“And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything. Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.”
What if there was one way to lose weight that was the correct way. One way that would always work. In the name of moderation, let’s say a method that works 90% of the time – there will always be the odd case of Prader-Willi or some strange genetic disorder that screws up the perfect statistics. So let’s say 90% and round it up.
Let us also imagine that there are two main foundations to the method. One is the reduction of inflammation, in which the intake of easily digestible carbohydrates and the intake of omega 6 fatty acids amongst other factors play important roles. The other foundation is the increase of lipolysis (getting the body to burn its own excessively stored energy instead of asking for external energy), because weight loss and fat burning are two parts of the same. In increasing lipolysis the reduction of insulin and glucose levels are of paramount importance. Doing so requires the reduction of easily digestible carbohydrates.
Now let us say that this method i.e. eating mostly animal products, supplementing with vegetables and taking in copious amounts of non omega 6 fats and no refined carbohydrates, always works. But we don’t know it, because too few of us are looking at the details, and to many are focusing on the entire weight loss “package.”
In weight loss studies the participants lose weight by utilizing different approaches, but no approach ever has a 100% success rate. All participant may lose some weight, but some lose more than others and some often nothing at all. But no matter the method, lost weight often returns quickly. These results have led many researchers to think weight loss in it self is futile. It has led some to reason it is all due to lack of willpower.
But might the results fool us?
Imagine you start following the Atkins diet. You lose lots of weight during the first weeks. But then you start feeling unwell. You get tired, light headed and you get headaches and your stamina is not what it used to be.
So you decide to increase your intake of carbohydrates. The symptoms disappear and in a short while the lost weight has returned. From that moment on you proclaim that you have tried everything from Ornish to Atkins, but nothing worked for you.
But let’s say one of the many weight loss regimes you tried actually was the right one. That “this time it was right, it would work” but “a terrible stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.”
You forgot to put salt on your food.
Salt is important when you restrict your carbohydrate intake and you often have to increase your salt intake with carbohydrate restriction, not decrease it as many does.
Such a simple, stupid little thing could separate success and failure. It could deprive you of the chance to finally get it right.
There are many less significant factors that can easily mess thing up despite us having the foundational principles right and thus make the whole strategy seem futile. Salt is one, stress another. Too little sunlight or even to little carbohydrates are yet others.
Imagine that the right way is already here, but we are blinded by our search for quick fixes, inability to deduct or simply our lack of knowledge.
When I first learned of carbohydrate restriction it all sounded so easy. I thought everybody could lose weight if only they were taught the basic principles – the foundations. I’ve changed my mind now. Not getting professional help could be what keeps you from finally getting to the truth.
The great tragedy of it all is that most weight loss strategies will be unsuccessful most of the time and you will not know if your unsuccessful attempts are because the basic principles are wrong or if you got them right, but a minor detail was out of whack.
Good point about the salt–I always wonder what people are actually eating when they claim a low carb failure due to low energy, adrenal fatigue, etc. I don't think «muscle meat and water» is any knowledgeable person's idea of an optimal diet. The paper (don't have the link on this computer–Volek?) that tests six week ketogenic diets on endurance performance talks a bit about the importance of Na (and K) when restricting carbs and has a few good follow-up refs. I actually eat very little of the typical cuts of meat, but I eat lots on bone broth, tripe, feet, etc. Also, that cartoon is funny.
Excellent post Pal; should be required reading for anyone embarking on any diet.
There are many ways in which diets can fail, and a much smaller numbers of ways through which they can succeed.
Statistically, the probability is much higher that diets will fail, most of the time.
And we also have the «adherer's effect». One needs to be motivated to do something in order to succeed.
Being ill due to complications from diabetes, or having a major fear of those complications, may be very strong motivators.
You're so right. I've seen countless people give up low carb for some stupid reason, and then claim it doesn't work.
John, not sure which article that is, but perhaps this. It has some good points about sodium and potassium: http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/1/1/2
Thanks Ned. Funny how the success stats would demotivate anyone trying to lose weight. Motivation is always key.
Tiffany, that's exactly my experience also.
This just points up the wider issue of doing anything with the body where the variables aren’t obvious. I sometimes feel like I’m in a dark room feeling for a switch. If my hand misses it by inches, I learn the same amount as when I missed by feet. As Ned noted, motivation counts for a lot in this situation but, the very nature of trial and error learning, certainly puts limits on how long motivation can be maintained.
Of course, in my case, being a serious wacko is very helpful in these situations.
Yep, good analogy. The necessity of constant trial and error puts a big strain on motivation. Then again, I guess we can't expect everybody to be as wacko as you. It all begs the question of whether one have to be obsessing about food and health to succeed with weight loss.