When I was twelve I started puberty. I began to feel chunky for the first time in my life. Although everything straightened out within a couple of years as I reached my full adult height of five feet five inches when I was 14, for the two years in between I felt the normal pre-teen unhappiness with my looks. I distinctly remember that being the first year I began dieting. I remember being at Walgreens and reading the back of a pack of diet pills. The package included the warning that they were not safe for children under the age of 12.
The pills quelled my hunger, yet until I reached my real height I still felt unattractively pudgy. My father making comments about me to my mother didn't help. I was embarrassed. My two brothers seems to have sailed into adulthood without a bit of problem. Being 12, and being 12 before the internet was invented my research tools were limited. I could have read a book on nutrition if I had thought of it. Instead I noticed a bold font screaming headline on the National Enquirer which advertised their "candy bar diet." The diet seemed simple enough. Eat nothing but two candy bars in a day, and you would lose weight, they promised. I liked candy bars.
The cost of two a day was beyond my meager means. I grasped the concept though. Real sugar contains a substance that no artificial sweetener has ever successfully captured. Real sugar is not only mildly addictive to humans (and rats) it gives the body a "full" feeling. So if you really ate nothing but two candy bars in a day your caloric intake would be about a thousand calories. That represents about a half of what a healthy diet requires and about a fourth of what the average American eats. One burger from a fast food restaurant, even without the fries, is about 800 calories. Most people slather on a super size fries, a soda and maybe a dessert and repeat it two more times for two other meals. That's a lot of calories!
I quickly figured out that there was nothing magical about using candy bars. That the same effect could be created by using ice cream or soda or anything that contained real sugar. As soda was quite a bit cheaper for me at the time I began my first sick diet by substituting a can of soda for two of my meals, eating only dinner with my family. It made me a little light headed, and the truth is my skin and hair suffered right away. My skin looked dry and hair brittle. Not all calories are created alike. I was no longer getting the nutrients that are available in whole foods, and I was also foregoing the fiber that breakfast cereal had been providing me.
None the less I forged ahead, I was 12. I had no concept of the long term effects. All I knew was that I wanted to lose weight and I didn't like my brothers making fun of me or my parents being ashamed of me. One of my 12 year old friends who was equally ignorant of nutrition asked me once "How can anything you eat effect your skin anyway?" She had a bad case of acne and ate a very unbalanced diet of mostly candy bars. The real question is why would everything you eat effect your skin, your body, your digestive system? Food is the bodies fuel system, and sugar is one food that is really unnecessary. You will die without water, or without salt, you can live a long time without sugar.
Sugar even dulls the body's regard for better food. In one study rats were given a choice between heroin and sugar, and guess what, they went for the sugar. Once you get used to the artificial taste of processed food that is very sugary real fruits and vegetables don't taste as good. You start to prefer the taste of bad food. That is one of the dangers of taking quick drinks like Slimfast to lose weight. You WILL lose weight, for all the same reasons I lost weight on the soda diet. Slimfast may boast a few more added nutrients than a soda, and even has some added fiber (watch for the gas!) but mostly it's about sugar. The sugar gives you the "full" feeling which enables you to skip a whole meal. Because think about it, if you were able to skip a whole meal on your own, you'd be thin! You wouldn't even be BUYING the Slimfast. The makers know this. That's why they hire pretty models to push the stuff.
Oprah once lost a lot of weight on Slimfast, in less than a year it all came back as she resumed her regular eating habits. Oprah being Oprah, got a lot of flack every time she ordered something fried or fatty in a restaurant, there would be a magazine article about it the next day printed with an unattractive photo of her at her biggest. She may be rich, but she struggled as much as I did with the weight thing.People see me at a party now enjoying ice cream on peach cobbler and ask me "What's the secret?" I went from a size 16 when my husband left me down to a 4. I have maintained the weight loss over a period of 3 years. I eat what I want at a party because that is no longer my regular eating pattern. As much as possible I avoid sugar now. I find it so addicting the easiest thing is to keep it out of the house. Even my soy milk is unsweetened. I use fiber to give me the "full" feeling. Raw fruits and vegetables, or flaxseed. Whole foods and whole grain flour make up my diet. I count calories in general, and try to stay around 1500 a day, and keep active. The last tip, turn off the TV, watching it lowers your metabolism, plus the time you spend watching it â is time you could be doing other things, like exercising.