Carb Counters - Why are people against carbs?




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breakonthrough
12-17-2012, 09:52 PM
It seems like everyone is on a low carb diet. What is the problem with carbs?
From my view it seems like people are on the wrong track with trying to reduce carbs so much. Why not focus on eating the right amount of calories instead? I'm familiar with the talk of how they raise the glycogen index and raise blood sugar.

White Rice is a staple dish across most of the world. In China for instance, you have millions where rice makes up a large portion of their daily diet, yet most of these people do not have weight issues. If carbs are so bad, then why do these people eat so many carbs and yet have no weight issues?


CanadianCutie
12-17-2012, 10:13 PM
Some people have issues with carbs, and certain diseases and medical conditions make eating carbs risky for digestive issues or weight loss.

kaplods
12-17-2012, 10:44 PM
I was against low-carb diets most of my life, because I too thought they were unpleasant, impractical, and unhealthy. Turns out I was very wrong.

I never gave carb-restriction much chance or much respect until my doctor recommended low-carb (but warned not to go too low, admitting he had no idea what would be too low). So I started experimenting, and I discovered that a low-but-not-too-low carb diet for me made weight loss easier, with far less hunger and cravings than similar calorie levels of high-carb.

And while rice is a staple in many countries where weight issues aren't common, food in general is scarcer in those parts of the world, and people are much, much more physically active - usually because they have to be, as most work at physically demanding jobs.

Before you decide that a low-carb diet is never justified, consider reading some of the low-carb, anti-grain, and paleo literature. Books like Neanderthin, The Paleo Solution, The Paleolithic Prescription, Good Calories Bad Calories, The End of Overeating, Against the Grain, Wheat Belly....

If you find that you lose equally well on a full-carb diet as a low-carb diet, without troubling hunger and cravings.

Ironically, I didn't believe any of the low-carb hype until I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease. When the autoimmune disease book authors recommended a low-carb diet, I became somewhat less skeptical (and at least willing to try low-carb). What I discovered is that my autoimmune symptoms disappear on a no-wheat, low-carb diet. I can eat about 300 more calories of low-carb than of high-carb to lose about the same amount of weight. And on 1500 calories of low-carb, I'm less hungry than on 4,000 calories of high-carb.

Low-carb diets may not be for everyone, but they do have metabolic and psychological advantages for some of us.

Also, not everyone is on a low-carb diet. In fact, low-carbers are in a very small minority. If you doubt that, go on a low-carb diet, and see how much luck you have finding people who are supportive of your way of eating, finding restaurants that can accomodate you, and finding foods in the grocery store without added corn, wheat, and sugar....

Also, most of these other cultures that eat a carb as a staple, the staple actually doesn't make up the bulk of the diet. In China, for example, the greatest bulk of the diet does not come from rice, it comes from non-starchy vegetables. This is true in most other cultures without weight problems as well.

If low-carb eating doesn't help you eat less with less hunger, doesn't help you feel better with more energy, or even if it's just something you're not willing to try, that's ok - but don't assume that most people who are on a low-carb diet are ignorant of nutrition or haven't tried and failed simple calorie counting many times before deciding to try low-carb.

I failed at calorie-counting for more than 30 years, before learning that a lower-carb diet (but one high in low-carb veggies/fruit) was not only the key to getting my weight under control, but getting my autoimmune disease and other health problems under control.

Not everyone needs a low-carb diet, but many of us on a low-carb diet aren't on it because we want to be, and we're definitely not on it because we don't know any better. Rather we learned the hard way that higher-carb eating made weight loss more difficult or had other unpleasant consequences.

I've had "sensitive" acne prone skin all of my life, and later developed rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis (a scaly, itchy, inflamed rash that at it's worst, hubby described as face rot). Since switching to low-carb, my skin is clearer than it was duing puberty. Beatiful, clear skin with no blemishes.

I'm off all asthma medications, and my IBS has also virtually disappeared, and doctors can find no sign of the autoimmune disease that just eight years ago doctors said was killing me.

For more than 30 years I thought low-carb was silly at best, and dangerous at worst, and now I know better.

