Flexible Eating Habits

The most important exercise to do for weight loss is something my grandfather used to call “pushing away the plate.” This was meant glibly as were most things he said but the concept rings true. The first step in creating a sustainable new lifestyle is not going to the gym, going running, or creating a meal plan of what to eat every day. It’s deciding what things NOT to eat every day or at least not to eat very often.

More than anything this means sugar. Sugar is the body’s primary source of energy like we talked about. Meaning that when the body gets it, it wants to use it as fuel. But if it can’t it doesn’t throw it away. In fact, it can’t. It stores it as extra mass. Meaning that on a cellular level, nothing makes a person heavier faster than eating lots of excess sugar.

Now the ways and means that the body digests, processes, converts, and utilizes sugar is incredibly complex with the added bonus of summoning wonderful memories of high school biology with terms like the krebs cycle and ATP. But while the nuances are not important for weight loss, the fundamentals are. The two most common sugars found in foods are glucose and fructose and these two sugars are not created equal.

Fructose Vs. Glucose

In terms of energy, both glucose and fructose provide the exact same amount of calories/energy. From a surface perspective this would make them equal but they are not. 

For one, fructose is only digestible by the liver (which more often stores it as excess mass) while all of the body’s tissue can use and metabolize glucose (making it less likely to be stored and more likely to be used) [1][2][3][4].

Fructose stimulates Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and Glucose does not — meaning that eating fructose sugar creates more hunger [6][7].

Finally, fructose does not stimulate the centers of the brain responsible for feeling full [6][7] and glucose does, albeit to a small extent. Meaning that you can binge on fructose and still not feel full. 

Plates To Push Away As Often As Possible:

Are ones full of things that are high in sugar of sugar, high in calories, and thus most frequently stored as body fat like the following:

  • Soda [High Sugar]
  • Cookies [High Sugar]
  • Brownies [High Sugar]
  • Cake [High Sugar]
  • Candy [High Sugar]
  • Ice Cream [High Sugar]
  • Any fast food [High Sugar, High Fat, High LDL Cholesterol, Low Satiety, Low Quality “Mystery” Meat, Highly Processed in ways that leave the end product with very little nutrition and very high calories]
  • Fruit Juice [High Sugar]
  • Anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup or Maltodextrin [High Sugar that has been linked to increased risk for cancer, diabetes, obesity, and dementia]

A useful trick for these is to limit them to special occasions. Holidays, family trips, parties, or celebrations. As long as these are infrequent occasions there is nothing wrong with relaxing restrictions and having a good time. The other choice is being the person who refuses to eat, drink, or have fun “because of their diet”. I don’t say this to mock. Simply to highlight that again, such things aren’t sustainable. This isn’t a diet it’s a lifestyle, as in, for life. Everyone needs a break or a treat from time to time. 

Finally, don’t think everything is ruined just because of some soda or cake. Temptation is a thing and if you cave to temptation try not to binge. Then consult your list of reasons, visualize your success, smile, and keep going. Success takes time, patience, setbacks, and perseverance.

Plates to Push Away (Except for Maybe 1-2 Times Per Week):

Are things that are not as high in sugar but have lots of calories with no nutritional value (aka “empty calories” meaning little to no fat, protein, or carbs). The result is that they these things provide very little “fullness”, but are very easy to binge eat:

  • Fried Food [Little Nutrition, High Calories]
  • Potato Chips [No Nutrition, High Calories]
  • Alcohol [High Sugar, High Calories, No Nutrition]
  • Pizza [High Calories, Low-Medium Nutrition]

Try to abstain more from treats in the first month or two. The reason is that RMR is already higher in heavier individuals which means that lots of calories are required to maintain the heavier mass. Thus cutting all the excess calories from sugar and empty calories can drastically reduce the bodies received energy forcing the body to look to fat stores. Think of it mathematically:

(Far fewer calories Energy received by cutting sugar) - (High amounts of calories needed to maintain heavy mass) = High Initial Weight Loss

Basically, when pounds are first starting to come off the RMR remains high and this can be capitalized on to accelerate progress toward the beginning. However, if this is too difficult then there is no shame in opting for sustainable practices in the form of infrequent treats.

Suggestion: It’s wise to clear the home of these things to avoid temptation. We’ve all been there. It’s late or early — you’re tired and don’t want to cook so you cave and eat a bunch of stuff that’s delicious until you’re full. This erases your progress rather quickly so I would heavily heavily recommend throwing away, giving away, and not buying sweet treats or drinks.


Works Cited

  1. “Is Fructose Bad for the Liver?” Sugar Research Advisory Board (SRAS). https://www.srasanz.org/sras/news-media-faq/sras-articles/fructose-bad-liver/
  2. “Fructose and Its Impact on Our Bodies.” The Gastroparesis & Dysmotilities Association. http://www.digestivedistress.com/fructose-and-its-impact
  3. “Abundance of fructose not good for the liver, heart.” Harvard Health Publishing for Harvard Medical School. September 2011. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/abundance-of-fructose-not-good-for-the-liver-heart
  4. Rizkall, Salwa. “Health Implications of fructose consumption: A Review of Recent Data” 4 November 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991323/
  5. Page, Kathleen. “The Brain: Our Food-Traffic Controller.” The New York Times. 26 April 2013. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/opinion/sunday/the-brain-our-food-traffic-controller.html
  6. “Your Brain on Fructose.” ScienceDaily. http://sciencenetlinks.com/science-news/science-updates/your-brain-fructose/