Self control

Right up there with the myth of calorie restriction is the myth of inadequate self control.  People don’t have excess weight because they somehow lack discipline and self control.  Excess weight is caused, as we’ve learned, by eating the wrong food.  In addition, there are real differences from person to person in how well their bodies handle excess sugar in their diets.  I’m a classic example.  When I was young, I could eat pretty much anything and not gain weight.  I had no reason for self control.  When I drove to California to run my first 100 mile foot race, I ate jelly beans to keep from getting bored and sleepy.  Then as I have aged and my body started responding more to sugar (absorbing fructose better), my weight has crept up.  I remember when I was in my early 40s getting concerned and cranking my running up to 70 miles per week for about 6 weeks.  I didn’t lose a pound, because I didn’t change my diet.

There’s a self-reinforcing element here.  Eating high sugar/carb food knocks your endocrine system and other systems off balance.  For many people I’m sure that affects their feeling of security and well-being.  Sugar activates the same dopamine systems in your brain that opiates and heroin do; eating sugar makes you feel a bit better for a time.  It might even be physiologically additive.

There’s a striking series of interviews in the movie Fed Up with a 12 year old girl who exercises vigorously, but is quite obese.  In the same movie Dr. Robert Lustig speaks of six-month-olds with signs of obesity due to high fructose corn syrup in their infant formula.  I’m sure the 12 year is also being fed toxic high sugar foods. Blaming the child or the infant for being fed the wrong food is pretty cruel, isn’t it?  No different for adults, for that matter.

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