If you don't need to follow a low-carb diet for health and weight loss, more power to you. That's awesome. However, for anyone who has mystery health problems, or has a problem with binge eating or uncontrollable hunger, I'd suggest at least giving low-carb a go, to see if it helps. If it doesn't, you can always go back to high-carb eating.

I'd also recommend that people experiment with different carb levels, because one of the reasons I dismissed low-carb as unhealthy and even dangerous for so many years was because I did very poorly on a very-low-carb diet. I get quite ill on Atkins induction (and it doesn't go away in two weeks, as promised in the book, it only gets worse).

I now recognize the troubling symptoms as low-blood sugar, and have found that my optimal carb level is around 60g of carbs. Too much less and I feel weak, ill, and dizzy. Too much more and cravings and hunger become uncontrollable and I start having IBS, skin, and autoimmune issues.

Even my resistance to infection has improved. I used to get skin infections and respiratory illnesses very easily (had bronchitis several times a year, and pneumonia about once a year). When I would get a cold, it would always turn into bronchitis, and I was never sick for less than 10 days. Now when I get a cold, it lasts three days, and I haven't had bronchitis or pneumonia in at least two years.

I don't know that my diet is responsible for all of my health improvements, but I do know that when I start overdoing the carbs, many of the symptoms come back (the skin issues come back immediately. My hubby can tell if I've been eating carbs within hours just by the redness that appears on my face)


TripSwitch
12-17-2012, 11:24 PM
It seems like everyone is on a low carb diet. What is the problem with carbs?
From my view it seems like people are on the wrong track with trying to reduce carbs so much. Why not focus on eating the right about of calories instead? I'm familiar with the talk of how they raise the glycogen index and raise blood sugar.

White Rice is a staple dish across most of the world. In China for instance, you have millions where rice makes up a large portion of their daily diet, yet most of these people do not have weight issues. If carbs are so bad, then why do these people eat so many carbs and yet have no weight issues?

I would suggest that you google "white rice in the traditional diet"... White rice is relatively "new" in the scheme of things... and was something only the very rich could afford until fairly recently in the beginning of the 20th century... The Chinese didn't have "weight issues" because of scarcity... the threat of famine and starvation was quite common... That has obviously changed... and with it so have the rates of obesity... you can check out out the "Obesity in China" entry on Wikipedia for a start if you're interested...

And trust me no matter how it may seem, not everyone is on a low carb diet... The average American consumes approximately 300 grams of carbohydrate a day (I've seen estimates of 500g's, but let's give everyone the benefit of the doubt...) Unfortunately, most of which is highly processed and refined...

breakonthrough
12-18-2012, 01:44 AM
"I don't know that my diet is responsible for all of my health improvements, but I do know that when I start overdoing the carbs, many of the symptoms come back (the skin issues come back immediately. My hubby can tell if I've been eating carbs within hours just by the redness that appears on my face)"

This was very informative, thank you. I could be totally wrong on this, but could it be possible that these beneficial changes happened as a result of moving to a more natural ( ie somewhat organic) diet, rather than a low carb diet? I say that because it would seem a low carb diet is naturally more organic than a high carb one, given that you may be eating more protein, fruits and vegetables rather than processed carbs that have a lot of mysterious ingredients added.

Unna
12-18-2012, 02:41 AM
Kaplods - I really, really enjoyed your post. Thank you so much for writing it!!

I also wasted too much time calorie counting on a full-carb diet.

I was also mostly-vegetarian, low-fat, whole foods and COMPLETELY sceptical of low carb until I finally was at my wits end and tried it myself. It has been almost a year of low carb and I've also experienced SO many health and weight loss benefits, like you Kaplods.

Now I will never go back to sugar - whether that is in the form of healthy grains (complex carbs: sacharrides), or too much fruit (fructose).

vabs
12-18-2012, 03:51 AM
It seems to me some people just feel better and have better appetite control if they restrict carbs. That's how it is for me, anyway.

