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Steak and brocolli

A typical ketogenic meal

“Reduce your diet by 500 calories a day and lose a pound a week!”

I’ve been seeing headlines like that for a long time and I’m sure you have too.  So why when I did exactly what was promoted did I not lose weight?

Since I’ve had such great success at losing weight on a ketogenic diet I’ve continually wondered why restricting my calories to 1,300 to 1,700 calories a day never resulted in my losing any weight while eating anywhere from 1,900 to 2,400 calories a day mostly (sometimes I forget to eat) has me losing 1 to 1 1/2 pounds a week. Since I’ve started (along with the weight I lost on the milk cure), I’ve lost 17 pounds since March 9th. I’m happy with the weight loss.

I’ve seen the media reports that bring up the fact that even people on a low carbohydrate diet actually do calorie restriction.  I’m not a nutritionist (yet), nor am I a medical professional or scientific researcher, but my mind quests for an answer.

It’s not that I think everyone (including myself) needs to be model-thin.  But the fact is that we do have an obesity epidemic here in the United States and more and more people are looking to lose weight. I’m trying to have goals of health and feeling good and being able to do more activities rather than seeing myself in a tiny bathing suit. Looking good isn’t my focus, but even for feeling good, I need to drop some of this weight.

So why does the media promote calorie restriction rather than anything else and why does it work for so many people and not for me?  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m much happier doing low-carb. I’m not hungry and I am sleeping better as well).  When I was doing calorie restriction I actually found myself wishing I was eating processed foods that I could give up since I was pretty convinced that the reason I wasn’t losing weight was because I was not on those foods originally. And how right I was. I’ve asked a number of people on various social networks who have reduced their calories and seem to be losing weight and their answers all seem to point one way.

When these people do go on a calorie restriction diet, they not only cut calories, but they change what they eat.

Person after person who I talked with spoke about giving up fast food and processed foods. Many of them started by simply cutting out sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). All of them went from eating mainly junk to eating proteins and vegetables and whole grains.

So what if calorie restriction is not the reason these people lost weight, but rather that they started eating more real, whole foods?

It’s not to say that you can’t gain weight on whole foods.  I certainly did when I added in starches and grains.  But what if the scientists measured the wrong thing?  Good scientific research requires changing one parameter only and measuring the results.  But what if they inadvertently changed more than one parameter? Most of the diets for low-calorie diets emphasize real foods.  Like things you have to shop for ingredients and actually cook.  Like what I’ve been doing for over a decade.

Thinking about it, I’m not sure that calorie restriction actually works for anyone.  What works, is moving to real foods. We don’t know how available the nutrients are in processed foods. We do know that we assimilate nutrients more easily and in greater quantity from foods that are whole foods, or traditionally processed (fermentation). I also think that these real foods are just more filling and are nutrient dense. In other words we need less of these foods to attain optimal nutrition. So it’s not the calories that are the answer, it’s what the food actually is.

Calorie restriction is a simple answer to a complex problem and we like simple answers. I fell for it and I read a lot about nutrition and should have known better.  I really thought that by cutting 500 calories a day out of my diet and burning 3,500 calories a week that I would lose 2 pounds a week.  It never happened. I sometimes would lose 2 pounds, then gain 3.  My weight loss was never consistent and never lasted.  I was still eating grains and starches in moderation (a few times a month), but my carbohydrate level was always above 100 grams a day.

Restricting carbohydrates though seems to work no matter how much I eat. I lose at least a pound a week regardless of whether I am eating 1,200 calories or 2,400. So long as I keep my daily net carbohydrate intake at around 20 grams a day, I still lose weight. In fact, there are times I’ve actually consciously upped my calories for the day because I didn’t think I was eating enough. I am recording a bunch of data on a daily basis.  My average for April (which is my first full month) has me averaging 1,870 calories a day with 36% of my calories coming from protein, 56% from fat and 3% from carbohydrates.

My meals though are whole foods.  Pastured eggs and local, pastured bacon for breakfast, cheese, salads and locally raised ground beef for lunch as well as meat and sautéed greens for dinner.  Snacks include a small kefir (home-made) and berry shake a few times a week along with nuts, cut up veggies, meat and cheese roll-ups and pork rinds for snacks.  It’s all real foods (even the pork rinds, which are actually called chicarrones and simply pork skins fried in its own fat).

If you are doing calorie restriction and succeeding at it, let me know. Are you eating the same things but less of them than before? Or did you change the way you eat?


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