When I left my comfy familial nest to study abroad and found myself having to prepare my own food for the first time, I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I loathed cooking and was determined not to spend more than 10 minutes of my precious time and energy into concocting tasty repasts daily. So I opted for the easy road: ready-in-five-minutes noodles for lunch and dinner – when I wasn’t at the restaurant, that is -, chocolate or pastries, industrial fruit juice to go every morning and no physical activity whatsoever.
Living it up between London, France and Barcelona had me gain 22 pounds in two years; so when I moved to Canada two years ago, I decided to drastically change my lifestyle: I had reached the peak of discomfort in my own skin. I went from eating junk food all day and merely wishing I had Jessica Alba’s body without having to lift a finger, while stuffing my face with jalapeño-flavoured potato chips, to exercising seven days a week and eating healthy… Or, well, trying my best to eat healthy anyway.
By “trying my best to eat healthy anyway”, I don’t insinuate that I would occasionally have cheat days, which would have been totally okay, I just mean that I ingested what I thought was good for my body which, looking back, didn’t always turn out to be right. How could you blame me, my knowledge of a healthy nutrition was close to none. Just as our emotional system and personality are forged by our parents’ and our familial environment, so are our eating habits and well, I was brought up with the idea that a meal made of a sole plate of veggies and meat was synonym to plain distasteful.
There were several cases of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in my family, which always scared me to death. So to pay attention to my weight as a teenager, I would eat smaller portions of the delicious-but-not-so-good-for-my-health-food my mom and grand mother would make, which was obviously not the best idea.
So you know, I had a long way to go when it came to mastering the art of eating right. It was a process. I knew that I was supposed to consume more vegetables and less sweets or carbs, for instance, but I totally ignored which nutrient held the most health benefits and how to cook them or which food combination was the best.
I had to educate myself and read tons of nutrition-related studies. In addition to knowing the virtues of every nutrient, I wanted to fully comprehend the physiological mechanism that occurred upon consumption of unhealthy food and how exactly was it harmful to my health. I believe until you completely understand how something is detrimental to you, you won’t change your attitude about it. Like if your mom yells at you “DON’T DO THIS, IT’S BAD FOR YOU!” without explaining WHY it’s not good, you’re never going to listen to her. (Been there, done that.)
It’s not about having a bomb body, it’s about being healthy and not having all the pain and health issues in the world when we grow old. I get it, you might think “eating is supposed to be enjoyable and if I start being too cautious about what I eat, it’s going to be a living hell.” I used to think the same way. But the more I read about the harmful effects of malnutrition, the more careful I became with my diet and the more I felt the urge to spread the word about it.
That’s why I want to share with you what happens to your body when you indulge in a high-fat / high-sugar meal and why you may be hungry and sleepy five minutes afterwards.
First, what’s a high-sugar meal? Obviously sweets and deserts contain sugar (glucose), but even more dangerous than the common form of sugar as we know it, are all the products you purchase that contain high fructose corn syrup. What’s high fructose corn syrup? A man-made, industrial sugar that entails obesity, increases appetites, is believed to cause type 2 diabetes and is present in pretty much everything from hamburger buns, white bread, fruit juices, fruit-flavored yogurts, pancake syrups, frozen yogurts, ketchup and BBQ sauces, jarred and canned pasta sauces, canned sauces and soups, breakfast cereals, etc.
Now here’s what happens when you indulge in a high-fat / high-sugar meal:
When you ingest a hamburger, for instance, there is an abnormally rapid surge in your blood sugar level and your pancreas creates more insulin than is actually needed to take in the sudden spike of sugar and occasions a subsequent fall in your blood sugar level. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, that enables cells to absorb the sugar from the food you eat and use it for energy, or store it for future use.
When you repeatedly have high-fat and sugary meals, your body’s cells kind of get exhausted and start to resist the insulin, meaning that the sugar can’t be absorbed by cells anymore. Consequently, your body reduces your high blood sugar by converting the sugar that couldn’t penetrate the cells into fats for storage, which can ultimately lead to diabetes.
Now have you ever felt hungry after having a cheeseburger at McDonald’s?
I know I most definitely do! And here’s why: insulin also controls another hormone called leptin, which signals your brain to cease sending hunger messages to your body. High fructose corn syrup does not stimulate insulin creation, meaning that no leptin is released and your body is fooled into feeling it’s still starving.
In a nutshell, the more you consume sugary and fatty meals, the bigger the risk of gaining weight, which increases the chances of suffering from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, among other health issues. They say your body is your temple, you have to treat it right. I encourage you to eat healthy and exercise as much as you can and occasionally treat yourself to a junk meal, but please, be mindful of your health. You’ll be thankful for your wise decisions in a decade or two.