What an awesome job I get to enjoy doing on a daily basis writing, interviewing, videotaping, living and breathing everything I can get my hands on about the low-carbohydrate nutritional approach to share what I’ve learned with some of the most incredible people in the world. And I have had the distinct privilege of hearing from literally tens of thousands of people over the past six years who have quite frankly had their lives turned upside down and improved thanks to the basic principles of livin’ la vida low-carb. Each of these stories is as unique as the fingerprints of the people e-mailing me about how this miraculous way of eating has rocked their world in a positive way both with their weight and health! Seeing how low-carb living has radically altered the course of countless numbers of real people has been a constant encouragement to me to just keep doing what I’m doing sharing from this platform I’ve been given why a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb lifestyle is a viable (and preferable!) option for people who have been frustrated by the failed low-fat lie . One such faithful blog reader who I actually got to meet in person for the first time while visiting Washington, DC last month is a woman by the name of Holly Johnson . Here she is at the dinner table of our low-carb meet-up at Outback Steakhouse in Reston, Virginia (Holly is the third person in the video after my wife Christine and Holly’s boyfriend Derek):
It was neat getting to meet Holly because she has quite a story of low-carb success to tell having lost around 100 pounds following a diet that most doctors would probably tell her is unhealthy for her. But she did it anyway and the results speak for themselves. Obviously, Holly is very proud of her accomplishment and is an enthusiastic defender of the low-carb way of life for anyone who attempts to tell her otherwise. She took her passion for livin’ la vida low-carb to the next level up when asked to give a speech in her public speaking class and she decided to do it on the subject of why low-carb works using herself as the proof in the pudding (low-carb, of course!). With her permission, I’m going to share the text from her speech along with the PowerPoint slides she showed her classmates who were “shocked” by what they saw and heard.
Holly said her before picture raised quite a ruckus as so many of her fellow students didn’t believe it was her.
Oh, I bet that was quite the scene. Holly explained that she wasn’t always obese, but felt ashamed that her “willpower” had failed her…or, so she thought. That’s one of the messages she wanted to hammer home loud and clear that is as wrong as wrong can be.
At the end of her speech, Holly said she has “the most questions and comments” of any of the speeches given by the class. She was confident her mission to educate the students on the efficacy of low-carb diets was a resounding success.
Obviously not! A great inspiration for Holly’s presentation was my fellow low-carb partner in crime and all-around good guy, Tom Naughton of Fat Head fame! She learned so much from Tom who she describes as “a great writer and researcher” (shhhhh, don’t tell Tom that, it’ll go to his head!). Interestingly, her foray into the Atkins low-carb lifestyle happened as a result of seeing her doctor about a “mysterious rash” of all things. He told her she needed to change her diet to a low-carb one and most of the health woes she was experiencing would disappear.
Hey, whatever it takes to learn the truth about healthy low-carb living, right? I’ve encouraged her to start her own blog to continue sharing about how her life has been changed through low-carb nutrition (HINT HINT!), but here’s the now infamous low-carb speech given by Holly Johnson for her public speaking class assignment:
What if everything you knew about weight loss was wrong? Two years ago these were my pants. (They were a size 24.) They were actually too tight but I was afraid to go buy new ones. Everyone knows someone who has weight issues. After a year of following conventional wisdom, as best I could… I finally started looking into the science of what makes us lose weight. I wanted to know for sure that my weight loss would be effective because I was tired of being fat. I don’t think I’m lazy or stupid and I know I wasn’t overeating (because I was starving!!!). Tonight I’m going to talk about the science of weight loss and gains and we’ll see what’s worked for me.
This is best explained by the documentary Fat Head.
First, we’re going to cover the science of body fat. Scientists know that fat cells are active. In a healthy person, every time they eat, they store some fat. In between meals, fat is released and sent to your individual cells for muscles and organs to use as fuel. If you are thin it is because your body knows that the fat you have is a reliable source of fuel, so it doesn’t need as much. Fat goes in and out of the cells readily.
Most people will be surprised to find that fat really has to do with blood sugar. This is basic knowledge to all doctors. Normal blood sugar is around 1 tsp. So if it is higher than a tsp your body has to find a way to bring it down before it will kill you. Insulin, a hormone, is your body’s natural response to toxic levels of blood sugar. If you eat something that spikes your blood sugar, your body will produce more insulin. As you produce more insulin your body starts to become resistant to the effects of it. So your body continues to produce more and more. This is hard work on your pancreas. There will come a time when it cannot keep up the levels of demand. Eventually you’ve exhausted your pancreas and you end up with type 2 diabetes.
