One month ago, I started eliminating as much carbohydrates as possible from my food intake. This includes all sugared beverages (soft drinks, fruit juices, tea), flour products (rice, noodles, pasta, pizza, bread etc), and starchy vegetables (namely potatoes).
My BMI was already at a healthy level of 20.5, so weight loss wasn’t my aim. I simply wanted to live more healthily.
I felt the impact almost immediately:
- No more post-lunch sleepiness
- Greater mental alertness throughout the entire day
- Higher energy levels
- No more hunger pangs just couple of hours after my meals (usually around 11am or 4pm or 10pm)
- A greater sense of general well-being
After about 2-3 weeks, I noticed that my pants got looser and fitted better. This coming from someone who wears size 30 pants (though I recently found out to my horror that clothing makers routinely under-declare their sizes; I’m actually 32 inches around the waist). My face filled out more and I looked healthier, though the weight stayed constant.
My relationship with food changed and I started enjoying my food more. There was no longer that nagging concern at the back of my mind that I should start counting my calories.
I now eat lots of meats (especially the fatty parts), bacon, eggs, cheeses, butter, yogurt, and nuts. I eat whenever I feel hungry, and I eat till I feel full. The feelings of satiety last for at least 5-6 hours after my meals.
Friends and family either think I’m crazy or mad. To assure them that I’m not trying to kill myself, I went for a blood test last week as a baseline measure, and will take another one in 6 months’ time.
It all started when S told me her high-priced personal trainer advised her to eat less carbs and more proteins. I immediately scoffed at the notion that carbs could make one fat. After all, look at the Asian nations of China, Japan and Korea: we eat rice and we are slim.
Determined to prove her (and her trainer) wrong, I started doing some reading on the Internet. I came across two articles by NY Times journalist Gary Taubes. The first discussed the idea that sugar is toxic to the human body because of the way fructose is processed; the second presented evidence carbohydrates is the key cause of obesity.
I then bought two of his books from Amazon. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It is written for the layman, while Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health (Vintage) contains a lot more technical details.
Gary Taubes builds a persuasive case that carbohydrates are what causes us to become fat. In a nutcase, this is what happens:
Biochemistry Fact #1: Carbohydrates is broken down into glucose (a kind of sugar) in our bodies.
Biochemistry Fact #2: Insulin production is triggered by rising blood sugar levels.
Biochemistry Fact #3: Insulin is the hormone that signals our body to store fat.
Therefore, eating carbs starts a chain reaction which ends in our bodies storing the excess calories as fat.
Eating fewer carbs naturally means I have to eat more proteins and fats. Concerned friends have asked me whether that is safe.
Question #1: Don’t high protein diets cause kidney problems?
This claim arose from a misunderstanding of the research. High protein diets can exacerbate existing kidney conditions, but have no adverse impact on normal people.
Question #2: Isn’t high fat diets the culprit behind heart diseases?
Most studies found no association between saturated fat intake and heart diseases.
So I can safely eliminate the carbohydrates from my diet. After all, they are simply empty calories and without zero nutritional value. We do just fine without carbs but will die without adequate essential amino acids (from proteins) and essential fatty acids (from fats).
Question #3: But doesn’t the brain require glucose?
The fascinating thing is that although the brain and some other tissues require glucose, it doesn’t have to come directly from our diet. Our bodies can actually manufacture its own glucose from proteins through a process called “gluconeogenesis” (very well-explained in this post which also touches on ketone bodies).
One could object to a low-carb diet on environmental grounds (animal rearing is less resource-efficient than crop growing), ethical reasons (against the commercial rearing or slaughtering of animals), or even for economic reasons (carbs is the cheapest source of food).
But to me, it makes perfect health sense.