascinating – thanks for sharing this! I moved to Europe from the US about ten years ago, and I see such a huge difference in the eating habits (though admittedly, that’s changing). I went with the flow when I moved here, and naturally starting adapting my ways to the normal diet here, but that slowly brought on more awareness of what and how I eat.

    When I go back home I’m just shocked at what I see (and eat). I can only process it through my own experience of course, and for me that means just a complete lack of attention to the process of eating. It’s just so automatic.

    Anyway, I would be curious to hear about TH’s take on food, especially when you’ve been to visit his family. Do you notice a difference between his habits in the US and habits there?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I feel like the Polish diet is a lot simpler. Bread/sausage/sandwiches/eggs for breakfast. A mid-morning snack (I have actually never had this because I never get up early enough to eat it with them, haha, I just have breakfast). Lunch is leftovers, and dinner is either frozen things heated up in the microwave (they’ve become industrialized like the rest of us!) or potatoes/beef/fish etc.

    The American diet is overwhelming! We don’t really have a cultural heritage that’s our own, so we’re constantly trying to settle into a routine that is a hodge podge of different cultures and countries.

    Or maybe I just think they have a nice routine because I’m staying with people who are over 50 who have established habits? I’ve never spent several meals with my SIL so I’m not sure what she does.

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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