SUGAR - Friend or Foe ?

body weight calories fitness flex success food nutrition sugar weight loss Sep 25, 2020

Instead of leading you through a long intro with the history of sugar, arguments, and counter-arguments on the costs and benefits of sugar, how about I cut to the chase and just give you the answer now:

Both. sugar can be your friend and a foe depending on how you use it and your general relationship with sugar.

What is your relationship with sugar like?

Just like alcohol can enhance a person's ability to feel comfortable in some environments and be more social, too much alcohol can turn that same person into a fumbling mess that wets themselves in front of everyone.

Flex Success is currently made up of a team of 7 coaches and about 100 clients between us not including past clients and those waiting to come on board. All of these clients have ‘balance and moderation’ drilled into them from the very beginning and the ‘fear’ of sugar reduced or hopefully totally removed. Fear-mongering of all sorts 

It comes as no surprise that so many clients in the early stages of their coaching as well as people who enquire about coaching express their recognition that they are overweight because they eat ‘too much sugar’ or don’t eat ‘clean’. Many people even say that they have tried cutting out fruit because of the sugar content and one person refused to eat the fruit on their nutrition plan as he believed it to lead to diabetes. Below is just one example of fear-mongering of sugar being pushed on both adults and children:

There is a so much information out there, and with the rise of the internet and social media also comes a rise in the spread of misinformation and the publication and popularity of what can only be described as misleading rubbish and short-sighted products in the capitalist quest for profit margins. Our brains are polluted with ads from detox companies, meal replacement plans, and diet pills, endorsed by oiled up fit looking people and celebrities which is usually just marketing BS disguised to look like scientific research so we hand over our hard earned $$.

Recently, Coca-Cola spent millions of dollars arguing that a lack of exercise is to blame for obesity, not sugary drinks. Likewise in the 1960’s The Sugar Lobby and sugar industry at large, which have vested interests in the continuation of mass sugar consumption, paid 3 scientists to write a review that shifted the blame of obesity onto saturated fats. In the nutrition science and nutrition marketing world, it was widely accepted and promoted for a long time that saturated fats did play a key role in health and weight management but those ideas have since been disproven with new studies.

So who is lying?

What is the truth?

What is the real enemy here?

Is it sugar?

Is it lack of exercise?

Is it saturated fats?

Is it none of them?

Is it all of them?

The Pessimistic Medanducion Theory states that everything we know X amount of years ago was proven wrong some years later, then new information that was deemed scientifically valid surfaced and once again proven wrong. By extension, everything we know now to be ‘truth’ is just a ticking time bomb to be disproved in the future. Some may ask what is even the point in learning if the information we think we ‘know’ is proven wrong later or the point of research if we are simply researching information that has a low truth probability as new research starts unfolding. Well, not even attempting to gain practical knowledge to answer life's important questions such as ‘is sugar a friend or foe’ means we are no closer to finding answers and will continue making the same mistakes and make no improvements at all. What we must do when searching for new information is look at its validity, then view this new information holistically as to where it fits in the broader picture of things as well as focus our attention on the easy things we can change to make the biggest difference.

‘Science’ can’t always offer us concrete flawless universal ‘facts’ or ‘knowledge’ and epistemology has proven this point time and time again. One day science tells us that we should not eat any more than  6 eggs per week then later it's ok to eat eggs daily. Coffee will give you cancer, then coffee has cancer-fighting properties. Eat avocados and salmon for their healthy fats, but later, low-fat diets are promoted to reduce weight and risk of cardiovascular disease. Eat fruit for the vitamins and minerals. Fruit has sugar and sugar causes diabetes. Around and around we go.

I still haven’t answered that question yet.

I asked:

“So who is lying?

What is the truth?

What is the real enemy here?

Is it sugar?             

Is it lack of exercise?

Is it saturated fats?

Is it none of them?

Is it all of them? “

The answer is: None of them AND all of them.

