Rerun: Addictive, Persuasive, and Seductive

(This one, from March 2008, is worth a read if you haven’t read it yet. – LCC)

I got this question from a reader and thought it so important that I’m posting the response here rather than bury it in an old post.

Your question:

what concerns me is so many people write in saying they’re doing induction again (and again and again) because even though they love low carb and lost weight, they went off the diet and gained all the weight back. i’m quite interested in low carb but if it works so well why does everyone go off it?

Is a damn good one – I wonder why it hasn’t been asked before.

My answer is that carbs are addictive, pervasive, and seductive. They mess with your blood sugar and can give you a high, they surround us in our homes, offices, and on every street corner, and they taste good.

You can live quite nicely on Atkins – you can eat a wide variety of foods and not be hungry – yet still lose weight. But it takes eternal vigilance to avoid an addictive substance that is in most processed foods, and is offered up by well-meaning friends a dozen times a day.

You end up having to commit to a lifestyle that makes you different than others. I’ve heard my office is having a beer and pizza day in the near future – I won’t be having either. Will this make me look like I’m not participating because of some issue that I have with the company? While it’s not the case, it might be the perception. Someone brings in donuts – can’t have them. A birthday party? You hear: “you’ve GOT to have a piece of cake.”

Do you want to lose weight on Atkins and keep it off? Then you have to be that person who asks if there’s any carbs in the salad dressing at a restaurant – see the server look confused and run back to the kitchen. Will they come back with the right answer? Who knows? Order diet soda. Do they fill the glass with diet or the real stuff? Can’t be sure, so I order seltzer or stick with water. Going to a dinner party? You might have to inquire to the host if there will be something to eat that’s low carb – if you don’t explain this you risk going hungry, offending the host because you don’t eat, or giving in, eating the carbs, and potentially backsliding into a high-carb lifestyle.

If you are the type that likes to ‘fit in’ – you won’t. It’s a great diet for iconoclasts and nonconformists who don’t care about this sort of thing or like to be different, but you’ll stand out in a crowd.

Like hardcore vegetarians, severe diabetics, and other people with very exacting dietary restrictions, you will be that ‘pain in the ass’ at the restaurant table.

The people here have decided that it’s worth the effort, even when they periodically backslide.

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Rerun: Book Review – Men’s Health TNT Diet

(From what I heard, this book will soon be released in paperback. At it’s core, is a sensible low carb diet, cleverly integrated with weight training. My thinking on the book has evolved since my first read in Jan of 2008, but here’s my review from then. -LCC)

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?

Um…no.

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.

Rerun: The Joy of Death

(As I’m taking a break, I thought that I might rerun some of the old stuff that gets buried as a blog gets old in the tooth. Here’s one from last January. Sorry if anyone finds this offensive – LCC)

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 et.al, 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.

Exercise, Eats, Christmas, and a Break – December 23

Exercise

Got up at 5am and dragged myself to the gym. My mind bitched and moaned the entire way there, but as I said, I’m absolutely sick of the crap attitude that some part of my mind always has – and I ignored it.

Got to the gym and decided it was time to kick it up a notch. As time for me is most valuable, I put more into my 20 minutes by setting the speed up to 3.4 mph – up from 3.0. This got me 1.12 miles in the 20 minutes. 

And my heart rate stayed more or less the same as it was when I started at 2.0 – 115 bpm. 

So it does appear that some conditioning had already occurred – whoda thunk?

Eats

I wasn’t really hungry until maybe 3pm – way too long not to eat, but as I had to dash out and do some errands, I just had some mineral water and figured I’d eat when I got home. When I finally did get home I had some of the leftover thanksgiving Turkey I had frozen way back in November. It still tasted pretty good – I was sort of surprised. I also had 1/2 of a very large pickle with 2 slices of American cheese.

Later in the evening, I started my major grazing period of the day. 

It started with two bowls of stir-fried celery with egg, a big favorite of mine. I also had some toast drenched in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and oregano.

A little later I had some almond butter with a little zero carb jelly in a small bowl.

There was an Italian baguette in the kitchen, and I was feeding my daughter couscous – both of these seemed like they’d be worthy of digging in to, but I resisted. Just barely.

Scale went up to 211.2. Ugh.

Christmas

For those of you who celebrate the holiday, here’s a Xmas greeting for you. Have a great holiday.

A Break

This posting of my eating has been an experiment of sorts for the past few months. I committed to myself that I would do this at least to the end of the year and see what it does for me. 

It’s the end of the year.

I am going to take a break for the holidays and enjoy my family and my kids. Then I want to spend some time reflecting on the past year, and where I want to be at the end of the next.

See you on the other side.

28 Diet Pills You Shouldn’t Be Taking

Here’s an article I came across where the FDA is warning consumers to steer clear of a slew of weight loss potions because they are essentially junk, with unlisted ingredients, and compounds that could cause heart attack, stroke, and maybe even cancer.

