Sugar - Why You Are Sick and Fat!

The complete explanation (and how to fix it).

This is an excerpt from Kami's Nutritional Blueprint which is the nutritional element to the Kami Combo. If you want to learn how to lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks, check out our Kami Combo.
Leela, Bender, we're going grave robbing.
Kamila Before & After (View large version).

Hi, my name is Kamila and I'm a recovered sugar addict.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have the biggest sweet tooth in the history of man, woman and child. It takes every ounce of willpower to stay far away from one of the substances that was largely responsible for my massive weight gain - SUGAR!

Maybe it stemmed from the childhood memories of my mother making an exception on special occasions, such as birthdays, to bake the most incredible treats. Or maybe it was the aunts and uncles who would come to Jamaica on vacation from the US, with candy that would make our eyes bulge.

Or maybe it was when I got whisked away from my island of sunshine for the first time and found myself in Norway, at 'too-many-degrees-below-zero' and the sugary hot chocolate I would turn to, to warm me up by ten degrees each time. I don't know how or when exactly the addiction started, but one thing I do know for certain, was that I was HOOKED, for YEARS!

And no wonder I was! When we eat sugar, our bodies literally release a natural painkiller (beta endorphin) that calms anxiety, increases self-esteem and makes us feel gooooooood, further deepening the positive association we have with it. When in reality, sugar is actually making us feel baaaaaaad.

It all hit me one day at the dentist, during the early days of my health and fitness journey. I had practically ordered every book under the sun from Amazon that had to do with weight loss, clean eating and fitness. I was in the zone. As fate would have it, my dentist discovered not one but TWO cavities while carrying out my annual cleaning and checkup. He told me that all my regular brushing would be in vain if I didn't start cutting down on the sugar.

As he scheduled my fillings, I remember sitting there feeling mortified. I knew I ate quite a bit of sweet stuff, but I clearly caused more damage than I realized, consuming enough to give me my first two cavities. I even remember freaking out after my appointment because of all the studying I was doing at the time for my Personal Training certification. I had just finished reading up on all the soft tissues in our bodies and remember thinking to myself that if sugar could make holes in teeth, one of the hardest structures in the human body, what in the world was it doing to my insides?

That was the moment I stepped up my game and officially took my determination to crack this 'health thing' on a whole new level. I started looking through volumes and volumes of research on sugar, its link to our degeneration of health and the rise in obesity. I read everything I could sink my teeth into and was so fascinated (and freaked out by) the harmful effects of sugar.

The research on sugar was jaw-dropping, eye opening and life-changing. The scariest part of it all was the, now widely accepted, research that states that sugar is literally toxic! I'm talking about the 'skeleton X' kind of toxic. The same symbol that goes on hazardous products that will literally kill you!

As you can see, even though we grew up hearing Mary Poppins sing that, 'a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down', sugar may end up being the reason we have to take medicine in the first place!

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Not Just Fat but Fatality

The difference between eating natural unrefined carbohydrates and refined sugar can be the difference between life and death, for refined sugar is lethal when ingested by humans.

The most convincing evidence to date, comes from the compelling Dr. Robert Lustig, leading expert in childhood obesity at the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. His research showed that sugar will literally kill us if we continue to consume it in the amounts that we do today.[2] He believes that sugar is at the root of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, many cancers and ding ding ding - OBESITY!

We have gotten ourselves to the point of a public health crisis with these chronic non-communicable diseases and the sad part is that 75% of the problem is our lifestyle, specifically the high consumption of sugar.

It makes so much sense. In today's world, everyone and their mother (literally) has, or knows someone who has heart disease, diabetes or cancer. In 1980, roughly six million were diabetic. By the early 2000’s, when sugar consumption peaked, 14 million were diabetic.[3] In 2014, the numbers are totally out of control.

Also check out what the wonderfully funny John Oliver had to say about Sugar recently!

What is sugar?

Before we get into what happens to our bodies when we eat sugar, let’s take a moment to break down what sugar is. Based on the previous chapter, we know that sugar is a carbohydrate.

A simple rule of thumb is that if it ends in ‘ose,’ it’s a sugar. Glucose (also known as dextrose), fructose (naturally found in fruits) and galactose are simple sugars. Sucrose (table sugar), maltose and lactose (naturally found in milk) are more complex sugars. Sugars are found naturally in the tissues of most plants, but are only present in concentrations large enough to be extracted - in sugarcane and sugar beet.

Caught up in a not-so-sweet-cycle!

How many times have you looked at the jar of candy at work and told yourself, 'ok, just a few more', only to find yourself scraping the bottom of the jar before your 11a.m. meeting.

I'm just gonna put it right out there. I used to be TOTALLY addicted to jellybeans. To this very day I still think about the so-called joy it used to give me. Infact, I'm thinking about it right now. But as soon as I get that thought, I think about all the negative effects it had on my body and then I'm over it.

