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December 3, 2016

Carbohydrates, moderation or nothing?

by Helene van den Berg

I, me and my fat, Part 8

 There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for the quantity of carbohydrates in our diet.

There are genetic variations in fatness and leanness, that are independent of diet. Also, multiple hormones and enzymes affect our fat accumulation (e.g. menopausal men and women lose the restraining effect of testosterone and estrogen as they age.) 

Insulin is the one hormone that we can consciously control through our diet. For some, staying lean or getting lean, might mean avoiding sugars and eating fattening carbohydrates in moderation. For others, losing weight might only be possible with virtually zero carbohydrates. But, then for some obese patients, the longer they had been obese, the more likely they were to remain obese. They have reached a point of no return, where they could not reverse all the damage done by a lifetime of eating carbohydrate-rich foods. 

The conventional logic of diets is a “quick fix” in weight loss. The dieters don’t try to reregulate their fat tissue, but only reduce the calories they consume, expecting their fat cells to willingly give up it’s fat. If there are no immediate results, they decide the diet has failed and they move on to the next one or give up totally. The fact is, unfortunately, that we are counteracting a regulatory disorder of fat metabolism, that took years to develop and will take a few months, to years, to reverse!.

Carbohydrate restriction = eating animal products

Why?. If you eat mostly/exclusively plants, the bulk of your calories still come from carbohydrates. For most people this won’t work. Although you are eating leafy green vegetables and beans with a low glycemic index, the total amount of carbohydrates will still be high. If you try to eat fewer carbohydrates or smaller portions, you’ll be hungry all the time. Those who prefer to be vegetarians, could always improve the quality of their carbohydrates to improve their health, even if it’s not sufficient to make them lean. 


There are 3 approaches:

  1. Establish ideal amount of carbohydrates for yourself – e.g. 72g or 300 calories/day, would minimize any potential side effects.
  2. Minimal carbohydrates from the outset .
  3. Enter a weight-loss diet …become lean as you safely can be, until your goal is reached. After that, you can incorporate back into your diet the foods you have been avoiding. The Atkins diet start with the “induction phase”: fewer than 20g/day, no carbohydrates, except leafy green vegetables each day. Then, when you start losing weight at an acceptable rate (after 2-3 months), a minimal amount of carbohydrates (50g/day) can be added back into your diet. Watch your body’s response – if you stop losing fat, your body can’t tolerate these carbohydrates and you can’t eat them. Follow the same approach once you have reached your ideal weight. This allows you to determine what your body can tolerate.



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