The Diet from Another Planet

I frequently feel as if I’m from another planet when it comes to diet. I’m reminded of a scene from Woody Allen’s 1973 movie ‘Sleeper’ where he plays The Happy Carrot health food store owner Miles Monroe and ends up being brought back to life 200 years in the future after some botched surgery. Here’s the dialog of two doctors talking:

Dr. Melik: (listing items Miles had requested for breakfast) “… wheat germ, organic honey, and… Tiger’s Milk.”

Dr. Aragon: “Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.”

Dr. Melik: “You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or… hot fudge?”

Dr. Aragon: “Those were thought to be unhealthy… precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.”

Dr. Melik: “Incredible!”

In 2007, our ‘charmed substances’ all seem to have removed any trace of fat – and nearly everyone I meet who is trying to lose weight is obsessed with these charmed substances. I see them check ingredient labels to look for as little fat as possible – I look for as much fat as possible. I go to the store and see ‘low fat’ on every other label, which to me screams ‘low-quality, over-processed, high-sugar’, and yet I see overweight people filling their carts with the stuff.

When I hear other people talking about how they were struggling to just maintain their weight and battle hunger on their low fat, portion-restricted diet and I mention that I drink cream and eat cheese yet lose weight, they look at me like: ‘you poor delusional bastard.’

I sometimes think they must be right – surely I can’t be right when all of these other people believe otherwise.

Then I look at the facts:

  1. I lost 60 lbs. following a strict low-calorie diet with intense exercise yet put it all back on with a little extra within a year because I couldn’t sustain it.
  2. A number of years later I lost 70 lbs. following a strict low-calorie diet with intense exercise yet put it all back on with a little extra within a year because I couldn’t sustain it.
  3. Four years ago I went on a low-carb diet and lost 80 lbs with no exercise and little hunger and have kept 70 of the 80 lbs off since reaching my target.
  4. I never lost a pound when attempting a low-fat diet.

Call me delusional, but I’m still a size 34 waist – down from 42.

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Alibris.com – Food for Thought

I am reticent to make too many recommendations of products or services because I think it’s kind of cheap, so when I do recommend something, it’s usually because I really know and like it – and think you might as well.

As a person who enjoys reading, I believe that Alibris is a well-kept secret. Alibris sells used books – new books as well, but their focus is on used books. This is opposite of Amazon, which pushes the new books but lets you buy used ones if you want.

I think I’ve been using Alibris since before Amazon started selling used books. I’ve never used Amazon to buy used books because Alibris never gave me a reason to stop using them. The books are cheap, the service is fast enough for me, and I’ve enjoyed the easy availability of many out-of-print books.

Why this is on a blog about low carb is simple: I’ve recommended that you put your mind on a diet and replace the junk food you feed your brain with something better – books are a good place to start.

Here’s what I do: when I find a topic that I’m interested in, I look it up on Amazon.com – they have the best reviews. I check the price, then go to Alibris. Usually the price for used is much better than new, and I buy it there.

Occasionally I end up buying it at Amazon – but usually not. I like used books both for the cost savings as well as the thought that there’s one less book being printed because I’m buying used – and maybe one less book that I wanted to read padding a landfill. I just bought Atkins’ book on diabetes – ‘Atkins Diabetes Revolution’ – for $1.99 – add $3.99 for shipping and it’s at my door in a week or two for $5.98.
If you haven’t read a book in a while – buy one and take your brain out for a spin. Your neurons will thank you.

Can Sugar Actually Shorten Your Life?

As someone living low carb, I know sugar is bad for my waistline, but can it ruin your health to the point where it takes something like 15 years off your life? Are free radicals – the stuff in our body that make us believe that antioxidants are good for us – actually beneficial?

Maybe.

Check out this article titled Eating Fewer Calories and Less Sugar Could Boost Longevity
by Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H. citing recent research on worms. Now, people aren’t worms (at least not all of them), but research on lower animals sometimes holds true for humans.

As if the take on sugar wasn’t enough, there’s also the assertion that the free radicals in our bodies that we fight by buying anything that slaps the word ‘antioxident’ on the label might actually be beneficial to our bodies to some extent. Read this article at Mercola.com – I don’t agree with everything this fellow is into, and his site registration process is obnoxious, but I find some of his material to be very interesting.

If that’s not enough, the article goes on to discuss the notion that calorie restriction can increase lifespan. If you don’t know about this research, you should. There is actually a group that call themselves the Calorie Restriction Society (www.calorierestriction.org) that provide guidelines on reducing your calories without hurting yourself so that you can extend your life.

There seems to be a connection that begs to be made here: if sugar shortens your life by as much as 15 years, is it possible that the folks restricting their calories suffer hunger needlessly – and could get a similar benefit of life extension by just reducing their intake of sugar and other simple carbohydrates?

It doesn’t stop there. Is it possible that Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Diverticulitis, Appendicitis, Heart Disease, and a boatload of other diseases can be traced to excessive carbohydrate consumption? I’m reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubs, and while it’s slow going because it is some very detailed and technical content, what I’ve read so far tells me that not only is a low carb lifestyle good for my maintaining my weight, but it might just protect me from a number of diseases – including heart disease.

Exercise Makes You Fat!

Whoo-hoo!

For someone who doesn’t particularly like exercise, this article really makes my day.

It also helps to explain why I was able to lose 80 lbs without exercising. That’s not supposed to happen.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I think exercise is bad – I personally would like to like exercise – I think I would benefit from the strength, flexibility and wind it could give me – but I wouldn’t do it thinking I’m going to lose weight because of it.

