Why Weight?

Abstaining from Unsafe Lifestyle Choices

by Dr. Linda Carney

Dying to Lose Weight

The search for weight loss tips and tricks advances to front and center in the minds of millions of confused and concerned dieters as our world continues to gain in girth. Desperation drives people to weight loss solutions which are often damaging and debilitating. Many people are literally dying to lose weight. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, such as the Atkins diet, have become very popular. Although low-carb, high-protein diet advocates claim their diet is based on solid scientific evidence, these diets pose serious health risks.

Modern-day, invasive surgical procedures abound, and there are many diets of deprivation promising lasting weight loss. These diets work until the diet period is over, and then the weight returns with a vengeance. Surgical procedures likewise offer temporary solutions, only to disappoint again because the cause of the problem has not been understood. It is time to cease and desist from these harmful practices. It is possible to safely lose weight without damaging our health.


Stomach Emptying Device

A company named Aspire Bariatrics has recently created a breakthrough medical device called the AspireAssist which is surgically implanted. This device pierces through the abdominal wall to provide a port, much like an on/off spigot, through which swallowed food can be easily removed from the stomach. What won’t they think of next? This recent solution has many risks and side effects which can include death. Of course, there is a better way.

When an obese patient comes into my office for the first time, I often have to really restrain myself not to pour out all at once the life-saving information I’ve learned in my 31 years of medical practice. I pace myself in teaching them how to lose weight and keep it off without ever feeling hungry. I also teach how to help stop the cravings and improve the feelings of anger or depression. It takes effort. It  doesn’t come easy. But, it is a lot easier than enduring fad diets and devices.

Stomach Receptors

The food industry has been very successful at developing irresistible, highly-palatable foods that seduce our taste buds. Because today’s food has had its components taken apart, re-formulated, and put back together (with the addition of salt, sugar and fat into a “food-like” product), the majority of Americans  can unknowingly turn into food addicts.

Most diet plans involve calorie or point counting, limiting portion size, utilizing extremely strong will-power and following an intense exercise program. While these approaches may result in weight loss, most people find themselves hungry (and grouchy) most of the time.

Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight for the remainder of your life involves changing the composition (or density/concentration) of our food. It also involves stretch receptors. We experience satiety only when both the stretch receptors and nutrient receptors inside of our stomachs have been activated. These receptors gauge the amount and type of food that we eat. Stretch receptors in the stomach tell us that the bulk (volume) of the food that we  have eaten is sufficient. Fiber provides the bulkiness in whole, natural plant foods.

The caloric (or nutrient) sensors in the stomach measure the caloric density and nutrient content of the food. Americans are severely deficient in micronutrients and fiber. A diet rich in micronutrients satisfies our appetites and resolves food addictions by meeting our micronutrient needs.

Our food addictions and desire to overeat aren’t related to our lack of willpower but to our body giving us the wrong signals. These signals are constantly telling us to overeat because we haven’t fulfilled our micronutrient needs.

Why Weight Loss Might Evade Us

Calorie Density

Weight loss begins by understanding the concept of Calorie Density. All foods are not created equal. Some foods tend to promote weight gain and others, weight loss. This is based purely on the density of the calories of particular foods. Understanding the concept of calorie concentration is the first step for many people in gaining control of their weight. Vegetables tend to be less than 200 calories per pound and can be freely eaten. On the other side of the scale is oil which contains 4,000 calories per pound and should not be eaten at all. Fruits come in around 150 to 400. Starchy vegetables from around 300 to 600. Beans and legumes are usually around 600but can be up to around 800, such as soy and peanuts. Nuts and seeds are around 2,400 to 3,200 calories per pound and should only be eaten sparingly, if at all. Processed foods occur in varying degrees of calorie concentration but are generally highly concentrated to more than 1,400 calories per pound of food.


