Thursday, August 03, 2006

Does Low-Carb Living Ever Stop Working?

When I announced my "30-In-30" Low-Carb Weight Loss Challenge earlier this week expressing my desire to lose another 30 pounds over the next 30 weeks to get down to 210 pounds, one of my faithful and sometimes cynical readers who calls himself "The Invisible Blogger" made some comments that I believe are worthy of discussion.

The crux of his theory about livin' la vida low-carb is this: it will only work to a certain point to help you lose weight and necessitates you to start counting calories to continue with your weight loss and then maintaining your weight. Oh, and don't forget to watch your portions and fat, too!

Did I get it right, Invisible Blogger? Is that the bill of goods you are expecting me and others on the low-carb lifestyle to believe that there is just no way possible that we could possibly continue eating low-carb for the rest of our lives to become fit and trim? It's an interesting topic and boils down to the following question:

"Does low-carb living ever stop working?"

To be honest, I've never even considered this question before because low-carb has worked so well for me for nearly three years. If it ain't broke, then don't fix it! Sure, I've had some slight ups and downs, but my weight has remained about the same for two full years! I've NEVER been able to say that before with any other weight loss plan I have ever been on in my entire life. WOO HOO!

Plus, keep in mind that I already realize the fact that I could probably stand to lose a little more weight now. I've never claimed that 230-240 pounds is my optimal weight. But since I lost the 180 pounds so fast in 2004, I thought it would be prudent to see if I could sustain that weight loss for a couple of years by still eating low-carb to make sure it doesn't come back. The last thing I wanted to do was drop 200 pounds and then have it come right back on me again!

I hate to break the news to you, Invisible Blogger, but my goal of maintaining my weight since the end of 2004 has been so far, so good! :P

He believes that "fiddling with carb count doesn't do much good beyond a certain point" in your weight loss efforts and that you can never get thin enough just by restricting your carbs.

"I found that I can get myself to a BMI of about 26+ simply by watching carbs, but to go beyond that requires watching calories. There's no if, ands, or buts about it."

Interesting observation about your own experience, Invisible Blogger. But what does that have to do with me or the millions of others who are livin' la vida low-carb?

Besides the fact that BMI (body mass index) is totally bogus to me and most people because it is extremely unreasonable to reach the weight required to be "normal" by their standards (I'm supposed to weight 170 pounds according to BMI -- HA!), I disagree with your assertion that reducing carbs will not induce weight loss when you hit that golden number of 26 on BMI.

When my weight reached 230 at the end of 2004, I started increasing my carbohydrate intake to see what level I could eat and still keep on maintaining my current weight. That has been as high as 100g carbs and as low as 50-60g. With my renewed focus on weight loss again, my goal is to get back down to 30-40g carbs daily where I KNOW my body will be in ketosis and the weight will begin coming off again. There's not ifs, ands, or buts about that fact either!

According to Invisible Blogger, I am obese right now at my weight of 240 pounds (I'm 6'3" tall with broad shoulders by the way) because my BMI is 30 and he still claims I will be overweight with my 26 BMI even after I succeed on my "30-In-30" Low-Carb Weight Loss Challenge.

"If my hunch is right, you might get [to 210 pounds] by restricting carbs alone. But Jimmy, the cold hard fact of the matter is: 26.2 is still overweight. For a guy your height, your goal really ought to be under 200 pounds."

I mentioned to my wife Christine about this notion that I am currently obese and that I'll still be overweight even when I get down to 210 pounds by February. Also, I asked her what she would think if I weighed, say, 180-190 pounds. She laughed hysterically! If they only knew how far you have come, she said. But that doesn't mean the work is over by any means. I'm willing to get down to 210 pounds and then reevaluate whether to go down from there or not.

But this idea of assigning an "ideal" body weight to individuals without taking into account their unique physical characteristics is like telling a bunch of elementary school kids to go play football with the New York Giants! Their bodies are NOT the same and so you cannot judge them equally. The same goes for anyone who is losing weight. Sure, most people need to get their weight down from where it is now, but don't FORCE people into being a certain weight that will not work for them. People need to be ENCOURAGED, not discouraged, Invisible Blogger!

In his parting shots about what people REALLY need to do to lose weight and keep it off forever, Invisible Blogger said you might as well throw livin' la vida low-carb out the window and follow the same old failed dietary advice we've always heard.

"The only way you'll [lose enough weight] for sure is to watch those calories. Not a lot mind you. Just eat a 10 oz steak instead of 14. Use less oil and butter. Smaller portions of everything."

Nice try, Invisible Blogger, but that's just a sneaky way to tell me to eat less fat, less calories, and smaller portions as the way to manage my weight. BEEN THERE, DONE THAT! That's why I went on the Atkins diet in 2004 so I wouldn't HAVE to do all of those things anymore and it has been the most freeing aspect of my weight loss experience. If I started watching all of those things again, then I KNOW I would get frustrated and stop doing anything about my weight. And so would others.

