Do low-carb diets really work?
January 15, 2004 11:32 AM   Subscribe

A co-worker claims to have lost 4.5 pounds in the last six days on the South Beach Diet. This person goes on to claim that most people lose around 10 pounds in two weeks, then lose additional weight more slowly. So, is this possible? I think he is just losing water. But maybe I'm wrong--do these low-carb diets really, truly work?

. . . And if you research this online you get about a million conflicting opinions and very little real science (or so it would seem).
posted by _sirmissalot_ to Health & Fitness (43 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I, too, would be interested in hearing more opinions on low-carb diets from people who have actually tried them.

FWIW, my brother went on a strict yogurt-and-salad diet, and dropped over a hundred pounds in nine months of working out every day.
posted by Jairus at 11:37 AM on January 15, 2004

I asked a friend who's a grad student in nutrition about low-carb diets a while ago, and here's what she said:

Atkins...does it work? Yes, for a while. Here's what happens. It's essentially a low-calorie diet. Protein is 30% more difficult to digest, so for every 1,000 calories you eat, you only really get 700 to use. One would think that eating so much protein would prevent you from catabolizing your own protein stores, but it doesn't. Without carbs to burn, your body does start to burn fat, but it also burns protein. For every pound of protein you lose, you lose 5 lbs. of water with it. That translates to a lot of weight loss rather quickly. Studies have shown that at 6 months, Atkins results in a greater weight loss than a traditional low-fat, low-calorie diet; however, after one year, the results are almost identical. Essentially, people cannot stay on this diet. They get bored. Common complaints include constipation and dehydration. Since no long-term studies have been done, we're not sure what the effects of the diet are. We have some ideas - kidney disfunction, cardio-vascular disease, and osteoporosis. Kidney problems could develop because excreting all of the nitrogenous wastes proteins metabolize into are difficult on the kidney. Protein also leaches calcium from bones as the body tries to regulate the pH balance of the blood. Atkins' book tells you that your cholesterol will go down on the diet. This is true, but weight loss has that effect - no matter how it's done. Longer-term cholesterol numbers would be quite interesting.

That's the nutshell version.

I assume most of that stands for South Beach as well...
posted by COBRA! at 11:37 AM on January 15, 2004

You can lose this much weight.

I lost 11 pounds in 14 days.

IMHO, the low carb diet is unsustainable long term since it is so boring.

Use it if you want to lose some weight and then move to a balanced way of eating, like the Zone.
posted by Argyle at 11:43 AM on January 15, 2004

This is my experience w/ dieting after I read the Atkins book - I decided that Atkins was a little nutty, but it made sense to me that eating lots of carbs was bad, so I cut down on carbs (no more soda, no white bread/pasta, no candy bars) and less fat, and generally ate less. I lost about two pounds a week, totally close to twenty. I still don't drink soda and stay away from white flour, but I do have a candy bar occasionally. I've gained about three pounds back (and could stand to lose maybe 10 more?) but haven't gained anything near back what I lost. It's been about eight months. And I occasionally excercise (at the gym or skatepark).
posted by drobot at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2004

First of all, comparing the South Beach Diet to Adkins is inaccurate. They are not the same diet. And the South Beach Diet is not a low calorie diet either. I've been on it for about 10 days and lost 5-6 lbs, and I'm not following it exactly. All I've done is cut out sugar, bread (any flour products), pasta, rice, and potatoes. They all contain simple carbs that goes right through your system and elevate your insulin production, which over time induce your system to store fat. I can eat lots of veggies, salads, nuts and lean meats...plenty to choose from. But I would never say that its a fix for everyone. The first phase is strict, then you add back fruits and some more complex carbs like whole grains. Once you reach your goal, you add more restricted foods back. Its all in the book which reads the best of them all. Just read and see for yourself.
posted by cowboy at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2004

I can't believe I'm doing this...

I lost about 14 pounds in the first 2 weeks of the diet - I've been losing a pound or two a week since then (I've been on it for about 2 and a half months). It seems a lot less extreme than Atkins, which is why I decided to give it a try - complex carbs are OK, so I still have things like whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, fruit, etc.. I've not been exercising much of late, though my bike trainer arrived yesterday, so I'm looking forward to some time in the saddle.

