It is now February, 2012 and I have completed the HCH diet a total of five 40 day courses, allowing increasing intervals between each one. I lost an average of 20 pounds each course, for a total amount of weight lost at 100 pounds, but I added back an average of 8 pounds between each course, making the net loss maximum about 60 pounds. The last course I gained 20 pounds back over the 6 month interval I had to wait, and was very unhappy with the regain.
I must conclude that severe calorie reduction is only effective if a method for long term weight management is effectively put into place afterwards. I believe the body with its amazing survival instinct drastically decreases metabolism to prevent starvation, reserving energy for emergency life support. Some studies report the metabolism may drop as much as 50% each time “starvation” occurs. So when overweight people claim that they are not eating very much, and they have a history of starvation diets, it is highly likely they are living examples of the metabolism disorders that result from frequent calorie restriction. Oprah Winfree comes to mind as a celebrity example of metabolism dysfunction, since she openly publicized her struggles with restricted calories.
I have discovered that as long as I keep the calories up between 1500 and 1800 per day, but drastically restrict carbohydrate intake, I can maintain my current weight of 149. I have methodically researched every fitness and weight loss guru I can find, as well as the nutrition texts looking for the solution needed to reestablishing a functioning metabolism. I have lots of work to do, because my thyroid is border line low, my body temperature is one degree low, and my overall energy level is low after this last course. On the positive side, my total cholesterol is now 195 (down from 250), my triglycerides are down from 270 to 75, my HDL is up to 58, and my C-Reactive Protein numbers are .02, all indicating very healthy levels of blood lipids after the significant weight loss and diet changes. There is no question that weight loss is essential for good health.
I have been quite interested in a new book called the Metabolism Miracle, which claims that about 50% of Americans are pre-diabetic and may have a family history of weight issues and diabetes, weight gain around the middle, carb cravings, hypoglycemia, and mental fog being a few of the symptoms. The book suggests for people with metabolic syndrome (also called Syndrome X or pre-diabetes) that calorie restriction is not the best choice, because these types will continue to gain weight even on very low calorie diets due to their inability to handle carbs. Pre-diabetics have an immediate excessive insulin response to sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or starchy carbs resulting in eventual insulin resistance and fat storage. For us, a calorie is not just a calorie because a carb calorie is going to fat no matter what due to improper insulin response. The best way to develop control over this response is an 8 week course of low carb high calorie food choices where no more than 5 carbs are eaten in a five hour period. The high calorie part helps regulate the hunger hormones, and moves the body out of starvation mode. After 8 weeks of rest and recovery for the liver and pancreas, it is important to increase carb consumption to about 20 grams every 5 hours all through the day and evening. This phase is important to prevent the liver from dumping glycogen (sugar) into the blood stream to combat low blood sugar symptoms. After the insulin response is "retrained" and under better control, carbs can be added back into the diet until each individual break point is determined, usually based on the return of weight gain. Once each individual level of carbs allowed before weight gain occurs is determined, then a diet can be planned which stays within these perimeters. My favorite part is that if one decides to have a piece of birthday or anniversary cake, there is a built in system to return to a lower carb diet to offset the effects of sugar overload. I am experimenting with the blood sugar control methods encouraged in this book, and will post in the future whether I have been able to keep the weight off with carb restriction, instead of calorie restriction. Exercise is very important in the process, not to burn calories, but to give the body instruction to burn fat instead of muscle. The book suggests 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week to keep insulin under control.
I have also been eating an organic, mostly whole, raw foods diet with lots of fresh veggies and fruit as allowed within the carb range. I have chosen organic to minimize pesticides and chemicals, whole foods that have not been processed because they contain more nutrients, raw because heating and processing destroys nutrients, and fresh instead of frozen or canned for maximum vitamin content. I still have cooked lean meats, and an occasional warm bowl of soup or chilli, but for the most part I love eating the majority of my foods raw. Good luck with your diet plans, and have a healthy day!