Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Can’t We Embrace the Low Carb Journey?

This morning as I was taking a quick glance at my email, I noticed that I had received a link to a post made by Angela England at her popular website, Untrained Housewife. Angela is a professional writer and author. She used to write for Suite 101 when I was there, but like me, she is currently focusing her writing and editing efforts elsewhere.

Untrained Housewife focuses on teaching the lost art of self-sufficiency. Angela does that by showing you how you can start moving in that direction regardless of your current living situation and lifestyle. Her specialty is teaching the lost art of homemaking, gardening, taking care of animals, and cooking with whole foods.

But recently, she received an email attacking her for sharing space on her website with other authors, and not being completely self-sufficient and off the grid. They even went so far as to call her a fraud because she wrote a book on homesteading while she was living within her city’s limits.

I couldn’t help but think how closely that situation related to the experiences that many of us go through on our low-carb journey.

Low-Carb’s Herd Mentality

Although I’ve never been called on the carpet for only being partially successful at reaching my personal weight-loss goal, throughout my low-carb journey, I have seen individuals criticized and attacked for preaching the low-carb message while still short of perfection. In fact, I’ve even seen individuals shun specific voices who have chosen to embrace a portion of someone else’s journey that they didn’t agree with.

Mention the wrong name (such as Kimkins) within the low-carb community and/or appeal to a handful of principles that person believes in – such as only using enough dietary fat to make your diet work – and you can quickly find yourself instantly losing credibility and abandoned. Why? Because most of us have a strong need to belong.

Even if the majority isn’t right in what they’re doing, we don’t want to feel like we’re not a part of the crowd. We don’t want to be criticized, condemned, and attacked for not believing, saying, and doing what everyone else is believing, saying, and doing. We don’t want to be alone. We want to be a part of the low-carb community. We want to do low carb right.

Except that the majority isn’t always right. We are individuals. We each have a different degree of metabolic damage, different levels of health, and different dietary goals. We have different genetic make ups, different tastes, and different things that work for each one of us. None of us is perfect. Most of us are probably not at our goal weight, but the one thing that we do have in common is our low-carb journey.

The New Low-Carb Community Message

When we first started our low-carb journey, most of us didn’t know a whole lot about it. I know that in 1975, when I first found Dr. Atkins’ book in the public library, the concepts of low carb and insulin resistance were new to me. I wasn’t in the best of situations. My unsupportive husband at that time had recently started a new job and funds were tight. There was no Internet. There was no one to help me figure out how to implement Dr. Atkins’ advice correctly. All I had to rely on was myself.

In 2007, when I returned to low carbing for the third time – after being bedridden for two years with bilateral vestibular dysfunction, and partially bedridden for another two years – I still wasn’t completely sure of myself. Now, I had a supportive husband. I also had the Internet filled with various low-carb communities to help me, but most of the people within those communities were preaching a very different message then the one I had received from Dr. Atkins’ first diet book or the John Hopkins Atkins Internet group available at the end of 1999.

Now that Dr. Atkins was no longer around to interpret his books, the low-carb community was preaching a high-fat message. They were preaching a high-calorie message. They were preaching everything contrary to the way I had lost all of my weight in 1975. They were preaching everything contrary to the way I had rid myself of part of my regain before my divorce, remarriage, and being struck down with vertigo.

Now, it was no longer about embracing the journey. It was no longer about accepting each person as an individual with metabolic differences. Now it was follow us. We are the “only” way. We will lead you to salvation.

Why Can’t We Embrace the Low-Carb Journey?

But for me, that didn’t happen. The way had traveled too far to the left. It had gone from eating fat in the same proportion as found in nature, the amount you would find in a reasonably lean piece of beef (1972) and recipes that only used chicken breast and other lean meats (1999) to extremely-fatty meats smothered in sour cream and cheese, and drowning in melted butter or mayo every single day.

The way had changed from adding back into your diet the foods you missed the most (1972) or creating your own personalized 20 full-carbs Induction diet (1992) to something called the Carbohydrate Ladder that had to be followed religiously in 2007 along with the Atkins’ Nutritionals view on vegetables or you were not doing Atkins.

Okay. So in 2007 when I was eating 20 full carbs and 45 to 60 grams of fat per day and managed to shed a lot of body fat eating that way, I was not doing Atkins according to the low-carb community. But they didn’t want me to call what I was doing Kimkins either – even though that’s exactly what I was doing. I am not going to lie about that. I was following Kimmer’s original recommendations that she posted on Low Carb Friends: 72 grams of lean protein, 20 full carbs, and just enough dietary fats to make the diet work for you.

It was discovered by someone within the low-carb community that Kimmer had posted false pictures of herself on the Internet, and she was actually fat. She wasn’t living a low-carb lifestyle, and that angered a lot of people. In addition, she was verbally telling people to drop their calories to 300 per day. A few people were gullible enough to do that and ended up sick, so the low-carb community banded together and got Kimmer prosecuted for fraud.

Instead of questioning why anyone in their right mind would ever drop their calories to 300 per day, they decided to totally abandon the idea of eating lower fats and go completely the other way. Now, we don’t simply have folks eating a high-fat diet, we have people doing something akin to the Atkins’ Fat Fast at 85 percent fat and calling it Nutritional Ketosis.

Nutritional? Hardly…but almost no one is questioning that. Hardly no one is questioning the strange habits attached to that diet in order to eat that much fat per day. People are simply following the crowd (the same as they did with Kimkins) without evaluating their personal results. As a community, we’ve traveled from one extreme to the other.

So What Now?

As a community, are we ever going to actually support those who find what works for them, and then do that for the rest of their life? Are we?

That’s easy to say, but hard to put into practice. It’s far easier to judge what someone else is doing. It’s easier to attack those who aren’t doing low-carb the way that we think they should be, than it is to be happy that someone has finally found something that works for them -- even if that's simply counting calories or eating a lower-fat low-carb diet. It’s far easier to allow our fears and insecurities to rule over us.  

But what now? If we, as a community, don’t have the capacity to embrace the low-carb journey, then where are we headed next?

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