Anyway, China has a rising obesity problem now, with more westernized foods so readily available. And that has plenty of carbs in it, too. Maybe it's more to do with eating cultures (meal times, size of meals, etc) and consuming less processed foods, rather than macro nutrients spreads?

kaplods
12-18-2012, 05:07 AM
I could be totally wrong on this, but could it be possible that these beneficial changes happened as a result of moving to a more natural ( ie somewhat organic) diet, rather than a low carb diet? I say that because it would seem a low carb diet is naturally more organic than a high carb one, given that you may be eating more protein, fruits and vegetables rather than processed carbs that have a lot of mysterious ingredients added.


Nope, it's not a possibility, because when I switched to low-carb it was not from a highly processed diet. While many people eating high-carb do eat a highly processed diet, I wasn't.

When I switched to low-carb, I didn't start eating more fruits and vegetables and lean proteins than before. I'd already been eating pretty much the same amounts of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins as I do now. The only change has been eliminating the grain-foods I ate and cutting back on the fruit and starchy veggies. Most of my grain foods were whole grain foods (at least for the past several decades). I did eat some white bread, rice and pasta, but more than half of my grain foods were from whole-grain sources.


It's been several decades since processed carbs made up a large part of my diet. In fact, except for my college and graduate school days (when I could only afford ramen noodles) I've always eaten mostly unprocessed foods. I did eat more hidden sugars (such as sauces in stir fry sauces, etc).


Not only that, but I've experimented carefully to find which foods trigger the problems.

When I first started low-carb, I began wondering which carbs were causing me problems, was it ALL carbs, or one carb in particular (such as perhaps a wheat or gluten allergy or insensitivity). So I started experimenting to find which foods triggered reactions, what types of reaction, and how severe a reaction.

What I discovered was that wheat triggers the most severe reactions with the smallest amounts ingested. Sugar will also trigger the symptoms, but it takes more sugar than wheat. Even natural sugar can trigger symptoms, but it take a whole lot more fruit than table sugar to illicit a reaction.

I have, however, stalled my weight loss on fruit quite frequently (and still often do, because despite knowing better I'm often tempted into thinking "it's just fruit, it can't hurt), but for fruit to trigger the more serious health symptoms, it has to be quite a lot of fruit.

I've had a lot of people in my life accuse me of lying about what I eat, because they thought people couldn't be morbidly obese if they ate healthfully. To them I had to be secretly eating mounds of junk food and candy.

Nope. Wish it were so, because I'd find it a lot easier to give up junk than to adjust an already (seemingly) healthy diet.

There were a lot of foods I had to give up, or drastically limit, but most were foods generally considered very healthy.


Fruit has been the hardest to limit, because I still tend to have difficulty wrapping my head around the fact that just because it's healthy, doesn't mean it's healthy in the quantities I was eating it.

MadProfessor
12-18-2012, 07:31 AM
I can be wrong, but nevertheless I feel the need to disclose my observation. I've been overweight all my life. The last 10 years I've been doing my constant way up from 150 to 260 lbs [I passed the 200-mark in 2007]. Nothing really worked, I had cravings for sugar, fatty foods, pasta, bread, and everything else you can name. I was experiencing hypoglycemia symptoms when not having sugar-loaded foods or drinks for few hours. Something was really wrong, but probably not with the sugar I was eating, but with the way my body used to deal with this sugar.
Now I weight under 170 lbs, I eat about 20 lbs of fruits per week [bananas, apples, dates, and anything else available in given season], about 10 lbs of vegs and under 1 lb of meat [80% fish]. I have a cheat day once a week, stuffing my mouth with anything I want, or anything I'm proposed, topping that with a triple or quadruple dessert. No hypo- or hyperglycemia symptoms, I'm fit, have heaploads of energy all day long and I can't maintain my weight. I mean - I'm still loosing weight, even tough I'm not trying to loose anymore.
I've read lots of theories about how is this possible, but they are only theories. One thing I'm sure, You cannot definitely say "fruits are not good for me, carbs are not healthy for me". I was on the fat side of life not eating fruits, now I'm on the slim side of life eating lots of fruits - so therefore, I think carbs alone are NOT to be blamed.

