Advanced Low Carbing–Calories Do Count

Many low carb eating plans leave you with the impression that you can eat any amount of food, as long as you don’t exceed a certain number of carbs, and lose weight.  I suspect this is a conscious or unconscious counter-balance to the calories in/calories out model, where calories are ALL that matter.  The low carb plans want to make clear that what different foods DO in the body is more important than how many calories they contain.  Low carb plans in general suggest letting your appetite be your guide about how much to eat.  But the appetite of insulin-resistant children and teens may not automatically adjust on a low carb eating plan.

For children and teens who have suffered the gnawing hunger of insulin resistance combined with a high-carb, Standard American Diet, it’s worthwhile to pay attention to how much they eat as well as what they eat, even on a low carb eating plan.  Why?  Because they are afraid of being hungry.  They’ve been hungry a lot on the Standard American Diet, even if they were gaining weight all the while.

They can do fine, without hunger, on much less food if the carbohydrates are controlled.  The extra energy they need is made up, without hunger, by using up stored fat.  But they may not believe it at first.  They may think if they don’t eat a giant breakfast they’ll be starving, and stuck, in the middle of 2nd period math.  This is exactly what happened to Juliana on a low-calorie “balanced” eating plan.

So let’s compare a few approaches to limiting overall food intake.  How much is enough?  How much is too much?  If you are controlling your carbs, have tried all their other suggestions for getting weight loss going, and are still not losing weight, the Atkins eating plan suggests counting protein units.  The protein units come packaged with fat, without you having to count the fat.  For example, one egg is one unit.  It has approximately 7 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat.  45 of 73 calories come from fat.  For a 5’4″ woman, the protein range for weight loss on the Atkins eating plan is 10 to 17 units.  That’s 3 to 4 units at 3 meals a day, and one or two 1 to 2 unit snacks.  Eat more if you are not satisfied at meals; less if you are satisfied. (And remember to wait 20 minutes to determine if you are or are not satisfied).

In Living Low Carb, Jonny Bowden offers a formula:  if you don’t have a really large amount of weight to lose, try multiplying your goal weight times ten to get the number of calories you can consume per day and lose appreciable weight.  For Juliana, for a goal weight of 120, that would be 1200 calories per day.

So how would a typical day’s Atkins plan of counting protein units compare to Bowden’s equation in terms of total calories?  Imagine these meals and snacks:

Breakfast:   2 eggs, 1 ounce cooked bacon, cauliflower roasted with oil

Snack:  1 ounce peanuts

Lunch:  3 ounce hamburger with 1/2 ounce melted cheese, broccoli, roasted with oil

Snack:  1 deviled egg

Dinner:  3 ounces roasted chicken, 1 cup green beans with 1 teaspoon butter

That’s 11.5 units on the Atkins eating plan, and about 1300 calories on the Bowden formula.  Pretty close to the 1200 calories Bowden suggests for Juliana’s goal weight.  By the way, 63% of the day’s total calories come from fat.

Fat is satiating, and the carbs that create rampant hunger are controlled.  But a day’s meals and snacks are a much lower VOLUME of food than Juliana was used to eating before she started eating low carb.  In her head, she has to get comfortable with the fact that she can eat so much less food AND NOT BE HUNGRY.

Kids and teens have less control over their lives than adults.  They may overeat when the food is available in case it’s not available later.  I can remember as a child eating as fast as possible so that my brothers wouldn’t gobble it up and leave nothing for me–the amount I ate didn’t always have a lot to do with appetite.   And up until now, you may have been encouraging your child to limit her intake even if she was hungry.  On a low carb plan, she shouldn’t be hungry.  But now she’ll have to learn to recognize true hunger, and trust that if she is hungry, she can always eat.

 

 

 

 

 

I think of myself as Juliana’s coach

There’s a bit of a fad now about parents who have been successful at forcing their children to lose weight with “strict and punishing” methods.  While the daughter in the article, now 8, is a healthy weight, you have to wonder if the mother’s methods are going to come back to haunt her later.

To me, it makes more sense to think of yourself as a coach.  No child or teen wants to be overweight.  If you provide them a path to a healthy weight that doesn’t require semi-starvation, they will embrace it.  The key is low carb eating–but there are many other things you may need to tweak.  Juliana’s weight loss was abruptly halted by allergy medications.  It took me 6 weeks to figure out that they were a problem.  Another time we decided she needed to drink much more water, and that got her weight loss going again.  In the Calories In/Calories Out model, these sort of hidden obstacles to weight loss do not get much attention.

Before she started eating low carb, I used to worry about everything she ate, and hope she would eat smaller portions.  Now, we think of weight loss as a big puzzle.  We need to continuously work on the the puzzle to get her to a healthy weight.  I keep reading, and make suggestions of new things to try.

The mother in the above article, Dara-Lynn Weiss, reportedly once tried the Atkins eating plan.  I’m willing to bet she didn’t do it correctly, or she would have finally understood what she had gone through with all the different diets she had tried, and what was going on with her daughter’s huge appetite.

