This is the time of year for taking stock and giving thanks for the many blessings we have in our lives. When I think about how the low-carb lifestyle has changed my life, there are many different things that come to mind–in addition to bacon, of course!
It seems odd to many who hear this, but I wasn’t introduced to the low carb diet because of my own dramatic experience with massive weight loss. Instead, I was introduced to the approach by several of my patients when I was a physician at a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic. I was intrigued by the dramatic response of a few of my patients, so I wrote Dr. Atkins a letter and then visited his clinic after he invited me to see his patients with him. At a time when I was getting discouraged as an internal medicine physician, I was exposed to the many amazing things that could happen with limiting carbs by seeing the approach in action in Dr. Atkins’ clinic. Over time my clinical practice was going to change from a routine, pill-prescribing internal medicine practice, to a clinical practice in which my patients were happy and getting off medication because they no longer needed it!
Researching Low-Carb NutritionMy research focus was turned toward low-carbohydrate nutrition, or ‘carbohydrate-restriction’, as it is called in the research papers, by seeing the practices of not only Dr. Atkins, but also Dr. Bernstein, Dr. Vernon, Dr. Rosedale, and Dr. Hickey. Our research group formalized into scientific studies what doctors, since the mid-1800s, had done in their clinical practices. So, at one level, I’m thankful for the generosity of these physicians who allowed me to shadow them and to change my professional life from one of growing disillusionment to one of excitement and fun!
While we often lament at how slow it has been for the medical mainstream to endorse, or at least acknowledge the existence of, carbohydrate restriction, I’m pleased to report that carbohydrate restriction will be prominently mentioned in a national adult obesity algorithm put together by the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP), and released this fall. This group of doctors, who have sought special training to help their patients successfully deal with obesity, are quite familiar with carbohydrate restriction. There are several chapters on carbohydrate restriction in the ASBP textbook entitled Obesity: Evaluation and Treatment Essentials. I am hopeful that as obesity becomes more of a national concern, this group will spread the knowledge about the low carbohydrate lifestyle too. (I was inducted as President of the ASBP in October of this year.) On the research front, there is an exciting new non-profit organization, called NuSi.org, that will fund new science (thus “NuSi”) about nutrition and health, including studies that address the effects of low carb lifestyles.
Giving Thanks to the Low-Carb CommunitySpecial thanks also go out to the people who have defied the odds and continued to get the word spread about low carbohydrate lifestyles through internet blogs, websites, magazines, cookbooks, and books. I was asked to help update The New Atkins for a New You with the help of Steve Phinney, Jeff Volek, and Colette Heimowitz at Atkins Nutritionals. Since The New Atkins for a New You was published, hundreds of thousands of copies have been sold in the U.S., and it has been translated into several European languages. I collaborated with Jimmy Moore, of livinlavidalowcarb.com, on a book called Cholesterol Clarity, released this fall, because so many people are confused by the blood cholesterol levels and how they are emphasized by the medical mainstream. I am heartened that the grassroots leaders and ‘greater cause’ of the national obesity epidemic keep the groups together, rather than create fractions from minor disagreements. For example, a friend who is on our local school board is still trying to fight to get sugar-sweetened milk out of the schools! I hope there can be a big push toward influencing the food that our children eat, steering them away from sugar and starches, and toward healthy foods.
Of course, then I’m grateful to the people along the way who participated in research studies or are clinic patients of mine, who are continually teaching me about this way of eating in a world of information and media that no one person could keep track of. It is gratifying to see my patients transform themselves in so many ways, with sometimes little more than the proper education about how our bodies work in regard to sugar and fat. In my clinic, I now hear exclamations of “the last time I fit into these jeans was in 1985!,” and “I hadn’t been able to swim in the ocean for fear of getting toppled over by a wave, and now I’m swimming with my grandchildren.” With the creation of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, I use carbohydrate restriction to help people regain the lives they thought they had lost forever. I must have one of the best jobs in the world!
One of the ways that my patients have ‘paid it forward’ is by volunteering to start and maintain a local support group. We now have 40-50 people who meet face-to-face once a month over a low-carb dinner (at a Greek restaurant – flaming cheese or gyros salad are the most popular items) and discuss any issues that crop up. The support group is a way to exchange ideas and to introduce friends to the lifestyle in a relaxed atmosphere. This group also started a Facebook group called “The Low Carb Support Group” and this Facebook group has grown to now over 1000 members! So, many thanks to those people who feel so good about the low carb lifestyle that they want to give something back by helping others.
So, I will give thanks for many blessings this year, including the low carb lifestyle. As you sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner with your family and delicious low carb foods, take a moment to consider how the low carb lifestyle has changed your life!