Three Low Carb Superbowl Recipes

I woke up late and didn’t have a chance to write. Luckily, reader Bonnie just happened to send along some recipes and they all sound great, so instead of my useless posts, here’s some yummy-sounding low carb recipes to try for the game this weekend – thanks, Bonnie.

Horseradish Stuffed Shrimp
I just love the horseradish in the cheese mixtures because it compliments the flavor of prepared cocktail sauce. Make these protein-dense appetizers early in the day and keep well chilled until serving. 

Ingredients:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2-4 teaspoons of prepared horseradish (to taste)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound cooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
fresh parsley leaves and lemon wedges for garnish
prepared seafood cocktail sauce

Directions:

In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, horseradish and Parmesan cheese until blended. Set aside. Butterfly the shrimp along the outside curve so there is an opening. Fill a  zip-lock bag with the cheese mixture, cut off a tiny end corner or the bag and pipe (squeeze) about 1 teaspoon of the cheese mixture into each shrimp. Set on a plate and press gently to hold the shrimp closed around the filling. Repeat with all shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled until serving. Serve garnished with parsley leaves, lemon wedges and seafood cocktail sauce for dipping.

Ham & Cream Cheese Balls

Ingredients:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (3-ounce) package deli ham, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup finely chopped peanuts

Directions:

In the bowl of a mixer combine the cream cheese, ham, green onions and Worcestershire sauce. Using a teaspoon, shape cheese mixture into balls, setting in a single layer on a large sheet pan. Roll each cheese ball in the chopped peanuts and return to the sheet pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pastrami Asparagus Roll-Ups

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh asparagus spears
1/2 cup prepared pesto
24 thin slices of provolone cheese (about 1 pound)
24 thin slices deli pastrami, reduced sodium

Directions:

Wash and trim asparagus. Place in a microwave safe pan and cover with 1/2 cup of water. Cover pan with plastic wrap and cook at 50% power for 4-6 minutes until asparagus is tender. Remove from microwave, cool, drain and pat dry.

Working assembly line fashion spread cheese slices evenly with pesto (about 1 teaspoon of pesto per slice). Roll 1 asparagus spear in each cheese slice and then roll the cheese-asparagus in 1 slice of pastrami. Arrange on serving platter and serve immediately or keep well chilled until serving time.

Exercise and Eats: Jan 28, 2009

Morning Weight 214.4

Total Body Fat: 30%

Total Body Water: 48.5%

It’s snowing here, but not so much that I couldn’t get to the gym, and on the treadmill.

I did 20 minutes – 10 minutes at a zero degree incline, then I gradually upped it to 2.5 degree during the second half – I want to begin to maximize the efficiency of this 20 minutes and am shooting for a cardio heart rate of about 140 – which is where I ended up at the end of this. 

I’m easing in to this as much as possible – the advice at Mind and Muscle I got I thought was very helpful – don’t hurt yourself. 

I haven’t bothered them since I started this – I think it’s proper I earn some credibility before I bother them again – I’m sure they see scads of folks who are good at making resolutions that are never followed through.

I’m thinking that I got to put in some sustained effort first, then bug them.

Eats

It started with some cream cheese at the ‘continental breakfast’ put out for the day 2 meeting. Lunch was a chicken breast with some cheese and tomato. In the late afternoon I had 3 sausages I had brought from home – as well as 2 Atkins bars – I got really hungry.

This late afternoon meal kept my appetite under control in the evening – I only had a small amount of canned tunaand canned crab with mayo – and some wine. 

No veggies – which I think is important, but I just wasn’t all that hungry, and the larder is bare since we haven’t gone shopping since we came home from vacation.

The meeting went quite well, but they are very draining – a great mental workout, but you’re burnt afterwards.

Very low energy in the evening – this could also be because I checked my ketones, and it does appear I’ve just crossed the line into ketosis.

The evening weight-in showed a .6 lb gain – not bad, actually, considering I 5.2 lbs. heavier 2 days ago – and another low for body fat – 26%. I’m not putting too much weight to these numbers, but it might prove to be an interesting trend.

I’ll have to keep up with these numbers – they’re fun to watch – and this exercise thing is real uncharted territory for me.

