Nutrition/Weight Loss

Top 10 Controversial Low Carb Topics

I’m not exactly a prototypical ‘low-carber’ – my way of eating falls somewhere between the Paleo world and the Low Carb world. More of a mix. I’ve grown to avoid the overt chemicals: I would never waste my money on ‘Atkins Bars’, for example. Nor do I continually look for low carb baking recipes that feature Splenda and other crap. Just not how I roll. At the same time, the typical Paleo guidelines are a little too loose on fruit intake, and a little too heavy on promoting exercise, which is more than questionable for those of us who have to watch our weight. While I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to nutrition, I’ve learned an awful lot over the past 10 months on this journey. One of the key things I’ve learned is how controversial some subjects are. Kinda like the Splenda I just mentioned : ) So, I thought it would be fun to write about those controversial topics that I’ve noticed mentioned repeatedly:


The Paleo folks often eschew dairy. While the low carbers eschew whole milk, they’ll think nothing of throwing a heaping dose of heavy cream on their make-shift deserts. Strawberries and heavy cream makes for a delicious desert, by the way. It’s my ‘go to’ desert for curbing my sweet tooth 🙂


Articifical and non-artificial sweeteners are controversial in the context of losing weight. The Paleo folks seem to love Stevia, due to it’s natural origin, but let’s not forget that cocaine and strychnine are natural too…

The low carb folks seem to love Splenda. With sucralose as it’s base, it doesn’t spike blood sugar.

Net Carbs

I notice on a lot of low carb forums that many will not apply the ‘net carbs’ calculation/philosophy to their diet. For those that don’t know, net carb total is basically just the result of subtracting fiber grams from total carb grams in a food/serving to find the number of carbs that actually get absorbed. I believe that the book Protein Power was the first to discuss this (please tell me if I’m wrong), but I’ve seen it in Atkins too.

Dana Carpender’s latest podcast has a wonderful discussion on this topic and I highly recommend you give it a listen. She mentions that a big problem with using the net carbs concept is when you rely on the food manufacturers, who have expanded the net carbs concept over the years to include subtracting sugar alcohols, resistant starch, low-GI sugars, etc.Dana provides an in-depth discussion of how she calculates the net herself in her latest podcast. One takeaway – arithrotol is unabsorbable. So if you are into eating chemicals (I’m not), then go for it.

Sugar Alcohols

Atkins Endulge Chocolate Coconut Bars
Damn these things taste good! But nothing comes free...

Back when I was first losing weight, I avoided any of what I referred to as ‘trick foods’. My definition of that category are things anything that said ‘low carb’ on the package, because a quick look at the back of the package revealed it was a lie. A couple of months into my weight loss I still had a sweet tooth, so one day while in my local supermarket I picked up a box of Atkins Chocolate Coconut bars. Man did those things taste incredible! I couldn’t believe how good they were. But I found when I ate them, I stopped losing weight. And more importantly – my gut would rumble (i.e., I always had indigestion). Turns out it was because these things are full of Sugar Alcohols. Some people swear that sugar alcohol is fine, but it sure seems to cause a controversy in the belly for many, myself included. And, like me, also find that it slows weight loss.

Caffeinenated Drinks

Seems to be a little controversy over whether caffeinated drinks are good or bad for you. More so with coffee than with diet sodas and the like. I have found that coffee is a great tool and has not hindered my weight loss. Lots of low carbers will gulp down Diet Cokes, due to the Splenda in them. Paleo folks and most non-sadists wouldn’t touch this stuff. Add me to that final group, except for when I’m at a party and there is no healthier alternative.

Pasta and Bread Substitutes – The ‘Holy Grail’ of Low Carb

Move on from here folks. Nothing to see. This stuff is a joke. Avoid it. Contrary to what many will say, there ARE downsides to our way of eating, and one of them is that in order to stay thin we can’t eat pasta and bread. I suppose once in a while would be okay, but after months of not having any pasta, and the occasional dose of bread (almost always when at a restaurant and they put that beautiful bowl of bread on the table!), I can say that I don’t have any interest in searching for what seems to be the holy grail of low carbers: finding a substitute for these foods. It just hasn’t appeared yet, and I doubt ever will.

Sweet Potatoes

While most low carb/Paleo folks agree that sweet potatoes are to be avoided for weight loss, there still seems to be some question as to their use in other contexts. I see constant mentions like this on the forums: “I avoid starches, except a sweet potato right before lifting weights.” My question: why right before lifting weights? Do sweet potatoes have some magical nutrient in them that can’t be had from a low carb food?

Rigidity and Complication of Diet

This is perhaps the most important one to me. I lost weight, and continue to do so, by simply following the principle outlined so eloquently by the meta-research of Gary Taubes: that carbohydrates are flat-out bad for you and should be minimized as much as possible. Even a little rat poison is not good for you, I say. That leaves all the rest of the foods to eat, for the most part pretty freely. None of this “on day one, eat this in the AM, this in the PM, etc.” stuff. Leave that to the losers doing Weight Watchers (or should I call them gainers?).

Atkins and South Beach, etc., are really quite rigid, which is one reason I never could do a diet like that. For example, Atkins prescribed a 5g per week increase to find one’s optimum carb intake level – don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one to count carbs to that fine a degree. Call me old fashioned, but just I use the scale, which leads me to this next one…

Weighing Yourself Frequently

This is a big one (no pun intended)! It ranks right up there with the low-fat dieters mantra of ‘losing weight too fast is not healthy’. LOL. To which I always respond, “So staying fat longer is healthier?” Back to my point: a lot of folks warn to avoid the scale. If you’re in relatively good shape this makes sense – it’s about inches and muscle definition. If you’re obese then it makes no sense to me. While yes, ultimately, it is about inches and proportion/definition, but if you weight 400 pounds guess what? The number matters. And the best way I know, that isn’t a pain in the ass that requires precision measurement, is to track your progress daily using a simple household scale. But many disagree. The typical argument is that the scale is to be avoided for one of the following reasons:

  1. “It isn’t as accurate as calipers, or a tape measure, etc.” To their point it’s hard to disagree, but getting precision with a tape measure is not guaranteed, and getting imprecise with calipers is almost a guarantee unless you want to tattoo your body with points of measurement…and really, again, if you’re 400 pounds then you need to get down in weight, period. The scale don’t lie.
  2. “It’s best to weigh yourself weekly or monthly, so as not to get discouraged by the daily fluctuations of the scale.” This one has never made any sense to me. If I’m eating something that causes me to gain weight, I want to know as soon as possible. Not wait a week or longer to be ‘surprised’.
Okay so that’s only nine controversial topics. I had a couple of more, but I’ll save them for a future post. How about you supply one in the comments?

5 replies on “Top 10 Controversial Low Carb Topics”

One correction: Diet Coke is sweetened with Aspartame. The video “Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World” killed off any urge for any kind of artificial sweetener. I think (for me) this process happens like peeling an onion: having the onion (Wheat Belly) in the first place is just the beginning. The wheat-free morphed into the grain-free which morphed into the starch-free, which now is morphing into the carb-free. Good information, though, otherwise. I appreciate it.

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