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Sunday, April 09, 2006

YMCA Fitness Expert Amiss About Low-Carb

I have great respect and admiration for the work of the YMCA in the United States because they provide an inviting atmosphere for people to workout their bodies physically while also being a place of spiritual refuge for those who need to be encouraged in their faith. They are a wonderful organization with outstanding individuals representing them nationwide.

However, with that said, I cannot tell you how disappointed I was with a Chambersburg, PA YMCA representative named Michele Sheppard who wrote an op-ed piece in this week's Public Opinion that took dead aim at livin' la vida low-carb. This isn't the first time someone from the YMCA has been openly critical of the low-carb lifestyle. You might recall this blog post about a fitness coordinator at the YMCA in Hernando County, Florida who said low-carb is making obesity and health problems worse in the U.S.

I guess I should be used to these kind of malicious attacks against the way of eating that has so radically altered the course of my life for the better by now, but it still makes me shake my head in disgust by how seemingly knowledgeable and educated people like these fitness trainers with the YMCA can get it so wrong about the low-carb lifestyle.

In her column entitled "Just move: Surviving the low-carb diet dilemma," Sheppard, a fitness expert from the Chambersburg YMCA with a BS degree in kinesiology, said losing weight can be "challenging and overwhelming" with all the weight loss plans that are available for people to try today.

"Just look at the amount of magazine headlines at the grocery checkout aisle each week touting the easiest and most effective diet."

But instead of explaining why gimmicks like ear stapling, diet coffee, or even the flavor diet are all decidedly poor choices for people who are serious about wanting to shed the pounds, Sheppard instead turned her attention to what she believes is the most evil of all programs designed to help people lose weight quickly and permanently -- of course, that would be the low-carb diet.

She does admit the low-carb diets "have helped many American's lose significant amounts of body weight without feeling deprived of foods they enjoy," but Sheppard misrepresents what the low-carb lifestyle is about.

"Typically, low-carb diets permit the dieter to eat unlimited amounts of protein and fat source foods while limiting the amount of carbohydrates (starches, grains, fruits and vegetables) consumed daily."

The first clue that Sheppard doesn't understand low-carb is when she uses the word "unlimited." That's mediaspeak for the Atkins diet and they usually like to include a picture of a big plate of steaks and bacon making the insinuation that people who eat low-carb are gorging themselves on nothing but huge piles of meat all day to get their protein and fat intake. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Additionally, the idea that people following a low-carb plan limit the amount of fruits and vegetables they consume is grossly misguided information at best. Doesn't Sheppard know surveys have shown that vegetable consumption doubles when people start a low-carb lifestyle change? Oh yeah, she didn't read up on that before writing her little op-ed piece about low-carb. Plus, this convenient TRUTH about low-carb living would not have fit into the template she had in her mind about low-carb anyway. We certainly wouldn't want any FACTS to get in the way of our preconceived ideas now would we?

Again, Sheppard concedes that people who are obese "can be very successful" on low-carb because it takes away the "typical stresses of dieting or reducing calories."

"It may require the dieter to eat the cheeseburger without the roll, but he or she can still have a slice of bacon on the burger, just no fries on the side."

While I appreciate that Sheppard sees merit in this way of eating for people who have a lot of weight to lose, I think it is again being stereotypical about a low-carb program by using the "cheeseburger without the roll...[with] a slice of bacon" example. Do people who have never been on low-carb honestly think that kind of food is all we low-carbers eat? Seriously? While I like a good bacon cheeseburger without the bun as much as the next person, eating that way all the time would get to be pretty boring if you ask me.

Instead, give me a grilled chicken breast cooked in extra virgin olive oil, a side of mashed cauliflower with garlic salt, green beans sauteed in real butter, and a fresh side salad topped with tomatoes, cheese, and Ranch dressing. Mmmmm, now THAT is a low-carb dinner worth savoring and enjoying as part of my balanced, healthy way of eating the low-carb way! And, I might add, this meal I have described is a lot closer to the way most people on a low-carb diet actually eat, Ms. Sheppard. Are you taking notes for your follow-up column apologizing for getting it so wrong?! If not, YOU SHOULD!!!

Despite her apparent "support" for low-carb, Sheppard says the data and "real life results" she has seen of people who have been on low-carb is that they "typically regain all or more of their initial weight loss when they return to 'normal' eating habits."

"Often they frequently consume too many calories and place the blame on the carbohydrates added back into their diet."

Ms. Sheppard, anyone who attempts to do the low-carb diet or any diet for that matter without committing to doing it for the rest of their life is doomed to the fate you have described. That's why we call this a low-carb LIFESTYLE because it becomes the preferred and chosen method of eating for the rest of our lives. While we may have a meal on occasion that includes a few extra carbs, the basic principles of low-carb eating will be with us for the rest of our lives and we never go "off the diet."

If someone returns to their old eating habits, then that is NOT the fault of the low-carb program they were on. I've never understood why low-carb is blamed for the choice of an individual to stop eating that way. Some people may not be able to stick with low-carb as well as I have, but that's okay. However, they should find SOME way of eating they can stick with and do forever and ever to keep their weight under control.

But let's not blame the diet plan for failing people who choose to stop doing it. As much as you may hate to admit it, Ms. Sheppard, it's not eating carbs but rather eating too many carbohydrates that CAN and WILL make you gain weight and destroy your health. You may think it's the calories they are eating, but it really is the excessive carbs in the form of sugar, white flour, starchy foods, and processed foods that contributes to weight gain in virtually everyone who is overweight or obese.