Here’s a link to the article.

Here’s a link to the FDA press release, for those of you who prefer not to have their messages filtered through and interpreted by the press.

No mention of Irvingia, for those of you following our thread on that topic.

Eats, December 22

Absolutely fed up with myself – as one commenter on this site reminds me, this is the worst possible time of the year to go on a diet.

Sure shows in my performance, doesn’t it?

Did not exercise today, which also pissed me off – I’m barely on speaking terms with myself, I’m so mad.

So…with my ‘never give up’ attitude in place, I plunged in to yet another day of trying to adhere to my diet, with the odds totally against me as has been proven day after day in these stupid postings.

Coffee with cream at 5am.

Hard boiled egg around 11 am.

Around 1pm I had a few bites of the cryogenically frozen pork and tomatoes. The flavors of this dish have worn on me, apparently, as I wasn’t all that thrilled to be eating it and only had 3 bites.

The next hard-boiled egg was had at 4pm.

When I went home, food was foisted on me, but I waited to eat. I was told: “You should eat it now – it doesn’t taste as good when it’s cold.”

Isn’t that on the list of Things We Say To Ourselves That Make Us Fat?

I had a glass of wine and played with my daughter. 

Maybe at 9pm I had a small dish of the stuff – Chinese-style egg with wood ear fungus. Really good stuff, despite the name.

I had just gone shopping and loaded up on romaine hearts and was really in the mood for some lettuce. My favorite way of eating lettuce is as part of a cheese sandwich with lettuce and mayo – but I’m trying to cut back on the bread – even the low carb variety – and the mayo – trying to keep the soybean oil and omega 6 oils to a minimum.

So I took the American cheese and wrapped the lettuce around that and ate that like a sandwich, which filled the need quite well, actually. 

I also had another of these ‘sandwiches’ with some ham. 

And that was it – no 11th-hour carb-out.

I find being mad at myself to be motivating.

The scale reported 209.0. That number sucks, but it sucks less than yesterday’s number, at least.

Eats, December 21

Eats

Got up at about 6 and wanted to go do my 20-minute mile on the treadmill, but the weather was so bad – freezing rain coming down on top of a sheet of ice, that it was challenging for me just to get to the damn car. 

In my mind, the excuse machine was on overtime, helpfully providing a myriad of reasons to stay home, but I ignored them, and got to the gym.

Now today, unlike yesterday where I drank coffee right before going, my BPM never went over 103.

So it does indeed seem that I have already shaved 10 BPM off my heart rate doing the same level of exertion – in about a week.

I didn’t know the ol’ bod had it in him. Maybe it’s been dying for a little TLC – and is responding like a lovesick puppy to the least amount of attention.

Breakfast was a mini burger wrapped in a slice of Swiss cheese with a slice of onion at 10am. I had three more of these around 1pm, as well as a slice of Greek toast (toast drizzled with olive oil, oregano, and salt).

Was good the entire afternoon. It is the evening when I go bad.

It started off fine, I had some of the sour pork and vegetable soup – I must learn how to cook this stuff! My daughter then asked for something to eat. She takes a ‘Greek Diner’ approach to eating – she expects that at any hour she can place an order, and if she doesn’t like what’s for dinner, she just won’t eat. 

I am an indulgent father, however, as she’s a great kid.

So I cooked up a classic kid favorite – mac & cheese. If we were to ever create a symbol for the worst possible high-carb food, mac & cheese might be it.

Take a nickel’s worth of low-grade pasta, cover with a neon-orange, salt and MSG-laden powdered processed cheese product, add some butter and milk and volia! – instant low carb disaster.

It is so wrong, yet there’s something inviting about the stuff. It’s got that ‘comfort food’ aura about it.

I made it fully aware there might be some risk to having it in the house, but I threw caution to the wind – a fatal error diet-wise.

Down the gullet it went, followed by sugar cookies. It was an enjoyable few minutes, followed by that just plain sick feeling I get when I eat carbs.

My scale went easy on me the other day, but it showed no mercy now: 211.4.

I’m thinking of wiring my jaw shut after 9pm – maybe that’ll work.

Seriously – I am having a problem getting into the groove, take full personal responsibility, and will give it another go.

I’ve often thought it’s similar to a ‘launch window’ when doing a rocket launch.

Every morning might look the same to the untrained eye, but on some mornings, the planets are in perfect alignment, and the rocket can take advantage of this launch window to get where it’s going with the least amount of effort.

Unlike the rocket scientists, I don’t know what morning is the best morning to launch – so I try to launch every morning.

Doing it this way ensures the vast majority of launches go down in flames.

But I just need that one launch – on the right morning, then I’ll be golden.

I just need to be patient, take responsibility, try to learn from my mistakes, forgive myself, and try one more time.