Eats and Exercise and Body Fat Measurement Voodoo: Jan 27, 2009

Got up before 4am – had my 1 scoop of Nitrean protein powder and was at the gym about 4:10. 

Did 20 minutes on the treadmill at 4.0 mph – max heart rate 129.

Part of me kept longing for the weight-training…that’s something I thought I’d never see myself write.

Did 3 circuits:

leg press: 150 lbs. 20 reps – maybe I should go for a heavier weight next time.

Vertical chest press: 75 lbs. 10 reps – could hardly do it – chest muscles are the most weak.

Vertical row: 100 lbs. 10 reps – this was a tad bit easier than the chest press, but not by much.

Lat pulldown: 100 lbs. 10 reps – this was the easiest of the 3 chest exercises for me this morning.

When I was done, I felt beat to Hell – but a good beat to Hell. Went out in the cold morning air and it felt good.

When I got home, I had another scoop of the protein powder, my cup of coffee, and some of the psyllium.

An hour later I had another 2 scoops of the protein powder. 

We had a client at work – and that means food. Bagels, pastries, etc. – you know what the spread looks like. Without drawing too much attention to myself, I grabbed a hunk of flavored cream cheese and ate that.

Lunch was better – a big-ass tray of sashimi – and it was real good cold, raw fish. I probably had a dozen pieces.

During the meeting cookies were passed around – I seemed to get the try twice – I just passed it along.

Had a headache – carb withdrawal – in the late afternoon. An annoyance, but nothing disabling. 

I was exhausted mentally from the day-long meeting, and went home to 3 more of my spicy Italian sausages from the previous day, as well as some Swiss cheese and some red wine. Even with the red wine, if I keep this up, in another day I might be in Ketosis

I sometimes weigh myself when I come home from work – sometimes not. Today I did and the numbers were:

Weight: 214.8

Total body fat 27.5%

Total Body Water: 50%

What I found curious was the total body fat here is about as low as I have ever seen, while my weight is still up there. A friend of mine happened to call to check in and we were discussing my fledgling exercise program and reminded me that muscle weighs more than fat, so you might be losing fat, gaining muscle – and the scale confuses the whole calculation because it just measures weight.

But…I have a Tanita scale, which has proven to be quite accurate – I once went to the doc, got weighed on the beam scale, ran home and weighed myself on the Tanita and it was spot on.

I’m kinda dubious of the body water and body fat calculations – can running some electricity through my bod while weighing me calculate body water and body fat to half a percent?

I’m not sure about that. If I did believe these numbers, it might lead one to the conclusion that: if my fat percentage declines, and my total body water remains the same – unless I am growning an additional limb I don’t know about, it must be the muscle.

I’m going to try to track these numbers a bit more closely, even though I doubt their accuracy. 

From day-to-day they are probably worthless, but over the long term, might reveal some interesting trends.

In bed before 10 – I have another day-long presentation coming up, and I needed the rest.

Another Another Start…and Eats: Jan 26, 2009

Another Another Start

Yep…here we are again. Back from a great vacation that, unfortunately included a lot of good, carb-laden food. 

French cuisine cannot be surpassed in it’s ability to turn out a heavenly croissant, a lobster bisque with a hint of tarragon, topped with baked filo dough, or a simple baguette that convinces me that Americans will eat complete crap – if packaged attractively and maybe it comes with a toy.

One singular moment, when I was enjoying a croissant, looking out over the bay as the sun rose, I thought: If I were to know I was to die this day, just give me a pile of these croissants, some butter and some jam, and I’d be content.

Alas, I did not die – until I arrived home and saw the scale number for the first time in 8 days: 220.2.

No regrets, however. I might have felt great guilt if I swelled up on cafeteria mac & cheese, or some such nonsense, but it was a great, mind-clearing, soul-cleansing vacation where I actually did get in 2 workouts at the gym – not as much as I wanted, but maybe more than I really expected from myself.

So here I am…again. 

I’m not particularly discouraged because of one thing: I am beginning to like to exercise. Now don’t go all crazy on me – I didn’t say I loved it, or even liked it – I’m just beginning to notice that I kinda dread not doing it, like how I feel afterward, and have definitely noted all these bumps on my chest, arms and shoulders that must be my long-slumbering muscles awakening for the first time.