The biggest change for me was expunging as much raw sugar (which wasn't too tough, I don't have much of a sweet tooth and had already stopped drinking regular soda/pop, etc.) and as many simple carbs as possible (much tougher for me, I'm guessing bagel shops in the Boston area have noted a substantial decrease in revenue).

I can't speak for anyone else, but I feel good and have more energy, and I feel like I pay a lot more attention to what goes in my body. Borrow the book, talk to your MD, etc.. And I agree with everything that's been written about Atkins, but this really isn't comparable.
posted by jalexei at 11:53 AM on January 15, 2004

bread (any flour products), pasta, rice, and potatoes. They all contain simple carbs

when i was at school, i was taught that flour, pasta, rice and potates all contained complex carbs - that they are mainly starch, which is a polysacchardide (compared to mono and di-saccharides, which are sugars and the things that give you a "rush"). (i didn't include "sugar" in the quote, because i agree with that).

i've had a blood rush many times from eating sugary snacks (or sugary fruit) while hungry. i've never had anything like the same feeling from bread or potatoes (they make me fluu and sleepy!).

(and i thought that complex carbs were in white bread too - brown bread is better because it contains more nutrients and indigestible roughage, not because the carbs are more complex).
posted by andrew cooke at 12:02 PM on January 15, 2004

I lost seven pounds in seven days on South Beach. It was the most miserable week I've had in a long time. We followed the letter of the law (my wife bought the book) and basically ate all the meat, salad, and sugar-free Jell-o imaginable. We were hungry all the time, even after we ate, and I experienced miserable sugar lows. We walked around in a huff until we discovered that we could eat Redi-Whip straight out of the can and not break the diet.

We both quit the diet after 10 days. Most folks say, "Induction is the hardest part! You'll be fine after two weeks!" but even a modified version of South Beach seemed too misery-prone to work long-term.

It was mentioned above, but a serious diet consists of a few basic tenets:

- less carbs
- less saturated fat
- less overall calories (usually as a result of the above)
- exercise

Atkins and South Beach are essentially basic dietary practices modified to a logical extreme. I say don't bother.
posted by werty at 12:06 PM on January 15, 2004

As some others have mentioned: You can definitely lose weight, but whether it's a healthy long-term solution is definitely debatable. It's a good way to get a jumpstart on weight loss, but after that it's up to you to eat healthy and (the part nobody likes) get *lots* of exercise.
posted by oissubke at 12:07 PM on January 15, 2004

It's funny you should post this *today*, as I just order this book to try out this diet. From my limited research, everyone agrees that (like all fad diets), the initial weight loss is mostly water/etc. - that's no secret. The reviews of the SBD say it's successful because it's easier to stick with the diet in the long run compared to many other diets, and doesn't feel quite as "insane" as Atkins. I'll let you know how it turns out.
posted by jca at 12:11 PM on January 15, 2004

I'm losing weight while drinking sodas, eating rice and pasta, and basically anything else I want.

The gym is my friend.
posted by konolia at 12:15 PM on January 15, 2004

andrew cooke - products that contain highly refined flour, like pasta and bread are simple because that very refinement has taken out the fiber (thus the complexity) from the carbs. Its all about the Glycemic Index. Whole wheat bread, and whole wheat flour are somewhat better, but its still refined. Whole grain bread is another beast altogether.
posted by cowboy at 12:30 PM on January 15, 2004

I didn't bother with any of the books or "induction phases" or other shit. I just cut out sugar, processed foods, and most potato products (I still enjoy a baked potato now and again).

I've lost forty pounds or thereabouts in three months.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:39 PM on January 15, 2004

Every other person I know is on the Atkins diet but I have yet to see anyone lose insane amounts of weight on it. I have seen people lose insane amounts of weight on a liquid diet. We're talking 100+ pounds in under a year. Whatever you decide, I don't see much point in losing 5 pounds in a weekend, 10 pounds in two weeks, etc etc etc. Diets (and dieters) that hype short-term benefits are just trying to hook you with a quick result. What you want is something that will work over a longer period of time (unless, of course, your only concern is fitting into some swimsuit for a film shoot in 4 days time).

