Tag Archives: obesity

Dieting Is Restrictive and That’s Exactly How It Needs to Be

‘Dieting’, as a term, gets a bad wrap these days. 

You hear the usual bombastic responses from people:

‘Dieting is restrictive.’

‘Dieting can lead to eating disorders.’

‘Dieting can create unhealthy relationships with food.’

The problem is, we’re already past the stage where we get to have a healthy relationship with food. The food we are given, except for the very basic wholefoods that we can buy, are laced with destructive toxins, like hormones, additives, preservatives, pesticides, and antibiotics. These chemicals are already wreaking havoc on our digestion, causing systemic toxicity, which then leads to inflammation. Sustained inflammation feeds into the development of chronic illnesses, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. 

When we tell someone that they have an ‘eating disorder’ because they choose to be selective about their eating habits, we are often making an unfair, uninformed, and unsubstantiated comment about somebodies lifestyle choices. 

The fact of the matter is, our food has never been so poisonous. Sweeteners cause weight gain. Preservatives have been shown to exacerbate behavioural problems. Sugar (abundantly present in a wide range of shop-bought foods) definitively increases risk for obesity, leading to other chronic health conditions. Poisonous produce is abundant, poorly understood, and often advertised as ‘health promoting’. 

Is it any wonder some of us feel the need to restrict in order to survive — even thrive — under these conditions? 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way saying that eating disorders do not exist — they unequivocally do, but the negative value judgements that the typical person imbues on dieters is unfounded, and even, ignorant. 

I think dieters and any person who is on the road to a healthier life, should reclaim the term. Yes, dieting is restrictive, and, unfortunately, as food corps pump more and more toxic junk into our foods, a healthy diet will have to be.

We have got to completely re-frame the way that we view dieting or lifestyle changes in society. Did you know that the American Diabetic Association is funded by coca cola? What does that statement say to you? Can you read between the lines? Big food companies do not want to help you, they want to control the information which is being given. This is a game of damage limitation, and big food companies have their fingers in all the pies. 

It is up to dieters, and those who take it upon themselves to reform their eating through big lifestyle changes, to do their research, and find a diet which works to make them feel healthier and happier. 

About a year ago, following a particularly stressful period, I started to develop symptoms. These symptoms ranged from hip, knee and ankle pain, to drastic mood swings and even periodic, uncontrollable crying and laughter. My symptoms were disconcerting. I was determined to find the root cause. 

On that journey, I discovered a lot about my particular dietary needs. I learned about lactose and gluten sensitivity, and I learned about the effects of a highly westernised diet on conditions of chronic pain and neurological disorders. My conclusion? Certain foods had to go. These are foods that I had grown up with as a child, foods that were deemed to be fine, even good for you. They were doing me harm, and I wish I’d had the courage to intervene and improve my life sooner. 

I spent years with serious mood swings and emerging chronic pain, to my mind, the beginnings of arthritis. I am only 28 years old. To be in that position at my age was devastating, but I had to act. I needed research and fundamental changes in perspective to find a way to heal. 

It’s still a process. I still eat foods that I have learned are bad for me from time to time, but the key is, I’ve significantly reduced this intake. I think a diet might cross into the eating disorder territory when it gets to the black and white elimination of an ever increasing range of foods. In contrast, a healthy tapering of some known allergens is a good route to a more sustainable and healthy life. 

I’ve cut out milk. I was intolerant to cows milk as a baby, before allergies were properly understood, but somehow, as I grew older, I lost touch with that understanding. This was the first to go, and you wouldn’t believe how easy it was. I only had milk in my coffee. As soon as I accepted black coffee as a delicious alternative, I never needed milk again, and my health began to improve. Boom, one busted, a few more to go. 

Gluten, now this is a bit more tricky. How do you get rid of something that is a staple in the western diet? The answer is, ‘with a great deal more difficulty’. Tapering has been the most effective thing in this instance. Just gradually getting rid of bread. For lunch, I’ll try a salad, or maybe a smoothie instead. More wholefoods, less gluten. It’s not easy, but it is doable with time. 