I’m not even going to try to condense the points Gary Taubs makes in his article – how exercise increases hunger and how our bodies resist losing weight from exercising – read the article. My point is: exercise if you can. Understand how it can help – and hurt – your weight-loss goals, and don’t try to connect your movements in the gym with movement of your scale. If you do that, you’ll only get frustrated and conclude you are getting nothing from exercise when you are really doing a lot of good things to your body. It’s just weight loss might not be one of them.

The Dilemma of ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’

I read the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and it has certainly been food for thought regarding the meat that I eat. Low carbers are hard to come by – and vegetarian low carbers even less so, so there’s a good chance that you, dear reader, eat meat.

The dilemma of the book is that it makes you think about how that pretty slab of meat got on that nice white foam plate and wrapped in plastic – and it’s not pretty from an ecological, nutritional, or moral point of view. Just a few of the reasons for this?

  • Cows can’t eat corn – it makes them sick.
  • Our food is fertilized with, and transported by – oil. While it’s not as if they are actually pouring petroleum on the fields, it’s not too far from the truth.
  • There’s a level of cruelty that produces most of our meat that is disturbing to think about.
  • The mass-production of meat is harmful to the environment.

There’s much more to this – I strongly recommend you read the book – these few points do not begin to convey the story of what we eat that the author tells – which affected me profoundly.

So the dilemma is: do I continue to eat meat?

Since the answer to this is – well, yes. It’s the author’s answer as well – don’t think that the book is against eating meat – it’s not, but it does make us look and think about how that meat appeared in your grocery store.

Ignorance is bliss, and reality bites. Don’t look if you don’t want to see, but the cheap meat we eat is the end of a long chain of events that involve a lot of suffering on the part of those animals that make up my meal. It’s also not as healthy and bad for the environment to boot.

I learned that this doesn’t have to be so. There is a sustainable, cruelty-free way to have your meat and eat it too (so to speak). It’s called ‘beyond organic’ and it allows cows express their ‘cowness’ and chickens their ‘chickenness’, etc. Of course, they do get killed at some point – a bit of necessary nastiness you need to come to terms with if you are a carnivore, but everything that we eat was once alive, and all living things must die sometime.

At my local farmer’s market I met a person from one of these farms and she sold me a ribeye steak for $14.92/lb. I pan-fried it in a little oil, salt and pepper. It was good, but was it worth the price?

The cow that the steak was from was raised on grass at a local farm, given no hormones or antibiotics, and led a relatively humane cow-life until it was turned into steak. In comparison, the meat that I would get at the grocery store ate corn, which makes the cows have indigestion, given hormones and antibiotics, and probably didn’t get to have any quality ‘cow time’ – but the cost is less than half.

We gladly pay for quality with other things in life – you wouldn’t go around bragging about finding the cheapest heart surgeon for your mother’s open-heart surgery – so why do we balk at paying extra for the stuff we put in our bodies?

Probably the reason is we don’t think there’s a difference. Reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma has convinced me there is.

So what to do?

Personally, I’m trying to limit my meat intake to local and natural sources. I’m not eliminating grocery store meat – just trying to reduce it a bit. I’m moving in the direction I feel is right. I’m also trying to do more shopping at my local farmer’s market. They have a nice selection of local produce – much of it organic, with prices higher than the cheapest grocery store versions, but cheaper than the organic versions the big stores sell. It also tastes a heck of a lot better. I didn’t know what tomatoes tasted like until I got them at the farmers market. I don’t bother buying them in the winter anymore – there’s no point.

I think that I can make this change, eat better, and spend no extra money. Maybe skipping buying coffee at the coffee shop and bringing lunch can save the money to make up the difference. Hell – most people found enough money to have annoying cel phones, pay for stupid ringtones and text messaging (and don’t even get me started on games) . We also pay for TV when it used to be free – imagine how much good food you can buy with the money that can be saved in these 2 areas.

We just have to perceive food as worth the money.

Happy Anniversary from the National Weight Control Registry

I just got my anniversary survey from the National Weight Control Registry – I apparently registered about a year ago. These folks track people who have successfully lost weight and try to figure out exactly how they did it – because it seems an absolute mystery to most docs how the hell anyone loses weight and keeps it off.

It’s depressing to know the criteria is 30 lbs for a year – if you kept 30 lbs off for a year, you are such an oddity that you warrant inclusion in a study – pathetic, isn’t it?

The odds of losing weight and keeping it off really are that discouraging. I think the stat is 95% of the people who lose significant weight put it back on – plus a little extra – in five years.

Those are the people who succeed.

Does it make you wonder if all the experts in the majority who tell us how we need to lose weight really know what they are talking about?

Anyway, I have put on a few pounds from last year – about 10 at the present moment.

I’m still down 70 lbs from my high after 4 years. Both times I lost weight low cal, the weight was back within the year.

Funny thing is – most of the people in the registry lost weight on a high carb diet. Is this because high carb is better or is it that many more people try the high carb approach? While the experts believe the former, I’m inclined to the latter. You can play with the numbers to make them say whatever you want them to say – it happens unintentionally. It’s called a ‘confirmation bias’ – you tend to see what you want to see.

I’m not immune to this either, but I think I’ll stick with my low carb lifestyle – it works for me.

My recommendation to you is:

  1. If you’ve lost weight doing low carb, let the folks at the National Weight Control Registry know – maybe we can convince mainstream science that low carb works for a lot of people.
  2. For those of you who still need to lose the weight, ask for a copy of the weight-loss survey. Keep it – when you do lose the weight, you’ll fill it out – it will be a motivator.