Based in Salt Lake city, Utah, JustStartGo is a blog by Drew Little. His posts explore business and productivity concepts that lead to a better, more balanced and profitable life. More about Drew.

The 2 main things that are making us fat

The 2 main things that are making us fat

There is no mystery to what makes us fat, it’s really simple, but unfortunately difficult to accomplish.  However, because something is difficult doesn't mean it's complicated, it's a common misconception. 

The confusion about what makes us fat is a huge barrier to many for eating healthily, and keeps people from knowing where to start and muddle through all the seemingly conflicting advice.  I believe once you have a basic understanding of digestion and a simple way to make decisions, it makes the process more palatable, and will allow you to have a healthy lifestyle, not a start and stop program.

Do you wonder?  

  • Why are processed foods bad?  
  • Should I stop eating gluten or dairy and why?
  • I know I should limit my sugar intake, but why?

After many years of researching and eating well (and not being fat), I’ve found a way to simplify the healthy eating lifestyle.  

There are TWO main reasons we get fat, that's right, just two. We eat too much sugar, and we consume foods and fake-foods that cause inflammation.

First rule

Don't not eat, this is about what you eat, not what you avoid.  The body is simple, it is designed to use what it needs then convert or store the rest into fat.  It’s not about how many calories you eat - I guarantee - and you can eat as much as you want, as long as you eat the right foods.

Eating is an addiction

Let's put eating habits into perspective.  Eating is an addiction, by definition an addiction is something our bodies require at a physiologic or chemical level. Our bodies require food, our bodies remind us when we need more, even demand it.

Addictions are all consuming, manipulative, powerful and controlling. If not controlled the addiction can wreak havoc on our lives, even kill us.  (Article on addiction).  When you're watching TV or laying in bed and a voice is encouraging you to get a snack, that's the addiction. "Just get one", "you deserve it", "you can work out tomorrow", is all the addiction talking. He's a master, and will mostly win. 

Beating the addiction is simple but hard.  Beating the addiction is simple but hard.  It takes some planning, proactivity and discipline but I don't know anything else challenging and worthwhile I've accomplished that hasn't required the same thing.  The good news is the reward comes quickly when you change your eating habits, you feel better and start to loose weight within two weeks. The body is VERY forgiving and resilient.

My history and the genesis of my strategy

I had an awakening about six years ago, and was fortunate to have some extraordinary mentors that opened my eyes to maximizing our bodies potential.

I’ve always been an athlete and extremely active and thought I was a healthy guy.  Then about six years ago my three year old son got an internal staph infection and got really sick and that same year my 46 year old cousin died six months after a stomach cancer diagnosis.  I decided to take it upon myself to research health, immunity and overall wellness.  I’d already read The Atkins Diet book but have since read In Defense of Food, The Beach Diet, Carbohydrates Addiction, The Zone, Bad Calories Good Calories, The China Study, Super Immunity, and several others.  I’ve attended a wellness seminar by the godfather of whole food eating, Dr. Weil, and spent countless hours discussing heath with a good friend, who is an MD and gut / digestive health specialist and runs a fantastic Integrative Clinic  My wife and I changed our families' diet completely.  I lost 20 Lbs, my endurance in sports nearly doubled, and in six years my family almost never gets sick, and when we do, it's only for a day or two.  

At the beginning I thought it was all very complicated, then I discovered the commonality to every book I read and nearly every discussion I’ve ever had with people smarter than myself.  It’s all about sugar and inflammation. 

As I said, there are two main reasons people get fat, eating too much sugar and inflammation substances, stop these and you won't be fat.  

Quick digestion lesson

Digestion is food broken down into small parts that the body can absorb, mainly proteins (amino acids) and glucose (sugar) both are essential to survival.  Sugar is mostly used for energy, where there are immediate and long term needs.  Our system is designed to break down food or things that are produced by nature, use what we need immediately and store the rest.  Let me repeat that, “store the rest”. I'm sure you can guess how we store the excess sugar, it's a three letter word that rhymes with "sat".  

Here is the important part, the body requires sugar for energy, BUT can only handle a small amount in the blood stream at time.  Too much sugar in your blood will lead to a coma or death, which is not good.  Fortunately, we have a hormone called insulin that comes to the rescue to remove any sugar that exceeds the threshold our body can handle.   If we control the amount of sugar in our blood stream at any one time, then there is never any excess or overflow, and if there is never any excess, then nothing is ever stored.

Why Sugar makes us fat

I have stated there are only two things that make us fat, one being sugar.  If you limit your sugar, you don’t get fat, it’s a fact of digestion.  My favorite widely propagated myth is that all calories are the same, "you can't escape science, it's just physics".  It's such non-sense, but commonly believed.  If you believe this, are you telling me that eating a 1,000 calories of chocolate cake and broccoli are the same? No way, Jose.  But why does the chocolate cake make us fat and the broccoli doesn't?   It's all about blood sugar, or how much sugar enters your blood stream at any given time.  Remember, any excess sugar is converted to fat.

Here's the deal.  If you eat spoonfuls of sugar, the body delivers it all very quickly to the blood stream, actually within minutes.  You're body can use about 5 grams at a time and converts the rest to fat.  Ok, that's an easy one to understand and generally we don't eat spoonfuls of sugar.  Did you know that white bread (buns, muffins, bagels, tortillas, etc), pasta, potatoes, soda, and juice all convert to sugar about as fast as sugar itself?  Consider yourself educated.  When you eat almost any highly processed food, or the above list, it is immediately broken down and delivered to the bloodstream as sugar, or glucose.  A huge piece of bread, bowl of pasta, or can of soda is the same as spoonfuls of sugar, which we know is a bad idea.

