History

With some fearfulness I find myself on a diet…..again. If someone had told me two weeks ago that I would be on another diet I would have thought they were crazy. But here I am. The reason I am surprised to find myself in this position, and the reason I have such apprehension, is because after years of dieting I have come to believe that diets simply don’t work. I rarely can lose more than 10 kg on a diet, and on the few occasions that I have it involved some seriously disordered behaviour. For example, my two most successful diets involved either, smoking cigarettes along with a cup of coffee whenever I felt hungry, or consuming only diet shakes so that my calorie intake was below 1000 per day, and then exercising until I had burned off those calories. The later diet was probably the closest I have come to anorexia, and although I doubt it was that serious, no one could argue that this was a healthy way to live. Of course I have also been on many more diets that seemed at the surface to be more health conscious, but they never resulted in much weight loss. The one common denominator between the hundreds of diets I have been on was I would always gain my weight back plus a little. In the end I came to the conclusion that diets simply didn’t work and gave up.

Once I had started to doubt the current diet paradigm I began stumbling upon books and research articles that further compounded these beliefs, such as ‘Rethinking Thin’ by Gina Kolata. By looking at all the current scientific literature her conclusion was that diets simply didn’t work. Reading these books was a double-edged sword been both incredibly freeing, and depressing at the same time. I felt vindicated that the conclusions I had drawn (diets don’t work) were actually backed up by scientific studies, which went in the face of the claims made by obesity scientists. The irony was that although these obesity scientists liked to claim that eating less, and eating low fat, would make us all lose weight the data from their very own studies told a different story with very little weight loss achieved in their subjects, and any weight lost nearly always gained back. Sadly, the depressing part was I didn’t want to be fat. But it seemed I had a set point, and no matter what I did to fight it my biology would fight me right back. Although on the outside I was vehemently against diets, deep down I became depressed knowing that I would never lose the weight.

This state of being lasted until about two weeks ago when I happened to watch a lecture by Gary Taubes at google on why we get fat.  I’m a scientist, and my philosophy on any ‘claims’ that people make is that it needs to be backed by rigorous scientific studies. For the first time in my life I was looking at a person who thoroughly and carefully argued why low calorie/low fat diets didn’t work, and did so from numerous angles with each point backed by a plethora of solid scientific research. I am not new to Gary Taubes and have previously read his book Good Calories Bad Calories but at the time I read it I was on the paleo diet, and interpreted his arguments through that lense (i.e yes of course carbs are bad but only if they are processed, but Ill be fine). What shocked me was that he was telling me (and you) to eat less than 20g of carbs a day, a proportion much lower than I had ever consumed before.  He explained (which I will post about later) how hormones are the driving force behind weight gain and how insulin was the granddaddy of these hormones. Insulin was largely responsible for locking fat inside fat cells and promoting fat storage. And of course insulin was increased in our blood stream by carbohydrates and logically it was carbohydrates that needed to be limited if we wanted to release the fat. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life I BELIEVED a diet theory. I finally could see how it wasn’t diets that had failed all those years but simply this low calorie/low fat model. I can honestly say that Gary Taubes ripped apart my whole diet belief system and handed me something back that I felt could work.

So five days ago I started a low carbohydrate diet (< 20g a day). I am incredibly nervous because I do have concerns such as whether I am been a sucker again. I also am aware that many people have failed on low carb diets and this concerns me . But I believe Gary Taubes, and I believe his arguments, and for the first time I’m going into a diet thinking that it can work, or at least that it makes sense scientifically. The most important thing I have noticed thus far is that I no longer feel hungry. I no longer want to eat continuously at night whereas before I did. Furthermore, I have been in transit the last three days flying on planes and staying in hotels. During this time I have not once been compelled to break my diet, and this despite a period of not eating for 14 hrs because flight delays led me to be in a plane for that entire period, and no carbohydrate free foods were available. Never in my life have I ever felt my appetite was under my control. To me this is no insignificant finding!!! So with some trepidation I move forward with this diet, and I thought why not share my experiences and thoughts in a blog. In the end I remind myself I have nothing to lose, and everything to gain doing this. Last week my heart would beat extremely rapidly whenever I had a carbohydrate heavy meal, I weighed 298 pounds , and I had trouble tying my shoelaces. Today, although my shoelaces are still a problem, I have already dropped to 290 pounds, and my heart has become quiet again.

