Recipe – 4-Alarm Chili

Adapted from a recipe on Atkins.com. Don’t concern yourself with a lot of tiresome steps – it can all cook at the same time! Funny thing about this particular recipe was there was on particular week where I would eat a rather large bowl of this each day at work at lunch while the ‘traditional dieters’ ate their tiny portions of flavorless fat-free food and watch me in amazement. That week I lost five lbs.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 finely chopped jalapeño chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese

In a large pot, drizzle olive oil over the sides and bottom. Then thrown in everything in the following order: onions, meat, tomatoes, garlic, jalapeños, red pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and salt. Once boiling, turn to a simmer and let cook for an hour.

I’ve also done this in a crock pot – except that I set the crock pot to high and cook for 4 hours.

When serving, sprinkle the shredded cheese on top as desired – yum!

This recipe is fine for the induction phase of Atkins.


Digg!

Atkins Induction – Observations on Day 7

I’m at 185, which is about a 10 pound loss in a week. I am in my original target zone of 180-185 that I was shooting for in 2003 when I was 260. Until a few months ago I had been steady at this weight, but it started creeping back.

This time I want to go a bit further – 170. I’m almost 6 feet tall, so 170 is an ideal weight. I reached it once but didn’t maintain it. This time I’d like to.

It’s been interesting doing induction again – I hadn’t done it since maybe 2004. Some things I’ve noticed at this point:

  • My clothes are less snug. I was getting close to bursting. Now they fit.
  • There’s a strange feeling that I’ve always gotten after a large high-fat, low carb meal. A slight dizziness with a grumbling in my stomach that might remind one of that warning sign you get right before a bout of the ‘runs’ – but it isn’t – no ‘running’ is involved, the slight dizziness dissipates and life goes on.
  • I’ve totally given up bread, even the low carb type, and really don’t miss it. It’s not a permanent thing – I love bread and there are really good low carb breads available, but it does slow things down and I wanted to do induction ‘hard core’ this time.
  • The ketosis strips are turning quite purple. I found it easy to get into ketosis – fat burning – this time. In 2003 I probably had to eliminate a number of things I thought were OK, but were stalling me. for example I can’t use Nutrasweet, so I switched to 4C brand drink mixes that are locally available and made with Splenda. First-time around it probably took me a while to figure out some of these things.
  • On days I eat more, the next day I see greater weight loss. My theory is the body sees it doesn’t have to go into ‘starvation mode’ and be miserly with giving up the weight as it sees a lot of food coming in – but what do I know?

What have been eating? Off the top of my head I’ve had:

  • London Broil on the barbecue. Family loved it – it was gone the next day.
  • Salad with peppers, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes – drenched in Ken’s Steakhouse salad dressings. The Greek, Italian and Blue Cheese varieties are induction-friendly.
  • Atkins Shakes – one every morning.
  • Breakfast sausages, though I am trying to reduce this sort of thing and stick to fresh meat as much as possible
  • Mozzarella cheese. On salads or just plain.
  • Pork ribs on the grill with Lea & Perrins’s sauce
  • The sour cream spinach mentioned in the previous post
  • American cheese with tomato – I like the combination
  • American cheese with half-slice of pickle (don’t knock it til you try it)
  • Hardboiled eggs. I did them so they only boiled for 2-3 minutes and the centers were not completely cooked through – it gave them a totally different taste that I enjoyed.
  • Sardines. They are a taste I acquired on Atkins. Ate with mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish. I had tried this combo some time back and enjoy it.
  • Cream cheese mixed with Splenda as a sweet. Ate it with a spoon. Think cheesecake without the crust.

I didn’t have any meat with nitrates, nor did I have any of my Lindt chocolate. I had to throw the low carb bread away – it was too old.

I also didn’t exercise, except to mow the lawn today.