Eating Meat

In order to test whether or not weight gain is due to the excess calories in meat, hundreds of thousands of men and women spanning 10 countries were followed over a 5-year period in the EPIC-PANACEA study.1 This study was one of the largest studies on human nutrition ever performed. The study controlled calorie intake so that it could demonstrate whether or not consuming meat was associated with weight gain. This means that the group including meat in their diet ate the same number of calories as the group that did not consume any meat. Even after controlling for calories, the group that included meat gained weight.

There are other studies as well. In one, it was determined that meat consumption is associated with obesity among US adults.2 Meat consumption is associated with obesity and higher waist circumference whereas intake of vegetables and fruits is inversely associated.

Another study found a relationship between animal-based protein and obesity. Thus, protein, and not just the animal fats, contributes to obesity. The protein itself is problematic, apart from the animal fat: “Our findings suggest that protein derived from animal sources, in particular from meat, fish and shellfish, may be associated with increased risk of both global and abdominal obesity among presumably healthy adults in Luxembourg. These findings suggest that lower animal protein intakes may be important for maintenance of healthy body weight.”3 Of course, I suggest that for optimal health, no animal protein should be eaten.

Now that we know that animal protein is to blame, are  fats  let off the hook? Not really. Even some of our most beloved “healthy” plantbased fats can cause weight gain.

  Eating Excess Fat

Excessive weight contributes to many disease conditions. Losing excess body fat improves health, sometimes greatly. Reversal of disease conditions is possible when excess body fat is shed by eating a lower-fat diet. In a longitudinal study published in Preventive Cardiology, researchers started with a basic premise: “Any dietary program that reduces the number of calories a person eats to fewer than what he or she needs will result in weight loss.”4 It ended up that the premise was flawed. In their study, all participants were  placed on a 1,600  calorie-per-day diet. They were placed in groups based on dietary preferences: High-fat, Moderate-fat and Low-fat. The groups on the Low-fat diet, by far, lost the most weight even though all four groups were eating the same amount of calories daily.

After 12 months, the low-fat diet group saw reductions in cholesterol (39.1%), triglycerides (37.3%) and homocysteine (13.6%) levels compared to the High-fat and Moderate-fat group. In fact, the High-fat group saw increases in cholesterol, triglycerides and homocysteine levels.

I like this study because it lets us watch, over the course of a year, the effects of the chosen diet on the risk factors for disease.. I’ve seen from experience in my office that when patients begin eating low-fat plant foods, leaving off the oil and enjoying all the fabulous textures, colors, and flavors plants offer, they, too, often see  their numbers move in the right direction. Weight goes down, cholesterol drops (sometimes dramatically), blood pressure begins to normalize (often very quickly), and diabetes medications are  often reduced or eliminated.

Additional research work was carried out to determine the relationship between dietary fat and body weight control. Researchers examined data from the National Weight Control Registry database and evidence from several epidemiological, preclinical and controlled clinical studies. They discovered that high dietary fat consumption promoted weight gain. Controlling fat intake was found to be key for long-term weight management. The results of this research work do not support some popular, but questionable, claims that obesity is associated with a lower dietary fat intake.5

Many plant-based doctors, like me , advise those trying to lose weight to limit the “healthy” fats such as nuts and avocados until their optimal weight has been reached. In my Starch-Smart System, you will note that there are four levels to choose from, depending on an individual’s goals. A healthy athletic teenager does not need to restrict  “healthy” fats in the same way as  a person looking to reverse diseases or lose weight.

I recommend that you download my PDF at https://www.drcarney.com/images/starch_smart/handouts/Starch-SmartSystemLevels.pdf and compare the various headings and how they change based on the levels: Starch-Smartish, Starch-Smart, Starch-Smarter and Starch-Smartest. In particular look at the headings “Oils, Nuts, Seeds, and other High-Fat Foods” and “Salt & Sugar.” Many success stories have found my approach well balanced.

High consumption of low-fat, high complex carbohydrate diets is associated with healthier weights and lipid profiles in overweight metabolic syndrome patients.