Your child isn’t going to become an expert on low carb eating without your help.  As the coach, you need to learn everything you can to help your child work out his or her own weight loss puzzle.

Hunter-gatherers don’t burn more calories than we do

Take a look at the brief description of a study of the calorie expenditure in one of the last existing traditional hunter-gatherer societies on earth:  NY Times, Hunter-Gatherer.

The authors conclude decisively that there is no difference in calorie expenditure between the Hazda people in Tanzania and typical adults in the United States and Europe.  They conclude that this finding suggests that “inactivity is not the source of modern obesity.”

Their recommendation to reduce the number of calories we eat is slightly off the mark–although they do particularly recommend eating less sugar, which is tantalizingly close to an endorsement of low carb eating in the very mainstream New York Times.

Times reporting is usually more like this:  A lengthy article by the health writer Tara Parker-Pope in December, 2011 reviewed the steady failure of weight loss diets without ever mentioning low carb plans.  The Fat Trap.  I sent her an email but never heard back.  Gary Taubes sent a rebuttal, but also hasn’t heard back.

Low fat, high carb eating has made us fat.

The low fat, high carb diet that public health authorities began recommending in the 1980s was supposed to be relatively low in calories, and therefore help people achieve or maintain a healthy weight.  Carbohydrates have fewer calories per gram of weight (4) than fat (9) and the same as protein (4).  Consuming more carbohydrates than protein or fat was supposed to supply fewer overall calories in the diet and result in a healthy weight.  But that’s not what happened.  Instead, people have gotten fatter and fatter.

Public health authorities now blame the obesity epidemic on the public not following their advice.  Gary Taubes argues that they have followed the advice, and cites food consumption statistics to back this up:

“Consider, for instance, that most reliable evidence suggests that Americans have indeed made a conscious effort to eat less fat, and particularly less saturated fat, since the 1960s. According to the USDA, we have been eating less red meat, fewer eggs, and more poultry and fish; our average fat intake has dropped from 45 percent of total calories to less than 35 percent”

Taubes, Gary (2007-09-25). Good Calories, Bad Calories (Kindle Locations 219-222). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Yet people, including children, have become fatter than ever:

“The prevalence of overweight in children six to eleven years old more than doubled between 1980 and 2000; it tripled in children aged eleven to nineteen.”

Taubes, Gary (2007-09-25). Good Calories, Bad Calories (Kindle Locations 4765-4766). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Why is the high carb, low fat dietary advice just plain wrong?  Because it ignores what different types of foods do in the human body.  Carbohydrates produce a different biological response than do fats or proteins.  Specifically, they produce a response that stores food energy as fat.  Fat and protein do not.  However, the energy from fat and protein, if eaten in conjunction with carbohydrate, will be swept up in the same process and stored as fat.  Eating fat and protein with too much carbohydrate (and for many individuals, “too much” is a very small amount), will make you fat.

Calories In/Calories Out–NOT

The calories in/calories out model of weight management says: burn more calories than you consume to lose weight; –balance calorie consumption with expenditure to maintain weight.  Like the public health ad said that I remember from the Washington subway in the late 90′s:  switch from mayonnaise to mustard on your daily sandwich and lose 10.4 pounds a year (savings of 100 calories/day for 365 days).  The CDC recommends that children get 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week, and preferably every day.  For a 154 pound person, they estimate that 60 minutes of brisk walking (4.5 mph) will burn 460 calories an hour (more if you are heavier, less if you are lighter).  That’s 3220 calories per week, or 47.8 pounds of expected weight loss over a year.

Virtually all of the dietary advice provided to parents who are trying to help their children achieve or maintain a healthy weight conforms to this model, the most recent and visible example being Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, which is closely tied to the USDA’s new food plate eating plan, and replaced the earlier pyramid eating plan.  Both the new Food Plate and the old Pyramid are high carb, low fat eating plans.

These diets were recommended by public health authorities beginning in the 1980s because it was believed such a diet was beneficial for preventing heart disease, while at the same time controlling weight because it was supposed to be a relatively low calorie diet.  Carbohydrates have fewer calories per gram of weight (4) than fat (9) and the same as protein (4).  It was further thought that even if the diet itself didn’t turn out to be protective against heart disease, it would control weight, and controlling weight would be protective against heart disease.

There’s just one problem:  high carb, low fat diets like the new food plate and the old pyramid don’t work for weight loss or weight maintenance and don’t improve other health markers either.   Gary Taubes, in the lengthy “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” and the cliffs notes version “Why We Get Fat and What to do About it,” eviscerates the logic behind low fat, high carb diets.  Reading these books completely changed how I thought about Juliana’s struggle with weight.   If you eat like the USDA pyramid and are a normal weight, your body can handle a high level of carbohydrates (for now at least)–the evidence for that is that you are a normal weight.  Your child can’t, and that is why he or she is overweight.

If you are a normal weight adult trying to help an overweight child, you should run to the library or bookstore for these books.