Sunday, July 09, 2006

Purdue Nutritionist Likens Low-Carb Weight Loss To Taking Laxatives

How do you ruin an otherwise excellent news story for a student newspaper on the damaging effects of extreme dieting by college students to look "perfect?" Well, you allow a registered dietitian to start railing against livin' la vida low-carb by comparing it to the truly extreme measures of downing diet pills or laxatives for weight loss (like this Chinese reporter did a few months back in this column about the Atkins diet).

That's exactly what happened with this article written by the summer editor Sarah Michalos for Purdue University's independent student newspaper called The Exponent.

Michalos was doing an excellent job pointing out in her story the unreasonable demands that society puts on young women especially to look a certain way which leads them to begin dieting in an attempt to have "the look" for themselves. It reminded me of this recent blog post I wrote that dealt with this exact same issue.

The focus of the story shifted to the various ways college students, mostly women, decide to lose their weight including skipping meals, exercising excessively, and even becoming anorexic or bulemic. All of these ideas were universally condemned as poor choices for weight management.

But then Michalos asked Purdue University's Nutrition Educator from the Student Wellness Office Annie Mahon to weigh in on the subject and that's when the story took a decided turn for the worse because of this dietitian's apparent dislike for the low-carb plans the South Beach and Atkins diets.

According to her bio page, Mahon is working towards her doctorate in nutrition, so she has undoubtedly been deeply entrenched in the anti-low-carb propaganda that is apparently passed on to students of nutrition who would otherwise think for themselves and realize that livin' la vida low-carb is indeed a very safe, nutritious and healthy way of eating. But she is also into "vegetarian diets" as part of her areas of interest, so there may be some personal animosity towards low-carb there.

While Mahon makes some excellent points about the psychology that goes into trying to have that "perfect" body and the stresses that generally accompany such a pursuit, she completely loses any respect I had for what she was saying when she began lumping together the low-carb diets Atkins and South Beach with "diet pills and laxatives."

Michalos quotes Mahon as saying people can lose weight doing low-carb, diet pills and laxatives over the short-term basis, but they will gain back the weight after they stop the diet.

Mahon said these weight loss methods "are unhealthy and over the long term can eventually have negative health consequences."

If this is how a nutritionist like Mahon honestly feels about the low-carb lifestyle, then I want to see how she came to that conclusion. To disagree with a nutritional approach based on sound research showing it to be ineffective for weight and health management is one thing. But projecting your opposition to low-carb living and using it as an opportunity to liken weight loss achieved through this method to taking diet pills and laxatives is preposterous and irresponsible, especially when you are given authority to speak intelligently as an "expert" on nutrition to impressionable college students (a privilege that this college nutritionist is also abusing).

Ms. Mahon, I'll have you know that my 180-pound low-carb weight loss in 2004 was the direct result of many hours, days, weeks, and months of hard work, commitment, dedication, bullheaded stubborness to stick with it no matter what, endless sacrifices, and never ever ever giving up. It wasn't some fly-by-night "fad" or an unhealthy weight loss plan. It was my PERMANENT solution to a LIFELONG problem!

And guess what? I'm STILL livin' la vida low-carb two years later and it's helping me keep my weight off -- LONG-TERM! It saddens me that you would so foolishly lambaste this way of eating that has not only worked for me, but also for literally millions of other people across the United States and around the world to help them overcome their obesity and begin living their lives as a shining examples of health, vitality and fitness.

It's just such a shame that the students you counsel at Purdue could do well on a low-carb program, but your negative portrayal of this way of eating may be keeping them from even trying it. I tried and failed on so many low-fat, low-calorie, portion-controlled diets over the years that I literally thought I would never be skinny. WRONG!

Thanks to the Atkins diet, I am a physically active, physically fit, 230-pound, 34-year-old man who just a little more than two years ago weighed over 400 pounds and was on medications for cholesterol, blood pressure and breathing. NOT ANYMORE! I'm a new man and I owe it all to this diet you are derogatorily comparing to taking laxatives. What a crying shame to be so educated in nutrition and yet knowing so very little.

