Why I Eat Low Carb ~ Response to Reader Email
I received the following email a couple of days ago:
I've come to realize that I don't have such a post or two to point to, so I thank this reader (I'll let him/her ID themselves if they so desire) for bringing this to my attention.
I need to update my "banner" soon as I'm coming up on 3 years of my major weight loss. I did the VLC (<20g) most days except for planned cheats from sometime in the Summer of 2007 through Summer of 2010. I lost most of my weight in the first 10 months or so and have maintained, lost ever so slowly more since then. I was pretty much weight stable most of 2010. I eased up on carbs with some experimenting last summer and am now eating consistently more carbs most days. As such, I no longer "cheat", but eat ~75g/day carb on average - adding in starches and fruits. I still have my VLC days - old habits die hard, and I'm not going to force anything on myself - but I've not gone much over 125g/day more than a day or two in the past half year or so.
How I believe LC works:
- The satiety of increased protein content in the diet is largely responsible for a spontaneous reduction in energy intake.
- For some, ketosis adds an additional appetite suppression, but in most this is relatively short-lived.
- Eating fatty "fattening" foods may be satiating, IMO more from a psychological than physiological perspective.
- Eating real whole foods as advocated more currently improves micronutrient deficiencies that may be driving hunger.
- Cutting out an entire macro does tend to limit food choices.
- Cutting out trigger foods does help binge eaters so long as they can stick to it.
Theories I Consider Bunk:
- Metabolic Advantage: Try as the guru leader of this movement (Eades) may, there's no evidence of any considerable "advantage". There's a difference in high carb and low carb metabolism, but there's no advantage.
- Insulin makes us fat/Carbs are inherently fattening: This one is too detailed to put in a bullet point and is the subject of many posts here.
- You will get the leanest the fewer carbs you eat. Tell that to the Japanese.
- Excess carbs are turned to fat and make us fat. Time and again it has been stated in texts and studies (e.g. Jequier & Hellerstein) that de novo lipogenesis is not a significant pathway impacting body weight in humans.
- You can't store fat without carbs: I realize the claimant of this has walked this back, but this myth persists.
- Carbohydrates cause insulin spikes cause insulin resistance. No evidence for this. The only carbohydrate that is implicated in IR is fructose, the one that doesn't elicit an insulin response.
- Fat intake has no impact on body weight.
- Calories don't count.
Why I Ate LC to Lose Weight:
- Weight loss is fast enough FOR ME on LC to maintain motivation which is key for anyone with more than say 10-20 lbs to lose. I was probably double an ideal weight for me.
- Eating VLC is "easy" to do without having to count a thing. I don't eat "product" so eating LC veggies, proteins, and the occasional low carb tortilla or real Lindor truffle are not likely to add up to anything over 20g/day.
- I spontaneously eat a LOT less, hence the first bullet point. Many days the only meal might be a giant salad (half head of iceberg or small romaine head) with a can of tuna, oil and vinegar and a few olives. Add a snack here and there and I ate well under 1000 calories for quite a few days in there without going hungry.
- Ad libitum = no obsessing over food ... I've never done well for very long on any sort of plan where I had to plan menus and meals. On any given day, what I want to eat at 6pm is different from what I plan to make at that time. Thank God for refrigeration/freezers!
- For me, LC plans contain more foods that I enjoy than LF plans that limit/exclude my beloved prime rib for example.
- Not hungry most of the time.
Why I "Cheated":
- There are certain foods that simply do not have LC equivalents. If I want pizza, I want authentic NY-style thin crust, not pizza toppings. If I want ten-ingredients fried rice, I don't want stuff over "riced" cauliflower. If I really want potatoes in any form, cauliflower doesn't cut it.
- Getting over diet mentality is the key to success in this "war". Eating a few carbs is NOT what made me fat or what is going to keep me from losing the weight in the long run.
- Sustainability. I "failed" the previous two attempts because I never made it out of Induction, eventually strayed and just could never get back to it. Never had that problem allowing the occasional straying this time. It was part of the plan.
Why I Eat Low Carb Still Today:
- I get sufficient animal protein that is THE key.
- I don't count shit.
- I like the foods I eat.
- I feel great.
Why I Eat More Carbs These Days:
- LC seems to tank my metabolism in the long run. I no longer lose weight eating LC alone
- It's just more "normal". I don't believe we evolved to eat a VLC/HF diet.
- I get to enjoy sushi, hearty beef stew, chicken & wild rice soup, herb roasted potatoes, chili with beans, enchiladas, etc. all "on plan". You would be surprised what 100g carb/day allows one to eat.
Why I Appear "Hostile":
- I'm a science buff and like to understand the "why" - the real why.
- I hate dishonesty and I've uncovered too many instances of such by those advocating low carbohydrate diets to excuse at this point.
- I hate gimmicks and fads. The current trends in low carbing are going to set it back if we're not careful to reign in the "LC is a magic cure".
- Calories ultimately count.
- Perhaps one has to go against the grain sometimes to see where I'm coming from. Perhaps it's Kim Kins backlash, but this whole "up the fat" approach as being the ONLY way (and don't give me the "whatever works for you" crap, because those who say that still routinely mock and denigrate others who do just that) is getting militant.
- Focus on diet - any diet - ignores the various other reasons for why we overeat and become obese. Again, I come to this from a history of eating disorders - LC helped cure me because I realized I could lose weight eating as much as I wanted of "fattening" foods - but low carbing has the potential for spurring its own eating disorder that I'll call carbophobia. I see it all the time in LC circles.
- I must be saying something that rings true. Hostility is then perceived reaction to inconvenient realities.