Here's what would happen, from a scientific perspective, in my jellybean overkill days:

  1. I would (easily) down half the bag of jellybeans.
  2. Eating all those jellybeans sends a huge rush of glucose into my bloodstream and my energy level spikes wayyyyyy up! This sugar rush has the pleasure center in my brain doing back flips, front flips and flips that don't even exist. I’m feeling on top of the world! Woohoooooooooooo!
  3. It's all downhill from there.
  4. My liver sends crazy amounts of insulin to mop up all that glucose and stores it as glycogen in my liver and muscles.
  5. Because the sugar came in void of fiber and nutrients, which would have soaked up some of the glucose, the insulin wipes out all the glucose from my bloodstream faster than I can spell 'j-e-l-l-y-b-e-a-n' and then BAM - my blood sugar levels drop dramatically and I get the worst feeling EVER.
  6. I feel lethargic and low. The dramatic drop in my blood sugar levels also triggered the release of stress hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) to activate my stored up sugar. These stress hormones raise my heart rate, clench my stomach and leave me shaky, once my body realizes I'm not actually in danger.
  7. This what is known as the 'sugar crash'. What's worse is those crazy amounts of insulin were too much for my liver and muscles and the excess got converted to fat. Now those jellybeans are heading straight to my thighs!
  8. But I hate this low feeling. At this point I’m craving that sugar high again! And hey, I'm "smart" enough to realize that if I just eat some more jellybeans my energy will shoot up again and my pleasure center will be booming! So that's exactly what I do – I pop some more jellybeans! Best idea everrrrrrrrrrrr! Woooohoooooooo! I'm back on top of the world!
  9. My liver is like, "What in the jellybeans are you thinking?" And sends out crazy amounts of insulin again.
  10. Repeat steps 5 thru 8.

Do you see the cycle here?

Credit: Weight Loss Ninja

This is exactly the kind of addictive cycle I found myself in while battling with my weight problems. I became addicted to that 'sugar high' and how happy it made me feel. That kind of happiness, however, never lasts long and does more damage than good. This is why we are tempted to eat sugar in such large amounts and often in just one sitting.

Sugar itself creates this rebound effect and the ongoing desire to have the pleasure center going off like an alarm in your brain. In the end, "what you are eating is actually making you feel sluggish so you swirl and swirl around always feeling like you need to eat."[4] Believe me, this cycle goes on and on until your body can't even release insulin efficiently enough to keep up with your sugar consumption. This is the point at which we become diabetic.

That is why we cannot self medicate with food because it will only make you feel good in the short term but will end up sending your body in total chemical imbalance, inflammation and, drum roll - WEIGHT GAIN.

This so perfectly brings me to the next point. If you’re on my team (which is ALWAYS the winning team :)) you are now convinced that sugar is the root of all evil when it comes to eating and that many of the diseases in the world today link right back to this toxic substance.

Also, I'm so sorry to burst your bubble gum bubble, but added sugars ARE the reason why we as a universal nation are becoming obese, sick and if we don't stop right now, on our way to a sad sad death.

How Sugar Turns Our Friend Insulin Against Us

Ok sugar, time to crack your code because this unhealthy love affair is leading us to a VERY scary place—Insulin Resistance. Hear me out. Compelling evidence shows that if you give in to these cyclical cravings and send your body through constant sugar highs and lows, your cells will no longer respond to insulin the way it should (yes the same insulin which mops up all that excess glucose for us). Studies show that the body will lose sensitivity to the hormone and continue to release it in high amounts. This is BAD news.

By this point, insulin won’t be able to handle the glucose chillin in our bloodstream and will be deposited in the fat cells and stored. This contributes to the expanding waistlines and the growing jiggly which puts a quick stop to the new bikini you planned on wearing to the beach (lord knows I’ve had many inhibited beach days in the past….damn you sugar!)

Elevated insulin levels in the blood cause high blood pressure and actually signals to the brain that you are hungry! [8] So not only is this insulin resistance thing physically causing the storing of fat, but it is also making us eat more because our bodies think it’s hungry!

Alive Not Deprived!

Jeez, talk about a wake up call!! One of the interesting side effects of doing all this research is that I (someone who has a literal weakness for sweetness) have been converted to a borderline sugar police inspector.

You are talking to a full blown recovering sugar addict and I PROMISE you, when you cut it out in the way that I’ll be suggesting, eventually when YOU also beat your addiction, you will not feel deprived. In fact you will feel ALIVE!

The first time I eliminated added sugars from my diet (and boy was it difficult) I literally lost 12 pounds in 3 weeks and had more energy than an energizer bunny. I slept noticeably better, that in turn contributed to my weight-loss, and my skin became spotless.

