Canned Salmon and Avocado Dip – Version 2

I wasn’t impressed by my first version of this recipe, and might have forgotten it completely, but the other day my 14-year-old asked me: “Daddy, can you make more of that salmon dip?”

I was not expecting that. I do get requests to make my low carb dishes from my family on occasion – but I didn’t consider the salmon dip to ever get mentioned again.

My daughter is a natural-born foodie – if she saw something in this recipe that was worthy of requesting it, then there must be something to it.

My second batch differed from the first in 3 important ways:

  • I added more scallions
  • I added more Worcestershire sauce
  • I left the avocado, which was ripe but still somewhat firm, in chunks rather than totally mashed up

These adjustments made a wold of difference.


  • 1 ripe but firm avocado, in chunks
  • 1-6oz can salmon
  • 1/3rd cup of sour cream
  • 10 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • pepper

The extra Worcestershire sauce overpowered the flavor notes of canned salmon I’m not fond of without overpowering the dip itself, and the textures of the chunked avocado and scallions added complexity.

This was quickly gobbled down by my daughter and I – and my wife, who seemed unimpressed with the first one, seemed to enjoy it as well.

I’ll definitely make this one again.


Running – Day 8

It’s been 10 days since, huffing and puffing like a steam locomotive, I ‘ran’ (for lack of a better word) 0.27 miles.

Big whoop.

Regardless, it has been an interesting experiment so far. I’ve moved the diet from top priority to establishing this new habit. I have been eating so-so for most of that time – mostly low carb, but not to the extent that I would consider my being on a diet – and certainly not a diet where I burn ketones instead of glucose for body fuel.

In the 8 days of running I have noticed a dramatic difference in my experience. While not running fast nor for a long time – 8 minutes has been the longest run – my body has responded to the new routine. My breathing is better. I think my stride is less spastic as my body is beginning to grasp what I am asking of it. The routine of getting out of bed and out the door on winter days where the temperature is in the teens has not been easy but it seems to be getting less tough.

Right now my concern is my knees. I can’t say I’m in pain, but I am noticing a stiffness and a mild discomfort that comes and goes.

This could be the start of me screwing up my knees from sheer stupidity – or perhaps due to eating foods that might be cause of inflammation?

As you can’t do much about being stupid, I’m trying to address the latter and remove from my diet some faves that I believe might be a culprit in inflammation.

I’m wondering if my recent love of almond meal and almond milk – as well as my long-term love affair with mayonnaise is causing me problems and in the past 2 days have embraced a ketogenic low carb diet that excludes them.

Please note this is all empirical experimentation based on assumptions that I am willing to test as a hypothesis and not based on any ‘Facts’ with a capital ‘F’. Nutrition science is very hard to apply in the real world because people vary so much and there are so many factors that can’t be accurately measured.

Now ‘anti-inflammatory’ is a very suspect word as well because a lot of claims are made for it and a lot of foods and supplements claim to reduce it. Inflammation is also not a ‘bad’ word. It is a vital part of your body’s defense system. What is also interesting is that in a quick search yesterday I found that almonds are inflammatory AND anti-inflammatory based on different sources. Ketogenic low carb diets are also inflammatory and anti-inflammatory, depending on who you listen to.

The best was a slideshow on some site that was something like ‘7 foods to avoid if you have arthritis’ which mentioned dairy. A second slide show on the exact same site on ‘foods good for fighting arthritis’ mentioned dairy – and used the EXACT SAME PICTURE.

Let’s face it – the Internet can tell us what we want to hear. What I do know is that I believe that ketogenic low carb diets work for me – and some research thinks they are anti-infmallatory, so I will work with that assumption.

This has meant that I have been faithful to my diet for the past 2 days not because I want to lose weight but because I believe that eliminating carbs as well as some high omega-6 fats might help me run better and with less joint discomfort.

It was interesting how I had this thought and it was as if another part of my mind then said to me: “See? this is an example of the keystone habit having a ripple effect.” The thought to use a ketogenic diet for my knees came from somewhere else than the voice that pointed out the keystone habit. The same happened when last Friday, very stressed in work, I thought of running instead of a cigarette and wine and that other part of my mind pointed out how my thinking had changed in a week as to where to turn when stressed.

I think the short of it is – whatever is up – I have been faithful to my diet for 2 days for reasons having nothing to do with weight loss (my primary goal) by playing mind games with myself.

Canned Salmon and Avocado Dip

As I like to avoid vitamins and supplements (a long story) I try to get my nutrients from my food. So instead of taking a fish oil gelcap I’d rather get it straight from the source – and one of the best sources is from salmon.

There’s a number of problems with this:

  1. Farmed salmon might not be all that good for you
  2. Wild-caught salmon is freakin’ expensive
  3. Salmon is not my favorite fish unless prepared just right – and I have never successfully prepared it right

So to manuever around these problems I decided to buy Wild Planet Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon in 6 ounce cans over the Internet. I still paid over $4 a can, but in terms of convenience, cost ($2-3 less than if I bought it locally), and the time needed to whip something together, I thought this a good compromise.

The only problem was what I was going to do with the stuff.

I was in the mood for a kitchen experiment – those times where I risk throwing away perfectly good food by trying something new – so I grabbed a can of the salmon and an aging avocado and did some searching to see what I could do with these.

I came across a dip on some Aussie site and riffed off the ingredients and created the following:


  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1-6oz can salmon
  • 1/3rd cup of sour cream
  • 1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • pepper

Mix the ingredients until dippy in appearance and you’re done.

