November 17, 1999

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Isn't this an all meat diet? How can that be healthy?

This is one of the most common misconceptions about a low carb diet, and one that I'm afraid many of the leaders in the low carb field haven't handled too well. Dr. Atkins protested recently that vegetables weren't needed for health (true on one level, extremely questionable on another), while the Hellers have people convinced that broccoli is high carb, which is most emphatically is not. (It has about the same carb count as green beans, which they consider a low carb vegetable. Go figure.)

A low carb diet is not, and was never meant to be, a NO carb diet. Even during its most restrictive Induction phase, for instance, the Atkins diet allows 2 cups a day of low carb vegetables, which is far more than the average American is eating. And many low carbers eat low carb vegetables in pretty much whatever quantities they want, to good effect. There's no reason in the world you can't have peppers and a few onions (easy on the onions, they're a borderline veg) in your scrambled eggs for breakfast, put celery in your tuna salad at lunch, and serve it on a bed of lettuce, or stuffed into a tomato, and have mushrooms on your steak and broccoli on the side with your dinner -- even all in the same day.

It's not even true that you can't have any fruit on a low carb diet, although more fruits are high carb than are vegetables. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, honeydew -- all these are very low carb fruits. Grapefruit is about 10 g a half, and a fresh peach is about the same, a plum is slightly less. You don't want to pig out on fruit, but a 2" wedge of melon, or a half-dozen strawberries for dessert is just fine.

You do, of course, want to be aware of the few high carb vegetables --
things like peas, corn, winter squash, and potatoes -- but that should just be part of an ongoing policy of knowing approximately what the carb count is of everything you eat. Get a food count book, and use it! Knowledge is power.

What about that assertion that "You can be healthy without vegetables" is, on one level, true? Well, the Eskimo ate just about no vegetables in the winters, although they ate fruits and vegetables in season (short season!), and they didn't get any horrible deficiency diseases. But then, they ate a lot of their meat raw, and ate all the organs and such, as well as the muscle meats. Also, despite not having heart attacks or diabetes or obesity or rotten teeth, they didn't necessarily live to great ages -- easy to die of an accident living where it's that cold -- so we don't know about some diseases that come with age. I'm not sure it's a good idea to base our diet completely on the diet of the Eskimo.

There is considerable evidence that vegetables have very valuable phytochemicals along with their vitamins and minerals, and they also add
far more variety, volume, and fiber to your diet for the carbs they carry than anything else could. Further, while it has now been shown that fiber, in and of itself, does not prevent colon cancer, eating vegetables -- a very specific source of fiber -- seems to. So eat your low carb veggies!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:14 PM

Thought for the Week

Surely you know the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. This is a very important prayer for those of us seeking to improve our bodies.

On the one hand, I've heard people claim that since obese people don't necessarily eat more than slim ones, and the regain rate for diets is over 95%, changing your eating habits is useless, and you shouldn't even try. Nonsense! If what we ate had nothing to do with what we weigh, there wouldn't be varying obesity rates from state to state,, and between socio-economic classes, and people from other countries wouldn't start getting fat when they moved here and adopted our sugar-and-white-flour saturated diet. And the regain rate is largely attributable to people going on a diet with the idea that they will lose the weight and then go off the diet. If you go back to eating the way you used to eat, you *will* go back to weighing what you used to weigh, no question about it!

On the other hand, it's important to know what you can change through diet and exercise, and what you cannot. I have lost 50 pounds, and I'm edging into a size 10! But I seriously doubt I will ever fit into a size 6; I'm simply not built for it. I'm short and stocky, with a big ribcage and The World's Shortest Waist (Thanks, Dad! ;-D ) All the diet and exercise in the world will not make me a tall, delicate, willowy girl. If I told myself, "It's all useless, since I'll never look like Cindy Crawford", I could let myself get back up to 190 pounds very, very fast. Instead, I'm thrilled with what I *have* been able to change!

Be the best you you can be, work on what you *do* have control over, and don't worry about what you can't change.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:03 PM