I often find myself in an argument with someone who doesn’t believe in a low-carb diet based on natural foods.
Of course, I try not to be dogmatic about anything and I acknowledge that people are unique and that what works for one person may not work for the next.
In these situations, some people are fiercely passionate about their view on nutrition.
When people argue about nutrition, it can get just as heated and venomous as if they were talking about religion or politics.
Of course, when the time comes that some mad zealot starts telling us that we’re full of crap and should just eat less and move more, we want to be able to defend our point of view.
For this, it can help to have some classic arguments on hand, because sometimes it is hard to remember such things when someone is pushing our buttons.
The “Eat Less, Move More” Person
Let’s clarify who we’re dealing with here. These are the people who believe that the only way to lose weight is to eat less and move more.
They often do not believe in weirdness like low-carb or intermittent fasting, because it’s all just a way of reducing calories. People would get the same results by eating the exact same things as before, just a little bit less at every meal.
The First Law of Thermodynamics
To begin with, we have to admit that the first law of thermodynamics is a fact.
Energy In > Energy Out = Energy Stored (weight gain). Period.
Energy In < Energy Out = Energy Lost (weight loss). Period.
Calories in less than calories out. This is what makes us lose weight. It's true.
The thing is, some people believe there are better ways to achieve this goal.
The "Eat Less, Move More" people think the best way is to just eat a bit less at every meal, allowing for the occasional treat here and there. This is simple calorie restriction, which tends to involve weighing meals and counting calories.
However, what I and many others believe is that a better approach is to make some changes to the macronutrient composition of the diet, which (often) leads to an automatic reduction in calorie intake.
Evaluate The Context
You should evaluate who you are talking to.
If this is an athlete, bodybuilder or a fitness model, simply admit that different things do apply in these situations.
Athletes may need a special diet. Bodybuilders and fitness models are probably best off strictly counting calories and macronutrients, especially during a cutting phase.
Also, people that are fairly active and stay relatively lean year round and just need to lose 10-15 pounds or so to look a bit more “ripped” before the summer comes. These people don’t need to eat low-carb.
They can probably do fine with calorie restriction. It is easy in the short term if you’re highly motivated.
Plus, some people actually can stay calorie restricted in the long term and be successful. Many people I know can’t do it and I certainly can’t, but some are able to do it.
A low-carb diet is not appropriate for everyone.
Different Effects on Satiety
Different macronutrients have differing effects on hunger and satiety.
A low-carb, high-fat, high-protein diet reduces appetite and makes people automatically eat less. It is usually so satiating that they do not need to deprive themselves, at least not in the beginning.
If given the choice, I’d choose the diet that will leave me full instead of the one that leaves me hungry all the time. No question.
Automatic vs. Forced Weight Loss
Calorie restriction, without making changes in diet composition, will most definitely lead to hunger as the brain will see that it isn’t getting the energy that it wants.
Using willpower, some people can do this and are able to ignore the biochemical drive that is telling them to eat. This is forced weight loss.
Low-carb, despite restricting specific food groups, (often) leads to automatic weight loss.
In studies, low-carb has the same or even better compliance than a calorie restricted diet, which is understandable since people tend to feel satisfied on it.
Useless on a Population Basis
The conventional advice to “eat less, exercise more” is useless on a population basis. The current obesity epidemic is a great and horrifying example of this failed policy.
The fact is that hunger and food intake are controlled by hormones and primitive areas of the brain, and willpower has limited control over these behaviours.
Telling people to exert willpower is often useless because of the the biochemical drive that is telling all these brains to pick up food and eat.
This applies to all “primal instincts” that are common to humans and other animals, such as eating, sleeping, reproducing and socializing.
Try to make the logical decision to just sleep 2 hours less every night, with no napping. It is next to impossible, eventually you will give in and make up for the lost sleep.
More to Health Than Just Weight Loss
Of course, eating healthy isn’t just about losing weight and looking good naked.
Children Aren’t Just Gluttons
If you look at children as young as 6 months old that are becoming overweight and obese, it is hard to make the claim that they are just greedy and lazy.
Obviously, greed and lazyness can’t exaplain the epidemic of obese children. They haven’t made any logical decisions about their food intake or activity levels. They certainly haven’t made the decision to become obese.
In fact, no one chooses to be obese.
Did Everyone Suddenly Decide to Eat More, Exercise Less?
The obesity epidemic started full-force somewhere around 1980.
Until then, the elegant system in our bodies had successfully managed to control our body fat levels.
It doesn’t make any sense that the entire western world one day decided to start eating more and exercising less. No, I find it more plausible that something in the environment caused this control system to break.
This didn’t happen all of a sudden, it was a gradual change that correlates with the industrialization of the food system.
In primitive populations (hunter-gatherers) that do not have access to an industrial diet, western diseases like obesity are relatively unheard of, despite them having plenty of access to food.
In the context of a non-industrialized environment, the brain effectively controls its level of body fat within healthy ranges.
It Works For Some People
Now instead of becoming overly dogmatic, we have to admit that calorie restriction does work for some people.
It doesn’t work for me, it may not work for you, but some people have success with it.
Just tell the person you’re arguing with that despite this method working for them, it doesn’t work for yourself and many others you know.
“Different strokes for different folks”.