January 2016 Update
While I’ve left all my previous updates below if you’d like a bit of long-form reading, I can briefly summarize:
In 2003 I went on a low carb diet and lost 80 pounds over the course of 2 years.
I’ve been on a low carb diet (with numerous reversals and restarts) for most of the time between then and now with the exception of perhaps the last 6 months of 2015.
The reason I gave up was because from the fall of 2014 until the summer of 2015 I went from 207 to 250 despite my best efforts.
Something had changed – and I don’t know what it was.
I *did* have my appendix taken out. Is there a correlation? Who knows. I *do* know that science is reconsidering the worth of the appendix and that it might not be a ‘vestigial’ organ after all, but instead an important part of the immune system and helping to maintain healthy gut bacteria.
Whether or not this played any part in my staggering weight gain after successfully keeping off an average of 50 lbs. for about a decade, it sure was demoralizing.
So I gave up.
And now I’m back. I started my diet the day after Christmas 2015 and plan to post my progress until I reach 195 lbs. – If I follow my plan it will take until October 1, 2016.
I should also note a few changes. First, I am way busier than I once was and while I used to polish my posts, this year might see less polished posts. I’m also planning to post more – I used to write a lot that never saw the light of day. Now I’m going to hit the ‘publish’ button without worrying over what I wrote. This might end up being more performance art than a diet blog – we’ll see together where this ends up.
I also have to mention that when you’ve been blogging for – what – 9 years? You tend to have a lot of posts with plenty of broken links as well as plenty of hare-brained rambles I wouldn’t write today. I used to be big on vitamins – now I’m not. I tried nicotine tablets as a diet aid – THAT was a stupid and expensive exercise.
I’m also in my 50s instead of my 40s. I found the crossover into the 2nd half of a century on this rock to be a rough transition. As you go through the 40s, you begin to hear stories of guys your age dropping stone-cold dead from heart attacks. Things change in your 40’s – since starting this blog my hair has added a lot of gray, my eagle-eyes are gone and I am compelled to wear glasses, and I’m in general more creaky and cranky than in 2003 when I first went on a low carb diet and lost 80 pounds.
I’m not particularly happy with this ‘getting old’ shit but I don’t have much say in the matter – though I *CAN* complain.
Maybe the only thing I can do is try to lose some weight, eat healthier, and hopefully feel better as a result.
That’s what 2016 is supposed to be about for me.
March 2015 Update
At present you can reverse the 2012 and 2003 pictures as I’ve put back on a lot of the weight since then. I had kind of given up on myself, but now I’m aiming for that right-side picture again. Will I or won’t I? Only time will tell…
August 2012 Update
This post is a yearly ritual where I update the standard-issue ‘About’ page for people who come across this blog in search engines, forum postings elsewhere, other blogs, or even as a reference(!) in the occasional article that dots the Internet. If you’re one of these folks and you read an article and something resonates, your next thought is: ‘who is this guy’? – and you come here.
Sadly, I am likely to disappoint you. It seems that most of you are ‘drive-bys’ – folks looking for some quick answers to peel off 20 – or 200 – pounds, and you’ve decided to give low carb a try. The name of this blog – LowCarbConfidential.com sounds promising. What is likely to have brought you here is my post Atkins Induction – Observations On My First Few Days, which has been read over 60,000 times.
That’s not much in InternetLand, but its way more than I ever expected when I started this blog, as I thought the number of people who would actually read my writing would be a big fat zero.
For those of you reading that post, it’s probably all downhill from there with me and you. You’re trying to lose weight and get on the straight and narrow with regards to low carb dieting – and I’m eating Pop Rocks, drinking soda and eating Lindt Chocolate Truffles by the dozen.
This causes a lot of cognitive dissonance. Your brows furrow, trying to reconcile the ‘low carb’ in the site name and the ‘pop rocks’ in the post.
It doesn’t resolve. I’m inconsistent. Erratic. Sometimes I write about weird stuff that seems to have little to do with dieting. I’m wasting your time.
