Saturday, July 30, 2011

Epiphany: No Magic Bullet

I have written about nutritional conventional wisdom or prevailing opinion (CWOPO) before and it is one of the most read articles on this site. However, I have come the the realization that CWOPO exists within the low carb community as well and, as is often the case with conventional nutritional wisdom, low carb CWOPO can be wrong. At least for me. Let me explain.

As I have mentioned before, I have at one time lost a lot of weight (100+ pounds) using Weight Watchers, but gained it all back. Over a nine month period, I averaged 2.4 pounds per week on WW. Five months into my low carb journey and I am averaging less weight loss per week (2.3) than on WW. I realize I am almost 50 years old, and that should explain some of the slow down, but not all. In recent weeks, my weight loss has slowed considerably, to less than two pounds per week. The low carb community on the web often talks about weight loss stalls, or plateaus, and I want to avoid that. So I have been analyzing what I have been eating, including my total calories, using software I have written about before. This led to my epiphany.

The low carb diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. This makes sense: if you reduce carbs, you must replace the macro nutrient total with either protein or fat and too much protein can be dangerous (according to chapter 15, p. 210 of The Art and Science of Low Carb Living). So we increase the fat. If you look at my macro nutrient breakdown from yesterday (for a total of 2,100 calories) using the software, it looks like this:
So I am clearly following a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. But here is where low carb CWOPO comes into play: CWOPO tells me that calories do not count, that low carbing provides a metabolic advantage, and that I should be adding a lot of fat to my diet to boost my fat intake total. So I added fat, didn't count calories, and counted on the metabolic advantage to take care of the rest. And my weight loss has slowed.

Then I had an epiphany. At 2,100 calories, I AM eating a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. There is no need to add a lot of additional fat to the diet, and calories do count.

So I have made some changes. I am watching/tracking my calories on, I am cutting some of the fat (as adding it only adds calories, and they do count!) and for me, metabolic advantage is a myth.

What I wanted was a magic bullet to cure my weight problems. I thought low carb was it. It works well for me, it keeps the hunger demons at bay, intrinsically, I like it A LOT more than the low fat diets like Weight Watchers, but it isn't the magic bullet I wanted. It still requires willpower and hard work to make it to my goal. And it provides a way to maintain my weight that I can live with.

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