My thinking as of late is: with the habit of exercise comes wellness – in body, mind and spirit.

And with wellness comes weight loss.

Remember, muscles that are being weight-trained bump up you metabolism for more than a day after the workout – and muscles burn calories even while you sit on your ass and do nothing.

All of this has given me a bit more patience with myself, and with my weight goals.

One thing about the Irvingia field reports I see in a lot of the posts is a total lack of patience. Actually, a lack of patience is the Great American Disease.

Sometimes we must work and wait and prepare and fail and try again, and again, and again to get what we want.

I know that’s how it’s panning out for me – no zippity-zip fast weight loss for this guy.

I’m just some sucker plugging away, day after day, fighting an aging metabolism and a body so tuned to low carb that the great benefits of the Atkins diet are lost to me now. 

I envy you folks just starting low carb – you’ll notice some real quick results if you are like I was.

But I’m further down the road, and need to redouble my efforts.

But that’s OK – the only real failure is giving up, right?

Eats

So as I mentioned, I started again at 220.2 – my highest weight in some time.

First Day back from vac was a hit-the-ground running day, so I skipped the actual running to unpack.

Had my morning coffee – without cream. I think I can’t get away with the Atkins newbie fat-feasting I used to do, so I have to cut carbs and calories. 

It was Chinese New Year and I was offered dumplings before I ran out the door. It’s good luck to have dumplings on Chinese New Years, so it’s hard to turn one down. 

I grabbed one and put it in my mouth – then spit it out before I left the house, thus ruining my luck for the coming year and avoiding conflict over a dumpling.

I didn’t eat until after 1pm when I grabbed a hard-boiled egg. I had a case of the ‘traveler’s trots’ near the end of my vacation – noting too severe – but it did quash my appetite. And meeting after meeting. 

On the way home I remembered that I didn’t really eat all day and had an Atkins bar.

When I got home, I weighed myself – I was down to 215.6 – almost 5 lb difference from the morning. 

I think when you are a long-term low carber, you can really pack on the water weight – I was happy to see the loss, but it was no great surprise.

For dinner I had 4 or 5 store-bought spicy Italian sausages – were these the American Crap Food I described above? Maybe…I’m really rethinking my food choices.

I also sauteed some fresh Brussels Sprouts with some shallots in butter and olive oil with just salt and pepper. To me, the secret of this recipe is that you need to cook the sprouts until some are browned, or even burnt – it lends such a great flavor to them. 

Not crap food, most decidedly.

My younger daughter wanted to be held, so I held her in my right arm while cooking with my left – easier now that I’ve been working out.

That was a great dish…could have used a bit more butter as I only had a tablespoon left of the stuff.

I quaffed down glass after glass of the 4C drink mix – yet more American Crap Food. 

My wife came home with cake and ice cream – Chinese New Year, you know – have to have cake. 

I didn’t – and she didn’t push me – she saw me weigh myself that morning – and saw me struggle to stuff my blubber into a pair of pants.

Went to bed about 9:30 – tomorrow’s going to be a busy day at work and I want to get up early to exercise.

Back, But Not Quite…And Your Questions for an Irvingia Survey

Vacation

I arrived home from my vacation around 9pm last night, and am still unpacking – physically and mentally. I’ve recently been  wondering if we sometimes disappear into our habits.

In other words: if we were to change our habits completely, would many of us just disappear?

Are we just the sum of out habits?

I say this because I am at this very moment living in this middle space between a world where all my habits changed, and the world of habits – the thousands of habits – that surround my ordinary life.

I haven’t let them all creep in just yet – I’m waiting for 9am, at my desk in work, before I let them hit with full force. This might be unwise – we’ll see.

My wife anxiously checked her work email last night from home to check for any ‘crisis’. I asked her if it made her feel any better.

She didn’t quite answer, but I think the non-answer was ‘no’.

Sorry to those of you who left comments that didn’t appear until now. They should be up there.

Irvingia

It appears that the Irvingia posts have become an absolute mess. Anyone trying to glean some simple facts from this will get lost in at least 50 highly interesting digressions and probably come away more confused than anything else.

