Dr. Pam Peeke – The Hunger Fix & Shocking Sugar Science
Dr. Pam Peeke
Jonathan: Hey everybody, Jonathan Bailor back with another Calorie Myth Show episode and today’s show is an excellent one because we have a very charismatic, knowledgeable, and well versed individual in an area that is very near and dear to my heart and that is an emerging area of science that we can all jump on board with and it can help us all very much as evidenced by the wild success of her most recent book, The Hunger Fix, which is awesomely a New York Times bestselling book and she is none other than the electrifying Dr. Pam Peeke.
Dr. Peeke, welcome to the show.
Pam: Oh my God! Just let me get my finger out of the socket here if I am that electrifying.
Jonathan: Dr. Peeke, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I have been hearing about you, following your work for a really long time and I have a huge fan of your most recent book The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. So, kudos to you madam.
Pam: You know something? It was time and as a physician who has been dealing with this and a scientist for many years, I knew there had to be something going on. Seriously, when my patients come in sounding like junkies, I need fix, withdrawal is killing me, where’s my head [indiscernible 01:43], can’t get off the stuff.
You think they would be talking about meth or coke or something, and then they will tell me it’s pasta, bread, cupcakes, and then of course you and I could laugh “Oh! Isn’t that’s funny?” and then we would say to ourselves “I don’t know, we do the same thing, don’t we?”
Pam: Then I have been following all of the work done by the National Institutes of Health and my wonderful colleague and friend, Dr. Nora Volkow, who is head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and lo and behold, it is sometimes you just get lucky.
Finally, we hit a tipping point in the amount of research that was done so that what we can really do now is say “Hey! We have enough compelling evidence now to say this that sugar is more addictive, refined sugar is more addictive than cocaine, morphine, or heroin” and that what we are doing is saying that the relationship between food and addiction is absolutely 100 percent real, incredible.
Jonathan: Dr. Peeke that is obviously undeniable and it is true. However, it seems to not be accepted by the mainstream because we are essentially dealing cocaine in our schools if I am understanding you correctly.
Pam: I am all about it.
Jonathan: How can we allow that to happen?
Pam: What’s happening is there is a groundswell among scientists who are now saying sort of “Duh! Refined sugar does ignite the reward center at the uber-uber-uber level. There is the apple level which is Wow! That was really special and we really liked that apple and that was good stuff and then there is the uber-uber-uber level which is Twinkies and Ho-Hos and things like this refined sugar products basically and so invulnerable minds, invulnerable brains you are going to have that igniting going on.”
Researchers are now understanding how compelling and powerful this is. That’s the good news, but to your point this is not siphoned down to and filtered down to schools, our families, and all the rest of it. People know that there is something definitely wrong. They know inherently that when they touch a lot of this food that they feel completely out of control.
They are very much like an alcoholic does, a drug addict, but the big time science has not siphoned down to them yet because frankly look Jonathan, it’s neuroscience, not exactly something you scope out when you get home from 10 hours of working and so what we are doing now is why I wrote my book, I turned it into consumer language, I said, “You are not going out of your mind.”
There is something going on physiologic and organic in both the reward center of your brain and in the smarty-pants part of your brain right behind your forehead, the prefrontal cortex which helps to brain in impulsivity. They are both impaired. They are both going through organic changes that are physiologic. No different than say when an alcoholic ends up with liver disease. It’s the same stuff, but now we are getting enough evidence that slowly but surely we are messaging this, pushing it out to the public so that we can help them.
That means the kids in schools that means basically pushing as it were the cocaine in schools as you so appropriately said. We have got work ahead of us, brand new science, but we are getting there.
Jonathan: Dr. Peeke, how do you combat this — let’s call it the myth of moderation where now that we understand that concentrated sugar is much more analogous to again like nicotine. We don’t tell our children smoke in moderation is only reasonable. Anyone who says anything else is an extremist. How do you combat that, that dogma?
Pam: I think that you are absolutely correct. This is where we are standing, right? So, the easiest thing in the world on being completely ridiculous about this is getting off coke, heroin whatever, why? Because you are either on the wagon or you are off. There is nothing in between where we are going to put you on a diet of moderate heroin, just little bit, don’t forget that mid-afternoon heroin. How stupid is that? You are either on the bus, you are off the bus. Okay? Period, black and white, end of story.
When it comes to food, [indiscernible 06:28] is a problem and that is refined sugar and basically not just sugar but the hyperpalatables. The sugary, fatty, salty combos are everywhere. There is refined sugar in ketchup, it’s in salad dressings, probably in my wallpaper, I haven’t checked, I don’t know. It’s everywhere. So, when you have got an issue like that, plus you do have to eat, then you have got yourself a challenge, meaning that when you talk about portions, well it’s deeper than portions.
