Diets of all kinds are a favorite American past-time. We’ve fallen head over heals for the newest craze, the most creative cleanse and keep our fingers crossed for the latest and greatest magic pill supplement. Each person has their own preferred “go-to” program. It’s almost as though we have picked favorite sports teams. Are you Team Veg or Team Bacon? Maybe you’re on the Points Team or Team HCG. Well, wherever your allegiance lies, there is often a strong dislike for the opposite approach that is interesting to take notice of. What makes you so sure that your favorite style of eating (notice how I’m avoiding the word diet here) is the best one around? Is it the results you’ve had or the foods you like? Was it the most nourishing or the least punishing?
Team Dr. Oz
Dr. Oz is not exempt from this same opinionated approach to eating styles. To complicate the issue, he has an unfair advantage to attract people to his team because he’s a doctor on television. He is a very persuasive personality making medical recommendations that many people take for gospel. In reviewing his show over the past couple of years, he’s both seen trashing the low carb diet and recently promoting low carb flours for weight loss. In one episode, he recommends cycling between low carb and high carb days. So what are we supposed to believe? If our TV doctor keeps changing his mind, how are we supposed to keep it straight? Each episode I watch, it seems his primary objective is to go for shock value instead of considering real life scenarios.
What’s the Problem Here?
The biggest problem with his message is that he tries to apply it to everyone. Each episode where he makes a recommendation to eat a certain way and each time he’s missing the critical variable of individuality. His opinions about diet are limited to black or white. So where does this fit in a world of gray? Ultimately, Dr. Oz is a fan of whole grains, fruits, vegetables fish and olive oil. This is pretty much the Mediterranean diet. (Team Med, anyone?) He’s against high fat meats across the board. He’s pro exercise and anti-processed foods. Overall, it hardly seems controversial. My issue with his advice is that our lifestyles primarily exist in the gray zone. When people ask for my opinion, I don’t reply with a knee-jerk answer. Usually I say “that depends” or “what’s your situation?” One style of eating does not work for all people.
So What’s Good About Low Carb?
First of all, “low carb” needs further explanation. When I say low carb, I am not referring to an Atkins Diet that is severely restricted. Low carb in my definition means: “Significantly lower in carbohydrate than the typical American Diet. The carbohydrates included are primarily those in whole fruit and vegetables.” When Dr. Oz interviewed Gary Taubes on his show, he made it sound as though “hunks of meat” were the main staple, although Mr. Taubes states non starchy vegetables comprised the bulk of the diet. The range of carbohydrate intake would vary from person to person but would likely fall in the 50-150 gram range. Most Americans consistently reach the 200-300 gram range on a daily basis. When you cut out sweetened drinks, flour based foods and large portions of starch, it’s not hard to get a lowered intake of carbohydrate.
Low carb diets help to cut out junk foods, processed foods and inflammatory foods and sugary drinks. This cuts out a lot of unnecessary calories which is why it works so well for weight loss. The foods are narrowed down to the bare essentials for nourishment, proteins, healthy fats and colorful vegetables with some fruit. The rest is just fluff- and we’re all trying to get rid fluff, right? If we’re all in agreement, then why is Dr. Oz recommending low carb flours for weight loss? Low carb flours are still processed food. What are people going to make with low carb flour? Most likely some type of cookie, muffin, bread or breaded item for frying. The reality is that these are all processed foods with extra calories (even if the flour is low carb). Here, Dr. Oz is guilty of being a hypocrite.
His greatest failing is that he is guilty of creating mass confusion. In the episode his guest promotes cycling between low carb and high carb days as optimal for weight loss. Emphasis was placed on eating every 3 hours and consuming tons of vegetables. However, when a sample meal plan was revealed I counted barely 2 servings of vegetables and more than enough servings pasta, bread and protein shakes. So again, I’m wondering, where is the consistent message? Is it to eat more vegetables- because I don’t see it. What I do see is a health professional who is hyping up gimmicks and telling people messages that they can eat “as much as they want” and lose weight. That’s not the message that I support spreading. In fact, a recent study showed that eating fewer meals in a day led to more weight loss, than the traditional 6 mini meals a day.
Will Low Carb Work for You?
I recommend a low carb approach for weight loss for most people, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. Carbohydrate is a source for quick energy. Athletes need a good supply of quick energy and need to have a higher carbohydrate diet. Active children tend to do well with higher carbohydrate diets, since they are normally running around so much, they burn through this energy supply consistently. Individuals on a managed diabetic regimen may need to ensure a consistent amount of carbohydrate where low carb would not be appropriate.
Most of us struggle to get enough exercise and face a sedentary work environment. This is the perfect storm that would prompt me to recommend a low carb style of eating. You certainly could try eating 6 mini meals a day filled with low fat carbohydrates, but then you would be needing to be spending hours in the gym burning off all this energy.
Another benefit to the low carb approach is that you can change the typical hormonal response that is created in the body. Carbohydrate consumption stimulates insulin, which promotes fat storage. When eating lower carbohydrate, the opposite is true, that less insulin is secreted which means more fat burning potential can be enjoyed. Some additional ways to maximize this favorable hormonal fat burning environment would be to eat as low carb as possible in the first part of the day and reserve your carbohydrate foods for evening time. This is also called “carb-backloading” in the fitness industry and goes hand in hand with strength training to achieve maximal fat loss.
So what is your perception of Low Carb eating? Do you like my definition vs. the Atkins approach? Have you tried cutting out carbs? What did you like or dislike about it? I would love for you to share your experience and leave a reply below.