A15 A Doctor Debunks the Myths about Food.

Tarek Kareem Harris


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Fr TAYYIB Book, Foward by Mufti Menk

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Chapter 15

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chapter 15 is one of three chapters which deal with myths and truths. And the first of those chapters is about myths and truths of food.

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the obesity epidemic is real. We are as humanity more overweight than ever. This is odd seeing as we should technically be able to decide and buy good non fattening foods readily in the modern world.

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Is this obesity problem really down to having less control than people have previous years? How can we're not good at doing what they did? Well, it turns out that the information we have learned about foods is totally wrong. And we've made tempting and less healthy foods more available.

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I see people in my family and my community, regardless of how pious and self control they are struggling to be healthy. I see mothers, sisters, fathers and brothers going up and down in weight over the years, blaming themselves for not being able to stick to their plans. But mostly, it seems they do stick to their plans, the weight goes on and comes off comes back again a bit more. And people get older, and get more ill as the years advance. It's exhausting to go through. And it's heartbreaking to witness. Surely it cannot be that so many people are all failing at the same thing.

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So let's look at this advice about food and weight that we have all around us. Even from doctors and experts. It turns out that so much of it was largely wrong.

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The advice has been to sum up,

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eat less calories, avoid fats. Fasting leads to slow metabolism, don't do it. Eat small amounts to the day, not big meals at once. Avoid meats, especially red meats, and exercise is central to losing weight.

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Wrong, wrong. Wrong, all of it is wrong. It turns out that all the evidence about diets reduce calories and otherwise is not really based on sound science at all. Sure people lose weight initially. And every diet testimonial will tell you about how much weight so and so last few weeks. However, in more than 90% of cases, the weight comes back on. That is a fact regardless of which diet.

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Let's deal with these myths turn by turn.

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There's a myth, calories and fats are the main culprit in weight.

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This is easy to disprove. Here's a very straightforward example from the world of medicine. When a young person goes to the doctor in their 20s, and this young person is suddenly losing a lot of weight. Over the past couple of weeks, perhaps couple of months, they now appear pale and thin. They describe being a lot more thirsty, driven to drink water all the time. But the water goes right through them because they're urinating a lot more to they're not off their food. In fact, they're eating voraciously without a care for what they eat sweets and chocolates, fatty foods, healthy foods, the lot. Any doctor will tell you that these are signs of type one diabetes, it'll be

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diagnosed with a few simple tests. So let's break this down. The person is eating anything they want, far more than they need consuming 1000s of calories, yet they're losing weight to the point of being unhealthily underweight. What is the cause? Well, simple, the body has completely failed to make insulin. Insulin is the hormone that tells the body to take the sugar in the blood into your cells into your muscles, your brain, your skin, all parts of you, and to use it for energy and growth. And any excess is turned into fat. Without insulin, you simply cannot gain weight or grow. It's useful to help your body grow. But it just basically tells your body that whatever excess there

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is, store it, turn it into fat.

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So type one diabetes is a clear example of someone who's eating a lot, you have no weight is gained. This alone should tell us that it's not about what calories you eat or what type of foods you eat. It's about what your body does to manage them. Right? I'm not suggesting we cut off insulin to give ourselves diabetes, because insulin is important for growth. But what I am suggesting is that weight control comes from understanding how to not provoke insulin into going very high. Turns out this high carb low fat food is exactly the kind of stuff that makes insulin go high.

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And if you keep eating it, you get fatter and you get type two diabetes when you've got a permanently high insulin level and your tissue

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are just not responding to it because they've become numb to this insulin.

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Insulin goes up only in response to how much sugar and starch is in your food. It doesn't care about how much fat or protein is in the food at all.

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And the longer your insulin levels are low, the more likely your body will switch to a fat burning state. Because there's a lack of sugar in your body. So it starts to burn fat for fuel instead.

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Another myth, fasting slows down the metabolic rate. metabolic rate is the rate at which your body uses up energy.

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The myth explains in an apparently common sense way that look when your body perceives that there's no food around, it'll start to compensate by slowing down its activity.

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The myth seems to make common sense, but it also has its origins in science. There were studies in the 1940s and 50s, done on soldiers who'd been starved in prisoner of war camps. And it was indeed found that in this starvation state, that metabolic rate slows down. So the scientists thought, well, this is what fasting must do. And the myth is further supported by people who report that look, when I fast I feel slowed down. So let's look at these issues more closely. Firstly, those early studies were conducted on starving undernourished people, not people who are normal or overweight.