What will happen is, you have to tell your true truth Jonathan. People out there have to say which foods do I feel loss of control with? You know what they are. This is not subtle, right? Make a little list, look at it and no matter how many times I swear I will be able to do it this time and then once again you are off and running on another binge, right? I just had one cookie, but then it ignited in your reward center, I want more and more because of the organic changes it took place.
I discussed those organic changes in my book The Hunger Fix about 20 different [indiscernible 07:43] so you can really understand what these are. All right, so what you do? Well, as it turns out when it comes to cocaine, meth, heroin, little goodies like that we have algorithms that we follow. We have got intervention, shows on television and we have our [indiscernible 08:03] shipping people off to rehab and doing all that stuff. So, we have detox recovery. All right, what do we do for food?
Well, one of the easiest things to do is just look at those foods that don’t seem to be working for you. When it comes to loss of control and you got to tell your truth again about those and say to yourself right now as we sit, they are not working for me because it just doesn’t work for whatever reason, may be they are igniting my reward center and I am just feeling so out of control. So, may be what I will do is I will just sort of put them aside for the time being and just stay to myself there are zillion other foods I could be eating instead that don’t ignite my reward center and I will just do that.
So, a small portion of heroin does the same thing as a large portion of heroin. It’s the same thing. It ignites your brain when you are vulnerable. Now, there are also people who say all foods are fair game. So, when you are trying to treat yourself with this, one of the things that a lot of people who study disordered eating say is that when you have an issue with food and addiction, you are binging, right? You are binging, you are not delicately having a little cupcake. Instead, it’s just you are having at it. It’s a dozen at a time, right? Or may be sick, whatever.
So, now you say to yourself well may be what I need to do is redefine my relationship with food, all foods. May be you will look at that cupcake and say “You know something, I can handle one cupcake.” Then you experiment. You have one, see what happens. If it ignites and you are off and running, probably not such a great idea to have this stuff around for the time being until you can kind of practice, practice, practice understanding, may be it will never work for you. See that’s the thing about food. There is variability here.
There are some people who have just sworn off specific foods. There is life without Twizzlers, okay? Seriously, there is life without Twizzler. So, cry me a river here if you have never have another Twizzler. So, what? May be it works for you? So, you are abstinent of that particular food-like product. I can’t grace it with the name food, but we will call it a food-like or a science fair project. So, there it is all right. So, that’s one way to do it. So, there are just certain things you just learn will never work for you.
Then there are others may be five years down the pike you might want to try it again and in my book The Hunger Fix, I have this whole algorithm for re-exposure. It’s either going to work or it doesn’t. Life one big experiment here when it comes to food and addictives like eating behaviors. There are some people who just get more relief out of just “Oh to hell to with it, I am just keeping these certain foods out of my life because they are just nothing but trouble.” It’s like running around with the wrong gang. It’s just too much, I am exhausted with this whole thing. Then there are others who say, “Well, I don’t want to feel deprived and I do want to get back to that Twizzler at some point.
Well, maybe you might want to figure out how you are going to do that and I am kind of an advocate of just sitting back and looking at your relationship with each of these foods. They come with memories, they come with hefty bags of relationship issues and connections with other people and things and whatever, that’s the way it works. So, this is why you need some help as you are sort of parsing through a lot of this.
Jonathan: A bit of an intervention certainly. Dr. Peeke to dig a level deeper, this is for my own sake too, I am curious about this in your research and what you have seen. A lot of these things which can cause binge like eating, let’s say cookies, cakes and pies. Cookies, cakes and pies have existed for a very long time. Cookies, cakes and pies existed when the obesity rate was sub-three percent in the early 1900s.
Pam: That’s right.
Jonathan: Why do you think in 1914 individuals ate cookies, cakes and pies and we had a sub-three percent level of obesity and today in 2014 when people eat cookies, cakes and pies we have a 70 plus percent overweight and obesity rate?
Pam: One of my patients called those the round foods because you forgot the donut too.
Jonathan: There you go.
Pam: No, listen. Look, this is what happen, when they made cookies, cakes and pies way back when they used real food. Think about that for a second. They used real food and here is another thing, those kinds of foods were not available 24×7. Those were what we called, what we used to call a treat. That’s right. The definition of a treat is you don’t have it 24×7, all right? Then it becomes a staple. So, no they had it as a treat. So, the brain was perfectly fine with that.
