Is Low Carb eating really not sustainable?

For the umpteenth time in as many weeks, I had a client tell me that they were told that “low carb eating is not sustainable” – and this was in the same breath as the decision to increase the second of two medications they are prescribed for Type 2 Diabetes.

What frustrates me is that their physician did not even want this person to try a lower carbohydrate approach.

The client was reminded soberly that “Diabetes is a chronic progressive disease” and that it is “expected” that over time the dosage of both of those medications will increase until they can’t be any more, and that they will eventually be insulin-dependent. I think that for many, this becomes a self-fulfilling statement and believing it to be ‘inevitable’, people are resigned that there is ‘nothing they can do’.

But is this true? Does it have to be a chronic, progressive disease?

Medical professionals across Canada, the United States, Australia and Europe have clinical experience demonstrating that the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes can be put into remission and that most are able to the majority of their patients off many, if not all of their medications by following a low carbohydrate diet.

What about the claim that “low carb eating is not sustainable“?

Certainly, people who adopt a low carb lifestyle eat differently than they did before – but so do people who choose to be vegetarians. How often are those who choose not to eat meat for ethical or moral reasons told that “a vegetarian diet is not sustainable“? I don’t know of any.

Following a low carb lifestyle is no more or less sustainable than choosing not to eat meat.

For heaven’s sake, for the last 40 years people have been advised to eat a low-fat diet and I don’t recall anyone being told that “a low fat diet is not sustainable“.

I like to think of adopting a low carb lifestyle in terms of someone who has been diagnosed with a food allergy or food intolerance. Someone who’s been diagnosed as Celiac is intolerant to gluten and they make the choice to avoid gluten for health reasons. People with nut allergies also face food restrictions that guide their choices. Do we ever hear Celiacs being told that “eating a gluten restricted diet is not sustainable” or that “eating a nut-free diet is not sustainable“?

No.

People are advised by their doctors, or who have consulted with their doctors to follow these dietary restrictions for health reasons should not view this style of eating as any more or less restrictive or limiting than any other dietary restriction made for heath reasons.

Many people who adopt a low carb lifestyle do so to reduce the risks associated with health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure and high triglycerides / cholesterol. People who have seen friends or family members live through or die from complications from these conditions are likely to be highly motivated to make dietary changes and to stick with them. As with any other dietary restriction, a low carb lifestyle is a dietary choice and the willingness to continue with it is tied to the strength of the motivation to make that dietary change in the first place.

Note: The American Diabetes Association gives Type 2 Diabetics the option of following either a moderate low carb diet (130g carbohydrate) or a low calorie calorie restricted diet for up to a year, for weight loss. At the present time, Diabetes Canada does not yet approve this approach.

Once people start eating lower carb, how much better they feel provides the self-motivating to continue!  They report that they are no longer driven by food cravings, that they sleep better, have more energy and mental clarity and focus.  Many people with joint stiffness and pain find it improves considerably and of course, they lose weight naturally and almost effortlessly, without being hungry.

There is such a sharp contrast between how they feel after adopting a low carb lifestyle to how they felt before, that this serves to reinforce their initial reason for adopting this change. Why would they want to go back to feeling overstuffed, lethargic, hungry and tired? So they continue in their lower carb lifestyle.

What if when a person is faced with the preconceived conclusion that “low carb eating is not sustainable” they responded by suggesting adopting it for 3 months and re-running the blood work, along with the commitment to monitor their own blood glucose levels and blood pressure daily, and returning immediately if there are any issues? People could get “buy in” from their doctors in order to improve their own health using dietary changes – in much the same manner as dietary changes are used to manage other conditions. This is what I ask my clients to do before they begin a low carb diet; to discuss the approach with their doctors beforehand and have them follow them over time.

Maybe to change the ‘status quo’ is simply a matter of each of us advocating for change in managing our own “chronic, progressive diseases” – especially those that need not be either chronic, nor progressive.


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