Is a low carb diet for everyone?

I don't know of anything that is for everyone! Heck, back in Junior High School (approximately a million years ago) I babysat for a little boy who was allergic to his mother's milk, for goodness sake. If mother's milk isn't good for everyone, I can't imagine that there's anything on the planet -- with the possible exceptions of water and air -- that is.

A low carb diet is likely to be very, very good for you if:
* You carry your fat disproportionately on your abdomen
* You are hungry within 60 - 90 minutes of eating carbs
* You have serious energy slumps -- especially slumps that happen at a predictable time every day
* You have a family or personal history of the diseases which are being increasingly linked to high blood insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia) and carb intolerance -- high blood pressure, high blood fats, female cancers, alcoholism, and the granddaddy of all carb intolerance diseases, adult onset diabetes
* You find yourself craving carb foods, and eating them in an uncontrollable, addicted fashion

If none of these apply to you, a strict low carb diet (the Basic Low Carb diet, as outline in my book, or as exemplified by Atkins or Protein Power) is probably not for you. You'd do better to do a combination of calorie/portion and carb control, like the Careful Carb Diet in my book, or the old Weight Watchers Program. (Does anyone but me remember the original WW program? Plenty of protein, but only 2 slices of bread a day, and veggies divided into #3 and #4 -- the #3s were the low carb veggies, and were unlimited, while the #4s were things like peas, carrots and lima beans, and were limited to just a half cup a day. Yep -- a carb controlled diet.)

Why should a person who is not seriously carb intolerant still control their carbs? A few reasons. First of all, anything that's loaded with sugar and white flour is not food, if we define "food" as "that which nourishes the body." You should choose your carbs from those carb foods with the greatest nutritional value, and preferably from those with a relatively modest blood sugar impact -- fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains. (Remember, this is for folks who are not seriously carb intolerant. Read the list above again.) Also, if you're controlling your calorie intake, you'd better make sure that every calorie you take in has the highest possible food value! Also, focusing your meals on protein, healthy fats, and low carb veggies will fill you up far more, keep you more satisfied, and give you far more energy. Further, eating this way will help prevent some of the muscle loss that can come with calorie/portion controlled diets.

Finally, if you're one of the ones who is not seriously carb intolerant, and you decide to control calories as well, don't take it too far. You will be sorry. Your body will go into starvation mode, and refuse to burn fat -- it will slow your metabolism and burn muscle. Not good. Twelve to 15 calories per pound of body weight per day is about right. For me, that means I should be getting at least 1700-1800 calories a day -- many low cal diets restrict you to far less. Also, you still must get plenty of protein -- not as much as folks on Basic Low Carb diets, who need an extra margin of protein to manufacture what little glucose their bodies do require, but not a smidge less than 70 grams a day, more if you're A) a naturally large person (we're talking frame here, not obesity), B) unwell or C) very active. There's 7 grams of protein in a large egg, an ounce of cooked meat, fish or poultry, or an ounce of cheese.

There are some people who are very carb intolerant who will also need to control calories, but they're fewer and farther between. Why? Because the dramatic shift in metabolism and hunger that takes place when the severely carbohydrate intolerant drop the carbs from their diet is generally sufficient to solve their obesity problems. Those whose idea of "solving their obesity problems" extends to looking like Kate Moss or Callista Flockheart not included!