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If low-carb works why are there so many fat people who have been on low-carb for a long time

Monday, October 28, 2013

I have heard the above and similar questions in various forms a number of times by now and I do think it is one the we low-carbers may want to think about, so I'm viewing this blog post as a starting point for discussion. Here are some possible answers:
- Low-carbing is like any new life style/eating style, it takes a while to get the hang of it, both in the sense of avoiding mistakes and also in the sense of changing habits that may have existed for a very long time. Most people have some ups and downs until results are consistent.

- Low-carb has gotten a reputation for working even for people who are so heavy they can barely do any exercise. This is a reason why a higher percentage of extremely obese people start low-carb. Someone who started out at over 300 lbs or more may have lost 100 of those, but is still in the obese or overweight category. To lose a lot of weight takes a lot of time.

- Low-carb is not always easy to practice in a society where low-fat is preached at every corner and on display in most public places and on advertisements high-carb fare is much more common than high-fat/low-carb fare. Learning to negotiate social situations and triggers to eat carbs may take a while in this environment.

- There are a number of mistakes that people make when they first start eating low-carb because this way of eating works so differently from other forms of eating. Only learning the basics of low-carb eating will bring good results and during the learning process progress may be slow.
My favorite resource is the book by Phinney and Volek "Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living" and it's companion "Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance".

-Some people who started out obese and/or insulin resistant and had been for a long time may have damaged their metabolism through years of sugar abuse (I'm one of them) and while low-carb works better than anything else it may still not be possible to reach "normal" weight without additional means (i.e. very active lifestyle, drugs to improve insulin sensitivity).

-Regardless of weight, most health markers for people on low-carb lifestyle diets are much improved, many after only a few months, including but not limited to blood sugar and insulin levels, blood pressure, HDL/Triglyceride ratio, thyroid hormone levels, energy levels, sleep patterns, brain function, overall activity level. There are reports of low-carb and/or ketogenic diets improving, preventing or eliminating autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimers, seizure disorders, cancers and even depression. Many of these benefits may be linked to the reduction of inflammation in the body. All these benefits are even more important than reaching "normal" or "ideal" weight.

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    There's so much good information on this blog and comments. I have to take time and study it. Thank you for taking the time to spell all this out. Terrific blog!
    1633 days ago
    Thank you Birgit for another excellent and thought-provoking blog!
    I've been LC for several years. This is the result of a prescribed diet, per an endocrinologist. I was more than dubious at the start, because it goes SO against the dietary recommendations we've been given! But I can see how it's worked for me, and any concerns are completely dissolved by my own personal experience.

    That said, I seem to have hit "that wall" which many weight-loss dieters come up against. I can't say that's due to the lifestyle; it's due to my own carb addiction and confounding factors which I've allowed to get in my path of progress.

    One of these is my husband's semi-recent diagnosis of T2D. He has to eat on a schedule. I tend to eat on his schedule, which means I eat much more frequently than I'd otherwise do. So my intake is higher than it was.
    Another obstacle is that I also am afflicted with an autoimmune condition, and it greatly affects what and how much I'm willing to or able to eat. LC has been *very* helpful to me with this, but it still gets "in the mix" when I'm trying to stick to my plan.
    Add to that my food sensitivities to FODMAPs and nightshades... try to follow LC whilst avoiding most veggies! I've just recently come off a terrible instance of too much fiber, simply from eating some veggies and a salad in the same day. urk

    And then there's the dreaded carb-creep. I've managed to let myself get up over 100g, which is LC in *NObody's* definition. Since my last couple days of inability to eat at all, hopefully I can get that number back towards something more reasonable.

    I also love eating clean, whole foods. I don't avoid fats at all - in fact, I gravitate towards them. My usual breakfast is 4 soft-boiled (pasture-raised) eggs, a couple tablespoons of coconut oil, a couple tablespoons of (again, pastured) whole butter, and one tiny slice of bread to soak up the "eggy bits." We eat bacon as snacks, along with hard-boiled eggs. I eat the fattiest cuts of meat *first*. I love baked chicken because of the delectable crispy skin.

    As RUSSELL mentioned, some people do have difficulty with fats. My husband is one - it disturbs his digestion, and so we at least don't scrap over who gets it! LOL But it's very true that HC-HF is not the way to go. I've been guilty lately of simply scanning my daily pie chart for percentages, and that's evidently not sufficient. I've gotten all out of whack and need to go back and reset myself to restart my weight-loss journey.