Are you that ignorant to think for yourself, Ms. Mahon? Consider this your wake-up call to start studying all the latest research regarding nutrition, especially on low-carb diets, and you might just be able to erase those years of indoctrination you've been through to get your degrees. I know you can do better than you are doing now and I genuinely wish you well as you attempt to help the students at Purdue University live a healthier lifestyle. I wish I had a "wellness" center when I was going to college!

Feel free to share your comments with Anne Mahon about what she thinks about livin' la vida low-carb by sending her an e-mail at Be sure to tell her how the low-carb lifestyle has transformed YOUR life and that she is depriving some of her students from getting their weight under control by not telling them about low-carb. Let me know if you hear back from her.

You can also send an e-mail to the editor of The Exponent newspaper Sarah Michalos at


Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

I notice that these experts that attack the Atkins diet and low carb, look like they have never been obese or morbidly obese in their life.

It makes you wonder about the mental beliefs and bias that these people have. Because that is what we are talking about here - beliefs, because there is certaintly no evidence they can prove that the Atkins diet is unhealthy.

7/09/2006 10:08 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Those colors in the background, is that a Plasma display with her thought patterns?

Meat is bad...fat is bad...meat is bad... fat is bad... click... meat is bad... fat is bad... click...

Lol! Of course they do not have even a shred of evidence against the diet, but then again some people cannot be bothered by that. Nor can they be bothered to take even a cursory look at the literal mountains of scientific evidence to the contrary. It's a strange world out there; full of such close-minded, shortsighted idiots. Luckily there are also some good guys (and women!) out there trying to undo the damage and telling the truth. But it's an uphill battle and that's why we need people like Jimmy. And that's also why we need to keep supporting him!

7/10/2006 8:45 AM  
Blogger megadittles said...

She looks like she has laxative experience of her own. By the way, has she ever woken up with low blood sugar, or ate a cereal, an apple, or even a whole bag of popcorn and felt like she has ate nothing! That's usually how I feel until this last month. Now I can eat 1 egg and be full 3 hours before I eat my next meal. I say caca to laxative woman.

7/10/2006 8:55 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

My response to Ms. Mahon.
Dear Ms. Mahon,
I read in Living la Vida Low Carb blog that you, a professional
nutritionist, don't think much of low-carb diets for weight loss and
maintenance. I don't know who you have been observing to form your
opinions, but to compare low-carb dieting with the use of diet pills
and laxatives makes it sound like you have been witness to a parade
of anorectics.

I have suffered from overweight chronically since childhood, and I
have been always used a low-carb diet to lose weight successfully and
with great control during the past 45 years, starting with the
official Royal Canadian Air Force diet back in the early 60s. That
diet limited carbohydrate intake to 60 grams a day. Since then, I
have followed guidelines set forth by Diet Center, Drs. Eades, Dr.
Atkins, and others. When I observe a high-protein, low-carb, moderate-
fat diet, I have more energy, am more alert, and have no food
cravings. And the fat falls off. (Not just liquid. Fat.)

Well, I can imagine what you are thinking – why do I need to keep
losing the weight that I gain back? Simple. Because, like most
dieters who follow any number of different weight-loss diets, I don't
learn my lesson and think that once I lose weight, I can go back to
my old ways with impunity. And nothing puts weight on me like carbs!
So this time I'm going to learn my lesson and once I get down to my
goal, I will maintain a nutrient-dense, low-carb diet for the rest of
my life.*

I also imagine what you are thinking now, that at 56, my
cardiovascular health must be damaged from years of low-carb,
moderate-fat dieting. Not so! A couple years ago I passed a stress
echo with flying colors, and I just passed an excellent physical.
True enough, I'm only a single case, and my evidence is statistically
insignificant (understatement) and, of course, completely anedotal.

