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Should I Count Carbs or Calories?

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Old 05-13-2011, 08:57 AM   #1
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Default Should I Count Carbs or Calories?

I created an Excel spreadsheet today and calculated my average daily intake of carbs and calories. It shows that for the last month and a half, I've eaten an average of 2039 calories and 32 carbs per day. What's frustrating is that my weight has stayed the same. I've lost a few, but eventually gained them all back.

According to the book (2002 version), I should only be counting carbs and not calories, but my data show that I'm not losing any weight with that formula. If I'm to believe the traditional method of "calories in - calories out", then my caloric intake would keep me at the same weight and this is what my spreadsheet proves.

Now that I've typed everything out, it seems that I should decrease my caloric intake in order to lose weight. Am I missing something?
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Old 05-13-2011, 10:07 AM   #2
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Low carb is what I do but I do watch my overall calories.

At 190 I think you should lower the calories to around at least 1800. Maybe slowly start lowering them by around 200 calories a week (so 1800 a day for one week and see if the scale goes down again,, if it doesn't then go down to 1600 for a week) until the weight starts to come off again?
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Old 05-13-2011, 02:37 PM   #3
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Low carb is what I do but I do watch my overall calories.
At 190 I think you should lower the calories to around at least 1800. Maybe slowly start lowering them by around 200 calories a week (so 1800 a day for one week and see if the scale goes down again,, if it doesn't then go down to 1600 for a week) until the weight starts to come off again?
I'll try limiting my calories to 1800 for a week and see how that goes. Don't know if I can balance that with less than 30 grams of carbs/day, but I'll give it a try. Thanks for the suggestions.
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Old 05-13-2011, 04:24 PM   #4
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Hi Zeta,

I know that I have to keep an eye on my calories. I aim for 1700-1800 per day. I have a craptacular metabolism and I don't tend to lose anything if I get over 2000. I might have a little more on gym days.

For me, I'd lose weight at this calorie level even with tons of carbs, but I'd be STARVING and grumpy.

I think it is probably worth a shot keeping track of both.
Best of luck!
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Old 05-13-2011, 05:07 PM   #5
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The Atkins program (in the book) tells you to reduce carbs further if you're not losing weight. To reduce them until you ARE losing weight.

It also gives suggestions like cutting your meat portions at meals and waiting 20 or 30 minutes (I don't remember which, I haven't read the book in months) before deciding that you're still hungry.

Atkins is not the "unlimited food as long as you're carbs are less than x" diet.

It doesn't guarantee you weight loss at any carb level, you have to find the carb level for you.

Also, nothing in the Atkins diet contradicts calories in/calories out. No matter how you lose weight it's ALWAYS a result of burning more calories than you take in. For many people though, low-carb turns down hunger and turns up the metabolism (definitely true for me). For example, I discovered through my food journals that to lose about the same amount of weight I have a choice. 1500 calories of high-carb (and being rabidly hungry and food and craving-obsessed 24/7) or 1800 calories of low-carb (and feeling no hunger and relatively few cravings).

It doesn't change the fact that to lose weight I have to burn more calories than I take in. Carb restriction just allows me to burn more calories.

I suspect that low-carb "revs" my metabolism in some way. Evidence that supports my supicion is that my body temperature is about a full degree higher on low-carb. I also sleep better (fewer hours, but deeper sleep) and feel more interested in activity (High-carb seems to trigger couch-potato energy levels). Not directly related to weight loss, low-carb also improves some of my health issues like chronic pain and skin issues. On low-carb my skin is clearer than it has been in more than 30 years.


Atkins may not be for you. It wasn't for me, because more than 40 years of dieting destroyed my hunger-detection system (or maybe I was born with a defective one). I have a hard time judging "true-hunger" from "false hunger" so I can't follow the Atkins directive to eat only when hungry. I need to control calories as well as carbs.

I prefer to count calories indirectly, through an 1800 calorie exchange plan (the exchange plan does the counting for me, because all exchanges within a category have very similar calorie counts. Fruit exchanges have about 70, Veggies have about 25, Dairy about 80 to 90, Fat about 45, Protein about 55, and Starches about 80.

So when I count exchanges, I do count calories. There are exchange resources online, just like calorie counting (I just google the food name along with the words - diabetic exchange). I also have two paperback exchange resources: Exchanges for All Occasions and Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes




Trying to count every calorie doesn't work well for me (I get obsessed - trying to decide whether an apple has 90 or 110 calories), and I tend to go on food jags (neglecting one food group, and overindulging in my favorites).

So for me, a low-carb exchange plan was the answer. I've always loved exchange plans, probably because it was the first structured diet I ever learned (when I joined Weight Watchers for the first time when I was 8 years old in 1972 - Before 1997, WW was always an exchange plan). In the 80's I used Richard Simmons plans (also exchange plans).