So, ok, we now know insulin makes you fat. So, what raises insulin? Carbohydrates in your diet. You literally cannot gain weight if you do not eat carbs. Your carbohydrate storage is limited, but your fat cites are unlimited. So, by converting your blood sugar into body fat, your body is doing you a huge service. But beyond that, insulin overrides everything. It’s kind of a bully. It transforms the excess blood sugar into fat, moves it to the cells, and then it won’t let the fat out of the cells. As Dr. Mike Eades said in the documentary Fathead, if insulin won’t allow your cells to release the fat for your muscles and organs then you are starving at the cellular level. Your body is telling you to eat something because you are basically starving. Research has shown that people who try to starve themselves thin by putting their calories under 2000 never lose as much weight as calories in and calories out says they should. Everyone is compelled to eat until they are full. People are not failing when they try to lose weight. Their diet is failing. This is one reason why most people who are on the biggest loser gain the weight back.
I personally have greedy fat cells. My body does not find my body fat to be a reliable source of fuel. During meals I store fat, but between meals the fat comes out slowly, if at all. In my body the fat cells will hog the fat (pun intended). So, body weight has more to do with how slowly your cells release the fat. You can make your fat cells greedy too by overloading on insulin. The fat cells will continually get bigger until the body feels it has a reliable source of fuel. You can either get a little fat, or a lot fat. This is one reason why as people get older, they gain weight.
Most people do not choose to be obese. After looking at the evidence, I started looking at body fat differently. It is not a merely mind over literal matter. It is a hormonal issue only; so, it is in your body not your head. Gary Taubes and Dr. Lustig both said in their lectures that saying it is lazy people who are overeating that are getting fat is blaming another symptom instead of the real cause.
So, now that we’ve covered, the how and the why of body fat, we will now discuss what worked for me. There are many diets out there. When losing weight, you need to find what works for you. Pretty much all diets inadvertently force your insulin down. The key to losing body fat and maintaining the loss is finding a diet that you can live with and live on.
In actuality, it was my doctor that told me to go on the Atkins Diet. I didn’t listen to him right away because I wanted to know why he would recommend that diet. But when I finally had enough information, and I knew I could live with this diet, I made my lifestyle change.
So what is the Atkins’ Diet? All of the information I’m going to explain here can be found in the book by Dr. Atkins “The Atkins’ New Diet Revolution.” It’s broken up into 4 phases. The first phase is called induction. This phase is where you start your carbohydrate level at 20 grams a day. This will produce the fastest and safest results. I actually lost my first 30 lbs in 28 days. After induction the next two phases outline what carbs you can start bringing back into your diet, certain vegetables, cheeses, and so on. As you increase your carb amount you’ll start to notice your weight loss will slow down. Eventually in the final stages you find a balance of carbs that allows you to have a stable weight. Also, this gives you the tools to help you in the future in case you find that you’ve gained 5 or 10 lbs after you’ve reached your goal weight.
As of this morning I’ve lost 89 lbs total. I’ve went from a size 24 to a size 12. I eat pretty much every single food I love. I also eat until I’m full. I don’t obsess about food anymore. In fact, sometimes I forget to eat because hungry feels different now. I am in charge of how fast or slow I lose weight and that feels incredible. Because it used to feel like I had no control. My current calorie count would probably scare most dietitians. I can eat upwards of 5000 calories and still loose a lot of weight. My diet consists mainly of 70 – 80% fat on days that I lose the most weight. On days I’m taking it easy, it’s around 65%. I eat mainly home cooked meals that are made from scratch or whole foods. I really don’t eat anything that really comes from a box. I know people who have been able to do it though. I do eat out. Probably more than I should. (Not because I’m afraid I’ll get fat, but because of the processed food issue.) Tom Naughton made a movie called Fathead: and proved that you can lose weight eating fast food. He didn’t eat salads either. (McDonald’s salads actually have added sugar BEFORE you put the dressing on.)
Atkins recommends that you exercise, but I am extremely busy with a child, a boyfriend, a job, and going to college full time, so that was really difficult to do on a regular basis. So, the entirety of my weight loss thus far was pretty much done without extra exercise. Besides, there is no research that shows that exercise helps you lose weight.
Tonight we’ve covered the science of body fat, and my own personal experience with weight loss. We’ve found that insulin is the culprit to the weight gain that people are collectively facing. So, next time you think about body fat, you can remember that it has to do with the body and not the mind. Thank you. I will now take questions.
Atkins, R.C. (2002). Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution. New York: HarperColins.