Most things in moderation are perfectly fine and just like alcohol, the devil is in the dosage.

Is it sugar?

Is it lack of exercise?

Sugar contributes to total daily calorie intake via carbohydrates with 4 calories for every gram of carbs. The first law of thermodynamics states that if we eat more calories than we burn then we will gain weight. Therefore, a lack of exercise or general inactivity is contributing to weight gain as the calorie consumption/calorie burn balance is affected.

Is it saturated fats to blame for obesity?

Saturated fats eaten in moderation have not been proven to cause negative health effects or weight gain, with the key word here being ‘moderation’, however. when eaten in excess just like excess sugar, daily caloric total consumption increases and is likely the cause of weight gain as well as health issues.

I did say just before that we should ‘focus our attention on the easy things we can change to make the biggest difference’, and when it comes to changing our body weight, managing total calorie intake is the most effective way to do so, closely followed by monitoring where those calories come from (protein, carbs or fats).

Just sugar alone, or lack of exercise or saturated fats in isolation are not to blame, but the over-consumption of total calories coupled with decreasing energy expenditure = weight gain.

With weight gain comes a host of negative health and social outcomes as well as the tendency to reach for quick-fix fad diets, which have a frighteningly low success rate for long-term weight management and are notorious for trapping people in the food restriction/food binge cycle.

As we can see sugar is a contributor.

Saturated fats are a contributor.

Lack of exercise is a contributor.

They are all to blame, but not just one in isolation.

I’m sure most of us are aware of Jamie Oliver’s ‘war on sugar’, which he has drawn a causative relationship between sugar and obesity. His intentions are great! He is trying to reduce global obesity levels and has and is helping thousands of people make healthier, fresher food choices, but where Jamie has fallen short is painting health and weight loss with the same brush. Read more on the difference between health and weight loss here.

Jamie has made sugar the enemy and provided little education on weight management.

It’s easy to recognise the ‘blob’ of butter (a massive tablespoon of full fat butter) in his cooking shows and a ‘dash’ of olive oil (a continuous free pour) in his cooking demonstrations, which clearly show his misunderstanding of the first law of thermodynamics - total cals in vs cals out. He has pointed the finger at sugar as the cause of obesity while encouraging the consumption of fats without restriction. Jamie Oliver is a great example of a well-intentioned misinformed do gooder who contributes to the confusion and fear around sugar.

Sure, cutting out sugar will likely lead to weight loss, assuming no other variables are changed such as increasing the intake of calories from somewhere else to replace the calories removed from carbs (sugar is a carb). BUT it was the reduction in calories that will cause the weight loss not the removal of sugar.

We also need to consider other variables such as the social life of sugar and sugar in our gift giving/receiving economy as well.

Let's say we put a ban on sugar but only added sugar and naturally occurring sugar in milk, vegetables, fruit, bread, nuts,and grains were ok. If we are to put a strict ban on even just added sugar, this means saying no to sugary foods and/or drinks that typically surround social events and can lead to a level of social outcasting or isolation.

Chocolate which is loaded with sugar plays a large role in gift giving in the western world with a box of chocolates saying ‘I love you’, ‘thank you’, ‘ I'm sorry’, ‘thanks for having me/us’, ‘farewell, ’I appreciate you’, and so much more.

A cake says ‘happy birthday’, ‘congratulations’ and generally marks many of life's milestones like graduations, weddings and the welcoming of a new baby.

Then we have to consider the sugar in alcoholic beverages which also marks milestones as well as plays a huge role in social interactions with milestones and social interactions commonly being combined. Think NYE, promotions at work, graduations (again) and weddings (again).

If we are to point the finger at sugar as our enemy or foe, we are not considering that the devil is in the dosage and that other factors are at play like overconsumption of total calories and lack of exercise.

When we consider any information, including scientific information or things to do with our health, I strongly encourage you to look at it in the bigger picture and to practice moderation.

Diet Smart. Not Hard.

Coach Lizzy.