Researchers Nix Low-carb Diet?

I stumbled across an article yesterday that seemed a bit odd. Here’s a link so you can check it out yourself. It essentially says that Atkins is bad for you – I’ve seen these kinds of articles before – but what seemed odd was that it said that the Zone diet was much better.

What struck me odd? The comparison of Atkins to another low carb diet rather than to a low-calorie or low-fat diet. And the other low carb diet was the Zone diet. There’s a lot of low carb variants and it struck me odd that this one was chosen.

For those of you following Atkins too weak to click the link above, here’s an abbreviated list of all the bad stuff Atkins does to you:

  • “many biomarkers being negatively affected by the severely low-carbohydrate intake.”
  • “The downside of severely low carbohydrate intake is that dieters go into what’s called ketosis, or the inefficiency of the body to oxidize fat”
  • “the ketogenic diet may increase bone loss because of an increase in acid in the body and not enough intake of alkalizing minerals, such as potassium, to neutralize this effect.”
  • “a higher percentage of calcium was found in the urine of those on the KLC [ketogenic low-carb] diet, leading the researchers to believe that the bones are “leaching” calcium.”
  • “Diets that severely restrict carbohydrates, particularly potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, may have deleterious effects on bones.”
  • “those following the KLC [ketogenic low-carb] diet experienced a greater increase in LDL cholesterol than those following the NLC [non-ketogenic low-carb] diet. HDL cholesterol did not seem to be significantly affected”
  • “And because there is an overall lack of energy, the KLC [ketogenic low-carb] diets actually may thwart attempts to combine diet modifications with increased physical activity”

Ok – my takeaway from this is: Atkins might cause bone loss, a need for potassium, the need to monitor your cholesterol, and lack of energy.

Well, if Atkins works for you, you might be able to compensate by having your doctor check for bone loss, a need for potassium, bloodwork – and for most of us, our energy increases after the first few weeks.

Also – there’s a leap on the bone loss item – might the extra calcium be from an increased intake of meat and dairy products? They are drawing a conclusion that they don’t seem to have the evidence for – they way it’s phrased it seems to be an inference – they’re just guessing as to where the calcium comes from.

I personally like to read these types of articles. I’m the type of person that wants to know the whole story – even the parts that don’t quite fit my world view.

I read this and see that it’s good I take potassium as part of my supplements, I plan to get my bloodwork done mid February – Atkins recommended waiting 6 weeks after starting induction to have it checked – and I personally know that, for me, the energy is not an issue.

But still…there was something odd.

I took a look at the bottom of the article and it mentioned:

“All the research was supported by a grant from the Inflammation Research Foundation.”

Never heard of the folks – who are they?

A Google search revealed that it is a foundation started by none other than Barry Sears – the creator of the Zone diet that is so favorably compared to Atkins.

So – Barry Sears sponsors research and – surprise! – it says that the diet he created is better than the other guy’s.

Whoda thunk?

In Search of the Perfect Low Carb Pasta

If you are like me, living low carb makes you give up the fattening delight of a big plate of noodles. I’m fond of Italian recipes as my mother was part Italian and growing up we always had ravioli, spaghetti, lasagna, and the like.

You can prep a low carb pasta sauce or buy them – and you can have meatballs (without breadcrumbs), Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, romano cheese, ricotta cheese – but when it comes to the noodles, what can you use as a substitute?

The title of this post is a bit misleading. Frankly, there is no ‘perfect low carb pasta’ – it’s an impossibility because pasta is by definition empty carbs if it’s perfect.

What follows is my list of replacements – each has it’s Achilles heel.

Whole wheat pasta. Ugh. The texture is so wrong. Yeah, you can make it look like just about any pasta, but it still tastes like boiled cardboard. The only reason anyone eats the stuff is because they think it’s healthy. Well, even whole wheat pasta has way too many carbs for induction – and it’s pushing it even if you have reached your target weight and are maintaining. Why waste your carb limit on this stuff? Forget it.