Every now and then when you had a treat no matter what it was then your brain went up to that uber level, was like “Wow! That tastes really good, that was wonderful” and then you came right back down again because guess what? You have one cookie honey. In those days you didn’t go “Wow! Let’s go get a pack of cookies at the 7-Eleven — Oops oh that was in [indiscernible 13:40] they didn’t have a 7-Eleven.” No, instead they had limited resources and they only had twelve cookies and six kids. So, let’s do math. How many cookies is each kid going to get?
So, we have real treats, I love treats. I think they are wonderful. I had no idea they were going to be available on every corner 24×7 and cheap and made of refined processed stuff. So, that now you can ignite that reward center anytime you want to. So, things were very different then and heck I am also going to tell you newsflash, you are a heck of a lot more physically active then too. Means there was no let’s hop in the Beamer and get to school. Really? Yes, school is that way, four miles, get truckin and that’s the way it always went.
That was a completely different world we lived in. We got to bed earlier, known with starting at screens until midnight and then foraging around the kitchen were late at night, seriously your ass was in bed at 7 o’clock because you didn’t have any electricity and you got up when the little pleaders [indiscernible 14:49] were going at in the morning and then you are [indiscernible 14:51] all over the place helping mom and if you are on a farm, you are out there. Come on, a farm is a Gold’s Gym, who needs a gym when they have what just went through the fence.
You are [indiscernible 15:02] no one else. You want breakfast, there is the barn, that’s right. There are eggs and milk in there, you find them. So, you paid a price to eat. There was a nice balance going on here and it’s for real. They say that a man on a farm like a real farm right behind the plough and everything, want to guess how many calories he burned everyday?
Jonathan: How many?
Pam: Hint: There is no International Harvester thing showing up that he can sit on and just kind of go like this. No, anywhere between five and seven thousand calories a day. No obesity there because he is little behind [indiscernible 15:42] working it. A woman, two to three thousand calories. You ever tried to make bread with your hands? That’s right. Ever tried to clean clothes on one of those little board things? Oh my God! I am talking about some serious muscles here. So, you were working it all the time, not so much today.
So, Jonathan in all seriousness, this whole issue of packing on a whole bunch of extra weight is straightforward. It is complex. It involves psychosocial cultural changes, biological changes. Huge environmental epigenetic and genetic change ups, all kinds of elements are converging and this is kind of what we are seeing. That’s why I love when you say The Calorie Myth. I think that that’s a great idea because a calorie is not a calorie. When I have a calorie from an almond, it’s real different than that Twinkie calorie. We are looking at quality, we are looking at macronutrients, and we are looking at polluting or non-polluting our bodies. The same thing is going here.
We just got into foods that are not foods, they are science fair projects and then we got into specific hyperpalatable, the sugary, fatty, salty stuff that got infused into all of our eating and that continued to ignite our reward center at very high levels and invulnerable brains making your want more and more which starts the addictive cycle. The research has been done at the National Institutes of Health has clearly shown that food and substances of abuse follow the same track into the reward center and when you think about it, it kind of makes sense duh! Because the reason why you and I are having this delightful conversation today with all this high-tech and fancy schmancy is because of two things, there were two things that got us here and they both involved reward. One is sex and one is food. Not necessarily in that order.
So, all of our ancestors were having a little go at it a zillion years ago kind of liken it. If they didn’t like food or sex, they wouldn’t do it. We have actually experimented with animals where we play with their genetics so that they have absolutely no reward from food. They just sit there looking at food like a lump of coal and they died. So, they better find reward in it or would be foraging for it. What happened was it went all crazy and haywire.
I am not going to address sex because Fifty Shades of Grey took care of that, all right? I am going to stick with food where The Hunger Fix took care of that and basically what we found was that instead of eating real foods and having a balanced life of appropriate sleep of friendships, of good relationships, of balance in our life, whole foods and appropriate physical activity, instead of all that happening what we ended up with were little science fair projects that kept lighting us up in our brain and when we did that honey, in a vulnerable brain and according to last epidemiologic study, it’s one out of every five to six women meet criteria for food and addiction or addictive like eating behaviors and even if they didn’t meet criteria. That’s the Yale Food Addict Scale which you could Google or you can find in my book or my website DrPeeke.com.
What you find is that the largest group of people are the people who are almost addicted, almost. They are on the launch pad. They are not like beyond impaired. They are just not having a good time and they are packing it on. By the way, people who have addictive like eating behaviors, come in all sizes. One of my toughest patients is a size 4 and the way she does it is she just chronically restricts all good foods and gets her fixes, some might call false fixes throughout the day and she is higher than a kite, happy, and she looks great in her size 4 and she keeps her little secret to herself.
