May 30, 2008

Is it the Carbs...or the Calories?

Ever since I read several of Dr. Mike Eades' books, took what he said about my size to heart, and then began to incorporate a few of his ideas and beliefs into my current plan, I've run into LOTS of opposition from low-carb folks. Granted..."some" of that is an outgrowth of the KK scandal, but moreso the mistaken notions and beliefs about carbs and their role in the diet that have sprouted and grown out of proportion within the low carb community.

Recently, Mike Eades did a post about the "major" cause of weight loss stalls, entitled Low Carb and Calories that I found very interesting. Not the post itself, because the ideas presented therein were not new. Not to anyone who has read Dr. Eades' writings. In fact, I've posted about some of them before. But what was interesting was the response he got to that post.

It seems to be a pretty common thing these days, for folks to start out great with their low carb plan of choice, but then part-way to goal, run into what seems to be a brick wall. No matter what they do, they just don't seem to be able to get the scale moving downwards again. Read any low carb forum or egroup, and you'll see that stalls or slower than expected weight loss is a major topic that comes up consistently.

So who better to address the topic, than Dr. Eades himself....right? Afterall, he's an actual, bonifide, living, low-carb doctor. Someone who actually believes in the cause...following a low carb diet.

Well--maybe.

Because what we each believe "is" the Cause, seems to differ. As well as what should or should not be done, in regards to living low carb. So a LOT of folks didn't appear to like what he had to say. It went totally against their belief system, some of their experience, and what the low carb community in general would say.

When we first begin to control our carb intake, our blood sugar falls, so protein is turned into glucose to solve the problem. This causes a rise in glucagon, which combined with low insulin sends a signal to our fat cells to release stored fat. Great. To lose stored body fat, "ALL" we have to do is lower our carb intake....right?

Well--not exactly.

While it's true that on a low-carb diet we burn fat for energy, a whole lot of low carbers eat quite a bit of the stuff. Sometimes as much as 75 or even 80% of their total calories. For some, this doesn't seem to be a problem, but for others it very well "can" be. Because the body doesn't just burn stored body fat, it also burns dietary fat, so if you are consuming enough fat to meet "all" of your body's energy needs, your body WON'T go after the fat stored in your fat cells, no matter how severely you restrict your carbs.

I learned this very clearly for myself when I tried doing a nearly zero carb diet awhile back when I had run into that low-carb brick wall myself. Instead of releasing and burning the stored fat from my fat cells, like the greater majority of low carbers believe will happen if you "just" keep your carbs low, the fat I was eating went straight into those fat cells. Thanx to the lowered Insulin level leaving that door wide open.

Now there's a lot of controversy over just what a low carb diet should consist of calorie wise, as well as how and why they work. Especially with all the fears being expressed lately over what is perceived to be starvation mode and/or metabolic advantage. So I found it interesting that the article actually SANCTIONED a 1,000 calorie deficit, and called it a NORMAL deficit in fact, quite common for the greater majority of low carb dieters.

Well...maybe in his practise. And maybe at his forum. But I've personally been confronted for eating a much less deficit than that. Recently being informed that anything more than 500 will bring on starvation mode.

Even so, "that" was NOT what upset folks about this post (in the comments section). What upset them the most was that he even brought up the subject of calories at all!!! Even though it's very true that as we get smaller, our caloric needs go down. Because that wasn't something they wanted to hear. Especially since the foods he condemned as being "most likely" responsible for weight loss stalls were high-fat, high-calorie, snack foods that comprise the majority of a typical low carb diet. At least, according to the posted menus I've been reading lately.

Now Dr. Eades says it is not true that if you keep your carbs below a certain level, you will automatically lose weight. Yet the greater majority of low carb folks actually do believe this. And will fight for this belief at the price of falling short of their goals. It's almost like they would rather be "right" than "succeed." Because the price isn't what they WANT to believe. Unfortunately, it doesn't work the way they want it to. And like the doc says, if there isn't a calorie deficit, fat will NOT leave the fall cell. It's as simple as that.

Now the other interesting thing that Dr. Eades said (and you have to read through the comments section in order to find his thoughts/beliefs about this) is that "the body doesn't go into starvation mode with a low-carb diet."

Hmmmm. Seems to be quite contrary to what a lot of low-carbers believe, doesn't it.