kaplods
12-18-2012, 12:43 PM
I can be wrong, but nevertheless I feel the need to disclose my observation. I've been overweight all my life. The last 10 years I've been doing my constant way up from 150 to 260 lbs [I passed the 200-mark in 2007]. Nothing really worked, I had cravings for sugar, fatty foods, pasta, bread, and everything else you can name. I was experiencing hypoglycemia symptoms when not having sugar-loaded foods or drinks for few hours. Something was really wrong, but probably not with the sugar I was eating, but with the way my body used to deal with this sugar.
Now I weight under 170 lbs, I eat about 20 lbs of fruits per week [bananas, apples, dates, and anything else available in given season], about 10 lbs of vegs and under 1 lb of meat [80% fish]. I have a cheat day once a week, stuffing my mouth with anything I want, or anything I'm proposed, topping that with a triple or quadruple dessert. No hypo- or hyperglycemia symptoms, I'm fit, have heaploads of energy all day long and I can't maintain my weight. I mean - I'm still loosing weight, even tough I'm not trying to loose anymore.
I've read lots of theories about how is this possible, but they are only theories. One thing I'm sure, You cannot definitely say "fruits are not good for me, carbs are not healthy for me". I was on the fat side of life not eating fruits, now I'm on the slim side of life eating lots of fruits - so therefore, I think carbs alone are NOT to be blamed.


I agree with most of what you're saying, although when your body processes carbs poorly, the only way to get the body working right is to modify carb intake.

I too hope that as I get smaller, and healthier my body will not react so wildly to carbohydrates. Unfortunately, that's currently not the case. Even the carbs in fruit are problematic. I don't usually gain weight on fruit, but I can definitely stall my weight there. And I can gain weight easily on "healthy" grains. Both trigger (for me) an increase in appetite.

Ultimately it does boil down to burning more calories than calories taken in, but I find it easier to stay within my calorie budget on a reduced-carb plan.

I don't have to restrict "healthy carbs" as much as the refined, highest-glycemic ones, but I still do have to watch them. I was even able to maintain my weight (no losing) on an all fruit/veggie diet. I don't know how that was possible, but being able to eat 3000 calories in fruit in a day probably had something to do with it (On more than one occasion, I've eaten an entire watermelon as only part of my calories for the day).


I think that "the least restrictive plan that works," is probably the best way to determine how carb-sensitive you are (or really for finding a way of eating, in general). Cut down or cut out what you know isn't helping your weight loss and health goals. Only cut as much as you have to, in order to get the results you want.

Some people are going to have to be more restrictive in their diet and exercise than others, but by doing only as much as required to yeild the desired results is the most practical. Not only will some people have different goals, even folks with the same goals aren't necessarily going to be able to reach that goal with the same lifestyle.

Some people may have to limit fruit, although even the term "limit" is relative. My fruit budget is much more lenient than my grain budget, but it's more restrictive than my non-starchy veggie budget, and I have no "candy" budget, because I can't tolerate sugar in such a concentrated form without adverse consequences. Some people may be able to have a chocolate bar budget (in fact, it may be vital to their sanity).

MadProfessor
12-18-2012, 01:53 PM
What do you mean by "carb-sensitive"?

wendyland
12-18-2012, 02:25 PM
first of all, I don't eat "very low carb". I stick to 50 - 100 carbs a day. I find that the closer to 100 I get, the hungrier I get and the more cravings I get.

I'm not that focused on carbs as much as reducing the foods that cause an inflammatory response in my body. Most grains, dairy, legumes, too much sugar make my joint pain flare up, I get dandruff, and yeast infections. My brain becomes foggy and I don't sleep well at night. I feel amazing when I cut those foods out.

kaplods
12-18-2012, 02:32 PM
What do you mean by "carb-sensitive"?


Bt carb sensitivity, I mean the degree to which carbohydrate adversely affect a person physically and mentally.

This encompasses not only diabeties and otherr blood sugar issues, but also more nebulous effects such as the experiences of people who report that high glycemic carbs increase their appetite, hunger, and cravings are exponentially increases.

As well as the degree to which carb intake (and specific carbs) aggravate health issues such as autoimmune disease.