While somewhat restrictive compared to usual, I don’t consider the above food list to be indicative of deprivation. Didn’t measure anything – ate what I wanted. Didn’t keep a food diary, count a calorie, or even count a carb – I was just more or less aware of the carb load of what I was eating and tried not to overdo the cheese or Splenda.

That’s it. 10 lbs lighter.

Kitchen Experiment #4 – Sour Cream Spinach

THE EXPERIMENT: I stole a recipe off of The Low Carb Band-It’s blog on July 4th then I totally riffed it. I used:

  • 20 oz frozen spinach
  • 6 shallots
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • A cup of sour cream
  • Salt
  • Pepper

I nuked the spinach for about 8 minutes, stirring about half-way through, while I sauteed the shallots in butter. I then threw them all together, added the vinegar and sour cream and mixed. Didn’t drain it – too lazy.

A taste seemed a bit bland. Added some salt. Then added some more. Then some pepper. I thought I had a winner but it needed to pass the gauntlet of the Low Carb Confidential Taste Panel (my wife and my two daughters).

THE VERDICT: Wife took a taste and scrunched up her face – that good, huh? My 11-month-old had a bite. She seemed non-committal about it, so we offered her more. She liked it. There was speculation that she was just sucking up to me, but she’s not saying. My older daughter reluctantly tried and grimaced like I made her lick a garbage pail, then got a paper towel to scrub her tongue clean. My daughter gave no helpful insight except to say it ‘was bad.’ My wife thought it was the vinegar.

I’ll try it again, but maybe tone down the ‘tang’ for my family…

Interesting to note, but after a day in the fridge, the flavor seemed a lot better – perhaps the blending of flavor that occurs with a tuna salad was happening here. I had some topped with parm cheese and it was very good.

Further research needs to be done before this becomes a dish for the non-low carbers, though I will be making this for myself again.

I also ate this while in induction and it didn’t stop the ketosis.

Exercising Without Exercising – Calming Your Inner Gecko

I don’t like to exercise – think it’s unnatural. Now I’m sure that comment raises the cackles of many among you, but let me explain:

My theory is that exercise, as it is performed today, simply can’t be comprehended by the mind – hence the problem so many people have with it. It’s not willpower as much as we are fighting an innate, hardwired, genetic predisposition for expending our energy in a worthwhile manner.

Take running on a treadmill. Intellectually, we understand heart-rate calculations, calories expended, etc. But the part of our brain that is about as intelligent as a gecko says: “Why the hell am I walking but I’m not going anywhere?!?”

It’s the same thing with weight training. Lift a weight up. Put a weight down. Lift a weight up. Put a weight down. Your internal gecko is saying: “Why am I lifting this up over and over!?”

You can push through your internal gecko, ignore him or her, and actually get into exercise. I don’t have the time, nor can I handle the cognitive dissonance that occurs.

What I try to do is exercise without exercising. Exercise without exercising happens while you are doing something else. We live in a time where people hire someone to mow their lawn so they can go to the gym and run on a treadmill – when they could have gotten the exercise at home and saved the money.

Are we really that absurd a society? Yes. Now if you are into numbers – counting things – this will drive you wacky, but I think all that counting just stresses you out. It doesn’t matter if you walked 22 minutes one day and 44 minutes the next – what matters is: how do you feel? Losing weight? Are you happy?

If you can’t imagine exercising without the numbers, without milestones and markers, then this advise is not for you. But if you are one of those people like me that just can’t get into a traditional exercise routine, here’s some suggestions:

