Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sour Grapes

When people first hear about successful weight loss through restriction of sugar and starch, their assumption is usually that the dieter must have eaten fewer calories than before.  After all, it's calories in, calories out, right?
(fewer calories in) + (more exercise) = (less fat) 
Well, not exactly.  For one thing, how is it that some people can eat like a horse but they stay lean all their lives, while others don't?   Likewise, when it comes to weight loss, some people struggle to succeed with standard diets while others are more successful.  

All our lives we are told that in order to lose weight, we have to eat less.  If we are hungry in the process, it's a penance for the sin of overeating.  This message is so consistently relayed that it's almost unthinkable that gluttony might not be the whole story.

Fast food, breakfast cereal and soda manufacturers are happy to play along, telling us there's nothing wrong with consuming their sugary, starchy foods in moderation, and we need to exercise more.

So people who are already guilt-ridden about what they have essentially been told was gluttony, now feel obliged to join gyms to work off their extra pounds.

Our societal attitude to food is paradoxical.  On the one hand it fuels (pun intended) a lot of guilt about weight and mental anxiety about body shape.  On the other we have "all you can eat" buffets, eating competitions, and worst of all, a very strong institutional disapproval of carbohydrate restriction.

In the past 10 years or so, as low and zero carbohydrate eating has been becoming better known, more and more of us have been able to break through in the battle of the personal bulge.  Without drugs, weight loss plans, or professional help.  And our health has improved too.

Instead of applauding these successes, we are told it must be all those extra proteins and fats that cause us to eat fewer calories.  Because we all know there's no easy way to do it, right?

The last thing manufacturers with deep pockets and political influence want is for the public to stop buying food that has been processed in any way.  There's no money in it for them when we revert to foods which can be bought direct from farmers or grown in our backyards.  Drug manufacturers feel similarly - there's little in it for them when people are healthier and require fewer drugs.  Why should they help provide research funding to investigate why low or zero carbohydrate eating is working miracles?  Rather keep talking about moderation and exercise, and cast subtle doubt on those "nutty paleo people". 

If it works for them, the thinking goes, there must be a catch somewhere.  One of the easiest explanations is that they must be consuming fewer calories. 

In a way, I do think they have a point.  Two years ago, if there were a half eaten dish of rice pudding on the kitchen counter before I went to bed, I might have finished it off.  Why not?  It was delicious, and it cleared the kitchen.  Today, there's no struggle in my mind any more, and I don't feel tempted to dig into it.

Likewise, there are no more hypoglycemic periods where I need to grab something - anything - to eat.  I can go for more hours without snacking, and it has become comfortable to have an empty stomach:  it feels empty, but I'm not hungry.  Does that constitute eating less?  If it does, why is that a bad thing? 

Carbohydrate restriction requires no restriction of fat or protein.  You eat as much as you want, even if that means a huge steak slathered in butter or a bowl of whipped cream garnished with some berries (strangely, I don't really desire the latter and although I like a good steak, I can only eat so much of it).  There is no need for calorie counting, because with carbohydrates out of the way, the body is able to regulate very well how much it needs.   Without a surplus of carbohydrates (I do still eat quite a few), the metabolism corrects itself.  Naturally, and without drugs or prescription medications.

You would think that would be hailed as a wonderful breakthrough, not as a dangerous fad. There are many intelligent, informed people who say we need to be looking more closely at sugar and starch as the root of our metabolic and health problems.  In a world that is apparently ruled by science, it's stunning how unscientifically the Establishment dismisses the now firmly entrenched belief that fatty red meat might not be the root cause of heart disease.  

There is far too much evidence for me to believe that gluttony is the underlying cause of our problems, and successful weight loss is often far more complex than across the board calorie restriction. I just don't understand why some people can't see the effects of low carb eating as a good thing.  It's for them that I titled this post sour grapes.

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