Another study examined the long-term effects of low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets on the body mass index and lipid profile of overweight metabolic syndrome patients. Researchers fed 46 metabolic syndrome patients with either low-fat, complex carbohydrate diets (the LF-CC group), low-fat, simple carbohydrate diets (the LF-SC group), or a control diet for six  months. The body weight, blood pressure, and plasma lipid levels of all the subjects were measured every two  months throughout the duration of the study.

Researchers observed a higher percentage of weight loss in subjects fed  low-fat, complex carbohydrate diets than patients in the other two groups. According to this study, patients on low-fat, simple carbohydrates had higher plasma content of fatty acids than subjects in the LF-CC and control groups. The findings of this study again support the hypothesis that diets rich in complex carbohydrates and low in fat may promote weight loss and improve the lipid profile of overweight metabolic syndrome patients.6

Eating Sugar

High intake of sugar-sweetened beverages may also promote weight gain and the development of obesity. In one study, the researchers examined the effect of consistent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages on weight gain and obesity risk. Thirty published studies were included in a meta-analysis. Researchers found that habitual intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is definitely associated with increase in body weight and obesity risk. The findings of this review reveal that frequent consumers (both adults and children) of sugar-sweetened beverages are more prone to gain weight and develop obesity.


Insulin Resistance

When we eat one bite (just ONE bite!) of the substances which create insulin resistance, we may experience the effects of insulin resistance for 10 – 14 days thereafter. NOT fair! The effects of insulin resistance are food cravings (hunger) and body-fat storage. Among the causes of insulin resistance are animal protein, fats (yes, even whole-foods, unprocessed, plant-based fats), caffeine, and alcohol.

Another point to consider is that any type of meat such as beef, pork and poultry stimulates substantial insulin secretion from the pancreas into the bloodstream. In fact, “meat protein causes as much insulin release as pure sugar.” Those who consume meat have up to 50% higher insulin levels whereas vegetarians have significantly lower insulin levels. High insulin levels encourage the storage of fat, thus promoting obesity.

Colon Bacteria

When we eat acid-forming animal proteins which destroy the alkaline-loving bacteria of the colon, that acid-forming animal protein may suddenly drop the colon pH so low that only the acid-loving colonic bacteria survive. The acid-loving colon bacteria make all the calories available to us, unlike the alkaline-loving colonic bacteria, which cause us to defecate out some of the calories before we can absorb those calories.


Timing of Meals

Big savory breakfasts and lunches filled with legumes, intact whole grains (flourless), and veggies satisfy our hunger so well (and for so many hours) that this helps us to eat lighter, earlier suppers. The less calorie-concentrated and earlier  the supper, the easier it is to lose weight, according to scientific studies.

In a study of 420 overweight or obese patients on a 20-week weight-loss diet, researchers looked at the timing of their largest meal of the day to test if WHEN the participants ingested the majority of their calories would make a difference in weight loss. HOMA, an index of insulin resistance, was significantly higher in the late eaters. The study authors concluded that there is a relationship between the timing of food intake and the effectiveness of weight loss. Participants who ate the bulk of the day’s calories before 3:00 in the afternoon lost more weight. Further, being an “evening person” was associated with late eating, promoting insulin resistance.

“The timing of the main meal by itself seems to be the most determinant factor in weight loss effectiveness and therefore, eating at the right time may be a relevant factor to consider in weight loss therapies.”8 This study indicates that our body responds to circadian rhythms whether or not we’re fully aware of them.

I’ve seen in my medical practice that patients who eat a low fat, whole-foods, plant-based diet free from added oil, taking in the majority of their calories early in the day, finishing a light supper before six in the evening, exercising, and being asleep by two hours before midnight, generally experience greater success in reaching optimal health, including weight loss.

Regular intake of high-calorie breakfast and low-calorie dinner may promote weight loss and improve the conditions of obese women with metabolic syndrome.