My older daughter was wary but curious. She had some with potato chips. Then she had more. She said she liked it – it reminded her of a hot crab dip we had at a restaurant. I ate it with pork rinds. It wasn’t quite ‘there’, so I added the salt then as well as more Worcestershire sauce and another scallion and that improved things.

I ate my fill and put the rest in the fridge. Would I make it again? I’m not sure if I would do the exact same thing. It was good but not great. I’ll be sure to finish it up – and maybe, like tuna salad, the flavor will acquire a depth as the flavors meld.

I’ve got 11 more cans of the stuff – what can I try differently next time? Do I have the guts to try baking this with cheese on top? What other seasonings might I try?

I’ll have to think about this one a bit more.

I Don’t Run


I don’t run.

Let me elaborate. I don’t mean this as a sports activity as much as a core belief that I have held for probably 40 years.

I don’t run in the rain – I figure that you run into just as much rain as falls on you if you don’t run. This was apparently proved false in an experiment where researchers ran in suits that absorbed the rainwater hitting the suits then weighed both – but I don’t believe it.

I also don’t run in emergencies – the best you’ll get out of me is a ‘fast walk’.I consider myself lucky that no emergencies have befallen me in the past 40 years where a good fast walk didn’t suffice.

I hated gym in school and devoted much time to avoiding it at all costs. I would ‘forget my gym shorts’, which was grounds for non-participation and supposedly a means to motivate the boys to wear them.

They hadn’t seen the likes of me, apparently, and this worked out well in getting me out of participating, though it drove my gym teacher – a decent guy who just couldn’t understand that a boy might consider gym to be the last thing on earth he’d want to participate in – half insane, though there were ongoing hassles with parent-teacher conferences and an ongoing ‘cold-war’ of sorts with my long-suffering, at-wit’s-end gym teacher.

I had wizened up by high school and in a conspiracy with my friendly doctor, had gotten a note excusing me from gym for the entire 4 years.

I have, on occasion, cycled and played with weights here and there in those 40 years. I also got a stair stepper that messed up my knees for a while and now the infernal machine slowly rusts in an attic. I have also walked a lot – mostly out of necessity – I have to get to the fridge somehow – and they don’t carry me into work from my car – and have also walked as a form of exercise on occasion – usually leisurely strolls though on occasion on a treadmill at a fast walk pace – but no running.

Yesterday, I ran for the first time in 40 years.

It wasn’t far – only a little more than a quarter mile, but it was technically ‘running’ – not fast walking, but actual running.

Why this occurred was because I had tried to come up with a lie for my diet. Let me explain.

Last fall, in one of the many versions of the book I want to write that haunts my every day, I wrote this:

Hell is other people – avoiding smiling saboteurs

If I were to go to a party and turn down some food, which would get me off the hook easier: ‘I’m on a diet’ or ‘I’m training for a marathon’?

I’ll bet you the marathon – although in reality it is a pointless, bone-crunching endeavor imbued with some nobility of spirit – would resonate better than saying ‘I’m on a diet.’

Why is that? Perhaps running 26-miles is to more people a realistic goal because we can watch marathons on the news and see masses of people actually doing it, whereas dieting almost always fails, and almost everyone is on a diet – it just isn’t that ‘special’.

Actually, it gives me the idea to test this out the next time I encounter a food pusher. I will tell them that ‘I can’t have any – sorry – I am in training.’ If they pursue this I might let it go like this:

“What are you training for?”

‘A marathon.”


“Well, that depends. My goal is to get to a weight where I won’t do unnecessary damage to my knees while conditioning myself for a run. I don’t know how long that will take but this explains why my regimen is so strict.”

What kind of jerk would insist you eat a piece of pie after that explanation?

At the moment I write this it is a complete and utter lie, of course, but I can always turn it into the truth should I feel so inclined.

So the entire notion of ‘running’ when I wrote this last fall was as a cover story. A lie. I was going to tell people I was going to run a marathon with no intention of ever doing so!

It was an interesting approach that I thought might get me through the holidays that I never put into practice – probably because I made little attempt to follow a low carb diet during the holiday season and ate what I wanted.

I am also anti-exercise. I have long been a collector of stories over the years of people who harmed themselves through exercise. James Fixx – the guy who started the running fad in America – dropped dead of a heart attack while running. A friend of mine, very physically active, needed a hip replacement in his 50s. Another fellow I know began exercising in his 50s and was enjoying it – then he started getting clumsy, dropping pens and bumping into things. It turns out he had injured his spinal cord in some freakish way, required surgery, went through 6 months of therapy to learn to walk again, and now – 2 years later – still walks with a cane.

I also think that exercise as a means of losing weight is absurd. Our basal metabolic rate – the calories burned in lying still in bed all day – is how the vast majority of calories are burned unless you are an intense athlete. An hour on a treadmill once burned 220 calories – that’s a single Atkins bar.

Given all of the above, it seems odd but I began to consider my lie in a new light. Why DON’T I run a marathon? The answer is that it requires far more conditioning that I have time for given my long work hours and chores at home.

Phew! Dodged THAT bullet – but the thought assumed a different form. What might be a more realistic goal?

For someone like me, the gateway drug into running is the ‘5K’. 3.2 miles. I began researching this. There are plenty of running sites that talk about ‘couch to 5k’. This was a realistic goal – though still a distant one. I even told other people this goal to cement a level of commitment.

