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27: Jenny Ruhl | Overcoming The Problems With A Low-Carb Diet

AIR DATE: September 20, 2012 at 7PM ET
FEATURED EXPERT: Jenny Ruhl
FEATURED TOPIC: “Overcoming The Problems With A Low-Carb Diet”

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This week we shift gears a bit from our typical topics on “Ask The Low-Carb Experts” when we welcome a very popular blood sugar control advocate and outspoken health blogger Jenny Ruhl to the show. She appeared in Episode 582 of “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” podcast earlier this year and raised some eyebrows amongst my listeners there with her frank messages about certain issues that can happen to people when they go on a carbohydrate-restricted diet as she outlined so beautifully in her latest book Diet 101: The Truth About Low Carb Diets. The response to that podcast interview with Jenny was so overwhelming that I decided to invite her on ATCLX to field questions directly from my listeners about the topic “Overcoming The Problems With A Low-Carb Diet” which was sure to be one of the more controversial and most talked about episodes in the short history of this podcast! Get ready for an in-depth examination into what real-life low-carb living is all about.

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Here are some of the questions we addressed in this podcast:

YVONNE ASKS:
I have been eating a Paleo low-carb diet for over 18 months and as you can imagine I have had great success with it. Besides the weight loss I just started feeling better overall, sleeping better, working out better, you name it. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but I find that in the past couple of months my sugar cravings are so intense that I have a hard time not giving in. I must have no willpower at all and will stuff my face with all kinds of sugary treats. I see the chocolate or ice cream and I just eat it. How is it possible that I still have such intense sugar cravings after all this time on the Paleo low-carb diet?

DEBY ASKS:
I am a 55-year old, 273-pound woman with Type 2 diabetes and an A1c of 5.6. I control my diabetes with a good grain-free, low-carb diet and no medications. My carb intake is around 20-30g daily and I don’t eat any added sugars or sugar substitutes. My calories generally fall between 1300-1600 daily and I track everything I consume to keep myself honest. I have had all kinds of tests run on myself and everything shows I’m good. However, I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the year and I just can’t lose weight. I’ve tested my ketones and they show I am not producing any. What am I doing wrong and what else can I do? I am very discouraged right now. My doctor recommended that I increase my calories to 2100 a day because I am so big, but in the first week of doing that I gained two more pounds. Needless to say I went back down to what I was doing previously. I tried asking about this on the Atkins diet forum and they told me that I MUST be doing something wrong which upset me because I have been doing everything exactly right. Believe me, I am not cheating or doing it wrong. Do you have any suggestions or help so that I don’t feel like the lone duck on an island.

KIM ASKS:
I’ve been following a low-carb eating plan for 3 1/2 months and can’t seem to lose more than 7-9 pounds all of which happened within the first seven weeks. I keep close track of what I eat, which ranges between 20-40g carbs per day, moderate protein (usually about 80-100g) and higher fat. My ratios are usually around 75% fat, 18% protein, 7% carb. I can’t figure out why I’m not losing weight. My carbs are coming mainly from vegetables and some processed meats. I tried increasing my fat and decreasing protein and I gained weight. I only tried this for about a week because the last thing I want to do is GAIN weight! I’m 5’6” and weigh 194 pounds, so it’s not like I don’t have extra weight to shed. I am 47 years old, and have been on medications for hypothyroid for 15 years. I’ve recently been diagnosed with iron-deficient anemia, but I don’t know if that has any bearing on this or not. I do use artificial sweeteners, but they do not seem to affect my blood glucose levels. I exercise by walking by dog about 45 minutes, 5 days a week. I kept track of my blood glucose levels for about 3 weeks trying to find out what the problem could be, but didn’t really know what I should be looking for. My fasting levels are about 91 each morning, and never went higher than 105 at any time that I tested, usually hovering between 83 and 93. When I fast for any length of time, I get extremely sleepy, so I don’t seem to be able to do well with that. I’m totally flummoxed and don’t know what to do. It’s very depressing to think I’ve avoided sugar and flour for almost four months and have lost hardly any weight at all. I know this is the best way to eat and plan on continuing to do so regardless. But I really want to lose weight in the process of eating healthier. Do you have any suggestions for me?

