Question Everything!

breakfast_of_diet_pillsGrabbing an actual paper copy of a newspaper is a pretty rare thing for me in this technological age. One of the last ones I grabbed was for the sole purpose of cutting out an advertisement I had designed for my portfolio. Before I could even open it to begin searching for my ad, a front page headline grabbed my eye.

Does and miracle diet pill exist? A safe drug is elusive.”  (Click the link for the full story.)

This article jumped out at me primarily because of the fact that I personally don’t like pills, but I also found myself thinking; “of course a safe drug is elusive, it doesn’t exist.” The article touched on so many things I am passionate about in my own life, and I felt compelled to write about them.

Now, I originally wrote this as a letter to the editor, only to be hampered by a 250 word limit. I am slightly irritated with whomever set this limit – because they apparently do not know me at all. So I decided to postpone all other musings and share my thoughts about the crap that is making the front page.

The article first talks about how scientists have been trying for over a century to make a pill that will help someone lose weight without side effects, and that a government panel is urging the FDA to approve the latest miracle pill, Qnexa. It goes on to state that, “The recommendation raises hopes that the U.S. could approve the first anti-obesity drug in more than a decade,” also mentioning the challenges that come with figuring out how to “create a pill that fights fat in a variety of people.”

This waste of time and resources not only disturbs me, it completely blows my mind. Humans. Are. Animals. If someone want’s to lose weight, they simply need to look at the laws that govern all mammalian species; diet, environment and lifestyle.

In February of 2011, the Environmental News Network (ENN) published a story about heart disease being the number one killer of male gorillas in captivity. After heart failure claimed the life of a 21 year old gorilla at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2005, a team of researches decided to step in and take a look at the gorilla’s lifestyle. They found that the animals were being fed “bucket loads of high vitamin, high sugar, and high starch foods to make sure they got all their nutrients.”

Did these researchers recommend a pill to help the gorillas? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. They put the gorillas on a diet of foods that they would normally eat in the wild; their natural diet, consisting of things like romaine lettuce, green beans and flax seeds. This change yielded many positive results for all of the gorillas, one of which involved weight loss of 65 pounds each. I wonder how different our lives would be if we had spent a centuries worth of time and money teaching people how to eat and exercise in way that is appropriate for our specific species?

The article quotes a Dr. Mitchell Roslin, who said that “Having a drug for obesity would be like telling me you had a drug for the fever.” I had a moment of false hope, thinking this was beginning to be spoken in a language I understand.

Then Roslin stated that there can be millions of reasons, with “various underlying mechanisms” that result in obesity. This statement gave me pause. Roslin, as a chief of bariatric surgery, has chosen a career focused on weight loss surgery, and is likely very invested in the possible underlying causes of obesity. I am not doubting the Dr.’s intentions at all, but what if we can start with something much more simple? Science and hormones aside, I truly believe it can be as simple as this; Eat real food, take a walk, and don’t let anyone tell you that you are broken beyond repair.

I am not a scientist, or a doctor, but at one point in my life I was about 40 pounds overweight. I hated the way I looked, I started having anxiety attacks, and eventually became depressed. Doctors with good intentions looked at my family history of anxiety and depression, then put me on a variety of medications that came with side effects that left me wanting the anxiety attacks back. I finally decided I did not want to live my life like that. I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about natural relief and what I put into my body.

What I have since learned is that the underlying causes of these ailments were not in my genetics. Our genes are designed to seek homeostasis, they adapt and improve over time, provided they are getting what they need. The causes were simply ignorance and poor lifestyle choices; Both of which I have complete control over and neither of which were fixed by the plethora of little white pills prescribed to me.

Dr. David Katz, of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center is quoted talking about how throughout history, calories were often hard to come by, and that “We have no defenses against overeating because we never needed them before.” I would love to know what contextual information is surrounding this statement and what type of research he is basing it off of.

steakWhat I do know is that there is quite a bit or research that shows the human body has several defenses against overeating, as long as you are eating real, whole food. In his opening to The Protein Debate,  “The Evolutionary Basis for the Therapeutic Effects of High Protein Diets” Colorado State University professor, Loren Cordain, tells us that consuming dietary protein is one of these defenses. There are three primary macronutrients, fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Of these three, protein causes the greatest release of an appetite reducing hormone found in the gut, called Peptide YY. It also simultaneously improves sensitivity to leptin (yet another appetite controlling-body weight regulating hormone) in the central nervous system. Now, I can’t speak for everyone, but if I had to choose between a big juicy steak and and a pill that may come with nausea, headaches and vomiting…I am picking the steak every time.

Not necessarily wanting to counter my own argument, but the human body is complicated. While it does adapt, there are things that can happen, such as leptin resistance, that really can make it harder for someone to lose weight. I believe it is important to address these issues, while still applying our personal choices. Does this mean you just give up and keep living the same lifestyle that got you here? I sincerely hope not. Start with something simple. Recognize that sugar is an addiction, and that eating just one cookie really might be a bad idea, especially in the beginning. Moderation is not always key, and in our society it may actually be helping your metabolic disorder.

The article ends with mention of the 1930’s failed drug, dinitrophenol, that increased metabolism, but also caused things like “fever, swelling and deadly toxicity…” The Food and Drug Administration was then established as a line of defense against untested drugs in 1938.

What I really wish was mentioned in this article are the extreme changes in WHAT we are eating that have taken place, just in the last century alone. In the beginning of our existence, humans used to have to expend energy to hunt, gather and prepare real food. There were no supermarkets with carts to carry our food for us, not to mention a selection of food mixed in with an even larger selection of chemicals masquerading as food. Think back to even just 50 years ago when there was no such thing as organic, grass-fed or free-range. Why, you might ask? Because EVERYTHING was organic, and animals were fed their natural diets. In the end, it is simply our choices that matter the most.

broccoliPicture a big bowl of broccoli sitting next to a big bowl of chicken nuggets. We all know the broccoli is the healthy selection, but who will actually make the choice to eat the broccoli? If you do, and proceed to eat the whole bowl…well I would be shocked to find one person that has ever gotten fat because they ate too much broccoli.

Personally, I am confused as to why the chicken had to be processed down, chemically altered, breaded and fried into a nugget, when the thigh or breast was fine just how it started.

To those of you who have put up with me long enough to get to this point, I invite you to take control of your own life. Educate your to make better choices, and don’t just go on a diet, change your lifestyle. Give yourself a chance to not just survive this life, but to thrive and enjoy everything it has to offer. Maybe the next time a headline about a diet pill grabs your attention on the front page, you will be asking different questions.

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