Cutting Carbs? or Cutting Calories?
- POSTED ON: Sep 17, 2012

Which is better or most effective, cutting Carbs, or cutting Calories?

Everything I’ve seen and experienced personally, leads me to believe that calories matter even when one chooses to eat low-carb. There’s a possibility that one can eat a few more calories by reducing carbs, but … for most people … the amount of extra calories doesn't appear to be a very large number.

 It seems like there are an endless number of specific diets and rules for weight loss. One of the most popular of these rules is that cutting carbohydrates (carbs) is the best way to lose weight.

The Atkins diet, first popular in the the most famous low-carb diet. This diet recommends limiting foods high in carbs, such as bread, pasta, rice, and starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes. Carbs are replaced with foods containing a higher percentage of proteins and fats (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and cheese) and other low-carb foods (mostly vegetables).

What does the evidence show us about whether low-carb diets really are better for weight loss and weight-maintenance than other diets?

Conventional wisdom says that a “calorie is a calorie” and it doesn't matter what types of food the calories come from, and therefore, all reduced-energy (calorie) diets should lead to equivalent weight loss.

However, some studies have reported that low-carb diets, in the short-term, lead to greater weight loss than other types of diets. What are some possible explanations for these results?

1. Changes in body composition

Energy is stored in the body as protein, fat, and glycogen, which is a form of carbohydrate. If there is an imbalance between how many of these nutrients are ingested (through the food that is eaten) and how many are used by the body for every day functions, body composition will change.

In turn, this will affect body weight because of the different impact that the relative amounts of stored protein, fat and carbohydrates have on body weight.

However, the vast majority of studies in which they’ve measured calorie intake very accurately (that is, they’ve locked people in a room and measured exactly what they’ve eaten for several days), show absolutely no difference in weight loss based on the composition of the diet. High-protein diets and high-carb diets resulted in the same weight loss.

2.  Changes in metabolic rate

The body’s metabolic rate (the amount of energy expended by the body in a given time) is dependent on the composition of the diet. Consumption of protein, for example, is known to result in a larger increase in energy expenditure for several hours after a meal compared with the consumption of fat or carbs.

But the overall effect of diet composition on total energy expenditure is relatively small. As a result, the assumption that a “calorie is a calorie” is probably a reasonable estimation as far as energy expenditure is concerned.

3.  Changes in hunger levels and satiety

Some diets can lead to reduced hunger, improved satiety (feeling full), and can be easier to stick to than others. There is an enormous amount of research on this.

The problem is that it’s extremely difficult to accurately measure what people are eating over extended time periods. In general, people rarely stick to their diets for more than just a few weeks, making it almost impossible to adequately compare the effects of different diets.

And so, is cutting carbs the best way to lose weight?  Maybe.

However, all diets with similar calorie content appear to have a similar effect on weight loss in the long-term. This is probably because the body adapts rapidly to changes in relative protein, fat and carbohydrate intake levels.

The truth is that losing weight and keeping it off in the long-term is difficult. It requires permanent changes to the number of calories you eat each day. My own maintenance struggle has involved experimenting with many different diets, or ways of eating.

  I believe the best diet for a person, is whatever diet that person is able to live with comfortably long-term. My own maintenance involves a continual process of looking for a way of eating that satisfies that criteria for me, personally.  As a part of that process, I’ve made Dieting into a rather enjoyable Hobby for myself, which is why this website is named DietHobby.

Sugar Binges
- POSTED ON: Apr 21, 2011

 I recently heard someone say:

"I  plan on making the most out of tomorrow’s holiday.
Even if that means I'll be shoveling plain sugar into my mouth
and eating until I vomit."  

The above-quote is a good description of binge behavior.

Some people are only joking when they say that they are going to eat sugar until they vomit or feel like it. This may only mean they will actually have a few pieces of candy and/or cookies which will seem like a lot to them. 

But, some literally do Binge on a regular basis, and this means they  actually do eat a large amount, such as one or more family size bags of candy/and or cookies and these people...despite a great deal and time and effort.... are not able to overcome this "addiction-like behavior".

People are mentally and physically different. One-size-does-not-fit-all.

I think there can be no doubt that Taubes, author of  Why We Get Fat is correct when he says that sugar is a special kind of food,  because it seems to "hijack" the brain.

Sugar seems to be an issue with almost everyone, how
ever the definition of "bingeing" seems to differ between individuals.
For some, "bingeing" means "giving in" to a piece or two of cake
and for others it means eating the entire cake."
Most people equate "bingeing" with "Emotional Eating",  but perhaps Taubes is correct when he says that this isn't merely a mental or behavioral issue. 

Maybe there's actually a large physiological issue ... maybe our respective bodies are different in more ways than size.