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When the body runs out of fat all together, when they're actually starving, there's no fat left, then the body does slow down metabolic rate. But this is not the same as fasting in normal or overweight people at all. The body has plenty of fat reserves to burn and in fact, it takes a bit more energy to burn fat than to burn sugar. bollock rate goes up by as much as 13 to 15%. After four days of fasting, that is a fact.

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So what about the body shutting down as an instinctive response to running out of food? Well, again, this is a response to starvation, but not fasting.

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Right. And, in reality, when you're fasting, the knifes our survival instinct is programmed to look out for us Alhamdulillah. It checks the environment without our conscious awareness. And it reacts without our conscious awareness, sometimes causing us trouble but sometimes being helpful

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when we fast enough notices that there isn't food around and the nurse is programmed to go through steps which keep us alive,

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is food is not to be found, it will alert the brain increase your ability to mobilize your muscles and search for food. It's borne out by more modern research, which shows that our levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline go up when you fast these hormones bump up the metabolic rate and make the brain more alert. So the longer one fast, the less hungry, they actually feel once the initial false hunger passes.

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Finally, what about people who report that they feel more tired and slowed down during fasting? Well, this is because some hours into fasting, the body prepares to switch from burning sugar to burning fat. And in this switch, the process sees a slight temporary drop in metabolic rate when switching from one system to the other. One feels a lull in energy between eight and 12 hours, maybe slightly beyond that. The body in most people is not used to this switch, which is called fat adaptation. But after a few days, all by starting off with an extended fast or two more on this later. This can be kickstarted. Remember also the condition hunger and the dehydration that can come

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from fasting. expecting to feel hungry because you haven't eaten. That's a powerful effect on its own.

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Dehydration from not drinking enough water in Soho that can make you feel tired.

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But these are not from a slowed metabolic rate.

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Another myth eating small amounts to the day is better than eating at mealtimes. This is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. Especially if all you eat are low fat, high carb foods like cereal bars and fruits and other snacks. All of these keep the insulin level up. So if the body is always being told to keep building things up, keep taking sugar and how can it ever switch to burning fat.

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Not only is this nonsensical, but it also leads to more hunger because carbohydrates spike insulin, but they don't give you a sense of true lasting fullness. In fact, what tends to happen is you get rebound. Once the carbohydrates speak, the insulin peaks and drops quickly afterwards, plunging you into hunger.

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The real sense of being full comes from fats and proteins which trigger another

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a hormone called ghrelin to tell your body and your mind that you are full. And the other input is from stretch receptors in your stomach, which get activated when there is bulky or fibrous food in there.

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Eat more fiber, eat more protein, meats and fats. Like we've said.

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One myth is to avoid meats, especially red meats. This advice was based on research done on people who ate meat from mass fed animals subjected to cruel or confining conditions and abnormal diets. And they weren't eating leafy vegetables, and eating a lot of carbohydrates as well.

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As we've seen before, this kind of diet, and this kind of practice actually leads to lower quality meat soaked in the animal's own stress hormones, eating it alongside carbohydrates and cheap fats, so the body doesn't react very well.

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meats are heavy for the gut to break down. And raising livestock is more demanding on the land than crops is. The Prophet considered meat a special treat, and only ate it a couple of days a week.

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He was known to go without it for up to two months. But meat is not bad for you, the animal is properly treated, fed on its natural diet. And if you don't eat it to access, plus, it's packed with minerals like iron and magnesium, and which are important for the body to make substances like blood and brain cells. And the fats in good meat are useful for your body fatty acids to help build your nerves and regulate other processes like cholesterol control and what have you.

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Let's look at another big myth, which is that exercise is central to losing weight. This myth came about because of confusion between the aims of fitness versus weight loss. exercise can improve fitness, and can maintain or increase muscle mass, increase immunity and so on, which are all good things. But exercise tends not to burn enough energy to lose weight. If you do it for an hour three times a week. The reality is that the vast majority of your body's energy needs are used in normal processes, making its tissues digesting food, breathing, feeding the brain and other organs. An average chocolate bar has around 500 calories. By comparison, you'd need to run for a full hour to

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burn 500 calories. Doesn't it seem far more effective to cut out the chocolate bar than spend hours trying to burn it off. Besides which, the body also becomes efficient at managing your calories. If you exercise too much. People who run more find that they do hit this wall, they become more tired or inactive between the runs, the body naturally becomes less active because it sees that you're trying to burn up these calories. And as a way of compensating against the calories you burned. It reduces metabolic rate.