BARB ASKS:
I am a 44-year old pre-menopausal woman following a low carb diet as prescribed by Dr. Steve Phinney. That amounts to around 100g of protein daily, about 135g of good animal fats like butter, ghee, whole eggs and all cuts and types of meats, coconuts, olive oil and avocados. My carbs are kept around 20g total per day and are all from fibrous vegetables. I don’t eat any starchy vegetables and no fruit or sugar. My diet basically follows a Paleo template, so I know that I am not getting any hidden carbs in my meals as I simply do not eat anything processed. This works out to be close to 1800 calories per day as I precisely weigh and measure all of my food. I am not taking any medications and I feel well overall. My energy levels are really good and I have no signs of thyroid issues. I am doing CrossFit for exercise 2-3 times per week. In the first two weeks of low-carbing as described above, I lost 7 pounds. The next week I lost nothing. The next week I actually gained a pound. I realize that the scale is not the be all, end all. But I am hearing about all of these other people having wonderful results with a well-formulated low-carb diet–but it is not happening for me. Are there some people that low-carb diets simply do not work for? Perhaps the reason why I’m not losing weight is that I’m still eating too much at 1800 calories? My CrossFit workouts take a ton of energy so I can’t see myself feeling or performing well on much less food than this. Help!

LEEANN ASKS:
I have 20 more pounds I want to lose and am having a difficult time figuring out how to do it. There are experts that state that exercise is required, others say only lift weights and don’t do cardio; still others state that exercise isn’t required to lose weight. Some even say you have to decrease your calories or intermittent fast in order to lose weight. And there’s even those who say that even if you’re eating “low-carb” you can’t have certain foods (such as dairy) in order to lose weight. I’M SO CONFUSED! I currently eat until I’m satisfied enjoying my meats, eggs, cheese, heavy cream, and of course my veggies. I avoid grains, eat very low sugar (less than 15g daily), low-carb (less than 40g) every day and I have maintained my weight for 6 months without hunger, so I’m really happy about that. I am healthy as all my current metabolic health numbers look fabulous. How can I get most of that 20 pounds I have left to shed off my body?

CRIS ASKS:
I’m a 53-year old woman and I have lost 50 pounds on a low-carb diet over the past year and a half. I still need to lose 50 more pounds, but have been stalled out for nine months. I have great blood sugar, cholesterol and other key health markers thanks to my healthy low-carb way of life. I do still have high blood pressure, though, and have come to grips with the fact I may never lose all the weight that I want to. I just want to be healthy and OFF these blood pressure medications for good. But I feel like my blood pressure will not budge until I lose more weight. I have tried lowering my protein, increasing dietary fat and more–but nothing is working. Should I start counting calories now? How would I determine what level of calories a woman like me should be consuming?

VINCENT ASKS:
I have been eating low-carb for over a month but my morning fasting blood glucose level is still pretty high ranging from 97-111. This is the same that it was prior to starting my low-carb lifestyle. The rest of the day my blood sugar is pretty normal with numbers in the 80s. Do I need to be concerned about this?

JANA ASKS:
I’m a 34-year old, 5’4″ tall, 185-pound woman who just started a low-carb diet last week and I’ve already lost quite a bit of weight. However, at night when I lay down my joints in my shoulders and hips hurt. I felt this same way at the end of both of my pregnancies. Also, my lower back has been hurting which combined with the joint pain has made it difficult for me to get good sleep. Are toxins being released in my body making this happen and when will it stop?

BEN ASKS:
Whenever I go on a low-carb diet I pass through several phases. The first phase is the initial withdrawal from sugar and carbs. This can last up to two weeks for me, involving intense cravings, headaches and nausea. The second phase is when these withdrawal symptoms disappear and I enter into a state of mild euphoria in which I feel amazing. I am free from cravings, I have newfound energy and my mood elevates. I love the food choices I am eating and feel motivated. It’s the third phase that always slips me up and causes me difficulty. Usually after about one month or so into my low-carb way of eating, my cravings come back full force, which is odd because I am not doing anything drastically different. It feels as if I am constantly experiencing a blood sugar low (even though when I check my numbers they are right on target). This is also accompanied by growing boredom with my food choices. There are times when I wake up in the morning and I don’t eat for half the day because I am so bored with my food choices. I don’t want to break the diet, but I can’t stand eating bacon & eggs or any other low-carb food choice. I just hit a motivational brick wall. I feel spent and can’t seem to go any further. I am completely burnt out. After a month or so of these feelings, I usually give up and binge on high-carb, sugary foods. Is there any way to avoid this combination of boredom, monotony and a return of sugar cravings? Have you heard of many other people who have gone through a similar pattern of experience with low-carb diets?

