Boston Children’s Hospital’s Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, and his colleague Dr. Mark L. Friedman, of the Nutrition Science Initiative in San Diego, are attempting to debunk a common advice of losing weight. Ludwig and Friedman say those who wish to lose weight and keep it off should stop counting calories. Their weight loss “secret” does not rule out diet and exercise, but focuses instead on cutting out refined carbohydrates.
Ludwig says that if exercise and counting calories were the sole contributors of long-term weight loss results “my colleagues and I would be out of job.” He adds “we have to forget the low-fat paradigm” that would exclude foods such as avocado, nuts, and olive oil which are “among the healthiest foods we could possibly eat.”
While dieting and exercising is a great way to kick-start a weight loss plan, the true secret according to Ludwig and Friedman, is to cut out refined carbohydrates, which are so prevalent in American diets. Refined carbohydrates trigger the brain to soak up calories in fat cells, forfeiting energy that could be expended, and result in a metabolism-slowing hunger response. “Metabolism wins,” says Ludwig, who advises those seeking healthier diets to take a closer look at what they eat, rather than just how much they eat.
An easy way to avoid refined carbohydrates is to eat foods raw, in their natural state. The culprit of deterring weight loss, refined carbohydrates, is found in a variety of foods that are all too common in everyday diets. The list of foods with refined carbohydrates goes on: white rice, made “with” whole grain breads, boxed cereals, pasta, etc. The colloquial term for these foods that induce weight gain or compromise diets is “empty calories,” which does not mean they are any easier to avoid. Too much of these empty calories can reduce energy levels and can cause nutrient deficiencies.
On the other hand, unprocessed carbohydrates actually are not found to influence weight gain in most cases, and are part of a healthy diet. Unprocessed carbohydrates can be found in whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits, and provide the body with converted energy, along with important vitamins, fiber, minerals and other significant bodily needs.
“Simply looking at calories is misguided at best,” says Ludwig. Many commonly-consumed foods are not considered to be part of a successful weight loss program. This includes such staple foods as potatoes, of which an average of 126 pounds is individually consumed annually in the United States. Potatoes, while classified as a vegetable to the displeasure of many dieticians, are actually found to promote weight gain. Fruit juice is another good example of a product typically considered a healthy choice, but is loaded with added sugar drawing comparisons to soda by some dietitians.
Ludwig and Friedman’s weight loss tips are not so secret after all, as carbohydrates have long been targeted enemies in weight loss programs, and the combination of a healthy diet and exercise have been advocated as friends. The real secret is to distinguish between good and bad carbohydrates on the next grocery trip.
By Jesse Eells-Adams