Is sugar the reason we are suffering with being overweight and obese?
Sugar is very much the fall guy right now when it comes to why we are overweight and why we struggle to lose weight. Let’s take a look at sugars role in obesity and how we can create a healthy relationship with foods and not demonise sugar as the sole culprit.
Does sugar directly cause weight gain? No.
Does sugar play a large role in weight gain? Yes.
If it isn’t the direct cause to weight gain, then why does it have such a bad reputation and why do we have such a terrible relationship with it.
We need to understand basic principles before we can understand this. No matter what you believe right now. The energy balance equation is what determines body weight.
If you over consume more food and drink (Calories) than your body needs, then your body will store the excess energy as adipose tissue (Fat) in your fat cells.
Sugar coat it all you want (see what I did there). The energy balance equation will always be the first port of call. Energy balance is not a as simple as calories in vs calories out. It is highly complex and multi factorial. To think it is just calories in vs calories out is naive on your part.
Yes, that’s the fundamental law, however energy balance is constantly changing and very dynamic. There is a plethora of factors than can affect both your energy in and energy out.
Now that you know this, let’s get back to sugar.
The reason sugar is demonised is because we simply eat too much of it. That is the cause of weight gain. Too much energy (Calories) in our body.
Sugar is highly palatable; this basically means it taste so good we want to just keep eating it and a lot of the time we do. Think biscuits, cakes and everything nice!
This is one reason it is seen as a causal effect to our weight gain.
Refined Sugars break down easily when we eat them, this leads to the stomach emptying at a quick rate and the sugar enters the blood stream. When food leaves the stomach, hunger signals begin signalling the brain that we want more food.
Again, prompting us to eat more.
Sugary foods tend to be calorie dense. Calorie dense means there is a lot of calories in a small amount of food. Think of a chocolate digestive has 80-100 calories in one!!! How unfair is that. These can be easy to over consume and in turn increases our total calorie intake easily.
Sugar also raises insulin levels in the blood, Insulin is a storage hormone that shuttles nutrients to our cells for storage. When we become insulin resistant, excessive body fat can be one reason for this (Type 2 diabetics) our cells do not work as they should, and signals become mixed in the body. We end up not storing nutrients as we should, hunger and satiation hormones become skewed and we don’t get this feeling of fullness as easily when we eat.
The tasty hyper-palatable combo of sugar and fat together. Now, this is one of the main reasons we can easily over consume. The taste of the sugar/fat combo leads us to very easily over consume foods that are massively calorie dense.
Sugar is not the same as cocaine! There was an article published about sugar having the same pleasure effects as cocaine. This message got messed up along the way. Sugar does send signals to the same pleasure pathways as the drug cocaine. However, don’t be thinking sugar is as addictive as a class A drug.
You are not addicted to sugar. You have created habits over time that make you now crave sugary calorie dense foods. You emotionally eat and your go too is high sugar foods. Yes, it lights up the pleasure pathways of the brain but this again is another reason sugar is so easy to over consume.
It is important to understand that sugar is something we massively over consume. It has become a staple in the western diet, but it is not the direct cause of our obesity epidemic. It is guilty by association.
We need to learn about energy balance, we need to understand what calorie dense foods look like. We need to own responsibility of our choices but that won’t come without education.
Until we do this then we will continue to label foods as good and bad, we will continue to have poor relationships with food. Continue to blame one thing until we decide to blame the next thing.
Being overweight, being obese has not happened because of one thing. It has not happened over night. There are a number of different reasons, that when accumulated become the cause of the obesity epidemic we now face.
Having a couple of bars of chocolate per week is not causing your weight gain or killing your weight loss. It is the mass over consumption is the real problem.
Know the difference, own your choices, become empowered.
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