Another study examined the effect of regular consumption of a high calorie breakfast vs. dinner on weight loss in overweight women. Researchers assigned obese women with metabolic syndrome into 2 groups: the breakfast group and the dinner group. While the subjects in the breakfast group were placed on diets with calorie content of 700 kcal for breakfast, 500 kcal for lunch, and 200 kcal for dinner, those in the dinner group were fed with meals that contain 200 kcal, 500 kcal, and 700 kcal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner respectively for 12 weeks. The serum concentrations of fasting glucose, insulin, triglycerides, ghrelin, HOMA-IR, waist circumference, hunger scores, and satiety scores were measured in all the subjects before and after dietary intervention.

Researchers observed a higher percentage of weight loss and decrease in waist circumference in subjects in the breakfast group than in those in the dinner group. Members of the big-breakfast group had lower hunger scores and plasma triglyceride levels but higher satiety scores than subjects in the big-dinner group. According to this study, the plasma concentrations of fasting glucose, insulin, ghrelin, and HOMA-IR decreased in both groups, with greater reduction seen in the breakfast group. The findings of this study show that the consumption of a high-calorie breakfast and low-calorie dinner may help obese women with metabolic syndrome to lose weight and improve their metabolic health.9


Two hours of sleep before midnight are worth four hours of sleep after midnight, when it comes to cortisol, ghrelin, and leptin, which influence our weight.


I order blood tests for antibodies against the thyroid, which can occur when the immune system is stressed by sleep-disordered breathing or by eating animal protein. The thyroid is key in helping to regulate our weight.


Sleep Hypoxia

Oxygenation saturation below 94% can thwart our weight loss. If you get tested for sleep apnea, your MD may prescribe a sleeping pill just for that night of the sleep test, to test for partial airway closure when most relaxed. Decreases in oxygen level during sleep have been shown to hinder loss of body-fat.




As you can see, while our food choices are by far the biggest factor, there are other factors that might be at play. If you have adopted a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle with the intent of losing weight but are not seeing the results that you were hoping for, then I would like to recommend that you please learn about my Starch-Smartest Program. It is free to you. I recommend that you follow it to the letter for 30 days. What have you got to lose? Besides some weight?



1 http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/92/2/398.long

2 {{Wang Y, Beydoun M. Meat consumption is associated with obesity and central obesity among US adults. International journal of obesity (2005). 2009;33(6):621-628. doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.45.}}

3 Alkerwi A, Sauvageot N, Buckley JD, et al. The potential impact of animal protein intake on global and abdominal obesity: evidence from the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Luxembourg (ORISCAV-LUX) study. Public Health Nutrition. 2015;18(10):1831-1838. doi:10.1017/S1368980014002596.

4 Fleming, R. M. (2002), The Effect of High-, Moderate-, and Low-Fat Diets on Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors. Preventive Cardiology, 5: 110–203. doi:10.1111/j.1520-037X.2002.01231.x

5 Peters, J.C. Lipids (2003) 38: 123. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11745-003-1041-9

6 Sally D Poppitt, Geraldine F Keogh, Andrew M Prentice, Desmond EM Williams, Heidi MW Sonnemans, Esther EJ Valk, Elizabeth Robinson, and Nicholas J Wareham. Long-term effects of ad libitum low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets on body weight and serum lipids in overweight subjects with metabolic syndrome. m J Clin Nutr January 2002 vol. 75 no. 1 11-20

7 Malik VS, Schulze MB, Hu FB. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2006;84(2):274-288.

8 Garaulet M, Gómez-Abellán P, Alburquerque-Béjar JJ, Lee Y-C, Ordovás JM, Scheer FA. Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. International journal of obesity (2005). 2013;37(4):604-611. doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.229.

9 Daniela Jakubowicz, Maayan Barnea, Julio Wainstein, Oren Froy. High Caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity. Volume 21, Issue 12 December 2013 Pages 2504–2512