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Suzanne 3FC 02-14-2004 12:00 PM

Atkins & South Beach diets: What they don't want you to know
 
COLUMN: Atkins & South Beach diets: What they don't want you to know


University Wire; 2/9/2004; Andreea Prundeanu




University Wire

02-09-2004

(The Voice) (U-WIRE) ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- What goes on while you sleep? Close your eyes. You are getting drowsy. Carbohydrates are the devil! You can feel your body relax. Eat all the fatty foods you wish! You're casting aside all your worries. Fruits and vegetables are fattening! Your mind is now completely blank. The Atkins and South Beach diets are a safe way to lose weight! O.K. so maybe you're not being hypnotized while you sleep. Maybe there is no one sitting on the edge of your bed telling you that you should deprive your body of all carbohydrates in order to lose weight. But nowadays, who needs hypnosis when thousands of people already believe? If it makes you lose weight, that's all that matters.

Most people resort to diets such as "Atkins for Life" and "South Beach" when they're in crisis. They want to shed those extra pounds so desperately that the immediate result is all that matters. Image conquers all. It isn't until much later that safety comes into perspective. What's the use of a beautiful body when it may have cost you your health? Being informed matters. So if you're in this for looks and health, consider this.

The premise behind many diets today is that carbohydrates are the enemy because they cause the body to secrete more insulin. A surplus of insulin is associated with faster fat storage and therefore, quicker weight gain. Diets such as "Atkins for Life" and "South Beach" claim that the solution for weight loss is eliminating as many carbohydrates from one's diet as possible. Although they differ somewhat in the variety of foods allowed (the South Beach diet allows more fruits and vegetables than the Atkins), both diets follow three main stages or phases." The first and most radical stage aims to eliminate virtually all carbohydrates for two weeks. No fruits, starchy vegetables, pasta, desserts, grains, or cereal are allowed.

The main diet consists of eggs, meat, and some dairy products in limited servings. 8-13 pounds could potentially be lost in this phase. Phase 2 starts when weight loss is no longer in full force. The body resets itself to where only 1 or 2 pounds can be lost per week. It is now safe to add some of the foods that were forbidden in the introductory phase. The portions are still carefully measured and some foods such as bread, carrots, potatoes, bananas and other sweet fruits are to be avoided. Once again, the main menu consists of high protein foods such as meat (fish, poultry, beef), eggs, and dairy products. This phase is recommended until the desired weight is reached. The last phase is called the "maintenance phase". The goal here is to maintain the desired weight for life.

While these two diet plans seem like the long-awaited answer to the dreaded obesity problem in the United States, a few details have been overlooked. The National Academy of Science says, "The function of carbs is to provide energy to cells in the body, particularly the brain which is a carbohydrate dependent organ." Carbohydrates fuel the body's everyday functions. Without carbohydrates, we would all be dead.

Diet books have emphasized the difference between "good"and "bad" carbohydrates countless times. The "bad" carbohydrates usually come from highly-processed produce that have been stripped of their nutritional value and pumped full of sugar and preservatives. These are the forbidden foods: chips, fast food, candy, pop, pastry, and other such guilty pleasures. The "good carbohydrates can be found in fruits, vegetables, pasta, bread, nuts, and cereal. So why is it that the Atkins and South Beach diets have declared even the "good" carbohydrates the enemy? For faster weight loss of course. Good idea?
Not at all! According to Cathy Fitzgerald, a registered dietitian at the University of Michigan Health System, simple carbs such as "a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans" are a good source of "vitamins, minerals, and fiber [which are] important in maintaining a strong immune system." A radical and long-term deprivation of an entire food group has made experts and health care professionals skeptical about low-carbohydrate, high protein-diets such as Atkins and South Beach. The body loses a considerable amount of weight because it is being deprived of key nutrients necessary for its functions to run smoothly.

