The Limitations of Common Ways of Determining Weight Loss

People who are eating differently in an effort to lose weight often hop on the scale daily to see how they’re doing. What they fail to consider is that an average adult’s body weight can fluctuate by as much as 4  1/2 pounds per day — solely as a result of changes in the amount of water they are retaining or excreting.

The Limitations of Using a Scale to Determine Fat Loss

An 80 kg person has, on average 48 liters of water in their body. The problem with using body weight as an assessor of fat loss is that the human body does not precisely regulate body water content.

Above 49 liters of water, the kidneys of an 80 kg person will clear the excess water by causing the person to urinate more and below 47 liters of water, the 80 kg person will feel thirsty and increase their fluid intake. People’s “weight” is affected by this change in body water content of ~2 liters per day — which weighs approximately 2 kg or 4.4 pounds! Put another way, each day our “weight” can fluctuate by this amount solely due to the difference in retained or excreted water.

Since there is no way to measure this daily change in water weight in non-clinical settings, the standard scale is a very imprecise way to measure fat loss over the short-term.

Waist Circumference

Many people know that carrying excess weight around the middle increases one’s risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack so they measure their waist circumference frequently. Even if waist circumference is measured halfway between the lower rib and the top of the hip bone, with a fully relaxed abdomen, their are limitations to using this as a short term measure of weight loss.

The Limitations of Using a Tape Measure to Determine Fat Loss

Since the average person’s body weight fluctuates by as much as ~4 1/2 pounds per day due only to changes in body water, a tape measure fails to capture decreases in waist circumference stemming from the kidneys excreting water.

That said, waist circumference is helpful as a long-term indicator of weight loss, just not a short-term one.

Body Fat Percent

Some people have bathroom scales that have body fat analyzers built in and think that what it is measuring is the amount of fat they are carrying, however a number of factors can influence this reading.

The Limitations of Using a Body Fat Analyzer to Determine Fat Loss

Body Fat Analyzers use electrical impedance to determine fat percentage, and this measurement is affected by a number of conditions, including environmental (room) temperature, a person’s hydration status, as well as emotional stress. Since hydration status can fluctuate by ~4 pounds per day, a body fat analyzer is no more accurate as a short-term measure than a standard bathroom scale, without it.

HOW TO Assess short-term weight loss

How one’s own clothes fit and comparative ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos are a much better short-term assessor of fat loss than a scale, a tape measure and a body fat analyzer. Since body water fluctuates considerably on a low carb high fat diet due to changes in sodium levels, I recommend that people eating a low carb high fat diet weigh themselves once every two weeks on the same day of the week, at the same time of day and measure their waist circumference at the same time. If they have a scale that assesses body fat percent once every two weeks is sufficient for taking these measurements.

None of these will provide much information on actual fat loss over the short term…so why rely on them for that, but they will be helpful measurement over the longer term.

Sodium and Body Water Content

As mentioned in a previous article, by eating only when hungry and only until no longer hungry, insulin levels have the opportunity to fall to baseline – something they do naturally after not eating for 12 hours.

On days where the time until eating is extended by a few hours (i.e. “intermittent fasting”), insulin levels stay low for an even longer period of time.  In response, our kidneys excrete sodium in a process called naturesis.

Failing to supplement sodium while eating low-carb high fat can result in intense headaches – and if sodium remains low, potassium will also be excreted to keep the necessary sodium-potassium balance. This drop in potassium often results in irregular heart beats, known as arrhythmia.

Phinney and Volek (The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living) recommend that if one is eating less than 60 gms of carbs per day, that 2-3 grams of sodium should be added to the diet (provided the person is not taking any diuretics or other blood pressure medication).

A half a teaspoon of table salt or sea salt provides 1000 mg or 1 gram of sodium.

Final Thoughts

Since hopping on the scale daily or even several times a week won’t provide any useful information, nor will measuring our waist circumference or using a body fat analyzer too often – why do it? Part of ‘getting healthy’ ought to include having a healthy body self image – something that won’t be nurtured by obsessing about such “numbers”.

Short-term measures of success

Short-term success is best measured visually – with comparative photos taken from the same distance away, from the same relative height and wearing the same clothing.

How one’s clothes are fitting is another way.

A person who is insulin resistant or Type 2 Diabetic should be seeing both their fasting blood glucose and post-prandial (2 hours after a meal) glucose levels gradually coming down. If they aren’t then they should schedule an appointment with their Dietitian to find out why that is.