I experimented with myself by getting on the treadmill and seeing if I could fast-walk 3.2 miles. It took me nearly an hour but I was able to do it without dropping dead.

OK – I had the duration down. The next question is – after a 40-year ban on running if I could actually do it.

But before I continue with my story I think a question still remains: why am I doing this again?

I think it lies in new research about brain health and the notion of what is called a ‘keystone habit’.

First, I am not happy with the current state of events. My diet has been derailed by what I think can be described as ‘ego depletion’ – mostly have to do with work.

‘Ego depletion’ is a psychobabble term that describes our ability to exert the energy to form a new habit or break an old habit is finite. There’s only so much juice in the battery from day-to-day and that energy runs down as we battle our personal demons as well as the demons that haunt our work days.

I have had a tendency in my work career to somehow stumble into situations where I end up becoming critical to the success of some big project. This doesn’t occur because of some ambition as much as because I like to actually build things that work. I usually try to keep a low profile but sometimes find myself in situations where I don’t see the right questions being asked and – to avoid what I perceive as doom, I open my mouth – and people listen to me.

This time I seem to have stumbled into a situation where I’ve become a key person in a project that has to do with an undertaking where mistakes could be very costly. The dollar figures involved could be far more money than I will ever see in my lifetime – or perhaps many lifetimes.

Without going into detail other than to say that my field is computers and technology, what I’m working on can be described like a sort of brain transplant – the only difference is that any doctor doing a brain transplant would be given as much time as needed to do the task – we have a deadline.

Things are going well so far but I’m the type that sweats every little detail – and it is taking its toll. The diet was the first thing to go. After a good start for the new year I was tormented by the desire for a cigarette and wine.

I gave in. Ego depletion.

I have to be honest: I felt so much better – but this was not a workable solution. Both of these substances have wonderful mood-regulating powers but the downsides of weight gain and the potential for cancer, stroke, emphysema and heart attack don’t jibe well with my desire to be able to maintain my health until both my kids are grown.

Back to exercise.

Exercise is not a great way to lose weight – but it IS a wonderful means of mood regulation. Recent research has also shown that it can contribute to neurogenensis – the growth of new brain cells. It was once thought that we couldn’t generate new brain cells after our teens but current research seems to indicate that you can – and aerobic exercise is a means to do so.

I don’t consider myself afraid of death. When I had my emergency appendectomy in the fall, right before they put me under I briefly considered the fact that any surgery might mean death. Perhaps it was the dilaudid that they had dosed me up with prior, but I considered the fact that I could die on that table – and was OK with it. Of all the ways to die, going to sleep and never waking up ranks pretty high on the list of good ways to go.

I AM afraid of dementia and decrepitude. My Dad has advanced Alzheimer’s and my Mom died after an prolonged and miserable decline in her health from emphysema.

I have passed my half-century mark feeling my age and wanting to stave off the inevitable along with the ability to remember my pants when I leave the house – and being able to leave the house without the need for an oxygen tank, wheelchair or walker.

As much as I find the thought distasteful, I do believe that moderate exercise might help here.

I also see it as a ‘keystone habit’.

A keystone habit is yet another psychobabble term for a single habit that has a ripple effect on other habits and can have a transformative effect on a number of things.

One example of this is running. I took my first run after finishing my second (and hopefully last) pack of cigarettes the night before. Smoking and running are incompatible because the smoking makes me winded just walking up a flight of stairs – there’s no way I can continue to smoke and run. Running might also help me stick to my diet. Pretty hard to get fit while eating crap and drinking wine – at least at my age, so the act of running can have the ripple effect of helping me stick to my diet as well as stop the smoking – with the additional side effect which is the point of this blog: losing weight and keeping it off.

Now back to hurting myself – or NOT hurting myself. You don’t just start running after 4 decades of a couch-butt love affair without risk, so the trick is doing this without doing this stupid.

I have a friend who runs who I’ve asked for recommendations and advice. I also announced my intention to run a 5K in work. Last week, in the midst of diet-derailing inactivity, smoking and imbibing my boss asked me: “How’s the training for the 5K going?”

I cringed.

I thanked him later for guilting me.

I resolved the next morning to run. Of course I couldn’t find my sneakers – and the whole notion of going out in the cold and running seemed way less interesting now that I had to actually do it. I had downloaded a running app for my phone and eventually found my old sneakers – but now I had to do it.

I ran a quarter-mile but had to stop twice to catch my breath. It was pathetic, but you have to start somewhere. I once heard someone say: everybody who is the best at something had to start at it being the worst at it – and I was pretty bad.

Now: I had proven that I could do 5k (walking on a treadmill) and I proved that I could still ‘run’ (a quarter mile with 2 pauses and a total run time of 5 minutes – I just had to put the two together.

I had used an ancient pair of sneakers – my current pair still MIA. I told myself that I would wait until I had done the two tests before I bought honest-to-goodness running shoes.

Feet are important – and not wanting to hurt myself a priority I thought it best that I don’t mess around with whatever shoes I had lying around but instead went to an actual running store where all the people run and that’s all they sell – not to some giant sporting good store where some kid would sell me whatever so he could go and help the next sucker.

I went to the local running fanatic store and told them the unvarnished truth: I haven’t run in 40 years and I want to start running and not hurt myself so I wanted to get good shoes. These folks WERE fanatics – eager to help and obviously deep in a world I knew nothing about. They measured my feet then had me try on a pair of shoes that fit me, then had me run on a treadmill that took a video of my feet as I ran so that they could see whether my feet turned inward or outward as I ran – you apparently need special shoes for each of these conditions. They also looked at my arches and recommended a firmer support. Lots of new words to not in my vocabulary as well as the names of muscles I am unfamiliar with. I have a lot to learn about this strange world.

