Health Scoop

Eat Carbs and Still Lose Weight

Plate of carbohydrate filled cookies.

SOME ASSIGN POINTS to their meals.  Others sprint past the bagel shop in their quest to avoid carbs like the plague. As a society, depending on the decade, we have taken turns swearing by the grapefruit diet, the juice fast, intermittent calorie restriction, grazing, the fat-free, the carb-free, the protein only, the let’s-only-eat-orange-foods-until-Thursday-at-midnight… the list goes on. 

If instant gratification wasn’t a fad, fad diets wouldn’t be either. But as bikini season creeps stealthily into the periphery of the near future, the mystical weight loss promises tempt even the skeptics. It is, after all a multibillion dollar industry beckoning, each consumer a fresh well of wishful thinking just waiting to be tapped.

The bottom line though is that successful weight loss is kind of like everything else – 99% perspiration.

Internally we know this. Science tells us this.

In this study published in the New England Journal of Medicine researchers randomly assigned overweight adults to one of four diets.

1. high carb, low fat, low protein

2. moderate carb and protein, low fat

3. moderate carb and fat, low protein

4. low carb, moderate fat, high protein

They then subtracted 750 calories from each participant’s requirement, based on the metabolic rate and activity level.

To put this into perspective, the resting metabolic rate for a 40 year old 5 foot 3 inch woman who weighs 160 pounds and is in a coma for example, is 1690 calories per day.

If that same woman burns 500 calories working, walking, talking, the number of calories needed for her to maintain her weight goes up to 2190.

If she adds a 2-3 mile walk on the treadmill to that, that number climbs to 2490 calories. That’s a substantial calorie intake. Eating that number daily, will keep her at 160 lb. Eating less, promotes weight loss.

Using the calorie prescription, the goal for all groups in the study was a focus on nutrition and education. Empty calories were eliminated. Fats included in the diet plans consisted of less than 8% saturated fat. Carbohydrate-rich foods included ones with a low glycemic index (low on white sugar), like whole wheat bread. Participants ate at least 20 grams of dietary fiber per day and cholesterol intake was monitored.

Participants went to group meetings, kept track of food in journals, and exercised about 2 hours per week. Individual support sessions were provided.

After two years of monitored intervention, the comparison of weight lost among all 4 groups was on average THE SAME indicating that it is not necessarily the food group that matters, but the choices within that food group.

In the case of carbs, cake will leave you craving, but a portion controlled plate of whole wheat pasta may hit the spot and prevent consumption of added calories.

The caveat here is that all roads lead to Rome. Whether it’s through intermittent restriction, or craving less food when on a no carb diet, the goal is the same…maintaining a calorie deficit. And you don’t need to spend a fortune (in fact, it’s right below for free); good old fashioned self discipline is key and priceless.

Calorie prescription: (RMR +  what you burn in day-to-day life+ amount you burn at the gym) – 750 calories = weight loss

Now, for that self-discipline … is there an app for that?


Ref: Sacks et. al. Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates; NEJM

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  • Reply
    March 14, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    You’re so right ” good old fashioned self discipline is key and priceless”. But so many people are always looking for the magic pill or that quick-fix to realize that there’s is no substitute for good eating and exercise habits. And eating unrefined carbs like whole grain and whole wheat in moderation will help to balance nutrition and blood sugar levels and retain muscle which can all work in combination to reduce fat and thereby promote healthy weight loss.

    • Reply
      March 14, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      Yes, Tammy, exactly – Balancing good carbs is key to eliminating cravings. Thank you for your comment, and hope to see you back. Stay healthy!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2017 at 9:16 am

    I’ve read this before that you have to eat more carbs to burn more in your body. It’s just that I’m a bit ignorant in the process.

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 1:18 am

      Rebi, the key is to maintain a nutritional balance to avoid cravings. Yes, you do have to keep your metabolism active as well. Weight bearing exercise is a great way to increase metabolism.

  • Reply
    Kristin Mosh
    March 15, 2017 at 11:53 am

    This is perfect information. Fad diets are fad diets. Its quite a simple equation. If you want to lose weight.. you eat a moderate amount of calories, that equals less then your calorie intake plus calorie burning activities. Then voila. Its simple science, yet people tend to just want to follow “the pack” and the newest fad that is selling for the low low price of 1 million dollars. It just doesnt make sense.

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 1:20 am

      Kristin, that is exactly right. You nailed it! Thanks for that insightful comment! 🙂

  • Reply
    Maury Cheskes
    March 15, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Fascinating. I’ll be sure to apply this to my diet. Thanks for the article.

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 1:09 am

      Maury, it’s all about balance. Calorie in = calorie out! Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    “Eating less, promotes weight loss.” What I think that, if you like a good shape, you might be patience, and taking less meal, then the result is coming up.

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 1:16 am

      Elaine, Yes paying attention to what you’re taking in and what you’re burning is probably the most important step in monitoring the weight loss or maintenance. The other is as you say patience and also self discipline.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    I’m one of those people who would like to lose weight so I really need to know more about carbs and food groups. Thanks for the information. Now if only I have the discipline to exercise more and eat better…

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 1:10 am

      Mau, I wish there was an app for self-discipline too! Until then we just have to use a little behavior modification. Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    It’s the first time I’ve read of this study. Everything I believed about weight loss was a lie. Now I can eat carbs without guilt.

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 1:14 am

      Sophia,It’s not a good idea to completely eliminate carbs because you end up craving them in the long run. It is however important to pay attention to the type of carbs you’re eating. There’s a big difference between a banana and a candy bar in terms of nutritional content. Thanks for your comment.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Somebody make an app for self-discipline! A behaviour-modifier app maybe? It’s the hardest part of the diet equation!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      That would be an excellent idea, Samantha! Until then, we just need to strengthen that mindset. Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Bottom line, self-discipline and exercise are very important. Eat whatever you want, but in small portions, then sweat it out. Simple.

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 1:11 am

      Saleh, Yes calories in equal calories out. It’s more simple than we are often let to believe, but it is work! Thanks for your comment.

  • Reply
    Kurt Wagner
    March 15, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    Diet is never about depriving yourself but rather eating properly. Moderation is key but with these food it is hard to do that.

    • Reply
      March 15, 2017 at 10:15 pm

      Kurt, yes everything in moderation. Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply
    Kitty Pryde
    March 15, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Tell me about it? Particularly in special occasions eating properly goes out the window. In here during xmas for example, we have ham and lechon ( Roast pig) If that happens good bye diet lol.

    • Reply
      March 18, 2017 at 1:12 am

      Kitty, yes holidays are tough. But if you fall off the bandwagon of healthy eating, just get right back on. Thank you for the comment.

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