People ask me all the time what my secret to a flat stomach is, especially after having my daughter Kailani Belle. ‘Eliminating added sugars’ is my first go to answer because it just works! I literally experienced a full body transformation—mind, body and soul.

So now that you are with me, let’s get to some good news—the sugar we CAN enjoy during our mission to lose pounds. I have been loosely throwing around the term, sugar and added sugar since the beginning of this chapter, so let’s break those two types of sugars down.

Natural Versus Added Sugar

You must, must, must understand the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. Naturally occurring sugars are found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). They are most definitely a part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Unfortunately, since the low-carb craze, fruit has been under a lot of scrutiny because most of the calories in fruit are from carbohydrates. The big BUT here - not the one you’re trying to get rid of ;-) - is that you are also getting a sweet deal (pun intended). Fruits are packed with water, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients (chemical compounds occurring naturally in plants), all of which your body NEEDS to function properly.

Now where weight loss is concerned, balance is still very important because even though fruits are insanely nutritious, there IS quite a bit of sugar in them. The USDA suggests 2-4 servings of fruit per day, along with a balanced diet filled with veggies, whole grains and protein rich foods.[6]

For your weight loss journey however, I suggest that you keep your fruit intake to 2 servings of fruit daily and try not to exceed 3. This means, you can have 1 small to medium apple/orange/banana/handful of berries/grapes/etc. two to three times each day or match any two suggestions from the list below.

Think of it like a break up with your ex who you KNOW needs to go. Initially, you will probably have the urge to call, message or sometimes give in, but the more you hold your ground and stand firm, is the quicker you will get over it. Eventually the urge will go away and you’ll free up yourself to healthily move on with your life ;). Remember, the more you limit your sugar intake, the more weight you will lose. So in the first 5 weeks at least, try to limit to 2 per day. Don’t give in to those urges, stay strong :).

You can have 2 - 3 servings of any of the below.

  • Applesauce - no added sugar (1 serving =1/2 cup)
  • Cinnamon powder
  • Dried fruit (1 serving = 1/4 cup a day)
  • Fruits (1 serving = 1 small-medium sized fruit)

Don't make the mistake and forget to count the fruit you use in your smoothies, shakes, oatmeal etc. This all counts as part of your daily allowance. Never underestimate how much natural sugars you are consuming. Yes they are natural, yes they are full of healthy goodness, BUT they are still sugars.

In my chapter on fiber (chapter 3 in Kami's Nutritional Blueprint - included in the Kami Combo) you will understand exactly why whole fruit and the fiber content in food affects your insulin levels when a carb (even with high sugar content) is consumed. But for now please understand that the more the food is in a natural, unprocessed state (therefore probably higher in fiber) is the better it will be for your blood glucose levels and inadvertently your weight loss journey.

Now added sugars.

The bad boys we are sentencing to ‘life in solitary confinement,’ the ones causing half the havoc we were discussing earlier is what we refer to as ADDED SUGARS. These, my people, are the living devil in the universe of food. Added sugars are, what many researchers believe to be, causing our bodies to be out of whack, overweight and sick.

Suicide by sugar, has defined added sugar as those sugars added to foods and beverages during processing or home preparation[7]. It’s the processing word here that we need to run far away from. Anything that is processed, bagged, canned, sealed and on your supermarket shelf, more than likely has a ton of sickening sugar - most times without you even knowing it.

As discussed in our section on carbohydrates (buy the book for more info), the pancreas secretes insulin whenever our blood sugar rises and if there’s an overproduction or underutilization (lack of exercise) your body will end up storing it.

Now imagine ON TOP OF what you are eating from your meals each day, you complicate the situation by eating or drinking food products with simple sugars found in them such as cakes, cookies, and soda, which are totally void of anything beneficial to your body.

Your poor pancreas is overworked in a constant attempt to rebalance the bloodstream, which causes your body to end up storing most of the garbage you eat (even if you are doing the crazy 10pp workouts). This is the root cause of type 2 diabetes and heart disease that we were discussing earlier.

The added sugar from all the junk food we eat almost always has little to no fiber to absorb some of the sugar and creates a much slower insulin response. Its only use is making your pleasure center happy for a few moments.

So here is an important rule of thumb, based on my research –you should not eat more than 8 grams (2 teaspoons) of added sugar in one sitting and no more than 20 grams of added sugar a day[8]. This seems to be the prevailing thought in research evidence, on what our bodies can handle best without totally going out of control.

And thank God the right organizations are catching on. On March 5, 2014, The World Health Organization (WHO) dropped their total sugar allowance/recommendation to less than 5% of the daily caloric intake. To put this into perspective—if we take 5% of a 2,000 calorie diet that is only 100 calories, or just over 25 grams of sugar for the day![9]

That means that depending on how many calories you need to consume for weight loss, that recommendation could possibly be a whole lot less. My average is at about 1,700 calories per day and I keep my added sugar under 20 grams while doing perfectly fine - of course my weekly, scheduled cheat meals are not included in this average ;).