Shiritaki Noodles. Weird. These are an Asian noodle with almost no calories and no carbs made from a plant called devil’s tongue. They are ‘wet noodles’ – you find them in the refrigerated section and they are in a bag usually. They are stretchy and somewhat slimy noodles with no flavor so you can use them without the taste issues I find with the whole wheat pasta. I made a fried spaghetti with them once and it wasn’t half-bad, but their cost and the effort to track them down was a deterrent for me to pick these up very often. You can eat these on induction. There is also a variety made from tofu which I have not tried – anyone out there tried these?

Dreamfield’s Pasta. This is the best tasting of the lot, but you can’t eat this on induction – at least I can’t. I can’t tell the difference between this and regular pasta – except in my wallet because it’s pretty expensive. It’s high carb, but it’s a slow-to-digest carb so it supposedly doesn’t spike your blood sugar. That great, but it’s not enough for those of us in induction. I’ve also heard some people have digestive problems eating this stuff. If it doesn’t give you stomach upset, then it’s a great product if you are in maintenance and can afford it.

Spaghetti Squash. This isn’t bad. It’s pretty good, actually, but the fact is – it isn’t noodles. Unlike the others on the list, it isn’t trying to pretend it’s something it isn’t. It’s squash, and it does have it’s own flavor and it ain’t bad – but it ain’t noodles either. This is the best of the lot as you can have it in induction, it’s good for you, and it’s a decent stand-in for the junk it replaces.

There are others I haven’t tried – there is a soy pasta that looks promising, but with 11 grams net carbs per serving, it isn’t on anybody’s induction menu. I also haven’t seen it locally, and as I have never incorporated mail order food into my lifestyle, I doubt this one will end up regularly on my table even in maintenance.

Really – to ask for a low carb pasta you can eat in induction is like asking for low carb popcorn – it just doesn’t exist. The good news is that when you’ve reached your goal weight you can eat Dreamfield’s pasta for an honest-to-goodness ‘can’t tell the difference’ pasta dish.

Book Review – Men’s Health TNT Diet

Men’s Health TNT Diet: The Explosive New Plan to Blast Fat, Build Muscle, and Get Healthy in 12 Weeks by Jeff Volek and Adam Campbell

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not looking for another diet – I’m looking for more information on the diet I’m already on – low carb. Men’s Health has published a book about combining a low carb diet with weight training to build muscle and lose weight at the same time – and does so through carefully chosen exercises that require only 3- 30 minute workouts per week to achieve it.

What I like about this book is:

  • The book takes a practical approach in it expects that we’re pressed for time and need a program that we can shoehorn into a busy life
  • The science behind low carb is explained clearly and concisely
  • The science behind weight training as complementing a weight loss program is also explained clearly and concisely – this was a learning experience for me – I didn’t know this stuff, but again, I’m not big into exercise
  • It claims that you can have your cake and eat it too – it embraces carb cycling at predetermined times to help build muscle, and claims that you can have any carbs you like when following their formula without impacting your long-term health. While they recommend quality carb-laden foods, they do admit (with a wink) that you can have junk food as well
  • Their diet is based on clinical research – they tested this on real people as opposed to conjuring this up without testing

What I don’t like about this book are quibbles and annoyances, but I’ll note them:

  • Men’s Health is a men’s magazine that I’ve always found a bit patronizing. To me, it takes the formula for your typical woman’s magazine and applies it to men. In doing so, it goes too far at times – I once remember an article that told you how many calories you burn when carrying a case of beer. Go ahead – read some articles on their site and see if you pick up the stereotyping as well. The book reads like that.
  • It claims that it’s for women as well, but I’d bet the gals would feel a bit out of place the way it’s written – sort of like if they were the only woman tagging along with a bunch of guy on a ‘men’s night out’.
  • I question some of the fact-checking – they claim that ricotta cheese is high in carbs. If that’s true, then how can I eat it in induction and still be in ketosis? I checked my ricotta cheese label – 2 grams per serving. That’s low enough if you aren’t overdoing it.
  • The recipes are a bit…spartan. Perhaps it’s to not intimidate the guys who don’t cook – an example of the stereotyping I describe above? It’s not a show-stopper as I’m not at a loss for resources with plenty of low carb recipes.

