Is LC Morphing to HAES? Part II: There's Something About Laura

As I stated in Part I of this series, I'm seeing increasing mention of low carbing for health irrespective of weight loss.  The subject of this installment is going to be Laura Dolson of  Her recent interview with Jimmy Moore is what actually sparked me to blog on this topic.

I wish to put a disclaimer here, and I'll probably C&P this paragraph into each subsequent Part I may add to this series in which I name names.  I have nothing personal against any of these people.  I don't know any of them personally, so I can only go by their interviews, writings and podcasts.  For the most part these folks seem like quality people, although I do find the snarky and often mocking anti-anyone-who-disagrees-with-their-pet-theories attitudes off-putting at times.   In naming names my purpose is not to embarrass anyone or attack them or make them feel badly about themselves.  Lord knows the last thing an obese or overweight person needs is someone else to remind them that they are so.  But in that vein, if these people are going to be out there evangelizing low carbohydrate eating as inherently healthy, especially if they are making part of all of their living doing so, scrutiny is not only warranted, but should be expected.

I am coming up on 4 years here of turning my life around.  It was around this time of year in 2007 that I started my current journey.  By around this time in 2008 I had lost most of my weight and fit the same size jeans I wear to this day.  I didn't experience the health issues this time that I had several years ago, and I was feeling so good and enjoying my WOE so much that in 2009 I didn't think it could possibly be unhealthy. However I remain bothered by my fat distribution shift and inability to get to a more normal body weight.  My concern was, and remains, if eating this way really is healthy for the long haul.  It was with these questions in mind that I sought answers on the internet.  If I had a bias, trust me, it was to find evidence supporting that what I was doing was indeed healthy.  What I found took a lot of soul searching to shift things a bit.  

When one is seeking answers to the questions I had, one is likely to look to how others of similar age and gender are faring.  I came across a few through Jimmy's blogs and just basic internet searches.  What I found was not encouraging.  Rather the opposite.

So, I've not been shy about pointing out that many - I'd even say most - prominent low carb voices (and I'm not talking about the ex-professional athlete or never obese paleo-types) are still heavy.  Many are, frankly, obese - and I'm not just talking "technically" by BMI standards, but really by ... well any objective standard!  Increasingly these folks are promoting their less than stellar results as "not about weight loss" after all.  But I think almost to a one these people recognize that they could be at a healthIER weight.  Low carbing alone isn't cutting it for them yet they persist.  This is fine for them as individuals.  Who the $%&@$ am I to tell anyone how they should eat?  But they are now rationalizing that their diet is somehow *healthier* than all others so the weight doesn't matter after all.

Well ... I'm not buying that, frankly.  If a way of eating does not bring one naturally to a normal body weight, I don't feel it can ultimately be the optimum diet for any individual.  When we hear things like "I aim for 75% fat" ... I think it matters to look at the person saying that and ask "How's that working for you?"
So, on the recent cruise we have HAES crusader's Laura Dolson.  Now, I have no idea what her readership is, but is a pretty popular information site.  That makes Laura Dolson a pretty prominent voice in all of this.  Back in 2009 I first became familiar with her work as it would come up in Google searches.   She doesn't seem to blog much about her personal story - or I just haven't made it to those posts - but when I first saw this picture on Jimmy's menus blog I was not just shocked, but horrified. 

Sorry if that offends people.  But here's a woman advocating low carb on a prominent website who is perhaps bigger than I used to be!  I mean we're close to Kimmer territory there.   I thought maybe that's just a bad angle, but there are other pictures that say not.

Interestingly, the following exchange took place in the comments at Jimmy's blog at the time:
Jimmy, I was astonished to see the pictures you posted of Mary Vernon and Laura Dolson. They are both known as leaders in the low-carb field and yet quite obviously are very overweight. I know that low-carb is about better health as well as weight management, but I'm struggling to understand how or why their own weight has not been brought under control. Do you have any information that would help to explain this? Thanks.

