Two people who read my column before it is published (my wife and then my editor), have told me recently that the Very Low Carb diet that I espouse is either “too hard” or “unpalatable” and not likely to be tried, especially by “newbies” who are considering Low Carb as the way to go for a Lifestyle Change and Way of Eating.
My goal is good health outcomes: losing weight, feeling great, and three critical and related health markers: blood glucose, blood lipids and blood pressure. Through diet alone, or with minimum medications, patients can avert or delay the onset, and treat and reverse conditions like Type 2 diabetics and Pre-diabetics, heart disease, stroke, many cancers, and even cognitive impairment. Similar outcomes are seen by many people who follow this Lifestyle.
Improvements in the way you feel will manifest quickly when you switch from being a sugar burner to a fat burner. You will see it in the loss of hunger, in feeling full of energy instead of sleepy, in your elevated mood, and in the lab reports that your doctor will see. Your doctor should also be aware of the reductions in all-cause mortality and the co-morbidities of all these diseases of Western civilization that are now widely reported in the scientific literature.
Whether they know how you did it or not, your doctor will be very happy for you. They won’t have to cajole or hector you to change your ways. They’ll just look at the results – the office scale, the blood pressure cuff, and your lab blood test reports and smile. Then, they will say to you, “Just keep on doing what you are doing.”
Anyway, this is all preface to “then and now.” What my “constructive critics” mean when they tell me I am being too zealous. My wife says, “Not everyone is like you,” and my editor gags at the idea of eating a can of sardines for lunch every day. Okay, I get it. But I didn’t start off like that. I recall that when I first started eating Very Low Carb more than 17 years ago, I ate on average 50 grams of carbohydrate a day some weeks, and 1,800 or even 2,200 calories a day, and occasionally I binged. But I weighed 375 pounds, and I was transitioning from a lifestyle of indulgence to a more disciplined Way of Eating. But I still lost weight – about 2 pounds a week, in toto 170 pounds.
The amazing thing is that within a day or two of starting on strict Atkins Induction (20 grams of carbs a day), I was getting “hypos” every day, and I just had to eat a candy bar (LOL). I called the doctor, and he first told me to stop taking one of three oral meds. Then, the next day when the hypos continued, he ordered me to cut the other two oral meds in half and then soon thereafter to cut them in half again. A few years later, when I switched to Bernstein (30 grams of carbs a day), I was able to drop one of the other two., continuing with just Metformin. From the beginning of eating Very Low Carb, my blood sugars came into control (which they were not even on all three oral meds), and my A1c dropped into the “non-diabetic” range, where it has remained now for 17 years.
So, the message is: You don’t have to be a fanatic to make this Way of Eating work for you. In my opinion, it’s best if you go “all in” because you get the benefit of not being hungry. That’s because you will transition from getting your energy from food to getting your energy from your body fat stores. But start out wherever you can – say at 100 grams a day until you get used to it, or maybe even 20 grams of carbohydrates a meal.
Remember, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) on the Nutrition Facts panel on processed (boxed and bagged) foods is 300 grams of carbohydrate a day for women. That’s 60% of your daily food intake on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, and most people actually do eat between 55% and 60% of their calories from carbohydrates.
Reducing that by two-thirds to 100g/day is a big step in itself. Then, after your body (and your conscious you) has acclimated, if you still haven’t met your blood glucose or weight loss goals, cut them again to say 20 grams of carbs/meal. Eventually, you may get to where I and my body am/are happily now: +/- 15 grams of carbs a day.