Again – these are quibbles – it’s a good book, in my estimation. For more info on the book, one of the authors has a blog – you can find that here. There is also a forum to discuss the book hidden away on the site – you can find that here.

So…did I start the exercise? Am I pumped up yet?


I want to, and I have on my to do list to try this, but as I’ve revealed in in this post and this post, I’m not fond of exercise. Someone once said: “whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes.”

I like that – but the fact is I sit on my ass most of the time and I feel it – I’m sore and I’m losing my flexibility. As I’m not just living a low carb lifestyle to lose weight, but to maintain my health, I feel I need to incorporate exercise into my life – and this book provides a formula for exercise that might just be sustainable for me – an exercise-hater.

Kitchen Experiment #11 – Italian Fried Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a particular type of squash that you cut in half, clean out the seeds and boil for 20 minutes to get a nice amount of spaghetti-like strands. using a fork, you scrape out the insides to create the ‘spaghetti’.
They taste good by themselves with some butter, salt and pepper, but I’m experimenting a lot lately and thought I try to recreate a childhood comfort food: fried spaghetti.

Fried spaghetti was the way my family reheated leftover spaghetti before microwaves. You would take a prepared plate of spaghetti (spaghetti, sauce, meatballs) and fry it in butter.

So here’s what I came up with:

  • 1 cup spaghetti squash
  • 1/4 cup pasta sauce (Contadina canned sauce is about the lowest carb you can find without breaking the bank
  • 4 slices pepperoni, diced
  • garlic powder
  • 2 tblsp butter
  • oregano
  • parm cheese
  • mozzarella cheese
  • ricotta cheese

Put in a pan and fry up. Throw the parm & mozzarella cheese on toward the end. Cover with ricotta cheese prior to serving

THE VERDICT: Yum! Hit the spot. I was really looking to fill that ‘noodle hole’ I’ve felt since going back on low carb on December 31. This I will make again. I have not foisted this on the Low Carb Confidential Taste Panel, but I did have the youngest member eat the spammed meatloaf with great gusto, and I think that non-low carbers will like this one as well.

Leave out the pepperoni and you have a lacto-vegetarian dish (vegetarians that eat cheese, that is) if you or someone you know is into that sort of thing.

Should be safe for induction – use the ketostix to ensure that it doesn’t cause you problems. I ate it and stayed in ketosis.

Kitchen Experiment # 10 – Spammed Meatloaf

No – it’s not a meatloaf who gets a lot of junk mail.

It’s an old theme here. A fridge with various items and someone willing to put ’em together. There was half a can of SPAM in there, and I had defrosted some ground beef I needed to cook.

So I thought – why not?

Spammed Meatloaf

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1/2 can SPAM – diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 tbls. almond flour (almonds I pulverized in the food processor for 5 minutes)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 cup low-carb ketchup

Mix all of the above ingredients together in a mixing bowl, place in casserole dish. Criss-cross top with ketchup straight from the squeeze bottle and place in 375 degree oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, making sure the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees.

I bought a countertop convection oven – the Hummer of toaster ovens – for $70 a few months ago and used that. I find it faster and easier to use than our stove’s oven, and I think it encourages me to try more oven dishes. The nice thing about oven dishes is that once the prep is over you set the timer and the oven takes care of the rest.

THE VERDICT: I don’t know exactly what made this work, but the mixture of flavors worked well. The ketchup on the top made a nice pattern and added a lot of flavor to the meat.

It also ended up being a good place to dump the remaining SPAM.

You have to be careful eating in my house – you never know what will turn up where.

This will probably be my lunch more than once this week and is fine for induction.

Kitchen Experiment #9 – Fried Eggs with Goat and Cheddar Cheese

I was hungry and thought I would make some eggs, but I wanted to add a little twist to it.

This can always be dangerous because of the potential of making something inedible, but on the other hand, it gives the dog a shot at a home-cooked breakfast.

I thought of adding some cheese, checked the fridge, and found some goat cheese that seemed abandoned. Goat cheese, if you haven’t tried it, has a pretty strong flavor. I like big flavors, but I thought that it needed something else, so I thought – how about some cheddar?