To this end, I think a survey is in order.

Your task, those of you interested in the Irvingia supplement, is to suggest 10 questions that I can put to the the people taking the stuff.

Please leave comments on this post as to what those questions should be.

I’ll try to select the best 10 and survey the group – maybe it will help us all make some sense of it all.

See Ya In A Week!

I’m officially on vacation. A real vacation. Leavin’ on a jet plane and going to an island.

I’m trying to ‘do without’ and unplug to the fullest extent that I can – not even taking my iPod (gasp!).

As some I knew once said: “I’m going off the grid.”

It’s a time for my wife and my daughters, some escapist literature, and maybe spending some time just looking at the sky and listening to the ocean.

I want to experiment in travelling light – I am going to question everything I bring, as I always seem to pack way more than is necessary. And much of this are things I cocoon my life with.

The iPod for instance – why do I want to bring something filled with music and lectures that will remind me of long commutes? Isn’t the vacation about getting away

And I don’t usually read escapist literature – but maybe now’s the time to rough up my usual patterns as much as possible, and try not to replicate my usual life as part of my vacation.

I’ve talked a lot about our habits, and change, and opportunities like these are especially good at trying on new habits and ways of thinking.

I am NOT going on a ‘diet vacation’ – while I’m going to surely have a few discretions, I intend to exercise and keep the low carb faith.

‘Diet vacations’ – where you give yourself free rein to eat like a pig – at least for me, is a bad idea.

So while I’m gone, keep your own faith, whatever your plan is.

See ya.

Exercise…Me? 30 Days Later

It’s easy to start most things: writing the Great American Novel, learning French, playing the piano.

Finishing all of the above is a cinch too.

It’s all the damn days in between – actually doing it, day in and day out – that are the killer.

On December 15th, I decided to start exercising for the first time since the 1980s. Not that I haven’t started hundreds of times before – the difference here was I was going to focus on that middle part – the keeping exercising – that I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of previously.

So I started with 20 minutes on the treadmill, then after a week or so, I made pathetic attempts to start weight training – no, I take that back – sounds too much like I know what I’m doing. It’s more accurate to say I started playing around with the weight training machines in a systematic fashion that might appear to the untrained eye that I was weight training.

Are you thinking: this guy could use a trainer? Um, when I’m lost I don’t stop and ask for directions, OK? See what we’re dealing with?

Every other day I  do 3 circuits through 4 machines: leg press, chest press, lat pull-down and vertical row.

I’ve also tried to incorporate those muscleman protein powders into my regimen. Based on a recommendation from the TNT diet author, I bought Nitrean, one of these enormous tubs of powder. There were two other recommended choices, so why did I pick this one? Well, their website actually worked – one didn’t.

And their description of their product wasn’t so over-the-top-hyped-to-the-hilt prose of the other two.

Really – I think most of these folks make sure they just came from the gym and are on an adrenaline and testosterone high when they write this stuff. The description for the Nitrean wasn’t as off-putting, and was part of my decision to choose them.

Each selection is a type of protein powder that contains both whey and casein. This is supposedly important because whey is digested quickly while casein is a protein that is digested more slowly – the benefit here is after you’ve beat yourself up lifting, the whey rushes in to help rebuild the muscle you’ve torn up, while the casein trickles in to continue the process – sort of an ‘extended release’.

I don’t know if the stuff is doing anything for my muscles, they are somewhat larger than before, but would their size have been any different without the stuff? Hard to say.

What I have noticed is that I haven’t experienced any soreness to speak of, and the stuff does make a wonderful, appetite suppressing meal replacement.

 It’s been said that after 21 days, you’ve established a habit. Well, I have been doing it – I’ve missed maybe 2 or 3 days of treadmill, which is what I allowed myself as I committed to 6 days a week. I haven’t missed my weight training once.

I ain’t exactly lovin’ it just yet, however.

Let’s face it – I’ve built a massive mental model against exercise – see my post Exercise Makes You Fat! as one example. 

Or my gecko post for another aspect of my hatred.

But I’m pushing through – at least so far. I have little result to encourage me. 

