October 25, 2009
Next year, in an effort to help people learn from the nutrition, exercise and lifestyle mistakes of others, I'll be releasing a new book called “How To Get Fat”, in which I will tell you exactly how to get fat. Here's a preview. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think (after all, you don't want me to write a book with material that you won't read!)
An Excerpt from the Chapter “Fat People Diet”:
Here is a recent food and drink log from Brian, a client of mine who not only suffers from obesity, but also constant joint pains and aches, insomnia, mood swings, and chronic fatigue:
8am: Ensure (bottled nutrition smoothie)
10am: Apple with diet energy drink
noon: Tuna sandwich with fat-free apple chips
2pm: Diet Coke
4pm: Powerbar protein bar
6pm: Nutrisystem “hearty beef stew”
7pm: Diet Coke
In employing my services as a nutrition counselor, Brian had one burning question: “How can I still be fat when I am on such a strict diet?”
Indeed, how can it be that a human body can consume bottled drinks and packaged foods that have been specifically designed to eliminate calories and support complete nutrition, and yet that same human body can simultaneously experience bloating, fatigue, rapid weight gain and a host of serious health issues?
Let’s begin by inspecting the actual ingredients of Brian’s “diet” foods.
The front label of the Ensure nutrition smoothie says ‘Complete, balanced nutrition to help stay healthy, active and energetic.', with a large upper label that claims, ‘No. 1 Doctor-recommended.'
When you turn to the back of the bottle and inspect the ingredients label, you will find that the top four ingredients are: 1) water; 2) sugar; 3) corn syrup; 4) maltodextrin. Ignoring the fact that Brian is paying an incredibly high price for a product with a primary ingredient of “water”, let’s consider the other components of this nutrition smoothie: sugar.
Sugar is also known as sucrose, which is a processed and refined carbohydrate that has been linked in clinical studies to diabetes, depression, weight gain, obesity and various nutritional deficiencies. As if that weren’t enough, sugar is also a highly acidic compound that forces your body to balance the acid load by harvesting calcium, a non-acidic compound, from your bones. And therefore, you can add osteoporosis and low bone strength to the list of symptoms aggravated by the nutrition smoothie.
Perhaps the most serious threat that sugar poses to an overweight or obese individual is it’s hormonal effect on the pancreas and the liver. A high or consistent consumption of sugar can cause decreased insulin sensitivity, which is a precursor to adult onset diabetes and a frustrating inability to metabolize carbohydrates properly. These unused carbohydrates are eventually shuttled to the liver, where they are converted into fat, and marched to the waistline, hips, butt, and anywhere else you tend to store fat.
Perhaps at this point, you are wondering how Ensure came to “No. 1 Doctor-recommended!”. But then again, in the not too recent past, physicians used to promote cigarettes.
The third listed ingredient in Ensure is corn syrup. As you may already know, high fructose corn syrup is the primary sweetener in soft drinks, which is why dozens of studies have linked soda consumption to obesity. Like sucrose, corn syrup is a processed, refined carbohydrate that can decrease insulin sensitivity and can easily be converted into fat by the human body. And like sucrose, corn syrup is completely void of vitamins, minerals and Ensure’s primary advertised feature: “Nutrition”.
Maltodextrin is the fourth ingredient. Perhaps by now you may have guessed, but maltodextrin is also a processed and refined carbohydate. As a matter of fact, maltodextrin is utilized as an incredibly sweet and highly dense energy source by competitive cyclists, marathoners, and triathletes, who are burning 800-1000 calories per hour. Ironically, in this instance, maltodextrin is featured a supplement designed to reduce caloric intake.
The list of ingredients following maltodextrin are popular compounds that we find in many packaged nutrition drinks, including:
“Milk Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil, Soy Protein Concentrate, Corn Oil, Short-Chain Fructooligosaccharides, Whey Protein Concentrate, Magnesium Phosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, Soy Lecithin, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Salt (Sodium Chloride), Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Carrageenan, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Sodium Molybdate, Sodium Selenate, Potassium Iodide, Phylloquinone, Vitamin D3, and Cyanocobalamin.”
For anyone with food allergies or insensitivities that can cause bloating, fat fluctuations and other health issues discussed in Chapter 13, the presence of soy, whey, dairy and several other compounds in this ingredient laundry list can spell serious weight gain.
Interestingly, Ensure is owned by pharmaceutical giant Abbott Laboratories. You will learn more about the effect of “modern medicine” on the obesity epidemic in Chapter 24.
In sum, Brian’s expensive morning nutrition smoothie could be described as “sugar-water with added vitamins”, and he could achieve a similar effect by drinking a cheap can of soda and taking a generic multi-vitamin. So much for ‘complete, balanced nutrition’.
A couple hours after his Ensure breakfast, Brian then moves on to his mid-morning diet energy drink, which many popular energy drink manufacturers claim as “fat burners”, “thermogenics” and “dietary aids”. As a nutrition consultant, for the sake of my clients who are attempting to lose weight I have sometimes wished in the past that energy drinks did not exist. There are two reasons why.
