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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

The Low Carb Lie

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The Low Carb Lie

Fitness journals often advice you to follow a Low-Carb diet. These diet fads seem to be extremely effective in reducing body fat. The problem is just: they’re not.

On April 17th in 2003, an overweight physician died due to an injury-induced blood clot in his brain. The name of this person was Robert Atkins. Robert Atkins was the founder of the Low Carb Diet. Prior to his death, Robert suffered from a history of numerous heart attacks, congestive heart failure and hypertension. Mr. Atkins was not a healthy human being, but a genius marketer.[1]

I’ve fell prey to the Low Carb diet trend before. For a period of one month, I’ve barely eaten any carbohydrates. I did lose some pounds originally, but gained it all back. On top of that I felt awful. I had to make myself a promise to never try this diet again.

The same story goes for numerous clients of mine: They achieve a motivating, short term weight loss. Followed by a rapid weight gain after stopping the diet.

The Low Carb diet doesn’t make any sense scientifically speaking and may even increase your risk of death. [2] But which diet should you rather pursue? And why you should play the long game.

Weight Loss Does Not Equal Fat Loss

At the beginning of my diet, I did lose weight rapidly. Over 5 pounds in the first week. I felt amazing and energized after watching the number on my scale. But a reduced weight is not what I was truly after. I wanted to lose belly fat. But in this endeavour, I failed.

Losing weight and burning body fat is not the same thing. At the beginning of my diet, my body was burning through its carbohydrate reserves. Carbohydrates bind to water in your body. If your body burns your reserve of carbs, you’re also losing pounds of water. This will make you lose weight, but not fat. [3]

I remember a client telling me that she’s simply not losing weight. There was no decrease in the weighing scale for weeks during my coaching. Then I asked her if she remembered her original goal, which was to fit in her old bikini again. This was a goal she did achieve a couple of days prior. My client reached her goal, but was blinded by the weighing scale.

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You should never care about a number on the weighing scale, and neither should your friends and family. You want to look and feel better. You want to lose body fat and not decrease an irrelevant number on your weighing scale.

    What About Insulin?

    Insulin is what most people fear when it comes to dieting. And it’s something that you truly should avoid, because it is the one hormone responsible for filling your fat cells. It’s also what Dr. Atkins wrote in one of his books ‘New Diet Revolution’ , where he entitled a whole chapter to the hormone that will make you fat. [4]

    But don’t believe that carbohydrates are solely responsible for an insulin release in your body. In fact, meat protein has the same insulin release as pure sugar.[5]

    Having said that, vegetarians have lower insulin levels than meat eaters.[6] If you put people on a Low Carb Diet, their insulin levels even increase. On top of that their LDL-cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, rises dramatically.

    A Low Carb Diet is not only inefficient, it is also not healthy for you. You’re increasing your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes while starving yourself.[7] Consumer Guide gave the Atkins Diet zero out of four stars for being “outright dangerous”.[8]

    Not even weight loss and regular exercise negate the disastrous effects of the the Low Carb Diet. You damage your body with this diet fad.[9]

    Diabetes – Preventable?

    As the Harvard Health Letter puts it in 2003: The Atkins diet is not a healthy way to eat.[10]

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    Partly because it can increase the risk for diabetes. There are basically two different types of Diabetes. Diabetes type 1 and Diabetes type 2.

    Diabetes type 1 is called the juvenile diabetes. Over 85 percent it occurs under the age of 20.[11] While a big part of diabetes type 1 may be due to genetics, eating animals was associated with an increased risk.[12] Not only in the diet of the infant, but also in the diet of their mothers during pregnancy and lactation.[13]

    This is based on the hypothesis of the increased rate of glycotoxins (AGEs) in the diet or the rate of paratuberculosis bacteria.[14]

    Diabetes type 2 is a common disease in our current day and age. What used to be merely affecting old people, diabetes type 2 was originally called senile diabetes, now even affects people in their teens. About 1 in 3 US adults have prediabetes. Yet only 1 in 10 know it.[15]

    Lifestyle intervention reduced the diabetes incidence by 58 percent, taking of the medicine Metformin reduced diabetes by 31 percent. This meant, that the lifestyle intervention was more successful in reducing the diabetes occurence than the drug metformin.[16] Also don’t forget about the side-effects on the drug – such as nauseau and diarrhea – which were nonexistent in a lifestyle intervention.

    In a study with 500 people, the high-risk test subjects that went on a full plant-based diet reduced the risk of diabetes occurrence by 100%. The authors concluded that ‘Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by changes in the lifestyles of high-risk subjects’.[17]

    Low Carb Forces Your Body In Survival Mode

    Carbohydrates are the most important fuel for your brain. We have evolved over millions of years with glucose as the preferred fuel for our main controlling organ. On the Low Carb Diet you’re facing a pure survival situation. Because of your body burning through your carbohydrate reserves, your brain is being set on red alert. Your nervous system is not getting the right nutrients that it needs.

    Following that survival situation, your brain is shutting down systems that are not important for survival. Your body has to minimize it’s energy expenditure, because it thinks that you’re starving. Your muscles will be fatigued more quickly. Plus you will have a difficult time concentrating. As noted in the journal of obesity, people on a ketogenic diet suffered a significant drop in cognitive performance.[18] After one week, the scientists noted that the mental processing and flexibility worsened to the level of modest neuropsychological impairment.[19]

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    To make matters worse, in a survival situation your body is even holding onto its fat storage, because fat is energy stored for scarce times. Times when your brain is in survival mode. This is the last thing that you want when you’re following a diet.