I also cut out soda — all kinds. I just drink water, coffee, and herbal teas. Sometimes this is hard, as water can get a bit dull, but to be honest, as long as I have my coffee, I don’t miss soda too much. I’m pretty happy not to touch it, and my urge to drink it is non-existent. 

My point is this, if you need to cut foods from your diet to feel healthier and happier, do it. Please. You need to look out for yourself first. If ‘restrictive’ dieting helps you feel more like yourself, more like the you you always knew you could be, then just do it. Peer pressure, judgement, and outdated views about food are not your problem. Your problem is figuring out how to make your life more enjoyable. If you’re like me, you’ve probably felt sluggish, run down, and low in mood. You may even be suffering from something like fibromyalgia, arthritis or MS. These lethargic and painful states require you to rethink your nutrition plan. Some of that may well involve restricting certain foods, and that’s ok. 

This is not a drill. Not all food is your friend, and your ‘friends’ may not support that view. Just tell them that you’re not doing it for them, this is for you. We need to start reclaiming the word ‘dieter’. We’re restricting because the food industry is no longer supporting our health in the ways that they claim to be. We have a duty to restrict where this can save us from foods that harm us. For those of you battling food intolerances, mood swings, and chronic physical pain, ‘dieting’ is not a bad word. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Dieting is restrictive, yes, but that restriction is about preservation, not obsession. Keep doing what makes you feel better. 

When it comes to your health, diet for you, for your preservation, for your livelihood, and for your well being. Never let the people around you talk you down. Trust your instincts, work out what feels right, and follow it relentlessly. ‘Restriction’ is not a bad word. ‘Dieting’ is not a bad word. Claim them back, then claim your health as well. 

We Are Way Past The Point Where Fat People Only Have Themselves to Blame

There are no words in the English language to describe the ire I feel when I hear ignorant, narrow-minded opinions about fat people.

Why are we here today? With one of the last acceptable prejudices being against someone’s weight, which as I’ll explain, has less than ever to do with victorian values of ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘a jolly good helping of elbow grease and grit’, the stuff of real characters! Go-getters! Nay, dare I say, thin people?

You’ll regularly here from thin people that ‘fat people only have themselves to blame’, but that just isn’t true. Society is playing an ever greater part in obesity, and I cannot sit by any longer and hear all about the erudite, no, transcendental wisdoms of the general public, who more often than not, have no understanding of the science of obesity whatsoever.

I’ll admit, I’m coming on a little strong, but remember, if you even have a niggle in your mind that society is at least partly to blame for fatness, then this is not directed at you. Remember that. If you’re on the fence, then this is probably not directed at you either. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and it’s hard to know without a thorough rummage through the science, what exactly is true on the topic of obesity.

No, this piece is about that charming selection of people in the audience who take no greater pleasure than provocatively poking fat people with metaphorical sticks and other sharp, pointy things, telling them how disgusting and lazy they are, and how their health is declining because they can’t stop shoving pork pies in their mouths. Well, I’ve got news for you, nasty, you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why right… now.

Despite what you may think about fat people, they are still people, and people have been peopleing now for a very long time. People have been the same, physiologically speaking, for at least long enough for me to make my next point. If, accepting that human physiology has not changed in any discernible way in the last millennia, even in the last thousand years, why, in the last hundred, have people become fatter and fatter? Obesity levels are reaching record heights. People are fatter than ever. Not just fat people, but people in general.

More people are morbidly obese, proportionately speaking, than at any other time in history. Since 1991, obesity levels in the UK have risen by 65% in males, and 25% in females. To believe that fat people are lazy or disgusting is to admit unbridled ignorance. Society is changing the proportionality of obesity. It is fair to say that the amount of human willpower, or our propensity towards good old-fashioned elbow grease has not decreased. We are still animals of fortitude, tenacity and endurance by all accounts. So what has changed? Fat people are not the hinge on which obesity generates itself, they are but a byproduct of something much more sinister and creeping.