Will low-carb ever stop working? Not for me as long as I keep on livin' la vida low-carb for the rest of my life and ignore attempts by people like the Invisible Blogger to get me to do otherwise. Remember, there's no "after" with low-carb, so don't fall into the trap that people will use to get you off of your low-carb program. The fact remains that it works and it'll keep on working forever and ever amen!


Blogger Mark said...

As to BMI, percent body fat is a much better guide to obesity. Scales showing percent body fat and fat pounds, (which is, after all, what we're really interested in) are available for under $50. I get the best results by weighing myself everyday and using a weekly average to determine pounds of fat.

8/03/2006 1:31 PM  
Blogger Sweet Tart said...

Ah yes, the BMI conundrum. I think your critic may be partially correct, but I don't think he's right:-). It's true that for many people getting below a BMI of about 26 requires draconian measures. Where the problem lies is thinking that having a BMI of 25 somehow makes you healthier than having a BMI of 26. The increased health problems seen with BMI are on both ends of the spectrum (obese and too thin), but between 26 and 30 there's not much increase in health problems, especially if you're healthy and fit. The choice of 25 as a "healthy weight" and 26 as "overweight" is somewhat arbitrary and isn't an absolute line.

Our culture worships slimness, but slimness does not necessarily equal health. Many (maybe even the majority?) people have to restrict calories very low to get below a 26 and that begs the question of whether it's about health or vanity. I have nothing against vanity (I can be pretty vain myself), but so often the two are confused when it comes to weight loss and ideal weight.

8/03/2006 4:09 PM  
Blogger LCforevah said...

I have no idea what kind of calculations went into inventing the BMI, but they are inadequate. I remember reading that Shaquille O'Neal is considered obese by BMI. He is nearly 300lbs of pure muscle,and his ratio of fat to muscle isn't adequately accounted for by BMI.

Jimmy, Invisible blogger's question shows how we all have been trained to conceptualize the way we diet. All other than low carb diets eventually quit working, since they're not based on the natural way of eating of our Paleolithic ancestors--and I don't think they were counting calories!

But more important, when those of us who are very suseptible to carbs attempt a low calorie high carb diet, we run into the problems of substandard protein intake, insulin surges creating cravings for more food, nutrients not being absorbed due to excessive inflammation, etc.

Anything that causes the body to react like this will eventually cause that person to stop losing weight or just quit trying. I truly believe that our bodies try to tell us things aren't working, we just don't know how to read the signs, and instead rely on "experts" who are themselves guessing.

8/03/2006 5:45 PM  
Blogger Carol Bardelli said...

If you're big and muscular, BMI is a bad way to measure health or weight.

As for low carb not working after awhile, BAH! I've been low carbing like 5 years.
I recently dropped 6 pounds (down from 126 to 120 pounds) and ALL I DID was lower my carb intake. I actually was exercising less due to the horrid heat. Where's the science behind his theory? Or did he just make it up?

8/03/2006 7:47 PM  
Blogger Kris The Grumpy said...

My BMI is 20-21... that's down from about 26. I don't have the willpower for draconian measures ;p I'm still living la vida low carb (living la vida *maintenence*).
BMI's not the whole story because my natural build is pretty lanky. But low carb itself got me down to a healthy weight, no calore counting required.

8/03/2006 8:00 PM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

I will back up what the beautiful 'Kris the Grumpy' has said, because she is my fiancee.

She started Atkins with me, but got to her goal pretty quick.

Never counting calories, ever!


8/03/2006 8:13 PM  
Blogger Ray Kelly said...

Well, I was going to get on here and make a post about my experiences with BMI but "Sweet Tart" has already said it all!

One thing I will add though, is that I've trained many clients over the years and I have no problem with clients having their BMI goals between 26-30, as long as they're healthy. And there's no reason why they shouldn't be!


8/03/2006 9:39 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

I agree with him in many ways. It's been my experience, too. I can either watch calories or gain weight. No ifs, ands, or butts. If I don't watch calories and carbs I will eat too much and gain. I don't know where this satiating aspect of the diet is, but I've never experienced it. Cessation of cravings, yes, but not feeling satisfied. I'd gain on the number of calories it took to satisfy me, even if my carbs were low.

8/03/2006 10:54 PM  
Blogger diamondwife said...

I also agree that I can easily eat enough to gain weight (or at least not lose)while doing low-carb. I am not "hungry" per se, but not satisfied either at times. While I do not actively count calories any more, I am aware that if I eat bunless cheeseburgers for lunch I need to choose a lower calorie option for dinner. I do not now, nor have I ever counted fat grams while doing low carb. While I have no intention of doing low-fat/low-carb(eeww)I will continue to be mindful of my calories as this how I lost the weight I have lost so far on low carb. (I had lost about 70 pounds prior to low-carb and gained about 10 back. I have now lost about 30 on low-carb). While you may not have had to watch calories, I know a lot of low carbers that do. That doesn't make any of us wrong, just different.