While calories are important, they cannot be blamed for leading people into obesity. That distinction lies solely with people eating too many carbohydrates for their bodies to use which leads to stored fat growing and growing and growing. I had to let my weight reach 410 pound before I realized what those carbs were doing to my body. Once I reduced my carb intake to a more reasonable number, my weight came down to 230 pounds and my health has improved to the best it has ever been!

Sheppard claims that "eating carbohydrates is necessary to help our bodies maintain normal health and body functions."

No it isn't! Have you heard of gluconeogenesis, Ms. Sheppard? Surely you have with your BS degree in kinesiology. Then you KNOW the body can make its own glucose without ever having to consume one single gram of carbohydrate. So this business that it is "necessary" for us to eat carbs to be healthy is just plain wrong. Would you care to retract that statement now, Ms. Sheppard?

At the end of her article, Sheppard does conclude with some good points I applaud her for stating.

"Making smart food choices from the carbs group of foods include eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, choosing to eat whole grain breads and pastas over foods like boxed macaroni and cheese. And, limiting the amount of sugar-sweetened drinks and snacks we consume."

Exactly! It's all about making good choices about the foods we eat and stop settling for the junk that too many people rely on to feed their families. The low-carb lifestyle enables people to eat healthier than they have ever eaten in their life while getting to enjoy flavorful foods, including many fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Why can't people like Sheppard understand this and in turn educate the public about what low-carb is REALLY about? I just don't get it.

Maybe we should ask Michele Sheppard why she is spreading these lies about low-carb by contacting her directly through the Chambersburg YMCA contact page? While you're at it, send your comments to the Public Opinion newspaper sharing what you think about Sheppard's statements against the low-carb lifestyle. If Sheppard won't educate people about low-carb, then perhaps we should set the record straight and do it for her?

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD TODAY! Let me know if you get a response from either Sheppard or the Public Opinion newspaper.

4-10-06 UPDATE: Michele Sheppard replied to my e-mail to her today where I shared my concerns about what she had written.

Here's what she wrote:

Mr. Moore,

Congratulations on your personal success as a low-carb dieter! Unfortunately, I was unable to read your blog comments. The intention of the recent Just Move column was to encourage individuals to seek nutritional balance, not to insult those who have found success with this choice of diet.

Best of luck with your continued low-carb weight loss/management program!

Thank you,
Michele Sheppard


I sent her another link to this blog post as well as to my blog so that she can read all of my concerns. While I appreciate the courtesy she gave me in replying to my e-mail, I do hope she will explain why she wrote what she did about livin' la vida low-carb if she wasn't meaning to insult those of us who have been successful on this way of eating. I eagerly await her response. Stay tuned...

5 Comments:

Blogger Jeff Hamlin said...

I guess Ms. Sheppard indeed does have a "BS" degree to be making such ignorant statements, lol. =P

4/09/2006 4:04 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

"Often they frequently consume too many calories and place the blame on the carbohydrates added back into their diet."

At 60g of carbs I can't lose. I dropped back to 40g to get the last few pounds off (which took a few MONTHS). When I hit goal I went back up to 60g, and sometimes as high as 70g, and added back a couple foods that may have been stalling me before (low-carb bread and the Atkins meal bars). I am starting to put weight back on.

But I don't think it's the carbs. It's that I haven't been as careful with my diet lately. It's CALORIES. Too many dinners out on days I normally stick to plan. Atkins-friendly dinners to be sure - but way higher in calories than my body needs for the day. Also, one unplanned day off plan after getting my taxes finished.

I've also been limited more than usual with my gym time this past week, and walking the last leg to work this past week kept being nixed because it was raining.

I plan to muster through this week as best as possible - Holy Week has it's own craziness - and then hopefully get more serious after Easter.

(Holy Week puts me in church a lot more than usual, and there goes my chance for workouts. I had to get up at 5:30 this morning just so I could go to church and still make it into work by 11 a.m. for a 12 hour shift.)

At any rate, I need to get back to the most basic principle of diet and resrict the calories along with the carbs. It's the only way I can lose weight. I need to nip this weight gain in the bud before it becomes a real problem.

4/09/2006 7:30 PM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

I often hear stories from Personal Trainers saying how people come to them having failed on Lowcarb and how their clients are fatter as a result.

Think about, why do the majority of obese people go to personal trainers ? Answer: They cannot lose the weight on their own!

Low Carb diets do not guarantee 100% success rate. As Jimmy always points out - you need that inner drive and motivation as well!

Why do these critics point to Low Carb diet failures and conclude that is proof that it doesn't work for anyone!

Do they do that to low fat/low carl dieters who have a higher drop out rate ?

4/09/2006 9:40 PM  
Blogger TESS said...

ANY PERSON WHO GOES OFF ANY DIET AND RESUMES THEIR PREVIOUS EATING HABITS IS GOING TO REGAIN THE WEIGHT. THERE PREVIOUS ETING HABITS ARE WHY THEY WERE FAT IN THE FIRST PLACE AND THE TYPE OF DIET DOESN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT. YOU CERTAINLY DON'T NEED A COLLEGE DEGREE TO FIGURE THIS OUT AND IT JUST GOES TO PROVE THAT, THAT EXPENSIVE EDUCATION DIDN'T COME WITH COMMAN SENSE.WHAT SHE SAID WAS IGNORANT AND INSULTING.WE SHOULD BE USED TO THIS BY NOW, WE'VE HEARD THE SAME THING SO MANY TIMES FROM PEOPLE WHO JUST DON'T SEEM TO BE ABLE TO DO THE RESEARCH BEFORE THEY OPEN THEIR MOUTH.

4/10/2006 6:35 PM  
Blogger Dean said...

Great blog i will keep reading, please take a look at mine if you have the time.

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4/14/2006 4:55 AM  

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