Reboot Camp Post #4: Good Thing I Enjoy Protein
It’s been 8 weeks since I kicked off my “Reboot Camp” with a diet–the Atkins Diet, specifically–and it’s time for an update. Let’s start with a little background on the plan itself.
THE SCIENCE OF ATKINS
Unless you’ve never had to lose a few pounds (lucky you), you’ve probably heard of Atkins. It first hit the world in 1972, 40 years ago, and absolutely freaked people out. Until then, dieters counted calories: 3,500 calories equals one pound, hence dieters ate less food (or less calorically-dense food), and hoped the pounds would melt off.
Atkins, however, counts carbs, not calories–a pretty revolutionary approach in the 70s, but an accepted principle in several popular diets today. The science goes a bit like this: when we eat foods high in carbs (delicious though they may be), they convert to glucose (sugar) pretty quickly. The body will look for glucose to use as fuel to get through the day, but if there’s more fuel than the body needs, it gets stored as fat.
When we reduce our carb intake, however, we create less glucose. And if there’s less fuel than our body needs to get through the day, it turns back to that stored fat and uses that for energy.
This flew in the face of “traditional” dieting wisdom that suggested calories were all that mattered and that eating fat would make you fat. It turns out that eating healthy fats isn’t such a bad thing after all.
So Atkins is about eating healthy protein, healthy fats, and limited carbs. But…
ALL CARBS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
When Atkins first hit the world, dieters treated all carbs as equal, which meant a whole lot of foods were taboo, and the diet got a reputation as a “no-carb” diet. In the 1990s, however, an updated version of the diet emerged which made a distinction between carbs based on the speed at which they were metabolized into glucose. Here’s a basic way to think about them:
- Refined carbs (think cake) convert into glucose quickly and spike insulin levels (bad carbs!).
- Simple carbs (think fruits) also have the capacity to convert quickly and spike insulin level (good carbs, but need to be used in moderation).
- Complex carbs (think broccoli) convert slowly and don’t spike insulin levels (good carbs).
A lot of diets are built around these three bullets: skip the refined carbs, eat lots of complex carbs, and moderate your fruit intake. Atkins looks at two other kinds of carbs, however:
- Sugar alcohols (like maltitol, sorbitol) have a very small impact on glucose levels.
- Fiber is a kind of carb that has no negligible impact on glucose levels at all.
So as the Atkins dieter counts carbs, s/he counts what’s called net carbs:
– Sugar alcohols
Total Net Carbs
In other words, if you can learn to read a nutritional label, your food choices can really open up.
THE PRACTICE OF ATKINS
As with oh-so-many-diets, there are phases and rules to Atkins intended to kick-start weight loss up front and transition into a “lifestyle” once weight loss has been achieved.
I started the diet with Phase 1, restricting my net carb intake to about 20/day for the first three weeks, and have eeeeeked into Phase 2, keeping my net carb intake to between 25-30/day.
There final two phases are about slowing down weight loss and living forever on the diet.
I can rock this diet, and it just makes intuitive sense to me. Overall, I like my food choices (take a gander at the photos in this post for a typical day’s food), and while I’m having success on Atkins (specifics in the next blog post), I’m not sure I can hang in there with the diet as a long-term lifestyle.
Why? Two words: Texas peaches.
It’s almost peach season, and I’m already salivating over the promise of a beautiful crop after this winter’s rain. I can’t tell you how important these peaches are to me. They taste like Everything Good In The World. They’re like crack, and for two months of the year, I want to be strung out.
And that means I’m looking at making a switch to a different diet that doesn’t restrict fruit as much as Atkins.
Next post: Top 10 Tips for Dieting and Personal Progress (so far)!