If You Really Are What You Eat, America is in BIG Trouble

Per capita consumption of sweeteners over the past 30 years

For those of you reading who actually know me, you know that I’ve become a faithful “Somersizer.”  I have been fighting the “battle of the bulge” for most of my life.  I like to eat, and I’m not exactly what anyone would call an enthusiastic athlete.  I can run and lift weights when I have to, but sitting in front of a typewriter or curling up on the couch with a book is more my style.  I’ve been on a lot of diets over the years, including a doctor-supervised liquid fast, but I’ve always gained the weight back.  And then lo!  There was Somersizing.

The real name for Somersize is the Schwarzbein Diet.  In a nutshell, Suzanne Somers is the celebrity spokesperson for the diet, and Dr. Diana Schwarzbein created the diet.  It’s a high protein, high fat, low sugar diet.  I was skeptical at first, but I picked up the book Get Skinny on Fabulous Food.  It was a revelation.  I’d been searching for a diet that I could do over here in Korea, since so many diets require special foods or equipment or something.  All this required was a restriction on all foods containing sugar, fructose corn syrup, white rice, and white flour.  Again, I was skeptical, but I have lost about 95 pounds since June.  I eat like a horse – no kidding, I will sometimes eat 3-5 pieces of chicken at dinner! – and I am losing weight.

Okay, okay, congratulations, Lady Libertarian, way to toot your own horn.  Fair enough, but I do have another few points that I’d like to make before you accuse me of being a shameless horn tooter for my own one-man band.  In her books, Somers often points out that sugar, not fat and salt, is the main culprit of America’s expanding girth.  At first, I treated it with the same skepticism that I treat most things, but what she was saying really started to speak to me.  And it certainly spoke to my gut!

According to Schwarzbein, the key to controlling our weight is to balance the amount of insulin that our body creates when we eat.  In her own experience with diabetic patients, the ones who had the greatest success controlling their blood sugar were the so-called “cheaters” – the ones who were eating high fat foods such as cheese, eggs, and meat.  Of course, as it turns out, those foods also elicit the least amount of insulin response.  Their cholesterol levels also improved, and they no longer felt hungry.  As it turns out, there is no proof that low-fat, high-carb diets work.  What is proven is that high insulin levels result in all sorts of unsavory side effects, like high blood pressure, excess body fat, etc.

Schwarzbein goes on to say that fat is essential for restoring cells and enzymes, while food high in sugar and carbohydrates must be used up immediately for energy, or it will be stored – most likely in that oh-so-flattering “spare tire” zone right at the belt line.  In fact, without fat, insulin levels rise in the blood, which contributes to high blood pressure.  Increased insulin also results in plaque being deposited in the arteries – hello, heart attack!  Schwarzbein concludes her attack against the “conventional wisdom” by saying that cells that are chock-a-block full of insulin are breeding grounds for cancer cells.

This book was written in 1999, which puts it a little bit out of date now.  I ran across an article – thanks again, Natural Society! – talking about the dangers of fructose.  In fact, a new study that was just recently published has shown that pancreatic cancer, the one that recently felled Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, thrives best in sugar-laden environments.  Shocking!  The article says that not only do the cancer cells thrive in sugary environments, but they “proliferate.”  In other words, they use the sugar as fuel to keep you sick!  Think about it: if you are drinking Coca-Cola while taking cancer treatment, you are inadvertently derailing yourself!

The Natural Society article also charges that fructose is not only deadly – it’s more addictive than cocaine!  It can also potentially damage DNA, alter cellular metabolism, inflame, and increase the production of those nasty little free radicals.  As if that little laundry list wasn’t enough to make you put down the Dew, 50% of high fructose corn syrup has also been found to contain mercury!   Guess how much corn syrup the average American gobbles down in a year?  About 100 pounds.  That is a heck of a lot of corn syrup!  Additionally, a study done at Princeton found that lab rats who were given water sweetened with corn syrup gained more weight than those who were given water sweetened with sucrose, or regular old sugar.

The culprit behind America's girth growth problem?

How can the claim be made that stuff is addictive?  After all, it’s not like fructose is really cocaine.  Well, the answer, it would appear, is in the chemistry.  According to an article by Aaron Snyder, a nutrition and diabetes blogger, high fructose corn syrup disrupts leptin levels.  I know, I didn’t know what the heck leptin was, either.  Leptin is an adipose-derived hormone that your fat cells send up to your brain to tell you when you’re full.  High fructose corn syrup disrupts that signal.  So, in a nutshell, when you go for your Big Gulp of Mountain Dew you are, in effect, sowing the seeds for future overeating.  Given the fact that the average American guzzles and gobbles around 100 pounds of this stuff, is it any wonder that so many people complain about eating big meals and being hungry two hours later or eating for comfort as often as they do?  It’s the engineered sugar, stupid!