The attention I got was extensive to the point of being obsessive. I tried on at least 8 shoes, ran on the treadmill in most of them, and even ran with one shoe on one foot with another shoe type on the other foot for a side-by-side comparison. Nearly an hour later I walked out with a pair.

I had settled on shoes that were somewhat muted in appearance compared to most of the others, but I would have bought the most ridiculous-looking ones I tried on if they had felt good. The ones I got. When you enter a specialized world like this the brand names are unheard of by outsiders. The shoe I got is the Mizumo Wave Inspire 10. They were phenomenally light and the most comfortable of the 8 I tried. I walked in them during the day to see if they continued to be comfortable – they were.

My wife was interested in this sudden change. “Why are you doing this?” She asked.

I explained some of what I wrote above.

“How far did you run this morning?”

“A quarter mile.”

She got a big laugh out of that.

“Well…you’ve got to start somewhere.” I said.

“Are you going to run tomorrow?”

“Well, I don’t want to hurt myself so I was going to run every other day.”

“You only ran for 5 minutes!”

She had a point.

I was really tired and went to bed early. She was in bed studying.

“You’re going to bed now?”

“Yeah – probably tired from the running.”

That made us both laugh.

The next morning I put on my new shoes and ran again. I still had to stop twice to catch my breath. I ran a little faster and a little farther. The shoes were much better to run in than the ones I ran in the day before – a big difference.

When I got home my wife asked me: “how far did you run today?”

“Well, I went a third of a mile and ran faster so total time was around 4 minutes.”

Apparently this endeavor is going to provide no small amount of pleasure to my wife as she laughed again.

A bit later she made the comment: “Your hair looks good today.”

I replied: “Actually, it’s probably the glow I have from exercising.”

This got a BIG laugh. “The five-minute miracle!” She said.

It appears that I will endure this sort of humiliation for a while – even more if I don’t continue.

At least I can still make my wife laugh.


This post resonated with me. It is not about dieting but instead the mind – an all-important aspect of dieting. I hope you see the connection like I do.

The Renegade Press

‘We stopped checking for monsters under our beds when we realised they were inside us.’
-Sam Steven

Confession time: I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral as of late. Ever since my last post I’ve been struggling to find the urge to even turn my laptop on each day, let alone write something worth reading. In fact I could probably count the amount of times I’ve actually written anything on one hand, and the most I ever managed to produce in one sitting was about two hundred and fifty words. That, my dear reader, is hardly the way to go about finishing one of the multitudes of manuscripts currently sitting half-finished on my hard drive.

So why this complete lack of willpower to create? Why after coming so far with my craft of the past year and a half have I suddenly taken such a momentous step backward…

View original post 626 more words

How to Make Sure You Fail On Your Diet

We all know that losing weight is tough, but there are a lot of people out there who always like to make things harder on themselves than is necessary. Now, if you are one of these people, you might be asking yourself: ‘How can I make my new weight loss goal as difficult to achieve as possible?’

If you are of a certain personality type, this is a worthy endeavor. You will draw attention for your heroic struggles, praise, and the accompanying validation for your grit and resolve, and when you fail miserably, forever after you will be able to point to this attempt as a reason why you should never go on a diet again because they don’t work no matter how hard you try – and pass that bag of chips, will ya?

Well, look no further. The following list will prevent you from wracking your brain trying to figure out the most difficult means to lose weight (though that might dovetail nicely with your self-absorbed masochistic tendencies) and instead, provides you a simple list to follow to ensure that your diet experience is the most unproductive, unpleasant and unendurable process imaginable.

Think of all the time you will be able to spend telling your friends of your pointless attempt. You’ll love telling them as much as I’m sure your friends will enjoy hearing about it.

Set unrealistic expectations 

From the get-go, make sure that your expectations are completely unrealistic. You’ll be amazed at just how miserable you can make yourself by setting forth with an unreachable goal. For women, be sure to choose a waif-like celebrity who just passed puberty and has a waist size of a small child as your role model.

For the guys, despite the fact that women and employers both like men to be in the overweight range, be sure to go for the totally buff Adonis or emaciated runner look regardless if your natural body-type lends itself to this.

Now, to be sure, setting goals is an important part of dieting as it helps to ensure focus – but you’ve got to overdo it to ensure failure.

It also is very helpful in planning your diet to fail to set unrealistic time goals. 30 pounds in 30 days works with liposuction or perhaps a coma – but not as a diet goal. Choose something like that. The disappointment you crave is only a month away.

Go on a low-fat diet 

In all my years of dieting, by my count over 30 at present, the one that worked the worst – by far – was the low-fat diet. It’s promise is that you only need to count fat and the calories will take care of themselves. When you dig deeper though, it is a sleight-of-hand because all those zero-fat cookies will keep you pudgy and bloated because of all the sugar – and all the fun starches like white bread are verboten as well so it’s not only zero fat but zero fun. What you end up eating is a lot of vegetables and soy products for the most part.

To assist you in your desire to fail big, the low-fat diet can prove to you just how hunger is way different from ‘fullness’ – yeah – you can eat until you are bloated but still be hungry and unsatisfied – isn’t that the worst of both worlds? You might also find as I did, that despite your restrictive diet, you won’t lose weight either! It seems like some torture devised by the devil himself for one particular circle of hell: hunger, overeating, bloating and no weight loss!

