| For years I have had difficulty maintaining a steady healthy weight, although the absolute weight values I have worried about have ranged from a fairly (with hindsight) low weight to one that began to frightened both me and my doctor. About seven years ago I began to put on weight at an alarming rate, perhaps in response to hormone replace therapy my doctor put me on. I began to read more about diet and health issues, and discovered there was an amazingly consistent message, which was that the secret to weight loss and good health was to eat a high carbohydrate, low fat diet. I could buy that. Being a peasant at heart, I loved beans and rice, having come from southern stock that revered beans and corn bread, and plenty of fresh vegetables. Deep down in my soul, a high carbohydrate diet appealed to me politically too - eating lower on the food chain seemed more ethical, and environmentally sound. As I read further I began to appreciate that the kind of carbohydrates one ate was critical too. The distinctions between simple and complex carbohydrates entered my lexicon. I had never been a great lover of sweets, so the admonition to avoid simple carbohydrates was not too difficult. I adjusted to low fat high carbohydrate life fairly well although I admit that I missed mayonnaise and decent full body salad dressing. But I sacrificed. I had become a believer. I worshipped at the base of the pyramid. I even proselytized my new found religion.
However, as time went by, I wasnt seeing any particular benefits from my new found diet program. My weight continued to climb and I noticed that the results of my blood tests were not going the expected direction. Instead of going down, my cholesterol was going up (above normal range) while my HDL cholesterol was beginning to fall. And something called triglycerides and VLDL were rising above normal range. My doctor at the time didnt know what to say, just that I needed to lose weight and watch my diet. I came home and read more -- and everything I read said the same thing: all one needed to do was reduce the fat in the diet and eat complex, whole foods as close to nature as possible. So I began to redouble my efforts -- I cut out even more fat from my diet, and my diet became more and more austere. I developed or found low fat recipes for almost everything. I knew the fat content of just about any food one could name. Yet I sure didnt see the weight falling off as everything I read promised. I decided to add a good dose of exercise so I took up walking. I walked briskly every day for over an hour at a time. I tried to cut my fat even more -- there were days that I doubt if more than four or five grams of any kind of fat passed my lips. And as far as saturated fat went, days would go by without getting even close to one of those nasty things. I had become a first class fat phobe. With the vigorous walking I at least maintained my weight for a while, although I certainly did not lose.
The next time I had my blood lipids checked, much to my chagrin, the numbers were worse. My doctor just figured it was genetic. Now I was becoming really alarmed. Premature death from heart disease was in my family and my grandmother had suffered from Type 2 diabetes. A sister and a brother of mine both suffered from relatively high cholesterol and even higher triglycerides. I began to feel doomed.
My interest in nutrition lead me to college nutrition class. As part of the course, we kept daily logs of what we ate and analyzed them using computer software. My teacher remarked that my diet was absolutely perfect. I was averaging 1100 -1400 calories per day, and everything was low fat, complex and healthy. I even decided to go off the hormone replacement therapy thinking that maybe it had changed my metabolism. I was eating a perfect diet right out of the book --- and gaining weight. Obviously my body hadnt read the book. My teacher had no explanation. I went back to my doctor. Again my cholesterol numbers were up, my HDL was down, and my triglycerides had climbed even higher. My doctor said maybe I should try medication. I was in complete despair.
Luckily, I stumbled upon a book called the Omega Plan by Artemis Simopoulos, MD. For the first time in years, I heard something other than the low fat, high carb mantra. She talked about the importance of certain fats in the diet, and how research was beginning to show that many people, especially those who were insulin resistant, responded to extremely a low fat, high carbohydrate diet just as I did. I began to change my diet, eating fewer carbohydrates and adding considerably more fat to my diet. It was hard at first. I suffered tremendous anxiety, and surprisingly, some guilt as well. After five months I went back to my doctor. I was about twenty pounds lighter. But best of all my triglycerides had finally begun to come down - in fact, they were now half of what they had been and my HDL was approaching healthy levels. I continued to cut out carbohydrates, being careful to eat low on the glycemic index (lots of low starch vegetables), lean protein, nuts and good quality fats. I even ate eggs and allowed saturated fat into my diet. The last time I went to my doctor (a new one by the way), I discovered my cholesterol had dropped further, my triglycerides are 56, lower than my HDL, which is 75. My CVD risk level has dropped from extremely high to extremely low. My new doctor informs me that I am not alone. She too does better on a higher than recommended fat, low carbohydrate diet, and so do many of her patients.
Disclaimer: Nothing on this website is intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and it is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from my research and experience.