Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Low Carb Honeymoon is Over

Since February 14, 2011, I have lost 52 pounds by following a low carb way of eating (complete weight loss statistics are here in this chart), but the weight loss is beginning to slow down in the past few weeks. Perhaps it is because I have eaten too much, but there is also the possibility that I have hit the stalling point, when you lose between 17 and 20% of your original starting weight. To date, I have lost 18% of my starting weight, and I am still 30 to 40 pounds heavier than I would like. Have I stalled? I don't know, yet.

In 2005, I started Weight Watchers and lost over 100 pounds. I tracked that weight loss, too, and actually lost more weight per week on WW than on the low carb way of eating. Unfortunately, Weight Watchers is a semi-starvation diet, and when you stop starving yourself, the weight comes back on, and quickly. That happened to me, too, and it was quite embarrassing. You can see my WW weight loss statistics here.

To be clear, I vastly prefer the low carb way of life, as it has put my type II diabetes in remission and normalized my blood pressure. For that reason alone, I will continue low carbing and not go back to Weight Watchers, even though the weight loss there was more dramatic. Also, fat and protein offer greater satiety than anything on Weight Watchers; my hunger demons have been slain. I am full after eating and for me, that is the key to weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Those intrusive thoughts of food have simply vanished. Since this is a way of life for me, and not a diet (thanks to how it controls my type II diabetes), I plan on eating this way for the rest of my life.

Nevertheless, I am seeing that the low carb way of eating is not the magical silver bullet many claim it to be. Calories count. Gary Taubes, a science journalist I respect, and whose book, Why We Get Fat introduced me to low carbing, says calories do not count, only carbs. However, other people who I also respect, including Jenny Ruhl and Stargazey, tell me calories count. Most importantly, Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney tell me calories count.  I am retrenching and learning to a) eat a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb food plan and b) stay under the calorie threshold that will allow me to continue losing weight. Volek and Phinney devote a whole chapter in their recent book showing me how to do this. A very useful calorie counter, with an extensive database, is available for free at livestrong.com. This database blows away any others I have seen and has pretty much everything I eat in it. Now it is an essential tool for my weight loss management.

So the low carb honeymoon is now over. The lifelong process of living low carb, losing weight, and getting lean has begun.

13 comments:

  1. Hi Newell - I have come from a similar experience of solving long term obesity with a low carb strategy. In the past I also tried and lost weight with a conventional low calorie high carb diet and of course put it back on again and more.
    I have been doing a low carb and increasingly "paleo" strategy for over 2 years now. I have lost 100 pounds and I am now about 10 pounds from where I need to be. Over that period I lost about 1 pound per week and only in the last 2 months, have I reached a "stall" with up to 2 weeks to lose a pound.

    I think your loss over the first 6 months is fantastic. You will likely see a slower but steady response with the next 20-30 pounds until you get to the last 10 or so. It might take a little longer, but you should not be dicouraged with say a pound per week as this is still a good rate of loss.
    I do agree that calories do count in additon to what you eat. My strategy has been to ensure that I eat 10-15% less calories than Basal Metabolic Rate calculated by the Harris Benedict Formula using the "sendentary" multipier of 1.2.
    Of course, your BMR reduces as you lose weight, so caloric intake needs to drop as well. I started with a BMR of about 2840kCals and at my current weight, my BMR (including the 1.2 multipier) is about 2070kCals, so even with a carb level of about 30, I currently need to keep the calorie count about 200-300 below this level to keep the loss going.
    I have also increased the weight bearing excercise with a program of High Intensity Training using the techniques in the book "Body by Science" by Doug McGuff. Still early days with the training, but I am optimistic it is an important part of the total health puzzle now that my weight is close to normal.

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  2. Hithaeglir: Thank you for the encouragement. I have realized it will probably slow as well, which is why I have started the calorie counting. I will explore the Harris Benedict formula further and see what it comes up with. I am 6'3" tall and according to livestrong.com, given my current weight and age, I need to keep my calories below 2483 per day to lose weight. So that is what I am shooting for.

    I have also been toying with the idea of increased resistance training. I walk a dog every day for 30 to 40 minutes, but that is as much exercise as I am doing.

    It's good to speak with a fellow traveler along the low carb route. I started at 302 pounds and figure I need to get somewhere between 210 and 220. The BMI chart, which is just ridiculous, tells me my "optimal" weight range is 160-205. When I got down to 200 on Weight Watchers, I looked emaciated, and I have noticed that while women can look normal in the BMI 20-25 range, men look scrawny and emaciated. So I am left to guess what my optimal weight should be. All I really know is that it is higher than the upper range of the BMI chart.

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  3. I'm having the same realization. I started using the Lose It! app on my iPhone to track BOTH calories and carbs and suddenly, my weight started dropping again. I'm eating the same amount of calories that I did on WW (or maybe less), but I'm not STARVING all the time. It's such a relief!

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  4. Laura: I will look into Lose it! Livestrong is available for both the iPhone and Android, and I use it on my Android, though I prefer the computer interface. But amen to the "Im not STARVING all the time" comment. That makes all the difference in the world.

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  5. I agree that calories do matter on a low carb diet. I've been tracking both carbs and calories since I started eating low carb five months ago. Without any real intention to cut calories (at least at first) I nevertheless found myself eating only 1,800-2,000 calories per day. Given that I'm a fairly large man, that's a low enough level of calories to lose weight. Overall, I've averaged about two pounds lost a week. Notice the word "averaged." It isn't a steady loss. Some weeks I lose nothing. Other weeks I lose three or four pounds. I can't explain the variations. But who cares? I feel I can go on eating this way forever. As Laura said, I'm not STARVING. I only last a month on a low-fat diet at this same calorie level. So I see the main advantage of low carb as the smoothing out of insulin fluctuations that make a person ravenous. There may be a small metabolic advantage. I also think it gives people a better shot at avoiding diabetes, and at lowering triglycerides than high-carb diets. Finally, while I believe that calories do matter, I don't believe in the simple "calories in, calories out" model. If that model were correct, my weight loss should be steady and predictable, even in the short term. And it is not. People are not machines.

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  6. My experience is similar: I was eating 2,200 to 2,300 calories, until I bought into the idea that I had to add fat to the diet. A lot of coconut oil and heavy whipping cream later, my weight loss has slowed. So I am cutting back on those and now trying to watch what I eat. I agree about the low fat diet. I made it a year on Weight Watchers, but it was a pure effort of will, as I was starving all the time.

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  7. If you do use Lose It, make sure to friend me and I will give you positive reinforcement for your exercise and other successes.

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  8. Your low carb diet plan must have worked pretty well for you. Congrats!

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  9. Never was a fan of weight watchers. You watch your hunger go through with the punishment while losing your soul. I got out of it and preplanned my meals for the week to make sure I'm eating 500 calories less than needed per day and it works. Running also helps stabilize my mood after going through weight watchers. Speaking of livestrong, do you think any of these - livestrong treadmills are good?

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  10. If you don't have time for workouts and still want to lose weight, you can try Garcinia Cambogia Extract! I lose weight and so happy about it!

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  11. I’ve lost 5 kilos in my first week. I followed the diet with some protein as suggested. It is really like magic! It works. I’m not perfectly following the listed diet plan mostly), but the weight looses even on very little exercise. Give a try on this, this diet plan clearly works.

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  12. To some extent calories do count. I completely agree with you on this. But a well researched low carb diet plan could prove to be a real game changer for many people.

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