The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
If it’s not a region – Sonoma, Hamptons, Mediterranean, South Beach, and the original locale diet, the Beverly Hills Diet – it’s a noun: Subway, Cabbage Soup, Cookie, and now the Chipotle Burrito Diet. That’s right. The latest diet is not just a single food, it’s got an adjectival spice to go with it. A man apparently lost 40 pounds in 3 months eating a single burrito daily. In terms of health, this has trouble all over it: too many calories in a serving, monotony and the consequences for metabolism, and far too many carbohydrates.
Jimmy Moore stops in…
On the plate for today: cheating, pasta, and those darn vegetarians!
Ok, the question everyone asks: Don’t you ever miss pasta? Do you ever cheat?
“You know, I have always found the ‘don’t you ever miss’ questions people have for me so incredibly fascinating. Is there some mysterious super-secret book of foods everyone should be eating floating around out there that mandates human beings must eat pasta, bread, potatoes, and sugar?
The fact is, I do not miss ANYTHING from my old diet that would lead me to start ballooning up over 400 pounds again. Nope! Not gonna happen if I can do anything about it (and I can!).
However, I have found two excellent pasta substitutes that are low-carb and taste awesome. For Italian dishes and traditional pasta, I enjoy the Dreamfields brand because it really does taste like authentic pasta, unlike some of these other imitators that have much higher carbs and are totally disgusting.
Another pasta substitute I enjoy, especially in soups and Oriental dishes, is Shirataki noodles. These Japanese wonder noodles are one of the hottest new health foods out today because they are very low in carbs, fat, and calories. Made from yam root (sounds grosser than it is) and loaded with fiber, these noodles give me all the pasta goodness I need.
As for cheating, on principle I am against it when it is done spontaneously. That kinda defeats the purpose of making this a permanent ‘lifestyle change’. But I do advocate something that is controversial within the low-carb community called a ‘planned splurge’ or ‘controlled cheating’.
The basic concept is to allow yourself one meal about every 6-8 weeks while you are losing weight when you are allowed to eat whatever you want. No restrictions on carbs, calories, portions, or anything else. I used this strategy to get me through the toughest moments and it helped me in the long run.
If you are having deep cravings, as all of us who have kicked our carb addiction will tell you comes at you with a vengeance, then having the knowledge that there is a date coming up soon when I can satisfy that craving gave me the strength to resist temptation. This is a powerful tool that I highly recommend to anyone who thinks they can never live without whatever food they love.
Don’t get me wrong – this is for ONE meal, not a whole day or a whole weekend. One single meal and then right back on plan again. Making this a permanent way of eating is absolutely crucial to your success at not just losing the weight, but keeping it off for good.
What if a vegetarian wants to do low-carb?
Contrary to popular belief, a vegetarian can most certainly fit right in to the low-carb lifestyle by consuming those foods that
Apples: I’m very pleased to bring you a can’t-miss interview with everyone’s favorite low-carb blogger, low-carb rock star Jimmy Moore of Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb . Jimmy’s wildly popular blog (and new low-carb links site ) features everything you could ever want to know about the low-carb philosophy from the guy who lost over 200 pounds and remade his health.
As you know, I subscribe to a healthy low-carb lifestyle, and based on my background in biology and professional sports competition, I recommend a reduced-carb approach wholeheartedly.
1. Drench yourself in good fats.
2. Eat plenty of lean protein.
3. Eat green and colorful vegetables with reckless abandon.
The important thing to understand is that low-carb (whether Atkins or a host of others) does not really mean high-protein. It simply means avoiding carbs – for some, that means all grain-based carbs, while for others, it means refined and processed carbs. As Jimmy points out, everyone is unique and there are many ways to go about a healthy diet. However, low-carb definitely doesn’t mean subsisting on bacon .
I’ve been saying for quite a while that sugar is the new fat (and low and behold, here’s a terrific cookbook Jimmy reviewed that says just that). While we were all busy avoiding fat during the 80s and 90s, we were, in truth, just making ourselves sicker, fatter and miserable. It’s safe to say that the fear of fat has come full circle (and it’s about time). But there’s still a lot of confusion about healthy nutrition and weight loss. Is Atkins really effective? Isn’t it just an all-meat diet? What about whole grains?
As many of you know, last week was quite a wild one in the world of health with the release of the Stanford study on low-fat versus low-carb diets. Let’s put it this way: Ornish ain’t happy. It’s been quite a controversial and interesting several days for Jimmy, me and dozens of other health bloggers and nutrition experts, to say the least!
Jimmy took a moment to chat about the reasoning, benefits and myths of low-carb living. We’re featuring his thoughtful responses to your popular “low-carb questions” today and tomorrow. (On the agenda for tomorrow: Can vegetarians go low-carb? What about cheating?) I think the great thing is that blogging, and the communities that develop, are helping people take responsibility for themselves and get control of their health.
Jimmy Moore, before and after:
Here’s what the man has to say about carbs – and what the lack of them can do!
