The Carb Mania

The Carb Mania

Every woman who wants to lose weight and comes to me with a weight loss failure is pretty clear where the problem in the diet lies: carbs. Some of them claim they are getting fat eating just cucumbers and breathing air, but that is a different story. Carb guilt is endemic in our urban society. People have learned that carbs get into the blood, raise the blood glucose and initiate an insulin response from the pancreas. The insulin brings the blood sugar down by getting the glucose to enter into cells that store the energy as fat. Especially in the fat cells in the belly.

Not only this, but the drop in blood glucose due to the insulin effect leads the brain (which uses glucose for energy) to be energy-depleted. The hunger center in the brain gets stimulated and the mind starts craving energy-rich foods laden in sugar. This vicious cycle gets us eating more and more sugars, leading to excess fat deposition and diabetes. Why diabetes? Because, after a point, the body stops responding to insulin, and more doses are needed for keeping the blood glucose in check. Further down the road, the pancreas becomes dry- it stops producing sufficient insulin. Blood sugar control is lost.

If you want to skip the theory, the message could be summarised as:

“Eat carbs, get fat, get diabetes. Cut carbs, get lean, control diabetes.” Unfortunately, life doesn’t care for one’s theories or the sales pitches of the so-called expert.

In real life, what matters, really, is the total calorie intake. Whether you intake foods in the form of carbs, fats or proteins, if you eat more than you burn, you will put on fat. If you burn more than you eat, you will lose weight (fat and muscle).

Does the above mean that the low-carb diet is useless? Not really.

In urban populations who are fat, the biggest factor in their diets is an excess of refined carbs and fats. Which carbohydrate sources to cut out from the diet?

The sugar content of a big banana is maybe 26 grams, while that in a singhara is maybe 30, with 10-15 grams of fat, additionally. If you were to cut calories or carbs, it would be sensible to cut them from sources that are giving you fats and sugars, like fried junk and sweets. This takes out a large part of the calorie intake. On top of that, junk food is incredibly addictive, as we all know. So, while no sane person would eat 4 bananas together, plenty of us may eat more of the sugary treats like the jilipis, kachoris, and phuchkas.

Yes, I hear you saying kachori or phuchka is not sugar. These are made of refined carbs, and biochemically these are sugars that get quickly absorbed, unlike the sugars in the fruits where the fiber slows the absorption of the sugars.

If you look at regular people on a diet, two things they will tell you not to eat are bananas and whole eggs. What nonsense! Have you known of anyone who has got obese by eating fruits? Or eggs?? These same people will have 4 pieces of toast with jam for breakfast and chowmein for snacks in the office.

To come back to our original discussion, where do we stand as far as a low-carb diet is concerned?
Many obese Indians eat more than 400-500 grams of carbs daily, most of them from refined flour and sugars. If we can get these people to get into a strict low-carb diet (with 100 grams of carbs per day as the limit) they would have to correct their diet massively. They would be compelled to cut out the junk. Removing rice and roti as the main dish also takes care of the carb-cutting. This leads to massive weight loss initially. If they can be got into a weight training regime in the gym, even better! To count your carbs, an online food journal is needed (try, it’s free).

However, staying low carb can be hard forever. Many people could just give up and go back to carb-bingeing. For these reasons, I would use a low-carb lifestyle as induction in a weight loss program. After a few months, in which time you would be thrilled with your results, I would shift to a more moderate diet where you would feel freer.

It is important to recognize that not everyone should be going on a restrictive diet. Very obese or diabetic people, for example, should be seriously getting ready for a bariatric operation that could make a low-carb diet a natural eventuality. No wonder they lose even 100 kilos and are considered to be cured of diabetes!