If there’s one thing I hope you can always count on from me when you read my blog, it’s this: I’m never one to shy away from the topics that matter the most when it comes to weight loss and health–even if that means diving into subjects that are less than desirable for someone putting himself out there as an example of what low-carb living is all about. My sincerest desire is to be as open and honest with you my readers even if it doesn’t necessarily put me in the best light so that we can all learn from our shared experiences about this lifestyle change. These are things that go much deeper than what any one person is going through while eating low-carb and could actually help shed some light on problems that many of you might be going through as well.
Today I’ve got a really juicy one for you to ponder that’s probably gonna ruffle a few feathers of people who’d rather I never even broach this subject. That’s okay because I think this is precisely the kind of thing that is most important to get out there in the open, have meaningful discussions about publicly, and dispel some of the rumors that tend to creep into the culture about healthy low-carb living. Yes, I realize this is quite controversial but it is something I’ve been meaning to address for a very long time and now seems to be the appointed moment. A recent e-mail from one of my faithful readers rekindled the subject in my mind and I’d like to share it with you as a starting point in looking at this more closely. You can tell it pained her to write this to me and I was very grateful for the tact she used in approaching me with this. Here’s the e-mail she wrote about her observations of low-carb leaders and her concerns about their weight:
Okay, I have to ask this because you are the only person I could think of that would hopefully understand and not take offense…I always listen to your podcast show and love it…so I am fan…saying that…I have often wondered when looking into the “low carb world,” aside from movie stars, why are there not skinnier low carb representatives? If it really works, why do most of the blog sites, authors and speakers seem to be on the heavier side? Is it due to insulin problems that have ruined the metabolism, lack of exercise, not adhering to the diet? I understand the health benefits, but was confused by this. I know this probably sounds super offensive and that’s not how I meant it. Shamefully, a lot of us choose diets depending on how the representative looks, not always feels, sad but true. But why not feel great AND look great?
At first glance, I could see how someone could possibly be offended by what was shared in this e-mail. But if you look closely, you’ll notice it’s not written in an accusatory tone at all. In fact, I think she went out of her way to be respectful and yet at the same time express her sincere concerns about the weight control of some of the leaders in the low-carb movement. That’s not to say there aren’t some pretty darn good examples of how low-carb eating can make you look (Mark Sisson, Jonas Colting, Richard Nikoley, Dr. Kurt Harris, Kent Altena, Caroline Jhingory, and Christina Adler all immediately come to mind). I cannot speak for anyone else in the low-carb world except for myself and I won’t even try to. They all have their own platforms for doing so if they choose to share their thoughts on this subject and I’ll leave it at that. But I can give my own observations and input from personal experience.
When I started on the Atkins diet in 2004, I weighed in at an extremely unhealthy weight of 410 pounds with a size 62-inch waist, 5XL shirts, and on three prescription medications for breathing, cholesterol, and blood pressure–not to mention all the emotional turmoil happening in my life through the lack of satisfaction with my career and other “life” issues. Although I was just 32 years old, my physical and mental health were in very bad shape and I probably don’t even realize just how much damage had been done from years of improper nutrition and basically not caring about my health one iota.
Thankfully, though, the low-carb lifestyle swooped into my life like Prince Charming and rescued me from an almost-certain future filled with ailments like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and most probably an early grave like what befell my brother Kevin at the age of 41. Although I was able to shed 180 pounds in that year, I never really attained the body I was hoping to have. Yes, it was a huge accomplishment for which I am grateful for, but my ultimate dream of looking good shirtless with six-pack abs has never been a reality (or as my pastor says, “I’ve got sick pack abs, but I keep them in a cooler!). And I’m cool with that.
Flash forward to 2010 and let’s assess my current situation. As I’ve been sharing quite extensively at my menus blog in recent months, I’ve been frustrated by an increase in my weight back up again in the 280s again and I’m actively working on rekindling the plan of action that worked for me in 2004. It’s been quite discouraging for me to be seemingly doing all the right things keeping my carbohydrate intake limited on a daily basis and yet seeing no weight loss and even some gradual weight gains. My next course of action will begin on Tuesday morning when a new gym will be opening near my house (I just signed up for a 1-year membership!) and I can get back into a regular routine of consistent daily cardio just as I did when I originally lost my weight almost seven years ago. Yes, I know what Gary Taubes and others have said about cardio being useless for weight loss, but this is one area of my original success story I have not tried to replicate again. I’m hopeful it is one of the missing pieces to this puzzle I’ve been dealing with.