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So the real truth about exercise is that it can help with calorie burn, but in a very different, more effective way than doing long jogging or walking sessions. The secret lies in high intensity workouts, which are literally just minutes a day. More on this great detail in the chapter about exercise technique. In the meantime, let's also look at some lesser but equally misleading guidance. Don't skip breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don't drink tea and coffee. Say no to desserts because they're pointless. Eat as much fruit as you like five a day minimum and a big one. Artificial sweeteners have no effect on your weight. That's a myth. And we'll find out why.

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You can have a look at my blog online or email me for the medical data and sound research which proves what I'm saying. But I don't list it here because this is a guide. It's not about medical trials.

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So looking at each myth, missing breakfast doesn't cause any particular problems. This most important meal of the day was partly an old mother's tale out of the concern to keep the family fed. It's a drive of the mother to look after you and as a driver of her knifes to keep you nourished. It's what leads mothers to overfeed babies. And this was also topped off by an effective marketing campaign by cereal manufacturers in the 20th century. That's right, we're still laboring under the effect of an effective marketing campaign.

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tea and coffee well they contain caffeine. And caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant, which helps to boost metabolic rate and meant mental alertness. Caffeine isn't particularly addictive, and even those who drink high amounts of tea and coffee. In some instances, people end up drinking 12 cups a day or more. Don't

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Apparently seem to have harmful consequences, as long as the person doesn't have a background issue, like heart disease, or high blood pressure, and is not vulnerable to something called caffeine ism, which picks on certain individuals who use coffee for a mental or emotional pickup, considered tea and coffee to be perfectly useful allies in weight control. If you don't already drink,

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you don't need to start drinking them. But if you already drink them, there is no need to reduce them. Unless you're one of these unlucky folk who are genetically or psychologically vulnerable to caffeine addiction. That's a problem which worsens over time and makes people very anxious, and paranoid at worst. And it's more frequently seen in those who take caffeine with a lot of sugar.

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Moral of the story is tea and coffee without sugar or sweeteners are generally fine.

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desserts. Now you'd have thought that I would be against dessert, so that doesn't include him. Well, let's look back at the time of the Prophet. Turns out desserts are not useless by any means. The Prophet had them on occasion, and they are still a part of people's lives. The reason is simple that the Herbalife is sympathetic to all of you. To the nuts, it doesn't shut out enough in the cold. Something indulgent once in a while, is to be expected and welcomed. Banning desserts is almost sure to make you crave the more there is no need for such harshness. You can change the way you eat them though. Eat them slowly, it improves your well being to just appreciate the taste. It's simple, no

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guilt, fully savor the moment. If you're going to a special event, or you have dessert once a week, plan for it and savor the food, taking it in slowly and gratefully as a last provision.

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Fruits, as we've discussed before are not as harmless or wholesome as they're made out to be depends on the fruit but the sweeter fleshy fruits have high amounts of sugar in them. fructose is a fruit sugar it's misleadingly described as harmless when actually it spikes insulin almost as much as sucrose, which is the white sugar that we buy

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the public health guidelines about eating more fruit. Typically, there's something in the UK that says up to five or more a day. They're not helpful for weight loss as such, what they are, is actually based on the idea that the majority of the population eat really unhealthy foods such as dodgy cheap fat chips and processed junk. So in relative terms, fruits are a step in a healthy direction for those people because they contain vitamins and fiber and so on. And if you're replacing chips and pies with fruits, then clearly you're doing yourself a favor. However, for someone who is looking to improve their diet overall, fruits can be troublesome for insulin. Like we

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said before, the sort of more tart and fibrous fruits like apples, pears, berries and pomegranates. They're better than the plumper, fleshy fruits. dates and figs are high in sugar, but they're also high in fiber, so the sugar takes time to get released. And the Prophet remember eight dates often with gherkins. The tartness of the gherkins would counteract the sweetness of the sugar and increase the fiber contents so sugar would release more slowly. Let's not forget that dates and figs are very high in essential minerals and vitamins. So it's totally commendable to eat them in the amounts that the Prophet ate, usually three or five or some other odd number and taken in moderation, especially

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by diabetics.

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Finally, the big one artificial sweeteners. Those of us with sweet tooth, myself included have been led to believe that artificial sweeteners are like having the tastes of sweetness, but none of the bad side.

