I have helped patients with weight loss goals for many years. Over the years, it has become obvious that the major problem with weight control is the consumption of carbohydrates. I realize that this is the most challenging time of year to try to control consumption, but if you start now, you will find January easier to handle. Most people gain 5-10 pounds during the holiday season as food becomes the focus of most celebrations.
The underlying problem is that we are all addicted to carbohydrates. They are cheap, convenient, taste great, and are in everything. The addiction is promoted by the government via guidelines (The Food Pyramid, Heart Healthy Diet) that promote a low fat, high carbohydrate diet as the healthy way to eat. These guidelines benefit the food industry as carbohydrates provide the highest profit margin for them as fat and protein are expensive to produce. They also benefit the Federal Government as the cheapest way for the government to feed the masses is with carbohydrates.
If I offer you your favorite protein, you will eat until you are full and then stop. If I offer you your favorite high fat food, you will eat until you feel like you will be sick if you continue and then you will stop. The only time we will overeat is with carbs, as our “stop” button is broken due to our addiction.
The unique problem we have is that it is not realistic to never eat another carbohydrate due to the prevalence of carbs in most foods. We could survive and thrive without ever eating another carb because our body can readily convert fat into carbs and can also convert protein to carbs, but not as efficiently.
When your total daily carb consumption is 20 grams per day or less, you are in a state of Ketosis. Ketosis means your energy is supplied by fat. Most people who start the Keto Diet try to get to less than 20 grams quickly, but this causes the “Keto flu” with fatigue, headache and even flu- like symptoms, which are manifestations of the carb withdrawal. We would all be healthier if we were in a constant state of Ketosis as ketones (the result of the breakdown of fat for energy) are our preferred source of energy. The Keto Diet crowd believes that if you eat more than 20 grams of carbs per day and are not in the state of ketosis 24 hours a day, then you are a failure. The problem is that the number of people that can remain under 20 grams per day rapidly approaches zero.
Just as a gasoline engine is meant to run on gasoline, our bodies are meant to run on fat. We would not wonder why the gasoline engine does not run well on diesel, but we think our bodies should run on carbs. This does not make sense.
In the American Heart Journal, July 2009, by Koon Teo, et al, results of the observational PURE Study (Perspective Urban Rural Epidemiology) show the correlation between high carb consumption and increased incidence of heart disease, while high fat (including the dreaded unsaturated fat) was correlated to a lower risk of heart disease. It was a large study, taking place over five continents with diverse populations in relation to economic status, age, occupation, and education. The study cannot show causation, but when the correlation is strong it may cast doubt on many of the assumptions that have been accepted as fact for too many years. The bottom line is that the consumption of carbs in considerable amounts is harmful and the consumption of high amounts of fat is not harmful and tends toward protection from the risk of heart disease.
My experience has shown that if we can gain control of carbohydrate consumption, and then gradually lower it as we increase fat consumption, our metabolic status dramatically improves, and we lose body fat. Additionally, as we decrease carb intake while increasing intake of fat, the symptoms of inflammation decrease, including joint pains, tendinitis, bursitis, etc. Lowering carb intake also improves energy levels.
The problem is how to gain control of carb consumption and then lower it. I recommend downloading an app called Carb Manager. You will need to enter everything you eat, before it goes in your mouth, every day for the rest of your life, making you aware of the carbs you are going to eat and deciding whether to eat them. Along with making you aware of the carbs you eat, it makes you accountable to yourself for the carbs you eat. You will be amazed at how many carbs you have been eating once you start using the app. You do not have to keep track of protein or fat as you will not overeat them.
Everyone wants to know how many carbs they should eat daily. The answer is that it is different for each patient. I recommend putting an average day’s food intake into the app to see what the total carb count totals. Then the goal each day is to cut one gram per day. This would be equivalent to tearing off a small piece of a slice of bread and that would be the total reduction for the day and will not cause any withdrawal symptoms from the carbohydrate addiction. This does not sound like anything significant but in a month, you are down 30 grams per day, in two months it is 60 grams, etc. When the patient likes their look in the mirror, they make a note of their percentage body fat (they need a scale that measures percentage body fat because weight and BMI are misleading the closer they get to their goal) and check to see how many carbs they are averaging to keep them looking good in the mirror. This sets the bar for maintaining the desired results.
The day they stop counting the carbs is the day they start gaining all the fat back. The key to keeping the desired result is to eat more healthy fat, which will keep you from being hungry, and keep counting everything you eat. I tell patients that the average number of trips through rehab for addicts is three times before they achieve success. The health benefits of gaining control and keeping it are huge and worth the effort. We need to give ourselves permission to eat more fat and have the discipline to enter the carbs in the app. God created a phenomenal system; we just need to provide it the correct fuel.
Edited by Ann Jayne
– David Jayne M.D.