One of the main dangers with low-carb diets is that the average American diet minus carbs leaves nothing but a lot of fat and cholesterol. Atkins encourages you to eat all kinds of protein, but you should keep your common sense about eating steak and egss three times a day. It *will* kill you. I encourage you to broaden your diet in new directions if you decide to cut out a major part of it (carbs).

Now, I hate tofu, but here are some other high-protein, low-carb, low-fat alternatives to the M.E.A.T. if and when you decide to cut down on the carbs. Also, if I'm not mistaken, whole grains are more agreeable to the low-carb diets. Get yourself a nice 7-grain whole wheat bread instead of sourdough. Cook long-grain wild rice instead of Uncle Ben's. And don't forget to eat your vegetables.
posted by scarabic at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2004

I've been on Atkins for a couple or three months (with a break for Christmas). I've lost 25 pounds so far, and I feel great; I did feel a little punky the first week or so.

I usually eat an omelette for breakfast, cheese, meat or salad for lunch and meat vegetables and salad for dinner. I'm neither bored or hungry.
posted by timeistight at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2004 [1 favorite]

That's kind of what I did Crash. I modified the diet to what I could sustain and still make progress towards my weight-loss goal. You gotta just see what works for you.
posted by cowboy at 12:42 PM on January 15, 2004

Atkins' book tells you that your cholesterol will go down on the diet. This is true.

This is why I eat bacon (nitrate free) and eggs fried in lard (non-processed) for breakfast. Seriously. I have no cholesterol problem. Mainstream diet advice is just flat wrong. The real killers are white flours, sugar, processed foods of all kinds (including most store-bought milk). Once you learn that it is the corporations making us sick with the value-added food, and the drug companies getting rich off it all, you begin to think it is a conspiracy. Buy from your local farmer, don't play the grocery store game.
posted by stbalbach at 12:44 PM on January 15, 2004

I'm a big fan of low-carb (Atkins, et al) but I'm a special case, so maybe my anecdotal experience isn't the most helpful. Sorry if this is oversharing.

I am significantly (60 - 80 lbs) overweight, due to a combination of medications I take to combat prolonged exposure to radon as a child. For me, Atkins has been a godsend. Its the only diet that has given me any real control over my weight gain. Also, I just feel better when I'm doing it -- yes, Mac-and-Cheese or a cookie bring me joy in the short term (and I do eat both on special occasions), but over the long term they make me feel sleepy, sluggish, and -- well -- fat. On Atkins, however, I feel much more energetic and alert. My concentration is better and the awful bloated feeling that my meds create goes away. I've done a lot of work on creating menus that mean I don't suffer from the "boring diet syndrome" so many report, but its taken me time and experimentation to get to that point. For me, the biggest issue is that its simply much more expensive to eat this way.

To address the health issue: my MD has taken the very sensible (IMHO) view that every extreme mode of eating (be it Atkins or extreme vegetarianism or simply low-calorie diets) carries with it a degree of risk, that the eater should be aware of when they make the choice. For me, I have been much healthier since I began this regime, because the health issues caused by my weight were more serious and immediate than those caused by the diet.

I do strongly agree with the idea that the current 'food triangle' puts too much stress on breads and pastas, and not enough on meat, cheese, and vegetables. I grew up on a farm -- feed a cow grain, you'll fatten it up; feed a cow grass, the cow will maintain its weight and give tastier milk.

In short, based on my own experience, I don't think your co-worker's weight-loss claims are at all unlikely or unusual. Although Atkins is sold as a lifestyle, most people I know do it hardcore for 2-3 weeks, then taper off into simply thinking harder about what they eat, and adding more protein into their diet and choosing fewer breads, grains, and pastas.
posted by anastasiav at 12:47 PM on January 15, 2004 [1 favorite]

