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Dieting these days seems to be focused around one thing: carbs. From Atkins to keto, cutting carbohydrates or eliminating them entirely is often touted as the best and fastest way to lose weight, drop fat, and feel better.
But that's not exactly true, says Rachel Zimmerman, R.D., a registered dietitian at Indiana University Hospital at IU Health. "Carbs have gotten such a bad reputation recently with all the low-carb, crash diets out there, but carbs are an important part of our daily nutrient intakes–they are what our brains run on," she says.
The research backs her up. When it comes to weight loss, it may be less about limiting a certain food group and more about finding a way of eating you enjoy and can sustain, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers divided participants into four groups and assigned each group a diet with varying amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. After six months, every group had lost a similar amount of weight whether they were eating one-third of their calories from carbs or two-thirds. The results held steady even after two years, with all groups showing similar rates of weight-loss maintenance.
A separate study, also published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that while participants on low-carb plans lost more weight at the beginning than those on higher-carb plans, after one year it had all evened out. Weight loss, it seems, is more about creating a calorie deficit, and however you want to do that is fine, as long as you can stick with it.
That's all well and good in the lab, but in the real world, how do you find a way to limit your calories that doesn't totally suck? We asked five carb-loving ladies how they lost weight while still enjoying their favorite starches.