That notwithstanding, I do a lot of reading and have noticed in
recent years that medical and nutritional researchers are
increasingly finding evidence that our dietary theory of the past
fifty years is highly flawed – and sure enough, as the American
public has been taught we eat with impunity as long as we avoid fat,
we now find ourselves in the midst of an obesity and diabetes
epidemic like never before.

I do understand that diets of any kind with surplus calories can
result in elevated glucose and insulin levels, which over the long
term lead to vascular damage, but the point is that many of us who
eat a low-carb, moderate-fat, nutrient-dense diet find it much easier
not to exceed our caloric needs in the first place.

Finally, I think you will find that the body of research shows that
poor lipid profiles are correlated with, but not necessarily a cause
of, disease. I would urge you to reexamine your stance by reading
some of the studies that support the emerging revisions in dietary
theory. You have nothing to lose by doing so.

Gary Moss

New Haven, Connecticut

*Please note, I'm not saying here that a low-carb diet consists of a
pile of five cheeseburgers without the bun for lunch, etc. Dr.
Atkins' recommendations have been badly misrepresented. I am well
aware of the need of a nutritious diet in which I don't stuff myself,
and that diet is not fat-phobic. It includes moderate amounts of
beneficial fats and oils, fiber-dense low-glycemic-load carbohydrates
– and few processed foods of any kind. I'm not saying I won't eat a
piece of cake now and then – but I'll do it a few times a year, not a
few times a week! Similarly with bread, corn, potatoes, rice, and
pizza – on special occasions only and with caution.

7/10/2006 10:15 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

It's no use wasting time on people like Dr. Mahon. No matter what you tell her or how many studies you can find, someone like that will never listen. In fact whatever you tell here will only reinforce her personal low-fat ideology.

This is why I'm convinced that it's futile to think there will be a moment when low-carb will suddenly be found acceptable by the mainstream and the government. It just ain't gonna happen no matter how ridiculous the evidence is that a high carb mixed diet is deadly.

I know Jimmy means well, but we can't even deal with a rational policy on oil dependence, let alone break through the influence of big-agribusiness who make billions of dollars on vegatable fats and the whopper of them all, selling indigestable crap as something that is essential (fiber). Even in low carb circles fiber is tauted as necessary.


7/10/2006 12:41 PM  
Blogger LCforevah said...


I so agree with you that some people in the health industries look like they never have had a weight problem. They may all have their hearts in the right place, but a person who has never starved herself on a veggie only diet and not lost weight, might have no business trying to help.

I have starved on veggies and not lost weight. I have spent serious money on a personal trainer using his "balanced diet" and not lost weight.

Low carb is the only method that makes a difference to me.

Life is too short. I no longer bother with people who've never had my problem try to help me no matter how well meaning they are.

7/10/2006 6:35 PM  
Blogger TeaJay said...

It is just amazing the hate and animosity aimed towards a low-carb diet. Makes me wonder if the potato and corn industry is behind it all - what? You're not eating high-fructose corn syrup and French fries!? Low-carb diets are bad for you! Eat our syrup! Eat our 'taters! heh!

All kidding aside, I've gotten so much flake from casual acquaintences and even friends for eating the way that I eat that I'm starting to tell people I'm allergic to wheat and pasta & taters. In my own little mind, I feel that's valid as I certainly can't eat those things and function properly. And I get a lot less attitude when I say that instead of "no, you won't make me eat that, I'm low-carb." Then I get the sermon of how all my bodily organs are currently shutting down and that it's so unhealthy for me. Yeah, uh-huh.

7/11/2006 1:04 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

I'm actually allergic to peanuts, soybeans and wheat. One peanut will pretty much kill me, soybeans will make me sick, wheat, not so much but I still tested positive. When I tell people about food allergies I'm being truthful, but I freely give anyone permission to use my excuse ;)

And Teajay is right. If you tell people it's allergies they can't give you any garbage...well, they could but they'd look like absolute jerks :)

7/11/2006 10:07 PM  

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