When I did the two-week Atkins induction, I lost 12 pounds in two weeks -- so yes, it is possible, and yes, it probably is mostly water. Although I never really got bored, I agree that it isn't practical to plan to intake 20 grams of carbs each day for the rest of your life. Atkins, or any diet really, is a good way to teach yourself proper nutrition, phase out processed foods, and learn about what your body likes and doesn't like. I've kept the weight off (55 lbs) by keeping an eye on what I eat (carbs and fats) and sticking to an exercise regimen.
posted by jess at 12:47 PM on January 15, 2004

cowboy - thanks for that. maybe i'm a pedant, but simple/complex has a strict scientific meaning (it's to do with the chemical structure). having read your link i agree that glycemic index appears to be the important thing, but that doesn't make potatoes or bread simple carbohydrates - they are complex carbohydrates with a high glycemic index. i can see that the simple/complex distinction is largely irrelevant in practice if the glycemic stuff is correct, but it's confusing to use terms that have a clear meaning to mean something else. why can't people talk about high/low glycemic indices instead of abusing "simple" and "complex" (it would have helped me understand sooner!)?

anyway, thanks again for the link. it's made everything a lot clearer.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:23 PM on January 15, 2004

I've been Atkins for about a year and a half. I lost forty pounds in the first six months and I've been maintaining ever since. (You do lose more in the first two weeks courtesy of water, which the book admits.) Anybody who does Atkins as a "quick fix" hasn't read the book and probably IS doing themselves damage. Just to clear up a few misconceptions (from the media and from this thread):

- You're only supposed to cut back to 20 grams/day for the first two weeks. That gets you started. Then you start adding them back until you find the highest point at which you still lose weight (obviously at therefore the slowest rate). The only people that are supposed/expected to stay on Induction are the severely obese. If you eat nothing but fried eggs for six months, of course you're going to get bored and have a nutrient deficiency. It's your own fault for not reading beyond the Induction chapter of the book.

- With regards to the medical side effects of protein loss, constipation, and dehydration... Atkins covers all these in the book. He requires you to exercise. People who don't do this will lose muscle tone. It's not his fault they're only out for the easy solution. He also requires you to drink lots of water every day. This helps with both the other two issues. And for those who just really can't get regular (and it's never happened to me in 18 months), he recommends you take some flax seed for extra fiber. Really, he has considered all these things.

- I wouldn't characterize Atkins as "insane" or really very different from South Beach. From what I've read, South Beach is just Atkins without Induction. You still cut out the bad carbs and you're allowed to eat good ones, based on their GI/how complex they are/etc. Or is there a bigger difference? I don't want to make too many assumptions without reading it.

- As for the boredom issue... You're only going to be bored if you're lazy. Atkins requires you to plan and cook a little more than you're used to. Before we started the diet, my boyfriend and I would have either rice, pasta, or some form of potatoes with pretty much every single meal. Now intead we eat pumpkin, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, beans, cauliflower, etc. He bakes us soy and linseed bread. We eat lamb, veal, beef, pork, chicken, seafood. We don't even have the luxury of just buying the "Atkins" brand products, because though I'm told they've become ubiquitous in American supermarkets, they're still rare and very expensive in Australia. I actually have a much more varied diet now than I did two years ago.

To be honest, the biggest problem anyone doing Atkins faces is the criticism. My sister still insists that I'm harming myself despite the fact that she hasn't read the book; I'm forty pounds lighter than I used to be; I run and workout at least three times a week; I see my doctor regularly and my cholesterol and blood pressure have gone down. Nowadays I just don't mention it in polite company (MetaFilter aside, of course).

To answer the original question, yes, they work, but most people aren't doing them right. You can lose weight on the National Enquirer All Cabbage Soup diet too (which my sister honestly suggested as a "healthier" alternative). I don't want to evangelize too much here, but Atkins really is a lifetime plan and not a diet. It's not something you should do for a couple weeks whenever you need to drop ten pounds. Anyway, my e-mail's in my profile if anybody wants to ask me more about my experience with it...
posted by web-goddess at 1:24 PM on January 15, 2004 [3 favorites]

I agree andrew, bad terminology on my part. I never excelled at Chemistry, but I should have known better having studied English.
posted by cowboy at 1:35 PM on January 15, 2004


With a wide grin on his face after a news conference to announce a new AIDS initiative, he deadpanned: "No beer." His dark business suit jacket swung open to reveal a flatter stomach, replacing the onetime presidential paunch.
Mr. Clinton says he's been following "The South Beach Diet," and "working out with a German man." He declined to divulge how many pounds he's lost.

posted by matteo at 1:41 PM on January 15, 2004

Here's another easy way to lose weight:

cook your food from scratch.

you'll be amazed that you can lose weight while eating everything that you want.
posted by Stynxno at 3:20 PM on January 15, 2004 [1 favorite]

From November 2002 to November 2003, I lost 120 lbs, I went from 315lbs to 195lbs.

