The Science of Making Excuses and Being Fat
All my life (until recently) I’ve struggled with my weight. It seems that all I have to do to gain a kilogram is to inhale deeply whilst walking past a fish ‘n chips shop. (That is until about 8 weeks ago).
A few weeks back now the 60 Minutes program in Australia ran a segment which heralded the discovery of the fat gene. Their conclusion? There’s nothing you can do about it – just enjoy being fat.
So – I need your help. Can I ask you to watch the video of their segment linked in this post and tell me, does it represent …
(a) bad journalism,
(b) bad science,
(c) all of the above, or
(d) none of the above?
So here’s the video link. It’ll take you to the 60 minutes page. (Apologies in advance that it won’t play on an iPhone or iPad … and also, should they remove the video from their site at some time in the future, that’s out of my control too :-))
Click on the image, watch the video, and then please come back to this post, because I want you to vote and tell the rest of us what you think …
So what did you think? The conclusions reached in that segment are, in summary, as follows:
1. The Australian study concludes that no amount of dieting helps. You have a biological drive that wants you to put the weight back on. A dieter will always return to their original weight. So, what you should do is just go with the flow. Be proud of being fat. This is backed up by the emotive story of a well known singer.
2. The American study is equally clear and yet, it tells us 100% the opposite. If you are vigilant with exercise and you weigh all your food and count all your calories and live with much more conviction and discipline, you can lose the weight and keep it off.
Brilliant!!! Two studies by two sets of scientists that tell us two completely different things. Just what we all needed!!
And what about the evidence of the fat gene? Where’s the evidence? Well, and I quote from the Australian scientist on the program, that:
The body has a genetic mind all it’s own. Our bodies gravitate to a pre-determined weight and it’s written in our DNA … it’s probably genetic.
Okie dokie. Then show me the evidence. None was presented.
And that’s the problem. I have lost over 20 kgs 6 or 7 times in my life. Anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight will know that that’s something that takes a lot of drive, determination and discipline. But each time (as self-disciplined as I am) I’ve put them back on again.
Yo-Yo …. Yo-Yo … Yo-Yo … … … …
Until 8 weeks ago I read a couple of books by self-confessed recovering corporate lawyer David Gillespie, who did what lawyers do best. He independently went around the world and collected the evidence from research projects. His conclusion?
The culprit is 100% sugar.
Sugar is making us fat? Okay, we’ve heard about all these crazy diets before so what’s new? As much as I hate to admit that I think a lawyer (of all people!) has done something useful for once, having read his argument, I actually believe he’s hit the nail on the head.
Here’s his line of reasoning in a nutshell:
1. In the early 1900’s almost nobody was fat.
2. Today obesity is an epidemic that’s accelerating.
3. In that short a period of time, it’s highly unlikely that our genes have mutated on such a dramatic, global scale as to give our bodies a different “genetic memory” or program that demands of us that we should be obese, get sick and die young.
4. The answer must therefore lie in an externally introduced, environmental factor.
5. The culprit, he contends, is sugar. White poison. He goes on to set out the scientific evidence that:
(a) sugar messes with our appetite control mechanisms in two critically damaging ways, so as to make us very hungry thereby causing us to eat more (much more), and
(b) the fructose component of sugar (50%) is not easily digested – and since fructose cannot readily be turned into glucose (which is our body’s energy food) it is instead turned into fat in our bloodstream, which is the root cause of many of the lifestyle diseases of the 2oth and 21st centuries.
6. If we remove the historically high volumes of sugar from our diets (a volume which has increased stageringly – more some 15-fold since the early 1900’s – a fact that we conveniently ignore when speaking of the wisdom of a “balanced diet”) we will allow our body’s finely tuned appetite control mechanisms to recover, to function correctly and this will cause us to lose weight.
So in summary, his argument is based on two things. The historical correlation between increased sugar consumption and obesity (and related diseases) and research which has only been undertaken in the last 10 years, which tells us that we can’t metabolise fructose and that it’s playing havoc with our appetite control systems.
Great theory. What about the results? Does it work?
So, he put his conclusions to the test with a statistical sample size of 1. He lost 40kgs in 18 months by doing nothing else other than removing sugar from his diet.
