Friday, April 15, 2011

My CarbSane experience

So I got into a bit of a 'discussion' on the Weighty Matters site with a woman who calls herself CarbSane. It was essentially a lesson in arguing with a zealot. Now I will admit, I'm low carb biased. But CS, is a strange one to deal with. Argue a different interpretation of a study and she will sidestep, or berate.

My point in commenting in the first place was to say that the initial commenter was wrong in calling Gary Taubes a snake oil salesman. He is not trying to sell anything other than his book and frankly he could have made more money writing a diet book based on some stupid premise (eat a grapefruit and mars bar at every meal and you'll lose weight) and made more money. Instead, he researched a wide-ranging topic for 5 or more years and came up with a very intelligent book.

Argue if you want with his conclusions, that's fine. But the commenter's insistence that he is a con man makes little sense. A con man tells people what they want to hear. Sure the low carb community wanted to hear what Taubes said but it's a far smaller community than the mainstream.

Personally, I think Taubes makes a fairly compelling case that carbohydrates, especially refined grains and sugars are more important to watch if you want to lose weight than calories. And my own experience of losing 30 pounds WITHOUT counting calories convinces me that he is correct. Also, the studies that I have looked at show that not only does the low carb calorie unrestricted diet result in as good or better weight loss than other diets, it also seems to improve a lot of other health markers (hdl cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure) again as well or better than other diets.

Do I think that means someone could eat a 5000 calorie diet a day and not gain weight as long as the carb count is very low? I don't know, but I think there is reason to believe that IF you could get someone to eat that much without raising increasing the absolute amount of carbs, it may be possible. The point that Taubes is making is not that you can eat 5,000 calories a day, it's that you can eat as much as you want (ie. to satiety) and not gain weight and possibly lose weight if you restrict the carbs. My personal experience has shown that to be the case.


  1. I respect Taubes a lot, but I must admit that I don't agree with him on everything he says re carbs in GCBC/WWGF. Some of the other folks I respect (Kurt Harris, Paul Jaminet) seem to think Taubes may have gotten the etiology a bit wrong -- i.e., seems likely that something is wrecking the metabolism that high carbs then exacerbate. Taubes' recent article on sugar in the NYTimes seems to address that.

    My issue is that it may well be that moderating or reducing carbs works as a weight loss strategy. But as Lustig says, is it required?

    I think that's why some people (myself included) are reluctant accept the VLC prescription for a lifetime. If the mechanism is something else, then there may be a better response.

    That said, I don't really care for the Taubes' character assassinations. Totally unnecessary IMHO.

  2. I tend towards a more paleo approach lately and I do agree, there problaby is something wrecking the metabolism (probably sugar or specifically fructose) that causes the insulin issues that makes people intolerant to other carbs.

    Is moderating or reducing carbs required? I don't know and I've heard even Taubes say in a few interviews that it will be dependent on the person how much carbs you can take. If cutting the sugar alone reduces weight and improves your heath, lucky you. If not, then I'd be taking a look at grain, then starchy veggies then fruit.

    Or, you could take what is essentially the Atkins approach. Remove most carbs for a couple weeks then add back until you stop losing weight and back off. After the weight is gone, add back some more until you have cravings or gain weight. Test your own tolerance.

    I'd end up recommending the latter because I tend to believe that if your metabolism is wrecked, it can help to remove the things that are aggravating the problem (the carbs) for while before testing tolerence.

    I'd only recommend VLC for a lifetime if you found your metabolism could not deal with anything other than very little carbohydrate. Not that I don't think VLC would be ok if that's someone's choice. I just think if you can add back fruit, nuts, starchy veggies, why not?

    As for Taubes' character assassinations, I'm not sure what you are talking about. When he does disagree with people, he isn't shy about expressing his opinion and backing it up but I've never heard or read him call someone a con artist or snake oil salesman like some of his critics. If you can direct me to where he has gone after someone's character, please do.

  3. No, no. no.
    Carbsane calls Taubes a conman, not the other way around. On her blog and in her Jimmy Moore interview. Because, she says, that he misrepresented the research he quotes. And she says he "does it all for the money", because he was paid for the book. (As if researchers don't get paid for their efforts).
    He may be right or he may be wrong in his theories, but it does seem to be bad form to attack someone's character just because you disagreed with their conclusions.
    Plus, I can't believe he would write a book like that particular book to make a quick buck. He would have to be insane and I have to say he doesn't come across as either a conman or a lunatic to me. He seems kind of passionate about his subject.