And you go elsewhere.
And yet…there’s something going on here. Around 9 years ago, in early September of 2003, after a vacation and fatter than ever at 265 lbs., I took a ride to the Rite Aid and bought the Atkins book available at the time – The Atkins New Diet Revolution. I sat in a chair in my living room and read the first 180 some-odd pages, and while highly skeptical of the whole thing, I decided to try the diet – partly to prove a friend wrong.
I ended up proving myself wrong.
9 years later I am 70 lbs. less hefty – hovering around 195 at the moment. In the interim I’ve had my ups and downs, but that’s the short story. The longer story is splayed out like a frog in dissection class across the 400+ posts I’ve written in the past 5 years – some of it as pretty as a dissected frog.
I did this by eating mostly low carb – some times more so than others. I also didn’t exercise for the most part.
I didn’t die in the first 2 weeks from a heart attack like I thought I would eating all that fat. I cured what most certainly would have been diagnosed as GERD if I wasn’t eating Tums by the carton and bothered to talk to a doctor about it instead.
I also staved off the family propensity for full-blown diabetes that my 2 siblings got in their 40s.
A sad fact is that most people who lose weight tend to gain it all back within 5 years. The number has been reported between 80 and 95%.
I gained some back, certainly, but I’m still 70 lbs. down from when I began – and certainly much healthier than I would have been if I continued the path I was on before I began living low carb.
I *AM* a heretic, though. I am a flawed being, and many times my low carb routine crumbles in the face of a Sicilian pizza. If I was an Orthodox Low Carber, I would resist heroically, and my supplicants would cheer me on in my steely resolve – faithful to the body of beliefs, to Robert Atkins and Gary Taubes.
I don’t follow the script, however. I eat the pizza sometimes – and yet the weight stays off.
How do I do it?
Here’s another frustrating aspect of this blog: the more I learn the less I know. I can’t tell you much definitively because I’ve found that all the ‘simple’ rules seem to have their exceptions. Most studies seem to contradict other studies; ‘fact’ – as it pertains to nutrition – remains elusive to me though the topic has been my hobby/obsession since about 2004 when I lost the weight and didn’t know why – and began to try to learn as much as I could about the subject.
There are other bloggers and sites WAY more certain of themselves than I am – they are much easier to believe in. A lot of you will find yourselves more comfortable there than here. The Atkins site itself is a wonderful resource, strangely neglected in the low carb community. Is Paleo more your style? Try Mark’s Daily Apple. Dr. Michael Eades of Protein Power Fame is another wonderful resource, as well as his arch enemy Anthony Colpo, who takes a different approach entirely.
Those are just a few. If you are looking for a coherent, consistent message, all these folks will defend the faith as they see it. They are all way smarter than me – and I like all of them – I just wouldn’t invite them all to the same dinner party.
Of course, if you are somehow intrigued by the writings of the World’s Worst Low Carb Dieter, you are welcome to visit – and I love your comments, good or bad.
The other day I was across the street from Princeton University, near where I live, and there was a hand-written sign on a light post. The sign read:
If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
I am honored to say that, according to what the sign said, I am in the *right* room, as I have been humbled and honored in that most of the people who take the time to post a response to my writing provide me thoughtful comments and endless food for thought.
So if this seems like your cup of tea, welcome – there’s plenty to read here. If it isn’t, thanks for dropping by.
Update for September, 2011
As I begin my 9th year of low carb, I have to admit that, with all I have read and researched, discussed, written, experimented, tried and failed – I still can’t adequately explain low carb to my own satisfaction.
Here’s what I DO know.
I was about 265lbs in September of 2003. I went on low carb at the time and in 2 years got down to 180-185.
Over the years I put back on some of that weight, and took some off with low carb.
Even though I gained a lot back at times, I never ‘gained it all back’ – even at my worst, about a year ago, I was still about 30 lbs. under my 265.
Today, as I write this, I am 211.
Losing weight is very rare.