As Mr Yoyoyoyo, I found these conclusions (based as they were on the comprehensive research he sets out in his books) to be compelling … but after years of disappointment, it all sounded just a little too good to be true.
But what do I have to lose I asked myself, so …
… I put his conclusions to the test. I was shocked. For the first time in my life, I stopped feeling hungry all the time. Within 8 days my appetite was put completely under control. I am now (even though I recently lost 23 kgs the hard way again … but was on the way to putting 8 of those back on again and growing) am again slowly losing weight.
I really don’t have to worry too much about what I eat. The only thing I don’t eat, is anything that contains significant quantities of sugar (which is many, many things) except for a couple of pieces of fresh fruit a day.
After 53 years of yo-yo dieting, I feel like I’ve finally stumbled on the truth … because I’ve read the evidence, and it actually works.
It indeed appears that it’s the massively high quantities of sugar that have been introduced into our diets (fruit juice 25% sugar, breakfast cereals most of them 30% plus sugar, sweet chilli sauce 42% sugar …) that has been the culprit.
I’m no longer on a diet. I listen to what my appetite tells me. I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t eat when I’m not hungry (which is most of the time). The only “sacrifice” is that I’ve rolled the clock back by a century or so by not eating anything that has lots of sugar.
More on that in a later post. Right now, just two more things. firstly, what’s your response to the 60 Minutes segment?
And finally, if you’d like to know more about David Gillespie’s findings, here … read his books (they’re available as eBooks and in hard copy) I highly recommend them:
After 4yrs do u still eat little to no sugar? Have u kept off the weight w/o the jo-jo-jo?
A great question. I have consistently stayed away from sugar. Every now and then I might have a dessert … but it’s very rare. I allowed some other refined carbs to creep back into my diet. A bit of bread here and there. Rice and roti whilst in India. Not a lot. But immediately my weight went up. So I removed them and I am now back to being trim, taught and terrific. 🙂 We’re all different in our makeup. But for anyone who struggles with their weight, they should begin by treating sugar and other refined carbs as the enemy.
What makes you fat is consuming more calories than you burn. It is physically impossible to get fat if you burn more than you eat. All of the ‘genes’ in the world won’t change the laws of frickin’ physics.
Except for binge eaters, pregnant women and retired powerlifters, nobody tends to gain weight that quickly – it’s a result of long-term, consistent overeating. The reason these people can’t figure it out (if they aren’t just making excuses) is because small habits like having an extra few chips, etc. add up and eventually those molehilles turn into mountains.
I have never had a problem getting obese, even when I get a bit fatty (i.e. ‘soft’) it’s quite easy to control by reeling back on my junkfood intake. I simply have habits and a willingness to accept a lower level of food saturation.
There is some variability in metabolism, but there’s absolutely no way to get out of the whole law of thermodynamics: if you are obese you are eating more than you’re exercising.
And the ‘time’ excuse is a terrible one. Hardcore workouts (for a sedentary, non-athlete) will take maybe 3 hours a week.
It really irritates me when people make illogical excuses like this, if you don’t care about being fat then just admit it. Personally, I think we should go back to that old, inegalitarian society where we would actually put social pressure on people not to be fat, ignorant or unemployed. I know, I’m a fascist, not accepting everyone for their utter lack of self-respect and ambition.
Paulus – you see there it is right there. I couldn’t disagree with you more on this. The research is very clear, a calorie is not a calorie. There is a vast difference, depending on our genetic makeup, in how we process calories from different sources. Food is very much like a drug, because it alters our hormonal balance. And with a vast increase in the consumption of refined carbohydrates in this modern world, about 75% of people are feeling the devastating effects of those refined carbs on caused by high insulin. And it is the impact of insulin that causes people to stack on the weight and be unable to lose it. A calorie is not a calorie. You are very fortunate that you are not one of those affected, but for the rest of us, the line that you are running, which is the same that the food industry who is plying us with sugar and other refined calories is running, is that it’s down to the basic laws of thermodynamics. It ain’t. It’s much more complicated than that.