Those of you looking to crank up the misery to the next level will then cut back on the intake so now you not only will be hungry and lose no weight but you will push your body into starvation mode so that you body will hold on to every calorie it can, making you feel even worse, and even if you do lose weight through steely determination and grit, you will likely lose muscle instead of fat and get that gaunt ‘vegan chic’ look even before you get thin.

Focus on exercise right at the start 

You’ve sat on your butt for 10 years? 20? There’s no better chance of failure than plunging headlong into an intense physical regimen. It’s particularly awful to start by buying exercise equipment, exercise clothes, and expensive gym memberships. When you fail at your attempt, the gym equipment usually works well as a clothes hanger, exercise clothes are ideal for lounging in front to the TV eating McDonald’s, and the monthly bill for the membership will be sure to keep the misery of failure springing forth anew each and every month as you do your bills.  Remember that gyms depend on people like you to turn a profit – don’t let them down.

Do not start by walking or using the old bike for a casual ride – you don’t want to ease into this change or you might find you enjoy it – and that would ruin you goal of total failure.

If you do actually make it past the first week of your exercise boot camp, unless you have a personal trainer, you can still snatch failure from the jaws of victory by causing yourself some sort of injury that might require physical therapy – and if you are particularly persistent, you might not lose weight, but you might set yourself up for a knee or hip replacement some years down the line, which are always fun when going through airport checkpoints.

Try to eat as little as possible 

Eating as little as possible isn’t dieting – it’s starvation. It is very unpleasant and can be life-threatening. Anorexia is the most fatal of mental illnesses, and while you might not be an actual anorexic, you will certainly be acting like one. The best part of this is you not only have a good chance of losing more muscle than fat, making you look gaunt and sickly rather than thin, but your heart is a muscle – see what I’m getting at? Eating as little as possible is usually self-limiting because flu-like symptoms hit as every organ in the body freaks out from lack of food and nutrients and all but the most chowder-headed people throw in the towel and give up on the diet.

Weigh yourself incessantly and obsess about the number on the scale 

Your weight fluctuates based on whatever processes your body needs to go through on any given day. Certain foods might retain water, other foods might release it. Weight naturally bobs up and down. Ignore this fact and crow about every half-pound loss and gnash your teeth and curse the heavens and the God that made you for every half-pound gain. Don’t think long-term, and don’t weight yourself merely to observe your body and better understand its natural cycles – put yourself on an emotional roller-coaster dependent on a number on a scale every single day – this will exhaust you in short time and you’ll never step on a scale again.  

Stock up on ‘diet foods’ 

This is actually the best way to pretend to be on a diet. It isn’t really for people looking for hard-core misery. Sure: your food will be over-processed and tarted up to taste only mediocre, but if you eat enough of it you can stay fat and unhealthy while all the time pointing out to friends and colleagues how hard you are trying to lose weight and ‘nothing works’.

The downside to this is: it’s mainstream. I know you want to take your dieting failure to the next level. This level of failure is for rank amateurs – you’re better than this.

Sip water or graze on low-calorie items throughout the day 

If you are addicted to habitual eating, do NOT try eating large, satisfying meals and slowly learn to overcome the habit of having something in your mouth every moment. It is good to sip water – I call this the ‘water torture’: after a meal of insufficient size, be sure to keep teasing your body by drinking more fluids than necessary – it will constantly remind you that you want to eat instead of drink water and ensure that you never forget you want to eat more.

You can do the same with celery sticks or carrot sticks. While some calories trickle in from these, it makes sure your habit of habitual chewing never lets up like it would if you only ate an adequate meal and instead stopped shoving stuff into your maw for a few hours. It’s what most people on diets do – and the fact that most people on diets fail proves that this is an excellent approach to architect your own failure.

Try all the latest dietary supplements touted to shed pounds 

An entire aisle of the nutritional supplement section of the drug store is stuffed with the latest magical supplement. None of them work. Instead of spending the money you toiled so hard for on the best quality food you can afford, spend you cash and pin your hopes on these supplements. They typically make you at the very least feel stupid, and at worst, might actually kill you – think of the sympathy you’ll get then!

Don’t try new foods 

I can’t stress this point enough: do NOT expand your horizons! If you try new foods you might actually find a large group of varied foods that you not only enjoy but that help you to lose weight without feeling deprived. Instead, take your existing set of foods and remove all of the ones that you can’t have on your diet and BAM! Instant deprivation from day one.

Extra added bonus: it will make you hate the foods you love and can have on your diet because you are eating them day after day. Brilliance!

Don’t read labels 

You don’t read the fine-print on your legal documents, do you? Of course not – don’t do it with your food, either. Only pay attention to the big letters: ‘only 100 calories!’, ‘Zero Fat!’. Take the easy way out and you will ease your way out of any notion of losing weight ever in your life.

Another tip: you can pretty much guarantee failure if you ONLY eat foods with ingredient labels. It means they are processed, and the more ingredients, the more they were processed. God only knows what eating all this crap created in chemical factories will do to you in the long-term, but in the short-term they will most assuredly lead to failure.

A special note here: some diet plans have prepackaged food and supply all your meals. These diets work for some  – but only at the beginning. These chemical creations might taste good at first but they get real old real fast – and even if you love the stuff, you will need to eat it for the rest of your life because while you lost weight you never learned better food habits and only know how to eat shelf-stable astronaut space food that keeps forever.