Jonathan: Dr. Peeke speaking of that secret and we are getting short on time here, I could talk to you literally all day. So, I got to get this one last question in here before our real final question which is you talked about the activity and the exercise component and I love that you brought that up because when we start to perceive this as like an addiction, for example someone saying that I will exercise off the pack of cigarettes I just smoke is absurd, but we do see, for example frosted flakes on a box of frosted flakes, it’s like it’s encouraging kids to be active and to move more and one of the number one arsenals in these edible product manufacturers tool shed is kids just need to be more active. They can continue to eat our foods if we would just be more active, but if these are more analogous to pharmaceuticals that seems to not make much sense. What do you think about that?
Pam: Which is why I am a big hit with the food industry and all of the sciences say the same thing and that is of course it’s ridiculous. When you look at fruit loops and count chocula and all the rest of this stuff, it’s basically, you know what they are? They are nothing more than vehicles for sugar, for the delivery for sugar. That’s all they are and then to say that now I am going to go out and work it off, when the kid then just had like three extra bowls because his reward center was ignited. Okay, that made sense. So, obviously they are covering up for the errors of their ways in providing this kind of stuff which isn’t food, it’s just junk and it’s junk food I suppose.
So, obviously we are crossing wires on this whole thing. They need to fast up and kind of say “Come on man, let’s back off all of these refined sugar stuff and let’s just all grow up here, read the literature for crying out loud.” We now have reams of incredible peer-reviewed science that has just been absolutely published and now fully appreciated by large groups of professionals now who are basically saying we need to do something at the public policy level as well as what are we doing in schools, what are we doing when we make this available freaking in the hospitals, everywhere.
Between you and me, I am the senior science advisor to the largest addiction and disordered eating group in the country, that’s Elements Behavioral Health and one of the things I am doing is setting up an exciting program where I am now looking at the kind of food that people who are coming off detox in the recovery are actually eating. The old school way of looking at this which you see in so many other centers is “Oh heck, let me eat birthday cake all day” which is so happy they are robbing banks and stealing from their mother and shooting up.
Well, I beg to differ because here is a transfer addiction, a bunch of you out there know all about everything from cigarettes to alcohol to drugs and all the rest of it where you pack on a boat load of weight after you come clean with the typical substances of abuse. Well, guess what? Now we are fixing that. We are using the new science. See how it’s going to help people Jonathan, we are going to be able to help reduce [indiscernible 23:38]. People are so bummed out when they pack on fifty after they get sober and clean, heck they want to go back. It’s miserable and I have listened to this time and time again.
So, in my book, we actually come up with what they call healthy fixes which are tasty delicious. They will never know it’s healthy and it really satisfies them, combinations of protein and fiber that decrease carb cravings, all science based, makes you feel wonderful all day long. So, that’s what we are trying to do.
Jonathan: Brilliant, I love this. You talk about things we can do, things we can put into action, what is next for you? Obviously, you are still riding the wave of the great success of your book The Hunger Fix, but what’s next for you and where can folks learn more about you?
Pam: They can learn a heck of a lot more about me by going into my website, DrPeeke.com. Go to my Facebook, Dr. Pam Peeke. So, that’s P-E-E-K-E. Just come on over and like me, I will like you back and then the same thing with following me on Twitter as well @PamPeekeMD. So, you can follow me all the way through and then my website DrPeeke.com and Jonathan in answer to your question, I am going to be taking what I am doing now in the addiction arena, especially with my work with Elements Behavioral Health and I am going to let it rock.
I am going to be putting these programs in and at the same time the words are going to get out. I already have a New York Times writer who is following my every step now with his brand new groundbreaking program as we really make waves, as we create a groundswell so that we can add our voice to the mounting voices of scientists and public policy maker saying “We got to think about what we are putting in our mouth because it’s changing our gene expression and that of our children and we need to look at generations ahead in addition to the people we are loving and caring for right now.”
Jonathan: Brilliant. I salute you Dr. Peeke. It’s such a noble mission. Frankly, I can’t think of one anymore noble than taking care of the current generations and generations to come. So, kudos to you and thank you for all of your wonderful work and for sharing your time with us today.
Pam: I thank you too because it’s only when we tag team as messengers that we ever get this word out. So, we just keep adding and adding, and adding, right? So, we are getting it out to all of your followers and mine, we are making certain that we could just touch people and give them hope for crying out loud, especially people who have just felt helpless, hopeless, and defeated, and you don’t have to do that anymore.
Jonathan: I love it. Dr. Peeke, thank you so much for joining us today and viewers again, our guest is the lovely and brilliant and courageous, Dr. Pamela Peeke and her book is The Hunger Fix which you can get anywhere books are sold, of course on Amazon.com and be sure to check out her website at DrPeeke.com and of course remember, this week and every week after; eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. We will chat with you soon. Bye.