So in a well-buttered fry pan I put in 6 eggs without breaking the yolk. I let them cook until sorta firm on the bottom, then put about 5 tablespoons of both the goat cheese and cheddar – the cheddar was in slices, actually, but would have equaled about 5 tablespoons.

I then used a trick I learned reading George Stella’s cookbooks – put the eggs in the broiler to cook the top. This allows me to cook the top of the eggs and melt the cheese. It also prevents me from having to flip them, which usually ends up making my dish look terrible.

I took it out when the cheese was nicely melted.

THE VERDICT: The combination of the goat and cheddar cheeses complemented each other well. There was no need to put salt on the eggs, but pepper went nicely with it.

I’ll most certainly make this one again. Fine for any phase of Atkins.

BREAKING NEWS: Idiot On Low Carb Diet Loses 20 lbs. by Day 16

I myself find this hard to believe.

I’ve felt that I wasn’t trying hard enough – had a piece of low carb bread here, some blueberries there, ate until full – and then a little more. I had gone out for lunch and had a steak salad with balsamic vinegar – balsamic vinegar is not recommended in induction as it has sugar in it…it just didn’t feel like I was in the groove suddenly. I didn’t even measure my ketones the other day.

I was eating low carb, but the quantity of food seemed a bit high – and I’d already lost 15 lbs in 2 weeks – what was I expecting? I had mentally prepared myself for a stall that I’d ride out and on the other side of it would be the loss of the remaining weight.

Yesterday evening I came home and checked my ketones. The strip turned a dark red – hey – still in ketosis – didn’t expect that.

Got on the scale and I was 195.

That’s down another 5 lbs. from my 2 week mark, for a total of 20 lbs. lost – I’m now halfway to my goal of losing 40 lbs that I set December 31st.

I think this confirms that, at least for me, low carb works the second time around.

What’s interesting is the psychological effects – if they are intertwined with physiological effects because I am messing with my body chemistry, I don’t know, but they are a follows:

  • My cravings for high carb foods has further diminished. I am surrounded by these. The temptation is there, but I’m not all that tempted. I think it’s not willpower as much as I’ve completed withdrawal from carbs and the physical craving just isn’t there.
  • I feel a bit calmer. I feel a bit more centered. It’s not that I’ve had an easy two weeks in terms of events in my life – I most certainly haven’t – but I do feel a subtle change in my mind for the better.
  • My craving for alcohol has diminished. I’d have my glass of wine (or two) each night. Nothing wrong with a little wine – or any low carb alcohol in moderation – but it ain’t gonna fly doing induction. I went out to a restaurant last night and saw someone drinking a martini – my preferred drink – and I had a certain wistfulness toward the thought of having one rather than an all-out obsessive craving. When I started this new low carb go-round on the 31st. I promised myself that martini (or two) when I reach 175 – not before.
  • I most certainly got a buzz from seeing the 195 on the scale. It felt great to be on the lower side of 200 again. While I know that weight loss like this is fragile – it would be very easy to put it back on with only a small amount of cheating – and I have to expect the stall to set in now as my body readjusts itself to it’s new weight, it still feels good.

What I’ve been eating would make those of you new to low carb feel a certain cognitive dissonance – as I do myself. Over the weekend I decided to pull out my George Stella cookbooks and try some of his recipes. I found one for some ham and cheese biscuits but needed ham. My wife just happened to call to tell me she was at the store – did I need anything?

I told her I needed ham.

She brought back SPAM.

I told her: “SPAM? I asked for HAM.”

“I was sure you asked for SPAM.”

“No. I asked for HAM.”

Now – I am rethinking my food choices long-term, and I think that I’d like to reduce my consumption of a number of foods that I am currently eating – low carb junk food, in my estimation. SPAM must qualify as high on the list of one of those.

I also have an ambivalent relationship with SPAM. It is very similar to how I feel toward White Castle hamburgers – I don’t know how I could like them, but when you are carbing out, those little murder burgers can be satisfying in some primitive way – a guilty pleasure that I only indulge in maybe every other year.

