Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dieting vs Sugar: Sugar Always Wins.

A delicious calorie-rich cake.

Ever since man created sugar, humanity has been struggling with obesity. As each generation passes by, the war on obesity becomes more bitter as sugar keeps gaining the upper hand. This is despite all the knowledge and research that we have gathered and synthesized over the years. Humanity has conquered every known frontier - why is obesity so difficult to overcome?

I watched a very interesting episode on BBC called "10 things you need to know about weight loss". One of those 10 things focused on why skipping meals (or extreme dieting) is a bad idea. To prove this theory, a volunteer was subjected to a MRI scan on 2 different days. On the first day, the volunteer arrived at the test facility after he had a full breakfast. On the second day, the volunteer arrived at the facility completely hungry. On both days, the volunteer was put insider the MRI chamber and subjected to a series of images of food, and his reaction (as determined by the brain movement) was recorded.

The result? When the volunteer was not hungry (i.e. on the first day), there was no significant difference in brain movement when he was shown low-calorie foods such as salads or calorie-dense foods such as donuts, or cakes. The MRI showed a totally different picture on the second day (when the volunteer was very hungry). The brain did not register much activity when shown low-calorie foods, but it lighted up when shown high-calorie sugary foods.

The researchers determined that when we are hungry, our brain is programmed to seek out high-calorie food. It is something we do unconsciously and no amount of self-control seems to be able to overcome this barrier. I know it happens to me and I am sure it happens to each one of us. It looks like we are genetically predisposed to overcompensate with extra calories when we are hungry. We essentially end up undoing all the hard work we put during our diet and end up worse off than what we were - before the start of the diet.

And that's why we are losing the battle against obesity. It's not our fault. It's our brain that is making us seek out these calorie-dense sugary goodness. It is our brain that is urging us to stuff our face with cakes and donuts and cheesecakes.

If you are obese, now you can at least feel better about yourself - knowing you never had a chance!!

Do we have any hope? The only way to fight obesity and to stay healthy is to look at health as a life long project and not worry about losing weight for the next big event. Most of the time, we obsess about losing a certain amount of weight to fit into a dress for an event or an occasion. Once we cross the milestone, we are lost and return back to our usual habits and end up gaining more weight than we lost.

Once we stop obsessing on short-term gains and and focus on long-term goals, things will start falling into place. Long term goals focus on a balanced diet that includes everything (including calorie dense foods in moderation) and a healthy lifestyle that incorporates at least 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous workouts 3 to 4 times a week.

As of now, everything else is a myth.

1 comment:

  1. Your last paragraph sums it up. Once you strike that balance everything falls in place.