Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What Is Considered Healthy Low-Carb Eating?

Should my friend Levi Wallach be concerned about my low-carb menu?

One of the most grafifying aspects of writing at this blog are the extremely wide range of opinions people have about livin' la vida low-carb. An open conversation about anything and everything that has to do with the low-carb lifestyle is what I have hopefully encouraged in this forum in its few months of existence. I believe it is extremely helpful for people who are new or skeptical about low-carb and can provide further insight for those of us who have been doing this for a while.

With that said, I received some intriguing comments today from my friend Levi Wallach, an avid low-carber who was concerned when he read about my typical daily menu of low-carb dining. While he applauds my 180-pound weight loss and acknowledges that what I am doing has obviously worked for me, he was concerned that I am sending the wrong message to people about low-carb by seemingly advocating eating so many processed foods.

Here's what he wrote in his first set of comments:

"I must admit, I cringed a bit too at all the low-carb products you've listed as part of your usual daily menu. Plus the 9 diet sodas. I know you are a big guy, and you eat a lot and exercise a lot. And hey, if this all works for you, then who am I to judge. But I think the way to convince the 'experts' that eating low-carb is healthy for you is to show them that eating low carb can also mean eating a diet of whole foods. After all, eating only unprocessed whole foods would, I think, make even the most idiotic nutritionist think twice about condemning it over a diet of highly processed low-fat junk."

Those are fair comments and I can address them. While I do not eat as much whole foods as some other devoted low-carbers do, I believe we each have our own needs and desires in that regard. While I am not chomping down on celery sticks, raw broccoli and artichokes all day long, I am certainly paying very close attention to the number of carbohydrates that I put in my mouth. This is the method I used to lose the weight and it is the way I have kept the weight off for the past eight months.

This leads to an even bigger and deeper question: What is considered healthy low-carb eating? This topic is very debatable, even within low-carb circles, and that's why I wanted to write and discuss this subject today.

As someone who used to be a very big, fat slob weighing in at 410 pounds, I think I know a little something about the turnoff of most diets. People can get discouraged by the perception that a diet is excessively and unnecessarily rigid. That's exactly why I despised low-fat diets so much. There were too many don'ts and not enough cans. Low-carb, on the other hand, offered freedom of choices that ran the entire food spectrum, including low-carb versions of bread, pasta and candy. In other words, you don't feel like you are dieting when you are on this way of eating.

Is anyone going to try to argue that they think the way I ate during my weight loss and the way I still eat today is NOT healthier than the way I used to eat prior to my low-carb lifestyle? You don't even want to begin to look at what my typical menu was like before low-carb. But when you read my book, you will be astounded! Let's just say I ate a lot of sugar, covered in sugar and washed down with many glasses of fresh sugar! There is little doubt in my mind how I ever got as big as I did.

So the question is not whether I am eating healthy, but rather whether I am eating AS healthy as I could or even should be. Is that what we are debating here? If so, then I don't have any arguments with that. I could very well be eating even healthier foods than I am today, but I am still in the midst of a process where my mind and body are in sync about what I can eat to help keep my body weight maintained. If I can maintain my weight loss throughout 2005, then that will be an accomplishment that I have never done in my entire life.

Keep in mind that I only recently lost the 180 pounds in 2004 and it has been just eight months since I lost that weight and kept it off. This is the longest I have ever gone after being on a "diet" without gaining back the weight. I intend to keep it that way for the rest of my life, but that may mean that I eat a few more processed and sugar-free products in the meantime than some of my low-carb friends would have me to consume. I don't have any problem eating this way because I have successfully maintained my weight by doing this.

Will my food choices begin to evolve to other choices at some point? I have no doubt in my mind that they will. By taking incremental steps towards the goal of eating more whole foods, drinking less diet sodas and consuming less sugar-free candy in due time, I believe I will get there someday over the next few years. As long as my body weight remains constant or decreasing, I do not sense an urgency about drastically changing my current eating and drinking habits overnight. The changes will come, but give me some time. Now that my health is no longer in immediate danger from being morbidly obese, I think I have the time to decide what is best for me to eat in the coming decades.

If someone is overweight or obese, I think it is much more important for them to make that all-important decision to change the way they eat. If you can get someone who is in that condition to just start watching their carbohydrate intake as I did, then that is essential to getting them on the path to better health and healthier eating. It may take a few years before they start eating more of the whole, unprocessed, natural foods that are considered healthy, but it will eventually happen. Let's get the weight off of them first and then worry about tweaking their eating habits a little more later on.

My friend Levi added a few more thought-provoking opinions in another comment at my blog:

"You may indeed feel like you have been helped by the availability of these [low-carb processed] foods. But do you think you could have lost your weight without them? Everyone's different so it's very possible that you couldn't have done this. Others here have avoided these products and not had a problem sticking to the overall program. But everyone's an individual. I realize you say this already in so many words, but many of these products are too easy a target for critics of low-carb. If they came to the conclusion that everyone was eating whole foods, but just more meat than what they consider healthy, a big part of their argument is empty."

That's the beauty of livin' la vida low-carb, Levi. We don't all have the same way of doing it. For some people, they don't mind eating a meat all the time. For others, they get full on delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables. Still others swear by the so-called Frankenfoods and couldn't live without them. The funny thing is that no matter how you do your low-carb lifestyle, it works. Keeping your carbohydrate intake down is effective for weight loss and weight maintenance no matter what kind of scare tactics and outright lies the media and health experts want to throw at it. Millions of people stand and testify to this fact by livin' la vida low-carb every single day.

As long as someone keeps a close eye on their net carb intake and keeps it within a range where their body will not gain weight, then I believe that can be described as healthy low-carb eating. Comments? Feel free to share them below.


Blogger amen brother said...

Amen Brother, people can do low carb anyway that they want if it works for them. Myself, I abhore fruits and vegetables and live completely on "frankenfoods" and meat.

8/23/2005 10:29 PM  
Blogger duncan_m said...

Hey Jimmy, great post.. I think I've made my own thoughts clear before.

If you're purely focussed on WEIGHT then Meat and Frankenfoods work just fine.

if you're focussed on WELLNESS and WEIGHT then a large intake of fruit and vegetables is essential for cancer and other disease prevention. That same cancer and disease prevention is also dependent on a much reduced intake of red meat and a reduction on the toxic load you place your body under by ingesting large quantities of chemicals all of which must be dealt with... a task that defocusses your immune and other systems from their principal tasks.



8/23/2005 11:47 PM  
Blogger DietKing said...

You hit the nail on the head--it's a long, slow process of self-discovery and internal analysis--losing weight is not something that should be rushed, especially if we are to take what we've learned in our new habits/style of eating and fully absorb those ideas for life. Frankenfoods? Eh. They taste just as crappy to me now than they did six years ago when I started low-carbing, so I'm not a fan of the 'soy chips' or the 'fake chocolate bars'--I'd rather treat myself once in a while to the best quality things on the market--but ask me about Coca Cola with Splenda, and I'll tell you I'm a fan and that it has helped me get through some tough withdrawal pains. Nobody's perfect. You gotta do what you gotta do, I think...
I'm still waiting for Dunkin Donuts to come out with trans-fat, carb-free donuts myself ;-)

8/24/2005 9:46 AM  
Blogger Robert W said...

i would definitely be more concerned with keeping the weight off, rather than having a perfectly balance diet at this point.

I get criticized all the time for my food choices, but my only goal right now is to drop weight and hang onto as much muscle as possible.

Fantastic job losing 180# and keeping it off. I am trying to lose 135# (56# to go) myself.


8/24/2005 10:56 AM  

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