    The general public who like to point out that LCHF "doesn't work" fails to take into consideration that we're all individuals. We err. Our bodies metabolize differently. I dare say that many/most other weight loss plans *also* "don't work" - especially if they're not correctly and diligently applied. Healthwise, I find that this approach is the healthiest, and has helped my particulars far more than any other dietary plan I've ever attempted. They can say what they like. My personal experience is worth a lot more to me than any popular mythconceptions about nutrition floating about.

    I wish we could have more discussions like this on the open forums. It's a shame we're mostly just "preaching to the choir" here.
    1633 days ago
    Russell and Erin,
    those are great comments. Thanks for sharing. emoticon
    And Erin, I'm jealous that you can still be in ketosis at 80 grams of carbs. You are so lucky. emoticon
    1633 days ago
  • ERIN1957
    I have to add something here; I have been in ketosis (using the blood ketone system) eating up to net carbs of 80g, yes it might be a low ketone number, but it still works.
    High carbs (?) meaning high fruit and vegetable carbs or wasted empty grain and sugar junk carbs? A lot different than high carbs and high fat paleo or primal style.
    And what is high carbs for one maybe to much for another, but good for them, as well as fat.
    I maybe able to eat 50% fat and 30% carbs(veggie and greens) and be completely healthy and still be in a ketogenic state.
    I think sometimes we make things to complicated when in actuality it is simple, when we delete the carb grain and junk brain out of our vocabulary and out of our lives. When I speak carb, I speak of healthy carbs from healthy sources, not sugars, not grains, and not processed.
    I truly know for me, I can eat a lot of vegetables(non starchy), greens and some fruits and still maintain a ketogenic state, even at 80grams of carbs.

    Each of us are beautiful completely different beings and we can have guides in this life, but truly we have to work hard on knowing our bodies needs to succeed for ourselves.
    1633 days ago
  • RUSSELL_40
    This may be a little T.M.I., but if I eat 2500, instead of 2000 calories a day, as long as it is extra fat, I don't gain any more weight. I just tend to go to the bathroom more, which is why I stick to 1800-2000 calories. Otherwise, I get up towards 75% fat, and actually lose weight too fast. I don't think eating too much, necessarily means weight gain, especially if it is just every so often. Most times for me, it leads to a large drop on the scale.

    The problem with extra calories, is that even if it is low carb foods, it has MORE carbs. If you just add 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil or mayo, and a few ozs. of macadamia nuts, you only add 2 grams of carbs, and 500 + calories, which is over 95% fat. So it matters what those calories are made up of, as well as how many you eat.

    If on the other hand I eat 50% more calories, and my carbs go from 40 to 60, it may cause a stall.

    Lily - We all have special circumstances that we have to deal with, that no one else has any idea about, which is why the original idea of judging by appearances is so wrong. They are doing that based on one aspect of someone's life, without knowing them. Don't feel the need to explain yourself. You have to do what is best for you. Nothing works for everyone the same way. I am sure my diabetes affects how I do on a LCHF diet also.

    I would like to think that I could help other diabetics, if they ate the way I do, and I am sure that anyone with a Celiac diagnosis, would be smart to consult with you before starting a LC diet, if they knew you. I personally don't have any idea what it is, so my advice in that circumstance would be useless to that person. That is the great thing about discussing it though. All it takes is someone to read this blog, and they may be helped by any of the comments. I, for one, was lost when I started doing low carb, and succeeded through trial and error. Being able to hear 10 different points of view from people who had already done it, would have been very nice. There are a lot of ways that people do low carb, and for someone out there, it may be the way that helps them find success.

    Most of the ideas expressed on this blog are general ideas that have been discussed before. I don't think anyone is aiming their response to say another person is wrong. If anything, it is just to note, where the discussion changed, when what was said, made them think of things in a different way.
    1633 days ago
    I think that I just plain eat too much. I'm not fat- I have 5-10 pounds to lose but those 5-10 is right smack over the top of my midsection, the place where it is THE worst place to carry it. And, I think I have hit my set point. I can go from 160 to 150 in 3 weeks easy, but think I can drop that last 5 pounds? Nope! Very frustrating.

