Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Retrospective #75: Going Very Low Carb “Cold Turkey”

If you haven’t tried Very Low Carb (+/- 20g of carbs a day) before, one of the first questions you will ask yourself is, “Do I want to just cut down on carbs gradually, or do I want to go ‘cold turkey’”? For the uninitiated, “cold turkey” refers to a sudden and abrupt cessation rather than a gradual reduction. I make the argument that going “cold turkey” is by far the better way. It has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages.
The principal advantages are 1) you won’t feel hungry, because you’ll be burning body fat for energy, 2) you won’t need snacks, just 2 or 3 small meals a day), 3) you will always, consistently, be full of energy, and 4), because your body is ‘happy,’ you won’t be thinking about food all the time. Of course, there may be a few bumps in the road along the way until you “get there;” but in a short time (just a few days for most people) you WILL get there, and all these advantages will come to you. But you gotta go “whole hog,” be disciplined, and do NOT stray from the path.
The disadvantages of gradual reduction are that you will never get to “fat burner” status, and without that transition, you will continue as a “sugar burner.” A sugar burner doesn’t have access to body fat and needs to eat in order to satisfy hunger. If you just eat fewer carbs, gradual reduction translates to slow starvation. The food you eat is digested for the most part in a few hours. After tha,t your blood sugar, which rose dramatically as the digested food entered your blood stream, will drop. That elicits a call for more food (including the carbs you’re still eating) since the insulin that carried the glucose (from digested carbs) to your cells is still in your blood stream.
This is especially true if you are already Insulin Resistant, as is most likely the case if you are overweight and/or Pre-diabetic or a Type 2. The insulin still circulating won’t allow the fat you have in storage to be the energy source your body needs. That’s why Insulin Resistant people gain weight easily (and become more Insulin Resistant.)
So, if you can’t get to "fat burner" status by curtailing carbs, you’re not going to succeed. Gradual reduction means “slow starvation” with all the disadvantages: hunger, craving, and volatile blood sugars (spikes and dips, leading to feeling tired, sleepy, listless, and then, after you eat again, “pumped”). That’s because when you are still a “sugar burner,” you have to continuously take food by mouth to “prime the pump” and keep energy flowing.
In contrast, ceasing to eat carbs “cold turkey” comes without any of the disadvantages mentioned above (hunger, craving, volatile blood sugars), and all of the advantages: You quickly (usually within a few days) become a “fat burner.” You’ll know it when you’re not hungry and your body doesn’t crave sugar because it transitioned to burning your body fat for energy. The only conditions are that you don’t eat too many carbs, or even too much protein. It will burn the few carbs you eat first, then glucose it makes from some of the protein you ate (so be careful not to eat too much protein), then the fat you ate, and then the fat your body stored for just this purpose.
Obviously, since your body fat is last in line, as biology designed it to be, as described above, you’ll have be diligent with respect to the other sources of energy that your body will use first. But that’s easier than it looks, if you learn to eat carefully and not eat too much.  It’ll be easy because YOU WON’T BE HUNGRY! Scroll down to Retrospective Debate #69, “In Praise of Small Meals,” where I discuss this further, including describing what I typically eat.
Having eaten so much for my entire life, for physiological reasons as described, and for psychological reasons as well, the contrast of eating Very Low Carb is stark. But if I listen to my stomach, and listen for other actual hunger signals, I realize that my body is “happy” when I eat Very Low Carb. I think it’s probably how we all lived just a few generations ago. I also like how good I feel now that my body seems to be very happy not to be fat and heavily medicated and suffering from a “progressive” disease, which is how Type 2 diabetes is still described. I’m very thankful that my doctor found this Way of Eating, tried it himself for a month, and then recommended it to me. I’ve been doing it now for 17 years.

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