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12 responses to “History

  • lowcarbconfidential

    I’ve read ‘Rethinking Thin’. A very good book. The book that did it for me was ‘Losing It’ by Laura Fraser. I saw that my diet had become a form of violence against myself, and my family was collateral damage in all this. I pulled back a bit – and gained 30 pounds in a few short months, proving without a doubt that low carb was the way to go. A year later, I’ve pulled that weight off and am trying for more. I did it slower, with higher carbs, and with incorporating ‘cheats’ as simply part of life. They were no longer cheats. Food is a joy in life, and I was willing to slow my weight loss for the gain of a hot baguette shared with my wife and children.

    Here’s the thing, I think: That weight gain was not a bad thing. I gained because I stopped beating myself up. When I lost it again, I did it in a gentler, more peaceful way, more integrated into my life, with less friction. I took the long way home and got to see sights I would have missed otherwise.

    At this very moment, *I* am trying ketogenic low carb as an experiment, which I’ll write about. I am especially curious right now about the notion that ketogenic low carb, when not in moderation, can slow the thyroid. I am assuming that you can go on a ketogenic diet from time to time, but keeping in ketosis for too long might have the effect of slowing metabolism and give you a nasty case of chemical depression – among other things.

    So I’m still experimenting. And I’m glad to see you are running your own experiments anew – I’ve always enjoyed comparing notes with you.

  • Insulince

    Have you got any papers or articles on this? I would be interested in looking at the data? Or can you tell me where you heard about it. I would hope ketogenic low carb does not slow the thyroid!

  • Carla

    Dear Dan,
    I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you blogging again. I am also giving this weight loss thing another go. I also read everything I can get my hands on by Gary Taubes. Did you read Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Taubes? Excellent read. Last year I got readdicted to sweets. By the end of 2011 I was bingeing daily on sweets and it’s like I just couldn’t stop myself. I also gained all my weight back plus an extra 3 pounds for good measure. I know that adding sweets in my diet “in moderation” was not good for me. And you know what else I did wrong – I listened to other people who said that low carb or grain free diets were not good for me – even though I KNEW from my own experience that low-carb eating is the only time I feel satisfied and not constantly ravenous for food all day long. This time I am not listening to anyone else – I am letting my results speak for themselves. It can be hard not eating carbs with three kids in the house but I know deep down that I am doing the right thing for my health. Not only have I lost 8.4 lbs in 3 weeks, but my asthma is beginning to clear up which is a really big deal for me! I can’t wait to follow along with you as we continue on the next leg of our weight loss journey!

    • Insulince

      I completely agree and its good (but not really) that you have had the same experience. I agree that I knew carbs made me hungry but got caught up in all the ‘opinions’ of other people. This time I am going to only listen to people if it is backed by science AND, like you, I am going to let the results speak for themselves.

  • lowcarbconfidential

    You can start here:

    http://anthonycolpo.com/?p=1743

    BTW – if you don’t know Mr. Colpo, he is NOT a fan of low carb by any means, but he *IS* certainly a sharp fellow and worth a read.

    Again – I think there’s a big difference between ketogenic low carb for a few weeks to get started, and prolonged ketogenic low carb.

    Still researching it myself. Find anything else, let us know.

  • Darrell W. Cook

    I am not a scientist. My “evidence” is limited to my experience and as such is merely anecdotal. But in 2001 a friend gave me Dr. Atkins book. At the time I weighed 320 pounds, today I weigh 230 pounds. I took the weight off over about six months. When I was losing the weight I was convinced that the guy was harmful. I believe that I was harming my liver and causing my liver all sorts of problems and so after I lost the weight and keeping it off was a bit of a struggle.that was until tops came out with his book “Why We Get Fat”. Once I read that book I realized that the science actually did support this way of eating.I never really had a problem staying under the 20 g level for carbohydrates, I just refuse to do so because I was convinced by faulty science that doing so was harmful to me. Taube’s work freed me from the shackles of them placed on me by the nonsense nutritional information fed to me by the idiot scientists that are in charge of our nation’s nutritional guidelines. For the last eight months I have eaten as much as I want and have eaten virtually what ever I want without any ill effect on my girth.

    I wish you the best and what you know that I’ve been there. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at your results once you break free of the hold that carbohydrates can have on you.