I’ve gained weight since I started – about 5 lbs. – but I told myself at the beginning that I wasn’t exercising to lose weight – thank GOD I did that, because I’d have quit based on the scale.

My muscles have shown some slight improvement, but nothing impressive – 25-years of willful neglect do not get reversed in a month.

My biceps have gone from the firmness of a cod fillet to the firmness of a ripe banana – some improvement, but truly laughable in the larger sense.

I do notice that holding my 2-year-old seems more effortless, so there has been improvement.

I also worked out one morning and went in to work and did a presentation. I apparently was so animated that someone asked me: “Did you lift today or something?!?” 

At that point I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, so I found that interesting.

I’m going on vacation next week, and actually inquired if the hotel we were staying had a gym, so it seems I am changing my way of thinking about it – slowly and reluctantly – but it appears to be happening.

That inner whiny child still bitches relentlessly about me doing this. “You’re too busy!” “What the point?” “You’re tired.” “This is a waste of time.”

I’m still following the ‘punch the clock’ notion I mentioned in this post about the mindset I’m trying to use to keep this going.

If any of this sounds particularly demotivating to anyone out there contemplating exercise, perhaps the only thing I can say is that: for the first time in a quarter century, by setting my expectations for results to zilch, and with the clear expectation that this will suck – I’ve exercised steadily for a month.

Sometimes, it’s the counter intuitive approach that works.

Kitchen Experiment: Halloumi – The Cheese That Doesn’t Melt

As I mentioned I have been reading the TNT diet book again and one thing I had not seen before was a mention of a type of cheese from Cyprus called halloumi that didn’t melt when you heated it – it browned. Their suggestion was that the stuff could substitute for bread or act as a pancake-like thing with a little zero sugar syrup on it.

Sounded odd. And hard to find.

But I found myself, somewhat reluctantly, in Whole Foods. Now, I don’t like Whole Foods – not because of their selection, which is actually wonderful, nor their prices on some high-quality staples such as milk and eggs, which are sometimes the same, or even better than the regular supermarket prices.

I even like the fact that my Whole Foods has a roof covered in solar panels.

But when I walk in there and see for example, a small wheel of Laughing Cow cheese for double the price of the exact same item right down the street at the regular grocery store – I feel like my intelligence is being insulted.

C’mon Whole Foods – just match the prices on the readily available items, keep your frighteningly high prices on the specialty items, and the insult will at least not be so overt.

But anyway…halloumi, right? We were talking about halloumi. 

So, if any store would have halloumi, it’s Whole Foods – and of course I found it there – at maybe close to $9.00/lb. 

This was NOT about to become a staple of my diet at that price, but I did want to try it – at least to say: “I tried it.”

So I bought a small slab of the stuff and put it in the fridge for a week – not knowing what to do with it.

Then I did my search and came across this recipe for cheese fingers, which showed a neat little picture of the cheese nicely browned and parked aside some Mediterranean foodstuffs. 

I decided to – of course – completely ignore this, and just decided to try frying in butter, which had been recommended at another link (lost as my 2-year-old got to my computer and rebooted it on me before I saved the link).

First mistake: too much butter. I probably put in 3 tablespoons, but the stuff itself had enough fat content on its own and I probably could have gotten away with just enough to impart a butter flavor.

One observation: the stuff does tend to melt a bit – this is apparently a side effect of purchasing commercially-produced halloumi rather than traditionally produced halloumi, but since Cyprus is a little out of my way for a cheese run, I’ll have to grin and bear this – wasn’t a show-stopper, though – you just have to be careful in turning it over.

The cheese did brown nicely, as advertised, and I soon had a plate of these very greasy browned cheese sticks. The cheese itself has little flavor of it’s own, similar to mozzarella, so it can take on the flavor of whatever you spice it with.

I was intrigued by the notion mentioned in the TNT book of using it as a fried sweet like a pancake, so I sprinkled Splenda on some and tried it.

Second mistake: I had read somewhere that the stuff is salty – that typically doesn’t bother me, and I know that salt intensifies sweetness when cooking, but this stuff was SALTY. I had read that you can wash some of the salt off, and in retrospect, I should have at least rinsed the cheese sticks and patted dry before cooking – maybe even let them site a bit in some water before cooking to reduce the salt.