What are the top 3 benefits you have found for going low-carb?
“Do I have to limit it to just THREE?! Okay, here goes:
Numero uno: It’s the most delicious and healthy diet plan you’ll ever go on.
One of the most frustrating parts of weight loss is feeling deprived, hungry, and absolutely miserable. Why do we put up with feeling that way when there is a much better way to lose weight and get healthy? It’s livin’ la vida low-carb, baby!
Truth be told, I lost
Yesterday I discussed the much-buzzed-about Stanford Atkins study…at length. As many of you know, I am very much in favor of a diet that is high in good fats, lean protein, and green vegetables – and very low in carbohydrates, particularly refined and grain carbohydrates.
“Atkins” and “low-carb” are controversial, attention-getting words because they tend to elicit images of bacon, butter and grease. While I am big on low-carb, I’m also big on doing it sensibly.
I think it’s clear that those on low-carb diets do experience both weight loss and health benefits – confounding to conventional nutrition wisdom, but evidently true nonetheless. However, that doesn’t mean a steady diet of sodium-stuffed sausage and chemical-laden deli meat is a sustainable or sensible path to health. If not done correctly, the Atkins diet is more of a vanity diet than a ticket to great health. (The good news: done properly, you can look good and feel good!)
Recently I talked about what I eat in a day, and though you might call it “low-carb”, I think of it as simply eating the way humans should eat (humble, I know). The focus is on fiber from greens, lean meat, good fats from fish and certain vegetable oils, and yes, even some saturated fat. So long as fat isn’t refined, I think much of our dread of saturated fat is overblown. (You all know how I feel about cholesterol – I think inflammation is far more deadly for humans.) I’m inclined to believe it’s the proportion of “good” to “bad” fat that is more important than fretting over the amount of saturated fat in your steak.
The irony, of course, is that a “controversial” diet that doesn’t worry about fat – even saturated fat – and proposes avoiding anything processed, refined or grain-based, is probably closer to nature’s ideal design for the human diet than we’ve been in a long, long time.
If you live on bacon, you will lose weight. You’ll also run the risk of kidney stones…and seriously annoying your friends. But grass-fed steak? Butter on your vegetables? A hearty omelet? I don’t think there’s anything remotely unhealthy in any of these foods. The allegedly healthy alternatives we’ve been sold on for years now – bran flakes, bread, fat-free egg substitutes – aren’t any better for you than French fries, Lucky Charms and cheeseburgers, in my opinion.
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[tags]low-carb, Atkins, Stanford Atkins study, fiber, saturated fat, processed foods[/tags]
No doubt you’ve seen the major news out today that the Atkins diet is significantly more effective for weight loss than higher-carb diets promoted by the likes of Dr. Dean Ornish and Barry Sears. As you’d expect, Ornish says the study is flawed. Sears says the study is bad science. That’s fine, boys. The Atkins followers not only lost weight, they were healthier by the end of the year.
Both Sears and Ornish take issue with the fact that compliance in the study was, at best, half-hearted (meaning the ladies who participated didn’t exactly follow the various plans to the letter).
My response to that is: all the more evidence that upping your protein and fat intake is a wise idea. If you can lose weight, lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease, and you don’t even have to follow your diet perfectly…where’s the problem?
A year-long study compared four different diets – Atkins, LEARN (Uncle Sam’s feel-good acronym will not leave you feeling good), the Zone, and Ornish’s bread-buffet regimen. At the end of the year, Atkins followers lost about twice the weight of the other participants. This is no big surprise – it’s yet another study that proves what I’ve been saying for years: cut the carbs.
Critics – mainly, Sears and Ornish – are, as I expected, getting lost in the details and ignoring the big, fat elephant in the room. They point out that ten pounds of weight loss instead of five pounds of weight loss is no big deal.
Well, okay, but that depends on your perspective – I’m willing to bet good money that had the results of the study gone in their favor, they’d be singing a different tune. Instead of “10 pounds is no big deal,” we’d hear: “Double the weight loss – this is huge!” Instead of a “flawed” study, we’d hear: “We’re talking about a long-term, year-long, significant study!” And instead of splitting hairs about the lack of 100% compliance, my guess is that Ornish and Co. would say “This is a realistic study that looks at how people actually follow diets, rather than perfect, artificial conditions in a lab.”
So, while the pasta-and-bread fans are crying to Uncle Sam, here’s the question the rest of us are smart enough to ask:
Why are doctors so afraid of fat?
The overwhelming majority of studies – of all shapes, sizes and ulterior motives – supports, again and again, the case for a high-fat, high-protein diet for humans. And if the weight loss isn’t enough, those who enjoy bacon and butter also lower their cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors.
Doesn’t anyone in the carb camp ever stop and think – wait a minute, why are we subscribing to the low-fat, low-cholesterol dietary model to begin with? (People more cynical than me will note that the corn and wheat industries are among the most powerful lobbies, and the most heavily subsidized industries, in the world.)
How much more evidence is