The carb myth part 2: It’s the calories, stupid

In the first part of this series, The Carb Myth Part I, I pointed out that people often replaced the fat in their food with carbs, primarily in the form of refined sugar. I also stressed that controlling carb intake was critical to ensuring successful fat loss and appetite management. I’d like to expand on this a little bit because currently, the low-carb mania is echoing the stupidity of the low-fat mania ten years ago.

The bottom line: refined carbs—processed sugars and simple starches—are still bad for you.

The carb myth part 1: Why “fat-free” can still make you fat

Ah, the 1980s and early 1990s, the era of ultra-low-fat diets. We were told that we could eat anything we want, as long as it didn’t have fat in it. Calories were irrelevant! Just purge the fat and you can eat everything with impunity! I don’t know about you folks, but I chowed down a whole lot of plain rice and brownies made with applesauce. Well, at the end of it all in early 1997, I was still overweight. Desperately, I tried to purge every last living fat molecule from my life. And through it all, I happily scarfed “fat-free” treats: Snackwells, hard candies, Jello, gelatos and sorbets, fat-free salad dressings with a weird chemical aftertaste… Are you doing the math by now, dear reader? It wasn’t the fat in my diet that was the problem, it was the carbohydrate intake. In other words, I had replaced some negligible fat calories with tons of sugar and starch calories.

Some comments on the current state of sports nutrition products

Food is generally regarded by bodybuilders not as an experience of organic and sensual enjoyment, but as fuel or a substance which contributes to the achievement of a particular physical goal. Bodyfat, in “fitness culture”, is the physical manifestation of overindulgence. Eating, for many people in this culture, is something to be brought under control, and to be done within a clearly defined regimen of bodily discipline.

Enjoyment of food and control of the body are thought to be incompatible; after all, who gets brown rice and lentil cravings? Thus, if the pleasure of eating is antithetical to control of the body, it stands to reason that foods deemed appropriate for “health” goals must be-symbolically or actually-separate from those kinds of foods which are enjoyable.

Grains! Graaaaainnss!!

Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof… –Ezekiel 4:9

Hey, those Old Testament chefs were on to something.


Fat has become an obsession in North American society. As a society, we revile fat people, we eat too much fat but profess adherence to low-fat diets, we say some fats are bad but others are good (and this designation changes regularly), and we buy products that are fake fat or supposed to absorb fat (or suck the fat out of our bodies… as if). Many people, especially women, fear and avoid all fat in hopes of staying slim. In other words, we don’t have a clue about fat. There is so much confusion about fat that I could write 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia Fatannica about it.

Consider this your helpful Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Fat Galaxy. And, just like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the words “DON’T PANIC” are written on the front.

How to eat more fruits and veggies

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that fruits and veggies, aka F/V, are good for you. They contain valuable vitamins and hundreds of other chemical compounds, as well as soluble and insoluble fibre. Also, they taste good! When I meet people who say that they don’t like F/V, it usually means that a) they have only tried a limited range and/or b) they don’t know how to cook them properly.

Why diets don’t work: Conclusion, and what DOES work

The short and sweet conclusion I promised? Drastic diets or diets without exercise chew through muscle. Less muscle means lower BMR and more relative bodyfat. Lower BMR means eventually putting on additional bodyfat in the long run. It puts your hormones out of whack and disrupts your appetite and eating patterns. Essentially your whole metabolic environment is screwed up.

It also means that short-term, drastic caloric restriction is not a good solution for long term weight maintenance and bodyfat loss.

Why diets don’t work, problem 4: The band-aid solution

Aside from the physiological effects, possibly the biggest reason why diets don’t work is that people regard them as short-term solutions to a long-term issue. The issue is usually insufficient activity/sedentary and poor nutrition. In some cases it can also be an underlying medical condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome or thyroid disorder. However building muscle can help in both those cases, as it improves insulin resistance as well as adding lean body mass.