Monday, August 19, 2019

Retrospective #184: “VLC = Not So Much Thinking”

My editor made this comment in the margin of one of my columns recently, and it occurred to me she had made (as usual) a really cogent observation. The full comment was, “I suppose that making people think about food choices is the key, but VLC = not so much thinking. That’s a real plus for me.” It’s all the more interesting since neither she nor her husband is diabetic; but she really knows about good nutrition and metabolism.
Of course, making people think about food choices IS the key to healthy eating whether you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic or just overweight. I think it is also the way everyone should eat…in part because it is the way we all used to eat. We were healthier as a population before the advent of manufactured and processed foods. That’s a fact.
But I also know that what turns many people off about VLC is the prospect of counting carbohydrates. If it’s not counting calories, it’s counting carbs and fat and protein. I admit, I used to do it compulsively (which is my nature), but it’s not necessary. That’s my editor’s point. It’s not necessary to do that. (Am I repeating myself?) All you have to do with this Way of Eating is 1) understand the basic principles and 2) adhere to them.  Not so much thinking.
Of course strict adherence is a daunting prospect for some, but with an open mind (and strict adherence) you will learn that hunger will not be a driver of non-adherence. You will not be hungry, if you adhere to the principles. It’s that simple. It may take a few days, but your hunger will disappear. Your hormones will take over. They will detect that since you’re not eating carbs, there must be none available. Your hormones don’t know about your stash. With props to Claude Bernard, your hormones operate entirely within the milieu intérieurinside the body.
Your hormones are acutely attuned to what you put in your mouth for energy. If you only eat a few carbs, your body uses those, with protein and fat, and then it will use your body’s stored carbs (liver glycogen) for energy. And then, if you don’t eat too much fat, it will use your body fat for energy. Voila! Bingo! You’re losing body fat and all you had to do was eat VLC and wait for your hormones to take over.
So, “not so much thinking” works, so long as you know what foods are carbohydrates and which foods have more and which have fewer. There is a learning curve for that, but it doesn’t require so much thinking. It just requires effort (strict adherence). I started on Atkins Induction and stayed on it for 9 months, losing 60 pounds. Notice I didn’t mention that Atkins Induction is just 20 net grams of carbohydrate a day. You don’t need to know that. You just need to strictly eat just what Atkins Induction says you can eat… and strictly avoid what foods you can’t eat.
And if you want to succeed, please don’t give yourself a “holiday” or day off. I don’t mean, nor do I expect, that you won’t cheat. I do. I just mean don’t plan on cheating. If you’re not hungry, you won’t have “cravings,” and you’ll actually have more energy, and you’ll feel better, and you’ll be losing weight and your lab tests will keep improving.
But don’t think that you can succeed if you only do this VLC 5 or 6 days a week. It won’t work. You can’t fool your body. It’ll think you found your stash, and everything is now hunky dory. It will stop burning your body fat and start saving it, and banking more for the next “famine.” It doesn’t know we now live in a veritable cornucopia of “food.”
And the trigger for this new “hunky dory” hormonal message will be that silly Reese’s Cup you picked up on the checkout line. “Eye candy.” It will trigger a glucose and then an insulin response, which means it will shut down your fat burning metabolism and restart the fat storage and glucose burning metabolism that causes the pancreas to secrete and pump insulin to carry the sugar energy (glucose) to your cells. I repeat: Your. Fat. Burning. Stops. And your body, thinking the cornucopia is flowing again, will expect more food by mouth and more “sugar.” Your hormones will send you “I’m hungry. Feed me” signals. And you’ll have to start all over again, and it could take a few days to lose the water retained by the kidneys with the sugar and start burning fat again. That discouraging.

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