LC Cookbook author acknowledges LC reality!

(Not really a science post, but not really specifically personal either, so posted here).

I have been a somewhat regular follower of Dana Carpender's Hold the Toast blog lately.  Some might consider my occasional mentions of Dana as being critical, but really that is not my intent.  I look to her, as a long-term, seemingly consistent low carber, who is not all that much older than myself, as an example of possible LC outcomes.   Where else should I be looking to move forward from here?  Those who follow other approaches have their Denise Austin's out there.  For better or worse, we don't really have too many such role models.

When I first discovered her, I was looking at pictures of a woman who, frankly, more closely resembled a "before" picture than an "after".  Sorry if that sounds blunt or cruel, but at the time I was coming from the viewpoint of a long stall and/or slightly regaining (or feeling like I was), and Dana had clearly regained some of her weight.  So there I was looking for answers and Dana was but one of the prominent females in the public eye in this realm.

FF to more recent months, I was pleasantly surprised to note that the more recent pictures from JM's LC Cruise early this year and other events evidenced a slimmed back down Dana.  She looks great!   And yet in reading her blog I see some disturbing things.  Comments how one or two glasses of wine really influence her weight are one thing.  But more disturbingly, that she's gained eight pounds while writing her upcoming slow-cooker cookbook.  Say what???  Now, eight pounds doesn't sound like a whole lot, but considering that (and please correct me if I'm wrong) Dana's initial weight loss totaled ~40 lbs, we're talking 20% regain there.    And, were I to gain 8 lbs of "real" mass (I don't count water weight gains) I would honestly begin to panic.

Now, I am aware that many LC critics will point to the "fake stuff" in LC recipes as a potential culprit for why some low carbers (the non-paleo types) seem to be a bit plumper than most.  So I would not be surprised to see her report gains while testing lots of LC desserts.  (Although, still, if LC theory holds, there should be (a) no need to overindulge so (b) small tastes should not contain all that many carbs).  But desserts aside ... slow-cooker recipes should be mostly those sort of "real food" type meals favored by paleo crowds, no?  Meat and veggies ... OK, so perhaps a bit more starch in some of those veggies.  Still, am I the only one who finds this disconcerting?    In a more recent post Dana describes herself as "fighting to keep her weight off" while continuing to develop recipes for this cookbook.   WHY should this require a fight?  

So ... it seems like recently Dana has been searching for a "tweak" to add to her LC base.  She's given IF a try, looked at Sensa, is taking gelatin and growth hormone releasers, and recently posted about the Shangri La diet.  Again, what scares me somewhat is seeing this woman struggle so.  Yes, I think weight control for the formerly overweight/obese will likely always be somewhere more on the front burner of attention, but shouldn't it be somewhat less so for the low carber if all we read is really true?

In her words, however, we see that which so many LC "gurus" vehemently resist admitting:
I am not looking for a reason to stop low carbing; I assume this comes as no surprise. On the other hand, I'm living proof that you can, indeed, eat enough on a low carb diet to actually gain weight. Despite hopeful claims, and clinical evidence of a very real metabolic advantage to low carbing, one cannot eat unlimited quantities of food on a low carb diet and still lose, or even maintain, weight. Sorry.
I don't agree with the "very real metabolic advantage" part, but ... there you have it folks!

What to do ... what to do?  

I wish I had answers to all this.  This is, whether anyone believes me or not, part of the purpose of this blog.  To look at the scientific evidence to find answers.  The more and more I look at those who follow LC (and I mean the <50 or even <20g/day types) lifestyles, the more I become convinced that it can be a self-imposed dietary prison of sorts that makes losing more or just plain maintaining ever the more challenging.  Couple that with the natural slow-downs of aging and, for us women, menopause, and it can be quite frightening.   Often times we're talking about those who have shed their weight years ago and should be somewhat "cruising" by now.  Again, I don't expect to ever take my "weight pot" entirely off the stove, but I have been able to successfully put it on that warming surface I have between the back burners on mine.  Should not an optimal WOE allow most of us to do this?  If not, why?

Thoughts anyone??


Paul Jaminet said…
Well, first of all, is there evidence that there's a detrimental impact on health from gaining 8 pounds if it's done with a healthy diet?

I would think mild oscillations in weight are normal and natural.

Also, I think it would be significant in which tissues the added weight resides. I gained 12 pounds over the last year without a change in waist size. I think it was beneficial.

Finally, a key factor is how hard is it to lose the added weight via calorie restriction? If she can easily restrict calories a bit and lose the weight back, then it's less of a concern. If restricting calories causes hunger and loss of lean mass, then the weight gain is clearly a problem.