Hi Berni,I have really enjoyed reading all the comments on losing weight.I am a senior who has heart disease and have tried to lose weight unsuccessfully so I will try David ‘s book on sugar and see how I go,your blog has inspired me.
Go for it Jeannie. You’ll be amazed. Cut out the refined carbs and your health will improve out of sight.
Fantastic article and love al the comments. I’ll add my 2 cents worth.
I had my third child in 2011 and had again put on 20 or kilos during the pregnancy. Having done a lot more research into food after my second child I had found information on what foods to avoid while breastfeeding to reduce the amount of wind the baby (and everyone else in earshot) suffers from. It is based on anecdotal evidence from 20 years of homeopathy practice but the advice was for the mother to increase good fats so the baby felt fuller for longer and to completely eliminate any simplr sugars in the first 10-12 weeks. This did include fruit but they could be introduced slowly after that. Within 6 months of my third child being born I had lost the pregnancy weight gain plus a further 9kg. So I can say without a doubt that it works. I’d love to tell you that I’d kept it off but unfortunately I was on dessert duty that Christmas and got my sweet tooth back. I put 10kg on last year. I have now lost 7kg of that – YAY. I have another 5kg to go to be happy with my weight. I lost the weight this time by telling myself that there was nothing I could eat that would make me happy. Once I’d identified where my bad eating was coming from it was a lot easier to make good food choices. I am still struggling with post natal depression but feel a lot better with the weight coming off and good food going in. In the last week I’ve been eating hot cross buns and had a few parties etc where I’ve eaten junk. I’m feeling very moody again so I have really proven it in my own life that what we eat is so vitally important. I completely agree about the sugar but would also add that so many of the chemicals that are put in our foods have so many detrimental effects on our bodies. I got into a bad habit of drinking a 1.25L bottle of pepsi max on the two days I was back at work after my second child was 1. She didn’t sleep through until she was nearly 3 so I was exhausted and unable to concentrate at work. That was the time when my depression was the worst and I was having suicidal thoughts. It’s not just sugar but all the other rubbish that is out there. The artificial sweeteners are worse than sugar I think. I am trying to eat by the rule that if it’s been in a factory it shouldn’t go in my mouth. I certainly don’t stick to it all the time but I’m getting a lot better. And the way I’ve staved off hunger is by drinking a glass of water. I rarely feel hungry after that.
Thanks so much for that. You’re a walking laboratory! :-))
What I’ve done with refined carbs is basically decided that I don’t eat them anymore. Full stop. Rest of my life.
When someone offers me something wi refined carbs, my answer is, sorry, I can’t eat that. I’m like you. If I start back with just a little sugar, I’ll be back on lots before I know it.
I do use saccharin which is safe as is stevia, but not the aspartame in Pepsi Max and Coke Zero.
The nice thing about losing all the weight is the energy – I’m just back from an hour in the gym and I feel fantastic.
Anyhow , good on ya for losing the weight. When you’re at your target weight, remember, you never want to go back there again.
Grea article Berni. I like listening toyou from NZ on UCB UK internet radio, and was curious tolook you up. I am wondering if you know about fruit. You mention fructose, which is present in most fruit, but should i moderate my fruit intake? I try to get 5 fruit and veg a day, usually mostly fruit like banana, pear, manderin, tomatoe, prunes. Is this possibly hindering my weight loss?
sorry for the slow reply. After travelling across India and Africa, it’s taken me a little while to get back to the blog.
Fruit of course contains sugar – 50% of which is fructose. But the sugar is encased in fibre, which substantially mitigates its impact on our health. As I heard one medico put it, in the case of sugar God has packed the poison inside the antidote”.
I still eat fruit – 2 pieces a day – in moderation. It’s good for you. Too much of it though, isn’t.
Thanks Berni, good info 🙂
After reading a few posts…
I would like to offer a different perspective also…, maybe a bit of out of topic…
I don’t believe there is a such thing as a fat gene, I know that God created us perfectly (in his image), let’s not forget that in the beginning, our bodies were not meant to die, and live forever. Death has been forced upon us the moment we turned away from GOD, and so It’s built in in us to always fight death. The truth is nobody wants to die, and when God made us in the beginning, he made us in such a way, that by eating from the tree of life we will never die.