Medium-term measures of success

Medium-term measures of success in eating low carb high fat can be measured both subjectively and objectively. Subjective measures include weighing oneself and taking one’s own waist circumference once every two weeks. Objective measures include having your Dietitian weigh you on a clinical scale, having her assess your waist circumference and body fat percentage using both a device that measures electrical impedance, as well as using good old-fashioned calipers, that measure subcutaneous (under the skin) fat, in 3 or four specific locations on the body.

A person with high blood pressure should be seeing both systolic (the first number) and diastolic (the second number) blood pressure coming down and Type 2 Diabetics or those with insulin resistance should be continuing to observe lower fasting blood glucose and post-prandial (2 hours after a meal) glucose levels.

Longer-term measures of success

After 6 or 8 months eating low carb high fat, both subjective and objective measures should be continuing to lower in a reasonably linear fashion. Of course there will be times where a ‘plateau’ is reached, but if that lasts more than two or three weeks, then its important to check in with your Dietitian to make sure the amount of carbs you think you are eating is what your Dietitian has been determined as being best for you.

A Type 2 Diabetic should be seeing both their fasting blood glucose and post-prandial (2 hours after a meal) glucose levels approaching more normal levels and both Type 2 Diabetics and those with insulin resistance (“pre-diabetes”) should have their HbA1C assessed at a lab every three months, as this provides insights into one’s 3-month average blood glucose level. Fasting blood glucose provides a ‘snap-shot’ of blood sugar in the morning after not eating, and should be done twice a year by a lab, especially if one is Diabetic. Comparing lab test results to previous lab test results is an objective indicator of the effect that eating low-carb high fat is having on specific markers and provides an opportunity to determine if the amount of carbs being eaten may still be too high.

The most accurate assessor is a 2 hour glucose tolerance test, however few doctors will requisition this after one is diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetic.

Finally, every year or so, it is helpful for those who have been diagnosed as Diabetic to have their fasting insulin, C-Protein and AM Cortisol levels assessed and compared to previous results. For these, your doctor may refer you to an Endocrinologist.

Remember, achieving health is a journey and takes time and like most journeys, it is best not done alone.

Have questions about how I can help or about the services I provide?

Please send me a note using the form on the “Contact Us” tab, above.

To your good health!

Joy

Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 


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A Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet

Client Brochure on the Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet – front

low carb high fat (LCHF) diet is a way of eating that maximizes the body’s natural ability to access one’s own fat-stores for energy. Fat takes the place of carbohydrate as the preferred source of energy, so most of the body’s energy needs comes from a wide variety of healthy fats. A low carb high healthy fat diet  minimizes carbohydrate-based foods, has a moderate amount of protein and has a high amount of healthy fats.

We use the dietary fat that we eat and our own stored fat for energy and by keeping carb intake low, insulin levels are allowed to fall, which in time makes our cells more sensitive to it. As insulin levels fall, so does hunger – so we eat meals when hungryuntil we are no longer hungry – but are no longer hungry every few hours.

The low carb high healthy fat diet

These are the categories and types of food that are available to enjoy on a low carb high healthy fat diet

Low Carb High Healthy Fat – food categories (acknowledgements: Dr. Ted Naiman)

Macronutrients

The exact ratio of macronutrients in your diet (i.e. grams of carbs, fat and protein) will differ depending on your age, gender, activity level, current body composition as well as any health conditions or medication you may be taking.

Here are some general guidelines to give you an idea;

Protein

A low carb high healthy fat diet does not have unlimited amounts of animal protein, although some variations of this style of eating do. There is a reason for this. When carbs are reduced, the body can synthesize glucose from protein (through a process known as gluconeogenesis), so if you eat too much protein, it can slow down your body’s transition to burning fat stores, for energy. The type of low carb high healthy fat diet that I encourage, provides sufficient protein for our body’s needs based, but not excess.

Fat

One thing all low carb high fat diets have in common, is that they are lower in carbs than the conventional low fat calorie-restricted diet and high in fat.

People often ask me “isn’t saturated fat ‘bad’ for us?’, without realizing that ~80% of the saturated fat in our bodies is actually made by our body, and only 20% comes from diet. If it was that ‘bad’ for us, why would our bodies naturally manufacture it?

The questions often follow as to how much saturated fat should we eat? What about polyunsaturated fat? Monounsaturated fat?

Eating a diet that is high in carbs while eating lots of fat, including saturated fat is a concern, but eating a diet rich in saturated fat while eating low carbs is not inherently detrimental.