Have you received our book yet? Our big concern is with trying to heal the metabolic damage, less with optimizing weight. Health and weight are correlated but not the same thing.
LynMarie Daye said…
The argument can be made that once the metabolic damage has been done, there is no optimal WOE that will ever allow us to simply cruise along. Some people may have to come to terms with the fact that they may have to carry more body fat than they want to. Dana does say that her health is stellar, I believe. That may have to be enough. A lot of people would kill for stellar health.
CarbSane said…
Good points Paul.

Weight in and of itself is not a bad thing ... but, I think Dana is talking increased fat mass and has mentioned that she's still the same clothing size but they are fitting more snugly.

Also, while 8 lbs is hardly likely to be a serious health issue for most of us, it remains alarming that:
(a) on a healthy LC diet, she has gained this much on a sustained basis (e.g. not just a water weight bounce from a carby "vacation").
(b) Dana used the word *fighting* -- as in to prevent more weight gain, let alone reverse that which has already occurred. If one's diet is healthful, shouldn't it guard against this sort of thing instead of leaving us still fighting?

Once we "own" weight, it seems harder and harder to lose. Therefore, a lifelong plan that helps guard against re-gain or gaining in the first place would be more optimal than one that produces quick losses, but isn't so hot for maintaining.

I also believe that stable weight at 10, 20, perhaps even 50 or more pounds in excess can ultimately be more healthy than constant significant metabolic imbalance and true weight fluctuations (again, fat and lean mass, not water weight).

As you know, most LC'ers resist deliberate calorie restriction so I don't know if Dana has tried that. I read fairly regularly lately, but not all the time and I haven't "known" of her more personal side until lately. I haven't registered to comment there ... maybe I'll email her and see what she has to say. She would probably be mad at me for another post though :(

If one is continually cycling between small gains and caloric restriction to reverse them, this is a prescription for a tanked metabolism!

To be honest, for myself, I feel I've been slowly zeroing in on a WOE that has me confident that I will not regain at a minimum. My metabolism seems to have picked up a bit, or at least the slowing seems to have stopped. For a while there I felt like it just kept slowing and slowing. I would restrict intake a bit, lose a teeny amount, then level out and have to eat even less. I can accept lower metabolic rate with significant intake and mass reduction, but not for a pound or two! I wouldn't really regain, and my body seemed to allow for a decent buffer of increased intake without gaining, but to lose more has been SLOOOOOOOOW going.

I totally agree that weight isn't everything ... and my crazy numbers would put me in an INsane asylum were I to dwell on them. I'm much healthier now than I was at this same weight 20 years ago. I'm also at least 3 pants sizes smaller than I was (true sizes, not numbers 14/16's (and even 18's) 20 years ago, 8-10's now) and a whole heckuvalot more active and stronger. Given I've gone through early menopause, I find that pretty remarkable. Folks who don't know my weight history and have seen me in a bathing suit think I weigh like 50 lbs less than I do ... and I don't really formally exercise (bad me IMO) either!

Since most people don't think to have their metabolic rates measured before they start low carbing, there's no way to know what true long term adherence to this WOE does to the metabolism. Relatively short term studies show little difference, but seems years are a whole 'nother ballgame.

I'll email you about the book. No I haven't gotten it yet, was wondering, but I'm not worried.
CarbSane said…
Yeah, LynMarie, that is a depressing, yet inescapable reality. That post James made a while back about the metabolisms of the formerly obese was sobering to say the least (hee hee ... made me want to reverse sobriety if you catch my drift!).

I guess that "fighting" word really stuck out at me. I can accept having to be eternally mindful, but why should making slow-cooker recipes necessarily change the game up so?

Point well taken about health. I'm a bit hung up on my hunch, however, that weight fluctuations aren't good in the long run (water weight not included) as they indicate some degree of chronic excess and/or deficit. A person who is 20lbs overweight but stable is likely in a better situation than one who is 20 lbs overweight but constantly oscillating between being 15 and 25 lbs overweight or worse yet 10 and 30 lbs overweight or even larger swings.

I hold out hope that metabolisms (permanent organ damage not withstanding) can be revived!
Nigel Kinbrum said…
It's possible that a lifetime of eating yummy foods damages our brains as well, giving us larger-than-desirable appetites. See Dopamine and Obesity: The Food Addiction?
Sanjeev said…
I would also be curious to know if she counts calories, and how strictly.

My major curiosity here are the human brain/body's tendencies(1) to automaton-icity.

In other words, once one thinks a goal's been achieved, there's a drive or tendency to put things on automatic pilot.

Look around next time you're out: most people have pretty non-optimal walks. They don't move their thoracic spine or they don't move their hips or they seem to walk as if the only mobile joint is the ankles.

And a lot of the time they have no idea that their walk could be any different.

I myself have a limp that I never knew I had (!!!) until someone pointed it out to me. I couldn't even FEEL it, but it was clear in a large mirror for example.

