Sunday, April 24, 2005

Obesity Doctor Spreading Misinformation

This Dover, New Hampshire-based Foster's Online article about a supposedly new weight-loss program called Bariatrics took an unfair swipe at the low-carb lifestyle that I would like to address.

In the article, a doctor at Physicians Healthy Weight Center in Hampton, NH named Jennifer Warren along with her husband opened the anti-obesity center in March 2004 and have had great success at helping people lose weight. In fact, their patients have lost an average of 17 pounds each. Not bad and a laudable effort on their part.

As a former overweight person, Dr. Warren says she understands what it is like on both sides of the health spectrum. That's why she uses prescription drugs, exercise, diet changes and lifestyle changes to help her patients lose weight. Again, this seems to be a great endeavor for them to pursue.

But what she says specifically about her patients who have been on the Atkins diet and failed angered me to no end.

"I call them Atkins survivors. They come in and are afraid of carbs. If you're on a really strict Atkins you can't eat more than 28 grams of carbs a day. That's not enough to exercise and then you’re shooting yourself in the foot because if you can't exercise you'll never be healthy," she says. "I have to reeducate people that not all carbs are bad. High-fiber carbs are absolutely necessary for them to be healthy … You got to go beyond reading artificial labels."

With all due respect to Dr. Warren, she could not have mischaracterized what eating a low-carb lifestyle is more if she tried. Let me break down why she is wrong.

First, people who do not succeed on Atkins cannot blame the program for their failure. The plan works if you stick to it by the book. Even a little deviation from what Dr. Atkins wrote about in his books will cause people to have less success than those of us who went by the book. Call them "survivors" if you want, but I call them cheaters for not doing low-carb the right way.

Second, people who are on low-carb are not "afraid of carbs." In fact, I love my carbs and try to eat the right amount for me every single day. Contrary to popular belief, Atkins does not mean "no carb," but rather controlled-carb. Find the amount of carbohydrates that your body needs to lose or maintain weight and stick with it.

Third, I don't know many people who do Atkins who have to stay at "28 grams of carbs a day" as Dr. Warren suggests. In fact, each person has a different Atkins Carb Equilibrium (ACE) number that they can get to and still remain in ketosis. For some that number can be as high as 100 carbs per day. For others, it COULD be as low as 25-30, but that is not the norm. Her comments prove she does not know what she is talking about.

Fourth, Dr. Warren believes people who do Atkins can't exercise because they allegedly don't get enough carbs for energy. That's just plain hogwash! I have been a daily exercise freak since I started Atkins and never have a problem with being able to exercise. She is correct that you can't be healthy unless you exercise, but doing Atkins does not prevent you from taking advantage of this health benefit as she suggests. Again, my own story proves she is wrong!

Fifth, she talks about having to "reeducate" her patients that not all carbs are bad for you, but fails to acknowledge that the Atkins plan does not look at all carbs the same either. Dietary fiber and sugar alcohols are not counted in the carbs allowed each day because they have little to no effect on your blood sugar. In fact, getting an adequate amount of fiber is essential when you are on Atkins. But I didn't hear Dr. Warren mentioning anything about this in her diatribe against it! She says, "High-fiber carbs are absolutely necessary for them to be healthy." And that's exactly what Dr. Atkins recommends people eat on his program!

Finally, Dr. Warren exclaims "you got to go beyond reading artificial labels" as her final jab at low-carb. I tell people all the time that they've GOT to read food labels and be smart about it. Too much sugar and salt is much worse for you than too much fat. Watch your net carb intake (total carbs minus dietary fiber and sugar alcohols) and you will lose weight and restore your health. I'm living proof!

I don't blame Dr. Warren for her ill-advised and ignorant comments about the low-carb lifestyle. It echoes what many in her profession spout off about Atkins without a notion of any facts to back up their claims. That's why you need to constantly educate yourself about the low-carb lifestyle and countering this kind of disinformation with the truth. If you are going to be livin' la vida low-carb, then prepare yourself to encounter this often. And I'll be here to help clear the air when it starts to get polluted with this garbage. :-)

April 25, 2005 UPDATE: The journalist who wrote this story sent me an e-mail today informing me she would pass on my reaction to the comments by Dr. Warren about the Atkins lifestyle to her. I'll keep you informed if I hear anything from Dr. Warren.

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Blogger Sue said...

Good article...I hope it gets back to her. But, some people just want to spout dogma and don't bother with things like facts.

4/24/2005 6:12 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I haven't heard from her yet although the journalist who wrote the story said he would forward my comments to her. But you are right. The low-fat dogma is so deeply ingrained.

4/26/2005 10:12 PM  

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