The bottom line is that we are being slowly poisoned by the foods that we’re eating.  Honestly, you don’t even need high fructose corn syrup to feel poisoned by carbs – I speak that from personal experience.  Within a week of eliminating all refined sugar and white flour from my diet, I felt like a new woman, and that’s no exaggeration.  My energy returned, I felt good, and I dropped a ton of weight overnight.

So if the stuff is so bad for us, how come it’s in everything?  Well, for one thing, it’s cheap.  If you aren’t from somewhere in the bread basket, we grow an awful lot of corn, and corn is basically just a carb in a kernel, which means that it can be easily manipulated into becoming another sugar.  The other issue – and this is a wild one – is that the US sugar industry is one that is actively engaged in protectionism.  For a breakdown of how it looks politically, check out this report done at Duke University.  The Cato Institute has another report on it, and if you want a quick summary of what it means for the food that goes onto your shelf, it’s this: sugar prices are quite high in the US and, because of that, it is cheaper to fill everything with high fructose corn syrup.  Yes, the US government actually pays to store the sugar and create artificially high prices, which benefits the sugar growing industry but results in a net loss for the economy.  At the same time, more corn is needed to produce high fructose corn syrup.

If you thought sugar was the sweetener of choice in these foods, you thought wrong.

I know this doesn’t seem like a short story, but I could go on about it for ages.  The bottom line is that we are getting sick from the food we eat.  What we eat today does not contribute to wellness.  I bet folks could accuse me of getting preachy here, but hand to God, I am not a health nut.  I don’t drink that wheat grass stuff, and I hate green tea.  I don’t just love vegetables, and I sure as anything love my sweets.  But I also came to a point with my personal health and well-being where I knew that I had to change or suffer the consequences: cancer, prolonged illness, and early death.  And that’s not what I want for myself.  I want to feel good, and I want to stick around for as long as I can.  We have a short enough time on this planet; we don’t need to speed ourselves towards an early demise.

So what can we do?  Well, honestly, the situation in the food industry is hardly encouraging.  That said, we can all make some simple changes in our lifestyles that should help shed a few pounds from the gut and reduce our corn syrup intake.

1. Give up the soda.  Today.  It is literally no better than rat poison.  Throw it down the sink.  Start drinking (non-fluoridated) water, green tea, or skim milk.
2. Check the packages.  I know, it’s boring and time-consuming, but would you rather be bored or dead?  There is a great little iPhone/iPod app I discovered called Fooducate.  I’m not getting paid to plug or anything, but it is handy.  Just scan the bar code with the camera, and it will give you a grade, telling you what’s really in it.  You can also report new finds to the parent site, and it will update so that others can use your new-found information.  You really have to watch out for the refined sugars, especially since high fructose corn syrup is now being called “corn sugar.”  Don’t be fooled.
3. Try to give up processed sugar, corn syrup, and white flour for a week, just to see how you feel.  I guaran-damn-tee that you will feel better.  And I know it’s not easy, the first day or two, but believe me, once you’re weaned from the sugar, you won’t want it anymore, and you’ll feel like a million bucks!

I know, I’ve probably come off a bit preachy in this article, but if I do, it’s because I am actually excited about the prospect of people losing a few pounds and feeling as good as I do.  I never thought sugar would make that big a difference in my life, but it has.  I have to think that if I was walking around, feeling and looking like an overweight gastropod, there are more people out there with the same problem.  I am feeling extremely encouraged by the fact that there are finally studies coming out that are lending credence to what used to be a fringe belief.  Hopefully we will see greater efforts in the food industry in the near future to contain the side effects from fructose and its ilk.


About The Lady Libertarian
I am American, currently expatriated but hopeful about getting back home one of these days. Besides reading and writing about politics, I enjoy camping, sailing, canoeing, making pie, and traveling. I hope you'll enjoy this blog and find it informative and accessible.

7 Responses to If You Really Are What You Eat, America is in BIG Trouble

  1. Beth says:

    This is the stuff right up my alley. I started getting into this back when “Fast Food Nation” first came out and I started caring what I ate. That originally led to me going vegetarian for about two years. That didn’t last, but my interest in the subject never died out. I’m always happy to see when some of this is going more mainstream. I am an obsessive label reader (No one wants to go shopping with me anymore because it takes me two hours to grab some groceries haha)…and the best part is that it is getting easier to find stuff without all the added sugar and HFCS. However, of course, the best bet is to do the whole “shop only the periphery of the store”, all the processed stuff is in the aisles. My biggest problem is, I have all the knowledge but I don’t necessarily practice what I preach. I can be good for a while, but then “life” messes it up. lol. Also, I do believe sugar is addictive. When I tried Dukan, I was kept up at night with sugar cravings. I still have never been able to break myself of the sugar addiction- that’s one thing I would really like to do. I’ve been lucky that I don’t gain too much when I don’t eat that great, but it shows in other ways, I do have a bit of a belly (all the weight goes straight there), and my skin has never been clear, and then you have this sugar/carb induced fog you kind of live in- you never really realize until you start eating better how much it can affect you. It’s always been pretty much accepted in modern allopathic medicine that diet doesn’t make much difference to your health, but I believe it makes all the difference in the world. So many diseases that were basically non-existent are increasing at alarming rates- life-style diseases. Even acne, if you look at primitive societies who ate no processed foods, you find is unheard of. Yet, when I went to the dermatologist they swore what you ate would make no difference- but now that I am aware of it, I know fairly well just what will break me out. That’s another diet book I own about “The Clear Skin DIet” and it has similar principles- it avoids foods that cause any kind of blood-sugar spikes and crashes and foods that cause inflammation (basically all of the Standard American diet- SAD).

