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Low Carbing - Will the Real Low Carb Please Stand Up?

Low Carbing - Will the Real Low Carb Please Stand Up?
Low-Carb dieting is bad for you.

Oh, excuse me that was last month's news.

Okay, -- update -- Low-Carb dieting is good for you. You should eat fat and protein, reduce carbs, avoid sugar and, oh, yeah, no need to count calories.

No! That's not right either!

Update -- Watch the fat and protein, and COUNT calories too!

Hold on a minute, that's not Low-Carb, that's the old low-fat/ calorie count diet.

Eat, don't eat, count, don't count. If I were just starting to think about doing Low-Carb now that it has become a household word, truthfully, I wouldn't know how to begin or who to believe. It was much easier five years ago. You kept your carbs under 30 grams a day until you lost your weight and then you gradually added back in high value carbs until you found your own personal maintenance number. That could be double or even triple and in some carb resistant individuals it might mean as few as 20 additional a day. Everyone is supposed to find his/her own number. No need to worry about calories, though, because they sort of take care of themselves when balanced eating is achieved.

Low-Carb dieting used to be about as easy as one could live with until suddenly it became a hot topic. Today, not only does everyone have an opinion, the original philosophy that mysteriously worked so well for so many people for better than 30 years is now subject to a complete overhaul. Seems we just can't leave well enough alone, can we?

Type in the words "Low-Carb" in any search engine and you'll instantly have hundreds of websites at your disposal. Obviously many are commercial sites and exist only to sell Low-Carb products. Many are links to forums where people gather to share and debate. Still others are sites specifically designed to inform on the latest scientific information about Low-Carb dieting.

FYI -- don't be fooled into thinking that there aren't hidden agendas behind the research. Many tout profoundly negative opinions, while others sing the praises of all things Low-Carb, and not a few have just about succeeded in completely redefining it to the point that it no longer even resembles the original Atkins plan.

Regardless and apparently it's nearly impossible to not have an opinion about Low-Carb and/or how to do it. Mores the pity, this is a predictable outcome once an issue swells into a BIG subject and many different, often opposing, opinions start flying about; simplicity becomes collateral damage in the ensuing word storms.

Given that Low-Carb dieting can be easily tweaked to suit individual metabolisms and lifestyles it's not all that surprising that scores of new interpretations have emerged, though I find it absurd that this simple fact is brushed aside and so many hard line positions about how it ought to be done are tossed out as "THE ONLY WAY."

What confounds even more is the myth that persists that Low-Carb translates only to NO potatoes, NO rice, NO flour, NO vegetables, NO fruits, NO this, NO that, NO the other.

Unfortunately, just as many think it means "NO CARBS" at all; it's only cheese, steaks, fat, bacon, lunchmeat and more fat. No wonder there is so much controversy; no wonder many fail at it and then scream, "It doesn't work and furthermore I'm damaged!"

And let's not even venture into the sweetener wars, which are largely perpetuated by those who have vested interests in selling their products. Nevertheless, deep lines are dramatically drawn in the sand as though the essence of true Low-Carbing hangs in the balance depending on the sweetener one chooses.

Good grief, people, let's get a grip here!

One of the most definitive and often overlooked advantages of Low-Carb dieting is that you don't have to be hungry. Let that soak in. You don't have to be hungry. Eating good fat and protein and limiting empty starches satisfies hunger and keeps the body functioning. If you use up your 30 carb budget early in the day, for whatever reason, you can still eat and eat well, but it has to be something that is low or no carbs, like meat, salad and/or cheese for example.

You cannot take advantage of this while counting calories. Let's say you have reached your daily calorie allotment at 4:00 pm. What are you going to do? Knock yourself out with a sleeping pill at 4:30 pm so you won't lose the will power battle?

And what about AFTER you lose the weight on a low calorie diet? Add those calories back in and see what happens. What a shock, you have to drag out those fat clothes you had put away. No wonder "diet" is a four-letter word.

I did not choose to adopt the Low-Carb WOE because I lost weight on the diet and I'm rather fond of butter, cream and steaks. Originally, I chose the Low-Carb diet because it made sense to me and it is one I believed I could live with AFTER weight loss. But here's a hard truth: it only makes sense when NOT taken out of context.

You can't sort-of-do Low-Carb, you can't combine it with low fat/low calorie and then also enjoy the upside benefits to Low-Carbing, which are the essential supporting elements that keep you on target and help you transition to maintenance, and thus keep the weight off.

You also cannot expect to be healthy if you don't eat well-rounded, balanced meals, which certainly can include foods that have served humanity for eons, i.e., fresh vegetables and whole grains (but that's a topic for another article).

It comes to this: the spotlight shining invasively on Low-Carb has cast long shadows and grossly altered the original simple premise thus exposing it to a whole new round of misinterpretations. Suddenly it has begun to morph way beyond what I believe Dr. Atkins had ever intended.

Frankly, it seems that Low-Carbing going mainstream is something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, many restaurants, including fast food, have leaped onto the bandwagon and joined the parade, introducing new products and choices daily for Low-Carbers.

On the other hand, as it often happens when things go commercial and money becomes the goal, the core value of true Low-Carbing has been trampled in the hoopla, distorting it beyond recognition and possibly to terminal ineffectiveness.

The only way to sift through all the hype, bias, misinformation, and outright lies, is to look logically at the fuel you consume. Is it balanced for your personal life-style? Is it a reasonable daily quantity, not too much, not too little? Is it whole and not refined and are you satisfied, healthy, energetic, and just the right size for you?

I've been doing Low-Carb for nearly five years and I can honestly answer "yes" to these questions. Am I just an anomaly? I doubt it. Maybe it was mere dumb luck that I was able to set my Low-Carb WOE before the tidal wave of new interpretations swamped us, but I'm grateful.

As always, and in all things, I tend to strike a middle path between extremes, but I believe that if I were only starting out today, using the new more rigid guidelines, juggling all the conflicting opinions, I don't think I'd last too long in the weight loss phase and I doubt I'd ever make it too far into maintenance.

It appears that finding the REAL LOW-CARB WOE is really more the challenge now than actually doing it. There's a lot to be said for simple.

Speaking of simple, what other diet would allow you to have Baked Beef Stroganoff during the weight loss stage and then add Low-Carb Butter Dumplings to the dish in the maintenance stage? And what other diet would allow you to have rich creamy Pina Colada Pudding or Gooey Brownies for dessert during weight loss or otherwise?

Did you answer "Low-Carb"?

You've been paying attention.