Living With

Addicted to Carbs

David Mendosa Health Guide September 03, 2008
  • For most of my life I was addicted to carbohydrates. Like almost everyone else.

    Even after reading Sugar Blues by William Dufty and The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet and other books by Rachael and Richard Heller years ago, I refused to accept that this addiction existed. Gary Taubes finally persuaded me that a high-carb diet is addicting after I studied his recent book, Good Calories, Bad Calories. Now I know that it does, and it is really easier to understand than any other addiction.

    Carbs make us hungry. When we're hungry, we eat more. The more we eat the more we want, so we gain weight. It's the classic vicious circle of addiction.


    Most everyone with diabetes knows that carbohydrates increase our blood glucose more than protein, which has a limited and delayed effect, and fat, which has no effect at all on our blood glucose level. The reason it works this way is because carbs spike our body's insulin, as I wrote here

    Eating carbs leads to both weight gain and higher blood glucose levels. This makes carbs a double whammy for people with diabetes.

    Breaking an addiction can be tough. I still remember my wretched cold-turkey withdrawal from tobacco more than 40 years ago.

    Several correspondents have asked me how I broke my addiction to carbohydrates. When I finally went on a very low-carb diet last year, I was already controlling both my appetite and blood glucose with Byetta. During that time I gradually reduced my carbs. I didn't go cold turkey.

    I'm sure that I would have otherwise found it more difficult to stay on a low-carb diet. Following a low-glycemic diet for a decade before that probably helped too, although it didn't help me to control my weight, like Byetta and a low-carbing does.

     Like any addiction, the initial stages of breaking the addiction to carbohydrates can be difficult. "Low-carb diets are too restricting for some people, and they feel deprived," one correspondent wrote me recently. "Some of those people rebound and eat all the carbs they can."

    I don't doubt that my correspondent is right. Until you break the addiction the chances of a rebound are great.

    Just yesterday somebody else wrote to ask how I started low-carbing. He also wanted to know what I eat now.

    I had imagined that a low-carb diet would feel limiting and boring. I used to crave bread and potatoes and rice. But that “carb lust” passed away as I broke my addiction to it.


    My usual breakfast is two egg whites, which I was surprised to learn taste just as good as whole eggs. Often I also have two MorningStar Farms Sausage Patties seasoned with a little mustard.


    I never used to eat many vegetables other than the starchy ones. Now, I have discovered dozens of tasty, low-carb vegetables as well as many other foods new to me. I get most of my veggies in my daily salad at lunch. Starting with spinach or lettuce or arugula, I add veggies like broccoli, green peppers, radishes, mushrooms, and cucumbers.


    When I have a ripe avocado, I'll also add it to my salad or have it as a snack later. However, my usual snacks are sardines or canned salmon or tuna.


  • My dinner is much more varied. If I've gone shopping that day, the entree will invariably be wild (never farmed) fresh fish. Otherwise it will often be organic chicken. I enjoy either with some plain strained yogurt. The book, Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution by Richard K. Bernstein offers many more suggestions.


    I know that I've broken my carb addiction. Unlike such addictions as tobacco, after we break this addiction, eating some carbs won't trigger a renewal of the carb lust. I can now enjoy an occasional piece of ripe fruit or slice of good bread or a cookie without having to eat more and more.


    Instead, I'm eating less but enjoying it more.


    Want to rate your carbohydrate intake? Take this quiz to see how many carbs you should eat in one day!


    For information on diabetes healthy diets, click here.