  • Sports of any kind. Jeez – even ping-pong is better than nothing. Playing along with ‘Wheel of Fortune’ on TV is not a sport.
  • Park in the furthest parking space from the store you are going to. An added benefit is no one will ever compete with you over your parking spot.
  • Stairs. I got kids, and the chaos that ensues from the forgotten this and that makes for extra trips up and down the stairs. Don’t let it irk you – think of it as exercise.
  • Take a walk. Take the kids for a walk. Take a walk with your wife or husband. Take the dog for a walk – the dog is getting fat too.
  • Never take an elevator unless you are in a 60-story high rise and climbing the stairs will make you sweaty and 45 minutes late for your appointment.
  • In an office, get up and walk over to a coworker to ask a question rather than sending an email. Every step counts.
  • Mow your own lawn. Obviously, if you have acres to mow, this might be impossible, but many of us with homes have a lawn that is perfectly mowable – and don’t cheat and buy one that has a power drive. You are pushing it yourself, pal. And ladies – mowing the lawn is not gender-specific – and just like a lot of women think there’s nothing sexier than a man doing the dishes, the same goes for a woman pushing a mower.
  • Ride a bike, but not a stationary one. Ride somewhere. Don’t look at the speedometer, odometer or heart-rate monitor. Just try to enjoy the scenery.
  • Have things to do around the house? Don’t hire someone if you can do it yourself without fear of flooding, electrocution, or your house being condemned. You’ll get a workout and save money to boot.
  • How about Tai Chi or Yoga? Put aside any supposed spiritual aspects if that bothers you. They are exercise routines somewhat similar to isometrics but the routines can be calming to the mind. Skeptical? Try them out. Nobody’s going to try to turn you into a Moonie.

Atkins Induction – Observations On My First Few Days

Memory is a fragile thing. It’s been maybe three years or so since I did the Atkins induction phase. For those of you unfamiliar with this, the way you are supposed to start Atkins is to get your net carb count under 20 grams a day. One small glass of orange juice has more carbs in it, so, for folks who’ve never done it before, it’s sort of like tip-toeing into very, very cold water.

For those of you considering it, I’m not trying to scare you – I’m trying to prepare you. I think that maybe one of the reasons that Atkins fails most people is mindset. I think Atkins downplays some of the aspects of induction, while I tend to believe that understanding what’s ahead as you begin induction is critical to succeeding.

As I’ve mentioned, I had lost up to 90 lbs, but I’ve put 20 of those back on. Being I threw away all my fat clothes, there’s no going back. About a week or so ago, I was closing in on 200 lbs when I want to be 170. I’m about 188 now and have gone back on induction to help get the weight off.

People – I will always be fat, no matter what weight I am. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that inside every fat person is a thin person trying to get out. Well, inside every thin person who got that way by losing a lot of weight is a fat person who is really pissed and wants an entire box of Oreos – and maybe a quart of milk to wash them down – NOW!

That fat person in me has gained the upper hand as of late, so here I am doing induction again. I  started three days ago, so I am experiencing again what it was like the first time round. So what’s it like? What am I doing exactly?

