Safe, sane, long term low carb diet?
August 27, 2010 4:37 AM   Subscribe

Practical, science-based, safe, sane "low carb" book that doesn't pull any punches? (If simply "Atkins," which one?) I'm looking for a book that is gung-ho, but still spells out what can go wrong and why: I'm three days in to a self-created low carb diet. All sorts of good stuff has happened, but all sorts of disconcerting stuff has happened, too.

I read Good Calories, Bad Calories and it was revelatory (but not practical). (Miscellaneous: I'd prefer to not lose any weight and go to maintenance--so I need lots of lifestyle information. Also, I have allergies to milk and eggs, if that makes a difference. I've been eating tons of meat, coconut oil, coconut "butter," olive oil, all sorts of nuts and seeds, veggies, and a small serving of fruit per day.)
posted by zeek321 to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I found The High Protein Diet very useful. It is very practically written with lots of suggested daily menus, recipes, and chapters outlining the science behind the approach.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:42 AM on August 27, 2010

The newest Atkins book is actually worth a read (it came out earlier this year). It is fully updated and written by some leading researchers, it has a good focus on vegetables, and is miles away from what you will hear the typical Atkins proponent say about the diet. The plan itself is not crazy low carb forever, and it has great ways to step you into moderate carb eating as you reach your goal weight.
posted by smalls at 5:02 AM on August 27, 2010

I want to suggest that you don't look for a book, here's why: people, doctors or otherwise, who write diet books are writing to the general public, which means they're typically not subject to peer review and the critical reading of other doctors or medical and scientific professionals. I could be wrong and just haven't spotted it yet, but am not familiar with any diet book that does not seem to be out to introduce a "new" diet to the masses simply to sell copies.

Instead, I would really recommend that you become bff's with Google Scholar. Look for peer-reviewed journals that talk about successful weight-loss maintenance following a low-carb diet. I have been doing a little bit of searching along those lines, but from what My understanding is that the jury is still out on low-carb diets as a maintenance program, and when you limit food groups you put yourself at risk for losing out on important nutrients that a more balanced intake would provide, but here are a couple of articles that discuss this question, but there's definitely more out there. The more you educate yourself, the better informed you'll be should you then decide to check out a book, and you'll be better able to separate the hype from the valuable nuggets you might be able to get from them.
posted by hegemone at 5:07 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Instead, I would really recommend that you become bff's with Google Scholar.

Any particular papers or search strings that will put me in the thick of the latest research? I have access to stuff like Scopus where I can use citations to branch backwards and forwards in the literature.
posted by zeek321 at 5:28 AM on August 27, 2010

I've been eating tons of meat, coconut oil, coconut "butter," olive oil, all sorts of nuts and seeds, veggies, and a small serving of fruit per day.

Sounds like you've got it perfectly figured out. Can you be more specific about your concerns? There's the famous "carb flu" that can make you feel a bit loopy while your blood sugar starts to level out, and you start using ketones more than glucose for your brain fuel. That goes away within a week or two.

You sound like you're going to be getting plenty of fiber, so no concerns there (although fiber is pretty overrated). Since you can't have dairy, the only thing I'd worry about is making sure you get enough calcium.

Look into what is called the Paleolithic Diet - you're already doing it, but it might interest you to understand why it makes sense. There are plenty of books on it now, and they don't all agree 100%, but the basic premise is: eat things which humans have been eating for the longest in our evolutionary history. Grain agriculture is relatively recent (only about 10,000 years in a 5 million+ year human lineage). Therefore, it shouldn't be surprising that eating tons of starch and sugar might not agree with us, with results like insulin resistence and gluten intolerance, etc.

Meat, vegetables, fish, nuts, etc on the other hand are all ancient, and our evolutionary niche was shaped by these foods. Good luck on your journey.

Oh, P.S., Gary Taubes has a new book coming out soon, which is precisely the "practical" component of GCBC.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 5:30 AM on August 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Can you be more specific about your concerns?

Bad: Feel a little loopy. A little panicky. Had some dry heaves last night. Experiencing a "distant hunger" that won't go away (I appear to be maintaining my weight and muscle mass, but it's only been three days). No carb cravings and fruit tastes too sweet--eating a small amount anyway at a couple meals.

Good: Exercise is enhanced--feel looser and stronger, at least on a very light workout (press and deads at maintenance weight). Have much more energy for daily tasks which is the main benefit I was hoping for.

Concerns: The loopy and the panicky and the dry heaves and the maintaining weight and not suddenly dropping dead.
posted by zeek321 at 6:16 AM on August 27, 2010

Response by poster: Oh and life-long mild inflammation of sinuses, turbinates, and tonsils seems to be receding too. And my contact lens prescription seem slightly too strong now. But I digress.
posted by zeek321 at 6:30 AM on August 27, 2010

Any particular papers or search strings that will put me in the thick of the latest research?

I searched for "low-carbohydrate diet" and "weight-loss maintenance," I think those two in particular will get you the info you want. From what I could tell, there's more research on low-carb diets for weight-loss, but papers regarding maintenance (which is kind of a different, and often more challenging beast all-together) will often focus solely on studying strategies to accomplish maintenance. To that end, apart from the diet aspect, I've seen some really interesting and helpful papers that give you a good idea the intersect between psychology and diet-and-exercise for weight maintenance. I'm running out the door now but if you're interested I could definitely look them up later and share.
posted by hegemone at 6:34 AM on August 27, 2010

One of my favorite nutrition blogs is Summer Tomato. The author is a nutrition scientist. She highly recommends Taubes' book, and in her review offers some more accessible alternatives including Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food which uses a lot of the same data as GCBC.
posted by bluefly at 6:40 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

For simple practicality, I'm a fan of the Drinking Man's Diet.
posted by jbickers at 6:48 AM on August 27, 2010

I haven't read his book yet, but Robb Wolf is the bomb and espouses the lifestyle you're describing (and backs it up with lots and lots of hard science). You can check out some of his podcasts and his blog, too.
posted by telegraph at 7:58 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing recommendations for paleo nutrition - maybe start with Mark's Daily Apple and see where his links take you.

