In Defense of Sugar (Again)

Ever since I started this site, I have been writing posts defending sugar. Fear of sugar is one of the most deeply ingrained diet beliefs, from people saying it causes disease and inflammation, to saying it’s as addictive as cocaine or herion. Sugar fear mongering is everywhere, it’s bullshit, and with the aid of actual science, I am going to defend it.

We think that restricting carbs and sugar will help us burn fat, become healthy, and maybe even become immortal.

What is actually happening when we restrict carbs, is a crisis mode run by stress hormones that creates inflammation and a slow metabolism, and essentially adds to the likelihood of developing or worsening metabolic disorder, and every other inflammation-caused disease (every disease).

When you restrict carbs, you will burn fat in the beginning, but not sustainably, and it won’t last. 

Chronic stress leads to inflammation and lowered immunity which often leads to disease.

Dieting leads to chronic stress, which leads to inflammation and lowered immunity which often leads to disease.

See?

This is just one of the reasons why dieting is bad for your health. Not to mention malnutrition, etc.

Yes this is the opposite of what you have been told. This is the opposite of what I believed about sugar and my health (pcos/insulin resistance for years).

If you want it broken down even more, this is the most specific I have ever gotten with the science of restriction…

This is why restricting calories or restricting carbs, will backfire, raise stress-hormones, and hurt your health in the long-run:

Whenever our output exceeds our input – meaning you aren’t eating enough, resting enough, or aren’t eating enough carbs, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol, the two major stress hormones that help the body to create fast fuel for your cells.

Without fuel for our cells, we die. It’s that simple.

Sugar (glucose) is the most efficient fuel source for our cells, because it uses the least oxygen, makes the most usable energy, and creates the most carbon dioxide. And carbon dioxide removes calcium and sodium from cells, keeping them stable (and not inflamed).

The first stress hormone, adrenaline, finds glycogen in the muscles and liver to burn for fuel. After that, adrenaline will burn fat – which is not good for your health or metabolism, because adrenaline uses three times as much oxygen to burn fat for fuel, creates less carbon dioxide and less energy – which creates inflammation.

Adrenaline burns fat fast (and temporarily) but uses up oxygen, and leads to inflammation.

The second stress hormone, cortisol, will pull amino acids from the skin, thymus, and muscle, which are taken to the liver to be used for energy. This lowers thyroid function, digestive juices, body temperature, and pulse…

Cortisol impairs metabolism, digestion, assimilation, and nutrition.

So again: Restriction of calories, or restriction of carbs, lowers your metabolism and creates inflammation, and has you running on stress hormones.

In addition, any time you are in fight-or-flight (read: STRESS), a similar dynamic is taking place in your body which is why stress creates inflammation and an impaired system and metabolism.

This means that the stress of hating your body leads to inflammation and lowered immunity which can lead to disease.

… Being scared of what you just ate, feeling guilty that you’re full, or having general overwhelm when you eat leads to inflammation and lowered immunity which can lead to disease.

Sugar is an unfairly demonized macronutrient. 

Sugar is really just pure fuel that keeps us alive minute to minute, actually can lower stress hormones, and is required in the blood at all times (blood sugar).

Denying the body easily accessible sugar requires the body to create glucose in a complicated process that raises stress hormones, creates inflammation, and impairs the metabolism.

The less you eat carbs, the more likely you will become chronically hypoglycemic. Your body perceives low blood sugar as a stressor which kicks adrenal glands into overdrive and pumps out stress hormones.

It also assumes you’re in starvation mode which will make it counteract with ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which keeps you hungry and slows down your metabolism.

Meaning, the less you eat carbs, the slower your body will burn fuel and the slower your metabolism becomes. And the worse your health will become – in the long run. And I promise you, that’s not what you’re looking for.

In this state, you are more likely to then binge and yo-yo, and stay perpetually in a whacked out glycemic roller coaster for all of your days.

You can also think about it this way: Sugar is meant to feel addictive when we aren’t eating enough of it — because we need it. And unlike other substances, when you actually let yourself eat it, it has a restorative and calming effect on the body and metabolism, and your body won’t feel addicted to it anymore.

Like oxygen and sleep. Eating carbs allows the appetite and body to calm down, and is the only way to experience easy, normal eating.

What to Expect

Or: What to Expect When You Are Expecting to Heal Your Eating Real Fast And Become Skinny

(For podcast listeners: You can join in on podcast Q&As and other fun rewards over on patreon. Also… if you’re curious why I am editing the F word, it’s because of itunes’ new rules. SMGDH)

Your personal journey will be different from mine, or your friend’s, or the people you connect with on the internet. That being said, there will mostly likely be overlap and similar experiences as well, so I am going to list some things many people experience, just so you’re prepared.

Expect to be very hungry in the beginning.

You will be hungry. Think of the rehabilitation of Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

Hunger is the body’s way of repairing the body and metabolism. Lots of hunger is the natural healing response to the famine survival state. You will need to honor this hunger by eating.

Expect to be afraid of this hunger

You will be scared that you are never going to stop eating. You are going to be afraid that you will be this hungry forever. You are going to be afraid that without tight control, your eating will just keep going and going and going until you pop.

These fears are understandable but untrue, and ultimately, unhelpful. The more you can trust that eating is the only path to food normalcy, and a normalized appetite and metabolism, the quicker and easier it’ll be.

