In the first part, we talked about how the idea that people are fat because they overeat is exactly backwards — the fact is that people overeat because they are fat. Now we’ll take a look at the leading concept of how we get fat in the first place.
What Isn’t True
The obvious idea — that eating fat puts fat on your body — is simply wrong. There are dozens of studies that prove that dietary fat (fat into your mouth) is processed by your body and used for a wide variety of chemical purposes that range from building up cell walls to processing certain vitamins to being burned for energy. But what fat doesn’t do is cause your body to excrete insulin. Remember from Part I what insulin does? Right — it tells your body to create fat. So if eating fat doesn’t tell your body to create fat, what does?
Insulin, Resistance, and Fat Development
When you eat sugar, it is rapidly assimilated and added to your bloodstream. But excess sugar in your blood can damage your tissues and organs; that’s what makes diabetes a dangerous disease. So in a healthy body, the body executes the “get rid of the excess sugar” protocol: it releases insulin, which causes a series of reaction that packs that sugar up and stores it — in your fat cells.
Now, in a healthy person, those fats are released when needed, and the hunger hormones we mentioned in Part I aren’t produced until the fat stores have worn down to the body’s base level. But in a huge number of people, for reasons that science is still arguing over, there’s a glitch. Either the hunger hormones are produced before they’re needed, or the hormones that tell the body to access the fat in the first place aren’t functioning properly.
Whichever it is — and we don’t honestly know — the result is the same: your body packs on fat every time you load up on sugars (or, more accurately, carbohydrates, including rice, bread, pasta, and basically everything that American food uses as a vehicle to get the important part into your mouth.) And while that fat keeps getting added, it never comes back off like it does in a healthy body.
So you don’t get fat by eating fat. You get fat by eating sugar — which happens to be the single cheapest and the single most addictive kind of ‘food’ in the world. And once your fat, your hunger hormones cause you to overeat. Is it any wonder, given how cheap and addictive sugar is, that we have an obesity epidemic in the United States?
Listen to people who aren’t certified nutritionists — like personal trainers, white-collar workers, and government officials — and you’ll hear a very simple and often-repeated refrain about obesity. It goes like this “Calories in minus calories out equals fat gained.”
Everyone in the world would really like obesity to be that simple: eat less, burn more calories, and you’ll lose weight. Unfortunately, a huge number of people in the world can tell you from experience that it doesn’t always — or even often — work that way. The truth is far more complex.
If you’re not sure how much more complex, think about this one thing: water has zero calories. If you drink a quart of water, you just gained two pounds. If pounds are purely a matter of calories in and out, gaining two pounds without consuming any calories wouldn’t make any sense at all.
But of course that’s just the simplest possible example. The deeper truth is that the shape of your body and the disposition of your fat is determined by hormones. Insulin in particular is actually 100% necessary for your body to create fat; your body simply won’t make fat without insulin in your bloodstream.
Now, hormones are also responsible for controlling our eating behavior. That’s right — you don’t overeat because you’re a gluttonous pig; you overeat because your insulin, leptin, and ghrelin levels aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Are you ready for thereal painful reveal? Those ‘hunger hormones’ are created by fat cells.
So what laypeople tell you is that you’re fat because you overeat, but what nutritionists know — and have known for decades — is thatyou overeat because you are fat.
That, of course, leaves us with the burning question: what makes us get fat in the first place? The controversy over the answer to that question is why we have so many diets in the world and so few of them work. We’ll talk about it in Part II.
In Part I, we talked about the ‘attention deficit’ part of ADHD; today, we’re talking about hyperactivity. What does it mean, as an adult, to be diagnosed as clinically hyperactive?
The ‘Hyperactivity’ Part
Unlike a child, adults rarely ‘bounce off the walls'; hyperactivity manifests very differently in people who have fully developed brains. Instead you might hear people say ‘Dude, chill out,’ or, ‘Can’t you just wait?‘ On the flip side, adult hyperactivity can lead to intensive, unwavering focus on particularly stimulating activities, so you might hear ‘Can’t you put it down and pay attention to meinstead?’
Adults who show just five of the following symptoms (as before, kids must show six or more) are diagnosed as “hyperactive.”
Frequently fidgets, taps hands or feet, wiggles, or squirms.
Frequently cannot remain seated.
Frequently feels restless; the desire to get up and move is so intense as to be distracting.
Frequently cannot remain quiet during leisure time.
Frequently acts as if “driven by a motor”; is always “on the go.”
Frequently talks too much.
Frequently blurts out answers before the question has been completed.
Frequently cannot patiently wait for his or her turn to come.
Frequently butts in on conversations or games uninvited or out of turn.
Mixing and Matching
It’s possible (and actually common) for an adult to receive a diagnosis of ‘ADD’ — qualifying for the attention-deficit part of ADHD without any hyperactivity. ‘HD’ — hyperactivity without attention deficit — is rarely diagnosed in adults (though common in children.) And of course the combined diagnosis of ‘ADHD’ is readily found in both adults and children.
The diagnosis is important in helping your doctor assign the right medicine for you. It’s also important in helping a behavioral or occupational therapist find the right set of therapy and counseling for you. While most of the outside world won’t know or care about the difference, clinically (and personally) it’s important to know what you have.
When you have adult ADHD, your life is a continuous barrage of surprises and your home is a massive pile of unfinished products. I know, because I unwittingly suffered from ADHD for my entire life. It wasn’t until my son was diagnosed that my wife read over the symptoms, looked at me, and said, “These…describe you, too.”
Unfortunately, I was also an undiagnosed diabetic, and years of high blood sugar had taken their toll on my heart — which meant all of the standard ADHD medications were off limits to me. So I’ve had to learn to take control of my life back from ADHD, without medications. It hasn’t been easy, and I still struggle every day — but I know it can be done. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll tell you how.
Trick 1: Stop Getting Surprised By Things You Knew Were Coming
A few white boards.
A few dry-erase markers.
A calendar app that can sync with someone else’s calendar.
Some tacks and alligator clips.
One of those whiteboards is hanging to my right as I type, and it’s a big (2×3) one, filled entirely with a calendar drawn on in dry-erase marker. Every day shows the date, what appointments I have that day, what work tasks I have to do that day, why my wife and son are doing that day, what bills are due that day, and any other special notes — each in its own color of dry erase marker.
The same calendar also appears in my tablet, on my app, and on my wife’s phone, on her calendar app. We’ve realized that if we don’t have all three, we will still manage to miss something somewhere. The wall calendar is there to remind us if we don’t have our tablets handy, and our tablets are there to remind us with gentle pings if we’re out and about. It’s the core of our newfound ability to function without constantly feeling unprepared and caught off-guard by appointments we had totally forgotten about.
Any paperwork we’re going to need for any appointment we have goes up on the corkboard, in an alligator clip that hangs from a tack.