I would also recommend the Atkins books published before Dr. Atkins' death - seems like after his death, the company has focused less on natural foods and more on processed foods (particularly their own).

For recipes and general support, Dana Carpender's Hold the Toast site is useful.
posted by chez shoes at 7:59 AM on August 27, 2010

Robb Wolf's book linked above is coming out mid-September . Definitely looks like it will be worth the read, especially since you already avoid dairy.

chez shoes, I'm not seeing any mention of the Atkins products in the newest Atkins book. Am I missing something? I found the book to be a very good resource and it wasn't tied to the company or pushing any of their products at all (however, the website mentioned in the book IS).
posted by smalls at 8:48 AM on August 27, 2010

Hi smalls, I wasn't aware of the newest Atkins book and missed the bit mentioned earlier, so sorry about that - I stand corrected. My comments were in reaction to seeing lots of Atkins products (bars, shakes) recommended in recent versions for the Induction phase - which in my experience isn't a good idea (as evidenced by much anecdata about those products causing stalls).
posted by chez shoes at 9:10 AM on August 27, 2010

I find Hyperlipid to be highly interesting. It is written at a very technical level. It gets updated sporadically these days. I recommend you read it chronologically.
posted by prunes at 9:32 AM on August 27, 2010

I would also vote for the newest Atkins book, The New Atkins for a New You. It's more clearly written than some of the previous versions and they've better defined what you should be eating (e.g. minimum of 12-15 net carbs from veggies from Day 1) and when (e.g. walking through the "carb ladder" of foods to reintroduce to your diet in the second phase.) Contrary to chez shoes' point, it seem to me this latest version relies very heavily on fresh, natural foods and in fact somewhat discourages dependence on low-carb "products" including their own. Looking at what you're currently eating, it looks like it will fall right in line with their recommendations.

If you haven't checked it out yet, do take a look at the website. There are lots of good resources there, including nutritionist blogs, tutorials if you're not feeling ready to dive into the book and discussion forums.

I know I may sound like I've drunk the (sugar-free) Kool-Aid but I've been following this for the last two months with good, slow, steady success so far and have not felt deprived at all. No matter which approach you choose, do make sure you're tracking your food intake using something like or, that alone with contribute hugely to your success. Best of luck and feel free to MeMail me if you want to chat about Atkins. :)
posted by platinum at 11:54 AM on August 27, 2010

Just a note on the Atkins books:

There's a sort of pattern to the books and a divide in Atkins eaters. Old School Atkinites follow Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, which is the 2002 book and the last edition he wrote before his death. The diet changed considerably after that with Atkins Mega Corp Inc, swishy websites, and frankenproducts with artifical sugars. New School Atkins works but it isn't nutritionally the same. Old schoolers tend to prefer this board to the one at

The newest book has won back some Old Schoolers but I still follow DANDR. My diet is both safe and sane. For breakfast today I had four slices of ham and half a cup of coleslaw. For lunch I had half a cup of diced chicken breast/chicken salad, and a salad. For dinner I ate a quick two-egg omlette with cheese and three slices of tomato but would more usually have had eggs for breakfast and cooked a proper dinner for two - steak, pork chops or fish with green beans and sauteed mushrooms.

Basically you'll find "go to" foods that fill in the routine in your diet. We eat a TON of mushrooms instead of potatoes, and I eat a lot of coleslaw, egg salad and chicken salad because they work well without sandwhich bread. I take full fat cream in my coffee. Cashews are a staple snack around here and we keep bags of salad in the fridge and eat it with everything.

Fruit is not a problem on maintenance if you understand what you are putting in your mouth and berries, pineapple and honeydew are all lower anyway. I eat an occasional apple or orange.

Anyway, I would suggest that while you are in this phase of forming new habits, you track every single thing you eat at FitDay or similar - not for the total calorie count but for the nutritional breakdown. You want the habits you are forming to be good ones that will support you nutritionally.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:05 PM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: Not recommending any particular titles, but if you're looking specifically for a low-carb diet and for health reasons, not for weight-loss, look for books written for Type I diabetics.

Perhaps books written by the JDRF? (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). I would guess that they would include anything that could go "wrong", too.
posted by INTPLibrarian at 3:06 PM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: Just as a follow up, after about four days I developed extreme thirst that I was unable to quench through drinking water. (My body would say, Stop drinking water. And I would listen. But I'd still be painfully thirsty.)

So that freaked me out. All my blood and urine tests came back dead normal, like precisely in the middle of every reference range, but I was very uncomfortable and concerned to the point of unwilling to wait it out. So, I slowly reintroduced carbs. It took several days, but the thirst is almost gone.

Despite all the thirst creepiness (and nausea and reduced appetite--yes all of that, at least, is "normal" but I didn't like it), like I said I did experience all those positive changes above. And after my second carb meal, everything went back to bleh normal. So I'm going use fitday and some of the suggestions above and do something EXTREMELY gradual that does not involve ketosis or "induction."
posted by zeek321 at 7:05 AM on September 4, 2010

Response by poster: (If you do various google searches involving "thirst" and "low carb." There are plenty of relevant hits. But none of them really addressed my concerns to my satisfaction.)
posted by zeek321 at 7:10 AM on September 4, 2010

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