DIANNE FROM THE UK ASKS:
I have read your Diet 101 book and it seems that you are saying that not all low-carbers have to stick to around 50g net carbs or less daily. To clarify, are you saying that up to 100g or even 120g of carbs per day can still be ketogenic for some people? Or that not all low-carbers have to be ketogenic to gain the weight loss and heart health benefits of the low-carb lifestyle?

LISA ASKS:
I have noticed the following pattern happen a few times and I wanted to get your comments about it. After a couple days when my carbs are kept below 50g daily, I’ll lose a little bit of weight, but I will also feel a bit shaky kind of like I used to feel when I was hungry before going low-carb with obvious weakness and a faster heart rate that is gone by noon. Have you heard of this and is there some sort of correlation between having lost weight and the shaky feelings?

CLAUDE ASKS:
I have been on the low-carb diet off and on for years. While I believe in it I can’t seem to lose much weight on it. I do feel good while consuming less than 20g carbs a day. I believe my problem might be too much protein. I tend to eat about 16-20 ounces of meat a day. I currently weigh 350 pounds which is down from my all-time high of 440 pounds. I have lost 50 pounds over the past year, but my weight has stalled out for three months in a row. I drink a lot of diet soda, so maybe that’s preventing me from getting over the hump. Do you have any ideas for me?

GRETA ASKS:
I am reading your Diet 101 book and I have to say that while it’s not exactly an uplifting and encouraging work of prose, I definitely appreciate the honesty. Here is my issue: When I want to see if something I ate is going to work for me, how do I tell if it’s something I should keep eating? I read that I’m not supposed to use a scale and that testing my urine ketones with Ketostix is unreliable. So how do I tell if I should keep eating dairy or if stevia is okay for me, for example. If I weigh and I’m up from the day before, can I extrapolate that to mean something I did the day before didn’t work for me?

JO ASKS:
What is the true impact of low-carb and ketogenic diets on female reproductive hormones? I am someone who battles with estrogen dominance and these diets as well as intermittent fasting have all wreaked havoc with my hormones. My menstrual cycle becomes irregular and PMS symptoms were off the scale eating that way. I also found that my candida problems got worse on a ketogenic diet and my weight predictably increased. I also dealt with a nasty spell of constipation while on a very low-carb, ketogenic diet. Paul Jaminet talks about adding in small amounts of safe starch to help and this certainly worked for me. I follow a fairly strict Paleo diet protocol, so I don’t tend to eat a high-carb diet anyway–just a small amount of starchy veggies amounting to under 150g a day. And I consume plenty of good fats. I think there needs to be more education for women so they can work out how low-carb they can safely go without experiencing these adverse side effects. Have you seen this?

MICHELLE FROM CANADA ASKS:
I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes a couple of years ago and since have adopted a Paleo lifestyle for the past six months to stop any progression towards diabetes which runs in my family. I test daily and my fasting blood sugar numbers and they’re looking really good at around 74 in the mornings. Getting a blood glucose monitor has really helped me in figuring out which foods spike my sugars.

My question is about something that Diane Kress from The Diabetes Miracle has talked about regarding the liver self-feeding every 5 hours so you need to space your meals in less than five hours intervals to prevent it from releasing glycogen on its own. I’ve read her book to try to learn more about this but haven’t seen this really addressed anywhere else and am wondering if it’s really a concern. I’d like to hear Jenny’s thoughts on this and if it is a concern, how often to eat and how much. I have done a couple of experiments testing my fasting blood glucose numbers first thing in the morning and then don’t eat anything until later in the day. When I check my numbers hourly throughout the morning while still fasting, I noticed that my glucose numbers gradually rise over the course of the morning. Is this because of what Diane Kress says about the liver’s self-feeding mechanism?

  • http://twitter.com/starkiller99 StarKiller
  • http://www.facebook.com/fjburridge John Burridge

    Thanks for the episode, Jimmy. Are you guys truly wary of MSG? I thought it came from seaweed and has been proven to be harmless. I feel like Jenny was going off the rails a bit saying Burger King “soaks their food” in MSG, etc….