Just how big is the low-carb craze? In a word - huge - and it doesn‘t look like that‘s going to change anytime soon.
We‘re living in an era when an Internet search produces scores of sites on the subject, the top Hollywood celebrities endorse the shunning of bagels and pastas for goat cheese omelettes and Chef‘s salads, stores catering to the growing contingent of low-carb dieters are popping up everywhere, including two that recently opened in Traverse City, and books on the topic dominate the bestseller list.
As if that weren‘t enough, there‘s even a new low-carb beer on the market in the form of Michelob Ultra.
It seems that it wasn‘t all that long ago that people were learning about the Atkins diet and were skeptical that an eating plan based around the near-limitless consumption of red meat and cheese could actually promote weight loss. When Dr. Robert Atkins first introduced the low-carb concept to the public in the 1970s, it was dismissed as dangerous and radical by the cardiologist‘s peers. It was almost 20 years later that the movement caught on and Americans began to accept the notion that it was carbohydrates, not fats, that were making them fat and that all the sugar-heavy, low-fat foods they were consuming was at the root of more than half of the citizens in this country being overweight.
FACTS ON FAT
While low-carb diets vary somewhat, the basis is the same: Carbohydrates lead to increased blood-sugar levels, which spur production of insulin, a hormone needed for energy. When carbs and insulin are reduced, the body is forced to burn fat for energy, leading to increased weight loss.
The newest kid on the low-carb block is the South Beach Diet, one which declares upfront that it is not so much a low-carb diet as it is one that focuses on “good“ and “bad“ carbs. Industry experts believe that between 15 and 30 million Americans are flirting with some form of a low-carb diet. Sales of “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss“ by Arthur Agatston, M.D., have been at the top of the bestseller lists since it came out this past spring, and it seems that no matter where you turn, someone is talking about or trying the diet, which guarantees a loss of eight to 13 pounds in the first two weeks if followed properly.
Linda Decker is a respiratory therapist at Munson Medical Center who just started the South Beach Diet after hearing enthusiastic testimonies from co-workers about its success. Intrigued, she got a copy of the book, read it thoroughly, and liked what it had to say. Nine days into the effort, she has lost four pounds and is highly motivated to continue.
“I picked this diet because I believe in eating all food groups and eating nutritiously, and this one focuses on good, complex carbohydrates, good fats and good fibers,“ said Decker. “I don‘t think it‘s realistic to say you‘ll never eat any form of carbs again, but it‘s obvious that by cutting things like breads and sweets out of your diet, you‘re going to lose weight. What appealed to me here was how healthy this diet seemed and the potential I thought it had for compliance. Diets are worthless if you can‘t stick to them and eventually convert them into a way of life and everyone who has tried South Beach seems to be having good luck with that.“
Kristen Roush is a low-carb resource consultant and certified personal trainer who started a low-carb support group at Munson in November and saw more than 150 people attend that first session to explore how a low-carb lifestyle could work for them. She is a passionate advocate on the issue, having started a low-carb eating program after years of grappling with disordered eating. Her doctor, Thomas Bannow, a supporter of low-carbs, pointed Roush in that direction, something she believes saved her life.
Roush says that even though more people have become aware of the benefits of a low-carb lifestyle, she has still found it difficult to get the word out and deliver accurate information on the diet. So she decided to become a crusader.
“As a full-time realtor, I was spending more time talking to people about making low-carb a lifestyle than real estate,“ she explained. “The subject would always turn toward diet and exercise and I‘d be clearing up the misconceptions about Atkins or something. When I found myself talking more and more about a low-carb lifestyle, and people were calling to ask for help, I knew I needed to make this support group happen.
“This way of eating had become so ingrained into my daily life, that I couldn‘t imagine not following a low-carb lifestyle. I knew that the need for information exchange was so great that I had to do something about bringing these people together. I wanted to be the missing link in encouragement and information and clearing up misconceptions.“
Those misconceptions might include people thinking of low-carb as no-carb, added Roush. “I promote carb-conscious not carb-phobic because there are carbs in practically everything we eat, and you have to make this a workable plan in order to follow,“ she stated. “Dr. Michael E. Schulte, a board-certified cardiologist with Grand Traverse Heart Associates who spoke at our last meeting, is convinced that there is no need to do further studies to prove the success of a low-carb lifestyle.“
“In fact, feeling better is just that, period,“ says Dr. Schulte. “Don‘t let anyone tell you that feeling better just isn‘t enough. Your body is smarter than any physician, and has the power to heal itself.“
Based on the attendance at the first two low-carb support group meetings, Roush knows she‘s delivering a product for which many in the community seem - well - hungry.
“The response has been amazing so far, and some of that is because people have been so scammed for so long that they don‘t trust any one thing. When dieters do follow a low-carb program, the benefits are felt so quickly that it‘s hard to comprehend the difference. The support group comes into play when they feel that they want to turn the initial phase into the next phase, making it a lifestyle. People attending the group are looking for recipes and cooking, resources from the experts and those who have been successful, and online support groups and a diet buddy. Most people who have been successful want to share and help because they feel so great. The doctors who have come to speak at our group are the icing on the cake.“
For more information on the group, contact Roush at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (231) 645-2373.
Benefits of a low carb lifestyle:
sustained weight loss
stabilized blood sugar (especially important for diabetics)
lowered blood pressure
more energy and an overall sense of well-being
exchanging fat for muscle, which will give you a lean, toned look.
stamina and strength will increase
moods will level out, making you manage stress (and your loved ones!) much more effectively
the appearance of cellulite will dramatically improve
you‘ll stop craving sugar and say bye-bye to your carbohydrate addiction