Ok, where am I going with this?…
It’s unbelievable to see the news that in developed countries, like Australia we see obesity as a disease, almost as an epidemic (if it’s not already)
And this obesity that we’re talking about…, the so called fat gene, it’s our own doing for our wasteful and above all GREEDY ways.
If we’re obese in a world that is facing a hunger crisis unlike anything it has seen in more than 50 years.
925 million people are hungry.
Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. That’s one child every five seconds.
THEN SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG!!!!
I know for a fact that God created enough food for every single living person in the planet.
Now, this GREED is not only reflected by our personal appetites, but also through organizations…
Because through Science we found out that we’re addicted to FAT, SALT & SUGAR.
We crave fat, salt and sugar. This is not part of our DNA. Like Berni said, Sugar was a delicacy back then…, and now…what’s the first thing you see when you walk into a 7eleven store? Candy bars, chips, ice cream…, SUGAR, SALT AND FAT!
It’s an addiction that we have acquired over the past couple of decades.
Now Kessler is a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.
He found out that..found that there’s a “bliss point” – a combination of sugar, fat and salt – that makes a food practically irresistible.
He says that those ingredients excessively activate the rewards circuits of the brain. They over-stimulate the rewards-circuitry of the brain.
Not much different from other what drugs like coke, ecstasy, etc do…
The food industry knows this…, and what they do? There is nothing better than to sell something that creates more addiction…for their business they bombard us on a daily basis with food of this type.
How many types a day you do see or hear an advertisement from MacDonalds, KFC,etc and for the matter of fact All the food advertised contains great quantities of Fat, Sugar & Salt.
How often do we see Celery? or any type of vegetables advertised? I don’t remember ever seeing that being advertised…, and yet, These are Natural Foods made by GOD from the ground…
Not a chicken nugget or burger, or a Mars Bar, or Iron Man’s cereals…
And so, the West will continue to become fatter until we understand that It’s not food that makes us fat ultimately, but Greed.
Reminds me of exactly what happened then…
When the people of Moses complained to God…
(Num 21:5) “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
The miserable food they were complaining about was the manna, the bread that God sent down every day from heaven.
And yet without knowing…, Manna contained all the vitamins, proteins they needed to sustain a healthy living.
I personally accepted that if I do indeed have a fat gene in me, It’s my punishment from God because of my Greedy ways.
You said: “the fructose component of sugar (50%) is not easily digested”
I think that’s a slight misnomer there. The fact is it’s TOO EASILY “digested,” but it’s nearly impossible to “metabolize.”
As Gillespie says, as soon as you start eating a fructose-containing diet, your gut actually start producing more receptors to pass fructose into the system. It basically gobbles it up like it’s candy. Ohh, wait, these days it *IS* candy!
The problem comes when our bodies try to do something with it, anything. Cells basically have no receptor for it and won’t pull it into the cell, or if they do pull it in, they do nothing with it and spit it back out again unmolested. Basically the only place in the body that gets a crack at it is the liver. And all that does is turn it into ATP, which we quickly have an overabundance of, and so that energy is packaged up into fatty acids (relatively quickly; as in like minutes after consuming it according to some researchers?) and sent out into the blood stream becoming circulating fatty acids. For the most part, this just get forced into fat cells and contribute directly to adiposity (umm, getting “fat”), especially the dangerous “central adiposity” (fatty around the stomach & central organs).
So, fructose is EASILY “digested” (our gut sucks it up), but NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to effectively “metabolize” (use for anything other than storing fat).
Hope that clears that up…
And, as you say, it’s basically invisible to our appetite control system, so that 50% fructose is not seen by the body as having been consumed, meaning the body may give itself free license to consume those calories again in order to feel its met its caloric intake requirements. If you eat more sugar, again, half the calories from the sugar are invisible. Vicious cycl– begin!
Even if there is a fat gene, I think lifestyle is crucial. At the Gym where I train there is a very pithy saying on a machine that says:
“Genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger”.
to be honest, I’m of the view that genetics must play a role. My daughter who is 21 and drop-dead gorgeous can sit and eat half a packet of Tim Tams, and it has no impact on either her hour glass figure, or her appetite control. I read the label and put on 2 kgs. Having said that, all her life, she’s been one of those people who gets half way through a meal and stops … because she’s not hungry any more.
