Tuesday 6 November 2012

I was accidentally right all along?

Thanks to Dr Tamsin SportieDoc, I am currently half way through reading a very interesting book indeed.  Since I decided to try to lose weight back in 2006, I've been very interested in food, nutrition and the sciency bits behind it.  And it seems like we've (Western society) been swinging to and from the more useful answers over the years: "fatty food is bad!" -> "carbs are bad!" -> "eating fat makes you fat" -> "refined sugars are more evil than crack!" -> "low fat diets!" -> "low carb diets!" -> "nuts are too fatty and make you fat!" -> "eat a handful of nuts a day!"...

When I decided to change my lifestyle and eat differently to firstly lose weight and then keep it off, I reduced my energy intake in the understanding that if "energy in > energy out", you put on weight and the converse of "energy in < energy out" and you lose weight.  And, in the process of doing that I accidentally did something right.  I ended up quite dramatically reducing the amount of carbohydrate I was eating (almost no bread, no pasta pretty much ever, not much potato/rice/starchy veg) and lost a load of weight.  Yes, I also reduced the amount of cheese, butter, oil I ate and had almost no nuts or seeds ever, but I also almost completely cut out alcohol and sugar too.  I also ended up eating quite a lot of nuts and seeds at the tail end of last year, in an attempt to get some more variety and hard-to-get minerals into my diet, which co-incides with another drop in weight and body fat levels.

This is not an image from the book,
but illustrates one of the main points
that insulin inhibits lipolysis (part of
how fat changes from stored
to usable fuel in the body)
I can't explain the theory in the same way as Taubes and nor could I in a few lines of blog post even if I were good at reducing things to simple facts.  The thing is that there's a lot of scene setting and examples that he gives in the book that get you thinking and questioning before he explains what (he and a number of people) believe to be going on inside the mammalian body with what goes in and the effects on body composition and overall body-weight.

I can recommend that you get hold of a copy either in print or digital form and read it.

Having listened to MrTOTKat talking about some of the endurance sports podcasts he listens to, where they've covered topics like ultra-runners running on very little fuel which is mostly not carb-heavy and teaching the body to use fat as a fuel for endurance sports, I was finally given that push by Taubes' book (though I'm only half way through so far) and I'll be testing out some of the theory over the next few weeks, in a very unscientific way, to see if by tweaking and refining my existing pretty reasonable diet I can better control my body fat and then maybe even reduce reliance on carbohydrate as a fuel in the longer term.  Let's see!  If the theories hold up, I should be able to do it with no genuine hunger at all (though I may well have cravings, but that's tough boobies and I can deal with that just fine).  If the experiment yields a positive result, I may well have to go and re-write a bunch of my pages on weight loss and maintenance.  I sincerely hope that is the case!


  1. I'll be interested to see how you get on - certainly weight loss for me has been successful without having to limit carbs: or go hungry! But I do know quite a few people in my slimming group who feel that they personally get better results if they're more restrictive of pasta and potatoes.

  2. Cutting down on carbs did really help me lose weight and I managed a respectable half marathon time whilst training with very little carbs altogether. I think it works. The problem for me were the side effects: grumpy tummy, mood swings, being weird in social situations (meeting with friends for dinner or drinks). It is for these physical and social reasons that I have given up on low-carb and will never go back to it.