Here's the key to it all.  

Just control how much of those foods you eat at any one time.  I eat them all, but limited, or not together.  If I am eating a burrito, I don't have a sugary drink.  If I want to drink a juice, I don't get a burrito.   Let's use a common order at McDonalds as an example.  You eat a Coke, Big Mac, and fries (which btw I haven't eaten fast food more than 10 times in 7 years).  Once you've drank half the Coke you've already maxed out your blood sugar threshold, which means the second half of the Coke, all the fries, the and the bun are all converted to fat.  The meat, lettuce, and tomato break down slower and will be absorbed by the body later.

Watch and read these for an advanced education on sugar, they are ridiculously powerful.

The way I like to think about food is that they all have a different time-release of sugar.  White and processed foods quickly release sugar, vegetables and meats slowly release energy and fruits are in between.  

You can eat as much as you want, I promise

It's not about how much you eat, it's about what you eat.  You can eat as much vegetables, meats and beans as you want, just limit all whites and processed foods.  This is the key to not being fat long term, and is how simple the choices are.  But having the discipline to do it is hard.  But as I mentioned earlier in the article, the reward is quick, and the reward is worth it.  What is more important to you?  Eating that muffin every day, or not being fat?  The choice is that simple.  I eat muffins, just not every day, or not a whole muffin.

Part two, inflammation makes you fat too

Inflammation is a little more tricky to understand but as significant for our health.  WebMD says, "Inflammation is a process by which the body's white blood cells and chemicals protect us from infection with foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses." We all know what inflammation looks like on the outside, think of a skinned knee but the same thing happens inside our bodies too.  

There are three main groups of stuff we put in our mouths that cause inflammation, or technically, things you put in YOUR mouth, because I no longer do.

When we consume these things our bodies go to battle to digest or pass them through the system.  But in the process the digestive track, or stomach and intestines get inflamed.  When any of the three things are eaten every day,  you're chronically inflamed.  And if you're chronically inflamed you're not digesting foods properly.  And if you're not digesting foods properly, then you're body is dysfunctional.  This makes you fat. (don't read this article on inflamation).  

As a side note, chronic inflammation is considered one of the main factors in the increases in heart disease, cancer, diabetes but let's consider that a fringe benefit of not being fat.

What three things cause inflammation?

  • Allergic or digestive sensitive foods

Foods an individual has a sensitivity or allergy towards.  The top four inflammation foods are:  Wheat, dairy, corn, and soy.

  • Processed foods

These foods include sugar, white breads, pastas, tortillas, sodas, and juices (yes juices!)

  • Artificial ingredients

They include hydrogenated oils, food colorings, additives, and preservatives. I just think about them as all the fake stuff made by man.

All of these things will inflame your gut and cells.

How do you figure out what you're sensitive too?

Elimination diet

I highly recommend what's called an elimination/provocation diet.  It only takes about a month, then you'll know forever what your body can handle and what to avoid.  Great article and a step by step plan to do the diet, don't read this.

I put my entire family, kids were three and six at the time, through an elimination diet.  

It's pretty simple, you stop eating wheat, dairy, corn, and soy for 2-4 weeks.  Then consume a fair amount, like a glass of milk, of each food and see how you feel in the next 24 hours.  For every member of my family, we all reacted poorly to dairy, but the other three were didn't make us feel much different.  When I eat dairy I get a bloated feeling in my lower stomach, and can even see a bulge right above my bladder.  When my son eats dairy, he gets congested and you can hear him breathing at night from flem build up (FYI - flem is the reaction to an infection).  

That "bloated" feeling my friends, is inflammation, which means I was inflamed for 39 years of my life.   I will not do that to my children.

Just do this

For me, the basic understanding of the digestion of sugar and processed flour based foods was key to changing the way I eat and keeping me at my high school weight for six years.  It allowed me to focus on what I eat, NOT how much I eat.  My doctor friend told me once, you can eat as much as you want, of the right foods. I've personally challenged this absurd notion for six years, and and still weight for the fat to come.

The entire eating strategy is about making eating choices, not counting calories or even tracking how much you eat, just eat whole foods:  meats, vegetables, legumes, beans and nuts (and limited fruits).  You must be prepared and organized, and have foods eat available before you're hungry. You are eating from the fridge not the cupboard.

One unexpected thing happened to me, I've never enjoyed food more or looked forward to eating more than I do know.  Maybe it's because I know I'm eating good stuff, and never feel guilty about anything I eat.

Here is some examples of eating decisions I make every day/week.

  • Eat three vegetables per day (it's really hard)
  • Eat out of the refrigerator not the cupboard
  • Drink black coffee
  • Burrito. No rice. 
  • Jars of whole raw nuts
  • Snack often:  Veggies and humus, raw nuts
  • Limit beer consumption, drink whiskey or vodka on the rocks
  • If I have wine with diner, I don't have dessert
  • Natural peanut butter
  • I discovered why my smoothies sucked, I didn't have a $500 blender.  (careful, don't add too much fruit)
  • If I have several days in a row of eating poorly, I don't throw away the week, I eat better for the next couple of days

If you eat this way for two weeks strictly, you'll see and feel the difference.   That's it folks.  Get rid of that fat.

Email Doesn't Suck, People Suck At Using Email

Email Doesn't Suck, People Suck At Using Email

Be Careful, Your Instincts Are Lying to You

Be Careful, Your Instincts Are Lying to You