Jimmy's Reply:  THANKS for your comments! And this is an issue that has come up before regarding people in the low-carb community who aren't the model for being thin. Heck, even I've gotten that criticism pretty often.
I do think to a certain degree genetics plays somewhat of a role in how we look no matter how much diet and exercise we give our bodies. All of the people you mentioned have been MUCH heavier in the past and their health markers today are IMMACULATE. What's to say they aren't better off now on low-carb having a few more pounds, but living healthier than if they were thinner on a low-fat, calorie restricted diet?
It's hard to judge a book by its cover, so don't jump to any conclusions thinking they aren't healthy just because they don't look a certain way. We have to get out of this perfection mentality that in order to be at optimum health you need to look and be thin.
So listening to Dolson's interview on Jimmy's podcast, we learn that she wasn't really that much heavier in the past ... around 35 lbs.  OK, that's nothing to sneeze at, but it's hardly "MUCH" in the context of how much she still weighs.

Low carb is clearly NOT working for Laura Dolson for weight loss.  Does her diet sound like a prudent choice for her?   Should she be advocating this way of eating?  Is it responsible to do so without being up front on her own weight?

One thing is sure.  Laura's little face shot at does not tell the story.  Eat low carb for several years and you too can look like ....
 only she looks like ...

The health angle just sounds like moving goal posts to me.  It's also Health at Every Size to me.   Atkins promised weight loss.  Eades promises weight loss. Prominent low carbers made their name through ... weight loss.  (And tend to write career launching books).  It's disingenuous to use outdated, professionally posed/processed headshots to promote a way of eating.  It's also more than just a bit hypocritical to keep referring to the "failure" of low fat diets for weight loss when the person is hardly anywhere near a normal weight following their "healthy low carb" diet.  Again, I think this is why LC is trying to incorporate Paleo into the fold - I'll address this in due time - that movement includes a number of role models who can at least lead by example.

For the record:  I would still advocate low carbing for weight loss.  But I would caution everyone about painting themselves in a dietary corner and accepting sub-optimal results as the best they can ever do if or when just low carbing stops short of producing the desired result.   I'm not done with this fight in my own regard just yet.

To be continued ....  


Mirrorball said…
"It's also more than just a bit hypocritical to keep referring to the "failure" of low fat diets for weight loss when the person is hardly anywhere near a normal weight following their "healthy low carb" diet."
This annoys me no end. Everybody loves to point out that decades of low-fat low-calorie dieting haven't worked, but I see no proof that low-carb diets have fared any better. Even among the converted, few people have been able to lose all the weight and keep it off.
Anonymous said…
Low-fat dieting does work. Has always worked. Lots of diets work. It's maintenance that's a beeyatch. And that goes for all diets, in my opinion.
Kent said…
Again pointing at the prominent and ignoring the others. 6+ years, still 190+ pounds down for me, but that's alright keep pointing at the ones who haven't succeeded. Maintenance has actually been more of the same rather than tough beeyatch. Maybe that's because I am one of the blessed few, or because I keep challenging myself with new goals. I can't speak to Laura as I don't know her or her health. I do know I have given up a life of being tied to BiPap machine at night or being worried what my cholesterol was or falling asleep in the chair exhausted at 6:30pm for a life eating wings and running marathons.

Just as you would caution not painting themselves into a corner, I would caution others from hanging a curtain up and ignoring what could possibly get them to goal and keep them there.
Harry said…
@ Kent

Regarding your WOE, if I were to ask you "How's that working for you?"'re clearly entitled to respond with "It's going great".

Laura is not likewise entitled...nor is Jimmy Moore. And yet, these people advocate for their WOE as if it was eliciting tremendous outcomes.

In my business, I would guess that 8 out of 10 of my clients are 'sold' by my personal outcomes (going from 60lbs overweight to fitness-model condition). Now, these people are mostly professionals and business people seeking solutions, not tribe-seeking adolescents engaging in hero-worship. They are simply making a simple inference that has informed human (and indeed animal) history..."follow leaves clues".

Is that an illegitimate logical move? I think not. Barring exceptional confounders, a person in possession of the 'how-to" knowledge ought to manifest that knowledge in their own achievements. If not, you cannot blame the folk from smelling a rat.