    I think my favorite part of eating LC is the fat! on a low fat diet I was STARVING all the time. I craved mac & cheese so I'd have a 1/3 c thinking that if I had just a little, I'd be fine. Didn't work and I'd eat half the box. That was the carbs addiction. Now I can have mashed cauliflower & cheese and 1/2 c is satisfying and I can put the spoon down- most of the time. Lately I've been going on about how hungry I am all the time- I think it could be the weather, it'll pass.

    I also need to back off the protein a bit, I think I'm getting more than I need. Also, I need to GET UP! I sit at 'work and the last month I've been sitting at my sewing machine- now that project is over I'll get out more and I know that will kick up the metabolism a bit.

    As far as insulin resistance goes, I think I may be but am still trying to find the balance that will keep me where I want to be and maybe get me below that 150 mark.
    1634 days ago
    I'd like to reiterate what I said about eating LC (75-80g/ day) which is not VLC and not ketosis.

    That was already stated but I need to clarify for anybody who thinks I'm stepping on their toes. I have a cadre of autoimmune and I've tried ketosis and VLC (strictly) for a few weeks and did not adapt. I did not cheat. Anybody who has Celiac understands 'not cheating.' I was born with other disorders - I realise that I'm not everybody.

    I didn't go into that before, just said that I was LC not ketosis because I figured everybody here knew what that meant.

    Anybody else? They're probably normal and general rules apply.

    HOUNDLOVER hit it on the head: I have emotional eating issues, too. Anybody gonna suck down 2C coconut cream on top of their regular food in a day? Well, I can only say that was unnecessary on my part. :)

    1634 days ago
    thought provoking blog thanks
    1634 days ago
    Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and detailed comments. Lots of good perspectives that have been added to the discussion.
    I want to emphasize a few points that were made:

    High-fat with high-carb is a disaster and a way to see a lot of damage. Only in the absence of a lot of carbs is high-fat desirable and helpful. How low the carbs need to be depends on the person, but low enough to be in ketosis is extremely desirable.

    Some people have strong emotional eating problems (binge eating etc.) in addition to insulin resistance. For them eating low-carb will help by taking some of the reasons (the physiological ones) for disordered eating out of the picture. But other strategies that focus on the bad habits (behavioral modification) may be necessary to achieve a healthy relationship with food.

    We need to share what works for us and what science has shown and even what has strong anecdotal evidence when science has not made enough progress yet. New learning often happens when we experiment to learn about our own bod and how it works.
    But - this learning will only happen in a positive and supportive environment, one where we feel secure to share our successes and failures (including moral ones) and trust that we can have another chance to do better tomorrow. Only those that are perfect can throw the first stone. emoticon
    I am thankful for everyone on my teams who is contributing in their way for all of us to get healthier.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    Let us never stop reaching for our dreams. Now I will get off my pedestal so we can hopefully continue this great discussion. emoticon

    1634 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/28/2013 11:14:21 AM
  • RUSSELL_40
    SKATER87. I remember when I started Atkins in 2009. It had been 1 month since my last visit, and I lost 17 lbs. My doctor was happy, but had cautioned me of the dangers of low carb. Without telling him I was doing low carb, I asked him if losing 17 lbs in a month was a problem.

    Should I cut it back to 8 lbs a month ( 2 lbs a week ), or was losing weight this fast a danger?

    His response was.. " It is not as dangerous as weighing 350 + lbs. " Of course, when I then informed him that I was doing Atkins, it became dangerous..lol.
    1634 days ago
    LOL! I wish you'd posted this on a Saturday morning so I had time to make a bunch of comments! Maybe there will be time tonight...
    1634 days ago
  • SKATER787
    Excellent blog and discussion. If I recall correctly, Dr. Atkins found that his patients were losing weight like crazy, thus, he brought the diet to the masses. Naturally, there were a lot of criticism that the diet is a health risk, but his argument was that obesity is a risk in itself. There are factors such as Insulin resistance and beta cells are shot that added complications to weight control.
    1634 days ago
  • RUSSELL_40
    Since this is a discussion, I have to say something about people gaining weight by eating high fat.

    The people who you see eating fat, are usually consuming it with carbs. Chocolate bars have higher fat, but also a lot of carbs. There is a huge difference between someone eating eggs and butter, and another eating some cake, which is also high in fat. The difference is the near absence of carbohydrates.

    I eat a 60 % + fat diet, and am losing quite well. I am not going to say that there are NO people gaining by eating fat, but it has to be rare, Only when you mix fat with carbs does it cause us problems. If I want to lose weight faster, I UP my fat percentage, not lower it. This drops the carb and protein percentages.