He does go on to qualify some of his remarks, by talking to someone who has found themself pretty much in the same situation I used to be in. Where they are eating 800 to 1,000 calories on a low carb diet, because they are currently unable to raise them without gaining. What most call starvation, Dr. Eades calls ADAPTION. The body adapts to your current level of calories by lowering energy expenditure. Which explains (to me at least) why a lot of prominent, long time low carbers are maintaining at such a LOW maintenance level of calories.

Interesting indeed.

May 13, 2008

Is It Hunger...Or Is It Appetite???

I talked to my sister-in-law a couple of times this past week, over the phone, and asked her how she was doing with her 2,000 calorie, low-carb diet. And her response was interesting, to say the least.

She's been talking to someone in her current trailer park who'd had the lap-band done, and the girl was being pretty upfront with her. She told my sister-in-law that if she decided to go that route...she would HAVE to do low carb..no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Because since the band sits pretty close to the heart, if she allowed her stomach to stretch out too far, it could kill her.

My sister-in-law's reply was: "Low Carb? Ohhhh no! I tried that already. I just need to go home. I always lose weight when I go home."

Now I wasn't aware of that morbid possibility with the lap-band, how dangerous it could be for "her," but I had already approached the realistic part of this with her -- that she tends to have far too much emotional eating for a lap band to be any real consideration at this point in time. Even though her doctor wants her to do it because of her current health issues.

I think what a lot of folks fail to realize is that hunger and appetite are not the same thing.

Yes a lap band can help to curb physical hunger issues. But emotional eating -- and especially overcoming that emotional eating -- is something we still have to do for ourselves.

So what "is" hunger???

Real, true hunger is the sensation we feel from spasms of an empty stomach. The instinctive need for food. The physical reaction we get when our blood sugar drops a little bit below our current energy balance.

Appetite on the other hand, is an emotional response to the "desire" to eat a certain food. It's generally based on the PLEASURE you experience while eating that particular food. This sensation can occur by itself, or in connection with true hunger. Taste, smell, visual appeal, the sound of food cooking...these are all emotional, sensual responses to food.

They are NOT hunger.

Now I'm not so sure that we really need to go back to viewing food as JUST fuel. Even though I've said that in earlier posts. That seems as drastic to me, now, as always eating from appetite is. But I think that if we want to permanently control our weight, we really need to become AWARE of "why" we are eating, and especially why we are eating a particular food. We need to OWN our emotional issues attached to our eating. And maybe even make them work for us.

Because its easy to say we want to lose weight. We want to be thin. We want to have good health. Doing it...that's the hard part. Because we have to "GIVE UP" something, in order to achieve that desire. And the sad truth is, very few folks are willing to do that. To give up whatever it takes to achieve success. Especially if that "whatever" brings us pleasure. Pleasure we haven't learned how to get in any other way.

This really hit home with me this week, when my sister-in-law was describing what her husband had been doing lately. Now the interesting thing is, he's the one who's been claiming that my sister-in-law needs to work on "her" food issues. That "they" need to CUT DOWN on the amount of food they are eating. (Which they do). Yet he is the one who's been walking around this week, saying: "I want something...but I don't know what." He's the one who's been turning to chocolate.

That's flat-out emotional eating. Not true hunger. Though it's quite often seen or described as such. True hunger is when your stomach is empty, it's not when we NEED comfort from food. Now granted, if he's craving chocolate candy, his blood sugar MIGHT be a bit low, since low carb does tend to keep one's blood sugar level a little bit sub-normal. And he MIGHT be deficient in magnesium.

BUT...the pattern is one of emotional eating, of turning to food for comfort, of "wanting" something, but not knowing what.

When you're truly hungry, ANY food will satisfy that hunger. If you're emotionally hungry, then it won't. That's when you "need" a particular food, in order to make yourself feel better. And you won't feel satisfied until you get that particular food.

So the point I'm trying to make here...is...that we really need to become more AWARE of "why" we're eating, as well as "what." Because while the general tendency within the low carb community these days runs towards eating too little food, overall, it also runs towards eating too much of the wrong kinds of food. And especially for the wrong reasons.

Low carb isn't just about weight loss, or even fat loss for that matter. Low carb is about regaining our health, by gaining control over our insulin levels.

And you really can't do that if you are allowing your emotions to control what you put in your mouth. So the next time you're reaching into the refrigerator or cupboard MINDLESSLY, take a moment to "STOP" and evaluate "why" you're eating that particular food, at that particular moment. You might be very surprised at the answer you get.

May 03, 2008

Clarifying Some of the Things I Said

From the comments I got on my last post, I can see that to at least one person, I didn't explain myself very well in what I was trying to say. So if you haven't read that comment yet, please do, so you'll know "what" I'm talking about here.