    Anyways, really love reading your blogs, motivates me to get back into the healthy living stuff. I did check out a Suzanne Somers book from the library that I started reading- it’s one of the newer ones. I really agree with everything she says- very spot on!

  2. I think anyone who says that diet doesn’t matter that much is kidding themselves, quite frankly. I’m no saint – I mean, I’ll still eat some occasional junk, have some whiskey, eat some ice cream. I don’t think you have to give up the “fun food” completely, but you just can’t have it every single day. I’m glad it’s motivating to you, because writing it up keeps me motivated!

    I wish there were more doctors getting on this band wagon, because honestly, I think they would have more healthy patients. The USDA is still insisting that bread and wheat products make up the biggest part of our diet, which seems like silliness to me. Unless you’re running marathons, you don’t need that many carbs.

    I asked a Korean friend once how the girls here stay so skinny. I know part of it is that they simply don’t eat as much as we do, but she told me that they also practice food combining and try to stay away from sugars with rice probably being the major exception. She said if you binge one day, you eat lots and lots of tofu the next day. Eat as many vegetables and as much meat as you want. And trust me, the girls here are thin – painfully thin, sometimes.

    I just know that I feel a lot better when I don’t stuff myself with sugary food and carbs!

    • Beth says:

      Totally agree. I’ve never been one to give up “bad food” completely. I never pass up dessert! lol But I am a sugar fiend. I used to gross people out with how much sugar I could eat- which is probably why my blood sugar is so out of whack now! I renewed the Suzanne Somers book and got a lot of it read while I was sick in bed this weekend. It really makes so much sense to me.

      Also, when I was eating a lot of Cambodian/Asian food I felt a lot better, even with the white rice. It was a lot better than what I normally would be eating. I would make lots of soups and stir fries- plenty of veggies and meat and fish- and Cambodian food especially has lots of strong flavors, so it was really satisfying. Normally, every time I eat, I crave sweets immediately after I eat, so I am constantly having dessert with all my meals. Not good. But those meals didn’t make me feel that way.

  3. I’m glad you’ve checked the book out and been enjoying it. I’m thinking about buying Dr. Schwarzbein’s book, which I think probably gives a less “colloquial” explanation of how it works. I tried the sample on Kindle, and I liked it, but I’m not sure I’m going to buy it right now. I have so many books that I still need to finish. I think I’m going to put it on the back burner until I get a few of the current reads finished.

    I agree with you, though. When I was eating pasta and heavy carb food, I was feeling hungry for dessert later, regardless of how badly I’d pigged out. I just felt like such crap, really. I feel so much better now, and I destroy vegetables, meat, and mayo like there’s no tomorrow.

    Also, if you should happen to get onto the diet, I heartily recommend just giving up cereal. It slows my weight loss down so much, it’s unreal. I just eat fruit in the morning now or, if it’s the weekend, sometimes we make bacon and eggs. Something deliciously fatty. 🙂 I haven’t tried oatmeal, so I don’t know how it would perform, but I tend to think that cereal makes me gain weight like a fiend. Pity, because I loves me some cereal! I can’t believe that the official food pyramid recommends so many servings of bread and carbs per day! There is no way the average American exercises enough to warrant eating so much bread!

  4. Beth says:

    I thought about reading the Schwarzbein version too- for some reason i just really like reading diet books- I should’ve gone into studying nutrition! lol And I am so bad about starting twenty books at one time- my books have spilled over from my nightstand into my bed now- all with bookmarks in all different places.

    Cereal has been my go-to breakfast for so long I can’t even remember, it was also my favorite bedtime snack- that’s a tough one for me to give up! Nowadays, I run to McDs or Starbucks when I am rushing to work- which is probably even worse. I like oatmeal but I always cover it with brown sugar or honey, otherwise I don’t like it. haha. I had bacon and eggs for breakfast the other day though and I actually made it to lunch without snacking or having a blood sugar crash! I’ve been craving bacon like crazy though, guess it’s the cool weather?

  5. Do it. Devour the bacon! It’s true, the fatty stuff won’t spike and crash the blood sugar, and it doesn’t make you hungry, either! I wish we had some bacon in the house right now, because I could seriously destroy some bacon and eggs this morning!

  6. Pingback: Curing the Obesity Epidemic with Fat « The Lady Libertarian

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