As of late the “is a carb a carb” debate has been coming up frequently. In the past it was the “is a calorie a calorie” debate that people were always quarreling about. Personally, I find the carb vs. carb debate more fascinating. There is just something about carbs that make them really fun to talk about.
So what’s the debate? The debate is whether you can lose the same amount of weight or fat by eating “junk” carbs versus “healthy” carbs. Junk carbs are loosely defined as simple carbs such as pastries and sugary cereals. These are items that are known to rapidly raise your blood sugar level which subsequently causes a large amount of insulin to be released in order to stabilize your blood sugar which can lead to fat storage.
Healthy carbs are your typical oatmeal and brown rice items that you may have been encouraged to eat in the past. These carbs have a lower glycemic index and trickle into your bloodstream at a slower rate which keeps your blood sugar level steady and leads to a slower release of insulin which is less likely to lead to fat storage.
In this debate, fat is kept under control when eating junk carbs. In other words, you aren’t eating total junk food such as doughnuts and pies because these items are usually high in fat and carbs. For example, 2 Pop-Tarts® with 400 calories, 76 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of fat may be used during “dieting,” but a cherry fruit pie with 480 calories, 68 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of fat would be omitted. Some individuals like to consume junk carbs with as little fat as possible while some are more liberal. Some will readily eat a low-fat Pop-Tart® which has 2.5 grams of fat but would not eat a regular Pop-Tart® that has 5 grams of fat. That is another debate for another day.
So, what do I think? First, the results speak for themselves. Some people have been able to get incredibly lean and in great shape by eating junk food while dieting. The rationale is that it makes dieting tolerable, so it doesn’t feel like dieting. My main criticism is that people who promote junk food diets are putting themselves out there, so there adherence rates are higher than they would be in an average person. If you are telling the world that you are dieting on junk food and you are trying to prove a point then you are more likely to diet on junk food without cheating.
In the real world, people are overweight for a reason and it is usually due to a lack of will power or motivation. Most people will not be able to stop at one pastry, especially if they know that they are not being watched. I know that I have a hard time eating just one doughnut, but I have an easy time eating one serving of oatmeal. That is why I recommend that people due most of their dieting with “boring” food and have one day a week where they might omit oatmeal for pastries or whatever. This way they can gauge their self-control when eating these foods. Did one pastry lead to 3 more on your cheat day? If so, then you can’t possibly diet on junk food because you can’t eat just one. If you can eat one pastry and walk away then you may be able to diet on junk food.
You won’t lose more weight if you eat 800 calories of oatmeal a day versus 800 calories of pastries, but you are more likely to adhere to your diet in my opinion. Besides, have you ever heard of an oatmeal binge? Now how about a jelly doughnut binge?