Radiojane
12-18-2012, 05:22 PM
I'm not against carbs. I love them. So much that I easily got to nearly 450lbs eating them. I still have no vendetta against them. However, I feel better, sleep better, have more energy and lose weight when I eat 50 grams or less of them a day. This is carbs/sugars in general, everything from cheese pizza to an apple. I limit because it works. For my body. It may not for everyone else, but it does me.

I also count my calories. Very strictly, but I've done the research, and I know that if I eat 1000 calories that include bread, rice, potatoes etc, I lose at a slower rate than if that 1000 calories is salmon fillets and brocolli.

breakonthrough
12-18-2012, 08:41 PM
and I know that if I eat 1000 calories that include bread, rice, potatoes etc, I lose at a slower rate than if that 1000 calories is salmon fillets and brocolli.

When you say "lose" are you talking about fat? The scale could go down, but that may due to water loss. A tape measure or simply looking closely in the mirror will give a much better picture than the scale will. Are you able to tell a difference in the tape measure?

Radiojane
12-18-2012, 08:47 PM
Yes, I am aware of the water loss. This is weight loss measured over time and easily maintained even when "off plan". My inches decrease regularly, and I can tell when I cheat both by the way I feel and the jump in the scale that there's excess water weight. But it's never more than five lbs, even with two week long breaks, and I've lost more than 70lbs and 12 inches from my waist.

By "research" I meant experimenting with my body. I don't do we'll or have much energy on higher carb low cal.

kaplods
12-18-2012, 11:27 PM
I too have experimented enough with low-carb and high-carb to see that I can eat more calories on low-carb than on high-carb. And I also know it's not just the difference in water weight.

My carb-intake does vary (I hesitate to call it carb-cycling, because that implies that I'm intentionally varying carb intake, which isn't always the case. Sometimes it's intentional, and sometimes it's just a slip-up), so I do understand carb-moderated water weight fluctuations. know that if I'm eating more carbs than usual, I will see a temporary gain that's just water. Likewise, if I eat fewer carbs than usual, I will see a similar temporary loss that's also just water.

Even taking into account that on low-carb eating, I will carry less water, and on high-carb eating I will carry more water, I lose faster on 1800 calories of low-carb than on 1800 of high-carb. I've watched the emerging patterns closely from months of food/symptom log monitoring.

For me, there's about a 300 calorie difference. I lose about equally on 1500 calories of high-carb as on 1800 calories of low-carb. And I'm far less hungry on low-carb, and not just because of the extra 300 calories. I'm hungrier on 4000 calories of high-carb than on 1000 calories of low-carb. If my carb level is too high, I can't eat enough to satisfy my hunger, the more I eat, the hungrier I get.

I remarked on this 300 calorie difference here on 3FC several months before a recent study came out ironically finding that low-carb diets averaged a 300 calorie advantage over higher carb plans. This was a small study and there's no indication that this is true for all people. In fact other larger studies have found no difference at all, which makes me suspect that the "advantage" isn't there for everyone. In fact, anectdotal evidence here on 3FC seems to support that conclusion. Some people report no difference, some people report losing better on a higher-carb diet, and some report losing better on low-carb. I suspect that eventually the research will move towards looking at individual differences, rather than trying to compare one plan to another (assuming it works equally well for all participants). Up until now, much of the research has been focused on "which plans work better" rather than "why do some people do better on this plan versus some other?"

Even the low-carb proponents have largely followed in the footsteps of all the other plans - trying to persuade EVERYONE that their plan is the best for EVERYONE, regardless of age, gender, lifestyle, health issues...

I suspect instead, that there are variables that make one plan work better for certain individuals, and that if the research were to explore why that is, perhaps eventually a diagnostic tool could be developed so that weight issues could be identified and addressed earlier and with more success.

Although low-carb works best for me, I have the hardest time with compliance (I suspect because I'm just fed up with dieting after 42 years of it). I definitely had a lot more "willpower" for sticking with a foodplan in the past, than I do now. If only I had discovered low-carb in my twenties, when had more passion, energy, and drive (or to put it simply, but bluntly, when I gave a rat's ***).

