So, it seems like everyone has a love/hate relationship with carbs these days.
We love eating them, but most of us are petrified of eating them at the same time. At the same time, once we start eating them, we usually can’t stop either.
Here are 4 reasons you are afraid of carbs, and what to do about it:
1. Everyone is doing the ketogenic diet
The ketogenic diet has been gaining in popularity over the past several years.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, lowcarbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates (wikipedia.org). However, not everyone’s metabolism will easily acquiesce into this style of eating. High fat eating on the ketogenic diet can mean that 75% of your calories are coming from fats. In contrast, most diets suggest a fat intake of 30-40% fats. There are some dangerous associated with this for some people.
The ketogenic diet is also not new by any means. It was first developed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic. Despite being highly effective in treating epilepsy, it fell out of fashion due to the surge in new antiseizure medications in the 1940s.
The ketogenic diet has surged in popularity as of late. In my observations as a nutritionist, this is being strongly promoted to compliment the sales of “ketone” drinks—very expensive powders that will show the presence of ketones in the body via urine test (a marker of ketosis—or the state of burning fats for fuel), but do not necessarily put the body into the state of ketosis. Having ketones in the body, and being in a state of ketosis are not the same thing.
This is an instance of correlation equaling causation. Causation indicates that one event is the result of the occurrence of the other event. Just because two things correlate does not necessarily mean that one causes the other. A great example: every time a squirrel buries a nut under a tree it rains. Therefore, squirrel scavenging activities causes rainfall. We know that is not the case! But, the way the facts are presented (or, correlated) we are led to conclude otherwise.
The ketogenic diet may be beneficial for certain populations, but it is not advisable for everyone. Those with liver, kidney, and gallbladder issues are advised to speak with their doctor before beginning this diet.
Instead of going ketogenic, consider changing the sources and quantities of your carbohydrates. Eliminating them completely may cause binging behavior
2. Eating carbs makes the scale go up
Fat gain, and water weight gain are not the same thing. But, the scale won’t tell you that. It can’t. It’s only job is to report one number to you, with no distinction of where it came from.
The reality is that fat gain does not usually occur in significant amounts overnight. If you weigh x lbs on monday morning, and then 5 lbs more on tuesday morning it is highly, highly unlikely that this is true fat gain. This is water weight gain. And, this water weight gain is what scares people because it usually appears after eating carbs.
Each gram of carbohydrate attracts 2 ounces of water. Upon consumption of significant amounts of carbohydrates, your body will ultimately hold onto additional water for that reason (1 gram carbs = 2oz water). Similarly, this is why people will lose a ton of weight (water, initially) on low carb or ketogenic diets, and then the weight loss will slow down to a crawl. Or, they start to accumulate “spare tire “ effect around the waist, which is actually also carb related, but because carb intake is actually insufficient, raising cortisol levels. So in essence, what people really need is proper carb balance.
Somewhat like Goldilocks (or the Goldilocks position, as coined by Dr. Sara Gottfried) you shouldn’t have too few, or too great of a carb intake for best body composition results— just the right amount like Goldilocks. People are quick to slash carbs because it has a great impact on fit of clothing, and the scale right away. This again is a correlation may not totally equal causation relationship example. While it is important to not overeat carbs, under eating them does not always cause the desired weight loss you may want. It may show a water loss, and some fat loss, but depending on your unique carbohydrate needs you may need more or less carbs than what you are actually doing. When carbohydrate intake falls too low you can experience the following:
• weight loss stalls
• waist size increase or spare tire effect
• low energy
• difficulty thinking
• loss of muscle tone or inability to build it
It is important to find your “Goldilocks position” for your carb intake: not too few, and not too many.
3. Once you start eating carbs, you can’t stop
I always say I’ve never met a box of Cheese-it’s or Ritz crackers I didn’t like. Once you start, it is nearly impossible to stop. Same thing goes for chips, cereal, bread, and cookies. Carbohydrates are notoriously addicting, and difficult to stop eating. This is why many people avoid them.
One of the main reasons this occurs is because the most addicting carbs of all lack fiber, an extremely satiating component of food. This sends signals of satiety very quickly, whereas low fiber carbs alone will not do this. If you can’t add fiber to your carbs (vegetables are great at this), then you can try adding protein.
Protein also has an extremely satiating effect, and also a higher thermic effect than carbs (meaning, it becomes more metabolically expensive to process it). I have never heard anyone say they could not stop eating a plate of chicken breasts because of this satiating effect.
4. It’s just another marketing phase, just like the low fat era
I am sure no one can forget the low fat era where everything was made and marketed as fat free. I remember Snackwell cookies in particular, and their fat free marketing label, and maybe you do, too. This was during a time when fat was believed to cause disease, and obesity. (Ironically, all of the fat free alternatives are very likely somewhat responsible for the obesity epidemic we are currently faced with; when fat is removed from a food it is usually replaced with sugar. Then, when it is over consumed routinely it can cause health problems).
Now, carbohydrates are also being promoted as causing disease, and obesity.
The reality is that any macro nutrient (carbohydrates, protein, fats) can cause disease in excess, and simply demonizing one of them isn’t really a fair message. The best message to teach the public is one of balance, and moderation. Extremes usually breed other extremes, and this is what can cause health problems, and weight loss resistance. For example, if you restrict carbohydrates too much, for too long, you can start to lose your ability to process them. If and when you resume eating them, they can initially cause food sensitivity type reactions (if you restricted a certain food in particular), or water weight gain as your body relearns how to handle them metabolically.
Extremes are rarely a good idea, but a balanced approach for your metabolism and lifestyle almost always works.
Becki Siconolfi Online Health, Nutrition, Body Expert & Metabolic Nutritionist, has been practicing personal training and nutrition for 11 years. She is a metabolic holistic nutritionist with Amplified Physique, and works with clients virtually across the United States and Canada on custom meal plans, and stubborn weight loss clients. She can be reached at AmplifiedBecki@gmail.com. Check Facebook daily for my updates, tips, recipes, and fitness tricks: www.facebook.com/rebeccasiconolfi