Why Sugar Makes Us Fat
- In the space of 150 years, we have gone from eating no added sugar to more than a kilogram a week.
- You would need to run 7km every day of your life just to not put on weight as a result of eating that much sugar.
- Two decades ago 1 in 14 adult Australians were obese; that figure is now 1 in 5.
- The ‘natural’ sugar in one glass of unsweetened fruit juice per day for a year is enough to add just over 2.5kg your waistline.
- The more sugar we eat, the more we want. Food manufacturers exploit our sugar addiction by lacing it through ‘non-sweet’ products, such as bread, sauces, soups and cereals.
I still remember the day Lizzie told me. She had a stunned, almost fearful expression on her face and was unsure of herself in a way I had rarely seen in my wife of 13 years. Our fifth and assumedly last child had just been turned into twins with a wave of the ultrasound wand. In about eight months, we were to become parents of six children under nine years of age. I was about 40kg overweight, and had struggled with my weight for as long as I could remember (except for a brief period during university when I managed to snare Lizzie). I had tried most things, from reducing fat in my diet to not eating to regularly attending the gym and walking the dog. Sometimes I had had limited success (a few kilograms here and there), but it was mostly small backward steps on my ever-accelerating journey to obesity and beyond.
With the weight came lethargy and sleeping problems. As any parent could attest, getting enough sleep and having the energy to get through the day is difficult at the best of times, let alone when you’re starting out in the red. I was going to have to be a dad to twin babies and four other young children and I couldn’t see myself managing it carrying 40 extra kilos, feeling lethargic and not sleeping.
At the time, the Atkins diet was beginning to take off, with all manner of people touting it as a miracle diet. My uncle had recently undergone heart surgery and was now on Atkins. He had lost a vast amount of weight and was tucking into bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast. This looked like a diet I could really enjoy. I immediately cut out all carbs and, lo and behold, I started losing weight like never before (although I suspect it was because I found it almost impossible to find any food I wanted to eat that did not contain carbohydrates). I spent a couple of weeks feeling like I was starving to death. The weight was coming off but the willpower required to stay on the diet was overwhelming (not to mention the nasty side effects that eliminating fibre from my diet was having). I started to look for alternatives. At first low-GI diets seemed appealing, because they at least allowed you to eat some carbohydrates, but almost no foods were labelled with GI indicators and the maths involved in calculating it myself was beyond me. When chocolate spreads advertised their low-GI levels, I knew that if a food that was half sugar and half fat could earn a low-GI label, the GI calculation was probably almost meaningless for dieters.
I had been reading a lot about Charles Darwin’s life and his works on evolution. Darwin’s theories held that all characteristics of modern animals were survival responses developed slowly over millennia. As a result, we (and all animals) are woefully inadequate at dealing with sudden changes in the environment. After reading about these theories, it had occurred to me that my weight gain, and that of most other people in our society, could not possibly be down to a lack of willpower alone (since willpower, or the lack of it, would be an evolved characteristic that could not suddenly have changed in just a few hundred years). In a desperate attempt to find a way to keep up the weight loss without having to stay on the carb-free diet, I started to read up on human metabolism. I quickly came to the conclusion that I would have to learn a whole new vocabulary to understand most of what was being written. However, I was beginning to get the vague feeling that many in the medical profession took for granted a fact that was a complete mystery to the rest of us.
Study after study seemed to be pointing to the inescapable conclusion that the fructose part of sugar was fat-inducing in animals, and probably in humans as well. Worse still, it seemed to be complicit in making us want to eat more food in general. Although I found many studies within the medical fraternity backing this line of thought, documents written for the rest of us were almost impossible to find. Those that did exist were, more often than not, rants against sugar in general without any explanation as to why it was bad for us. I immediately changed from eliminating carbs to just eliminating foods with added sugar – at last I could eat bread again. It was impossible to remove all sugar because everything seems to contain it, so I set myself a limit of no more than 10g of sugar in a meal (about the amount of fructose in an apple). This simply meant I no longer ate sweets and biscuits or drank juice and soft drink. The weight loss continued, but the diet was a lot easier to stick to. After a few months, I was so used to not having sugar that it took no willpower at all to refuse it. In fact, on the few occasions I did try chocolates, they tasted unbearably sweet.
I’ve now lost the 40kg and, more importantly, no longer worry about weight gain at all. I know that I can eat when I feel hungry and stop eating when I feel full and I will not put on weight. I can eat whatever I like whenever I feel like eating, as long as it does not include sugar. I have no urge to eat when I’m not hungry, I no longer feel lethargic or sleep deprived (other than as would be expected for a father of six), and no unnecessary exercise was involved at all. By far the greatest benefit has been the ability to trust my own body to let me know when to eat and when not to. Its a feeling I’ve never experienced before.
People obviously noticed the change in my appearance and energy levels, and asked me what I had done. ‘I stopped eating sugar’ seemed too trite and forwarding them medical journal articles just a little bit over the top, so I decided the story of the sweet poison had to be written in language we all could understand.
Number Of Pages: 224
Published: 1st September 2008
Dimensions (cm): 23.0 x 15.6 x 1.6
Weight (kg): 23.0
Edition Number: 1
About the Author
David Gillespie is a recovering corporate lawyer, co-founder of a successful software company and consultant to the IT industry. He is also the father of six young children (including one set of twins). With such a lot of extra time on his hands, and 40 extra kilos on his waistline, he set out to investigate why he, like so many in his generation, was fat. He deciphered the latest medical findings on diet and weight gain and what he found was chilling. Being fat was the least of his problems. He needed to stop poisoning himself.
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David Gillespie was 40kg overweight, lethargic, sleep-deprived and the father of four, with twins on the way. He knew he needed to lose weight fast, but he had run out of diets – all had failed. After doing some reading on evolution (why weren’t our forebears fat?), David cut sugar – specifically fructose – from his diet.
He immediately started to lose weight, and kept it off. Slim, trim and fired up, David set out to look at the connection between sugar, our soaring obesity rates and some of the more worrying diseases of the twenty-first century, and discovered some startling facts in the process.
Sugar was once such a rare resource that nature decided we didn’t need an off-switch – in other words, we can keep eating sugar without feeling full.
David Gillespie is a recovering corporate lawyer, co-founder of a successful software company and consultant to the IT industry.
He is also the father of six young children (including one set of twins). With such a lot of extra time on his hands, and 40 extra kilos on his waistline, he set out to investigate why he, like so many in his generation, was fat.
He deciphered the latest medical findings on diet and weight gain and what he found was chilling. Being fat was the least of his problems. He needed to stop poisoning himself.