Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Welcome, New Low-Carbers!
You'd been hoping to lose weight all through 2009, but never quite managed it. Then came Thanksgiving. After the big meal and the family time, you washed the dishes, put away the leftovers, dug out the Christmas decorations, and as you made the house ready for the season you hoped to do better in December. Of course, you had forgotten about the holiday goodies that would be brought into your office as treats for everybody. They sat there in all their deliciousness, and it was just too hard to resist them.
Christmas arrived. Only Scrooge would decline the traditional foods that various relatives and friends had prepared. A week of polishing off the remaining treats has left you with a closet of clothes that no longer fit and a temptation to try a weight-related New Year's resolution one more time.
What makes your 2010 resolution different from your previous weight-loss resolutions? This time you're doing low-carb! You have gone to the Internet to investigate low-carbing and to make contact with people who can encourage and advise you. You have a book (Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution or Mike and Mary Dan Eades' Protein Power), and you have decided to read it and follow what it says.
What's different about low-carbing? Low-carbing allows us to work with the way our body works rather than fighting against it. When we eat foods with lots of carbs (bread, pasta, potatoes, most desserts and snacks), our bodies can't use all of those calories at once. Our pancreas releases the hormone insulin to store the nutrients in our cells. Between meals, the nutrients are released and are used for energy.
However, as we age, the store-and-release cycle sometimes starts to break down. We eat the carbs and store the nutrients, but when it comes time for our cells to release the nutrients, they resist doing so. The body needs energy but the cells don't want to release it. So the body moves to plan B. It commands us, "EAT MORE." Sure enough, we load up on more carbs and for a little while we have the energy we need. The excess energy from our snack is stored in our cells, but once again the cells resist releasing it when we need more energy a few hours after we've eaten. As this vicious cycle deepens, we notice that we are eating, getting hungry, eating again, getting hungry again and steadily gaining weight. We can try ignoring our appetite, but our bodies are clever. They will make the drive for food relentless. If our willpower holds, our bodies will assume they are in a starvation situation and will retaliate. They will throttle down our core temperature and make us less energetic. Sound familiar?
Low-carb eating circumvents the broken store-and-release cycle. Eating low-carb food means we will be eating mostly protein and fat. Both protein and fat are stored after meals, but the process is more gradual. With very few carbs, less insulin is needed, and this means that body's cells are more likely to make the switch from storage mode to release mode between meals. The presence of dietary fat (in the absence of carbs) will signal the cells that starvation is not imminent, and will tell the body that there is no need to lower body temperature and energy level.
What about calories? When our body is utilizing its own stored energy, it will naturally adjust our appetite to be content with a lower calorie intake. That's hard to believe, but most people will spontaneously start eating less as they become adapted to a low-carb way of eating. They are no longer putting a part of each meal into permanent storage, and are actually able to mobilize the energy their body has been hoarding against what it thinks is a famine. With low-carbing, self control is necessary when it comes to food choices, but the constant battle against raging hunger is over.
That's it in a nutshell. The practice is harder than the theory, but that's why the books by Dr. Atkins and the Eades are there. Psychological support is available from online bulletin boards such as Low Carb Friends.
You can do it. Your body will actually help you when you work with it rather than against it. And those clothes in your closet will soon be too big rather than too small. Happy Low-Carb Year!