Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Low Carb Fairy Tales

Obesity is a complex problem. But, as is human tendency, we want a simple answer to a complex problem. And low carb is a simple answer. Yes, you can lose weight, but this is almost by accident, as when you go low carb, you cut out wheat and sugar, two very problematic things.

Low carb proponents tell the obese exactly what they want to hear:

1) It's not my fault I am fat; my metabolism is broken.
2) I can eat all the fat and protein I want and still lose weight, because low carb gives me a metabolic advantage.
3) Calories don't count, only carbs matter, since all carbs are fattening.
4) Exercise doesn't matter.
5) Carbs increase insulin, which increases fat storage. Cut the carbs and burn fat.
6) Add yummy fat to your diet to be even more healthy and speed up weight loss.

Isn't that nice? Only it's not true: it's merely a fairy tale, with very little empirical science to back it up.

But it is one heck of a persuasive argument to tell an obese person. It shifts the blame from your willpower to something you can't control: an out of whack metabolism. And it worked! At least at first. Then it stalled as it always does after 17-20% weight loss and I got wiser.

It was like learning that Santa Claus is not real: low carb is not the magic weight loss bullet I thought it was.

What I really wanted was a simple solution to what I now know is a complex problem. I didn't want my being fat to be blamed on my sloth and gluttony, I wanted another explanation (broken metabolismfattening carbs!). I didn't want to exercise and I didn't want to count calories. I wanted to eat until I was full and lose weight. Nice, neat, simple, compelling, and wrong.

I am currently following the Perfect Health Diet, a scientifically developed Paleo diet that is not based on fairy tales and which encourages exercise and calorie counting, is already high fat (you don't have to add any more), and complex. But that is okay, because I no longer believe in Santa Claus.

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