Fat, Dumb & Happy Day 12 & 13

March 21, 2014 – 219.6

What was different than yesterday? Little. Same hectic day. Maybe more tension. Didn’t eat all day. Went out mid afternoon for coffee and to clear my head a bit. Dunkin Donuts had a power outage and I had to make due with Starbucks – not a huge fan of their coffee but I compensate by adding cinnamon & nutmeg, which I like a lot. No nutmeg though – they were out of it.

At home, had my roast beef and cheese with mayonnaise and had some wine before bed. I also had a few small pieces of watermelon and a big mug of almond milk.

March 22, 2014 – 219.2

I have to work this weekend.

My weight is *slowly* creeping downward. Today is the lowest weight during this go at ketosis and the lowest weight in a month. It seems to be inching down somewhat slower than is usual but bodies do not like to change their weight downward.

At this point, however, I feel OK, have few cravings, mood seems to be less volatile, mind is clear and productive and I don’t feel particularly deprived. It’s really not a bad place to be.

I’ve been keeping tabs on the news in between everything else and there’s been a few articles worth noting – I might sprinkle future posts with brief mentions.

News: Woman treats brain tumor with low carb diet

It has been said that ‘sugar feeds cancer’. Cancer cells apparently don’t thrive in people on a ketogenic environment because cancer cells are carb addicts.

As this particular woman is the director of operations at a biochemistry research firm, I can only assume that she has the smarts to make an informed decision when she decided to forego normal cancer treatments for this approach.

Ditching traditional cancer treatments is a game of ‘You Bet Your Life’. Steve Jobs tried this and lost. I’m sure this was a tough personal decision and I wish her the best.

Here’s the link: http://www.examiner.com/article/woman-battles-deadly-brain-cancer-without-chemo-using-low-carb-ketogenic-diet

(If anyone can explain to me why Examiner.com is almost always the source of pro low-carb news in my news feed, let me know.)

11am

I had made my kids eggs and toast for breakfast and thought: why not have a breakfast yourself? If I was at work I probably could had done a day 3 of not eating all day but I’m still not sure it’s necessarily good for you.

I made myself 3 eggs in lots of butter and grated cheese over the top. They were lightly cooked. I play the odds, betting that the extra $ I pay for top-notch eggs makes the odds greater that I will get salmonella.

Way before former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted nanny-state laws like regulating the size of sodas, my great state of New Jersey was in the vanguard of this trend and in 1992 banned ‘runny eggs’ being sold in restaurants. New Jersey is a nice state that gets a bad rap because parts of the state have some curious pecadillos. It’s a complex place – the same state has one of the richest counties in the country – and one of the worst cities. Organic farmers dot the bucolic central region. The Jersey Shore suffers from multiple personality disorder: we have a hippy-dippy nude beach (I think the only one on the east coast), uptight law & order beaches that are quiet because no radios or food is allowed like Spring Lake (also known as the ‘Irish Riviera’ because of the enclave of Irish that inhabit the area), and then we have what the word thinks of as the ‘Jersey Shore’ – Seaside Heights – tawdry, tacky, and tasteless.

But for our legislators to broadcast to the country their laser focus on fixing problems that don’t need fixing instead of focusing on the problems that actually matter and making ‘runny eggs’ illegal made New Jersey a laughing-stock at the time. The law was quickly repealed and whoever came up with that waste of taxpayer dollars probably wore a fake beard and sunglasses so as not to be recognized.

Here’s the story: (http://photos.nj.com/star-ledger/2013/04/eehdiner.html)

4 pm

Worked, did some errands and was hungry. I’ve drank surprisingly little coffee in comparison to most days and I’m tired. Looking for something to eat I found a polish kielbasa in the meat drawer. I cooked it up and ate maybe 8 or 9 ounces with mustard.

Then I looked at the label: ‘Use by December 29, 2013’.

Will I be in trouble?

It tasted fine. I’ll guess we’ll find out.

