The Best Thing About Low-Carb Diets

Freedom from Hunger and Cravings

There are lots of reasons to embrace a lower-carb way of eating. There are all the health benefits, including lower blood pressure, blood glucose, and triglycerides. Of course, there is weight loss, with all the physical and emotional benefits that come along with it. But perhaps the most prized benefit of following a low-carb diet is largely ignored by people looking in from the outside - especially the critics who seem to have an immediate negative reaction to the phrases "low-carb diet" or "Atkins Diet".

When I think about the things people tell me they love about low-carb eating - in person, in polls, or on this list of Favorite Things about Low-Carb Eating - one thing comes up again and again: the freedom from hunger, cravings, and food obsessions that people often experience on a day-to-day basis, especially when trying to lose weight.

These quotes are similar to what I hear over and over again:

  • "I love that I am not constantly thinking about food and when I will eat next. No more cravings and obsessing about food." Liz Dowall
  • "I just FEEL so much better when I follow a low carb lifestyle. No more highs and lows, no more shaky "I-gotta-have-something-to-eat-right-now" feelings. No more insane cravings. That is such a gift." Patty P.
  • "For the first time I really feel like I have control over my weight. I don't feel like the food controls me...I am so shocked that I can eat this way and lose weight. WOW." Momofthree
  • "The freedom from hunger is WONDERFUL!!" RainWatcher
  • "I'm never hungry, or constantly thinking about food. What will I eat, when will I eat, how soon can I eat? All of that is gone. In fact it's not unheard of for me to be surprised that it's time to eat! -- Gracie

To be sure, not every single person who goes on a low-carb diet experiences this dramatic effect, but it is very, very common.

Surprisingly, very few nutritionists and dietitians mention it, and few studies have attempted to research it. On the other hand, many studies have found that a low-carb diet without calorie restriction produces weight loss - although this is often not commented upon by the researchers themselves in the published papers (here is a recent example). As science writer Gary Taubes has pointed out, "To me, this is the most important observation in the field of obesity research: that you can have an effective diet that doesn't restrict calories."

For those who have experienced this, it feels like nothing short of a miracle ("it's almost eerie", one low-carb dieter said, "that I always feel satisfied, and yet the pounds are dropping off"). So why is this not more well-known in the world of weight loss and obesity treatment? Is it because many nutritionists and health care professionals have either never tried a reduced-carb diet, or their bodies don't have a problem processing sugars? It could be because the mechanism isn't fully understood, although the prevailing thinking is that it has to do with the reduction of insulin in the blood.

One thing is for sure: it's irritating to people who have experienced this freedom from hunger when it is ignored by well-meaning people giving advice.

It feels as though we are being told, "hey, you're not feeling hungry enough! If losing weight isn't difficult, you must be doing something wrong! We want to make it hard, harder, hardest!" This is why I have to laugh when I hear that we shouldn't be recommending low-carb eating because it's "too difficult to stick to". As if cutting calories and going hungry is so much easier!

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