Since nearly all exchange plans are based on the diabetic exchanges, the cookbooks are interchangeable (because the exchanges themselves don't change much). I found low-carb exchange plans in the Duke Diet book and on the Hillbilly Houswife website (though the HH website calls them High-Protein plans).
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Old 05-13-2011, 06:36 PM   #6
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The Atkins program (in the book) tells you to reduce carbs further if you're not losing weight. To reduce them until you ARE losing weight.

Atkins is not the "unlimited food as long as you're carbs are less than x" diet.

It doesn't guarantee you weight loss at any carb level, you have to find the carb level for you.
OMG! OMG! OMG! Light bulbs are going off! I totally misunderstood the whole program. I surely thought that I could eat anything as long I stayed under a certain amount of carbs. Your detailed explanation really cleared up things for me. Thank you very much.

My challenge now becomes to formulate a plan that decreases carbs and calories at the same time.
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Old 05-13-2011, 09:33 PM   #7
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I count calories and eat anything I want, as long as it fits into my calorie count for the day--about 1400. I am 5'6' age 63.

I have lost 26 pounds in the last 4.5 months while enjoying chocolate, pizza, cake, wine and pretty much anything else I want as treats. I am vegetarian so eat lots of veggies plus soy products and grains.

When you think about it, many of the world's thinnest people eat huge amounts of rice as their staple diet and others equally thin and fit consume corn, beans and rice as their basic diet. I could never understand why people go for a diet that omits carbs--best diet is a balanced one with all the food groups. Then you can eat that way for life.

Just my point of view.
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Old 05-14-2011, 12:23 AM   #8
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I never understood why anyone would reduce carbs either, until I (reluctantly) followed my doctor's recommendation to reduce carbs (I thought he was nuts, and only considered trying it after meeting a doctor who lost nearly 100 lbs on a modified Atkins).

I gave it a shot, and discovered that I could eat more calories, be less hungry, and still lose more weight than when I was trying to lose weight on calorie restriction alone. That's worth a lot more to me than the occasional slice of high-carb pizza or cake (and I still can have low-carb pizza or cake).

Legitimate low-carb diets do not omit carbs, they just omit or limit the highest glycemic ones (the ones that tend to trigger the most intense insulin/hunger spikes), and most start adding carbs in from the beginning.

I don't omit grains and starches I just limit them (usually only 2 servings), and I also limit, but enjoy fruit (usually 3-4 servings). Non-starchy veggies I eat up to 10 servings.

If you don't have to limit carbs to lose weight, that's great. There's no need to do more than you have to do. But if high-carb foods make you hungrier than eating nothing at all, reducing carbs, or changing the types of carbs you're eating may be helpful.

I spent nearly 30 years bashing low-carb diets. It's ironic that it turns out to be the only diet I've ever had more than a few months of success with.
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Old 05-14-2011, 02:37 PM   #9
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I went to the doctor the other day to talk to her about my weight loss and she said she recommends counting both calories and carbs..I have very over weight so she suggested no more than 20 carbs a day and no more than 1200 calories a day..I've been doing it a week and a half and lost 7 pounds so far So the answer to your question is yes I would count them both but on Atkins you don't really have to focuss so much on the calories.
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Old 05-17-2011, 03:52 PM   #10
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Over the past 3 days, I've averaged 1484 calories and 20 grams of carbs. The result is a 2-lb loss. So far, I'd say that counting both works for me.
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Old 05-17-2011, 09:48 PM   #11
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I personally never counted calories...just carbs..done really good with it..if i had a stall i uped my carbs and seen a loss then went back to lower carbs..just my experence.. I hope you do well with what you choose...
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Old 05-18-2011, 11:28 AM   #12
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There is a poster here named Dragonlady1978 who hit the nail right on the head in one of the threads....regarding this subject. For a metabolic diet like Atkins to work, the carb count has to remain very low....under 20 Gm/day...and cannot include ANY simple sugars whatsoever. When the carbs get raised higher than that....depending on the amount....you either stop losing...or you even gain.

Fat has a LOT of calories....and lots of fat can make you gain lots of weight.....UNLESS you eat it with less than 20 Gm. of carbs per day....THAT creates a metabolic process that causes weight loss. It's basically as simple as that.

Combining low fat and low carb is pretty pointless...as you also need to eat plenty of fat on this diet (and this helps to keep you full, too).

Atkins is an all or none diet. You MUST stick to the restrictions in order to create the metabolic process of serious fat-burning...with no exceptions. Throw in one little cheat a day....and you get absolutely nowhere. It will totally throw you out of ketosis.
On calorie-counting diets, a little cheat here and there is no big deal and you can factor most cheats into the daily total so it's not technically even a cheat. Not so on Atkins/metabolic diets. These are 2 COMPLETELY different diets....and work in completely different ways.

HOWEVER....when I got close to goal and hit some plateau problems.....at that time, I did add in some calorie cycling...just as a metabolism booster...and it seemed to work.
Otherwise, I only counted carbs. Now, theoretically, one could eat SO many calories on Atkins that one would still not lose weight. But that would have been impossible for me because my appetite was seriously decreased (after about the first 3 days) and I could barely get in the calories I needed to...much less too many calories.