Keeping the weight off for 5 years for the rare people who lost weight – rare.
Being able to keep the weight off for 5 years without any regular exercise – rare.
Keeping it off with numerous cheats and not living like a monk – rare.
It seems I’ve violated some immutable law of the Universe. Certainly my doctor seems confused. I’m confused as well.
I’ve toyed with the idea of a book for a while, but as I reconsider this notion seriously, I ask myself: what the hell am I doing right?
I think I have the answer. It’s bits and pieces of the 380+ blog posts and innumerable comments written over the course of the past 4 years here. It’s in the hundreds of posts I never posted. It’s in my private writing and journals. And it’s in my head – unconscious things I do and don’t do that I don’t notice anymore.
It’s also in my failures. My worst weight gain was because of an experiment. As any scientist knows, you can learn a lot from a failed experiment.
I’ve begun the long process of trying to go through all this stuff and pull the gems from the dreck – and come up with an explanation I’m satisified with.
Wish me luck.
Update for September, 2010
I wrote the ‘About’ below some years ago. None of it is false, but I’ve changed. If you were to read this blog from the beginning to most current, you’d probably notice that the earlier posts have the tone: ‘I’ve got this one figured out.‘
I thought I did.
But I’ve kept reading and researching and experimenting with various things – and talking with people and gaining the benefit of their perspectives and their wisdom – even if their conclusions were different from mine.
Doing low carb for seven years while in my 40s has also led to the almost inevitable weight gain that just happens to most people – especially people who tend to gain weight easily.
At the 7-year mark, I’m still 40 lbs down from my starting weight, but 40 lbs above what I originally lost – and feel as if I’m starting fresh.
So, seven years in, low carb is more complex a subject than it seemed when I lost the 80 lbs.
The more I learn, the less I seem to know.
So on my seventh anniversary since the day I went to the Rite Aid and picked up the Atkins book, sat myself down in a chair on a Saturday afternoon, and read straight through until I got to the recipes, I’d like to make a few things clear:
- I’m not in the advice business. I heard a quote the other day: ‘Dieting is a treatment that doesn’t work for obesity, a disease that doesn’t exist.’ I have my doubts about that second part, but the first part is spot on. Fact is: dieting doesn’t work for the vast majority of people. I think that’s because we think about dieting wrong. How so? I’m not sure yet – I’m trying to figure that one out. Obviously, I can’t give advice when I don’t know what I’m talking about.
- Don’t try this at home. This blog has evolved into a more personal one. I’ve probably lost some readers because of that – maybe gained some, too. The various experiments – some admittedly hare-brained – have left me wiser (at least I’d like to think that) in the sense that I’ve proven a number of things are hare-brained rather than speculating about them. Given my track record of the hare-brained (Irvingia and nicotine lozenges are 2 examples), I suggest finding some other blogger to emulate.
- I definitely do not agree with many of my own posts. No one would accuse me of being consistent – but someone also said that consistency means you’re as stupid now as you were 6 months ago. Read at your own risk.
- I’m still low carb – I’m just refining the definition. I don’t know what that is at present. Sorta Atkins, a bit Primal, a bit Paleo, sorta organic…I’ll let you know when I figure it out.
2007 – What Right Do I Have to Write About Low Carb?
It’s a valid question. Here’s my answer.
In September of 2003, I was working with a very good friend who just happened to be the owner of the company I then worked for, and I had noticed that he had lost some weight – he kept pulling up the pants of his pinstripe suit like a hobo. I asked him about it and he seemed reluctant to say, but eventually he admitted that he was on the Atkins’ diet.
This was at the height of the ‘low-carb diet craze’, where the message seemed to be that you can eat all the meat and saturated fat, butter and cream you can stuff in your gullet and the pounds would drop off – just make sure you stay away from things like sugar and bread, and don’t bother to count calories – count carbs. Doctors kept saying how dangerous it was but it was all the rage anyway.
So, being a good and supportive friend, I do what any good and supportive friend would do in a similar situation – I rip into him mercilessly.
