Low Carb Diets: What Constitutes Cheating?

by David Mendosa Patient Advocate

This week I ate out at my favorite Nepalese restaurant for lunch with a friend. I went through the buffet line only once, which insured that I didn't gain weight.

But I did have some food that was rather high in carbohydrates, including a samosa. And I enjoyed a couple of other yummy high-carb items.

"Aren't you cheating on your low-carb diet?" asked my friend.

I bridled at his remark. Cheating is dishonest. It's a word best reserved to its usual sense of copying the work of others.

My diet is low-carb. It's not no carb, as I made a point to tell my friend. I'm sure that low-carbing the best way to control my diabetes and my weight.

Each day I generally consume 40 to 50 grams of available carbohydrate. Since I'm a journalist rather than an engineer, I'm not as precise as some people, so I don't know exactly.

I do admire the precision of engineers. That's one of the things that I like about Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, who was an engineer before he went back to school in his 40s to become a medical doctor and diabetologist.

He's the only low-carb advocate I know of who specifies precisely how many carbohydrates that we should eat -- 6 grams for breakfast, 12 grams each for lunch and dinner, and another 12 grams for a snack, if it's separated by at least four hours from a meal. He told me once that when he talks about carbohydrates, it's total carbs that he means, not available carbs.

In fact, the carbs that I ate at lunch with my friend were the only carbs I had that day. I started with a small breakfast of two poached egg whites. I had a snack of some canned Portuguese sardines. My dinner was two chicken legs that I had simmered.

Not much. But I did have a big lunch.

My low-carb diet is a way of feeding my body what it needs for the rest of my life. I fully intend to take advantage of the occasional target of tasty opportunity that comes my way.

I don't think of my diet as depriving myself of anything that I want to eat. Of course, I have my personal guidelines about what's best, but those guidelines encompass the exceptions.

When people make resolutions that they they aren't able to keep, they are unrealistic. Likewise, either through ignorance or stupidity, some people fool themselves in their diet choices. For example, when people who use insulin to control their diabetes have something like a bagel and think that they can "cover" it with more insulin, they are acting foolish. More insulin will just make them more hungry and lead to a vicious cycle of overeating.

But even those people aren't cheating.

David Mendosa
Meet Our Writer
David Mendosa

David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.