8/04/2006 8:00 AM  
Blogger Invisible Blogger said...

Jimmy! I must have hit a deep nerve! I never imagined my comments would merit a full blog entry !!! I am honored!

anyway, now I know a little bit of how Anthony Colpo must have felt when he logged into the ALC forum and made the same point about calories. He ended up leaving in a huff.

Jimmy, you have badly distorted my position, but never mind that. It would take a full blog entry to untangle your mis-statements.

All I really know is my own experience. low carb works great. I too maintained a big weight loss, for four years, simply by restricting carbs. I started at 230 pounds and climbing and plateued for good at around 195. At that level, I am still slighty overweight. Not obese, but still overweight. As long as my carbs are low (I dont know the actual threshold), my weight stays about the same. Even when I do aerobics for 60 - 90 minutes a day, six days a week, which I did from January to July (I switched to another workout method, but that is another blog for another day). I got the same non-results even when I cut carbs to zero, and worked out as above, for about 2 months (sorry Rob! you'll find out....). I still had a sizeable belly and fat around my sides and back and chin and boobs and elsewhere. Recently, I started cutting calories, not a lot, like I said, I just eat smaller portions. I really quit eating as soon as the hunger goes away, instead of polishing off that big steak or salmon or whatever. Once in awhile, when I am really ravinous, I go ahead and finish it. Usually I dont need to. I also eat fewer vegetables than before, and use oil and butter more sparingly. I changed my daily breakfast from 3 scambled eggs with cheese and sausage to 4 hard boiled eggs. And guess what, suprise, suprise , I now weigh less than I have in a decade and a half.

yes, this is just my story, and I dont know honestly if it applies to millions of others. Based on what I've read on the forums, it seems to hold true. there really are endless accounts of folks who get close to their goal but struggle to actually make their goal. Or if they have reached their goal, closer inspection reveals they have set their goal weight too high. And like I've said, even the good Dr. A, as I read somewhere, was my height, and always weighed between 195 and 200, just like me. And he always looked slightly overweight.

I guess it comes down to this. Are you happy at the weight you arrive at by simply counting carbs? If yes, congratulations! You've arrived, enjoy yourself. It seems that some people can actually get to a honest healthy goal weight this way, but most of us, from what I can tell, cannot. If you have reached that plateau and if you ecide that you really want to get truly lean and healthy, well, the next step, in addition to restricting carbs, is only logical: start reducing those calories. They obviously count.

One last thing (sorry, ended up writing my own full length blog entry after all!), regarding BMI, I agree it's a little shaky, and BF is a better gage. But an accurate BF measurement is very hard to obtain. My tanita scale tells me i am 23 percent, and very expensive device at my pricey weight training studio tells me I am 17%. So I don't know what to make of it...

oh what the hell, one more last thing, there is a community of people who think like me, that I learned of from your own blog, jimmy: So I am not some cynical crank all alone here, there are a lot of others who agree with me. Low carb works. Low carb/low calorie works better.

8/04/2006 8:19 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

To each his own, Invisible Blogger. And, no, you didn't hit some "deep nerve," but I did see merit in sharing your comments so that others can see another viewpoint. I'm all for open debate and never claim to have all the answers. We're all in this journey together, some of us just take different paths to reach the same destination. I'm happy for your success and would simply ask the same courtesy regarding mine. THANKS as always for reading and commenting at my blog. :)

8/04/2006 8:46 AM  
Blogger Invisible Blogger said...

jimmmy, I am in awe of your success. I can't imagine what it must be like to have lost as much as you did and maintain it for so long. I didnt ever mean to be discourteous, sometimes I get carried away when discussing topics that I have strong feelings about, so I apoligize if somewhere along the way I offended, that truly was not my intention.

8/04/2006 9:13 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

We're cool, IB. At least we can talk about these issues openly while millions of others just don't give a rat's behind about even TRYING to lose weight.

8/04/2006 10:04 AM  
Blogger Invisible Blogger said...

..and unfortunately, low carb has been dissed so much in the media, millions who need it won't even consider it. a sad state of affairs, especially for diabetes sufferers.