Whenever you’re panicking and doubting this whole process, just remember the famine. What would happen after a famine (or even a decade long semi-famine)? You’d be starving, you’d need to eat a lot more for a little bit, and then, naturally, things would go back to normal. And even if you have never experienced what normal appetite is, you will get there naturally, and eating is the only way. And fighting it is futile.

Expect to gain weight.

Trying to control your weight is the reason why you are now so messed up with food, and the reason weight becomes erratic and harder and harder to “control”. To heal the damaging starvation mode, you must gain weight. It is the only way to stop the cycle. This applies to you whether you are on the lower or higher end of the weight spectrum.

I know you want me to tell you that you are going to be ‘fighting the man’ and ‘rebelling against beauty ideals’ and eating a shit-ton and repairing your metabolism all while looking like an adorable, hairless, lithe fairy, but that’s not how this goes.

You are almost certainly going to gain weight. And it is actually an essential rite of passage on this journey.

It is also pretty much the only way to heal your metabolism. Remember the famine. What would happen after a famine? You’d gain weight. And then, only then, would the body be able to calm down and stabilize again and not hold onto every pound for dear life. No matter where you are, you can count on gaining some weight, and the more you resist it, the longer this whole process will take.

Expect to resist gaining weight

Your fear of gaining weight is one of the big root causes of your messed-up-eating, and always will be. So you need to face that fear — gaining some weight and learning to like yourself anyway is arguably the big rite of passage here, and will be a huge shift in your quality of life. If you attempt to skip this part, there is a part of this journey that will remain incomplete. You will remain petrified of what your life would be, and who you would be, at a higher weight.

Facing the fear of gaining weight will make all the difference ongoing, and make you able to continue eating normally as you go forward, understanding that your “worst fear has happened” and your life is still continuing to get better than before.

Expect to slowly stop fixating on food

This will take months, but the more you eat, and the more you allow the things that you used to be petrified of, the less you will find yourself fixating on food. This is both biological – as the body becomes more and more fed, but also just mental, you take away the power a food when you truly let yourself eat it.

Expect your weight will stop yo-yo-ing

Once you become normal and neutral with food, and once your body knows there is food, your weight will stabilize, easily, right around where it is supposed to be.

You will always fluctuate, that is human, but the dramatic weight gain and loss will stabilize. Weight stabilization looks different on everyone, but it will be healthy for you. And if you can surrender to that, the rest of this will be a breeze.

Expect to start having energy and brain space to focus on other things

The whole point of The F It Diet is to have food lose its power over you so you can focus on more soul fulfilling, life-enhancing things. The goal is to free up the energy that you’ve been spending on how perfect your protein bar collection is, and start focusing on doing things that actually enhance your life, things that make you feel good and alive and creatively fulfilled. And maybe even enjoying yourself while you do it. Wouldn’t that be amAZing?

The Most Important Thing You Can Do.

(For podcast listeners, you can ask podcast questions and get fun rewards here.)

I was taught, just like most people, that thin was healthy, and not-thin was not-healthy.

I was also taught that thin was beautiful and that not-thin was not beautiful.

And that if for some reason you were living your life at a not-thin and “not-optimal” weight, then you should do everything you could to make sure your clothes are as “flattering” as possible to give the illusion of as much thinness as your current condition will allow.

It turns out that not only is that fucking messed up and infantilizing and glamorizing the bodies of women who look like they can’t digest food, but it’s all relatively new. We learned that ‘skinniness is beauty’ only in the last century, and we’ve subscribed to it.

What that means is that we can unlearn it. Just like you learned to like, and then unlike, bell bottoms… you can learn and unlearn to see different body types as beautiful. What I would encourage you to do, is to expand your definition of what beauty is, instead of just trying to change it.

The single biggest thing that made The F It Diet work for me, was my shift in my relationship to weight.

My newfound willingness to accept wherever my weight fell was the thing that made this work.

Accepting your weight and totally relearning the way you see yourself will, without a doubt, be the hardest part of this journey.

You have already tried to fight your weight, maybe even for decades, and now here you are, probably still secretly hoping that The F It Diet will give you the key to unlocking your tiny body…

No. It’s not. What this whole thing will unlock for you, however, is the body and weight you are supposed to have, plus your best chance at a normal appetite, a normal relationship with food, and weight stabilization.

If you think that letting your weight fall where it may is unacceptable, you’re still in denial about what trying to control your weight has done to you and will continue to do to you and your weight and heart and mind for the rest of your life.

If your weight still keeps ending up higher than it was when you started your diet, that’s all thanks to your survival mechanism and starvation response, and it is purposely upping your weight in preparation for the next famine. That will keep happening.

When I tell you your best bet is to drop the fight, I really mean it. More dieting and more attempts to lower your weight is just going to do the opposite of what you want it to do.

The best option is to accept where your body wants to be, treat your body well, feed it, love it, and let it calm down. You will probably end up somewhere in the middle of where you’ve yo-yoed. You may spend some time at the top of where you’ve yo-yoed. You really can’t do anything about it. You’ve tried.

Your body is gonna keep fighting back until you are an old woman, complaining about her pant size. And we deserve better passions than our pant size. So you may as well learn to befriend it.

I know this is all easier said than done. I know there is way more fear, and social stigma, personal judgment, and health fear, and more that goes into doing this. I know it’s not simple, but there is no other option except continuing the mania and misery you are experiencing right now. Your choice.