diet, weight loss

Why Can’t We Just Get Along?!

Okay, so the funny part is, ketogenic diets and paleo diets are pretty much just varieties of LCHF diets. Yet, I hear so many different things from their two camps.

Paleo dieters say carbs from berries, certain fruits and nuts are okay. Most LCHF diet proponents say no to those things, simply because the goal is to lower carbohydrate intake. Paleo proponents, on the other hand, say emphatically if fat loss is the goal, then make sure the fruit is ONLY a less sugary variety and ONLY once a day, and do the same with nuts and seeds.

So…basically, low-carb dieting, right?

And then ketogenic diet proponents say things like canola oil is an all right source of fats, but paleo proponents say to avoid canola, safflower, and other processed oils. Some ketogenic diet pros agree, but they don’t see eye to eye on dairy at all. Dairy is a good source of fat on ketogenic menus, but it’s verboten on paleo menus.

Paleo proponents argue those things disallowed on the diet are such because our ancestors didn’t have access to them in the Paleolithic era. All well and good, but we didn’t have Angus beef then either, and yet that’s okay. And we didn’t have turkeys like we have now, but that’s okay. And we didn’t have bacon then either, and yet that’s not only okay, that’s encouraged. And the answer is, “Well, we have to update the Paleolithic menu to one available to us today.” Okay, so that should also go for the oils and dairy products, too, shouldn’t it? Why does the shoe only fit on one foot, the street only go one way? So long as it supports what you say, we’re good, otherwise, not so much.

Ketogenic diets aren’t easy either, even though they say they are. There’s the constant monitoring of intake levels for not just carbohydrates, which I understand, but for protein as well. Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution didn’t talk about limiting protein in the edition I read…did it? I don’t recall seeing it anyway. But if we eat too much protein, so the KD pros say, we hit gluconeogenesis, and WHAM! Out of ketosis, out of fat loss, and back to gaining weight.

As an aside, this is what derailed so many “low carb dieters” in the late ‘90s and early 2000s; they thought they could have all the protein they wanted if they didn’t eat carbs and watched fat. Wrong. So they they scream about how the diet doesn’t work when no one bothered to read past the allowed food list in the book anyway.

So, why is there so much disagreement?

My goal is definitely fat loss, and weight loss. So I have to skip the nuts and seeds for the most part, and get as much fat as I can without overdoing it on protein. Oh, and three cups of leafy green vegetables per day is a lot of veggies, yo. I’m not there yet and spend most of my evening belching as it breaks down in my gut. Ick.

But at least there is that agreement between LCHF diets: Eat three cups of leafy green vegetables a day. (By the way – how do paleo dieters justify that? Our cavemen ancestors didn’t know about agriculture until 10K years ago – remember? Keep it consistent, people.)


Torn Between the Two

As we explore further the idea of doing low-carb dieting and how it should properly be carried out, we have discovered there are a lot of options for low carb living.

I don’t like the word “dieting” for a lot of reasons. Foremost, low-carb isn’t “dieting” per se; yes, it can be used primarily as a weight-loss tool, but that isn’t my goal here. Okay, that’s a lie, it IS the goal, but not the only goal. Better health and anti-inflammation are among the other goals, and there is no debate (except among fools who don’t ascribe to the irrefutable science many have presented regarding restricted carbohydrate diets) a low-carb/high-fat/moderate-protein lifestyle provides those things.

No, the debate comes in determining which of the LCHF diets to use.

Like most other things in life, no one-size-fits-all approach exists. Atkins certainly is the one with which I’m most familiar, but it hasn’t been a comfortable thing to do for a long time. When I did it successfully nearly fifteen years ago, I didn’t know anywhere near as much as I need to about the Atkins program itself, and my own body’s behavior. I didn’t properly discover (and still don’t fully know) what the minimum carbohydrate level for weight loss is for me, or where the dividing line between maintenance and loss lies for me.