Blame other people for tempting you 

Do not take personal responsibility for your actions but instead, adopt a victim mentality. Blaming other people for your transgressions is incredibly disempowering and you need this kind of disempowerment in order to reach you weight loss failure goals. It’s also handy for building your levels of resentment – and what bitter failure doesn’t want their own ‘enemies list’?

Demonize the foods that made you fat 

The beauty of negative reinforcement is  twofold. First you become sanctimonious and feel morally superior, making your presence around others even more toxic than it already is, and pretending you don’t like, say, pizza creates such a deep internal conflict between what you know is true and what you’d like to pretend to be true that you are sure to crumple like a cheap suit at your first weak moment.

Obsessively track your eating 

Know your calorie count to 3 decimal places. Spend more time calculating your food intake than you do eating the food. Do this while considering the fact that in the US, calorie counts can legally be off by 20% on ingredient labels and that with fresh foods any calorie and nutrition count is a wild guess. Agonize over whether the tomato you just ate was ‘medium-sized’ despite the fact that here is no known unit of measure called ‘medium’. While some folks love this level of obsession, most of us will be driven insane by the endeavor.

Double-down on Plateaus

If you’ve lost some weight and then your weight loss seems to stall, don’t assume that it is your body acclimating itself to a new weight and give it time to adapt. Don’t listen to your body – punish it instead. Train harder and starve yourself.

Savagely abuse yourself for even the smallest cheat 

If you’ve followed my advice so far you will be so stung out that you are going to cheat. When you do so, be sure to castigate yourself endlessly. There’s nothing better than to program the voices in your head to constantly tell you what a failure you are to be sure you accomplish nothing for all your effort.

Wow. That’s enough to derail anyone – don’t you think?

2014 Diet: How I Eat Makes Other People Uncomfortable and Wishing for Death

[This is directly from my weight loss journal – thought I’d share]

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 – 219.6

Up at 4:50am. Had my coffee black. Wrote a blog post then headed to work after getting the kids out to school. In work I had my first coffee with coconut oil. Around noon I had a yogurt. Then about 3pm, hungry and stuck on a conference call I had my kale soup from the freezer – cold. Um, no – it isn’t good this way, but I had another hour on the call and was hungry. I also had an Atkins bar.

On the way home the kids wanted McDonald’s. This has ceased to be a regular thing and had become the occasional ‘treat’ so I said OK.

Would Dad resist the smell of fries wafting up from the bag next to me? Dad did.

At home I saw my wife had bought salted butter imported from Belgium – a favorite. This has caused me to grab a piece of bread more than once, but I tried it on some raw zucchini instead – nope – a non-starter. It does work on pork rinds – but I’m out of those so the butterfest will have to wait.

My younger daughter asked me: “Daddy, do you still eat butter all by itself?” This is the second day she’s asked about my food choices – perhaps she’s finally awoken to how odd her Dad eats in comparison to the rest of the world.

“I never eat it alone – I usually put it on something.”

She related when the daughter of a family friend had visited and asked: “Does your Dad still eat butter all by itself?” I don’t know how this urban legend arose but I do recall having the family over for dinner and discussing diet many months ago. The friend’s younger daughter seemed incredulous – the father felt the need to emphasize my disclaimer that I eat this way because of 40 years of metabolism-damaging eating habits as his daughter was tending toward weight gain at the time and had embraced the standard ‘healthy diet’ – although the family embraced home-cooked, whole foods and portion control and the kid has no need for my kind of diet – hers is fine for her.

“Well, Kayla asked when she was here last week ‘Does your Dad still eat butter by itself and I told them yes and she said yuck.’” I must have made quite an impression – and perhaps her Dad reinforced my craziness after the visit to be sure his daughter didn’t get any ‘ideas’ – I’m fine with that. While low carb has gotten more mainstream press as of late, it is still abnormal. Far less accepted than other fringe diets like Veganism or Paleo that tend to evoke more respectful curiosity than full-out attack that low carb still gets.

Seriously: how I eat makes other people uncomfortable.

Anyhow – back to eating. I ate a lot, and for the first time since I started, did a pretty good job of tracking. After having more than 750 calories before I got home, I had an additional 1,750 or so for dinner. Two hamburgers on ham with cheese and low carb ketchup. Cheese with mayo and lettuce. Half an avocado with salsa. 4 pieces 90% dark chocolate – and another big glass of almond milk which has become my new best friend.

My pretty accurate tally for the day was:

Calories: 2,654
Fats: 189g (66% of calories)
Net Carbs: 31g
Protein: 160g

As to how I felt, I was a little lower energy than the past few days though my mood was calm. I was in work and in the midst of trying to sort out the details in a high pressure situation I briefly had the thought ‘I wish I was dead.’ This is not uncommon – many coworkers related similar passing notions such as: “If my plane crashes, at least I won’t have to tell the client X.” It is not suicidal thinking but rather a release valve.

What seemed out-of-place when I had the thought was the sudden realization that I had not had *any* of these thoughts for a few days – it’s lack of presence was suddenly noticed.

I am deep in ketosis – again – is there some connection with mood? I think so, at least for me.

When I got up this morning to weigh myself I figured with the kind of eating I did last night I would be lucky if I maintained. Instead, my weight dropped almost 3 pounds to 216.8.

Low carb never ceases to amaze me.