The first seven months of the diet, I followed Atkins fairly strictly. I never ate more than 30g of carbs a day. During this time, I lost 70 lbs.
I truly believe Atkins is the best diet for sedentary people to follow. At the end of the seven months, I just switched to a sensible diet. I've lost an additional 50 lbs since.

I don't think any diet is magic. I think people need to think about weight loss in terms of exercise more than diet. All people ever ask me when they see old pictures is what diet did you do? That is the completely wrong question. The only way to lose weight and keep it off is to start exercising. Start running, cycling, lifting weights. Walking does nothing for you. If you're under 40, start running. You will lose weight. Exercise increases your metabolism, and helps regulate your appetite.

If you exercise and follow any diet, you will lose weight. Forget about 'diet', just think about eating sensibly. Eat what your body needs. Drink a lot of fluids.
posted by patrickje at 3:57 PM on January 15, 2004

patrickje, thanks for the advice; and congrats on your achievement.

I am 25, 6'2", 275, and just starting a new eating/exercising program. I am working out for an hour 5 days a week, and watching what I eat via

I haven't read atkins books, but my interest is peeked. Can someone suggest a good website that covers the basics?
posted by Quartermass at 4:13 PM on January 15, 2004

Walking does nothing for you.

Unless you're not even doing that. It's the best start for any exercise program, because it's a start at some form of exercise - especially for "sedentary people", as you mentioned.

Personally, I bought a jump rope to go with the South Beach Diet. Wish me luck. :)
posted by jca at 4:18 PM on January 15, 2004

Quartermass: Someone else mentioned the other day - what does that site offer you?
posted by jca at 4:19 PM on January 15, 2004

cook your food from scratch.

That is basically what the Atkins diet was for me. I did it for about 7 months last year and lost 25 lbs (doesn't sound like much, but I am short so proportionally it's a lot!). I found it fairly easy to stick to, and it really opened me up to trying new veggies since the "allowed" list was so small. I learned to love squash and eggplant, and now consider salad a major part of my diet, replacing pasta and bread.

I switched to a less strict approach last year that incorporates some of the things I "learned" from doing low-carb. I still stay away from added sugar completely, except for the once a month or so dessert treat (fresh strawberries with whipped cream is better than almost any cake or cookie, anyway, IMO). I also try to only eat nutrient dense food, which is basically all there is to eat on Atkins, except now I also eat sweet potatoes, and lots more fruit.

If you are considering a low-carb diet, google the newsgroup archives for recipes, etc. Every question you could come up with has been asked there a dozen times, and they have a lot of great info.
posted by gatorae at 4:22 PM on January 15, 2004

It is free (no spam bombs yet!), first and foremost.

You imput everything you eat, how much you exercise etc. and spits out statistics to track your progress. I am finding it is helping me stay aware of what I am eating, and it is motivating to watch your progress. Not for everyone, but it has been helping me.

I also like the journal feature. Suprising how much I have to say on the topic.

We should get Matt to start for us chubby MeFi'ers!
posted by Quartermass at 4:27 PM on January 15, 2004

While it lacks the current buzz of South Beach and Atkins, check out Bill Phillips' Body For Life program.

Short version: Eat several balanced meals each day (defined by fist size portion of protein, carbs and vegetables) and get to the gym. It's not rocket science, there's no real mystery -- eat better and move your body and you'll lose weight. That's probably why it appealed to me.

Once you get past the Robbins-esque motivational speaking and the pitches for EAS products, there's a lot of stuff to like about the program. The orgins of the program is in the bodybuilding world, as evidenced by the cheezy before-and-after pictures on the site and in the book. But the instructions are useful, and if you follow it for the 13 weeks recommended you will see a difference both in weight loss and the increased muscle tone.