The result wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great – the word that came to mind was: feh. I don’t know the origin of the word or it’s offical meaning – or even where I first heard it, but I’d liken the meaning to ‘spectacularly underwhelming’.

OK – still had some to go, so I tried some with The Condiment That Makes Everything Better: Low Carb ketchup. 

Yep, it was edible – but I wanted more than edible for the price per pound.

Now – perhaps if I had followed the recipe and had it with oregano and a squirt of lemon juice, it might have been better. 

Maybe if I washed some of the salt off. 

Maybe if it wasn’t so damn expensive.

In short, it was an interesting experiment, but unless a situation comes up where I’m looking for some special substitute – or there’s a sudden precipitous drop in halloumi prices due to the global financial crisis, I think halloumi and I will be going our separate ways.

Your Words of Wisdom to the World

There is a Zen story about a student that endeavors to meet a great Zen teacher so that he can learn more. They meet, and the Zen student begins to tell the teacher all that he knows about Zen.

The teacher says nothing for a long while as the student rattles off all that he has done, and all that he knows about Zen teachings.

The teacher then says to the student: “Would you like to have some tea?”

The student agrees, and he and the teacher sit before a tea pot as the student continues to talk.

The Zen master places a cup before the student and begins pouring the tea until the cup is full – and he keeps pouring. The tea spills over the rim and onto the floor.

Suddenly, the student notices what the teacher is doing and says: “Why are you doing that? The cup is already full?”

“That cup is like your mind.” Says the Zen Master. “You cannot expect to add more when your cup is already full.”

I think I need a bit of time to be more quiet. And to listen rather than to speak.

I have a very busy month ahead with work and travel. I am also still working on incorporating exercise as a daily habit.

And of course, I’ll be continuing my low carb ways.

So I think there will be less postings from me for the rest of the month of January.

So – my challenge to you – what words of wisdom do you have?

Surely all of you who come here have some wisdom, some insight, that you would like to pass on – if only people would listen.

Maybe it’s locked up deep inside, as you’ve given up hope of anyone listening, caring, or understanding.

Here’s your chance: leave a comment to this post that contains your words of wisdom. Remember – when you post, no one can see your email address or identity unless you choose to reveal it, so feel free to write that thing that you have never put to paper and pen – but it should be made known.

Wisdom can range from the simple, to the mundane, to the profound – there’s no limit to the definition of wisdom except the one you place upon it. It can be diet-related or not – the sky’s the limit here.

Me – I’m listening. And I have seen how words can change lives.

Maybe your words here can do the same.

Rerun: Make a Habit of Making New Habits

I am doing a lot of thinking as of late on the notion of change – how we change, why we frequently can’t change when we want, and what we seem to change effortlessly – and why it is effortless sometimes, and an absolute hell other times.

Most of us are capable of far more than it seems to us as well as others – why do we fall short? And why (and how) do others who succeed get beyond this?

The following thought came to mind the other day: am I merely a sum of my habits and my possessions? What would be left if these were stripped away? I began to think about Viktor Frankl’s book: Man’s Search for Meaning where, as a concentration camp survivor, he did indeed have all his previous habits and possessions stripped from him. I’m also remeinded of Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Gulag’ books, where story after story tells of the same ego-death.

This, I believe has a connection to the art of change, and change is what we’re all here for, right? We want to lose a few pounds – OK, maybe more than a few. 

But it ain’t really about the diet – it’s about your ability to change. And, as one old post of mind was titled, if you can change your weight, you can change your life entirely – not because being thin suddenly provides a world of endless advantages, but overcoming the odds instills something in you – what this is can be found in the books mentioned above.

The Gulag books are 3 fat volumes and probably over 3000 pages, so I’m not going there anytime soon, but I do think I’m going to run to the bookstore today and pick up Man’s Search for Meaning

Now, most people trying to lose a few pounds don’t run out and buy books about surviving Nazi death camps as part of their strategy to lose weight, but I don’t think I’ve ever led you folks to believe that I take a conventional approach to anything.

I leave you with a rerun from a year ago on changing habits, and my thoughts at the time. Hopefully you find it meaningful.

LCC

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.