In addition, experts say that any weight loss that surpasses 1 or 2 pounds per week is not recommended. Not only is it not healthy for the body, but the risk of regaining the weight back should not be dismissed. "I don't recommend any diet just because it's something people go on and off," Fitzgerald says "When you go off, there is a very good chance that the weight will be regained. Lifestyle changes make much more sense." However, if you do choose to go on a diet, which should you pick? What is the safest and most effective way to lose weight? In the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans", the USDA recommends you "choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits" and "a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol" (which excludes unlimited amounts of eggs or meat). What does that say for the Atkins or South Beach diets? In an April 2003 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association, a review of research studies concerning low carb diets associated weight loss with a reduced calorie intake rather than carbohydrate limitation. Consequently, the solution might be more obvious than it appears.

"Controlling calories, calories from carbs, fats or proteins, or a combination of all three sets an individual up to lose weight," Fitzgerald says.

Regulating the amount of calories we consume daily does not deprive the body of essential nutrients like carbohydrate deprivation does. You still get the same vitamins and minerals, but within the necessary amount. No surpluses are left over that could get stored as fat. With that in mind, let's take a look at the Atkins and South Beach diets one more time. As a dietician, Fitzgerald advises that the no fruit and restricted veggies approach is not the best idea.

"It does not make sense to cut out a low-calorie, beneficial food," she says, "Why not cut out the least healthy carbs?"

So if low carbohydrate diets such as Atkins and South Beach diets are not a safe way to lose weight, why are they so popular?

"Low carb diets appear successful in the first couple of weeks when carbohydrates are almost eliminated," Fitzgerald explains. "During this time the body turns to stored carbohydrate in the body and uses it to power all the functions of our body and brain. Water is eliminated as the stored carbs are used up, creating a dramatic weight loss. Is it a healthy weight loss? No, since the body is being deprived of adequate amounts of carbohydrates, our body's main energy source."

So, next time you think about going on a low-carb, high-protein diet, think about this. A beautiful body in a short amount of time may have cost you your health. Be smart!

StarPrincess 02-15-2004 05:39 PM

I have to say that I think this is a horribly misleading article and a good example of the ignorance surrounding "low carb".

First of all, while protein is a focal point, so are veggies. Lots and lots of vegetables. Low carb, when you understand it, is about re-training your body and your mind on how you view food. It breaks dependancies on unhealthy products like refined flour and sugar, which offer no nutritional value at all. It encourages you to eat whole, unprocessed foods.

What I have learned is that we're all looking for a means to an end. From what I've seen from people who are maintaining their weight loss successfully, it all comes down to the same thing. Eat whole foods. Avoid sugar.

So if we all get to the same destination, why bash the path that works for someone else?

I am healthier and happier now than I ever was on a low-fat/low-cal eating plan. I've got the blood-work to prove it.

Spedmom 02-15-2004 06:11 PM

Amazing. It doesn't surprise me in the least that the best the author could do was resort to quoting 2 very-questionable sources, one being a "registered dietician" whose statements show she is woefully misinformed about the extent of carbohydrate inclusion in a low-carb diet.

The other is our old friend the USDA which, having created dietary guidelines with a heavy emphasis on carbs and strick warnings about fat, almost singlehanded created the serious obesity epidemic we see now in the United States. At some point, we must start demanding that critics actually read the Atkins (or South Beach) books and stop making a**es out of themselves.

Low carb is not avoidance but restriction. Of course you might find the occasional Atkins converts who goes overboard, avoiding any and all carbs in order to speed up weight loss. But then again, I'm sure there are Weight Watcher followers who will spend all of their "points" for the day on a slice of cheesecake and still consider themselves healthier because they stayed in their point range.

The vast majority of low-carb eaters do not give up carbs, but educate themselves in order to make better choices. It's just too bad the author, and many like her, fail to educate themselves similarly before speaking out against the low carb way of eating.

Kim in NJ 02-15-2004 09:08 PM

"The "good carbohydrates can be found in fruits, vegetables, pasta, bread, nuts, and cereal. So why is it that the Atkins and South Beach diets have declared even the "good" carbohydrates the enemy?"

Amazing that people can still write articles like this and be so off base. I guess this journalist has not even read the Atkins for life book because the lifetime plan is to center most carbs around good vegetable choices. I agree with Star that the outcome of following a low-carb plan is the re-training of the individual to avoid sugars and unnecessary carb intake.... (we don't "need" pastas and breads to survive).

