The Best Diet for America: Low Carb or Caloric Restriction?
When I think about my journey, I realize that I have made a pretty stunning number of changes. The metamorphosis I am undergoing has been a multi-year process requiring education, habit change, and skill building. I am still cycling through diets trying to find the best: high protein, high fat, and (less intentionally) high carb. I taught myself to cook meals from scratch – first standard American meals and then nourishing, paleo ones. I am still working to change a lifetime of poor habits that I had formed.
I favor a low-carb, ketogenic diet for the committed individual who wants rapid weight loss, but there is a tremendous mind shift required to make the changes required to execute this. I think it is easier and sustainable for the average person to start with a focus on optimizing one habit: caloric restriction. Then they can gradually add habits to this first one as they work to achieve their goal.
What diet strategy do you propose for the 150 million Americans who are dangerously overweight or worse?
Whether choosing low-carb or not, I am in complete support of both habit change and social engagement applications. I used DietBet during my 2 month ketosis experiment. I also use the Lift application daily to focus on learning new habits.
Dave Asprey of the Bulletproof Exec tweeted a link yesterday to this Quantified Self Article by Adam Bosworth: “The Un-quantified Self: Reaching True Health is about Habits, Not Gadgets.” In the article, Adam says that creating new habits is more important than quantification, apps, or tools. He stresses that weight loss programs work better with social support, something I guess he finds “un-quantified.” This is a bit ironic to me considering that the Quantified Self movement revolves around conferences (meetups) – a topic that he does not mention. He also says that weight loss is going to require a significant caloric deficit, not just exercise:
The truth is we simply have to eat less: smaller portions, no snacks and fewer desserts – taking in about 500-750 fewer calories a day.
Adam also uses this quite depressing chart to remind me that I’m “obese” by BMI. At least I’m no longer “morbidly obese” as I was before I started my nutritional ketosis experiment. If I met the highest allowable “fit” BMI at 5’8″ / 164 lbs, I’d have to have 4% bodyfat!
I think Dave’s concern was that the article talked about a reduction of calories being necessary for weight loss. He’s arguing that by using a “bulletproof” low-carb diet you can eat a surplus of fat calories and still lose weight. I haven’t verified this through self-experimentation yet. I did find that without viscosity changes (specifically melted fats), it takes some significant work to make a caloric surplus palatable in ketosis. I will definitely try eating a surplus in my next experiment with ketosis.