Fred Hartman

With unemployment at more than 11% in the USA due to the pandemic, many people are having a hard time making ends meet and putting food on the table.

That’s a sad situation as food banks are as busy as ever, but with an ongoing obesity epidemic in the USA, many more people are overeating and put on extra pounds.

With the Texas economy shut down during April and the fact that we’re being encouraged to stay home, heightened levels of anxiety and fear have been created as COVID-19 case counts and deaths increase.

To cope, many of us are eating more and drinking too many alcoholic beverages, along with watching copious amounts of television and Netflix instead of getting outside, enjoying fresh air and getting some exercise.

It can become a vicious cycle as we wonder when this dreadful pandemic will come to an end.

As Dr. Courtney Warren wrote in Psychology Today, “We often start to eat (or not eat) in a conscious or unconscious effort to suppress or soothe negative emotions.”

She said eating can serve as a distraction from life at times and be a “self-soothing coping mechanism during uncertain times.”

Also, we tend to crave food higher in fat and sugar when under stress.

Sound familiar? If you’re like me, you don’t have too many regrets about eating too much meat and too many vegetables.

But after dinner when the kids go to bed and the house quiets down, I’ve been known to help myself to that half gallon of Blue Bell Cookies ‘n Cream calling my name in the freezer.

It always tastes good in the moment and gives me a quick dopamine hit in the pleasure center of my brain. But then, I regret it the next time I get on the scale or when my pants don’t fit as well.

Warren says when we’re stressed, it’s best to experience it away from food. That sounds like a nice way of saying we need self-discipline.

In fairness, though, when we binge eat, we don’t do ourselves any favor by beating ourselves up. Just remember, the past doesn’t equal the future. You get a fresh start each morning.

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People have become more aware that lots of sugar and carbohydrates are damaging to the human body, but the deck has been stacked against us for years.

What made me think about this was a graphic I saw on an Instagram post by Dr. Peter Attia, whose medical practice specializes in longevity and healthy living.

Attia posted a “Fact and Fiction” ad that a friend sent him from a magazine in 2001 by The Sugar Association that was packed with misinformation and falsehoods. These are so crazy that no one could make it up. The ad said:

Fiction: Sugar makes my child hyperactive. Fact: Sugar does not affect behavior.

Fiction: Sugar makes kids fat and can lead to obesity. Fact: Sugar had just 15 calories per teaspoon. It’s the total calories consumed and a lack of exercise that contribute to unwanted weight gain.

Fiction: I worry too much that sugar could cause diabetes. Fact: Diabetes is a disease in which the body can’t process sugar normally. People with diabetes are advised to monitor their total carbohydrate intake, including sugar. Eating sugar does not cause diabetes.

Fiction: Sugar plays a major role in promoting tooth decay. Fact: Tooth decay occurs because saliva breaks down starches and sugars to form acids. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises regular dental check-ups, a balanced diet, fluoride and brushing for healthy teeth and fresh gums.

As Attia wrote about a Reddit post describing this: “Going to Chernobyl will not cause mutations. Exposure to harmful levels of radiation will cause mutations.”

Reach Fred Hartman at fbh@hartmannews.com.

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