It has, however, recently come to my attention that perhaps those things are unnecessary from a nutritional standpoint. Following a set program which has naturally included carbs as an ordinary course of its program may be a much better and certainly easier to follow solution.

The ketogenic diet program grabbed my attention immediately because it spoke directly to my experiences with the Atkins method, and addressed just as directly the mistakes I made in following it. Now I’ve discovered the Paleo diet, and the way people swear by it and the basis for it. They even have conventions with keynote speakers, and such well-known LCHF proponents as Gary Taubes have attended. So it’s a viable LCHF alternative, and the principle stays very close to other LCHF ideas.

The biggest difference I see in it, however, is how many carb-laden foods it permits. Some sites list most fruits including bananas and oranges (big no-nos on other LC diets), and because the principle is to mimic the paleolithic diet rather than restrict carbohydrates directly, there’s an appeal. I do, after all, LOVE my fruit.

Obviously more research on my part is necessary to understand the Paleo diet, but the results can’t be denied. Health benefits seem to run parallel to the other LCHF diets and ketogenic diets, so that’s a wash from a comparison standpoint. The problem lies in being able to find direct comparisons, side by side, of ketogenic diets and paleo programs. And the paleo movement has been branded as “too new” to have any sound data on it. (I think that’s a crock, myself, another excuse to exclude it from serious discussion and consideration among “healthcare” professionals.)

(Naturally, “ketogenic diets” in this context excludes the actual Ketogenic Diet (proper name), since that diet is designed to specifically address a medical condition. When I say “ketogenic diet”, I mean a LCHF diet which seeks to put the practitioner in a state of ketosis.)

All that being said, the decision between a ketogenic program and a paleo program are a matter of taste and persistence. I believe the paleo program to be more sustainable long-term at first glance, simply because it allows a lot of fruits I love in, albeit in minute quantities, I’m sure. (The idea being, the paleolithic man wouldn’t have had access to a ton of fruit, but would have had access to some, at some times during the year.)

On the other hand, the ketogenic diet is simply a matter of controlling protein and increasing fat, so while it can be challenging to do that, it’s certainly not complex or difficult. Sustainability, if determined by cost, might be about the same. I’ve had to increase fat intake, but doing so in a paleo way would require getting fats from specific sources such as nuts (in controlled quantities), avocados (not a favorite food of mine), and saturated fats like butter, lard and, the most expensive of all, coconut oil. Also the increased demand for fish in the weekly routine generates higher cost, and proteins which are organic and/or free-range and/or grass-fed only aren’t just hard to find in my local area (or from ANY non-specialty retailer), but are incredibly expensive. Finances must weigh into every discussion, because if someone can’t afford the food on a diet, then the likelihood of sustaining a diet are slim or none.

So, more consideration is necessary. Today, however, I’m suffering from yesterday’s meals (and spending a LOT of time in the bathroom as a result of poor eating choices after a full week of relatively low-carb intake). I also did a rough, quick calculation on Saturday of my carb intake daily, and became alarmed to realize I probably consumed about 45g of carbs every day before I ever got home and had dinner, which generally included salads topped with carb-hiking foods in an attempt to keep my carb count higher and avoid the depression/irritability I went through a few years ago! Holy cow! How eye-opening do you think that was for me?!

So, today marks the first day of a fairly dramatic reduction in carb count without trying to stay in what most LCHF diets would call “low carb” range. I’m shooting for something less than 50g per day, all meals inclusive, and that means some strong cutting before I get home to dinner. I dropped my carbs from about 40-45g to something more like 27-30g, not counting residuals in things like mayonnaise for chicken salad, celery sticks, and my 1c of walnuts or pecans daily. Probably still higher than I should be, but time will show. I don’t notice any appreciable difference in weight or overall health yet.

Stay tuned if you’re a mind to. As I gather more data on the paleo methodology I’ll document here to make sure I have it all somewhere.