Monday, December 26, 2011

Taubes on Low Carb Stalls

Low carb diets stall if you need to lose more than 17-19% of your body weight. That's the dirty little secret about low carb diets, one that I wish I had known. Weight Watchers took me all the way to goal, but low carb stalls. This has left me about 25-30 pounds short of my goal.

The good news is that I am weight stable; the bad news is that I am no longer going down. This is also very common.

Gary Taubes slickly warned us all of this phenomenon in his book, Why We Get Fat. So I can't say I wasn't warned, but he sugar coats the reality. The following quote is from pp. 204-205 of the 2010 hardback edition of his book:

"The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be. This is clear. But there's no guarantee that the leanest we can be will ever be as lean as we'd like. This is a reality to be faced... [I]f you are not actively losing fat and yet want to be leaner still, the only viable option (short of surgery or the prospect that the pharmaceutical industry will come through with a safe and effective anti-obesity pill) is to eat still fewer carbohydrates, identify and avoid other foods that might stimulate significant insulin secretion--diet sodas, dairy products (cream, for instance), coffee, and nots, among others--and have more patience." (The bold and italicized emphasis is mine).

Why is this aspect of the low carb experience not given more exposure? I had to learn about it by reading the What They Don't Tell You About Low Carb Diets web site (a very good web site, which I highly recommend). And is patience the only way to get to goal? Carbsane has stalled, but been weight stable, for over three years now. How much more patience is needed? Lots of suggestions for busting through stalls, such as drinking more water, intermittent fasting (Taubes on p. 205 of the book referenced above), counting calories, etc.

Or perhaps low carb is not the answer, or at least, not the entire answer, to losing weight. I do not want to remain obese, even if other health markers are good (e.g., normal blood pressure, stabilized blood glucose levels). That is not a good strategy.

So over the next few months, I am going to explore other options. I remain committed to the Perfect Health Diet way of eating, but I am going to aggressively monitor calories and experiment with various foods that may or may not be causing me to stall. I have a goal in mind: I will be taking a group of students on a study abroad trip to Europe this summer (gratuitous link to my study abroad blog) and I want to be thin enough to go paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland. The upper limit is 220 pounds, so that is my goal. I should be able to lose another 25 pounds in the next six months or so and be ready for the paragliding activity.


  1. What are you doing as far as exercise? I think that HIIT and resistance training are critical, especially when you get closer to your goal. I like the way SuppVersity lays it out here:

  2. My wife and I walk every day for at least two miles, sometimes three. Quite a trick in Fargo, but we manage in the mall.

    I will be adding in some weight training beginning next week and I hope to do other things as well. I will read the suppversity post you mentioned.

  3. Hi there!

    I second Beth's suggestion for some sort of resistance training. In all my reading the combination of something aerobic and weights seems to be your best bet. I got rather lean at one point in my 20's doing Nautilis and playing a ton of raquetball (along with some lifecycle & stairmaster in there).

    The paragliding sounds like a great incentive!

  4. Hi Evelyn! I want you to know that your blog is directly responsible for the decreased activity on my blog. I was trying to inject a little wisdom into the whole low carb thing, as I was getting more and more annoyed at all of the outrageous claims. Then I discovered your blog ( for any of my other readers). You were doing what I was trying to do, only with more wit and wisdom and to a much larger audience. So I have not posted as often as I used to.

    As per your suggestion, I will add resistance training to my routine in the very near future. I need to clean out a spot in my garage and setup my resistance equipment, so I don't have to go anywhere to do it. That is the project for this coming Saturday.