The 2014 Diet: The Mental State of Ketosis on Day 8

At the time of writing this I am starting day 8 of my own version of ‘Atkins Induction’ or ‘Ketogenic Dieting’. To briefly recap, I’ve stopped counting calories and just focus on what I feel, for me, are the ‘right’ foods: unsweetened yogurts and cheeses, eggs, meat, and non-starchy veggies have been the basis.

I’ve been doing low carb for a long time so I have a pretty good feel for carb counts. I’d say I’ve been below 50 grams per day pretty solidly. Even the bad days where there have been some cheats, I can’t imagine that the carb count went much above 50.

I went into Ketosis on day 5. I was at work and knew something was up. A first-time low carber might be a little freaked by the symptoms – mild headache, a kind of listlessness and a feeling of not thinking clear. It sounds awful – but I know what lies on the other side of this – at least in my case.

It happened the evening of day 6. Usually I come home from work exhausted, mentally and physically. This evening the energy came. My mind had cleared, my mood had brightened, and since then I have been feeling better both emotionally and physically.

Please note that I have essentially lost no more weight than since my last post so it isn’t a ‘scale high’ a dieter gets when they see a drop on the scale number. I haven’t gotten that scale rush in days – but I still feel better.

I’m paying more attention to this mental effect this time around because of the book ‘Grain Brain‘. I don’t want to go into too much detail on it at the moment (no time) but its premise is that ketones are a superior fuel for the brain and a very low carb diet is good for you mentally.

It kind of spins the whole ‘diet thing’ on it’s head if this is true: go on a low carb diet as a possible mind-enhancer and mood enhancer – oh, and you might lose weight while you’re at it.

It was rough going to get here – even for an old pro like me. Living with people who drink wine and can eat carbs does not allow me to ‘clear my pantry’ of the foods I try not to eat. The first 24-48 hours of a cutover from my body cutting over from burning glucose to burning ketones makes me feel ill.

But I find the me on the other side of this has energy, clarity, and calm. I tend to take the bumps and bruises of life with more grace and humor. I am probably a more pleasant person to be around.

This might or might not be an actual effect – but if I am deluding myself, what harm is there in it if it helps me adhere to my diet because I attribute positive mental effects to it?

I do want to state again that there is some research that supports a mental effect, and I have noticed it myself in the past and when I read about this effect in ‘Grain Brain’ I put two and two together. I am being very careful in writing this to be sure I don’t come off as if I am certain there is a direct cause and effect between ketosis or ketogenic diets and a positive mental state, but is something I personally have noticed time and again and find it a wonderful side effect.

The 2014 Diet: The First Few Days

On January 1, at 225, a set a somewhat simple goal – at least for me: just stick to what *I* consider ‘acceptable foods’ and that’s about it – not portion control, calorie-counting, exercise,  nor worrying about net carbs, fat percentage or protein. This point of this being only to work on one ‘willpower challenge’ at a time – the first being my food choices – and once I had a handle on this, then move on to other challenges.

The last few months were ones where I let myself reacquire a number of bad food habits – mostly too many carbs. I love the things, really – I just can’t eat them and feel good, nor keep off weight.

So, instead of plunging headlong into some strict, self-punishing diet, I wanted to start slow and ease myself in to a change of eating habits that focuses on the pleasure of the foods I can eat rather than the feelings of deprivation from the ones I can’t.

So how have my first few days gone?

Well, following the above approach I am 220 lbs. as of this morning. I don’t see this as any amazing feat as this is most likely water weight,. nor was the number on the scale my focus so far (though it’s nice seeing it move in the right direction): my focus was on food choices.

Despite a few bumps in the road, I think I did OK.

  1. Coffee, either black, with cream, or coconut oil was part of my daily routine already and little changed here. By any measure I drink too much of the stuff, but a reduction here is a challenge for another day.
  2. For New Year’s I cooked a (slightly modified) recipe from a Jamie Oliver cookbook: leg of lamb covered in rosemary with roasted eggplant and red onions which were then put into a from-scratch pasta sauce with parsley, oregano, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and some chili powder. This was a winner of a recipe and the sauce might become a staple – I’ll have to play with this one more.
  3. Eggs, either fried or nuked: with a few minutes before a conference call I nuked an egg with some cheese in the microwave for a minute, gave it a stir, then nuked again for a minute, then put on salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. That was not bad at all – I’ll have to remember that trick.
  4. I made a batch of eggplant pasta sauce with strained tomatoes, leftover eggplant, parsley flakes, oregano, onion, minced garlic, chili powder, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil for my daughters to have with pasta. It was so good I took some the next day, put maybe 2 ounces of cheese on top, microwaved for 2 minutes and stirred in the melted cheese and used it as a dip with pork rinds, then had another bowl I ate like a thick soup. Another trick to remember.
  5. My wife had made a stir fry from some of the lamb along with celery and tofu and I had maybe 2 cups of that.
  6. Last night was sashimi night and I had raw tuna and scallops, as well as shrimp and two stir-fried dishes with chicken: one with zucchini and one with lotus root. There was also a miso soup with chicken, tofu and Chinese cabbage
  7. Along the way I have been drinking unsweetened almond milk with a few drops of EZ-Sweetz (pure sucralose) as a means to eliminate my milk-drinking habit and it has done the trick – I love the stuff. It also works to satisfy the sweet tooth and I find the stuff surprisingly filling – I might try a habit of having a cup before eating and seeing if it helps with portion control in the future..
  8. There was also some Greek yogurt, dark chocolate, macadamia nuts, and breakfast sausage along the way.