    A diet of 75% fat is hard for you to gain weight on, and you most definitely will not overeat on it.

    Foods that would be high fat, and low carb are eggs, oil, mayo, cream cheese, macadamia nuts, butter, meat etc.. not fattening foods that we think of, like Ho-Ho's. Those foods are high carb/ high fat, which is totally different than high fat, without carbs.

    1634 days ago
    Great points! I tend to naturally eat moderately low and when I've gone back to check when I'm eating VERY WELL, it's LC.

    I am fatter since getting my Celiac diagnosis and getting totally off gluten (and numerous other things that came up with almost 2 years of dr supervised elimination testing; then, I sometimes test on my own, since dr said to!).

    I spent a LIFETIME eating far more than anybody my size ought and wasn't fat -- cos I had systemic issues, including massive problems with malabsorption! When my gut healed, erm? I still have't gotten down to what I 'should' eat calorie-wise. It's false to think that people can eat LC and will naturally be skinny. There's more to the picture, like I downed 2C of coconut cream yesterday (throughout the day) on top of other things. Fat has a lot of calories and since I'm not ketosis? Even if I were, I don't know if I could blow through all of that. I eat too much. Period.
    1634 days ago
  • ERIN1957
    Oh this is such a great subject and I love this discussion. Thank you Birgit!

    When people judge by appearance only, is shameful. Thin is healthy, round is unhealthy? Thin doesn't mean healthy as does vegan mean eating healthy.

    It is about health numbers; where you were and where you are heading. We compete only with or worst and moving to our best for today and our futures.
    Oh yes we learn through growth of wrong choices, with knowledge we move forward, but to be judged by what another views through their own perception is complete out of focus and for many reasons;
    We are all different. And we have different results and needs to get healthy.
    It is a process. There is a reason why a person gets overweight, heavy, obese, morbidly obese. It is not just about food or food choices.
    I know for me, damages done before I found out about diet and health started when and before my birth. Through out my life(even when appearance was lean) lean does not mean healthy, as I was harming myself dieting because I gained a pound or two...in all the wrong ways.
    Now I have to deal with all of this damage and finding the tools that work for me. Lower carb diets, eating very clean is truly the only way for ME to work on me getting healthy.

    Developing a plan gradually, that will work for me and who I have become. No matter who is right or wrong, if a person doesn't like what they are doing they will not stick with it.

    What a wise method it is to get a person working THROUGH their issues with what we were meant to eat, as the person we are. Not the person someone wishes we were.

    I can take from all plans and develop my own plan for my health. Owning and learning about me and food along the way. With true science and studying with like minded and similar people.

    No sense in fighting with others about who is right and who is wrong, because we will believe what we want to, until we prove to ourselves differently.

    Knowing our self and our bodies, is by far the best tool for health. This knowledge is the key to our own health and our own needs.

    I am amazed at what I have seen and learned from rounder people. I am amazed and what I have learned from lean people. But I am more amazed about what I am learning from me and who I have become for me and nor for what people might think of me, by how I appear.

    I absolutely love clean, unprocessed, pure and wonderful food sources and the journey using them for my health. We need to allow others their journey and when asked, be kind, thoughtful and opened minded, to the possibility we might just not know it all.

    1634 days ago
  • KANOE10
    I eat a low carb lifestyle. It is h the only thing that has worked for me for many years. I have found that while not eating low far, I need to not go overboard on the fats. Too many meals with high fat can cause weight gain. If I stick to healthy fats like olive oil and on I am fine.

    Interesting blog.
    1634 days ago
    Interesting prospective. Thanks for sharing!
    1634 days ago
    I find that the low carb works for me. I just have to monitor my blood sugar daily, and eat very little sugar. I still have some. This keeps me from binging badly over holidays and family get-togethers.
    1634 days ago
    Great info and thought provoking blog
    1634 days ago
    I am not sure whether low fat or low carb diets are best. I know people who are overweight mostly by eating more carbs and others who are bigger fat eaters.
    I am doing a low fat eating plan. Well I am not following any particular plan at the moment. But I am keeping it low fat at the moment. I am also eating minimal sugar, very limited bread and starchy carbs. But fruit is my main carb.
    I have not lost at a high speed, and that is good with me as I don't think losing weight has to be really fast. Because at the end of it I want to maintain my lighter weight. I have been fluctuating between 10-12 kilos down,which I realise is not a huge amount so far. I have not been any more tired with it or hungry. I don't think being hungry is necessary with losing weight.
    As I lose more I will look into what is healthier for ailments like arthritis and inflamation, blood pressure, depression etc. Because as much as I want to get lighter, and slimmer health is a major factor. Health is extremely important.
    I think regarding losing weight different people have different methods. We all have our preferences. I think where bordom is a factor, then changing it up a little is important.
    Since I have been on this eating plan I haven't got heartburn which I hate getting. But I have got it once and that was a day I was off track. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1635 days ago
  • RUSSELL_40
    F ) all of the above!

