Adherence and calories are the keys

Published 5.23.2016
I want to further comment on the topic my previous essay on calorie counters. Calories count, no matter how you choose to eat, and that fact is universal. However, another important factor with weight loss and maintenance is adherence. If you can adhere to a low carb diet and be happy and healthy, then that's what you should do. However, a low carb diet is not necessary for weight loss nor (most importantly) maintenance. What is necessary is a way of eating that will allow you to eat the amount of food and drink (calories) to maintain the size you want to be.

I do not follow a low carbohydrate (low carb) diet— indeed I don't follow any particular type of diet, nor do recommend any particular diet for anyone else. I did try a low carb diet in my early 30s, but I could not adhere to it. And so that was that. If I didn't want to live that way, then I wasn't going to and so an alternate option needed to be found.

Post low carbing, I didn't really attempt to lose weight until early menopause hit, which I have discussed previously so won't do so in detail again here. Briefly, my 30s were a particularly sedentary phase of my life, and I simply kept my calorie intake to what was recommended for an average sized woman. As I am much shorter than the average size women, I slowly packed on the pounds until I was obese (using BMI).

I have never described my low carb experience, but I will do so now. In no way is my experience universal or informative for anyone else trying to choose a way of eating. It is simply my personal experience with a low carb diet.

I decided to give the low carb diet a try because my in-laws were doing so and losing a lot of weight. So I (actually we, as my husband did it as well) decided to give it a go, and I purchased Protein Power by Mike and Mary Dan Eades, both MDs.

The Eades' diet was supposed to be "less extreme" than the Atkins diet, which is the reason I chose it over Atkins. I don't remember which version my in-laws had been following. It's been a while since I read it, but my recollection is that the point was to eat a lot of protein for satiety, and stay away from breads, pastas, rice and potatoes.

I have to admit here that I read the bit about the so-called "metabolic advantage" of low carb diets in Eades book but didn't really think too much about it, because it didn't make sense. What did make sense was that if you cut out foods like bread and pasta from your diet, you also cut calories. Plus eating protein is satiating.

So we skipped the bread and avoided pastas and other carbs. A lean protein source and veggies constituted most meals. We didn't avoid fats, but neither did we seek to add extra. Mostly it was flour and sugar that we looked to avoid. We both lost weight (mostly water as it turned out), but neither one of us enjoyed eating that way, and so our low carb experiment ended. I remember the bad breath of the diet, which is a symptom of being in ketosis, though not very fondly.

Doing low carb did help me realize how calorie intensive wheat based foods are, especially those baked with fat and sugar. To this day I don't to eat from the bread basket brought to the table at restaurants because while doing low carb, I realized that when I didn't fill up on bread I was able to eat the actual meal. Occasionally, I even have room for dessert, though being lactose intolerant makes eating desserts in most restaurants problematic.

Over complicating the issue

Eades has changed his tune over time, though he continues to cling to the supposed "metabolic advantage" of low carb dieting. Eades now thinks it’s carbs + seed oils that accounts for obesity. Eades admits that obesity canNOT be explained only by carb consumption. Back in the day, he and his family didn’t eat low carb, and none of them were obese.

He also notes that American eat (on average) 350 calories MORE than in the 1970s. Nice to see him acknowledge that. There’s your obesity epidemic. Why? Because eating out more and cooking less results in greater consumption. Restaurant and processed foods have WAY more fat in them then what people use at home and restaurant portions are huge. His point about oils used in restaurants is true: the cheapest oil is what get used.

Eades also seems to admit that the brain runs on glucose (a point many low carbers try to deny).

After several days of starvation or a ketogenic diet, a similar situation prevails. Although the ketones reduce the FADH2:NAHD ratio, they also affect the proton-motive force in such a way as to both increase insulin resistance and increase the efficiency of ATP formation. So, glucose is made available for the brain while ketones become the fuel of choice for most everything else. And the ketones also power some of the brain as well, sparing glucose for those brain functions that run on glucose only.

Ah, but then we return to the "attack of the PUFAs." PUFA stands for polyunsaturated fatty acids, and they are the primary fat in many industrial seed oils. Paleo followers often point to PUFAs as being a source of dread and destruction in the standard American diet (SAD— get it?).

Why can't the answer simply be the 300 extra calories per day that people (on average) now eat— that's how much I needed to cut from my diet to get to my current size. And yes, using less oil in food preparation was one way that I did so.

Eades also has to admit that a “strict low carber” that he knows gained TWENTY pounds in a year. Adherence was not any issue, but it can’t be that restaurant meals (the guy traveled a lot) are higher calorie… No, no, no, it has to be the PUFA content of the meals. Eades says it’s all about the FADH2:NAHD ratio and ATP— thereby overcomplicating a relatively simple issue.

It's the calories, stupid.


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