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Well, artificial sweeteners may not have any of the calories but they do have a bad side because these sweeteners can cause you to gain fat. And I'll explain why.

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You know when you smell something delicious, perhaps when you walk past a fragrant kitchen when you see food in a shop or on TV, your mouth starts to salivate you lick your lips and perhaps even feel a rumble in your tummy. This happens because the base of your brain your knifes is primed to jump to conclusions. when it sees or senses that food is around. It prepares you to eat and prepares for digesting

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it comes difficult to resist the idea of a little bite. Well consider this. The salivation and rumbling tummy are part of the result of what we call a catabolic phase response. And that's just a fancy phrase, which means the brain preparing the body to do something before you actually do it.

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Now, it turns out that insulin is also involved in this response. That's right, your body will spike insulin upwards in preparation for sweet things arriving in your belly. Or, when you taste something very sweet on your tongue, the body interprets that as sugar, and will increase insulin directly without any sugar entering your system.

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So, if you eat or drink things with artificial sweetener in them, you might not be taking in the calories, but that doesn't matter. The insulin spikes upwards anyway. And whatever sugar is lurking in your system is turned into fat or taken into your cells. And this is known as the CPR, the phallic phase insulin response. It was only discovered a few years back and more research is being done on it as we speak to find out exactly how much it happens in humans, probably varies from person to person. But the moral of the story is artificial sweeteners, unfortunately, turn out not to be good for you at all.

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Of course, the food industry are not going to tell you that. Drinks makers won't tell you that they've been banking on having all the angles covered. If you like sugar, here, some sugary food and drink. If you don't like sugar, well no problem. Here's something that tastes sweet without the calories may seem like a bit of bad news for a sweet food lovers. However, however, let's not lose our minds. We are Muslims, first and foremost. And we don't neglect the sooner or cling to harsh rules without finding a wiser truth. We learn the Prophet didn't avoid sweet foods, but he enjoyed them on special occasions. And he gave them as gifts to

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whilst cane sugar was around back then, he apparently preferred the taste of honey. And while honey is mostly just sugar, don't let anyone tell you anything else. Honey also contains a number of very useful minerals, antioxidants and immune stimulants. The lesson we learn comes back to the one of which we are now getting a full picture. The third way is to treasure food, to be conscious of what we eat, and to treat exceptional foods, both with extra delight and extra care.

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The Prophet never indulge in honey daily. And neither did he sweetened his regular food was sugar. He enjoyed it for what it was a naturally sweet treat, with the benefit of 1000 other ingredients from nature that could well be benefit to our system in other ways. It's all about balance moderation.

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To those of us who are feeling disheartened about the idea of avoiding sugar and artificial sweeteners, I can therefore offer some additional considerations.

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Firstly, it's not about denying anything.

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It's about delaying it. The craving for sweet food is usually short lived, similar to that of any addiction. Except that the addiction doesn't get stronger, the more you put it off. You mustn't deny yourself the pleasure, but delay it. Feel the craving, that's fine. But just tell yourself not yet. Promise yourself that if you feel the urge later on, perhaps tonight after eating, you will go out and get something sweet. And follow that up. Do what you say you're going to do. And when you do finally eat that sweet thing. Do it with full gratitude and joy without the guilt. Because you have planned it. You don't have to feel weak anymore about it, you can appreciate its intensity.

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Secondly, prepare to get used to natural flavor.

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When you switch to more than you foods you eat the more mindfully and you'll be reducing the amount of sugar you put in and carbs you take anyway. And you naturally gain an appreciation of real authentic flavor.

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processed food is like artificial lighting, it's pumped up to enhance it. So no wonder an average person would think a carrot or cucumber wasn't sweet or delicious. Bloody they are. They're very sweet and very delicious and crunchy. When you should prepare to re examine that you will find the switch to natural sweetness easier than you think. Prepare to rediscover that flavor.

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And it's worth mentioning also that artificial sweeteners have been associated with certain types of illnesses, particularly cancer with the bowel or bladder. We're not yet certain if this is a true link as such, but it's better to remain cautious all the same

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way is to be moderate and cautious after all, but not to be swayed unless we have the full facts. In any case, we prefer to avoid artificial sweeteners because of this CPR alone. The evidence for cancer isn't clear, but it ends up being irrelevant to our decision.

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So in the next chapter, we'll be examining myths about body

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End of Chapter