Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Low Carb Eating Is - and What It Isn't

I'm seeing lots of misconceptions around the 'net about what low carb eating is, and what it isn't. Even within the variations of different plans, there are certain physiological truths that simply don't change.

First and foremost: There are lots of people who say, "Low carb didn't work for me" or "I did Atkins once but I gained all the weight back." To which I say: If you think you "did Atkins" then you didn't. Because Atkins is a lifelong plan. There is no "did" there is only "doing" and if you aren't "doing" it then you didn't do it - so you can't blame a plan you didn't follow when you gain back your weight. To whose who say "low carb didn't work for me", I ask the following questions: Which plan did you use - was it truly low carb or a "bandwagon" plan? Were you 100% faithful to the instructions? Did you cheat even a little? Did you lose weight and then gain it back again, so you consider the plan is what failed? Did you try a different low carb plan that maintains the tenets of true low carb eating but in a slightly different way? I understand that every low carb doesn't work for every body but before you blame the way of eating (WOE), make sure it was followed, 100%, perfectly, all the time. A car won't run if you do everything right, except decide that it won't hurt, just this once, if you don't fill the gas tank. You can't blame the car for not working then, can you?

Second. If you are doing low carb - properly doing low carb - you don't need to do low fat. In fact, you SHOULDN'T avoid fats, for several reasons:
(a) Your body needs energy at the ready and can get this quick energy for its functions from either fats, or from carbs. Protein needs to go through processes (which themselves use energy) to be utilized. If you are robbing your body of both of the "quick" energy sources it needs, you can really mess yourself up.
(b) Omitting both fats and carbs from your diet means you will have a much lower caloric intake. That's good, right? WRONG! We all know that when you lower your caloric intake you will send your body into "starvation mode" where your metabolism slows, you burn even fewer calories, and weight loss becomes increasingly difficult. If you eat fats, you keep that from happening.
(c) Your liver needs fat to burn fat. If you're expecting to burn off body fat without stoking it, you will be sorely disappointed.

Low carb eating causes certain physiological and chemical changes which is what makes it so excellent for weight loss, blood sugar control, blood pressure control, better blood lipid levels (HDL/LDL/triglycerides/cholesterol levels/etc. on your reports), and resolution of numerous other health issues. If you are eating carby foods - sugary fruits, pastas, grains, etc. - then you are preventing these changes that are the key to success. Your choice of course...but don't call it low carb eating and then claim that low carb failed you when it didn't work.

And a few general comments:
1 - Forget what you think you know about weight loss, what you've read and heard over the years about counting calories, how bad fat is, that you have to go hungry, etc. That isn't low carb advice, and people following it for the last few decades is why 95% of diets fail, and our population is getting fatter. Forget all of it, it doesn't apply to low carb eating.
2 - If you're not following a low carb WOE, don't tell people you are. If you claim low carb, yet eat sugar-laden (even natural sugars!) or grain-based foods for energy, then you're not doing low carb.
3 - Remember that the key to low carb eating is in keeping your carb intake low - hence the name of the plan. Not keeping your calories low, not keeping your fat intake low - it's about the carbs. Don't thwart the plan; it works when it's followed.
4 - You will fail if you don't give your body what it needs. It doesn't need all those carbs. It needs fat, it needs protein. If you don't provide fats and proteins (in that order), it will soon demand them, and you will fail. This isn't an opinion.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, if you are "dieting" to lose weight, and then go back to eating the way that made you fat in the first place, you will get fat again. It's simple. Follow an actual low carb plan. Don't deprive your body of the fats and protein it needs. Get your carbs from vegetables (not the starchy ones!). Eat until you're satisfied. Don't let yourself get so hungry you'll eat anything you can lay your hands on. Don't stuff yourself. Don't go cheat on your low carb plan, and don't go back to your old ways of eating. If you are following a low carb WOE faithfully, and if you are allowing your body to change how it gets its energy (from body fat instead of carbs), you will be successful, you will be healthy, and you will not have to say, "Low carb doesn't work."

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