Dr Giulia Enders in Gut tells us that the concept of obesity is far more complicated than just willpower. Our gut microbiome plays a significant role in our propensity to eat the wrong things. The most memorable test she illustrates was done on a unique set of lab rats without any bacterial colonies in their digestive systems at all. They were completely sterile. These rats then received various colonies of bacteria in transplantation. The rats who were given strains of bacteria known to cause disease became disproportionately obese. The rats given a healthy cocktail of lactobacillus and friends continued to maintain a slim weight.

What is more, the gut biome, much like the cordiceps mushroom or the parasitic wasp, may actually influence host behaviour. When you have an overgrowth of bad bacteria, you are more likely to crave carbohydrates and processed sugars, Enders says. These bacteria can produce chemical signals to request more food from the host. This symbiotic relationship between our gut bacteria, which help us digest our food and us, has been a pact of understanding for aeons. We are only just beginning to understand the mechanisms by which these tiny microorganisms can have such large effects on our behaviour.

Genetics, method of birth, food eaten, trauma, antibiotics, sleep and exercise, all impact the gut biome. A compromised gut makes room for pathogens, which leads to obesity as cravings increase for processed sugars and carbohydrates which feed these bad bacteria. This mixture of influences is a fairly common list in how to be healthy or unhealthy, but it’s not as simple as ‘do these things and you will be healthy’. We are now contending with an environment which actively wants to take these things away from us.

During the birthing process, the mother provides a great deal of beneficial bacteria to the baby as it leaves the birthing canal. Cesarians are on the rise. Cesarians prevent this important transfer of beneficial bacteria. Breast feeding has also been displaced by formula milk. Breat milk contains huge amounts of beneficial bacteria to an infant, as well as lots of important antibodies. From birth, our gut biomes are under onslaught from westernised influences which can set us behind, or even lead us to obesity.

Look at sleep, for instance. Sleep deprivation is on the rise. From 2010 to 2018, sleep deprivation (classed as anything under 7 hours), rose from just over to 30%, to just over 35%. That might not seem like a lot, but if we account for the fact that this has happened over just 8 years, we can see that modern life is coming for our z’s.

Physical exercise becomes a chore when so many of our waking hours are consumed by menial tasks, work commitments and socialising at the end of the day. Jobs demanding physical activity are falling as more people work at a desk for at least 8 hours a day. A poll of 2000 UK residents found that, during the lockdown, physical activity fell by 30 minutes, leading to weight gain over time.

Antibiotics are a blessing. They provide a way for us to perform surgeries without sepsis. They allow common infections to be treated and cured with relative ease. They’re essential to saving lives. Unfortunately, they’re also overprescribed needlessly for common complaints which might improve with rest, and they’re devastating for the gut biome. When antibiotics are used long-term, they can kill off many of the important fibre digesting bacteria which support health, which then leaves space for hardier pathogens to take root in the gut lining.

Finally, the food that we eat is laced with additives which promote weight gain. Drinking a diet coke to be skinny? The artificial sweeteners are known to cause obesity. Our meat is drenched in hormones and antibiotics to meet high meat demands and the growing prevalence of disease and antibiotic resistance in intense agriculture. Pesticides riddle our produce. Tomatoes are bred to contain more sugar. Food is a constant onslaught for our insides. All of these factors are detrimental to our gut health, and poor gut health correlates with weight gain, autoimmune diseases and metabolic syndromes.

Society is fuelling obesity, perhaps not consciously, perhaps not with malicious intent, but definitely, and powerfully, and even, dare I say it, clandestinely. We just see fat people and their fatness, and it makes for an easy target. They’re there, we can observe that they are fat and therefore, by some kind of cave man logic, they must be the source of fatness, but, as with anything that’s worth researching about, it’s not that simple.