Atkins: The body resets itself to where only 1 or 2 pounds can be lost per week. It is now safe to add some of the foods that were forbidden in the introductory phase.

... experts say that any weight loss that surpasses 1 or 2 pounds per week is not recommended. Not only is it not healthy for the body, but the risk of regaining the weight back should not be dismissed. "I don't recommend any diet just because it's something people go on and off," Fitzgerald says "When you go off, there is a very good chance that the weight will be regained. Lifestyle changes make much more sense."


There - it was said and I can confirm it - the weightloss will average 1-2 lbs a week (on a good week)....there are many stalls with low-carb but inches are lost during those stalls! And I too agree that going on a "diet" makes people think they can go on and off and that is just not a good mental game. Instead of dieting, I have chosen to eat the Atkins way for "LIFE". It is NOT a diet for me, it is a plan for my way of eating which I began last July. My bloodwork is amazing, my immune system is pumped - I have chronic asthma and this is the first winter in YEARS that I have not been sick AT ALL - and no need for my normal winter of prednisone to rid myself of upper respiratory infections! I am more energetic, active, spirited etc. My memory is much improved and I have noticed at work I am not as overwhelmed with multiple projects at one time.

I am not following a low-carb lifestyle for looks or weightloss... I am following it because I truly am getting healthy and I love feeling this way - even in a size 22!

hillary29 02-16-2004 12:44 PM

I want to stand up for Atkins right here and now because Atkins has truly changed my life. There will always be articles trying to bash this WOE, so naturally I am rolling my eyes after reading the article.

When I grocery shop, I buy FRESH vegetables, eggs, fresh meats, nuts, and cheese. How is that possibly bad for me compared to the frozen pizza's that I use to eat daily along with the boxed mac & cheese, sugary cereal, and candy bar after candy bar. I use to LIVE on sugar and carbs, and I was UNHEALTHY! I was tired all of the time, had daily headaches, and indegestion, and now I have NONE OF THIS. It has made me into a very healthy, fit person, and I feel better now than I felt 10 years ago.

This is not a quick fix for me. I did not choose Atkins because I wanted to lose about 70 pounds, and then I would start buying the JUNK again, I chose Atkins for LIFE because it works for me. My blood pressure has dropped to a normal range, and I am HEALTHY! I take daily vitamins, and feel no effects from cutting out certain carbs :)

For anyone who wants to believe articles that bash Atkins, you need to TRY it for yourself, watch your health IMPROVE, and then you can make your own judgement.

Khem 02-16-2004 01:03 PM

For me, Atkins has taken me off the emotional binge rollercoaster caused by unstable blood sugar. While I would like to lose more weight, I value the freedom from cravings I have found on atkins.

In a typical day, I eat 2 eggs for breakfast with sugar-free ketchup and somtimes a cooked veggie like mushrooms. For lunch I have 2-3 cups of salad--including dark green veggies, 4 oz of grilled chicken, cucumbers, mushrooms, a little tomato, and about 1/4 avocado. For dressings I use cold pressed olive oil or some nice blue cheese dressing. For snacks I like jicama, celery, cream cheese, or some nuts. Dinner is usually meat-centered with a cup of lightly steamed broccoli, asparagus, etc. I do not eat the bars, shakes, and other non-sense people have come to believe are a significant part of Atkins.

Being a vegetarian for 18 years made me fat, low-energy, and ALWAYS HUNGRY. Being a vegan for a year set up a nasty cycle of cravings that turned into bingeing and purging. For the years after that, eating a "standard american diet" of grains, carb-crap, and junk steadily put on 10 pounds a month--regardless of how much I counted those stinking WW points. Every night on WW I went to bed after downing Diet Cokes and my way too small WW dessert feeling like I was deprived.

Just the freedom of feeling like I can eat this way for the rest of my life on atkins is the greatest gift. I'm never hungry--I have tons of energy. No one can tell me this is unhealthy-especially media who have not taken the time to look into the details of the way of eating.

Leenie 02-16-2004 01:20 PM

Everyone know's or they do now that I have SAD (seasonal depression) this is the first year (since starting Atkins) that I have not struggled with depression during the winter months - NO MEDICATION :D . Enough Said !!

