What’s your first thought when you see someone who has an unhealthy weight or meet someone with type 2 diabetes? Words like ‘lazy’, ‘slothful’ and ‘lacking self-discipline’ might come to mind. And yet a generation ago, obesity was a rarity and type 2 diabetes (or as it was then called ‘mature-onset diabetes’) relatively unknown. In the span of one generation, have we all suddenly lost willpower and become lazy? Highly unlikely.
If you’re at an unhealthy weight or suffer from associated diseases such as type 2 diabetes, stop berating yourself – it’s not your fault.
Why are we the fattest generation in history, with two-thirds of Australian males classified as overweight or obese? Why do nearly 2 million Australians suffer from type 2 diabetes?
While there is no doubt that factors such as genetics and family history, early childhood nutrition and environmental factors can influence weight and metabolic health, there are two main reasons behind the current obesity and chronic disease epidemic:
1. Poor advice: Unfortunately, many health professionals – doctors, dietitians and nutritionists – have been giving the wrong dietary advice for the last 40 years. Their recommendations are based on two main assumptions: firstly, weight gain is all about calories in being greater than calories out. While calories certainly matter, what is just as important is where those calories are coming from. A 120 g salmon fillet has the same calories as a 600 ml bottle of coke, yet salmon is clearly much healthier than the sugar-laden soft drink.
The second disastrous piece of advice is to severely limit fat intake. This advice was originally based on money and politics rather than good quality science. It was introduced around 1980 along with the food pyramid with which we are all too familiar. The food industry promptly removed fat from our foods and replaced it with sugar. Since the introduction of the low fat dietary guidelines, we have become fatter and sicker.
2. Marketing 101: The food industry produces tasty, cheap, convenient processed foods full of sugar and vegetable oils and spends billions of dollars cleverly marketing these ‘foods’. They deliberately produce food that is highly addictive.
A couple of generations ago, there was very little obesity. Coincidently processed and ultra-processed foods didn’t exist. There were no sugary fizzy drinks, breakfast cereals or cereal bars, muffins, chocolate, ice cream, flavoured milk/yoghurts, instant soups, mass-produced bread, processed meat and foods such as sausages, hamburgers, chicken nuggets and pizza.
People cooked at home and ate real food. Nowadays, we’re bombarded with advertising, bright, attractive packaging, and unfounded ‘health’ claims to make these foods as attractive as possible.
The food industry knows all too well that these foods (which are high in processed carbohydrates and added sugar) will only temporarily curb hunger, and another snack or meal will be required soon after. The public has been convinced that eating snacks between and after meals is normal.
The industry has succeeded in creating what is termed an “obesogenic environment”. So you shouldn’t feel guilty if you are at an unhealthy weight, diabetic or hypertensive. Simply put: It’s not your fault.
What can you do about poor health?
The good news is you can do something about weight gain, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
It’s not your fault. Don’t feel guilty. If anything, you should feel angry. Angry at being misled for so long. And then, you should harness that anger. Direct any disappointment in a positive way. Create a healthy environment around you in which you can thrive. Stop eating processed foods and return to eating as your grandparents used to eat. Simple, fresh foods like meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, full-fat dairy, nuts and seeds.
Most of all, ditch the carb-laden, low fat approach to eating you’ve been (literally) force-fed and go back to eating healthy fats so that you feel full and satiated.
What will happen if you go low carb?
You won’t be as hungry. You will eat less often. You’ll steadily lose weight, and your blood sugar levels will stabilise. You’ll likely sleep better, have more energy, and get rid of the brain fog that has been hanging around for years.
There’s even a good chance you’ll put your type 2 diabetes into remission, your fatty liver might disappear, your high blood pressure will likely come down, and your gut symptoms (discomfort, bloating) will be reduced.
Remember, it’s not your fault. And you have the power to make it better.