8/04/2006 10:21 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Jimmy, I think you were being a bit too hard on Invisible Blogger. I don't think he was attacking low-carb as much as pointing out what he considered to be his own reality. I found in my own experience that I plateaued 25 pounds short of my goal weight, even though I was doing all the same things that caused me to lose 60 pounds in 8 months. When I was involved with a local low-carb store and support group, the people who wanted to lose that last 20-30 pounds seemed to have much more trouble doing that with low-carb than those with anywhere from 50 to 200 or more pounds to lose. Dana Carpender, whose low-carb cookbooks and Low-Carbezine I adore and respect (and I know you do as well), has consistently pointed out that most people will need to count calories at some point, or transition more from an Atkins-type to a South Beach-type LC diet, and her latest cookbook is for people who do both. It's not like anyone is recommending a transition to a full-on low-fat, high-sugar diet, but making sure that you eat smaller portions of the leanest meats and watch the dairy fats will cut some calories. Face it, most "healthy carbs" allowed on Atkins Maintenance are not that calorie-filled -- more veggies, fruits and whole grains, so the transition happens fairly naturally for most people if you're not eating a lot of butter and cheeses or large portions of fatty meats.

Personally, I don't care if I reach what the charts say I should reach, if I'm happy with my body and look good in the clothes I'm wearing. But there are people want to be "skinny," not just a healthy weight. And most of them aren't struggling with all the excess skin issues that those who have lost lots of weight are -- I know someone who lost 220 pounds low-carbing (from a LC board I formerly frequented), and his doctor said he was carrying 25-30 pounds of skin. But as you have pointed out many times, the same diet doesn't work for everyone, and you have to do what works for you. I don't think it's sacrilegious -- even as a low-carb evangelist -- to acknowledge that while low-carb saved your life, you might have to tweak things and eat a little differently to lose the last 30 pounds than you did in losing the first 180, especially since you're carrying around so much extra skin.

8/04/2006 12:04 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I appreciate your comments, Paula! Like I always say, we're all in this experience together learning from each other. THANK YOU for sharing yours! :D

8/04/2006 1:17 PM  
Blogger Invisible Blogger said...

btw, there's an article in the NY Times about surgery for excess skin...

8/04/2006 1:32 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Interesting discussion, folks. I wonder how many people experience this need to restrict calories as well. Do they, perhaps, use any form of over-the-counter or prescribed pharmaceuticals? I can honestly say that I never counted a single calorie in the past 10 years, at least not for purposes of creating meals around it. I do however keep loosely track of it - I normally average around 2200 and 2500. A decade ago, my carbohydrate metabolism was so mixed up from medications and a low-fat, low-cal diet that I used to gain weight on a (hospital) 800 calorie starvation diet. Since I started the Atkins diet myself I never counted a single calorie. Having said that, I do know of quite a few people that indeed need to carefully watch and monitor their calorie intake - even on low-carb. All of them, however, use some form of medication. It is a well documented fact that nearly all pharmaceuticals have metabolic sideffects, almost always resulting in (sometimes severe) weight gain. Thoughts, anyone?

8/04/2006 1:43 PM  
Blogger TeaJay said...

My weight has plateau'd and not moved since January of this year. Not gaining. Not losing. Exercise level remains constant. :::shrug::: I'm taking a Claritin RediTab every morning - if I didn't, I would sneeze myself into next week, but I don't feel like it's the cause of the problem.

I had also come to the conclusion that I might have to start restricting calories in order for me to lose the last 15 or so lbs. I have to go before reaching the goal weight of 145. Stubbornly, my body likes 159. I'm 5'5", so I think 15 more lbs. isn't unrealistic, after losing 100 lbs. already.


8/04/2006 3:47 PM  
Blogger janisko said...

My experience with low carbing, having been on it for over two and a half years and at very realistic and healthy goal weight set by my doctor, is that it's easy to maintain with no cravings. If followed the way it was intended... meaning none or very limited low carb processed foods, it is not necessary to count calories as long as you don't stuff yourself like a pig. When I cut out all of the processed items I have absolutely no problems. When I start adding in too much low carb bread or treats I must also count calories. That said it should be understood by everyone that you CANNOT do low fat and low carb. You need either the carbs or the fat to burn for energy. Going low on both will definitely make you sick in the long run. For the record... my diet runs 60-70% fat and I have amazing cholesterol numbers. When I was eating only 30g fat daily on a low fat diet my numbers were horrendous.

8/04/2006 4:28 PM  
Blogger Darleen said...

I can eat as much healthy food as I want as long as I stay away from processed foods & sugar. However, that will keep me at my current weight. To drop a few pounds I need to watch portions. I keep in mind Dr. Atkins advice to stop when you feel satisfied (not stuffed to the gills). Not that it is easy to know what satisfied is until it is too late to stop.

8/04/2006 7:24 PM  
Blogger cherlita said...

All this blogging about an optimal BMI. As far as I'm concerned, it's just another number that someone else expects of me. I've been fat so long that I'll just be happy when my thighs don't know each other intimately anymore.

8/04/2006 7:45 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

LOL! Amen, Cherlita! Hee hee!

8/04/2006 8:01 PM  

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