People like to blame what they can see because it’s much easier to live with than what they cannot. The Cold War was a time of anxiety, deep suspicion and secrecy. The sort of contextual backdrop which leaves the hairs on your nape on end. Not knowing your enemy, or when he will strike is fear itself. Without fat people to take the fall for obesity, who would we point the finger at? It’s not easy when you can’t see the problem, but it is there and it needs addressing now.

Fatness is endemic.

Fatness is spreading.

Fatness is not about fat people.

Society plays a bigger role than ever in fatness. Fat people have agency, yes. We all have agency, but agency is also effected by societal structures. Big food corporations, employment law, covid isolation sanctions, stressful lives and so much more. To say that fat people bring about their own health issues is to ignore the mounting scientific evidence. The walls are closing in on us. We’re being squashed in our freedoms, liberties, and desires for healthier lives. You can’t fight a shrinking room with no doors. Not without looking at the problems in our modern lifestyles will we begin to make better choices.

The paradox of it all is this.

As our world shrinks in around us, we’re all going to get bigger.

Fat is symptomatic of an imbalance in the social fabric of our lives. The sooner we recognise that, the faster we can begin to heal.

And for the last time, repeat after me, fat people are not the cause of fatness, society is.

Can Big Food Corporations Really Claim To Care About Us?

Coca Cola and other big brand names are pulling ad funding for Facebook due to some novel kind of ‘moral obligation’ to themselves and the general public.

Yet Coca Cola is one of the largest funding bodies for the American Diabetes Association, who’s CEO’s are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for leading a ‘non-profit’ organisation.

Just think about that for a second. The largest advisory board for diabetes health is also taking huge sums of money from Coca Cola et al, to give advice to people suffering with the condition.

Does that sound very moral to you?

Coca Cola, both full fat and fat free, are seriously contributing to diabetes and obesity in America. Both the added sugar and the artificial sweeteners have DEFINITIVELY been implicated in rising obesity and diabetes numbers.

Do you really think coca cola and friends have any kind of moral obligation to anyone, least of all you, the every day man or woman, to avoid platforms or products which are causing division and disease?

Facebook has been involved in a number of data breaches and security scandals, it is also run on algorithms which thrive on negativity (please take a look at this article where I talk more about that), and it’s losing ground to more popular visual platforms like snapchat and instagram (but it still owns these companies, so be aware).

It’s much more likely that big corporations are sensitive to these aspects of Facebook’s recent behaviour which can potentially harm their image, than due to any arbitrary sense of ‘moral obligation’ to the public.

All I’m asking is that people remain vigilant and alert to language which takes on a moral tone, when it’s coming from large multi-national companies. The likelihood that morality plays any part in choice is low to none in most cases. Where you see language like ‘we care’, or ‘we have a duty’, or virtue signalling regarding current world affairs, you would be safest to take that language with a pinch of salt.

As always, do your research, listen to all sides of the argument, and never dismiss the idea that businesses may not be working to make your life better.

It’s not out of the question that they might not be rooting for you in the way that they say they are.

Stay safe and aware, and please like, comment, and subscribe for more information on digestive health, diet and society.

Julian

Blame FAT SOCIETY, not fat people

The blame game.

We love to play it, but does pointing the finger really help us move forward?

Often when we reflect on blame, we find that it’s not always as satisfying as we expect, even though in many cases, it might be our first impulse.

Fat people.

The last acceptable bias in society.

Free game for laughter, shaming and bullying.

Most people will tell you that a fat person is an acceptable object of abuse because they can change their habits, they can become thin.

And they would be right. It is definitely possible to become thin when you started out fat, but we aren’t looking at the bigger picture.

Over the last few centuries, people have been getting bigger.

Obesity is the single largest (forgive me) health crisis in the west. We are spending astounding amounts of money on the end stage results of fatness.

Roll it back 2-300 years and almost nobody was fat. It just didn’t happen.

So, if society as a whole was thinner a century a go, is it fair to blame the fat individual for their weight? Do fat people just not try hard enough to eat well?