If you were to ask me, I’d have to quote Monty Python: “I don’t like SPAM.”

But it was in the house, and I certainly wasn’t going to make a trip to the store just for ham.

I opened the can and tried a bite – way too salty – but there’s a certain something that made me take another bite. Then another.

Ok – I’ll take a chance. I baked up SPAM and cheese biscuits made from soy flour. They came out very good. I will probably make adjustments to the recipe the next time I make it (like no SPAM), but they were much better than I expected. Fluffy and moist. Of course I used soy flour instead of real flour, but I didn’t notice any difference.

These are great with a little butter – or even a slice of SPAM on top. I’ve also been melting american cheese on top of one-half – nuke for 20 seconds.

I’m not proud to report all of this, but the facts are the facts.

And the fact is: I’ve lost weight eating SPAM. I’m so ashamed.

Make a Habit of Making New Habits

If you are fat and would like to lose weight, you are going to have to change.

Change is tough for a lot of people – it’s as if they have become their habits – or disappeared into their habits. They’ve ossified – turned to stone, essentially, in the way they deal with the world. They tend to say: “This is just the way I am.”

They climbed inside their habits so long ago they’ve forgotten that habits are something you wear, and you can change them any time – just like clothing.

They are confusing their clothes with their skin.

To continue with this metaphor, the difficulty in changing habits is that many times there are no new habits to ‘wear’ once you change out of the old habits. When you try to break old habits, it is handy to have some new habits – or better habits less ‘worn’ – to wear.

Most people who’ve successfully stopped smoking replaced the habit of smoking with another, somewhat similar habit, like chewing gum – at least for a while.

Getting rid of an old habit without some similar replacement – even a temporary one, is tougher than swapping habits. We like habits, they can be useful, they are comfortable, we do them without thinking.

God knows I’d never find my car keys without them.

Breaking bad habits is a hard thing to do even with replacements. Especially the bad ones.

Bad habits are typically formed when you decide not to think about things – they grow like weeds in empty soil (to switch metaphors). If you don’t plant something there, the weeds will come. Overeating is one such habit. Unless you are bulimic, most times you don’t consciously choose to overeat – it just happens without thinking.

When it comes to low carb, you have an advantage over other people trying to lose weight. You can eat – they can’t. Low calorie dieting requires a lot of ‘not doing’ – not eating.

And the proponents of low calorie diets say replace the bad habit of overeating with the good habit of exercise.

Nice thought, but it’s really hard to swap out a good habit with a bad habit.

Teacher – more homework, please.

It’s so moralistic. In the low calorie way of losing weight, it’s just a matter of will. You don’t have the willpower to lose weight? You fat slob.

Atkins allows you to eat – maybe not the stuff that made you fat, but you have a replacement habit (eating low carb) that is somewhat similar to the habit you are replacing.

You are swapping eating till full with eating low carb to full – it’s easier to swap out an old habit for a new one if they are somewhat similar.

Replacing eating with exercise is like replacing your hat with your shoe (to go back to my clothes metaphor).

When you start Atkins, it’s a great time to inventory all your habits and see which ones you might want to change. If you’ve begun Atkins, you’ve begun making changes in your life – maybe for the first time in years, and this can provide the momentum to change other things as well.

This inventory can be a scary process. It might feel threatening. That’s good – it’s means you are making progress. Life isn’t all about ‘being comfortable’ – and if that thought scares you, get used to it.

You are a human, in a time and a place that offers so much more than mere comfort.

So take the opportunity to make new habits. New habits that are good for you, like exercise, are tough, so start easy, if you like. The point here is to consciously make new habits – not the new habit itself. Start easy, then go for the big ones.

Here’s a simple one – put your car keys in a different place. Dumb? Well, if you only look at it from the outside, it is dumb, but what you are doing is getting in the habit of swapping habits. You are rattling your own cage, even in a small way, and the exercise acclimates you to the habit of changing habits. Do other ‘dumb’ habit changes: take a new route to work, or the grocery store. Rearrange your furniture or the contents of your cabinets. I’m sure you get the idea.

