Friday, August 3, 2007

The Low Carb Lifestyle

As I discussed in one of my early posts, I have been successful, and unsuccessful on several of the low carb diet plans. I've tried Atkins several times and now I'm on my second pass thorough on South Beach. On each occasion, I have lost a lot of weight. Prior to this time around, an average of about 80 lbs. each time.

Last night, I picked up a book in the library called Carbophobia: The Scary Truth About America's Low-carb Craze, by Michael Greger. It doesn't take long to figure out that this guy's goal is to discredit Atkins -- both the diet and the doctor. He also takes aim, though on a much smaller scale, at other low carb diets, including South Beach and Weight Watchers.

Although the book reads like a hatchet job, it is convincing.

He essentially accuses Atkins of ripping off the public with unsubstantiated claims of healthy living while ignoring all scientific facts that may prove otherwise. While Atkins makes many claims in his book, they are broad and unsubstantiated. Greger takes a much different approach -- the 162 pages are comprised of 104 pages of text followed by 58 pages of footnotes.

In short, Greger argues that:
  • Low Carb diets are unhealthy and can be dangerous;
  • Although many lose weight in the short term, long term results are poor;
  • Atkins followers lose weight because they ultimately eat less calories than they burn;
  • Atkins recommendation of high numbers of supplements (several dozen pills per day) leads him to the conclusion that the diet itself does not provide nearly enough vitamins and minerals therefore making it unhealthy by itself.

I have certainly seen some periodic reports of questionable healthiness of the low carb plans, but never presented in such a concise format with overwhelming data.

Gerger accuses Atkins of being a snake oil salesman by not acknowledging any conflicting data and writing it all off as uninformed hogwash.

After reading this book and reading some more on the corresponding web site, I can't help but to feel duped from my three visits to the Atkins plan. Yes, it's true that many millions have tried this diet and many others, but so too have many failed. I failed three times out of three on Atkins.

As for South Beach, I believe that my keys to success have been exercise first, diet second. I also believe that South Beach is far better than Atkins, as it does not encourage high fat proteins such as bacon and sausage, but rather lean meats. In addition, it encourages some vegetable consumption while Atkins encourages almost none.

I had been thinking for a while about moving on from South Beach, but now I'm convinced. No more low carb for me. With that said, I don't think a new plan will be that far from what I'm doing now. More fruit, more whole wheat products, more brown rice. Less red meat. Still lots of veggies and no simple carbs. That's a plan I can live with and continue down my weight loss path.



Kim Ellis said...

Hey Jeff! Thank you for the encouraging comments on my blog.

I am a subscriber of the Weight Watchers plan and agree with you on including whole grains and whole wheat pasta in the daily food plan. My husband and I follow the "Core Plan" and it makes my life amazingly simple by not having to measure every ounce of food that goes into my body.

As an athlete it's important to have some good carbs in your system to keep up your glycogen stores. I am not a believer of "carbo loading" the night before a race but maintaining an even balance every day.

Have a great weekend! And to weigh in on the last post, I think you should train for a triathlon. It's a great way to get a variety of exercise into your life.

J~mom said...

Great post!! I have also done the Core plan and live on a very modified version of it now....lean meat, high fiber basically. Keep up the great work!

Dan Seifring said...

Calories in vs. Calories out. Only thing that works for me.