Unknown said…
Nooooo, I hope paleo won't incorporate with low-carb. They are trying to get us, but we are too all too vain and shallow to associate with them. We are too busy looking at our immaculate Crossfitted bodies in the mirror.

Can you imagine how much flack we'd give them if Fuhrman and John Robbins were overweight? It's an unfair double standard.
CarbSane said…
Yes Mirrorball! If I hear one more person say "low fat made me fat" I think y'all will have to lock me away in that padded sound proof room in this Asylum!

@Melissa: This is why this attempt will fail before it gains any measure of success anywhere but within Atkins-styled LC circles. In The New Atkins they cite Eaton trying to promote Atkins as based on our ancestral diet.
CarbSane said…
@Kent: Again pointing at the prominent and ignoring the others.

I don't know how many others I'm ignoring, because this post is about "the prominent" Kent. The ones advocating LC most prominently on the internet and elsewhere through their blogs, websites and books. As Melissa points out, what a double standard if the prominent vegetarians so frequently mocked by low carbers were significantly overweight.

I know you're an Atkins Success story on their website. If they're not active on the net, there's no way to know what became of all of the others there. It's like these before and after pictures don't tell the whole story. There are two folks I know of on that site who have regained considerable weight and/or remain significantly overweight - which is another point of this whole new HAES angle.

Congrats again on your success. I hope you aren't maintaining the same way Jimmy did for a couple of years.

I don't suppose running marathons - aka that dastardly old fashioned cardio - has anything to do with your maintenance? And I don't suppose your health improvements had anything to do with being 190+ pounds lighter as opposed to the diet you used to achieve that?

If low carb does not result in significant and sustained weight loss, there's little evidence that it's a healthy way to eat. Let's face it, most people try Atkins-style diets to lose weight in the hopes of keeping it off. There's little evidence that maintenance is any easier or more successful.

@Harry: Exactly!
CarbSane said…
@euler: Yep! In our interview I'm pretty sure Jimmy agreed with me that he never had problems losing weight with other diets, it was keeping it off.
Unknown said…
Considering what Jimmy and his wife are going through to have a kid right now, I'm definitely cutting him some slack.

However I'm definitely not doing that for myself. If I stayed at just low carb,I'd be at 230 for the rest of my life. No thanks. To not be 230, I have to stay below 1800 calories a day. Do I lose faster on the same level of calories on high fat low carb due to a metabolic advantage? Maybe, sure seems to work. Do I feel better on this WOE versus low fat? Definitely.
Of course this means I'll have to keep dropping the calories, so I'm very thankful I don't have processed carbs making me hungry.
Personally I think it's the book-keeping that's the pain.I suspect a lot of low carb dieters have that early success where it's easy, and they don't have to count calories, that they let themselves get complacent in a stall that turns into, well, HAES. I know for several months I felt so good ( compared to being 297) at 230 that I went into that same kind of complacency.
CarbSane said…
Welcome Tazchick! Thank you for sharing your story and congrats on your success! I know for me low carb is what I do to keep the intake down w/o having to do any of that dreaded book-keeping. I also know that to lose more weight I WILL have to find a way to reduce it further, although I'm really at a point where I've got to increase energy expenditure.

You know when you drop a lot of weight you do feel so good it's easy to attribute that to diet and go into a little bit of denial as time wears on and some of the little ailments even perhaps return.

As to Jimmy's situation, I'm not sure what you mean by "cutting him slack". I've frequently tried to convince him over on his blog (he doesn't post my comments to this effect anymore) to focus on just stabilizing his weight - even if it's at 275 or whatever. So I'm not really saying that LC isn't healthy or that it is only for weight loss. However Jimmy is also not a real good representative for LC's longterm benefits for weight maintenance as he is one of those people who has regained substantial weight staying low carb and has "maintained" his over 100 lb loss - as he now puts it on his blog - with some pretty extreme yo-yo dieting. So bottom line I don't think he makes a great role model for the WOE, its healthfulness or its utility for long term weight management. Whatever one's plan, it's got to carry them through tough times too, just as all those "killing" carb-laden lifestyles are knocked for not measuring up. Clearly carbohydrates are not at the core of his overeating.
Muata said…
Since most folks know my story as a LC success story, which I definitely shy away from now, I'll chime in. If you make money off of folks, then you are open to all sorts of scrutiny. And if you've built a business off of your weight loss story, then the least you can do is show that you can keep it off.

