I am a low carb eater. I have been eating low carb for over a decade now. For the past few years, I have averaged around 90% of my daily caloric intake from animal foods. This is an important point to begin this post because my following viewpoint does not stem from an issue with the concept of low carb dieting. My problem(s) is with the religious echo-chamber which the low carb dieting world has become. The recent COVID pandemic has shown how deep that dogmatic iceberg goes.
If you have been following me on Twitter (which you probably haven’t been. I only really began posting a few months ago), you’ll notice that I have taken on the role of full-on troll against the low carb community. I didn’t do this on purpose. I follow many low carb personalities due to my personal dietary choices, so my feed is overwhelmingly filled with that theme of the content.
The more I read the thoughts and feelings of what the paleo, keto, and carnivore community have to say, the more I disagree with their approach. Not because I don’t agree with the potential benefits of all those various ways of eating, but because the generalizations and bold (if not arrogant) claims that are beginning to be made by this group require push-back. The groupthink ‘back-patting’ that insulates this collective is preventing top personalities from facing liberal opposition of their views.
Ideas like ‘all carbs are unhealthy,’ you can’t manage blood sugar while consuming carbohydrates, and carbohydrates cause diseases like type 2 diabetes are commonplace in this group. Claims like these are even celebrated.
If I were 100lbs overweight, and I could follow any diet without issue, it would be a low carb diet. I am not in denial of how these dietary approaches can be beneficial in the way that these groups promote it. The problem is when you imply and conflate the idea(s) that a person becomes overweight by eating blueberries, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage: my god, maybe even rice and a sweet potato every once in a while! Yes, those are all carbohydrate dominant foods, and they ARE NOT the cause of obesity or any other lifestyle-driven disease. Here’s what does cause these issues: processed foods, constant snacking, meals that are absent of whole foods, and sitting on your ass all day long. A person can have a reasonable amount of carbohydrate from whole food sources in his or her diet without health consequences. But in the language of the low carb, table sugar and asparagus are not separated from each other. Carbs are carbs.
Now with the recent COVID pandemic, the low carb zealots have taken this to a whole new level. Carbohydrates now fuel the virus. Here is the logic that is saturating twitter.
‘Metabolically unhealthy people are suffering worse outcomes from the virus.’ Yes, this is true. Of course, they are. Do you know of any diseases that are not worsened by severe metabolic disorders?
‘Low carb dieting can help a person lose weight, and thus, more metabolically healthy.’ Right again. But there are also one hundred other dietary approaches that can likely help an overweight person lose weight.
‘Therefore, the avoidance of carbs is going to protect people from, or cure this virus.’ That’s a stretch.
The overweight population in North America is not in the state they are in because they have not learned about low carb dieting. Obese people know they are overweight, and they know how they got there. You are not as insightful as you think you are. We have an obesity epidemic because people eat junk food all day long, drink a lot of alcohol, and are generally quite lazy. These unhealthy actions are also driven by emotional suffering and stressful lives. Not an absence of your low carb advice.
I am all for nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle advice. It is what I do for a living, after all. But you need to know where and when your information is going to make an impact, and you need to understand the difference between offering advice and offering a cure for an acute pandemic.
Here is some advice that is going to go much further than ‘eat a carnivore diet.’
Try to exercise each day
Go to bed earlier and maximize sleep
Wash your hands if you need to go somewhere, and protect your respiratory system
Try to reduce stress and take part in activities that can calm your mind
You know, universally helpful stuff like that.
Any diet and exercise advice we give (for the precise purpose of saving people from COVID) is too late. The pandemic is here, and we are in the thick of it. Steak and push-ups aren’t going to cut it. If you are metabolically unhealthy right now, you need to protect yourself with isolation and finding ways to be happy and purposeful. Once the dust settles, it’s time to ramp up your diet and exercise efforts. By all means, start now if you can, but understand that diet and exercise changes today are not going to save you from a virus you catch tomorrow.
That is the point. The people who need this advice the most have already put themselves in a tight spot. They know how they got there, and if changing were as easy as reading your new low carb diet book, people wouldn’t be unhealthy. People are also not getting obese from ‘carbs.’ People are getting overweight from a decade or more of terrible food choices, inactivity, and self-destructive lifestyles. Low carb dieting can be a way, but it certainly isn’t the way.
Please stop using a pandemic as your ‘I told you so’ moment or as an opportunity to sell your propaganda. Keep doing you and offer your expertise, but enough with hitching it to the coronavirus wagon. It’s unhelpful at best, and unethical at worst.