Sugar, Obesity and Weight Loss Surgery

August 24, 2015

A few months ago, I wrote a blog article about why I’m not a fan of sugar and why you shouldn’t be either.  To my amazement not only did my patients love the article but it seemed to spread like wild fire across social media.

Now before I share why I’m not a fan, I would like to share with you a little history about sugar. Over 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus introduced sugar to the new world when he brought sugar cane from Europe to Cuba, Hispaniola and Mexico. By the 1700’s, sugar was nicknamed “White Gold” as it became more of a status symbol that only the rich could afford. As production increased over the centuries the price of sugar dropped so that it was no longer just for the rich but rather a substance that everyone could get their hands on.

After World War II the amount of products that contained sugar basically doubled every year. Cereals, drinks, breads, condiments, desserts, sauces, medicines, snacks, jellies, spreads, ice cream, chocolate, the list goes on and on, and don’t forget about that Starbucks coffee you drink every morning…Whoa, now that’s a lot of sugar right there!

In the early 1970’s, milk was the choice of drink for teenage boys and girls, now it’s soda. Back then, families ate together and meals were carefully prepared…now it seems we are all so busy that reaching out for some instant meal is easier. Then we wonder why we are packing on the pounds.

Obesity is on the rise. The statistics are staggering. The headlines state “two thirds of American adults are overweight!”

Why I’m not a fan of sugar and why you shouldn’t be either

Day in and day out, I see patients with sugar cravings that have caused all sorts of health problems. And the first thing I tell them is to cut back and eventually cut out the sugars. Sugar seems to be in everything nowadays. Can it be avoided? It's tough...but, it's not impossible.

Why no sugar?  Well, it's simple...sugar (including sugar alcohols and sweeteners) can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea which in turn slows down the weight loss that many desire. Sugars are easily absorbed and digested which makes us crave more. So in order to feel full we are constantly satisfying our “sweet tooth” with more sugar. Sometimes its all we eat. Sugar in our food, sugar in our drinks, sugar in our desserts.

What sugary products should you avoid?  All of them!  The ones I would first eliminate would be the carbonated sodas, fruit juices, desserts and candy, then I would focus on the carbohydrates. These are the breads, cereals, crackers, rice, pasta and potatoes. Oh, and avoid “orange” vegetables (carrots and sweet potatoes) as they are high in sugar.

If you avoid sugar, then what?  Protein and produce! Yep, it's that simple. Replace those sugary products with fish, shrimp, eggs, soy, skim milk and lean meats. If your goal is to lose weight, then sugar needs to be off limits. Period.  Following weight loss surgery, I encourage my patients to transform their eating habits to that of a low-carb, protein-rich diet. By doing so they no longer crave the carbohydrates and they make protein and fat their new foods of choice.

How do you shop at grocery stores?

Recently I gave a talk in Atlanta at the Southeast VSG (Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy) Conference and what I revealed shows how to avoid the sugary products when grocery shopping. Its somewhat novel in its approach but once you do it a few times...the urge to wander will no longer be there. When shopping at the grocery store, stick to the outside walls (in most cases) you will get all the food you need to stay healthy.

Grocery stores are set up to trick our senses to fool us into thinking that everything that isn't on those four walls; the fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese is also good for us.

The interior outside walls in most grocery store contain all the produce, fish, diary and meat you need to eat to stay lean and fit. It's the inside aisles that contain the manufactured and artifically packaged foods that most people fall victim to eating. Its that manufactured food that hurts the diets so many force themselves on because they can't control what they eat.

If the so-called foods that are found in those center aisles were eliminated from most diets, obesity as we know it would decrease. Yes, some of those foods do taste great. And, the labels convince us that its good for us to eat. Yet, when was the last time you saw a celebrity promote fruit or vegetables? Rarely does it happen.

Over the last decade, I've performed over 9,000 gastric sleeve procedure and what I've discovered is that when my patients follow the “No Sugar” rule, their excess weight comes off faster, they don't crave the carbs, they feel healthier, happier, stronger and more energetic. Well, in print...it always looks easy...then you actually try it and it's a nightmare. Cookies, crackers, donuts, microwave dinners, soda, powdered drinks, frozen pizzas…ugh.

Here's the rule of thumb...

It starts with a positive mindset. You need to focus on eating healthy! Replace the sugar with protein and produce which will make you feel fuller, help protect your muscles, burn the stored fat and will become a healthy habit that will last a lifetime.

With the average patient losing over 50 pounds just months after having the sleeve procedure, and some losing 100, 150 or more...it's because they craved healthy over sugar. If they can do it, then so can you.

Take notice of the foods you eat, you might be surprised how many have sugar in them. Stick to the proteins and produce when grocery shopping, avoid the manufactured foods and don’t think of it as a “diet”…think of it as a healthy transition to living longer.

Photo credit:  Marcin Winnicki

alvarez

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Guillermo Alvarez is a Mexican, board certified, bariatric surgeon who is a member of the prestigious associations ASMBS, IFSO and SAGES. He did his bariatric surgery training in Mexico, USA and France and now he only focuses on the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy procedure and the is author of the book "Successful Weight Loss with the Gastric Sleeve". He heads up the team at Endobariatric Bariatric Center in Piedras Negras, Mexico.

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