According to Phinney and Volek (The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living), when someone is adapted to eating a low carb high healthy fat (i.e. are in “fat-burning mode”), saturated fats do not raise LDL cholesterol. That said, why eat only saturated fat? Eating a wide range of healthy fats from a variety of natural sources provides our bodies with all the essential fatty acids we can’t make, as well as provides us with foods that can reduce inflammation.

I recommend that people look mainly to plant-based fats such as those found in avocadoolive, avocado oil and coconut oil (which is largely made up of medium chain triglycerides that is processed through the lymphatic system rather than the liver), nuts and seeds as well as omega 3 fats found in fatty fish for the bulk of their fat sources, beyond the saturated fat that is found in their protein sources.

Nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, pistachios etc. contain carbs – ranging from ~1.5–4 grams net carbs per ounce (30g). Cashews which are actually fruit not nuts, are the highest in carbs, ~ 7 net grams per ounce (30g) but more importantly, since nuts are high in omega-6 fats (which are pro-inflammatory and compete for binding-sites with the omega-3 fats from fish) I recommend that these be eaten in portioned quantities – such as added on top of a salad or a handful with a meal.

Chia and flax seed are approximately 1–2 grams net carbs per 2 Tbsp (50 ml) and are excellent sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

All fats on the meal plan are healthy – which is why I call this approach “low carb high healthy fat”, but for a small percentage of people for whom high LDL cholesterol continues to be a concern, eating less saturated fat may be beneficial. Each person’s needs and familial risks are different, so no one low carb high healthy fat Meal Plan is the same.

Carbohydrate

Carbs are a healthy part of the low carb high healthy fat diet, but excess carb is minimized.

There are naturally-occurring carbs in non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruit (such as lemon, lime, eggplant, cucumber and tomatoes) and berries, as well as those found in nuts and seeds – and these are not restricted.

When starting a Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet

Although not everyone does, some people experience some of the following symptoms, which usually subside within a couple of weeks. For each, I have offered some suggestions to minimize them:

  • headaches: often a result of eating too little salt. As insulin levels fall, so sodium is excreted by the kidney in urine. The drop in sodium results in the headache.  Taking 1-3 gms of salt per day (I prefer sea salt) will alleviate this. If you are taking medication for high blood pressure, be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.  “Bone broth” is another way to restore electrolytes that are lost as insulin levels fall. Be sure you’re drinking plenty of water and also consuming enough salt/sodium.
  • sleep disruption: often a result of needing to urinate more, but sometimes experienced when people of switching from being in “carb-burning mode” to being in “fat burning mode”. Some people find taking some magnesium (with calcium) before bed helpful.
  • digestive changes: some people find they get slightly looser stools or get slightly more constipated when starting.  I can help troubleshoot this with you to get things back on track.
  • aches and pains: some people feel a little achy and almost flu-like for a few days when they are switching fuel sources.  Some people call this the “keto-flu”.  Making sure to have a balanced amount of sodium/potassium and calcium/magnesium as well as taking extra omega 3 fatty acids is helpful.

My role as a Dietitian

As a Dietitian, I make sure that you understand the effect that following a low carb high healthy fat diet can have on your body.  If you are taking medication for high blood pressure  (hypertension) or to lower blood sugar, I’ll ask you check with your doctor before starting, as blood sugar and blood pressure medications may need to be adjusted lower, as insulin levels fall.

If you aren’t taking any medication, I’ll help you transition into understanding that fat in and by itself is not ‘bad’ and that eating good quality healthy fats, nutrient-dense carbohydrate-containing foods and high quality animal protein is part of a healthy diet that will enable you to feel betterlose weight and lower insulin resistance.

I’ll design your Meal Plan so that it is adequate in macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) as well as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals – especially Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, B-Vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and Vitamin C) and sufficient in soluble and insoluble fiber  – suitable for your age, gender and activity level, and that factor in any diagnosed medical conditions you may have.

I’ll make sure that you are eating sufficient food in each of the food categories to meet your dietary needs, while adjusting for weight loss, if that is also a goal – so that you can just focus on eating healthy, ‘real food’.

Have questions ?

Feel free to send me a note using the form on the Contact Us tab, above.

To your health!

Joy

Client Brochure on the Low Carb High Healthy Fat Diet – inside
Note: Everyone's results following a LCHF lifestyle will differ as there is no one-size-fits-all approach and everybody's nutritional needs and health status is different. If you want to adopt this kind of lifestyle, please discuss it with your doctor, first.

Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 


follow me at:

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