Other days, she eats like a horse.
Other days, she doesn’t eat anything.
The question is, whether a lack of exercise makes you fat, or whether it’s the other way around. My experience tells me (and this is backed up by the research presented by David Gillespie) that is’t much more a case of being fat, leads to a lack of exercise.
We’ve always taken it as read that if you don’t exercise enough you’ll get fat. But have we ever stopped to think that if we weren’t fat, wed be much more likely to exercise. It’s not easy thinking about things we’ve taken granted … from a different perspective.
But since the current home truths don’t seem to be working, maybe that’s exactly what we need to do …
I saw the same report and was horrified! If people know the truth, decide they prefer to continue eating sugar and staying overweight it is their choice, but telling people that losing weight is a waste of time because they’re just meant to be fat is not only untrue but is irresponsible!
I have also been a yoyo dieter for years, and even with massive amounts of exercise and counting 3very calorie i barely lost any weight. I quit sugar for new years this year and in 4 months of no exercise and no hunger i have lost 20kg!!
Try reading the books John, energy in=energy out is a great maths equation, but it doesn’t work for weight loss.
“Try reading the books John, energy in=energy out is a great maths equation, but it doesn’t work for weight loss.”
Cutting sugar is great for overall health, and may lead to dramatic weight loss… but to say that the energy in/out equation doesn’t work for weight loss is utterly ridiculous.
Calorie counting and exercising regularly is hard. It’s hard to start. Hard to stick to. Hard to maintain… so I totally understand the popularity of (yet another) “quick fix” that doesn’t require exercise… but exercise isn’t just about weight loss – it’s about overall health, strength, and vitality.
Personally I would much rather be a strong and toned size 12 than a skinny and weak 10.
Telling people they don’t have to exercise to lose weight is just as bad as saying they don’t have to lose weight at all.
– just my 2 cents –
Let me give you, dare I say it … a different perspective. 🙂
I don’t think anybody’s saying that excercise is bad. Of course it’s good for you. But the science tells us that it doesn’t help us keep the weight off. Here’s why.
Whether we put on weight or not is in fact governed by the difference between calories in and calories out (although because of how we metabolize sugar, not all calories are equal in their impact on our weight). But the question is, why do some people eat too much? Is it because they want to be fat? Again …of course not.
It’s because they’re always hungry. That’s the problem I had. I could walk 20 km per day and apply my willpower 100% and lose weight. I did that 6 or 7 times – the hard way. It was tough, but I could do it. What I couldn’t do was keep it off, because if you have to spend all your life exercising your willpower not to eat when you’re hungry, eventually, you can’t keep it up. The weight goes back on. And the more weight you have, the less your body wants to excercise.
What Gillespie in my view rightly argues is that the root cause is our appetite. If we can stop people from being hungry – apparently something that was possible in the past when obesity was the exception rather than the rule – then instead of having to constantly excercise your willpower by denying yourself food when you’re hungry in order not to gain weight, you’d just be a normal weight naturally.
And that’s exactly my experience. I swallowed the research presented by Gillespie (punn intended) that sugar messes with our appetite control system and that’s why we eat too much. The holy grail that his conclusions held out – that if I removed sugar from my diet, my appetite control mechanisms would start working properly – did, as I said in my post, seem too good to be true.
But it only took 8 days off sugar for me to prove him right. The thing that is totally different for me now is that most of the time I’m just not hungry anymore. So instead of dieting – which means denying yourself calories when you’re hungry – and exercising – forcing yourself to spend calories when you don’t feel like it which you don’t when you’re overweight – I just now eat when I’m hungry and don’t when I’m not.
I am losing between half and 1 kg per week. Am I exercising? Yep. Now that I have less weight my body wants some excercise. I excercise because I naturally want to because I’m no longer lethargic from over eating. And the reason I’m no longer lethargic from over eating is that my body’s incredibly complex, intricate and effective appetite control feedback loop reliably tells me when it’s had enough.
Something it wasn’t capable of doing while sugar was fooling my body into thinking it was still hungry.