When you begin doing this on a regular basis, you begin to consciously reprogram your brain and replace unconscious habits with conscious habits. When you stop going to the old spot for your car keys and go to the new spot – there! – you have proof that you can reprogram yourself.

This can be empowering. If you feel totally helpless, then prove to yourself that you can make small changes, it will become easier to make the big changes as well.

This exercise builds momentum, as I stated before, and it will help your diet when you hit those rough patches.

My First 2 Weeks On Induction Again – An Update

As mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t minding the store, and my weight climbed to 215 from 180 – 35 lbs.

I knew what was happening – intellectually, at least, but I still let it slide – until the ‘button chase’ began.

What’s the ‘button chase’?

It’s when the button on your pants doesn’t quite reach the buttonhole and you end up spinning like a dog chasing their tail to get the one into the other.

I have no fat clothes – I threw them all away, so unless I want to go out and buy new clothes, I have to lose weight – I mentioned this in another post as a useful tool to maintain weight-loss.

You can’t rationalize away the fact you can’t shoehorn yourself into your pants, so on December 31, I went back on Atkins hardcore.

So it’s been 2 weeks – what’s the story?

I’m in the groove. I’m in ketosis consistently, I feel OK now – pretty good, actually. I’ve lost 15+ lbs. and the scale now hovers a little below 200. I’ve stalled, but this doesn’t concern me – I see the ketosis sticks turn color and know I’m reprogramming my body to burn fat – and I’ll get on the scale some time in the near future and see I’ve lost a few lbs. overnight – how the hell that happens I’ll never know.

I’ve noticed other things harder to notice if you’re not paying close attention to your body:

  • My GERD has diminished greatly. I honestly thought that it was more of a result of the weight, but it seems the low carb diet is what is reducing it, because I’m still fat, in my estimation. I still get heartburn after certain foods, but my Tums consumption is way down.
  • My head seems more clear. I do believe – and seem to confirm this go-round – that what Atkins referred to as ‘brain fog’ – is real. Two weeks into low carb, and I do feel somehow calmer and clearer in my thinking.
  • My appetite has changed. Hunger on Atkins is different – I’m repeating myself, but reconfirming as well. The deep and intense cravings that I would experience when eating high-carb change to something more manageable – when I eat a lot of carbs, the cravings that follow seem more like demonic possession. I would dream about food. Right now I’m working on not forgetting to eat, as starving yourself is relatively easy in Atkins, but you must eat to lose weight.

The way I see it, I can ride this wave all the way to 175 – it’s manageable and sustainable.

But one takeaway that I’ve suspected in the past, but now confirmed is: it is actually easier to take the weight off than keep the weight off. I’m talking about Atkins here – my two experiences losing weight low calorie were grueling – a relentless climb up a steep mountain. They were not sustainable – that’s why both times the weight came right back on – with a little extra added – within a year.

The last paragraph has a certain ‘duh!’ factor to it – of course it’s harder to keep it off than to lose it! Way more people lose weight and don’t keep it off than those who do.

But zeroing in on low carb weight loss, there’s more to it.

Ketosis bestows upon the Atkins dieter a boost to one’s willpower – the chemical transformation of your body’s fuel system gives the low carber an edge. Ketosis is an appetite supressant – and I believe it’s impact is more subtle than that – it changes the nature of hunger itself.

The problem is when you no longer need to be in ketosis and begin eating more carbs, you lose that advantage.

In the past, I thought that the occasional ‘low carb vacation’ was OK, but from where I sit now, it seems that, at least for me, if I want to stay at my weight, I need to reconsider how I managed my weight loss the last time.

Should I consider a total ban on high carb meals forever and ever? That sounds like it kinda sucks, doesn’t it?

Should I consider a mandatory ‘induction week’ – say one week a month – to maintain?

Or is the answer that I just stay away from the high carb ‘crap food’ the sugary, starchy processed comfort food, but not demonize the good carbs found in wholesome foods like fruits.

I’m thinking out loud here and it’s the last one that sounds like the best course. One low carb blogger (I’m so sorry – I forget who) made the point that true vegetarians don’t go “what the hell – give me a steak” now and then.