I think re-gain or yo-yo dieting is so prevalent in the LC circles because of a few things. One, for those whose appetite is reduced unconsciously, it creates a false illusion that the diet is magic and that there is some sort of metabolic advantage; however, this only last until the person hits a major plateau.

Second, most are diet focused and look at movement/exercise as a secondary thought. Recent talk of exercise being good for health and not weight loss (?) compounds this situation. Very few prominent LCers that I know about follow a structured training (or exercise) routine other than something that they think will cause them to lose more fat faster (Peak 8 anyone?).

Finally, I think that the mentality to lose it fast is even more prominent in the LC circles because of the diuretic effect of LC eating. The initial "whooshes" during the first weeks of dieting do a number on the dieter's psyche IMO, or at least it did to me.

The simple truth remains: there are many folks making money off their weight loss story even though they haven't looked like their "After" picture in sometime, and I think this is just plain wrong and deceitful on their part.

How can anyone, in good faith, continue to sell a book about their weight loss when they haven't kept ALL the weight off for any significant amount of time? The book Half-Assed by the Pasta Queen comes to mind ....
CarbSane said…
Thanks for chiming in Muata. I think the hubris of some really gets to me. Dana Carpender's first book was about weight loss, but she "only" lost 40 lbs and I'd dare say that in several pictures she looks more like a "before". And since she's been "fighting the low fat lie" for 15 years now, one wonders what exactly it is that she's talking about.

In her recent presentation she talks about how low carbers "get" to eat big breakfasts. No, anyone with the means "gets" to eat a big breakfast if they want. For too many, that big breakfast "gets" you a big belly.

What bothers me about Jimmy is that he's "look at me, this could be you" ... but as it's stopped working for him, he's all about his health and how one shouldn't look at his recent experiences as somehow representative of the lifestyle he advocates.
Muata said…
CS, the topic of this post reminds me of a quote by Earle Liederman in his 1926 book Muscle Building:

"Advice should be taken from one who can show results on his own person, and everyone knows that you can learn a great deal more from a practical man than you can from a theoretical one. If a penniless tramp tried to tell you how to become a financial success, you would not head him one-tenth as much as you would a wealthy business man. The same thing applies to physical training. Men who really do things are the men to learn from."

I would venture to say that the same applies to fat loss or nutrition ...
Unknown said…
CS - That is SO true!
I totally forgot that I've spent the last few years tackling my emotional eating. I could have missed it, but I've never seen him blog about doing it, and it seems men are more resistant to dealing with the emotional stuff.
BTW:What did I find to replace food when I'm upset or stressed? Riding a bike to the Who (Mostly "who's Next") and any version of "Bejeweled". Theres something about the music in those games that's downright hypnotic!

And what I mean about cutting him slack- Jimmy and Christine are going through IVF, publicly, as usual - I can't imagine how stressful or emotional that is.
Debbie Cusick said…
"Jimmy, I was astonished to see the pictures you posted of Mary Vernon and Laura Dolson. They are both known as leaders in the low-carb field and yet quite obviously are very overweight."

Hmmm, I enjoy your posts, but I find myself thinking you must have a really distorted mental image of what constitutes overweight if you feel people like Dana Carpender or Mary Vernon are "very overweight". Very overweight? Sheesh, not hardly. I already posted about Dana. I was with her a month ago, as I was with Mary Vernon. Neither was *very* overweight or even a little overweight. I didn't ask either of them their BMI but I'm sure in both cases it falls right into the "normal" range. I mean Dana and Mary are both about the same build as my sister, and when I plug my sister's height and weight into a BMI calculator I get 22.9, right there in the healthy range. And I'm sure Mary and Dana are both there too.
CarbSane said…
Umm scall0way: Those were not MY words, they were someone commenting on Jimmy's blog in 2009 about Mary Vernon and LAURA DOLSON - the topic of this installment. Dana was not mentioned in that blog post to which I referred, or this blog post. Mary Vernon appears to have slimmed down some since that picture, but not Laura. And I would say that is a pretty major outlet for whom Laura writes.