Some of us seem to be more sensitive to carbohydrates than others. There are some people for whom even "healthy" complex carbohydrates ... such as baked potatoes and whole kernal corn... can trigger binge behavior. 

Experimenting with Diets
- POSTED ON: Apr 13, 2011

I enjoy trying out different Diets, and my personal style is to "carve out my own path". Therefore,  I'm usually involved in some type of dieting Experiment-of-One.

"Good Calories Bad Calories", by Gary Taubes, published in 2007. is an excellent book, however, it is about 500 pages long with more than 100 reference pages, and was written primarily for medical professionals.

I’ve read it at least 5 times, and I still haven’t absorbed it all because it is really hard. I have a doctorate in law, with an extensive history in legal research, but I still found it to be difficult reading.

The new book by Taubes, "Why we get fat and what to do about it", (2011) was written geared to people like me…those who are not medical professionals.  It is 250 pages and is a far easier to read. Although it isn't what I would call a quick read. This is the book that DietHobby is now featuring in BOOKTALK

This year, I am experimenting with Low-Carb because I have not yet found a Way of Eating to maintain my weight-loss that I enjoy enough to continuing doing for the rest of my life.

Low Carb is one of the few ways of eating that I have very little personal experience with. My body desperately wants to regain its lost weight, and maintenance takes constant vigilance. I’m hoping that low-carb will help eliminate some of my food cravings, as well as some of my hunger.

I’ve also spent a lot of time experimenting with Intermittent Fasting, and some of that was by using the 24 hr fasting method suggested by Brad Pilon. in his e-book, "Eat Stop Eat".  I own that book as well; have read it thoroughly several times; and think it is probably the best book around that addresses Intermittent Fasting at this point in time.

I will probably do more experimentation of Intermittent Fasting in the future. Neither Calorie Counting, Low-Carb or Intermittent Fasting are mutually-exclusive. A 24 hr fast is one way to further reduce insulin, and many low-carb people use it for that purpose.

My primary purpose for Intermittent Fasting has been to reduce my calories for up to one to three days a week, in order to drop my calorie averages. For me, the primary difficulty with Eat Stop Eat, or any Intermittent Fast, is not keeping my calories low on a fast day. I can do that. On Fast days my practice is to eat dinner only, around 350 to 400 calories, with no snacks after dinner.          

However, on “normal” days, the days before and after an intermittent fast, I have great difficulty eating only normal amounts, and not compensating by eating more food than my normal calorie allotment, and sometimes those fasts will trigger binge behavior for me. This might not be the case IF I were eating low-carb, since it is the sugars --refined carbs, and starches—complex carbs that allegedly trigger those cravings and binges.

Low-carb eating is different for everyone, andon pages 204 and 205 of his new book, WWGF,Taubes clarifies his position on this matter.

“The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.
This is clear. But there’s no guarantee that the leanest we can be
will ever be as lean as we’d like. This is a reality to be faced.

As I discussed, there are genetic variations in fatness and leanness
that are independent of diet. Multiple hormones and enzymes affect
our fat accumulation, and insulin happens to be the one hormone
that we can consciously control through our dietary choices.
Minimizing the carbohydrates we consume and eliminating the sugars
will lower our insulin levels as low as is safe,
but it won’t necessarily undo the effects of other hormones….

This means that there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription
for the quantity of carbohydrates we can eat and still lose fat or remain lean.

For some, staying lean or getting back to being lean might be a matter
of merely avoiding sugars and eating the other carbohydrates in the diet,
even the fattening ones, in moderation; pasta dinners once a week,
say, instead of every other day.

For others, moderation in carbohydrate consumption might not be sufficient,
and far stricter adherence is necessary. And for some, weight will be lost
only on a diet of virtually zero carbohydrates, and even this may not be
sufficient to eliminate all our accumulated fat, or even most of it.

Whichever group you fall into, though, if you’re not actively losing fat
and yet want to be leaner still, the only viable option… to eat still fewer carbohydrates, identify and avoid other foods
that might stimulate significant insulin secretion…and have more patience.
(Anecdotal evidence suggests that occasional or intermittent fasting
for eighteen or twenty-four hours might work to break through
these plateaus of weight loss, but this, too, has not been adequately tested) “

Starvation Mode
- POSTED ON: Apr 07, 2011

Here is a picture of the men who were in "Starvation mode
during the famous 1940s Minnesota Starvation Research project of Dr. Ancel Keys.

People online tend to throw around the term "starvation mode" quite a bit. I've done a great deal of research on this issue,and as a result of my study,  I agree with the Experts who say that "starvation mode" it is commonly a Dieting Myth. Starvation mode doesn't happen until one is actually starving.

Bottom line, unless you are genetically like one of those Zucker rats that Gary Taubes talks about in "Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It"if you have more body fat than the picture above, you aren't in "starvation mode".