Now on the flip side, let’s take the average added sugar consumption of Americans for example. They consume sugar and other similar sweeteners at an average of 48 teaspoons per person per day!!! Based on the global obesity rates, it is highly likely that the average for the rest of the world is quite similar – regardless of development status. [10]

So as you can see based on the recommendations of research we are consuming significantly more added sugar than we should be.

Even scarier, is that most times we don’t even know it. You know that stupid saying, “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”? Total crap! Ignorance is never bliss so you better sit down for this one and listen very, very, keenly.

There are over 30 alternative names for sugar which means this ‘added sugar thing’ we are breaking down here goes way beyond the word s-u-g-a-r. When I found this out I was pissed! Not only is sugar bad for me, but it comes in all these other names I didn’t even know about. Even worse still – as if it could get any worse – is that based on FDA standards some of the alternate names of sugar don’t even have to be included in the amount of grams listed.

One such example is Maltodextrin. Let’s first address the fact that this is one of the names of sugar! Like what the hell, who would have known?? The second irritating thing about Maltodextrin is that it has a higher Glycemic Index (see the Carbohydrates chapter for more about the Glycemic Index) than sugar does, which means that it has an even worse effect on your insulin levels. That is not even the worst of it. Where my blood really started to boil was when I discovered that products containing Maltodextrin are not required to include the resulting grams of sugar under the sugar content on the label. So unless you read the ingredient list and see it there, you wouldn’t even know that you have to account for the extra grams of sugar in Maltodextrin IN ADDITION to what you are seeing listed in grams under “sugar content”.

In other words, if the label says sugar content of 2 grams, but Maltodextrin is in the ingredient list the sugar content is not just 2 grams!

So, you HAVE to get to know this list well. Just as a starting point to learning how to equip yourself for weight loss as well as rebalancing your body so you can be the healthiest YOU possible. Even the new guidelines from the WHO draw attention to “hidden” sources of dietary sugar and want to ensure that consumers are more aware of what they are consuming.[11]

When you buy something that is packaged (hopefully not very often) remember that not only should you pay attention to the grams of sugar listed, you should also check the names of the items that are at the top of the list - the ones listed first indicate that your food item has more of that substance in it. Pay special attention to the alternative sugar names as listed below. Based on that information, decide if it’s worth having.

Remember our pledge people we are on a MISSION!

Here is the ridiculously long list of alternate names of sugar listed from one of the best books ever “Suicide by Sugar.”

  1. Agave syrup
  2. Agave nectar
  3. Barley malt
  4. Beet sugar
  5. Brown sugar
  6. Cane sugar
  7. Cane syrup
  8. Confections sugar
  9. Crystalline fructose
  10. Date sugar
  11. Evaporated sugar
  12. Fructose
  13. Fruit juice concentrate
  14. Galactose
  15. Granulated sugar
  16. High fructose Corn Syrup
  17. Honey
  18. Invery sugar
  19. Lactose
  20. Liquid cane sugar
  21. Liquid cane syrup
  22. Maltose
  23. Maple syrup
  24. Molasses
  25. Powdered sugar
  26. Raw sugar
  27. Rice syrup
  28. Sugarcane syrup
  29. Table sugar
  30. Turbinado sugar
  31. Unrefined sugar
  32. White sugar

There is so much more to say and so many more tricks when it comes to added sugars. I could write an entire book on them (in fact, I think I will) but I really don’t want to overwhelm and bombard you with all this depressing news, in one sugar-free mouthful.

Bottom line is, we are addicted to the very thing that is making us sick and fat— added sugar! We need to cut it out to see the type of results that we are looking for. The best place to start, is exactly what we’ve discussed here — eating fresh fruit in moderation, keeping your added sugars to less than 20 grams per day and getting familiar with all the different ways sugar sneaks into our food so you can be the judge of what goes into your body and what you stay far away from.

I am personally an extreme person and as a proud Taurus once I make my mind up, that’s it! When I learned about what added sugar was doing to me, I took a couple of days to prepare. I threw out what I needed to, did my shopping for my new added sugar-free lifestyle and haven’t looked back since. It changed my life forever. It will be VERY hard at first guys but I PROMISE, it will be worth every jellybean you stay away from.

So, to help you stay strong and give up that sugar!

Are you ready to make the pledge?
Take the pledge today and work with Kamila to Outdo You!

Kamila McDonald

Co-founder & Co-creator of the Ten Pound Pledge, she is waiting to help you after making your pledge. Click here to make your pledge.