  • I feel weird. Not bad, but weird. Induction induces ketosis which, to simplify, forces your body to burn fat as there’s no carbs to use as your energy source. As you are changing your body chemistry, you have to expect to feel something different. For me, it’s a mild lightheadedness, nothing really extreme, but noticeable. I’ve had people tell me that they can’t do Atkins because it makes them dizzy, but I think that it’s a change they weren’t anticipating and it’s focused on too much. If they thought about that mid-afternoon I-can’t-keep-my-eyes-open feeling as being an unnatural state, a mild lightheadedness would seem trivial in comparison, but they are used to being sleepy in the afternoon, so it seems normal. It isn’t normal, and for me I’ll trade one for the other in a heartbeat.
  • I miss sweets. when you are on low carb and maintaining your weight, you can have fruit and chocolate and other sweet goodies, if chosen correctly. You can even cheat now and then. Induction, however, is pretty strict, so these are verboten.  what do I do? I eat a packet of Splenda straight. It cleanses the palate, so to speak. People think I’m weird when I do this, but I’ve given up on caring what people think of me long ago.
  • I’ve given up Nutrasweet. I have found that the artificial sweetener Nutrasweet (aka aspartame) stalls me. I can only tolerate a little bit on induction. I found that 4C has a Splenda-based fruit punch – cranberry/pomegranate – that I thought I wouldn’t like but I do. It also helps to quiet the cravings for sweets. When I’m maintaining, Nutrasweet doesn’t bother me, but I can’t have much of it during induction.
  • I’m taking fiber therapy. I actually use psyllium (the main ingredient) regularly, but I think that this is critical for induction to work. I think Atkins glosses over this in his book, but I need the extra fiber. I have never bought the unflavored stuff that Atkins recommends – I use the sugar-free orange Metamucil – or the sugar-free store brand – Costco’s is my fave. Yes – it has Nutrasweet in it, but not enough to stall me. I completely ignore the directions for use and put up to a heaping tablespoon in half a glass of water, stir and drink quick. Not the high point of my day – the stuff is not a taste sensation, and if you don’t guzzle the stuff down fast enough, it turns into a gritty pudding that could be used as a torture device to elicit confessions from suspected criminals.
  • I’m having a breakfast again. I’m never hungry in the morning – I’m a night eater. I’m forcing myself to drink an Atkins shake each morning. It definitely helps – yesterday it seemed that I wasn’t hungry after eating in the late afternoon and for the first time in a long time I didn’t eat at night.
  • I’m eating the low carb cliche. What I mean by that is induction is painted by most people what low carb is like all the time – but it isn’t. I’m eating breakfast sausages, eggs, cheese. I’m having salads with Ken’s low-carb dressings. Today – the 4th of July – I’ll have some London broil and pork ribs on the barbecue – maybe try the spinach with sour cream recipe I found on the Low Carb Band-it blog. I’m restricting my food choices – not because there aren’t many, but because of time – I work full time and have two kids so I can’t spend hours in the kitchen. It’s a temporary thing, however. Induction is not Atkins – this is a pervasive myth. It’s a couple of weeks or a couple of months if you have a lot of weight to lose. It’s worth it for me because…
  • My appetite is diminishing. Induction causes ketosis, and ketosis is an appetite suppressant. The irony of most diets is that they cause you to obsess about food – which is probably part of the reason we got fat in the first place. I’ve seen so many people on low-fat diets eat their tiny hockey-puck sized lunch in two minutes, look at the clock and sigh as they were still hungry as hell and they had five hours to go before their next meal. I actually forget about eating during induction.
  • I’m noticing bursts of energy. It’s a good feeling. I did low-fat diets in the past and there were no energy bursts – just this excruciating effort, this relentless, tiring march that only a marine drill sargent would love.
  • I’m avoiding headaches so far. Last time I did induction I would have mild headaches. I think this was from too little water. I’ve upped the water and haven’t had a headache yet. we’ll see if I can avoid them completely – stay tuned.

October 11, 2012 Update

I’ve added a post on what Atkins Induction feels like on Day 30 – you might want to check it out.

 

The FDA Issues Rules on Dietary Supplements

On June 22, 2007, the FDA announced that dietary supplements:

  • Have to contain what they say they contain.
  • Have to be free of contaminants and things they aren’t supposed to have.

Here’s the link: http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2007/NEW01657.html

While the makers of supplements complained of higher costs, there have been many instances where potency of supplements has been way off, there have been contaminants, and sometimes even prescription pharmaceuticals!

It would be nice if regulations weren’t necessary, but they are.

It’s going to take a while for manufacturers to comply, and until then, the only way you can be sure is to ensure that the supplements you take are USP Verified. There aren’t many supplements that are verified, but at least you can be pretty sure that what the bottle says it has in it is actually in the bottle. Supplements can be expensive – it would be a waste, and maybe even harmful, if you’re not taking what you expected you were taking.

To learn more about USP Verification check out this link:

http://www.usp.org/USPVerified/dietarySupplements/

It’s important to note that the claims – what the stuff is supposed to do – is not certified by anyone. Supplements might or might not do what they claim. Let the buyer beware. The price of a free society is doing your own research before you start popping pills.