“How can you be so stupid to think that a diet where you eat fat is going to help you lose weight? It’s absurd – absolutely absurd. Atkins was a quack – the Man is *dead* – it’s probably from a lack of carbs that he fell and cracked his head open.”
He took a lot of abuse from me on this, but we have that kind of relationship and I am a bit of a tease. These conversations continued through each work day. I would constantly throw these little barbs at him about his diet until one day, as he was walking out of my office, he made an offhand comment: “You know – my doctor just did my blood work and it’s a lot better.”
That was a turning point for me. In September of 2003, I was fat – 260 lbs. I’m now almost 80 lbs lighter. I took the weight off and have kept it off for over two years. This is considered so remarkable that I am a participant in the national weight control registry that tracks people successful in losing weight because it is so unusual for people to lose weight and keep it off. Even more frightening, to be eligible to join the registry, you just have to take 30 lbs off and kept it off for one year. That’s it. It is almost impossible to conceive that such a feat would warrant inclusion in a research program on losing weight, but it is.
As you’ve probably guessed, I tried Atkins – with some modifications – and it worked for me. That’s a whole other story, but in October 2006 I went to my doctor and had my blood work done, and I had my blood work done after a week where I had huge chunks of meat, low carb bread with butter so thick that it was like slices of cheese, and a coconut milk shake that the nutrient label stated had 54 grams of saturated fat. I was consciously going to an extreme because I wanted to see how it would impact my blood work.
When I called the nurse, she told me: “Your blood work is perfect. In fact, you have the blood work of a teenager.” My total cholesterol was 186 and all the constituent ratios and numbers were perfect. All the other numbers in my blood work profile were good as well.
Soon after I visited my doctor he told me how spectacular my weight loss has been and that I have added years to my life by losing the weight. I asked him: “since you measure cardiovascular health by a person’s blood work, and mine is perfect despite the fact that I eat enormous amounts of fat, am I hurting myself?”
My doctor looked at me, then at my chart, then at me, then the chart again. Then he said: “Science is in it’s infancy regarding nutrition and…” well it became clear he didn’t have an answer to my question. He didn’t really have a clue.
I did something that was not supposed to work and I lost the weight and have kept it off – and I don’t know why. I’ve read some of the anti-Atkins information out there and their arguments usually are: it doesn’t work. OK, I lost the weight so that one doesn’t fly. Then they say that if it does work the weight lost is water weight. I doubt I lost 80 lbs of water weight.
You would think that they could have stopped at ‘it doesn’t work’ if it really didn’t work but they continue. Next up is: the diet is so unpalatable that people restrict calories. Wrong again – when I went on low fat diets, even the dog wouldn’t eat some of the stuff I cooked. Now everyone likes what I cook – they just add a starch to it and its a normal meal to them. And portion control? I ate as much as I wanted, and sometimes it was a lot. I never starved.
Then they say that it’s bad for your blood work. Not mine, obviously. Then they say that if it does work though they say it doesn’t, that you are going to hurt your kidneys. I can’t find any studies on this one, but they keep saying it like it’s a fact instead of an urban legend.
Oh – and did I mention I lost 80 lbs and didn’t exercise? My blood pressure also went down to normal for the first time in 20 years, I have more energy and mental acuity than ever, a chronic heartburn I had since I was in my twenties went away and I sleep 2 hours less each night? Isn’t all this just slightly remarkable?
I’m puzzled at all of this and have been doing my own research on the subject. I am trying to understand exactly how I did it when so many others failed on Atkins – was there something in my approach that made the difference? I did modify the program and experiment, and I did lose the weight over three years. My other question is if I am really hurting myself or not, because every indication is that I’m not.
And that brings me to why I’m writing this. I want to be able to talk to people about this. I want to be able to tell them what’s worked for me, and maybe to help them find their own path to achieve what I’ve achieved.
It’s about giving back. Losing weight transformed my life, and I would like to think that writing about my experience could help other people.