Mary Vernon appears to me to be slightly overweight these days. She IS very overweight in that picture and it's not just a bad angle. I would note she looked much slimmer in 2003-ish when she was interviewed for the BBC Horizon program on Atkins (I have no faith in her as an authority based on her description of fat vs. carb metabolism).
Debbie Cusick said…
Okay, I only met Mary Vernon last year for the first time, and again this year. She was quite a "normal" looking weight both times, so that's how I perceive her. I'll certainly concede that she may have been heavier in the past since I didn't know her then! But if Mary follows her own dietary advice I'd say she looks like a pretty good representative of it now! Yes, I know Dana was not mentioned in this blog post, which was why I said I commented on Dana earlier in your other thread.

Yes Laura is not slender. I don't know what her original weight loss was, but (like many people on many diets) she did stop losing weight at one point. But then again she didn't regain and has maintained that initial weight loss for 10 years now. I identify with her totally since I can't seem to shift my own weight at this point either and while I'd love to lose more, and keep trying to investigate what might help me, I'm still happy with the 110 pounds I've already lost. Sometimes "success" is relative. :-)
CarbSane said…
It is very difficult to have a conversation when it's clear you haven't read the post we're discussing. Because in your last comment you quoted from my post what was an exchange between someone else and Jimmy back in 2009 on his blog and attributed it to me. Then you brought up Dana when even that quote was about Mary and Laura and had nothing to do with Dana.

You also seem to have a hard time calling a physique what it is. Linda Genaw is slender (see link in my "heavy low carber" post). And she's Dana's age or a bit older. She lost 50 lbs to get truly slender. Laura is not only "not slender", she's obese. Let's call it what it is. Low carb has made her slightly less obese. Healthy?
lynn said…
I think the issue with Dana s that many of the photos of her on the net are from before she had her fibroid removed. Apparently her gyne said it was equivalent n size to a five month foetus. I had a cyst in 2010 and I looked pregnant too and couldn't wear pants for five months!!! I also had to go up two dress sizes even though my weight had not changed.

I no longer believe in LC and it hasn't served me well, however Dana does look well on it now.
CarbSane said…
Hi lynn, I think it's worth mentioning that my "view" of female LC'ers comes from early 2009 on. This is when I plateaued out and was looking around the web to see how it worked for women of a certain age. Anyone who thinks I'm being rude or mean for pointing out that what I found was discouraging to say the least is just being ridiculous as far as I'm concerned.

The pic of Dana HERE is from Nov 2008. Now a fibroid may well have contributed to her belly, but she clearly is carrying more weight in her face and all around here. If you watch her walk off stage after her lecture on the recent cruise it is clear she hasn't transformed much with her total gym since around a year ago where she says she weighed 143 wearing size 10/12. She may be somewhat slimmer lately, but that is ALSO part of the issue folks don't seem to be getting. It's not about weight loss for me, it's about maintenance. Because that is the issue with other diets and those who have success with them that these people ridicule constantly. Dana gained 8 lbs developing LC slow cooker recipes. Why? She lost 40 lbs and has been "fighting the low fat lie" ever since ... but how many of those pounds did she regain in the intervening years? I've seen someone describe Mary Vernon as tiny. Huh? I can see "normal" and it looks like she's lost a bit since the picture in this post was taken, but the woman is not tiny. Amy Dungan has weighed more than her before weight for the majority of the past decade she's been loving LC and encouraging others to follow suit.

Dana is not fat, but she's clearly carrying excess fat. That's all I'm saying. I'm clearly carrying excess fat too. More than Dana! Why so defensive folks?