Getting reacquainted with my old carb friends

Thursday, July 22, 2004

"Hi. My name is Michael. I am a recovering Atkins Dieter. My story is a sad one. I lied to my readers. I advised them to be moderate in their approach to weight loss and that I would do the same. And then I fell off the wagon. I became impatient. I joined the others at the meat trough and gorged righteously on fatty meats and my beloved cheese."

And I got gout. No lie. A stabbing pain in my right foot was the price I paid.

Although an Atkins-type diet causing gout is not all that common (5 percent of dieters), too much protein and/or radical changes in one's diet can trigger such a reaction in a susceptible body. If we have acidic systems, or kidney problems, too much protein can be a definite problem.

I'm not the only one who has responded adversely to an Atkins binge. Judy, 59, experienced an asthma attack as well as a herpes outbreak; the first time for both since she was a young girl. She speculates: "It is as though the shock of a drastic change in diet triggered a return to things my own immune system had in check for almost 50 years."

Many will report losing weight on a high-protein diet. But just as many admit to gaining it back when they go off it. They also report side effects of lethargy, constipation and bad moods.

I don't need anymore validation. It is definitely time for me to get reacquainted with my old friends, the carbohydrates.

"Are all carbs bad?" I asked Dr. John LaPuma, best selling author on nutrition and weight loss.

"Absolutely not," was his definitive answer. "Be discriminating about carbs," was his sensible advice.

Simple carbs include the "white foods" and they should be minimized. They include sugar, flour, potatoes and rice. These often have a high glycemic index; they are converted rapidly into blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates are good. They include nearly all fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These have a low glycemic index; they convert slowly into blood sugar, giving you a steady level of energy, instead of a peak and then a crash.

"Your body needs 130 grams of carbs to run the brain every day," states Dr. LaPuma. And if you are an athlete, you really need more.

Reintroducing carbs back into one's diet can be a slippery slope to regaining weight. He advises his patients to do the following when becoming reacquainted with carbohydrates:

1. Eat breakfast, something fiber-rich.

2. Sit when you eat, especially with the trouble-making carbs like bread or cookies. You are better able to identify portion size and appreciate more the special treat.

3. Eat four hours before bed.

4. Brush your teeth after every meal. This will make you think twice before eating or snacking again.

Another piece of sensible advice (this one from the more moderate South Beach Diet) is to always eat some fat with your carbs. Salad dressing on leafy greens is an example. It is even better to eat some butter on a baked potato than to eat it dry! Fat slows down the conversion of carbs into sugar, thus lessening the rise in blood sugar that causes the fat-storing stampede.

The ultimate truth about diets is that they don't work if you don't stay on them. If you starve your body of any one of the food groups -- like carbs -- you are likely to fail and to binge when you fall off the wagon.

I realize that this column may engender the ire of many of you Low Carbers who are feeling quite fabulous with your success. Hey, I applaud you. And we can still be friends.

Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a Cape Girardeau native who is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years experience helping individuals and couples with their emotional and relationship issues. He has a private practice in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, Calif. Contact him at

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