Think about it. People never used to be fat. But since we introduced the multi billion dollar weight loss industry and low fat foods and fitness industry … the population’s average weight has been sky rocketing. Standing back from it, something ain’t right, right?
As someone who for 53 years was always hungry and therefore always overweight, who now is mostly not hungry and is steadily losing weight, I have to tell you, as each day goes past and each kilo slips off, I am more and more convinced that our sugar consumption which, in an historical context is massive compared even to 50 years ago, is in fact the root cause of obesity for most people.
By the way, as an aside you won’t find the word ‘sugar’ in the Bible. Why? Because it didn’t exist at the time. Sweet cane is mentioned 3 times, and specifically as an exotic delicacy from a far off land.
Until 100 years ago, basically – other than the odd piece of ripe fruit in season and the occasional treat of honey – there was no sugar in people’s diets because it wasn’t available.
These days, it’s pretty much in everything.
Hope my ramblings make sense.
Bella, if you read any of the research or spoke to the average gp you’d get the same message: exercising does not lead to weight loss. I don’t deny that it has other benefits but weight loss is not among them.
I have gone down that path and it did not lead to weight loss, i started as a flabby size 16 and i finished the same way despite drastically reducing my calorie intake and working out 4-5 times a week.
Now however i have lost 20kg, i feel fantastic, i am never hungry and i don’t exercise. The only change i have made is to cut out sugar! I would hardly call a healthy diet change a ‘quick fix’, i just call it the logical solution! And you know what? I’d rather be a healthy size 12 than an overweight, unhealthy size 18 who spends all their time feeling like a failure because the exercise just doesn’t work!
I do believe there is a lower limit to what weight our body wants us to be and only starving will get one below that. But I don’t buy the argument that once we have reached our ideal weight that our body will ‘make’ us return to a higher weight.
Like the author of this post I too have found my answer in the work of David Gillespie. I also have yo-yo dieted all my life (starting when I was 14 yo). And whenever I took the calories-in, calories out, low-fat/high exercise route, I did indeed lose weight, but I was NEVER able to maintain that loss. It was ONLY when I eliminated sugar (or more precisely fructose) from my life that I was finally able to lose the weight (easily, and without additional exercise) and KEEP it off. I lost 30 kilos (from being a very overweight 100 kilos) and I have KEPT IT OFF for over 2 years!!
It breaks my heart to see these nutritionists failing to help their clients, but it is not the clients fault, it is the DIET that they are being asked to follow. If, instead, their nutritionist got them to eliminate fructose, they would find that their problems would be over, but then the nutritionist would be out of a job wouldn’t they?
To finish on a note that follows the biblical theme of the above poster…’there re none so blind as those who will not see.’ And believe me there are many nutritionists who refuse to see the writing on the wall. And it is in fact a good point that why would an intelligent designer make us unable to control our own appetite and weight naturally? It doesn’t make any sense now does it?
I thank the good lord every day that I found ‘Sweet Poison’, ‘The SP Quit Plan’ and David’s latest book ‘Big Fat Lies’, otherwise I too would be looking for ‘reasons’ (or excuses) as to why I was morbidly obese; as it is, every day I enjoy great food, feeling satisfied (unlike ‘dieters’ who are always starving), and I don’t have to worry about my size or my health.
My response to the 60mins segment is…
God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, “Lord, we don’t
need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life
out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the ‘beginning’.”
“Oh, is that so? Tell me…” replies God.
“Well,” says the scientist, “we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of You and breathe life into it, thus creating man.”
“Well, that’s interesting.. Show Me. ”
So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil
“Oh no, no, no…” interrupts God, “Get your own dirt.”
Just replying a joke with another Joke.
I’ve lost weight in the past…, and it’s very very very simple…, you can eat whatever you want as much as you want….as long as…
Energy(Calories) that goes into your body < Energy (Calories) you use a day.
If you eat more than you need to use up for energy.
The Question that comes to my mind is…
Do we want to be healthy and look after ourselves because…
a) We want to live longer for ourselves…OR
b) Because our body is the temple of the Holy spirit, and we don't own it but GOD, and so we should honor GOD with our bodies.