Home Health Glenn Ellis Ellis: Not just more exercise, but less sugar

Ellis: Not just more exercise, but less sugar

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By Glenn Ellis

Since the beginning of the New Year, many articles and media stories are pointing out that we’re fooling ourselves to think that consistent commitment to exercise should be our focus in losing weight and becoming healthier.

Most of these reports go on to explain how calories intake/burning is important for us to understand in the process. I’d like to go a little deeper in exploring our approach to calories, and their role in our health and our weight.

We can exercise to the moon and back but still be at less than ideal weight because of all the sugar and carbs we consume. And perhaps even more disturbing is that we can be a normal weight and exercise, and still be unhealthy if we’re eating poorly. So, bottom line, we need a basic reboot of our understanding of health.

Let me be clear that in no way is the intent of this column to discourage anyone from incorporating adequate levels of exercise or physical activity into their lifestyle. The point is to be clear that physical activity does not promote weight loss.

Case in point, in the last 30 years, exercise has stayed about the same, while overweight and obesity have skyrocketed. So, something else must be at play — like the type of food we’re eating. That part has gotten steadily worse over the years, as highly-processed sugary foods and sodas have taken over as our go-to choices.

According to the medical journal, Lancet, poor diet now generates more disease than physical inactivity, alcohol and smoking combined. This is a disturbing statistic.

But, wait, it gets worse.

Even normal weight people who exercise will, if they eat poorly, have metabolic markers that put them at very high risk of chronic illness and early death. Put another way, as many as 40 percent of people with a normal body mass index will have the type of metabolic abnormalities typically associated with obesity, which include hypertension, cholesterol issues, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease.

More and more, we’re finding out that the most important culprit in this dilemma is sugar. Sugar is everywhere, and it has become far too big a part of our regular food intake. Sugar is in up to 90 percent of foods found in our grocery stores, and there is a great deal of concern that people are consuming way more than what’s healthy.

Whenever you refer to sugar, the most basic forms that you will come across include glucose, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, and lactose. These six sugars are naturally occurring in the environment but are often processed by humans and machines as a way to sweeten and enhance the flavor of foods. Foods that contain sugar are likely to contain one or several of these forms. Table sugar can be dextrose or sucrose, fructose is the sugar generally found in fruits and vegetables, maltose can be found in some cereals, and lactose is commonly referred to as the dairy sugar. If your food labels mention any of these six sugars, then they contain added sugar!

Sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger. Sugar is a major culprit in weight gain since it contains calories, but not much else in the way of vitamins, minerals, or anything else that’s good for you!

For every 3,500-calorie deficit, you lose roughly one pound of fat. So, if you do the math, reduing your current daily calorie intake by 500 calories would mean you cut back 3,500 calories per week: translated into one pound of body fat per week.

Consider this: if you eat a standard 2,000 calorie diet (men or women) each day and you immediately cut all sources of sugar from your usual food and drink, you would reduce your caloric load by 330 calories each day, assuming you eat the average of 82 grams of sugar each day. Reducing your caloric load by 330 calories in sugar each day would translate to about 34 pounds of fat loss each year, or close to three pounds per month.

This is not an exact science, but it is a good way to estimate weight loss. In contrast, if you eat more than what your body needs, then you will gain weight.

Now that you have some information on how sugar impacts your weight management, some of the names that it goes by, and the difference between natural and added sugars, you will want to learn about some effective ways to cut sugar out for good. Consider the following tips to aid in your journey to successfully avoid sugar in your daily eating habits: limit fruit; avoid jams, jellies, honey, or other preserves; eat plain Greek yogurt; get used to reading grocery labels; and know the difference between natural and added sugar.

The single most effective thing people can do for their weight, is to restrict calories – and even more, restrict carbohydrates, especially those from sugar.

Glenn Ellis is a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, nationally and internationally on health related topics. Listen to Glenn, on radio in Birmingham or V94.9, Sundays at 7:50pm, or visit: www.glennellis.com