I’m Dr Angela Zechmann. In case you don’t know me, I’m a board certified obesity medicine physician practicing in Olympia, Washington. I’m also the creator and founder of the Journey Beyond Weight Loss – an online program designed to help people lose weight, and more importantly, learn the skills that they need to maintain their weight loss.
Today I want to talk to you about the ‘willpower’ and ‘moderation’ myths, and why that matters in your weight loss journey.
So we’ve all heard it – ‘have just a little’, ‘have a cookie’ or ‘a couple of bites of dessert’ or ‘a couple of bites of ice cream’ – everything in moderation, right? The food and beverage industry has gotten on this ‘moderation’ bandwagon as well. They are under a lot of fire for the amount of sugar that is in the foods that they’re producing, and so they’ve come up with this strategy to explain to people, ‘use our products in moderation and make sure that you balance the calorie intake with adequate exercise so that you won’t gain weight in this way.’
They convince you that it’s okay to purchase foods that THEY know and that YOU know are not good for you and you’ll still be okay, right? Well, in my experience, moderation works for some, but those people for whom moderation works are very few and far between. And here’s why – there’s actual science behind this.
So we now know that sugar is a really powerful drug. When we get sugar on the taste buds, there’s a cascade of chemical reactions that go straight up to the brain’s dopamine center. That’s the pleasure center in the brain. And this is the same center that’s getting triggered with drugs of abuse. And what we’ve discovered is that sugar is actually a very powerfully addictive drug, eight times more addictive than cocaine. So I want you to imagine telling an alcoholic who’s been off alcohol, that it would be okay to have a couple of sips of wine or beer every night. Or imagine telling someone who’s a cocaine addict that it would be okay to snort a line once in awhile. You just wouldn’t to do that! We understand when it comes to drugs of abuse, that there’s no such thing as moderation. And yet those of us in the weight loss industry, all kinds of weight loss gurus, including me in the past, are telling people that it’s okay to have a little bit of sugar in moderation, make sure you balance it with exercise so that you don’t gain weight.
Well, now I know better. I learned some interesting information. In 2001, the sugar receptor on the taste bud was discovered and it was named the T1R3 receptor. They discovered that sugar receptors are actually all over the tongue. They are down the esophagus, they’re in the stomach and they’re even on the pancreas. They are just sitting there waiting for a hit of sugar. And so when I learned this, the things that my patients were telling me and the things that I experienced myself started to make a lot more sense. So for example, people will say, ‘I can’t eat just one.’ Well, that dopamine is being triggered. People will say, ‘I’m not even tasting it anymore and I still just want to keep eating more and more.’ Well, when it’s below the mouth, you don’t have to taste it anymore!
Here’s the other thing. Maybe sugar isn’t your thing. Maybe your thing is white flour products like bread or pasta or cereals or pizza or crackers or pretzels – those kinds of things. It turns out that in the saliva is an enzyme called amylase – and amylase breaks down flour very quickly and turns it right into sugar. So if you want to do a little experiment, get a saltine cracker and chew it up and leave it in your mouth and you’ll taste the sugar. So the flour products are also getting into the system and triggering those T1R3 receptors at very high rates. So sugar and flour are the same thing.
Now the food industry – remember I told you last week – I gave you a talk on the ‘Bliss Point.’ So the food industry has figured out just the right amount of sugar and flour to stimulate those T1R3 receptors. Just the right way to get that bliss point triggered. And Trust me. Once that bliss point is triggered, there is no such thing as willpower after that. As it is with any drug of abuse, you cannot use willpower to manage it.
So here’s something else that I have learned over the years. I don’t have science to back me up on this one. I’ve just got lots of experience. I’ve got almost 12 years of experience helping people lose weight and keep it off. What I’ve noticed is that people who have a family history of alcoholism, so a parent or a sibling who struggles with alcohol or maybe they’ve struggled with alcohol themselves: they seem to be more sensitive. Their brains seem to be hardwired to be super sensitive to sugar or flour and I actually have a patient who told me that she noticed that she really, really liked candy as a child and she would actually steal change from her parents so that she could go and buy candy with it. She even told me that when she was eight, she was in the third grade. She was eight years old. She wanted more money for more candy. And so she pretended that she was going to be going on a school field trip and went around to the neighbors collecting money for the school field trip and then used that money to buy candy. That is how sensitive her brain was to the effects of sugar and the kinds of cravings that she was having at such a young age. It was no surprise to me to find out that yes, indeed, she does have a family history of alcoholism and drug abuse.
So what does this mean for you? It means you need to know your own brain. Think about your experience with sugar. Do you have a hard time stopping at just a little bit? What was your experience with sugar as a child? Where you hoarding it in your room or eating it in secret? Do you have a family history of alcoholism at all? Your brain might be more sensitive to sugar. That’s what you want to know.
So think about this carefully. Here’s the thing. If you try to tell yourself that you’re going to just quit sugar and flour, you’re going to set off what’s called a fight or flight response in your brain and that’s not gonna work. You want to do some preparation. I’ve developed a document called “Three Steps to Break Your Sugar Addiction”, and the link is in the description to this video. I would highly recommend that you download that document and I can help you get through the sugar withdrawal. I would also recommend that you join the Sugar (and flour!) Buster’s Society – this is a Facebook group that I have where we talk about all of this. There’s not a lot of people talking about just how powerful sugar is!
And so we talk about that a lot in here and I’m going to be taking you through a challenge. In a few short weeks, we’ll be having a little challenge to help you get jump-started on your weight loss journey. But that’s happening in the group. So you have to make sure that you join the Sugar (and flour!) Buster’s Society. There’s one more thing you can do and that is, leave me a comment. Let me know what your experience has been with sugar and flour. Do you think you might have a super sensitive brain or do you think moderation might work for you? What’s been your experience?
Okay, so that’s all for today. I hope this has helped you a lot and helped enlighten you about why you’ve had so many struggles. I’ve had a lot of patients who, when I tell them this information, they really resonate with it. So let me know in the comments how you’re doing with this. I will see you again next week with another informative video. In the meantime, have fun getting healthy. Take care. Bye Bye.
xxx – Dr Angela.