Sugar Our Diet's Grand Saboteur
I can admit that sugar, in the form of candy and other desserts, is my vice. Over the Easter weekend, there was peach cobbler and 7Up cake available at my family's home, not to mention candies found in my sons' bags from after-church egg hunts.
I've significantly reduced the amount of sugar I consume in the past year. Nonetheless, those indulgences still happen from time to time. It's a problem that many Americans have.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, our "sweet tooth" has increased by 39 percent between 1950 and 2000. That coincides with the industrialized use of high fructose corn syrup added to foods and drinks.
I do believe sugar is a saboteur in ongoing weight loss efforts. Extra sugar equals extra calories, which in turn, equals more weight.
For some, there's another problem: flour. In many instances -- such as baked sweets, boxed food and vending machine options -- you get both enriched white flour and sugar.
Are flour and sugar a hindrance to your weight loss efforts?
Last year, the New England Journal of Medicine recommended that Weight Watchers cut out sugar-sweetened drinks and refined grains such as white bread from their program and encourage eating natural foods.
So, it's not only about the quantity of calories. It's also about the quality of the calories taken in.
No. 31 of 101 Revolutionary Ways to be Healthy says: "Go easy on the sugar and flour. These two ingredients (combined with unhealthy industrial vegetable oils) have a starring role in most packaged foods we eat. More than any other culprit, they fuel inflammation, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer."
Basically, we do need some sugar, but many processed foods contain too much of it. As for enriched white flour, it's nutritionally dead.
At least two people, including a personal trainer, has mentioned to me in conversations about nutrition that it is a good thing to "eat like a diabetic" when trying to lose weight. That means eating healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit. It also means eating fiber-rich foods, heart-healthy fish and good fats, while steering clear of saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.
Wait a minute. Isn't that how our usual diet should be anyway? Of course, what you eat is a discussion between you and your doctor and/or dietitian. But to me, it makes perfect sense to rally around clean foods that are not refined. That's half the battle. Eating for the wrong reasons, eating too much and not exercising is another issue, which, brings to mind the four pillars of weight loss, as told by Dr. Jathan Cantu, a Tyler physician who sees many patients struggling with obesity and diabetes.
Learn when to eat:
Eat only when hungry and not for other reasons.
Learn what to eat:
Eat lean meat, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Learn how much to eat:
Most food portions should be able to fit in your hand.
Learn to exercise:
Walk, swim, ride a bike, dance or anything else to get moving.
The road to healthy living doesn't mean we can't have peach cobbler and 7Up cake, but it does mean we should be conscious about how often we consume stuff that has little or no nutritional value. After all, we are what we eat.