Well, well, well, it seems as if Christmas has come early this year. I couldn’t keep from sporting a triumphant grin as I opened the email containing a link to a Los Angeles Times article. It looks as if the mainstream media may finally be publicizing some solid nutritional info, in place of the customary “Keep off those holiday pounds” fluff piece. Can it be? Oh yes, yes it can.
A reversal on carbs
“Fat was once the devil. Now more nutritionists are pointing accusingly at sugar and refined grains.”
Although there are many points of pure gold in this article, this one is almost tattoo worthy (or at least have printed on a T-shirt)
“Fat is not the problem,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases.”
This also happens to be the same month that diet mega company Weight Watchers released a statement that they were making some significant changes in their points system. It seems they can no longer ignore the science that refined, processed carbohydrates don’t have the same value as fruit and vegetable carbohydrates. Wow, it must be my birthday this month too!
Wait a minute! So you mean that the big money agriculturally based nutritional scheme dressed up in a shoddy pyramid may be all wrong?!
Well unfortunately what is good for the agriculture industry, is not necessary good for us humans, or the entire planet for that matter.
It’s a confusing message. For years we’ve been fed the line that eating fat would make us fat and lead to chronic illnesses. “Dietary fat used to be public enemy No. 1,” says Dr. Edward Saltzman, associate professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University. “Now a growing and convincing body of science is pointing the finger at carbs, especially those containing refined flour and sugar.”
Uh oh, let the back-pedaling begin. Thanks to a thirty- year old government-mandated manhunt for all fats, we’ve ended up in a far worse place than we started. We kicked those fats right out like they owed us money, all fats. And just by association we de-friended all of those amazingly good fats , that help the bodies multiple functions, like metabolizing body fats!!
Fats got kicked to the curb, so in order to keep our foods still edible we upped the sugar, A LOT of sugar. Strangely with the entire country on a low fat diet, rates of heart disease and diabetes continued to rise.
“The country’s big low-fat message backfired,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
But low carb diets are nothing new. You may remember the Atkins diet (which has gone through some slight revisions), or The South Beach diet. The most recent is the popularization of the Paleolithic diet (I recommend the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson). Each specific diet has it’s own unique set of rules but they are all basically structured around the same idea – eat animal proteins, acceptable vegetables, some fruits (depending on the specific diet or the particular phase you’re in), and good fats. Kick out the sugars, processed, refined- junk carbohydrates and watch the fat drop and your health levels rise.
The LA Times article talks about the science behind why low-carb diets work:
Carbohydrates are a metabolic bully,” Phinney says. “They cut in front of fat as a fuel source and insist on being burned first. What isn’t burned gets stored as fat, and doesn’t come out of storage as long as carbs are available. And in the average American diet, they always are.”
Here’s how Phinney explains it: When you cut carbs, your body first uses available glycogen as fuel. When that’s gone, the body turns to fat and the pancreas gets a break. Blood sugar stabilizes, insulin levels drop, fat burns. That’s why the diet works for diabetics and for weight loss.
So if we know how effective it is, and how important it is to preventing deadly diseases then why do we keep going back? Well old habits die hard, and the sugar addiction is a hell of a hard one to kick.
I usually tell my clients, it’s as easy as becoming very clear on what your intentions or goals are. It’s a sliding scale, Do you want to loose weight? Yes, then drop the unacceptable carbs. Do you want to gain weight? Yes, then eat the s*%t out of those carbs, because that’s exactly what’s going to happen!
Would you like to maintain weight? Yes, then allow your self slightly more carbohydrates than in a loosing phase. Why is it okay to have more good carbs when you want to maintain weight? First, our body has an exceptional ability to maintain a “steady state”, and second, once you’ve repaired your body’s metabolic system, you can actually process a little bit higher carbohydrate without storing it as fat. (but keep in mind, I’m talking unprocessed, unrefined carbs, not a bag of cheetos and a coke)
The weight loss however will never begin unless you deplete your bodies carb intake in the initial loosing phase. A junky will not be able to quit a drug if you keep feeding them a little bit each day.
Personally I think that one of the greatest things about nutrition is its simplicity. It doesn’t have to be about fad diets, counting calories or measuring all of your foods. It’s as simple as acceptable and non-acceptable. Our bodies are not designed to process refined grains and sugars, bottom line.
Now, weaning yourself off of these delicious sugary drugs can result in a serious energy lull in the beginning, but soon after you’ll end up looking and feeling better, with a lot more energy. Take it one day at a time, and I assure you, you’ll love how you feel.