Based on everything we’ve seen so far, with rising obesity levels throughout the entire population, that would imply that society is losing its willpower? That every subsequent generation is just that little bit lazier, more sluggish and weak minded. Does anyone really believe that? I don’t think there is any evidence for it. So why do you say that about the individual fat person? Why is the onus on them to be thin, when all of society is wider than ever? It just doesn’t make sense to bash fat people in light of the scientific trend toward obesity documented copiously in the medical corpus.

This is where we come to the title of this article. Pointing fingers at individuals is never helpful and completely misplaced. We are facing an obesity epidemic because society is FAT.

Let me explain.

Antibiotics are pumped into all of our meat and dairy, pesticides, growth hormones and a myriad of synthetic fertilisers engorge our plants and make them grow to monstrous proportions. Our fruits and vegetables are genetically tweaked to include MORE sugar, to yield MORE oil and to stay fresher for longer. Our water is flooded with flouride, hormones and even antibiotics. SUGAR, the number one substance contributing to this epidemic, is cheaper than ever and in more of our foods.

When we head to a shop, everywhere we are bombarded by snacks filled with inflammatory oils like canola, sunflower and palm, added sugar, which goes by names so exotic you’d need a masters in food production to decode a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, and preservatives of such abundance and diversity as to make jelly belly beans corp… well… jelly.

We are drowning in chemicals. Seemingly harmless products like yogurt and prepackaged salads contain teaspoons of sugar while claiming to support health. The food industry is deceitful to a fault, and if they were not regulated, we would be even worse off than we are now.

And what is it doing to us? Our digestive system cannot handle the abundance of damaging foods which are put on us unknowingly. Those of us who have become overweight have been the first to fall. Thin people, thank your good genetics amongst other things for your ability to stave off the fat, but eventually, even good genes will fail if we continue on this path.

Studies of the microbiome of the intestinal tract of obsese mice present some astounding findings. The most important of all being that in these mice, the microbiota are less diverse. Fat intestines are emaciated digestive landscapes. We are blaming fat people for the forest in their abdomen, but while they suffer with a digestive wildfire, their thin counterparts have stronger and more diverse intestinal landscapes.

When the gut biome fails, it makes room for pathogenic bacteria and glutinous carb/ sugar loving organisms. These bacteria, as described in GUT, could theoretically influence the host’s satiety and hunger levels, forcing them to eat more sugar by signalling the body to crave them. This reminds me of the cordyceps mushroom which takes over the host ant and makes it climb the canopies of trees to give the mushroom lots of light, to grow our of the dead ants HEAD (yuck). In this respect, we should treat the microbiome as something which can work in our favour to promote health, or against us, parasitically influencing us to gobble down more sugary fuel for their benefit.

Again, should we blame obese people for their fat bodies when we are only beginning to learn that our own intestinal tract, populated by a range of influential bacteria, can influence what we want to eat? And, that our society, pumping us full of the things which promote pathogens, is not at least somewhat to blame for fat people becoming fat?

What about fat children? You might say it was the parents. But, what about in cases where the child is fat, but not the parents? Children don’t actively attempt to gain weight and if their parents are not always fat as well, how can we blame them for their own obesity? Something else is at play here and it is not fat people’s unbridled gluttony.

So, fat people, unburden yourself from the shame which has been levied against you. You are not to blame for your weight (you probably already knew that anyway).

That doesn’t mean that you should continue to do the same thing. There are many ways you can start to improve you health. Two posts I created recently on fermentation and intermittent fasting can help you begin to regain some control over FAT SOCIETY.

At any rate, don’t forget that there are still whole foods, and cooking from scratch/ eating fruits, vegetables and free range meats and dairy are the best options in fat society. Go for foods that you know are single label. I’m talking bananas, cabbage, carrots, lettuce. Anything that comes with a list of ingredients is probably doing your body a disservice. Make it from scratch and claim back your health!

FAT SOCIETY WILL NOT WIN.

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J