For those of you who consistently read my blogs, you know that I don't follow in the path of traditional, low-carb parroting. That I like to research not only what low-carb nutritionists have to say, but also what a lot of other nutritionists, researchers, diet authors, studies, and low-carb doctors have to say. So my beliefs, conclusions, and blog posts don't necessarily follow the regurgitated party-line. I'm more concerned with digging deep enough to find the truth of the matter. At least to my own satisfaction and experience.

Now....sometimes that will "please" the general, low carb community, but most of the time it won't. So if you're NEW to my blog, and "expect" me to preach the same stuff that is being preached on other low-carb bulletin boards, web sights, egroups, blogs, etc., you certainly WON'T find that here. So you're better off looking to them for your answers. As I'm not interested in repeating something I heard, or read, just because the majority of low carbers believe it.

Now with that said, I want to first address the topic of calories. It seems to be a very HOT topic, ever since the Kimkins crap hit the fan, and we each have differing opinions about that. So for those who are new to my blog, or those who only intermittently stop by, and just happen to read this post, let me say it AGAIN.

My family doctor BELIEVES in low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb
The "BEST" surgeon in our area BELIEVES in low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb
1200 calories for women, 1350 calories for men

Now I know that SCARES a lot of low-carb folks. And I know there are others who believe that all dieting (especially low-carb dieting) should be done with a very small deficit (BMR minimum) due to their belief in an ever-enduring metabolic advantage.

But I am NEITHER of those kindda folks. I'm not afraid of low calorie diets, and I don't believe in an "ever-enduring" metabolic advantage (which I'll deal with in a future post). So that is the direction I'm coming from.

YES you are free to express opposing views in my comments section. So that others who come here can read those opposing views. And decide things for themselves. But please don't think you're going to get me to change to your way of thinking, because my own experience with a lot of these things, plus vicariously watching the experiences of others, proves to my own mind, that a lot of what is preached within the low carb community is either myth, guessing, or outright lies.

Okay...now for the confusion. The 120 grams of carbs I mentioned as being needed by the brain is for a "mostly" glucose-burning metabolism, and since ketones "can" pass through the blood brain barrier, (as my commenter pointed out), when IN ketosis one doesn't NEED 120 grams of carbs. That need drops to somewhere around 40. Which is "why" 40 grams of glucose/carbs was the example I was using with my math to show that the protein amount in my example menu was too low.

So I don't believe the 120 grams of carbs needed daily is a misconception. It "IS" how many carbs you need daily if you are not on a ketogenic diet. I mentioned this number initially, because if you're on moderate carbs, which some of my readers are, you might want to know that. Especially since it takes a minimum of 100 carbs per day over a period of several days to reset the thyroid gland.

Next -- I didn't mean to say that the body was "inefficient" in converting protein into glucose. I don't remember using that word at all. I think the word I used was WASTED. And even at that, I said that "wasted" wasn't a very good word to explain what I was trying to say. It takes a great many protein calories to convert protein into glucose, and once that conversion is made, the glucose made cannot be reconverted back into protein. Even if more glucose than is needed is made.

So "TO ME" it seems like a waste, for one to keep their carbs soooo low that the body needs to convert protein to glucose, especially at the expense of losing muscle mass in its wake, when it would be soooo much easier on both mind and body to just eat at a carb level that would spare muscle protein. Which is somewhere around 50 net carbs by the way.

Now I'm not saying that "everyone" who eats at Induction levels are in danger of losing large amounts of muscle, because if you eat LOADS of protein, that certainly won't happen. Protein "tends" to spare muscle. And the higher the protein in your diet, the lower in carbs you can go. But MOST low carb dieters really don't eat enough protein and carbs to both support brain function while "sparing" muscle.

You can "see" that from the menus they post. THAT is my point. My point has NOTHING to do with any typical USDA diet menu.

As for "my suggestion" of 1 gram of protein per lb of lean body mass vs Regina Wilshire's suggestion of 1 gram of protein per kg of total body weight, I did the math on that for myself, and it came out to only 78 grams of protein daily. Less than what Dr. Eades recommends for my current body weight. But considerably more than what Barry Graves recommends.

At that level of protein intake, I would be STARVING, and my body would clearly make that known to me not only through constant, nagging hunger, but also through a slowed metabolism. For the "very" obese, it probably works well. Like when I first began my low carb journey at 256.5 pounds. But for those of us who are closer to goal weight, it doesn't work all that well. Not in my experience.