I very much like this quote from Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat, on the Metabolism issue:

"Unless you have a degree in human biology…and in many cases even if you do…you do not understand what ‘metabolism’ means.

Eating Less Calories isn't Dangerous for your Metabolism,

This word gets thrown around the fitness and diet media and is used to scare people into thinking there is a dangerous level of calories that will destroy their metabolism. This of course is a false premise considering your ‘metabolism’ isn’t a thing that can be destroyed or sped up or slowed down (not without drugs).

“Metabolism’ is just the sum of the processes of your body on a cellular/systemic level...that’s it…that’s all it’s ever been…nothing more. So what…who cares. Why do fitness marketers keep talking about it?!  I’ll never know.

And there is virtually nothing you can do to change this. Eating at or below your actual BMR isn’t going to ‘damage’ your metabolism any more than eating above it. And speaking of which, why don’t marketers suggest that there could be ‘metabolic damage’ when people overeat!?…anyone…anyone?

Right, just what I thought, this lie doesn’t lead to lucrative weight loss products.

The following claims are false, and are your best way to know that a person is clueless about biology and physiology and nutrition if they say:

"Eating too few calories is going to ’slow’ your metabolism" (unless they’re referring to people who are starving to death…and are in fact about to die)

"That there are foods that can ‘damage’ your metabolism"

That you can speed up or slow down your metabolism (without drugs…and that this would be a good thing in either direction)

That a slow metabolism is responsible for weight gain

That a fast metabolism is responsible for weight loss

That you have any control whatsoever over your metabolic rate

That your meal timing or exercise timing can affect your metabolic rate

…and any other garbage claim you hear from any fitness marketer with the word “metabolism” in it…

If you see any of the above claims, you can be assured that the person who said them is sorely lacking in their understanding of how the body works.

If you want to lose weight…EAT LESS than you are currently eating. End of story."

Food Addiction
- POSTED ON: Apr 03, 2011

Some people believe that food addiction is more a matter of psychology than of physiology. I find the question interesting.  Are those cravings for sweets and starches REALLY a problem of the mind, or are they problems of the body?

I, myself, have spent a lifetime considering this issue a psychological one.

My personal experience with this involves about 20 years of Therapy while working to overcome that problem, no avail.

With professional help, I've dug into my psyche on the "whys"; I've taught myself most of the "hows" fact... I've learned and incorporated most all of the various recommended Behavior Modifications.  Numerous "mindful" eating behaviors have become Habits for me.

For many, many years, my pattern has been not to label foods "good" or "bad", but to allow myself to have a little of anything I want, including the occasional sugar-laden dessert.

Those techniques have helped me RESIST the cravings, but they have NOT REDUCED or ELIMINATED the cravings. There are quite a few “Experts” who feel that the term "addiction" is not helpful, when talking about food, and they tend to avoid using it for various reasons.

At this particular moment, I have finally reached the point where I am willing to seriously consider the possibility that these cravings may have a strong physical element,rather than being merely psychological.

I've begun to think that new way, due to my exposure to Good Calories Bad Calories (2007) by Gary Taubes, and his recently released book, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It (2011) which is now featured for discussion here on BOOKTALK.

Perhaps many of us DO have a physical intolerance for certain food substances....  Perhaps the physical tolerance for them varies between individual, just like some people have bodies that are allergic to peanuts... and to varying degrees...., maybe there is something to the Theory about Insulin and Carbohydrates too. 
  I don't know.  

I DO know that psychological treatment won't resolve a physical problem. All the therapy in the world won't let those who have a severe peanut allergy, eat peanuts without side-effects.

This year I began a personal experiment to see what a lengthy Low-Carb commitment will do in my body. I am especially interested to see whether or not a total elimination of sugar and refined grains, and a serious restriction of whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit will eliminate or greatly reduce these cravings in my own body. This is a day-by-day experiment...which is being carried out with planned pauses ....and at this point....I don't even know how long I'll be able to stick with that Experiment-of-One

Each of us does the best we can with our own experiences. The same things don't work for everyone.

In my own body, it makes no difference whether it is white sugar, or "natural" sweeteners. MY body treats them all the same way. I am learning that...right now... this seems to be true for me
even with regards to many starches.

In fact, recently I learned that a few weeks of extremely-low-carb eating does reduce my cravings for sugars and starches, however, within 24 hours after having half a cup of Lentils ...(complex natural carbs)... for lunch, all of my sugar cravings returned. And....I've carefully examined my surrounding circumstances...mental state....etc,  and feel fairly certain that this instance was not due to a psychological issues. So…that leads me to believe that there must be some type of physical element involved.

Life goes on.
We all do what we can.
I'm now living as a normal weight person, and I'm willing to keep doing whatever it takes to make that a long-term status.

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