It's definitely taught me a lot about how to eat better, as well as improved my attitude towards working out.
posted by kaefer at 5:14 PM on January 15, 2004

Carbs aren't necessarily bad, just an excess. And the worse thing is refined sugar.

How I lost my weight. This started April 15. I eliminated soda from my diet. I reduced slowly the amount of refined sugar I was eating. I ate fruits and vegetables, peanuts, meat, basically sticking to that food pyramid or octagon or whatever it is now.

I also changed from a 3 meal cycle to a 5 meal cycle. So I eat 5 smaller meals, the same amount of food, instead of 3 larger meals. This allows your metabolism to stay up throughout the day.

I started a workout program which consisted of cardio 4-5 times per week, and weight lifting for 30 minutes per day 3 days per week. Each day of weights I focused a different body group in cycle. Typically Day 1 would be Chest and Arms, Day 2 Shoulders and Back, Day 3 Legs. I would do crunches and push ups 5 days a week when I had time, sometimes in my cubicle at lunch. Muscle tissue helps burn fat.

I started on April 15 at 302 lbs. I am 207 right now. So that's 95 pounds in 9 months. I still would like to shed around 30 more pounds, I think. But at the same time, working on building a little more muscle mass. Nothing ludicrous, just some toning.
posted by benjh at 6:25 PM on January 15, 2004

This non-commercial page has many well-researched links; I followed much of the advice closely, and am much stronger and thinner for my efforts.
posted by trharlan at 7:14 PM on January 15, 2004 is somewhat of a MeFi for the low carb set. Many many subforums, journals and, very un-MeFi-like, members get their pretty little graphics next to their names.
posted by billsaysthis at 7:42 PM on January 15, 2004

Web-goddess, your story mirrors mine almost exactly. Been on the Atkins lifestyle program for a little over a year and a half. I've lost about forty pounds, and I feel much better.

I've been off induction for a long time, so I eat whole grains (Great Harvest makes THREE low-carb breads which are pretty good) fruits and veggies and most anything that isn't white flour or refined sugar. There are great ice creams, chocolate, and baked goods available for snack emergencies.

My HDL and LDL are both in the optimal range, for the first time in my life. I too did the things they suggested: LOTS of water, fiber pills for Induction, and lots of low-glycemic veggies and berries.

For those interested in checking out the diet, you can go to the Atkins site. I've also found some good recipes at Low Carb Luxury. If you're interested in Atkins read the book before you try this willy-nilly. It's a change in food philosophy, not a "diet."
posted by answergrape at 8:43 PM on January 15, 2004

Another Atkins fan here. For years I thought it was nuts but for boring reasons I won't go into, I decided to give it a go.

Besides losing a massive amount of weight in the last eight months, I feel SO much better. Cutting out sugar is transformative. I'm more alert, in a better mood (generally) and don't get that draggy feeling in the afternoon. I sleep better (bye bye sleep apnea and indigestion.)

I can't imagine quitting because you're bored. There are so many good things to eat! I do miss pasta and sandwiches and chocolate deserts, but I can eat lobster salad and beef stew and roast chicken and seared tuna and on and on. And the new sugar free chocolate is delicious.

But the all time greatest thing about low carbing is how easy it is. After the first week of sugar withdrawal, you start feeling terrific and it's fairly magical how steadily the weight comes off. Basically, it's a low calorie diet because carbs make you hungry: when you cut them out, you eat less but you don't notice.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:58 PM on January 15, 2004 [1 favorite]

For Diet: Body for Life.

For Exercise: Do whatever you enjoy, do it often and on a regular basis. For me, karate, salsa and weight-training do the trick. Tai-chi and yoga are also interesting because they are relaxing and you use muscles that you don't regularly use.

If you have a dojo nearby, I would strongly recommend full-contact karate:

1) It is hard to slack off when you train surrounded by your sempai (seniors) and your kohai (juniors).

2) Free sparring is full-contact so getting in shape and staying in shape is key to long-term enjoyment and survival.

3) Bonus points if you have a sensei (instructor) that seems to take great joy in shitkicking (during free sparring, of course) anyone who is slacking off during practice, not coming to the dojo often enough or has, in any other way, been a negative role model to the rest of the dojo.

