It’s time. Summer is almost here, and it’s time to buckle down and build that perfect beach body. I predict that many people are considering this noble quest to remove the pot belly, muffin tops, and love holds from their daily fashion. However, I also believe that most of these brave souls will fail on this adventure, as a US News Health article by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff states that around 95 percent of individuals fall off of their ambitious diets.
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that most dieting nowadays requires will power and a varying degree of suffering, depending on how far you choose to go. One of the greatest challenges when trying to eat healthy is maintaining the new “honeymoon” phase of finally ditching that tasty Big Mac for the dry turkey and vegetables. We are creatures of habit, so if you develop, for example a sweet-tooth, over a long period of time, your cravings are going to beat you down every step of the way. This common culprit begins to haunt us with the onset of early, massive sugar consumption.
Dr. Robert H. Lustig eloquently explained in his lecture, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”, that most foods on the market today are processed with sugar, often with high fructose corn syrup, and that this phenomenon is the current driver of our nation’s obesity epidemic. In simple terms, his biochemistry demonstrated that a large dosage of fructose into the liver causes the organ to produce fat. This largely occurs because only the liver can process this chemical. Thus with the introduction of fructose, xylulose-5-phosphate is eventually produced which stimulates PP2A which then activates ChREBP (carbohydrate-response-element-binding protein) to create fat-making enzymes. The complex details aside, fructose causes other conditions besides obesity. Other effects involve the production of uric acid, a chemical which causes gout and hypertension, due to the large decrease in phosphorus to accommodate the incoming fructose.
The consumption of fructose can also take a psychological toll on your body. Dr. Lustig illustrated that the reaction in the liver eventually leads to insulin-resistance in the liver, causing the pancreas to create large amounts of insulin to compensate. His and others’ research shows “that the higher the insulin goes, the less well your brain can see it’s leptin.” Leptin acts as a starvation mechanism, telling us when we are full and we should stop eating. Thus, with the decreased interaction with this hormone, we feel hungry more often and continue consumption.
I myself have struggled with this unfortunate phenomenon since my early childhood. During my elementary years, I became a chocolate milk addict, consuming two to four glasses of the sweet liquid everyday. My youthful metabolism largely concealed the results of this sugar binge, but I was well aware of the somewhat enlarged gut that I sought to hide from the world. During my high school career, I began to run long distance quite often outside of my P.E. class to combat this inconvenience. Even though my efforts made some difference, I could never overcome that threshold between some belly fat and progressive signs of abdominal muscle definition. I was focusing on exercise and avoiding dieting to satiate my guilty pleasure.
Once I became a Freshman in college, finances came to the forefront of my life. I simply didn’t feel comfortable spending other people’s money, especially on pleasure and entertainment. During my second semester, I made the decision to cut out all the overpriced beverages from my diet at the school cafe. All I ever drank was water and the occasional glass of milk. I came into this experiment to save some money, which I did, but I also got much more than that. The threshold that I never seemed to overcome finally began to give way. Combined with my weekly jogs, I felt that eliminating sugary drinks from my diet truly changed my health and lifestyle for the better
Cutting back on anything can be a challenge. If your willpower is not that resolute, I would recommend taking gradual steps. Replace the soda can with a glass of orange juice. Even though the juice also contains an unhealthy amount of sugar, at least you’re getting a good supply of vitamin C. From there I would recommend moving on to milk. I myself never realized how sweet plain milk can be until I stopped saturating it with sugary chocolate powders. Apart from the taste, it provides calcium and enhances bone growth. If you’re lactose intolerant or ambitious, just drinking water provides crucial benefits. It keeps you hydrated and helps clean out your system through urine production.
In short, gradually decreasing your sugar intake and destimulating your sweet-tooth goes a long way to ensuring a healthier diet and a healthier overall lifestyle.