    • Insulince

      Darrell everything you say rings true for me also. Also, I would like to add that I am a marine scientist so I don’t know much about the nutritional side of things (unless your a fish). I was always opposed to going under 20g because the idea was that it was so bad for you, but Gary Taubes completely debunked that myth!!! It was so freeing and in the last week I just lost 9 pounds so easily. My appetite is completely manageable – actually manageable is a bad word because Im eating as much, and whenever I want! Thank you for your kind words and hope to hear from you again as your input would be much appreciated!

  • Mark

    My experience is similar to Darrell’s. In November 2010 my wife asked me to go on the “South Beach Diet’ with her. Knowing I really needed to support her I reluctantly agreed. We both lost over like 10 pounds in just two weeks. I was absolutely stunned. But, the South Beach author kept saying you can’t stay on ‘induction’ long-term or it will result in harm. Of course, these people that say these things can never specifically say what harm may come…

    So we both started ‘slowly introducing’ carbs back into our ‘diet’ and, sure enough, my wife gained all the weight back and then some. I gained a few pounds back. Then, while listening to a tech podcast at the end of December, where the speakers were talking about their 2011 resolutions, the one guy proclaimed, matter of factly, that he *would* lose weight in 2012 because he learned how we get fat and how to lose it. I’d been listening to this guy’s tech podcast for a long time and knew he was no dummy/not gullible. Turned out he read Taubes’ WWGF. I then decided to pick up a copy myself, read it, and was amazed. Everything Taubes was saying fit my personal experience. I decided right then and there that I was going to lose the weight and was going to do it by just eating as few carbs per day as possible aside from those from non-starchy vegetables. I went from 258lb to now 196. It took about 9 months to get to my present weight, and I’ve effortlessly maintained it for the past 4 months.

    And this bunk about long-term health effects is just that – bunk. The lipid tests that I took over 2011 (3 or 4 of them) are all documented on my blog as proof – 2 years ago I was a walking heart attack waiting to happen. I was convinced, being overweight or obese ever since I was around 9 or 10 years old, that I would always be that and due to heart disease in my family I assumed I’d be dead by 60 and there was nothing I could do about it.

    I’ve now got a great body (excuse the boasting please) and my triglycerides and HDL are phenomenal. I *feel* great every day. It’s been quite a while since losing the weight yet I still, multiple times per day, will stop and say to myself, “Damn this is great. I wish I had done this when I was 20 and not 40 years old…” Yesterday, for example, I went sledding with my kids in the morning, then ice skating with my daughter in the afternoon. And we’re planning on trying skiing this winter for the first time. I play squash a couple of times per week. I *enjoy* going to the gym. I never thought I could be that guy. And no, I didn’t start working out until I *wanted* to workout – when you lose the fat your body will want to be more active, naturally.

    I wish you the best. All I can say is that going low carb works and works well. The people who struggle with it are those who can’t find ‘go to’ meals. For example, I know someone who does not like eggs, won’t eat fish/seafood, won’t eat fatty cuts of beef, etc. Trying to do a ‘low fat’ AND ‘low carb’ diet is a recipe for disaster.

    mark
    http://www.lowcarblearning.com

  • DB

    It seems that the more I talk to people about this I realise the only two things holding people back was this underlying fear that low carb (< 20 g) is bad for you, OR they just didn't like eating low carb. Also, it is very encouraging to hear that people who had also given up on dieting, and assumed they were overweight forever, lost the weight.

    I have dropped more weight since my last post and it just seems unreal. I am literally pigging myself out if I feel like it, also Im not hungry, and it just seems like its a big lie – like Im tricking myself. Given time I imagine these feelings will go. It's horrible to think how brainwashed I have become. But there is always that underlying fear that it will suddenly stop working.

    In terms of energy I think I have noticed an increase. Its not that I am bursting with energy but I do find that doing simple tasks is relatively easier, and not a major chore that it was two weeks ago. This feels like progress but I wonder if this part is just a placebo effect.

    So far though things are going so well Im just afraid of really accepting it in case it doesn't work out (even though I know it will).

  • JoAnn

    It’s is distturbing how much misinformation is out there. For all of us who have struggled with weight and failed we are made to feel weak willed and undisciplined. It’s our fault. Then all comes Gary taubes to explain hormonal responses to carbohydrates and it is a very different story and outcome. Ten months into controlling starches and I am 61 pounds lighter. If you like Taubes’ research based approach please read The Smarter Science of Slim by Jonathan Bailor. It provides additional data on the connection between weight and carbs.

  • DB

    JoAnn thank you I have been trying to find a new low carb book to read with some data! I will get on to that.

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