Lyle Mcdonald, the one who really convinced me to count calories talks a lot about this tangentially(0) ... successful permanent losers have a yardstick they use regularly - a pair of pants that should keep fitting, or taking their weight every day or at least once per week.

If the yardstick's measure says to, they get strict with the diet again.

So it takes 2 skills -
1. feedback-seeking
2. a willingness to respond to the feedback

(0) inside joke, tangentially ... hahahahahaha
(1) plural, because I think there are several psychological mechanisms, maybe even brain mechanisms underlying this - novelty seeking, for example.
CarbSane said…
I love that Sci blogger Nige! I did not develop binge disorders until after I started dieting and probably was at the precipice of anorexia. Hunger was not the reason for the binging when it occurred. Because of my personal experiences I do question the physiological basis of food addictions vs. psychological. I have an interesting study on this to blog on soon.

I do note that most of the low carbers who seem to struggle tend to eat a lot of LC substitutes for HC favorites. They're doing what Dr. Eades describes as hedonistic eating. I've developed a habit of being very mindful of portion sizes of any food I find particularly delicious. Which is not to say I eat bland/yucky foods most of the time -- I do enjoy my food -- but I would be as cautious eating a low carb cheesecake as I would a high carb one.

Sanjeev, not seeking the feedback was always where I fell down previously with regain. It starts innocently enough with eating a bit too much, so you wear the pants with the slightly looser waistband and avoid the jeans that have just been taken out of the dryer. And you look at the scale and promise yourself you're going to "be good" for a few days and then you'll weigh -- it's denial. Then you eat too much the next day, you'll start Monday, or the 1st of the month, whatever. Then the sweats and stretchy clothes offer more leeway to not get that badly needed feedback. This time I force myself to put on my "skinny jeans" out of the dryer after any of my planned cheats.

Dana did say on her blog that she weighs daily so that is not the issue. That she's finding it difficult not to overeat slow cooker recipes is disconcerting to me. It would be interesting to know the caloric intake there.

Most low carbers tend to blame "carb creep" as they get a bit more lax the longer they eat that way. I say it's calorie creep :)
Harry said…
Just to pick up on what CarbSane says here:

"I do note that most of the low carbers who seem to struggle tend to eat a lot of LC substitutes for HC favorites. They're doing what Dr. Eades describes as hedonistic eating"

This is a huge issue for most dieters, not just LC dieters (i.e. hedonic hunger and hedonistic eating). Any approach which merely seeks to address the physiological drivers of eating behaviour is therefore inadequate.

I'd also like to point out a couple of additional mechanisms relating to the psychological drivers of eating:

1) Sensory specific satiety; this where you are 'full up' for a particular food, but lo and behold, you can still fit in another food (usually dessert!); and in a related point...
2) Food variety; numerous studies show that appetite correlates with food variety; the more choices you have, the more appetite you will have.

On a practical note, I often advise clients that have a high heonistic drive to limit their selection of foods during the week, and to indulge their hedonistic food impulses only once a week. This helps to break the mentality that perceives food is daily entertainment...which is a big part of the obesogenic culture, IMHO.

James Krieger said…

Outstanding comment. You bring up an issue that I've had with GCBC (which I intend to eventually bring up when I'm able to find the time to continue my review)...that Taubes implies a false dichotomy in the book that human appetite regulation is either purely under physiological control or purely under psychological control, when in fact it is a combination of both. For example, Brian Wansink's research has clearly shown how psychology can powerfully override physiological appetite regulation.
CarbSane said…
Yes, great comment Harry! James, as you probably know by now ;) I share this issue you have with Taubes ... and indeed a rather large cadre in the LC community ... and, for that matter, in all circles dealing with obesity.

The whole "diets don't work" thing is wrong-headed. They always do work when stuck with consistently for a sufficient length of time.

The problem is what happens next. And that inevitably results in eating more when one goes "off" the diet. This was my point in my Myth of Maintenance Phase post.

I have, and this wasn't even deliberate, altered my mindset about food to where I eat for fuel about 90% of the time. Sure, I do also enjoy my steak and most of the foods I fuel my body with, but it's more "I'm hungry, where's my protein going to come from". I look at carbs and fats as fuel for the gas tank. It's not like I'm eating bland foods (actually quite the opposite, a common favorite these days is a Haas avocado with Frank's Red Hot or Cholula to fill the little bowl left by the pit), and it's hard to put to words how I look at that avocado, just that it's thought of differently than one of my favorite foods, Chinese fried rice.
Anonymous said…
Why do you care about your weight? This is not an idle question. All unnatural behavior involves suffering. For a women not to gain weight when she has the option to do so, is quite unnatural. In fact, for a woman to live much past menopause is unnatural. If you want to live for a long time, and especially if you want to stay thin, you will have to commit to fighting nature, and thus suffering, from now to the day you die. You have to have a reason to want to do this, and this reason has to spring from somewhere deep in your mind.