    Following a low carb diet is not sustainable. Yes you will lose some weight originally due to fewer calories in your diet, but it will be gruel and not effective.[20] You will not be able to keep the weight off in the long-term. Unless you’re willing to dramatically decrease your quality of life.

      The Crucial Switch

      Think long-term and think logically.

      You have to realize that you need to consume a proper amount of carbohydrates to achieve your full mental capacity. Once I’ve switched to more carbs in my diet, I’ve seen a tremendous improvement. I had more energy , trained more efficiently and lost more weight.

      I never imagined that I’d once write this advice. Following a Low Carb Diet was the best way according to my friends and fitness professionals to get a sixpack. But it doesn’t make sense scientifically speaking.

      Fats contain more calories pound for pound. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, fat contains 9 calories per gram. You can consume twice the amount of carbohydrates to get the same amount of calories, as you will get by consuming fat. This means, that once I’ve made that switch to more carbohydrates, I was able to eat bigger meals without having to starve myself.

      I also felt fuller on a low fat diet. There’s only a few grams of fiber on a low carb diet. The initial phase of the Atkins diet only contains about 2 grams of fiber per day, that’s less than 7% of the minimum daily recommendation.[21] There are veggies and some fruits in the low carb diet, but this is definitely not enough to feed a healthy bacterial culture in your gut. Having a healthy microbiome influences your health, your well-being and also your cravings. I realized that I had fewer cravings for sweets on a low fat diet. I also felt more satiated.

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        Play The Long Game

        If you’re currently following a Low Carb diet you should ask yourself: Is this truly working? Are you losing fat or are you just losing water? Tip: Use tape measurements to make sure that you’re on the right path.

        Instead of advising you to completely alter your nutrition and following the next diet trend, I want you to make a new approach. You need to play the long game. Realize that your weight loss will not come over night. Never buy into professionals that guarantee you immediate results. They’re trying to steal your money.

        Instead of following a new diet fad, I want you to focus on incrementally changing your diet for the better. This far outweighs the results of a rapid diet change and eliminates the Yo-Yo Effect. Focus on eating more good foods instead of cutting out unhealthy foods.

        Try to eat a little bit healthier today than you did yesterday. And tomorrow? Simple, do the same thing again. One year from now you will not be able to recognize yourself in the mirror. Eat two apples for a snack today instead of one. Ask for an extra portion of carrots in the restaurant. Over time your gut microbiome will change, you will crave healthier foods and you will feel energized.

        Realize that your weight loss will still not come easy and fast. But it will be way easier than starving yourself and putting your body in survival mode. Play the long game.

        To watch a fully animated, free video on that topic from the author, click here: The Low Carb Lie – How To Diet Successfully

        Reference

        [1] Atkins Death Report: Rival Diet Doc Leaks Atkins Death Report
        [2] Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine 68(2001):761.
        [3] Archives of Internal Medicine 112(1963):87
        [4] Atkins, RC. Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution. Avon Books, 1999.
        [5] Peter Petocz: Insulin Index of Food
        [6] NCBI: Taiwanese vegetarians have higher insulin sensitivity than omnivores
        [7] World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research, 1997.
        [8] Berland, T and L Frohman. CONSUMER GUIDE Rating the Diets. Publications International, Ltd., 1974
        [9] Research Gate: Unrestricted Paleolithic Diet is Associated with Unfavorable Changes to Blood Lipids in Healthy Subjects
        [10] Harvard Health Letter 28(2003):1
        [11] NCBI: Chapter 1: Epidemiology of Type 1 Diabetes
        [12] NCBI: Nutritional factors and worldwide incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes.
        [13] NCBI: High meat consumption is associated with type 1 diabetes mellitus in a Sardinian case-control study.
        [14] NCBI: Maternal intake of fatty acids and their food sources during lactation and the risk of preclinical and clinical type 1 diabetes in the offspring.
        [15] NCBI: Awareness of prediabetes–United States, 2005-2010.
        [16] NCBI: Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin.
        [17] NCBI: Prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus by changes in lifestyle among subjects with impaired glucose tolerance.
        [18] International Journal of Obesity 19(1995):811.
        [19] International Journal of Obesity 19(1995):811
        [20] Obesity Research 9(2001):1S
        [21] Gastroenterology 118(2000):1233

        More by this author

        Florian Wüest

        Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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        Published on August 24, 2021

        What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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        What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

        I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

        Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

        A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

        • Fruit
        • Vegetables
        • Whole grains
        • Lean protein
        • Nuts
        • Water

        This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

        Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

        What Is a Whole Food Diet?

        By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

        In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

        Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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        Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

        Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

        For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

        • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
        • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
        • Berries five times a week
        • Five or more servings of nuts a week
        • Olive oil five times a week
        • Whole grains five times a week
        • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
        • Legumes and pulses five times a week
        • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
        • Vitamin D supplement
        • Minimally processed foods
        • No more than one glass of wine a day
        • One or two coffee or tea a day max
        • Two liters of water a day

        That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

        Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

        And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

        Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

        Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

        For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

        So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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        As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

        Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

        In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

        A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

        In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

        Whole Foods and the Gut

        Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

        They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

        Whole Foods and the Brain

        The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

        In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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        Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

        • Oily fish
        • Nuts
        • Eggs
        • Berries
        • Broccoli
        • Whole grains

        Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

        Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

        It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

        Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

        This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

        Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

        Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

        Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

        Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

        Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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        1. Practice Batch Cooking

        Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

        For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

        I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

        2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

        Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

        Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

        If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

        Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

        If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

        Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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        Reference

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