First, there is a distinct danger of caffeine overdose and addiction. The average energy drink contains nearly 4 times the amount of caffeine found in commercial soda beverages and several of the more popular brands contain the caffeine equivalent of 14 Cokes. A 6-ounce cup of coffee has 80-150 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, but the caffeine content of energy drinks ranges from 50-500+ mg, with one popular energy drink “shot” topping out at 570mg, which gives you the equivalent of about three and a half cups of coffee with a single sip!
Why should this concern you? Because caffeine forces your adrenal glands to secrete enormous amounts of adrenaline and “energy” hormones, even when those glands are depleted. The result is a growing tolerance to the effects of caffeine, and eventual burn-out and severe adrenal depletion. This is accompanied by a feeling of increasing tiredness and a need for higher and higher amounts of caffeine to achieve an energy boost. Attempts at quitting the addiction can result in withdrawal symptoms such as severe headaches and complete loss of mental focus and function.
In addition, by inhibiting the activity of the vitamin folate, B12 and B6, high levels of caffeine may interfere with your body's ability to regulate two significant cardiovascular disease risk factors: homocysteine and cholesterol. By causing blood vessel constriction and increased risk of blood clots, the caffeine content in some energy drinks can literally be deadly for someone with high stress levels or high blood pressure. Finally, high levels of caffeine consumption have been associated with increased risk of stroke and arthritis, insomnia, heart palpitations, tremors, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, chest pain, and neurological symptoms!
If overweight or obesity is your concern, the most dangerous of these responses is the adrenal depletion, which can cause an eventual slowing of the metabolism and “stagnation” of weight loss.
The second reason to avoid energy drinks is due to the high sugar or artificial sweetener intake. One can of energy drink contains the equivalent of nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar! As you have already learned, this enormous amount of sugar causes your sensitive pancreas to create a literal flood of insulin in an attempt to manage all the extra glucose that ends up in the bloodstream. Some of this sugar may be used by the muscles, but usually only if you are exercising quite frequently. The remainder of the sugar is converted into fat by the liver. In addition, as a response to the surge in insulin, the body releases both epinephrine and cortisol from your adrenal glands (as if they weren't already stressed enough from the caffeine!). The result is quick swing in energy, followed by a subsequent crash, a severely compromised immune system, a surge of cell-damaging “free radicals”, thickened blood, weight gain and an eventual insensitivity to insulin, also know as type II diabetes.
But what about artificial sweeteners, such as those found in Brian’s ‘diet’ version of the energy drink? Don't they eliminate this problem? Unfortunately, research has shown that there is still a release of gastric hormones when you consume an artificial sweetener. This gives your brain a confusing message: that food is present, but that the food has no “calories”. Subsequently, you develop an appetite craving typically 30-60 minutes after consuming an artificially sweetened beverage.
In addition, these artificially sweetened chemicals (yes, chemicals!) such as aspartame (Nutrasweet), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame potassium, and sugar alcohols have been linked to upset stomachs, mood swings, birth defects, cancer, diabetes, emotional disorders, epilepsy, seizures, a variety of neurological disorders and even obesity!
Even if Brian has had two strikes against weight loss with his breakfast and mid-morning snacks, surely his lunch, comprised of a tuna sandwich with fat-free apple chips cannot be a problem? Ignoring the tuna sandwich, which, if prepared with fat-free yogurt rather than mayonnaise, may actually be conducive to weight loss, let’s focus on the fat-free apple chips.
Your weight loss radar should always be alerted when you see the terms ‘low-fat’ or ‘fat-free’. Upon further inspection of the ingredients label, you will usually find that fat has been eliminated in favor of sugars, which the human body is very efficient at converting into…fat.
In the case of fat-free apple chips, the fat has not been eliminated, but instead added! Here are the ingredients:
“Apples, canola and/or sunflower oil, corn syrup, citric acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C).”
In other words, to make the dehydrated apples actually palatable, the manufacturer has added vegetable oils (the dangers of which you will learn about in Chapter 17) and corn syrup! Although this snack may still not pack as many calories as a bag of potato chips, it is still a far inferior alternative to a piece of fresh, raw fruit.
At 2pm, and later, with dinner, Brian consumes a diet Coke. Just like the diet energy drink, this is a beverage that contains a no-calorie artificial sweetener that may be ruining Brian’s ability to control food intake and body weight. As a matter of fact, a recent study from Purdue University found that compared with rats that ate yogurt sweetened with regular sugar, rats that ate yogurt sweetened with an artificial sweetener (saccharin), consumed more calories, gained more weight, and put on more body fat! In addition, the rats that consumed the artificially sweetened yogurt had a lower post-meal rise in their body temperature and metabolism, making it harder for them to burn more calories.
Other research has shown that diet sodas may double the risk of obesity, stimulate the appetite, stimulate carbohydrate cravings, stimulate fat storage, stimulate weight gain and cause “roller-coaster” eating habits.