9pm

A somewhat troubling day from the diet standpoint – and it isn’t done yet. The kielbasa has produced no ill effects so far, but I’ve had a powerful thirst – no doubt from the salt. The kielbasa had no nitrates and proudly proclaims only 5 ingredients – all ones you don’t need a chemistry degree to understand.

I drank a LOT of water and almond milk. I don’t like to overdo it on the almond milk but I would say I did. My younger daughter came back from a friend’s house around 6 and was hungry. My wife and older daughter had taken a day trip and nothing was prepared for dinner. I asked the kid what she wanted:

“Pizza.”

I thought to myself: “You’re up to this.”

I bought her three slices: plain, pepperoni, mushroom.

The kid did the usual: pulled off a lot of the cheese and toppings.

At the risk of drawing the wrong conclusion, the kielbasa was a bad idea. I’ve had this unquenchable thirst after other meals – and this usually signals for some reason my eating everything in sight and gaining 5 pounds at least. Kielbasa goes on my ‘Bad Foods’ list. Not a great loss if I’m wrong and some other thing caused this. I eat this maybe three times a year, tops.

There were more than a few times I wanted to snatch one of the kid’s slices. She ate slow and kept the box open. I’d close it so I didn’t have to look at it.

Then my wife and daughter came home with leftovers from Legal Seafood.

As this is the best seafood restaurant ever, all this was a bit much for me. I did have a taste of their fried cod – excellent – and some of their fried calamari – also excellent. I did NOT have the french fries, any pizza, nor the bread rolls.

I did have their tartar sauce that might have contained some sugar as well as a bit of their coleslaw.

Considering my day of living really low carb, the small amount of carbs shouldn’t put me out of ketosis.

I ate my chocolate before bed and also had wine. I do not have my glucose meter to determine if this works long-term as a blood glucose control or was just a fluke that after this combo the other day when my blood sugar was normal in the AM without meds, but I should have it in a few days.

Fat, Dumb, & Happy: Day 8 – Solanine

Monday, March 17, 2014 – 225.8

6am

Nice jump in the scale. I attribute it to a lot of bulk and water from yesterday’s meal, as well as less fat overall. I’m not concerned. I think I’ve shown my actual weight, minus the water I am retaining, is maybe 219. If the scale does not follow a smooth path downward I won’t be worried – you need to give your body time to adapt to the new regime. The scale is a handy tool when it doesn’t become an emotional rollercoaster that dictates your mood for the day.

What jazzes me is the ketones. Both yesterday and today they are running dark – great. Every day in ketosis means another day of my body adapting to it – and another day where I did not given in to carbs. You can’t fake this test, and while imprecise, it does tell you you’re in the zone.

While I might have been better off to switch to roast beef and butter, I want to finish off that great soup I made yesterday. It’s not bad to add some variety of quality vegetables into the mix also – even if the number on the scale doesn’t show what you’d like it to show.

This isn’t entirely about the scale. If it was, I could go on the ‘Walter White Blue Meth’ diet and be slim and trim in no time – but *how you get thin* is important.

8pm – 223.0

Today was the worst I’ve felt so far. Extremely tired, sore knees, achy legs, couldn’t wake up no matter how much coffee I drank, head not clear. It was a struggle to get through the day. And I was way more hungry than last week. I had more of the soup for lunch and *again* it did not satisfy but left me hungry. For the first time since I started this I was fantasizing about going out and getting a sandwich.

Instead I hit the bag of macadamia nuts hard. I even found my last Atkins bar left over from a business trip in November hidden in my bag and ate that.

Let’s pull back a moment and try to analyze the situation.

First, I’m going to assume for analysis that psychology is irrelevant. I’m not saying it isn’t – I’m assuming it isn’t and see where it takes me.

The crock pot of beef and veggies was very tasty – but more so than any meal I’ve had so far, I was hungry after it – 3 bowls worth in fact.

What’s with that?

A few things come to mind.

– it was the least fatty meal I’ve e had in a week. While low carb for the vast majority of humanity, it probably had, per bowl, maybe 10 grams net carbs. It was also the most fiber I had in a week. Sounds great – right? Low carb, high fiber – where’s the problem? The hunger afterward was the problem.