I'm kidding (sort of), but I now not only have to put my new knowledge into practice, I have to undo 42 years of bad habits, and 42 years of ingrained "knowledge" that I've proven to be untrue for myself.

Even though I've proven to myself over and over again in my food logs and symptom journals that all calories are not equal in my case, and that I eat processed foods, especially processed starches and sugars, I will feel ill, I still have that voice in the back of my head saying "it's just calories in, calories out. Whole grain pasta is GOOD for you, and you can budget it in."

Even knowing the 300 calorie "differential" I experience, if I want carbs, I tell myself "You can have them, you just have to decide which is more important having 1500 calories of carbs and being a little extra hungry, or getting 1800 calories and being less hungry but giving up the "treat").

And if I STUCK to the 1500 calories of high-carb for the day, that would work. And when I was younger and healthier, I think I could have gotten away with doing so. Because I was able to stick to a lot crazier plans. But what I find now is that high-carb foods, especially the lower-fiber, higher-glycemic ones, do a crazy thing to my brain. It's almost drug-like. My judgement is actually affected. It's literally like drugs or alcohol (which is ironic, because food has always been my only drug. I never found alcohol or any mind altering drug in the least bit tempting).

"Under the influence of chocolate," may seem a bit insane of a concept, but for me it's literally true. When I eat high-carb foods, my inhibitions against overeating are literally decimated. For decades, I thought I was absolutely climbing-the-walls insane in my reaction to some foods (not always realizing the carb connection, but by 8 I had the concept of "trigger food" down pat).

I didn't understand the trigger food mechanisms until I read "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler, and all the pieces of the puzzle finally came together. Food actually did act like an addictive, mind-altering drug.

I do wonder what my life would have been like if I had understood all of this at 16 rather than my mid-40's.

Still, I at least have hope now, that I can master my weight if I can just accept and commit to full abstinence from the "hard stuff" - the foods with so much sugar that they trigger the "MUST HAVE MORE" instincts/chemical reactions.

On one hand I feel bad that I struggle so hard with this, knowing what these foods do to me, and yet I also wonder how well a heroine addict would do if heroine was as socially accepted and actively PUSHED as sugar.

I think we see sugar as a harmless indulgence, and for some people it may even be, but I think there's a much darker side to sugar for many of us.

It would be nice if friends and family didn't think we were ready for the rubber room in the asylum just because we wanted to steer clear of high-glycemic carbs.

banananutmuffin
12-19-2012, 03:12 PM
Regarding Asians (speaking as an Asian person here), they tend to be predisposed to Type 2 diabetes despite their smaller stature. At 112 lbs I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I also failed the 1-hour glucose test with both my pregnancies. It was recommended that I try medication. At that time, I ate a very high carb diet. Limiting carbs was the easiest way to reduce my blood sugar. I didn't want to take medicine.

I have eaten the SAD. I was vegetarian. I was vegan. I, too, was opposed to the low-carb philosophy for very long, especially during the height of the Atkins thing. It went against everything I believed about nutrition and weight, and against most of what is reported in the news/magazines about health.

Over the years I steadily gained weight, despite my vegetarian/vegan diet (which was also a 'healthful' one: lots of veggies, some fruit, lots of whole grains, what was called 'healthy' fat, and mostly organic/local foods whenever possible). My weight gain was slow, but steady, and I was unable to cut calories because I felt famished whenever I restricted food. In fact, I walked around in a constant state of hunger, though I didn't realize it at the time. It just seemed 'normal' to me.

I went Paleo when I needed to change my diet to avoid diabetes medication. The weight flew off effortlessly. I was never hungry. I skipped more meals than I ever have, simply because I wasn't hungry. My blood sugar stabilized. I stopped having cravings at night. I had more energy. I slept better. Food tasted better.

I'm not "anti-carb." You want to eat them, go ahead. We're fortunate to live in a world where most of us have a variety of foods from which to choose, and it's our right to choose what we want to eat. But experience and blood tests tell me one thing: a high carb diet is dangerous to MY health. Your mileage, of course, may vary.