But the health hazards of diet sodas go far beyond an inability to lose fat.
For example, asparatame contains a substance called “phenylalanine”, which can easily disrupt your brain’s very sensitive serotonin and dopamine balance, leading to migraine headaches. In addition, the aspartic acid in aspartame is known as an excitotoxin, which can disrupt fragile fibers in your brain and cause specific brain cells to become excessively excited, to the point they will quickly die. Finally, when consumed by the human body, certain parts of aspartame are broken down to formaldehyde and methanol, which can be toxic in consistently consumed quantities.
Brian finishes his day with two final meals: a Powerbar Protein bar and a Nutrisystem hearty stew meal.
The first few ingredients of the Powerbar Protein bar read similarly to the Ensure smoothie:
“PowerBar Protein Blend (Whey protein, Casein, Soy Protein), Brown Rice Syrup, Sugar, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Coca Powder, Maltitol, High Fructusoe Corn Syrup, Glycerine, Alkalized Cocoa Powder.”
By now, you realize that although Brian could have easily purchased this bar at the front desk of a health club, these none of these ingredients are encouraging his body to lose fat, and are probably instead causing weight gain.
At first glance, the Nutrisystem meal appears to be one of the more “natural” meals that Brian has consumed the entire day. The ingredient label reads:
“Water, Beef, Potatoes, Carrots, Tomatoes, Peas, Soy Protein, Celery, Corn Flour, Hydrolyzed Corn, Wheat Protein, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Autolyzed Yeast, Sugar, Caramel Color, Tartaric Acid.”
Despite a couple red flags such as hydrolyzed corn and sugar, this label appears rather innocent compared to other foods that Brian has consumed earlier in the day. The actual nutrition fact label of the Nutrisystem meal, however, reveals nearly 500mg of sodium, or 20% of Brian’s daily recommended value.
Why is this a problem? Not only is excess sodium intake one of the single highest causes of high blood pressure, but the incredibly high amounts of salt in processed and packaged foods like Nutrisystem, powdered and canned soups, frozen meals, and deli casseroles and salads can cause bloating, water retention, swollen extremities, fatigue and lethargy, complaints often voiced by overweight and obese individuals.
Hence the title of this chapter, “Fat People Diet”. By falling prey to the advertisements, hype and marketing behind fat-free products, weight loss foods, pre-packaged meals, and convenient healthy nutrition smoothies, Brian is filling his body with dangerous compounds that are completely contradictory to weight loss, and placing himself at risk for even more serious problems in the future.
So how could Brian “ditch his diet”?
Step 1: In the morning, eat something real. That’s right: choose a food that grew on a tree or from the ground, and is immediately recognizable. Try some oats. All you need is hot water. Add a handful of almonds, a splash of milk, and a teaspoon of honey. Take advantage of the fact that when you wake up and light hits your eyes, your body’s metabolism naturally “revs up”, and carbohydrates are OK in the morning.
Step 2: Don’t wait until lunch to eat. Your body will be more likely to have a blood sugar and insulin spike after a 4-5 hour break from eating, and you’ll probably eat more than you should for lunch. Instead, in the mid-morning, have a fresh piece of raw fruit, like a grapefruit. Save the proteins and the fats for later in the afternoon, when your metabolism begins to slow.
Step 3: Just like breakfast, eat real food for lunch. Try the “salad in a jar” approach. Using a large canning jar or Tupperware container, first put 1 tablespoon olive oil + one tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette. Then add 4-6oz of chicken, turkey, beef or lamb. Then add ½ sliced red or green pepper, ¼ sliced red onion, handful olives, mushrooms, ½ sliced cucumber and ½ sliced tomato. Finally, add a handful of mixed greens. After emptying the jar, everything will pile up on the plate perfectly! This is a convenient lunch to take to work.
Step 4: Have a mid-afternoon snack, comprised of easily recognizable, non-processed proteins and/or fats. Try splitting half an avocado, sprinkled a bit of cheddar cheese in the center, and microwaving for 30 seconds.
Step 5: Have some soup for dinner. But rather than opting for a pre-packaged powder or processed, prepared version full of sodium and MSG, try a super-fast and incredibly healthy version of miso soup. Into 2 cups of water, add 1 tablespoon miso, 1/2 red onion, 1 handful spinach, 1 cup chopped mushrooms, 1 tablespoon almond butter or tahini, and 1/2 clove garlic. Bring ingredients to a bowl and simmer for 10 minutes.
As you can see, it is completely possible to ditch the diet and still eat healthy! Just remember, healthy fat-loss nutrition is a lifestyle, not a set of rules or specially prepared boxes, cans and bottles of magic fat-loss foods.
So what do YOU think about this sample chapter excerpt? There are thirty additional chapters in this book, each one inspecting the specific lifestyle, exercise and nutrition habits that lead to fat formation. Is this a book YOU would read? Leave a comment below!