Lynda Murray

The Dietitian Magician®


Low Carb Diets Make a Fattier Santa

“Mom, Santa needs to diet,” my five-year-old son blurted out. “If his stomach gets too big he won’t fit down chimneys.” “I bet he’ll go on the North Beach diet” my older son quipped. “It’s North Pole, you dummy,” the youngest fired back.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Children aren’t suppose to be talking about diets. Diet is a four-letter word. Kids are naive, presumed innocent to the menace of calorie restriction, body hatred and the latest fad diet.

What’s in Vogue?

While some women select a new handbag each season, others select a new fad diet. They store it up in their memory bank and implement it around January first. What’s in fashion for 2009? Atkins, South Beach, Skinny Bitch, Abs, Body for Life, French Women….sounds like the menu line-up at for a restaurant.

Low carb diets - recycled again

One of the most popular fad diets is the Atkins or high protein diet. While Dr Atkins released his “New” Diet Revolution book a few years ago, the idea of a restricted carbohydrate, ample protein diet isn’t new. It was first developed by a mortician in 1863.

While the premise of this diet sounds promising: “eat as many calories from fat and protein as you wish as long as the carbohydrates are limited.” In truth, it is merely a low calorie diet in disquise. Calories are limited due to the limited number of food choices. When you replace a typical cheeseburger, fries and Coke with an open-faced, bunless burger, salad and Diet Coke, whats happening is your calories drop dramatically too. 

A day with David on Atkins

How might a day on Atkins look? Let’s spend a day with David, a young male as he consumes 3 meals following Atkins approved foods. 

Breakfast: 2 eggs with onions and Parmesan cheese

Lunch: Stewed chicken leg and thigh, 1 egg, 1 Tbsp. miracle whip and onions.

Dinner: ¾ pound of sausage, bell peppers and a tossed salad.

Is David healthier for following this Atkins regimen?  A quick analysis of his dietary intake says no. He is extremely low in fiber, and consuming excessive saturated (artery clogging fat) and cholesterol.


Nutritional Goals                                                       David on Atkins

Calories                      2400                                       1479

Fiber                            25-35 grams                          6 grams

Cholesterol                300 mg.                                  780 mg.

Saturated fat              10-20 grams                         28 grams

It’s a no-brainer that the goal of losing weight should be to improve your health not make it worse.

Here are the top reasons WHY a low carbohydrate eating plan is wrong.

  1. ‍ Heart disease risk increases – the diet increases the levels of LDL (lousy cholesterol).
  2. Cancer risk increases – Want to wear a colostomy bag? Go on the Atkins diet.
  3. Poor long term weight loss – There is a slight metabolic advantage from digesting all that protein, but it adds up to only 45 calories per day. Initial weight loss is mostly water as each glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate) is bound to three molecules of water. Take the weight you lose on a low carb diet and divide it in two. Half is water. Please, never confuse fat loss with water loss. It isn’t the same thing.
  4. Reduced athletic performance – low carb diets can induce altitude sickness and muscular fatique.
  5. Rising blood pressure
  6. Gout – the body can accumulate an excess of uric acid caused by eating foods rich in purines such as meats, nuts, eggs and seafood.
  7. Kidney stones – more likely to form with a high protein diet than a diet with more produce.
  8. Osteoporosis
  9. Fainting
  10. Bad Breath – when the body burns fat for energy, the breath takes on a foul odor resembling a mixture of nail polish remover and rotten pineapple.
  11. Depression – the longer the duration the low carbohydrate diet continues, the greater likelihood of depression developing. Carbs help insure a normal serotonin level in the brain. When serotonin levels are normal, individuals don’t feel the need to overeat on sugary and refined carbohydrate foods.

Dietitian Keith Ayoob, RD, FADA spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association summed up low carb diets like Atkins or South Beach, “Carbs are demonized and there are major restrictions on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy foods, which contradicts everything we know about health promotion and disease prevention.”

Gotta Jump on the Bandwagon

Still, I know there are some of you who are desperate to try anything will still attempt a low carb diet. If you still want to try a low carb diet, be sure to adhere to a few basic principles.

  1. Drink plenty of fluids
  2. Include good sources of fiber
  3. Take a multivitamin supplement
  4. Eat at least 2 fruits and veggies per day
  5. Limit the duration to two months or less per year.


Visualize yourself going out to eat at your favorite, “All you care to eat” buffet, if you can’t have salad, fruit, grains, pastas, rice, noodles, crackers, pancakes, waffles or desserts, how many calories will you eat?”

The bottom lime is “So you can have as much butter as you want without any bread to put it on. How much butter do you think you’ll eat?” says Zonya Foco, RD, registered dietitian and professional presenter.

Low carb diets can kill

Possibly the most tragic example of  a failed high protein diet would be the case of the sixteen-year old Missouri girl who collapsed at school and died of sudden heart failure. An autopsy revealed low calcium and potassium levels brought on by the low carb diet she was following at the time of her death.

Fad or “miracle” diets train the body to store fat

When the body is deprived the calories it needs, it holds onto fat and releases water and muscle. The dieter jumps on the scale, pumping their fist into the air, screaming,“I love you Dr Atkins!”  In reality, the body is programming itself to store fat. A few months or years, down the line, the dieter lamments, “The diet worked. I need to try harder,” or “I need to get back on it.”    Let’s investigate that statement. You lost 35 pounds and six months later have regained 40 pounds. Did the diet really “work”?  I don’t think so. The term is called “yo yo dieting” and many Americans are cycling themselves into obesity.

Well, what’s a plump Santa to do?

It’s not all gloom and doom. You can successfully drop 30 -300 pounds, the right way, under the watchful eye of registered dietitian and a personal trainer. Your dietitian can share with you the top weight management tips of the “weight loss masters” – people who have successful lost many pounds and kept the weight off for several years or decades.  A registered dietitian will suggest dietary strategies you can use to take realistic steps towards change, not a punishing plate that you can’t live with.  Remember, you aren’t Carrie Underwood, singing on American Idol and making gold records the next week. You need a personalized plan with realistic goals and action steps.

And a personal trainer can get you on the right track for an exercise regimen that works for you. Most diets cause a loss of both fat and lean muscle and a personal trainer can help you preserve your “body furnace” (metabolism)  so you don’t regain the pounds you worked so hard to take off.

P.S. Try putting some fresh fruit out for Santa this year. He’ll appreciate you taking the time to consider a healthier option.

Lynda Murray

Lynda is an award winning dietitian and a leading advocate for nutritional health and wellness.

Lynda Murray

Lynda is an award winning dietitian and a leading advocate for nutritional health and wellness.