Sunday, May 01, 2005

Don't Blame Atkins For Wave Of Poor Low-Carb Products

This Asbury Park Press article warns people about the hype surrounding the myriad of low-carb products hitting store shelves today, but blames Atkins for creating the demand and causing people to overeat.

The article states: "Avoiding carbs is a foolish fad that has become fashionable in recent years as the Atkins diet has gained popularity.

This is a recording, I repeat, this is a recording. The Atkins diet has been around since the early 1970's and has literally helped millions upon millions of people lose and maintain weight loss over that time. Furthermore, the Atkins diet is not an avoidance of carbohydrates altogether, but rather a controlled-carb lifestyle approach that makes people aware of what they are putting into their mouths. Despite the popularity of the low-carb lifestyle (or maybe because of it), the media continually bashes it as a "fad" that has run its course and it's time to move on to the next big thing in weight loss.

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a million times now. Atkins is finished. The "low-carb craze" has hit rock bottom. Nobody in their right mind is doing low-carb anymore. Oh, really. Are you sure about that?!

I just got back from the grocery store and saw lots and lots of products on the shelves created for people watching their carbs. In fact, there was a shelftalker that stated "Counting Carbs?" in front of a new low-carb bread. If low-carb is really on its way out, then why are grocery stores still carrying items that cater to people controlling their carb intake?

And what about restaurants who are now offering low-carb menu options for their customers. I was in Ruby Tuesday's the other day and was very pleased to see their carb menu with a variety of low-carb entrees to choose from as well as the best-tasting cheesecake you've ever put in your mouth (and it's just 1 net carb, too!).

Back to the article for a moment. It states there are so many foods that purport to be "low-carb," but questions whether they are actually good for consumers. That's a good question to ask, but the story focuses too much on the calories in these foods rather than the hidden sugars and excessive, unnecessary carbs.

The article correctly explains that sugar alcohols are not counted when you are watching your carbs because "these are not digested in the same way that typical carbs (sugars) are digested."

"They do not raise the blood glucose level to the same degree as regular carbs, and this, in turn, dampens the release of insulin. This is a good outcome."

A VERY good outcome indeed. It is what allows those of us doing low-carb to fulfill our sweet tooth with sugar free products that are absolutely delicious. I can honestly say that I do not miss eating sugar one bit. It's just not worth wasting carbs on a sugar-filled dessert when sugar-free is just as good.

The article expresses concern that excessive consumption of low-carb products only leads to consuming more calories (what is this guy's hangup on calories all about?!). Whether you eat more calories or not is really irrelevant. You don't count calories when you are livin' la vida low-carb. But you also aren't gorging yourself with low-carb products just because they are acceptable items to eat on your new lifestyle. Plus, some sugar alcohols cause some gastric distress and can't be eaten in large quantities without causing some temporary discomfort (if you've ever eaten too much maltitol or lactitol, then you know what I'm talking about!).

The article asks a good question: "Are low-carb products worth it?"

It depends on what kind of low-carb foods you get. You have to read the labels carefully and not automatically assume it is low-carb just because the packaging says it is. Count the carbs for yourself so you don't make a foolish mistake. Subtract the dietary fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbs to get the net carb total. This is the only carb total you should be concerned with.

The article makes another excellent point about portion size, too. Companies will try to fool consumers by making the product smaller than its regular version. Don't fall for this marketing ploy by the food manufacturers. They're trying to make a buck off of your desire to lose weight. Unfortunately, so many people don't think before they buy these kind of products and wonder why they aren't losing weight on low-carb. It's not low-carb that's not working, though!

The article suggests people need to eat a "heavier and more filling" (and he didn't say this, but higher carbohydrate) bread than the low-carb offerings so they won't "eat as much overall."

If you are doing low-carb correctly, then eating too much is not usually a problem. The foods you can eat on this lifestyle are incredibly filling and do not allow you to overeat. Even if you consume more calories than someone doing a low-fat diet, studies have shown that people doing low-carb still lose more weight than their their low-fat counterparts. That's an amazing statistic that defies the whole "gotta eat less calories" mentality that has plagued the weight debate for years.

Expressing his skepticism that many low-carb products "are a ruse to convince us we can continue eating simple carbs without penalty," I think the author of this article is both right and wrong. He's right inasmuch as these companies are not putting out what I would consider "low-carb" foods because they are still full of too many carbs in the form of hidden sugars. But he's also wrong when he automatically assumes people doing low-carb will overindulge in low-carb foods simply because they are acceptable. There is no evidence of that happening, although I am sure some have done so. But it goes back to reading labels carefully and knowing what and how much you can have on your low-carb lifestyle.

As for artificial sweeteners, the article complains that they "can confuse the body's ability to gauge caloric intake, and this can backfire on those who use them to help manage their weight" because "if you trick the taste buds with a sugar substitute, you are not supplying the quick and heavy dose of energy that was promised (by the need for sugar)."

The article added: "This can lead you to overindulge in other foods and beverages."

"Drinking a diet soft drink along with your lunch can, on the one hand, reduce the overall caloric intake. But if this trick backfires and the body misjudges the caloric load of other foods, you may end up consuming more.

Actually, the author of this story is partially right. But he neglects the impact that caffeine has on the body's blood sugar and the desire to have sugar when that blood sugar drops. That's why I recommend people drink caffeine free diet sodas such as Diet Rite or Diet Cheerwine. The big soda companies just don't get it and put caffeine as well as the bad sugar substitutes in their products. Splenda is the only recommended sweetener for people doing low-carb.

Just when I think this article is out in left-field, the author makes another excellent point: "Wean yourself from the soft-drink habit altogether and choose water instead."

What a GREAT idea! I give the author credit for coming to the right conclusion in the end, even if how he got there is not exactly in line with what someone livin' la vida low-carb needs to be doing. Water is an excellent alternative to every other drink you can have.

But just when I think the author is back on track, he goes and blames low-carb for the obesity problem continuing to grow in the United States. Why do people blame Atkins and the low-carb lifestyle for the poor choices people make at the grocery store when choosing low-carb foods? It's not the diet's fault that people buy these foods that don't help them one bit. We need to hold the companies labeling their foods as "low-carb" responsible for false advertising and incorrectly marketing their foods as something they are not.

The last sentence in the story proclaims: "It's time for us to wake up to the fact that we need to make meaningful choices, ones that will truly turn the tide."

I could not agree more. Choosing a low-carb lifestyle was one of the best things I could have ever done to improve my health. Although losing 180 pounds was indeed an amazing miracle for me, the improvements I made in my overall health are even more fascinating to me. It was all about making those "meaningful choices" for myself that changed my life forever. Livin' la vida low-carb can change your life, too!

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