7 Great Benefits of Low Carb Other Than Weight Loss

I found low carb helped me lose 90 lbs at one point. But there were other surprising things that occurred that I didn’t expect. These could have been a combination of the weight loss and the supplements I took (which I will detail in another blog installment), but all of these actually happened to me while on low carb. There’s more than this – I’ll add more when I can.

  1. My mid-afternoon sleepiness disappeared. I thought this was a normal thing. On about day two or day three of induction, I noticed it was gone. I remember times where I had to fight like hell to stay awake in the afternoon, but I can’t recall having this since living low carb. I’ve read books by medical experts that say ‘no one knows why this happens’. Duh – I know. It was the carbs for me.
  2. My GERD disappeared. Also known as acid-reflux or heartburn, I lived on Tums and had actual anxiety attacks if I ran out. Not too long into doing Atkins, I noticed I needed them less and less. I still have some of the sugar-free variety (yes – most Tums contain sugar!), I use them maybe every couple of weeks now – and don’t even bother to carry them around. If you use Tums, Maalox, Nexium, Prevacid, or other medications for GERD/acid-reflux/heartburn, you might find that you don’t need them.
  3. My mind became more clear. Atkins talked about ‘Brain Fog’ in his book and this sounded like a term a quack would come up with – but I went on Atkins and understood exactly what he meant. What I do for a living is very technical and very detailed, and it has certainly helped.
  4. I didn’t get sick. Since 2003 I think I had one cold. Previously, I would get sick with a fever, the flu, or multiple colds every winter. Occasionally, I feel a cold or a sore throat coming on, but it always disappears – I never get the full-blown version anymore.
  5. My energy went through the roof. This was even before I really lost any significant weight. This was happening by week two. It was noticeable to people around me – they made remarks about it.
  6. I needed less sleep. I firmly believe that this is a combination of the supplements I take as well as living a low carb lifestyle, but I always needed 8 hours of sleep every night. I can now live on 6 hours just fine. That’s two more hours added to my life each day. Now I’ve had people tell me that I might be shortening my life by living on 6-hours, but my reasoning is that if they are right, it’s shortening my life during what I call the ‘depends years’. I have two small children and am in the prime of my life – I want to live now. If I’m shaving time off the years that I’ll be of no use to myself or anyone around me, it’s worth the trade.
  7. I would forget to eat. Yes – you read that right – I would forget to eat! I remember sitting at my desk and saying to myself – hey – it’s 2pm – I forgot to eat lunch. That never, ever happened to me before in my life. Doing Atkins, I would frequently remind myself that I needed to eat something at least every 6 hours – my body didn’t always remind me.

Free Pocket-sized Carb Counter

When starting Atkins, it is critical to understand where carbs hide. The best way to do this is to have a carb counter. Go to Atkins.com and download their carb counter PDF and you’re on your way.

The only problem is it’s 14 pages. You need to know what a carb count is when you’re shopping and dining out – and pulling out a 14 page document is a bit awkward in these situations, so you need something more portable.

Here’s my solution. It won’t work for you if you’ve got bad eyes as the text is real tiny, but if you don’t, you end up with a perfectly serviceable pocket-sized carb counting booklets (Volume 1 and volume 2) for free.

Here’s how it’s done (this will work only on PCs):

  • Go to Atkins.com and download their carb-counting PDF – it’s here. [link updated 03-30-14]
  • Go to Pocketmod.com and download their nifty little utility that converts PDFs into little booklets – it’s here.
  • Use the PocketMod PDF converter to turn the Atkins carb counter into two pocket-sized booklets that you can take anywhere. You will have to go to the PocketMod site to figure out how to fold the darn thing.

To save you technically-challenged folks from the trouble of going through the above steps, I’ve posted the version I created:

Atkins Carb Counter – PocketMod Version

I certainly hope the Atkins folks don’t mind…

Be sure to check out Atkins.com for loads of other good resources that are free for the taking, as well as Pocketmod.com – they offer a free utility to build tiny booklets that you can customize and can make great little food journals for you to keep track of what you’ve eaten.