My reader has brought up some interesting points in her inquiry because I’ve never really had the perfect physique for representing low-carb living nor have I pretended to be a role model for what you can look like if you go low-carb. But does that mean low-carb didn’t work for me? Well, let’s look at the facts: despite my current weight being higher than when I lost weight in 2004, I’ve still kept off well over 100 pounds now for the past six years and I’ve been able to stave off the inevitability of diabetes, heart disease and premature death. I’m no longer taking prescription medications for anything which I’m very proud of. Best of all, my low-carb lifestyle has not made my health worse as some anti-meat/anti-low-carb pundits would have you to believe. In fact, just the opposite is true!
The fantastic news is my lipid panel is amazing! My HDL cholesterol is still way above 50 while my triglycerides are below 100–the HDL/triglyceride ratio is becoming recognized as being more and more relevant for measuring heart health than LDL and total cholesterol despite the fact that those latter two numbers are what most doctors put their focus on. But it’s not the LDL cholesterol number, but the size of the LDL cholesterol that matters most. Making sure your small, dense LDL particles which can penetrate the arterial wall are reduced is the goal and that’s precisely what has happened for me. Last year I had a CT scan of my chest (aka a “heart scan”) conducted and it showed a calcium score of a big fat ZERO! Dr. William Davis says you only need to have this test redone every five years if your score comes back with no plaque in your arteries. And, best of all, I feel fantastic despite carrying around more weight than I’d prefer to.
On the mental side of things, I couldn’t be happier with the changes low-carb has made in my life. When I first started low-carbing, I was struggling to find purpose in my career feeling like I was never able to reach my fullest potential working for other people. It wasn’t until I was privileged to start working full-time as a blogger/podcaster in October 2006 that I felt the future of my career was limitless and uninhibited so that finally I could pursue the creative dreams and desires that God made me to do. None of this would have been possible had it not been for the doors that livin’ la vida low-carb opened for me. And my marriage to Christine has grown that much closer because we’re able to spend more time together, I’m not under as much stress anymore, and we’ve been blessed to do things we would have otherwise never been able to do. Life’s not completely perfect but a lot better off than it was in 2004.
I say all of that to say this–no, I don’t have the body of Adonis or Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I’m not supposed to. I’m Jimmy Moore and my body is only gonna go as far as my genetic makeup will allow it. Yes, I could look better than I do now, but I’m not gonna fret and feel guilty about what others think I should look like. This is my journey and one that in the end I must deal with personally in the way that I see fit. It’s easy to let disappointment creep in and then you just give up on it all. That isn’t gonna happen with me because I can see the dramatic changes that have happened to me over the past few years and nobody will be able to take that away from me. I’ll always strive to be the best me I can be. You can’t really expect more from yourself than that.
Keep in mind that most of us who have found low-carb were either very heavy prior to changing our lifestyle or severely metabolically damaged in some form or fashion–and perhaps for some of us we have a more difficult time fixing what has already been broken because of our past choices. I’ve seen that happen in my own progress and it can indeed be frustrating. But I keep coming back to the saving grace in this whole thing inasmuch as my health is immaculate. There are so many more variables at work here other than diet that are mostly hormonally related that could be standing in the way of weight loss progress (thyroid, insulin, leptin, etc.). It’s one of the reasons why I blog about the struggles I go through so we can learn from each other. To that end, I’d love to hear your theories about why some people may not be able to get their weight down to an “ideal” level even on a low-carb diet (no, this isn’t the place for bashing low-carb so don’t even try it).
To my reader and anyone else who feels compelled to share an e-mail with me about a tough subject like this one, THANK YOU! It’s only through honest dialog that we can effectively communicate the message with those who are still confused about whether low-carb is a healthy nutritional approach or not. I’ve always believed that living with integrity is the best thing you could ever do if you are sincere about helping others and that’s been the goal of everything that I do. No, it’s not always flattering towards me to be so blunt with the way things are but this lack of pretense is what you the reader deserve. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to hear from you!