4) It is a full-body workout that includes stretching, aerobics and resistance.

5) It clears the mind and soul (for me, anyway). I find I am much more patient, creative and productive after karate practice.

posted by cup at 10:03 PM on January 15, 2004 [1 favorite]

I think everyone's experience with low carb can be different. My own personal experience sucked - I lost weight, but I felt awful, had stomach problems, and was exhausted all the time. After switching to Weight Watchers and eating a more balanced diet, I started losing weight just as steadily and feel much better overall. I feel like WW, for me, is much more sustainable in the long run.

However, my dad who was a type-II diabetic cut out all of the processed carbs & sugars out of his diet and started an intense walking & kayaking regimen (that only a retired person could do since he spends 4-6 hours a day exercising). He lost 75 lbs in no time and his diabetes is literally gone. When he was in the height of his weight-loss, he wouldn't eat starchy vegetables, most grains, and only 2 to 3 fruits a day. He also only ate lean forms of protein like fish, chicken & egg whites. He mostly ate vegetables, tons and tons of them. Now he eats like that most of the time, but he probably eats a real dessert (sugar, fat & all) and restaurant meals once or twice a week, while keeping up w/ his exercise routine.
posted by catfood at 5:42 AM on January 16, 2004

I'm another Atkins fan. I've lost 70 pounds in a little over a year and feel better than I have in a long, long time. A couple of things that helped me were reading the book (I was amazed at how many published criticisms of Atkins were straw man arguments), spending more time in the kitchen preparing meals, and the fact that my doctor was very supportive of a low carb diet.
posted by maurice at 9:49 AM on January 16, 2004

Atkins has proven damned expensive. Replacing every pair of pants, slacks, shirts, jackets, blah blah blah has cost a mint. Well, my shoes seem to still be the same size.
posted by cairnish at 12:49 PM on January 16, 2004

cairnish: It's even worse when you have to replace the replacements because you fell off the diet. :(
posted by jca at 3:48 PM on January 16, 2004

Atkins was very clever with developing his plan. Not because it's a great diet, but because of the way he pitched it.

Effectively it follows the obvious.. we all burn 1500-3000 calories per day (varies with weight and activity level) , so if you eat less calories, your body will burn the deficit from fat stores, and you lose fat mass. However, that's just science, not a way to sell books or a special diet. So he figured that many people hate reducing calorie intake the 'usual' way.. that is, just eat less calories.

Instead of allowing people to eat a healthy combination of the essentials (protein, fat, carbs), he figured he could cut down the carb percentage and make it up with protein. This would allow followers to eat a whole ton of junk food, and 'make up' for it by eating far less carbs. This works, and is a very clever marketing angle!

However, if you are perfectly happy eating salads, and just generally reducing your calorie intake, while maintaining a healthy carb/fat/protein percentage.. you should really just do that, it'll benefit you more in the long run. The Atkins Diet is really a big experiment in marketing to the gormless hordes who won't give up their steak, eggs, and bacon for no-one. But, it works, and you can't knock that. It's just not the ideal way.
posted by wackybrit at 3:05 PM on January 19, 2004

Start running, cycling, lifting weights. Walking does nothing for you.

Actually, you're very wrong on this point.


Most people underestimate how effective walking can be in losing weight. Walking actually burns more calories from fat than running does. In fact, it has been shown that in people who walk versus those who run the same distance, the people who walk will burn more fat calories.

Its easy to see why also. Ever start walking faster and faster to catch an airplane until all of a sudden you break into a jog? Why? Because jogging is easier, or more efficient than running. Its harder, and takes more effort, to walk as fast as you run.

So why don't we see more walkers? One, walking fast looks kinda funny and isn't considered 'cool'. Two, it takes most people longer to walk the same distance they could run (in other words, lack of time).

I've known several people, including my mother, who walked instead of running due to bad knees and got just as many results and look just as good as any runner I've ever seen.

The problem is that people have heard how great walking is (rightfully so) and end up take leisurely walks around the block, checking out the scenery as they go.

Like anything else, weightlifting for example, you have to push yourself to see results. Just walking does very little. Intense walking does as much as running.
posted by justgary at 10:12 PM on January 19, 2004 [3 favorites]

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