They never eat meat.

So perhaps it takes a similar internal agreement – I will never eat real mashed potatoes, white rice, or macaroni and cheese – and a bunch of other things – again – ever.

Is that what it takes? Maybe – I have to live with this thought for a while, see how it feels – if it fits me.

I had thought that I could indulge on occasion but the ‘occasions’ became so frequent that they began blending into one another – and here I am looking to lose 25 lbs I had already lost.

The Joy of Death?

Mind being creeped out a bit?

God knows I can’t fathom why people would want to read my drivel, but people do visit.

If you come for the low carb tips, or the recipes, you might not want to read this – come back another day.

For the rest of you, I chose this provocative title because being a provocateur is one of my specialties, I enjoy it, and am very good at it. My means of provoking other people is to make them think in ways other than they are accustomed to. I have been blessed or cursed (depending on how you look at it) with a unique (to put it kindly) perspective on the world and one of my notions is that death – our own real and personal knowledge that within a very short number of years we will all be dust – is a very good thing.

I don’t mean to depress you or frighten you – and I certainly don’t advocate murder or suicide – I believe that we should do everything we can to lengthen our lives to the fullest extent, and also have an obligation to help our fellow human beings as well. Nor do I intend to be morbid – I have no particular fascination with the act itself, or look at death as some sort of relief from the burden of life – I personally don’t see my life as a burden the vast majority of the time. I do have my moments – as all of us do – but I think of life as a wonderful unfolding – even when it doesn’t feel particularly wonderful in a given moment.

So why even talk about death? The question itself contains the answer – our modern world has provided all of us with the ability to buy in to the illusion that death does not exist. The generations that came before us were surrounded by it, but our modern world has had the effect of, well, not lessening it – as life is still a medical a condition with a 100% mortality rate, but it has done a good job of hiding it in hospitals – and how many of us meat-eaters have seen the slaughter of the food you put in your mouth? Modernity has been able to segregate it from the every day. It’s come to make us uncomfortable when we do see it, to try and pretend it doesn’t exist. We don’t talk about it. When we are forced to do so because of the death of a loved one or someone we knew well, we feel awkward and struggle with the task – and do our best to go back to our lives and try to forget the event the best we can.

I think it’s important to think about death – your own, as well as the death of the people that you know and love. What possible benefit could come from this? I see a lot. It’s well-known that people who have survived near-death experiences, or who have actually died and were brought back to life through medical intervention often stop fearing death and experience a great liberation. A quote from researchers investigating Near-Death experiences stated:

“NDE (near-death experiences) subjects often report long-term after-effects, and changes in worldview, such as increased interest in spirituality, greater appreciation for life, increased interest in the meaning of life, increased empathic understanding, decrease in fear of death, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, heightened sense of purpose and self-understanding, desire to learn, greater ecological sensitivity and planetary concern, a feeling of being more intuitive or psychic (Mauro, 1992; van Lommel, 2001). “

Luckily, I believe it’s possible to achieve the same state of mind without dying on some operating table first.

Let’s imagine that you knew and accepted, without fear, that on this day, and every day to come, it could indeed be you last day. For real. What good would that do?

We’ll, you’d probably take a lot of things less seriously. Traffic tickets, flat tires, hassles at work, a lawn with weeds, a broken air conditioner, and a whole host of events great and small would appear to be quite insignificant in the face of your possible death that day. You still have to pay the ticket, fix the flat, deal with the hassles, weed the lawn and get a new air conditioner, but it just wouldn’t seem all that earth-shattering – it would just be one of those things that come along in everyone’s life that have to be dealt with. Maybe you’d get flustered less and laugh more.

When you live your entire life in the shadow of death, you might realize that life is too serious to take seriously.

Another thing it would do is if you thought of every person you deal with on a daily basis in the context that this might be their last day on earth, might you possibly treat them better? Would it be easier to forgive their flaws, let go of grudges you might hold over events in the past? Wouldn’t that be a benefit to both of you?

