May I be blunt?

A few years ago a very bright lady (but also the most divisive person I’ve known) told me that before she says something uncomfortable she asks: “May I be blunt?” Rarely will someone reply: “No thanks, I’d rather you be vague.” So that gives license to say whatever you want/need without offending (in theory anyway). Well, if you continue reading after this paragraph you have replied: “Sure, please be blunt. I prefer straight talk.”

Weight loss. There’s a sign in one of our studios that begins with: “The goal is not to lose weight. The goal is to lose fat. And then to keep it off…” There’s more but let’s just focus on these two sentences. And to be responsible, let’s add that this should also be done while maintaining good health. I mean if we just eat say, cabbage and nothing else—cabbage for breakfast, cabbage for lunch, cabbage for dinner, cabbage for snacks—we will lose weight. But the variety of nutrients will obviously not give us all we need. Our health would suffer.

The current fad diet (which is just repackaged) is the low-carb approach. This has been around since the late 70s under various names. It becomes popular because it takes weight off fairly quickly. The long-term studies show that…Wait, there aren’t any credible long-term studies. Why not? Because enough people don’t/can’t stay on low-carb diets long term. So they lost “weight” in the form of water, fat, muscle and bone density but they will gain it back when they return to eating the balanced nutrients our bodies want and need. And most of what they gain back will probably be fat. Why do these harmful diets become so popular? Because once folks have allowed themselves to get fat, desperation just wants results. Now! Maybe next time this low-carb approach resurfaces it’ll be re-named the Desperation Diet.

I know losing fat is difficult. But keeping it off is more difficult. The data is clear: More than 90 percent of pounds lost by only dieting are regained. That’s by any weight-loss diet. I’m specifically targeting this “new” low-carb /keto diet here though. Protein’s job is to allow us to build new tissue/new muscle cells. When we restrict carbohydrate intake, we use protein for energy, which is not its normal healthy function. It’s not very good at that, so we’re actually burning our body’s tissues for energy. So initially, weight is lost. As I’ve said, this is unsustainable.

Simple (processed) carbohydrates are not good for us. If you don’t know the difference between simple and complex carbs, do some homework. I could tell you, but it’ll probably stay with you if you do it yourself. Complex carbohydrates are supposed to be used for energy. Complex carbohydrates are good for us. See Mediterranean or DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diets. These are not weight-loss diets. They are examples of healthy nutrition intake with proven long-term beneficial results.

People who combine healthy eating of balanced nutrition with being physically active don’t get fat. Hey, you said I could be blunt. Just as there are different kinds of carbohydrates, there are different kinds of body fat. There is subcutaneous fat, which is under the skin. It’s soft and jiggly. Think Pillsbury doughboy and/or cellulite. While it may not be good for health or appearance, it’s far better than visceral fat, which is deeper and dangerously all around our hearts and other organs. This is the stuff that kills us. The guy with a big belly who’s proud of how firm it is doesn’t understand that just means his fat is under his muscle and is a serious threat to his health.

Fortunately there is a way to lose this dangerous visceral fat. And I’ll talk about it in next month’s column.