Ruthxxx 02-16-2004 01:51 PM

I've been eating low carb for two years now and have gone from a diagnosis of Type II Diabetes with a HA1C of 7.5 to normal at 5.9. Even my dietician is impressed!

Trazzie 02-16-2004 02:51 PM

I have been with Atkins for a mere 26 days. I have to say this change of WOE was the wisest of my life. Not only am I losing weight but I feel great! I have 100x more energy then I can ever remember! My meals are very satisfying,I'm not constantly hungry, I sleep better at night, I don't have half as many aches and pains, headaches are gone and yes I can even dodge the cold that is striking everyone around me.. this list can go on and on.
I think before a word is spoken (or typed) some people actually need to put forth an effort and research this a bit. Buy the book and read it!!! What can it hurt? If anything it will change their lives for the better as well.

lady_adnerb 02-16-2004 02:57 PM

I've tried "portion control" and counting my food "points" and was ALWAYS hungry (and of course didn't lose a whole heck of a lot of weight). So on Atkins I get to eat and be FULL. Not stuffed (even though sometimes I'm still working on that one). I've lost weight and feel better than I've ever felt. When I was in my late teens I lost weight--but I hardly ate anything all day. People think THAT is healthy?

I was told "just because cholestrol count goes down doesn't mean it's going to stay down." But tell me--is it safe to be heavy and run into diabetes and high cholestrol or be thin and just have to worry about high cholestrol? I think I'd rather be healthy/thinner and worry about my cholestrol than be heavy and worry about who knows how many other ailments that were starting to head my way.

rochemist 02-17-2004 05:50 AM

My 2 cents
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by StarPrincess
First of all, while protein is a focal point, so are veggies. Lots and lots of vegetables. Low carb, when you understand it, is about re-training your body and your mind on how you view food. It breaks dependancies on unhealthy products like refined flour and sugar, which offer no nutritional value at all. It encourages you to eat whole, unprocessed foods.

What I have learned is that we're all looking for a means to an end. From what I've seen from people who are maintaining their weight loss successfully, it all comes down to the same thing. Eat whole foods. Avoid sugar.

Though I probably don't eat "lo-carb" per se I try very hard to eat foods that make me feel good and healhty. Without rice I no longer vomit. Without bread I no longer have indigestion. Without sugar I am no longer tearing my house apart looking for the next fix. Without pasta I no longer feel drugged and sleepy. So more than anything I think we have to do whats best for our bodies, our hearts, and our minds. If that means lo-carb so be it.

I agree with everything Star Princess said.
Miss Chris :comp:

Suzanne 3FC 02-19-2004 11:54 AM

So people really do read the library posts :lol:

I guess I'm not the norm here, then, because the largest chunk of weight I've ever lost with one method was done while eating bran muffins or toast and fruit for breakfast, bagels and nonfat cream cheese for snacks, sandwich and salad for lunches, pasta for dinner, lots of frozen dinners which are famous for their carbs, and I also got all of my veggies and proteins. However, I counted total calories, consuming an average of 1600 per day (never topping 2000) with 3 meals and 2 snacks, I didn't eat anything after 7pm, and I exercised twice daily, 7 days a week. I lost 45 pounds in 3 months (which I admit was too much too fast, but I'm just pointing out that you can live in carb-heaven and still lose weight). I stuck to it because I enjoyed what I was doing and it fit my lifestyle at the time. I was never hungry, either. (exercise is a natural appetite suppressant)

I agree with a lot of what the article says, and I highlighted one particular statement regarding calorie consumption. There have been studies in the news lately that say the same thing, so that's not the first time I've heard that it was all based on calorie consumption. From everything that I've read, studies and personal experiences, and based on the countless email we've received from people that lost the weight and have kept it off, -- the most successful diet plan you can go on is the one that you will actually stick to. If the low carb diet foods fit your personal tastes and lifestyle and you can stick to it, then it will work. If a higher carb Weight Watchers points/recipes/menus do it for you, then you'll be successful. And so on. Of course if you have a specific health concern, such as diabetes or insulin resistance, AND your doctor recommends a specific diet based on those issues, then that limits your options. However, for the rest of us, it's all based on personal tastes and lifestyles and what we can actually stick to. The only real trick to dieting successfully is finding something you can stick to.