So what was it about the soup? I had 2 ingredients in large quantity: artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Of lesser quantity were the sweet peppers and 1/2 onion at most for the entire pot.

Was it the high fiber, the overall higher carb count or one of the ingredients that got me?

I’m going to give the stuff I ate and drank afterward a free pass at present. I’m also going to remove the onion because of the small quantity.

I’m going to focus on the artichokes, peppers and tomatoes.

I did a little research as I lay in bed, ready to hit the sack right after I came home. Before that, still ravenously hungry and talking myself out of stopping at one of the half-dozen fast-food joints on my way home by reminding myself I’d ruin the ketosis, I made 4 eggs with a lot of butter and cheese and ate that for dinner. This was after eating lunch, the Atkins bar and a half bag of macadamias so it wasn’t like I needed to eat more.

This meal – nothing but fat and protein – satisfied.

The research came up with this: solanine. It’s a toxic compound found in some plants that supposedly exist to prevent insects and animals from eating them. They are found in nightshade plants as well as a few other plant types.

Here’s some examples of plants containing solanine: tomatoes, peppers and artichokes.

What are some of the symptoms?

From one website:

An enzyme present in the body called Cholinesterase originates in the brain where its responsible for flexibility of muscle movement. Solanine, present in nightshades, is a powerful inhibitor of cholinesterase. In other words, its presence can interfere with muscle function – the cause of stiffness experienced after consuming nightshades. All people are not sensitive to nightshades in the same degree. Research has proved that when an inflammatory condition exists, consuming nightshades is like adding “fuel to the fire”. That said, there is no scientific evidence that for those not afflicted with inflammation that nightshades will cause it.

http://haydeninstitute.com/additional-resources/additional-resources-diet-and-nutrition/inflammatory-foods-nightshades

I also found some evidence, though much less, that solanine might cause hunger in sensitive individuals, but so little it seems tenuous at best. I’ll be the first to say that it’s a bit of a reach to say there’s a cause and effect here without lots of testing – but it’s a worthy hypothesis to pursue. What if I avoid plants with solanine and notice this doesn’t happen again? Outside of a slightly more restrictive approach – what do I have to lose?

From the same link above, here’s a list of the offending foods:

Nightshades – Avoid in order to decrease inflammation:

  • Potatoes, all varieties (sweet potatoes and yams are NOT nightshades. Beware of potato starch used in many seasonings and as a thickening agent)

  • Peppers (red, green, yellow, orange, jalapeno, chili, cayenne, pimento)

  • Tomatoes, all varieties (including Tomatillos)

  • Paprika

  • Eggplant

  Foods that contain solanine although not directly in the nightshade family:

  • Blueberries & Huckleberries

  • Okra

  • Artichokes

  Other Substances to Avoid:

  • Homeopathic remedies containing Belladonna (known as deadly nightshade)

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications containing potato starch as a filler (especially prevalent in sleeping and muscle relaxing medications)

  • Edible flowers: petunia, chalice vine, day jasmine, angel and devil’s trumpets.

  • Atropine and Scopolamine, used in sleeping pills

  • Topical medications for pain and inflammation containing capsicum (in cayenne pepper)

What’s relevant to me from that list is three of the items from my crockpot meal, as well as eggplant, blueberries and paprika. I’ve had okra and liked it, but I don’t eat it. I don’t take homeopathic remedies, nor do I eat flowers. I *have* used capsicum, but maybe once every few years, so I can avoid that.

So I’ll proceed from here under the assumption that I am sensitive to these compounds and see what happens – at least for a while. This sucks, of course, because I like these foods – and they are low carb.

But if I *do* find a stronger cause and effect link by experimenting along these lines, avoiding these foods might be worth it

Fat, Dumb, and Happy: Day 4

After my usual infusion of coffee and cream as my breakfast, I didn’t eat until after 3pm – I wasn’t hungry. Yeah, I know, there’s plenty of people who say you should do this but then there’s this quote: The biggest liar is ‘they say’. I tend to use a definition of Zen as my dietary advice.

