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.