We've received thousands, literally thousands of email over the years, from people that wanted to share their own diet techniques. Of those that not only lost the weight, but also kept it off, most did not do it by low carb or any other specific diet type. In fact, I only recall a small handful from people that kept the weight off via low carb or any other specific diet. The vast majority of people that were successful (long term) did it by creating their own personal diet plans. They tried various diets, picked the bits that they liked the best, and created a pesonalized program that they could stick to for the rest of their lives.

Naturally, if a specific diet plan works for you and you can stick to it, then that is a good and easy thing. But everyone is different, and our bodies are not identical. What works for you may not work for me, and so on. The biggest problem I see with diets that are current buzzwords, like Atkins or SBD, is that if someone follows them and doesn't lose weight, loses very little weight, or can't stick to it, then they think there is something wrong with them. Instead of stepping back and realizing that it isn't the plan for them, they panic and start cutting food intake or stay on induction too long, and end up doing more harm than good. Look around, it happens here, too. People can become obessive about it. Something we hear a lot is "I just realized my salad dressing had 9 grams of sugar instead of 3, have I ruined the effects of my diet? Will I stall? Do I have to start over?" and similar questions. Why panic over a tiny indescretion when the overall diet is still sound? It's turning something simple into rocket science, when the simple method works just as well, if not better.

Something else we need to consider is that the food manufacturers are wearing this out. The profit potential on low-carb foods is ENORMOUS, so it's naturally being shoved down our throats. The average consumer sees it everywhere, then they assume it's the only way to go, but it isn't. They are being taught that they can't lose weight unless they do it low-carb, when that simply isn't true. The same options are still out there, that have been successful for so many people before. As the article said Consequently, the solution might be more obvious than it appears.

When you go on a diet, any diet, you are eating less. Add exercise, and you burn more. You are going to lose weight. It's not rocket science.

Ok, that was just my 2 cents :) Please don't send hate mail or pull out your voodoo dolls :p Dieting is like religion and politics, and there will always be opposing sides. Remember, I'm not saying that any of the diets mentioned on our forum are wrong, bad, or don't work. They ALL have the potential to work, and that is my point.

rochemist 02-19-2004 07:44 PM

We love you Suzanne!
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Suzanne 3FC
So people really do read the library posts :lol:

We've received thousands, literally thousands of email over the years, from people that wanted to share their own diet techniques. Of those that not only lost the weight, but also kept it off, most did not do it by low carb or any other specific diet type. In fact, I only recall a small handful from people that kept the weight off via low carb or any other specific diet. The vast majority of people that were successful (long term) did it by creating their own personal diet plans. They tried various diets, picked the bits that they liked the best, and created a pesonalized program that they could stick to for the rest of their lives.

:lol: No voodoo dolls or hate mail from me. I think what you said is perfect. What works for Jane may not work for Mary. More than anything I believe in making your own path and finding what you can live with.

Miss Chris

PS I read all of these articles :lol:

SeekInnerThinChick 02-19-2004 11:27 PM

Quote:

The vast majority of people that were successful (long term) did it by creating their own personal diet plans.
That makes me feel better! Sometimes I have wondered whether I'm doing things "the right way" since I'm not on a commercial diet. What you have said jives with the info I got from Thin For Life about long-term maintainers, who work out their own program over time. I guess muddling through is o.k. after all. Thanks!

jujuridl 02-20-2004 12:01 PM

Bravo your last message Suzanne. Anne Fletcher in her research of hundreds of folks who have lost weight and kept it off, reported in "Thin for Life," arrived at the same conclusion. You try different things. You find what works for you. You develop your own system. You find a way to stick with it.

It's finding a way to stick with it that's hard. Finding a way to make your new habits ...habits. Or at least that's been the buggy-boo for me.

Caveat: Keeping the simple sugars and fiber-less carbs down has been a long-term recommendation for people who have or are threatened with diabetes. The help we get from the low-carb movement is lots of interesting recipes. And that helps a lot.


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