Also, maybe you’d care less about what other people think and more about what you think? If you knew you were to die today, and are normally the sort of person that concerns themselves with what others might say about you, might you throw caution to the wind and actually live your life to your own internal compass? Some people live their lives as slaves to what they believe others might think. The fact of this is that it doesn’t matter what other people think. In the face of death you’d realize this. As Elanor Roosevelt, the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a very controversial figure in her time, said: “Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.”

Would it also be more difficult to let time slip by – would you watch more carefully and guard more jealously the time you have and not fritter it away on trifles and escapist pursuits? Would this lead to a deeper and more real sense of setting your goals as to what you would like your life to achieve? While you could die today, you might have decades to go – what do you want to do with this time – watch more TV?

It’s also well known that people with medical conditions where they need to change their behaviors or risk death if they don’t do so fail to make the necessary changes 9 out of 10 times. One of the reasons is the fear of death is so strong that they go into denial. Perhaps if these people could face death instead of fear it, might they be better equipped to make the changes that could save their life?

It frequently escapes people that this life isn’t some rehearsal for the real life you will someday be given – this is your one and only time at bat.

In my own life I have a way of reminding myself of this. Three years ago I did a calculation that if I lived to be in my mid 80s, that I had only so many weeks to live. I searched on the internet and found a company that sold little skull beads – perfect for the job they were to perform – and bought roughly as many as I had calculated I had weeks to live. I put them in the jar, marked a line where they filled the jar to, and wrote on the lid the date that the last bead would be gone – Sunday, July 2nd, 2045.

Every week I throw one away – or leave it in a place that I have been that week – or given it to someone who I felt comfortable enough to mention this to, because I know that this is not for everyone. I’ve left them at JFK Airport, the restaurant I had my Father’s Day lunch at last year, at the restaurant where my wife and I had our tenth anniversary dinner. In May of 2007, I had the opportunity to throw one in the Atlantic ocean AND one in the Pacific ocean. There might still be one in the room where my wife gave birth to our second daughter. Sometimes I just throw it in the garbage. Wherever it goes, I have done this without fail for three years now. You can see on the jar that the line I marked when I started this is measurably higher than the level of beads – that, my friends, is the measure of three years of my life gone.

Right before I throw it away I reflect briefly on the week – some are good and some are not so good – but none escape me without reflection. I think that in my life I’ve had years that have gone by unnoticed – I don’t allow that to happen anymore. And it doesn’t matter if I leave this earth with beads remaining or not, because the point is not to live to be 85 – the point is to live every day. The universe is 20 billion years old. The time we are given is truly insignificant – 40 years one way or the other is nothing in this context. What I have is today – right now, with all the good and bad that is currently present in it – and that’s it.

And I’ll be damned if I’m not going to do my utmost to make the best of it.

So – those of you still with me might be asking what this has to do with low carb dieting. One blogger made a good point: since 95% of people can’t maintain their weight loss, you need to get into the head of the 5% of people that can. Look at the stats at the National Weight Control Registry – what you find is that there are a number of diets that work – low cal diets work for some, low fat works for others. I found only low carb works for me – and I tried both low cal and low fat and lost significant weight on low calorie twice, but put it all back in a year. Low carbers are in the minority in the registry, but that could be for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the diet.

I’m going on year 5 of low carb living and while I’ve done a little backsliding as of late, I’m still 60 lbs less than when I started. So far, I’ve beat the odds.

I’m in that 5%.

So is it the diet that makes us lose weight, or the mindset? for me, I think it’s a combo of both. I’ve proved to myself that exercise is not necessary – which is supposed to be impossible, but I think that my mindset has been a critical part of making Atkins work for me. If you are fat and want to lose weight, it might not just be a matter of changing your eating habits, but changing your thinking habits as well – I blather on about this in much more detail here.

I’m not saying you have to change your way of thinking to mine. God knows I can be trying at times, but you might need to consider some sort of personal thought-rejiggering that works for you in order to succeed at long-term weight-loss.

So this nutcase has a jar of skull beads – this nutcase also lost 60 lbs and kept it off for years.

Maybe the nutcase has a point.