I read a study where they compared the two diets and found that the calorie level was pretty equal....which surprised me, actually. But this does sorta support my theory that some of us have some alterations in our metabolism that make it almost impossible for us to lose when calorie-counting...but able to lose on something like Atkins.....and also, IMO, cause us to be carb-addicts.
After all, even in Gary Taubes' cited studies.....there WERE people in the famine group who lost tons of weight. It was the ones who stayed fat that intrigued him. It looks to me like there is both....some who will lose and some who will gain. Taubes saw both in almost every cited study/example.

Basically, IMO, if you can lose weight easily and not suffer from hunger too much on calorie-counting.....the diet probably works very well for you. But for those of us who get nowhere and are suffering through the entire ordeal, constantly starving...due, I think, to alterations in our metabolism....there will be much better success with a diet like Atkins. It's the only diet I will use.....I went right back to it after I used it in the early 90's to lose weight from my pregnancies.
Because it was the only one that really worked for me and the only one that I wasn't constantly starving on.

The tricky thing with a metabolic diet is that we have to re-arrange many of the beliefs we've been told throughout our lives....that fat is bad, that it's calories in and calories out, that hunger causes obesity, not the other way around, that complex carbs are good for you, etc.
You have to turn those beliefs off, pretty much, while you are on this type of diet.

Here were my rules (and they did not include counting calories):

*Keep carbs at 16-20 Gm/day, mostly from veggies
*NO simple carbs whatsoever
*Limited dairy....only use cheese to sprinkle on things, etc.
*Have to get either butter or mayo in every day

And I was very militant about it.....and it totally worked...GREAT!

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Old 05-28-2011, 01:35 PM   #13
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I count my cals but not in away that I am as stict as I am with carbs. I try to stay around 1600 a day and 20 carbs ( I have not bumped up out of induction for the most part because when I did the weight loss almost stopped) anyways I also eat fat and protein in a ration that fits low carb higher fat mod protein. Makeing sure I watch all of it seems to work best for me.
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Old 05-28-2011, 02:03 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by kaplods View Post
Also, nothing in the Atkins diet contradicts calories in/calories out. No matter how you lose weight it's ALWAYS a result of burning more calories than you take in. For many people though, low-carb turns down hunger and turns up the metabolism (definitely true for me).
This is a critical point that is missed by many low carb people. One of the big reasons this whole weight loss thing is confusing is because not every person is the same.

Kaplods I would actually question what you're saying here. Is it that low-carb turns up your metabolism or more so that the carbs turn it down? Sorry if these feels like a semantics question.

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Originally Posted by zetaphine View Post
OMG! OMG! OMG! Light bulbs are going off! I totally misunderstood the whole program. I surely thought that I could eat anything as long I stayed under a certain amount of carbs. Your detailed explanation really cleared up things for me. Thank you very much.
At the risk of confusing you I have a suggestion and I bring it up only because you're an excell spreadsheet kind of person. I suggest you experiment a little bit and by doing so you can find out what is optimal for you. Believe it or not you might do better on higher carbs. Many people feel more lethargic on ultra low carb diets thus reducing NEAT. (The opposite of Kaplods) Also - quite a few people will have their BMR slowed a bit by a drastic reduction in carbs.

If you look at this write up on a recent study you will see that the diet with carbs was superior for BMR.

Even if you already know that too many carbs make you feel lethargic (which would be a sign you're insulin resistant) there may be a magic number of carbs that keeps you humming along. So if you want to try my suggestion out make sure you keep track of mood and energy levels along with carbs/protein/fat/calories.

Goodluck!
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Old 05-28-2011, 04:57 PM   #15
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Kaplods I would actually question what you're saying here. Is it that low-carb turns up your metabolism or more so that the carbs turn it down? Sorry if these feels like a semantics question.
Scientifically, that's a valid question, but functionally, I don't think it matters, because the course of action is going to be the same regardless - reduce carbs to improve metabolic function.

I said reduce, not eliminate, because if I eat too low in carb, I have blood sugar issues (the weight falls off quite well, but the headaches, nausea, light headedness and even vertigo that results are not a fair trade-off). Finding the "just right" combination of carb/fat/protein isn't rocket science, but most people don't even go down that path. And maybe most of them don't have to. I don't know. I just know that to succeed, I had to take into account my macro proportions.

It's not hard to experiment with different macro-proportions. I used an exchange plan so it would be easy to compare. I learned that (compared with the traditional food-pyramid style basic exchange plan) I did best with a little more protein, a little more fat, and quite a few less starch exchanges.

Using a food journal regularly helped (and still helps) me see patterns that I can use to sustain and improve my success so far.

There may come a time where all this self-experimentation will not be necessary, but for now most of have to be scientist and lab rat.

Some people may have success with every and any plan they try. Others may have to do a lot more experimenting.

I just wish I had realized much earlier that macro proportions could matter so much. I would never have believed that weight loss could be anything but intensely miserable.
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