    Still, it isn't 60% of low carbers who are " fat ", like the low-fatters. Plus many of the fat low-carbers( myself included ), are that way because of being on a low fat diet for decades.

    I started at 361, and still have about 5 lbs to get out of the obese range..lol. Then I will just be fat.

    More importantly than whether they are fat, is their progress over the last 6 months. I would never look at a 400 lb guy, and say his low fat diet wasn't working, without first asking him what has happened over the last 6 months. He may have lost 60 lbs, and in that scenario, whether low fat, or low carb, his diet is working for him. If he is on a low fat diet, and unable to stick to it, and has lost 0 lbs in the last 6 months.. it is an abysmal failure, and he should seek alternative methods to lose weight.

    The problem is, we as a society don't see results, and recalibrate what we are doing. People tend to look for a sign of failure amongst low carbers.. you are still fat!!

    On the other hand, we see extreme failure from people on a low fat diet, with almost no significant weight loss, and tell them " Great job, you are eating SO healthy. I am PROUD of you! "

    If we stopped and examined which ones are successful in real life.. real low carbers, versus real low fat dieters, out in the real world, with temptation, we would be able to then see the percentage that could stick to the diet properly, which is VERY important, and also the results of the ones that stuck to it.

    I think you would find that many more low fat dieters would succumb to temptation, for the very reason that they seem to be in a constant state of huger/cravings, and the food tastes terrible in my opinion. A majority of Americans is a testament to this as evidenced by people-watching in any mall. We are an obese nation, moreso since switching to a healthy, low fat diet.

    I am not saying that low fat can't work in a laboratory, but we don't tend to make our home in a lab, being fed a certain number of calories.

    Meanwhile on low carb, besides fine tuning the diet, and getting it down right, hunger/cravings, is not a reason people quit. Some it is boredom, or just that they never cut carbs low enough to get rid of the cravings. Others find the intial period to be too much. The ones that get through the starting phases of low carb though, tend to eat MORE calories, and it is high fat delicious foods, and they experience no hunger/cravings. They have no reason to quit. It is more rare.

    Once you determine the percentage of people who can stick to a diet, you have one aspect of whether it is effective. The other is the results for those that stick to it.

    I would bet every dollar I have that if you took two groups of dieters and fed them the same calories, but the low carb ate a 60/10/30 ratio, and the low fat ate the suggested 50/20/30, that the low carb group would lose double the weight. They might all still be obese at the end, but the results are what matters, not what your current weight is.

    Saying that a low carber's obesity is a sign of his diet's failure, is just simplistic, and stupid. My # 1 thought is.. why do they care if people find out a healthier way to eat? Doesn't the government want us to be healthier? Why keep supporting a diet that has obviously failed, and go so far to malign low carb, as to suggest that if any of the people on it are fat, the diet doesn't work?

    Seems if we are going by that qualification, they would think low fat to be the most dangerous diet ever created in human history.

    Even more important than weight loss, is the expansion of the big 3 when it comes to disease. The health benefits alone from low carb make it a better option. Faster, easier weight loss is just a wonderful side benefit.

    1635 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/28/2013 2:51:20 AM
    Another thing I have read is that going too high on protein will stall weight loss for some because the protein converts to glucose, although by a much more complicated process.

    Also, on a ketogenic diet, screwing up once can stall you for another week, or more until you get back into ketosis, so if you slip at all you basically start over. That is another factor that stopped me from losing all I could when I did this before. I would slip up periodically and never sustain ketosis. It will be a lot easier now I am used to a mostly Paleo diet versus SAD of junk.

    Carb Creep is another...you THINK you are doing well and then you realize you ate a bunch of carbs you never thought of that day.
    1635 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/28/2013 2:43:45 AM
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