If you know anything about Zen, it has a sense of humor about itself. There are myriad stories in the literature that tell what Zen masters say when people ask: what is Zen? The answer to the question I use as my dietary advice is: “When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.”

Whether or not this is good diet advice *or* a good answer to ‘what is Zen?’ I truly don’t know.

Anywho, I had another one of those roast beef and cheese rollups for lunch and as usually happens at the beginning in ketosis is afterward I get a feeling of heaviness. It’s not debilitating, but it is certainly noticeable. I also always notice stomach rumbling way down low – the type that usually comes before a sudden dash to the bathroom – but it almost never comes to that.

I imagine the carb-loving gut bacteria, getting notice from the stomach that a meal is coming, suddenly gets the meal it doesn’t want and riots: “We demand carbs!” They picket and protest and overturn cars and set trash cans on fire (in my overactive imagination), but all I hear is an ominous rumbling that goes away after a time. Perhaps they sign petitions that get sent to my brain via the vagus nerve that connects the digestive system to the brain that say: ‘tell him he wants pizza!’ or something like that.

Meanwhile, the other fat and protein-loving gut bacteria see their standard of living go up, buy houses, raise kids, and slowly but surely watch the carb-lovers numbers diminish. More room for *their* kids. I’m sure they don’t mind – and neither do I.

I’m interested in what’s really going on down there in the trillions of bacteria that not only digest my food but might also affect my mood. I read that 90% of us is not ‘us’, but rather the bacteria that coexist with us. One scientist I believe referred to humans as hotels for other organisms.

Your hand sanitizer is useless.

7:20pm

Just got home and took my stats – the few things I’m monitoring. Ketosis? Yep – the test strip was very dark. Weight? 219.2 – first time I cracked 220 in a month – not that I stayed there all that long at any time this year, however.

What I ate for dinner sounds odd – but I always eat odd. I’ve been really digging this drinkable plain yogurt from grass-fed cows. It won some award for taste – and I don’t doubt it a bit. I had the last out of the bottle – about a cup with 4 drops of the EZ_Sweetz. That was great, but the problem is the bottle: there’s more in there – you just can’t get it out. I add some water, more sweetener and shake. Another glass – not as thick – but just as good,

I saw 2 avocados looking a bit aged so I opened them, scooped out the contents in a bowl and hit with about 10 dashes of Tabasco sauce. This I ate on some pork rinds. After that, 2 glasses of almond milk with more sweetener.

I was thirsty – more so than usual – perhaps I lost too much water?

Not to long after the ominous rumbling in the stomach began – borborygmi for those of you who are fond of obscure words. This was upper – not lower. Nothing will come of it –  more kvetching by my digestive system that didn’t get to eat the donut lying in plain sight when I got home.

Still thirsty, I drank a few cups of water. I doubt the scale will be as low tomorrow as it is now as I imagine at the end of day 3 it is busy retooling for what it expects will be at least a while in this carb-deprived state. It held out hopes I’d stop this damn foolery earlier – now it’s buckling down for the long haul.

Also – right before bed I had 2 small grass-fed burgers with cheese and low carb ketchup. Perhaps I was hungry or perhaps this was to blunt the appearance of a fresh, crunchy baguette on the counter when my wife and kids arrived home. The eyes told the brain to send a message via the vagus nerve to the stomach about the baguette. In turn, the message was sent back: “Get us some of that!”.

Didn’t happen – this time. I even cut some for the kid.

Friday, March 14, 2014 – 221.4

As expected, the weight popped up a bit. It was expected. It’s OK. This isn’t just about the scale – it’s about how I feel – and I do feel better psychologically. There might be more to this than just the types of things psychotherapists deal in – have you happen to read ‘Grain Brain’ yet? I hope to discuss this book soon, though my haphazard approach to this narrative might mean I don’t get to it. You might want to check it out.

I Don’t Run

MINXM2-1

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.”

“When?”

“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.

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.