The above did not feel like deprivation and all the ingredients were acceptable, though I tend to steer clear of tofu and the soy sauce might have had some gluten in it, neither indulgence is the end of the world.

My failures both happened at night, fatigued and stressed.

  1. As I was putting away the pasta I made for the kids, I had a bowl. It was late, I was cleaning up, and it happened before I knew it. Not much thinking was going on at this point: my prefrontal cortex had already gone to bed.
  2. A similar situation on another evening caused the disappearance of some Lindt Chocolate balls and a Xmas cookie from a batch sent by a friend that arrived in the mail that day.

I’d say on the whole I did OK. The only thing to do about the failures is to keep practicing to stick to the acceptable food list and when the habit becomes ingrained I won’t need my prefrontal cortex to navigate around these hazards.

As to the mental techniques of ‘surfing the urge’ and ‘in 10 minutes’, I used the first a lot and the second a few times as well. Perhaps because I had a long list of forbidden items I was avoiding and the New Year’s started with the stress of a broken washing machine, a 9-day wait to fix, and frenzied attempts by my wife and I to diagnose the problem and fix it ourselves to avoid a rapacious bill and have clean clothes, my primary cravings were for wine and, oddly, cigarettes – since I have not smoked in more than 6 months (I took it up briefly after quitting for 14 years). It’s as if the cravings for the recently prohibited goodies brought to the surface other prohibited goodies that I’ve been abstaining from. I found myself planning the route to the store with the cigarettes, then to Trader Joe’s for the wine, but the craving passed and I went on with my life without ciggies and wine.

It’s only been 4 days so I think I’ll continue with the current approach a bit longer before I move on to the next challenge.


The 2014 Diet – Week 1: Surfing the Urge

From years of personal experience, I think one of the best ways to sabotage a new diet is try to do too much too fast. Instead, for the first week of the new year I am only focused on one goal: eating only the allowable foods for my personal low carb plan, which are:

  1. Meats, eggs, and dairy products full of what I consider ‘good fats’
  2. Butter, extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil
  3. Nuts and nut products from only almonds and macadamia nuts
  4. Non-starchy vegetables
  5. 70% or more dark chocolate and pure sucralose (EZ-Sweetz) to calm any sweet tooth

That’s pretty broad. There’s no calorie-counting, tallying macronutrients, exercise requirements or even the slightest bit of portion control. Many might not agree with the allowing of artificial sweeteners, but to me the point isn’t to punish myself for past food transgressions nor is it to attain instant nutritional/moral perfection – the point is to just get myself acclimated to eating to a workable plan. I can always fine-tune it later.

While the above list includes a lot of tasty foods, it removes a lot as well:

  1. Any wheat products – I’m experimenting with a gluten-free diet.
  2. Any sugar except for the tiny amount in the dark chocolate
  3. Any fruit except berries
  4. Starchy vegetables like potatoes

Removing just those 4 items from my list has made my grocery store a much smaller place. As you’ve surely heard, all those inner aisles are pretty much made from those 4 items.

Too bad I like all those things.

To deal with any feelings of deprivation after a few months of indulgence in anything I wanted that I need to get unused to, I am going to try practicing a few techniques I came across in ‘The Willpower Instinct’. I highly recommend the book because while I have already played with many of the techniques mentioned, the book is structured in a way that presents them to maximum effect – way better than you’ll read here.

So here’s the two techniques I’m focusing on this week – one is the primary and one is the backup.

‘Surfing the Urge’ – here’s an amazing realization that seems to me might be the key to all dieting success:

All strong food cravings eventually go away whether or not you satisfy them.

Think about it: cravings have an ebb and flow to them. Whether it’s drinking, smoking, cupcakes or a loaf of crunchy Italian bread, the craving is sometimes stronger than other times. Instead of resisting the urge, don’t give into it but rather go into it: explore how it feels, maybe like getting stuck in a rainstorm and getting so wet and being so far from shelter that you go beyond the point of even caring. It is what it is, you deal with it, and feel the feelings you feel almost as if you are watching yourself, and eventually their power will lessen and your mind will move on to other things – and eventually you’ll be able to change out of those rain-soaked clothes.

Usually my feelings are of feeling sorry for myself. I don’t resist the feelings, nor intellectualize them, nor shame myself for having them: I just let them run their course. If I’m genuinely hungry, I have plenty to choose from that I can eat instead of the prohibited foods, so it’s not like I’m punishing myself (though that’s what the whiny inner child thinks). Eventually the feelings lessen – perhaps they grow tired of themselves, like someone never given a chance to speak that is suddenly given the floor and, with their newfound freedom, find they have nothing to say.

There’s a second technique as a backup to Surfing the Urge, when the feelings feel unbearable and you can’t bear the feeling anymore.

‘In 10 minutes’ – If surfing the urge isn’t cutting it for me, I promise myself I’ll give in – in 10 minutes. somehow, this stupid trick you play on yourself can actually work. Whatever primeval aspect of ourselves this connects with can actually be fooled by this. Again, imagining that you are talking to a child is the best analogy because this part of you *IS* still a child in a sense. Telling yourself: “in 10 minutes” can calm this aspect of yourself – and there’s no reason why the next time the urge comes back you can’t say ‘in 10 minutes’ again – you can keep this game going as long as it works for you.

These 2 techniques will not guarantee perfection – don’t think they do and discard them the first time they fail you – but if they get you 50% of where you want to be, you’re half the way there.

Let’s see what a week of this brings.