April 9, 2008

You "Ask", I Answer: Jared's Subway Diet

It's important to note that when Jared went on his Subway diet, his overall consumption of carbohydrates dropped way down, despite the fact that the relative amount may have been 60% of total calories.

Jared's weight loss is consistent with [Gary] Taubes' ["obesity is caused by high carbohydrate intake"] views.

-- Anonymous

(Via the blog)

I do not intend for Small Bites to turn into a "low carb vs. calorie cutting" blog (that would have been "hot" five years ago).

Alas, many low-carb advocates and Gary Taubes worshippers have found this blog and love to leave, what else, anonymous comments.

I initially thought it made for great discussion, but the postings -- and my subsequent answers -- are starting to rehash previous Small Bites content.

The last thing I want to do is repeat myself, especially when archives of all previous posts are available.

So, unless there is a major development or news story relating to low-carbohydrate diets, this will be my last post actively refuting low-carb claims.

Although readers are more than welcome to
leave comments and debate amongst themselves, consider this a closing statement of sorts from my end.

Jared's carbohydrate consumption decreased, but, more importantly, so did his calories.

Had he dropped his carbs to roughly 130 grams a day (as he did when he went on the Subway diet) but still consumed 10,000 calories, he would not have lost weight.

Based on the comments I have received, it seems like the Taubes supporters aren't too sure of their own views.

On the one hand, you say Jared would have lose weight while eating 130 grams of carbs since these 130 grams were lower than what he normally consumed.

However, a large number of Taubes fans have harshly criticized research studies showing low-carb dieting isn't effective because the carb amount used in these studies (45 or so grams) is "too high."

According to these people, true low carb diets consist of no more than 30 grams of carbs a day (anything else, they say, is "not low carb" and therefore does not have much of an impact on weight loss).

So, which is it?

Like I have said before, this is a case of flawed logic.

It's equivalent to somebody saying, "It rains because the sky turns gray."

No, it rains when air rises, expands, and cools (as air cools, it is unable to hold much water; this water often condenses and becomes rain).

Gray clouds themselves do not cause rain.

In that analogy, cutting calories is the equivalent to air rising, expanding, and cooling (the real cause of something), while cutting carbohydrates is parallel to gray clouds (a consequence that people erroneously attribute as a cause).

Jared's case is very simple: calories decreased, and, consequently, so did his weight.

You can attempt to make the "his carbs also decreased" argument, but don't you see that an advocate of a low fat or even a low protein diet could say the same thing? After all, almost every single nutrient decreased.

Someone could even attempt to make the argument that Jared lost weight "because he didn't eat fruits" or "only ate at restaurants starting with the letter S".

So, no, Jared's case (a hundred grams of carbohydrates a day for someone with a propensity to be obese resulting in weight loss) is not consistent with Taubes' views.


jamie said...

I am so totally down for the "only eating at a restaurant starting with an S" diet!! :)

I 100% agree with you about this whole debate, and also I definitely wouldn't consider 130 g of carbohydrate "low" carb... I actually think that Jared's diet disproves Taubes, not helps his theory.

Anonymous said...

I criticized the Hirsch and Leibel paper because they took non-obese volunteers, fed the something like 85 grams of glucose per day, and called it a low-carbohydrate diet.

Jared started out at 425 pounds. Cutting down his intake of carbs to 130 grams per day (by the way, is that figure accurate?) could have easily been enough to stimulate significant weight loss.

In any event, Jared's case is just one anecdotal report and is neither here nor there. His experience does not prove or disprove anything. In fact, his experience is quite out of the ordinary, which is why people interview him on TV and write newspaper articles about him.

It's very, very difficult to lose weight -- and keep it off -- by restricting calories. If it weren't difficult, cases like Jared's would be a dime a dozen.

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jamie said...

To the "anonymous" person,

you say it's very, very difficult to lose weight by cutting calories..are you saying there is an easier way? I think weight loss is hard work and that's just how it is. Low carb dieting (which I did for years) is not easy either, and though the lbs come off quickly, there are not many people who were able to stay on it and keep their weight off. If anything, they've gained more since.

Andy Bellatti said...

If it's "neither here nor there" and so irrelevant, why are you trying to chalk it up to "proof that low carb diets work"?

What is out of the ordinary about his case is that he was able to stick to such a rigid eating plan for so long, not that he ate 1500 calories.

The other out of the ordinary part? He was originally over 400 pounds.

You think losing weight by cutting carbs is easier than cutting calories? Talk to people who didn't eat bread or potatoes for 6 months.

You can't have your (Splenda-sweetened) cake and eat it, too.

You can't categorize Jared's eating plan as "low carb" and then turn around the next sentence and complain that 85 grams of carbs (in the form of glucose or not) are not low carb and therefore not fair to determine if low-carb diets work or not.

Andy Bellatti said...

Jaime is absolutely right.

Losing weight is often difficult and takes effort because you are trying to implement new behaviors and change habits you have had for YEARS.

The reason why most dieters fail is because they are overly restrictive, whether it's by cutting out entire food groups (i.e: Atkins) or going to extremes (having nothing but fruit for breakfast for 2 months).

The key is in striking that delicate balance between physical fulfillment and emotional satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

I never said that Jared's case proved anything. I said it was consistent with Taubes's theories. When you're not obese, 85 grams of carbohydrate may prevent you from losing weight. When you weight over 400 pounds, 130 grams of carbohydrate may be enough to initiate weight loss. I don't see a contradiction here (and I'm still not sure that Jared's diet actually consisted of 130 grams daily -- perhaps he ate less than 130 grams?).

In my life, I have tried both calorie-restricted diets (very difficult, ineffective, worsened my depressive symptoms) and a low-carb diet (easy, effective, didn't take much willpower). When Taubes's New York Times article came out in 2002, I lost about 55 pounds on an Atkins-type diet. I did it without exercising and without feeling hungry. My cholesterol and triglycerides also improved dramatically, even in the midst of eating foods that would make a cardiologist faint (not that cholesterol levels mean much).

Since that time, I've become a little more relaxed about eating carbs, and I've regained roughly 10 or 15 pounds. Still, the rest of the weight has stayed off. I rarely eat sweets, potatoes, white bread, or rice. And when I do, I eat them in small portions. I still don't exercise, because, frankly, I hate it and can't maintain an exercise routine for more than a few weeks.

As far as I'm concerned, the nutritional establishment has been misleading the public for decades. It's about time that someone came along to say that the emperor has no clothes -- and bad skin to boot.

WifeMomChocoholic said...

Have you read Jared's book? He lost weight because he starved himself.

Bix said...

I was wondering (not being sarcastic here), does anyone know, in the phrase "the emperor has no clothes", who the emperor is? I mean, specifically?