Food Reward and Low Carb Substitutes
Over on his blog, Stephan Guyenet has been unveiling his theories on food reward, setpoint and weight regulation. I'm not sure I'm really getting how the food reward itself - or lack thereof - re-sets one's adipostat, but that's neither here nor there.
This is going to be a rather short post from me. GRIN ;-)
Observations on long term low carb aficionados. Many:
- Lose a little or no weight at all - remaining obese or overweight
- Lose significant weight but plateau out at a weight that is still obese or overweight
- Struggle to maintain weight loss and regain despite adherence to the low carb WOE
What do these have in common? Well, it seems that almost any significantly overweight person who switches to, say, Atkins, and commits to extreme food restriction will lose weight. It seems to work. LC'ers mock the "LC foods are boring" angle on this. Perhaps there's more to it than this reflexive response.
There are tons of LC equivalents to SAD foods that many find highly acceptable. Perhaps even develop taste for over the formerly rewarding food. Boom. A short list:
- Taco shells made with cheese
- Baked goodies made with coconut and almond flours
- Mashed cauliflower
- Spaghetti squash lasagnas
- Pizza's on a pepperoni crust or on LC bread crust
- Recipes galore mimicking favorite or highly palatable foods: The Eades and Stella highlight many low carb "comfort food" recipes, White Castle Pie, this sort of thing.
- High cocoa dark chocolate
In the end, those who just replace the probable cause of their prior overeating with low carb alternatives seem to have lesser overall longterm success. I think when someone can say: "I served this dish at a regular party and everyone loved it and nobody believed it was low carb" ... it spells trouble.
Other than Gary Taubes being wrong, any theories why this happens? I'm #2: Lost 25# and now seem to have plateaued 10# short of where I think I should be.
However, as my own blog notes, carbs are still pretty important and I don't eat zero-carb as a rule. I just find eating 300+ g of carbs a day makes me pretty ill and always has since I was a teen. But I thought then that I had a 'weird' food digestion issue and that something was wrong with my body. So "low carb" paleoish eating really appeals to me since it says I don't have to stuff myself sick with carbs to be fit and healthy. I can eat what I naturally desire to satiety (meat and vegetables and some fruit) and feel good and stay physically strong.
As a woman who barely has a sweet tooth, and that only after experiencing the massive calorie demands of early nursing, any evidence that relatively few carbs are ok long term is very appealing because wow, it would suck if i had to go back to crippling stomach pains and nausea to not die at 45 from diet-related disease.
However, it still bothers me that people go back to their previous weight if they stop consuming the Shangri La recommended unflavored calories. It seems to me that the "cure" is going to require a diet modification with heavy emphasis on the taste of food (perhaps like Stephan is eating).
Which of these diets is a person most likely to overeat:
1. All you can eat pizza with unlimited soft drinks and salad?
2. All you can eat steamed white rice served in a bowl of water with unlimited sucrose and unflavored oil?
Obesity from highly palatable food is not such a crazy idea...
Monotony in food choice, if it's a steady diet of even a highly palatable food, but only that food, will eventually mean eating less of that food. Tired of that pizza? Here, have it with some mixed salad greens. Now, have it cold. Now, have it hot. Now, have it shredded and sprinkled on mixed salad greens. Now, have it - hmmm. Is there another way to have it? We're talking about your standard tomato, cheese and oil pizza, right? I've run out of options....
I would suggest: stick with what works for you.
Also, read around the blogs, check out
Perfect Health Diet
Free the Animal
I don't think there will ever be a study to show this, extended VLC seems to tank metabolisms. This makes sense to me since all of the enzymes/hormones/processes that are upregulated in starvation are upregulated with VLC and vice versa. Only you're not starving because you're still eating lots of fat. So your body is trying to conserve energy while you keep supplying it with enough.
Advice in the LC webosphere is horrible, frankly. Because - since you mentioned him - GT has convinced so many that calories don't count and fat has no impact on body weight, folks are told to eat more fat and calories as one means to break a stall. There was a reason Atkins' Fat Fast was calorie restricted! And the unfortunate KimKins fiasco made anything lower in fat taboo. There are a few prolific bloggers and commenters about the web boasting eating 3000 cals/day and everyone thinks that's what they should be able to eat and lose weight because their insulin should be low and fat fly out the door.
There's something telling about hearing: "I'm never hungry on LC" ... back to that first one then ;-)
Lastly, this post and <a href="http://holdthetoast.com/content/its-all-same-me" embody Dana's problem if you ask me.
But ... I think I'm going to switch to black coffee. This may be a twofer: I'll probably drink less (my 2 large mugs is like 8 "cups" LOL) coffee and drop maybe 100 cal/day of cream
I've been toying with the idea of doing a rotating diet of just XYZ for a week at a time.
I think for too many of the "professional" folks LC has become so much a part of their identity/livelihood they cannot objectively see that it's not really working for them. For us non-professionals, I can attest that it is very easy to get sucked in to the comraderie and "us against the world" feeling that appeals to all of our inner rebels. It is difficult to change course.
GT had a message folks like to hear - I didn't eat too much or sit on my arse too much to get this way - and the usually significant short term success sucks you in. Once you've "bought in" a la Mark Sisson, it's hard to leave the cult.
And that the government's anti-dietary-fat policy is at fault for making us fat. As if we had all got fat by eating lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables (though I agree that simple-minded low-fat advice is harmful). Stephan Guyenet has been taking some flak for suggesting behaviour plays a role in obesity, it's not just purely hormonal. People are really eager to lay the blame on somebody else. I, for one, don't care who is to blame. I'm sure Mark Sisson and Dean Ornish and Ancel Keys were all doing what they thought best.
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