Confirmation Bias News for Low Carbers

Confirmation bias is the psychological term for believing information that supports your beliefs while ignoring or challenging information that contradicts your beliefs. We all do it: it’s the way our minds are wired. It’s also fun and simple to do:

  1. Find an article that supports your beliefs.
  2. Cherry-pick the point of the article that most strongly support your position
  3. Leave out any nuances in the article. If there’s a section about disagreement with the conclusions drawn, ignore that.
  4. Don’t research who did the research, what they measured, nor who paid for the research. If they believe what you believe they must be people of intelligence and integrity funded by organizations dedicated to only pure science and free of any conflicts or agendas. No need to check.
  5. Any comments contradicting the conclusions are made only by people with agendas, the misinformed, or by those who lack integrity

Following these fun and simple rules allow you to wrap yourself in a warm cocoon of self-validating information. It’s a wonderful state to be in: you are confident and self-assured. No self-doubt permeates your cranium. You might have a world-view that is neat, simple and wrong – but two out of three ain’t bad. The warm glow of certainty is certainly less burdensome than trying to weigh all the evidence without bias – that takes thinking and risks your preconceived notions becoming frayed and tattered – who needs that?

Let’s see an example, shall we? You’re going to love this.

Study: Vegetarians Less Healthy, Lower Quality Of Life Than Meat-Eaters

ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) – Vegetarians may have a lower BMI and drink alcohol sparingly, but vegetarian diets are tied to generally poorer health, poorer quality of life and a higher need for health care than their meat-eating counterparts.

A new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria finds that vegetarians are more physically active, drink less alcohol and smoke less tobacco than those who consume meat in their diets. Vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index. But the vegetarian diet — characterized by a low consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol that includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products — carries elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.

Vegetarians were twice as likely to have allergies, a 50 percent increase in heart attacks and a 50 percent increase in incidences of cancer.

Now – ignore reading the following – it’s called ‘balance’ and it’s a journalistic convention – they have to say this to make the research and the article appear balanced.

the researchers do caution that continuing studies will be needed to substantiate some of the rather broad dietary distinctions, associations presented in this current research.

So fat, booze-guzzling meat-eaters are healthier – yay!

I feel so much better – don’t you?

 

Does Fluoride In Your Water and Toothpaste Make You Fat and Screw With Your Brain?

[Update: I got one comment: “What does this have to with low carb??? Do NOT send this crap. And… I disagree with your logic.”]

I am old enough to remember the 60s when crackpots were labeled as such because they thought water fluoridation was some sort of government conspiracy. I don’t consider myself a crackpot, though your opinion might differ.

What I AM doing is taking the tack that modern science, particularly when it comes to our complex biological processes, really has little clue what is good for us and what only appears to be good for us, so my only defense is to minimize the number of ‘modern marvels’ – processed foods, man-made chemicals and the like, and try to eat as little of them as possible. For me, that means eating organic as much as I can afford it, avoiding the household cleaner aisle – or at least staying away from the nastier stuff that lies there and using more old-fashioned cleaners, using glass containers for food rather than plastic, not drinking bottled water that comes in plastic, and putting a water filter on my tap water to remove the God-Knows-What that is contained therein.

It is not that I am convinced beyond a doubt that these things matter – it more that I believe the jury is still out on, say, if the plastic in plastic water bottles leaches into the water and screws up our internal chemistry.

I don’t know – so I’ll avoid it as much as I can.

So I went to purchase a new replacement cartridge for my Pur water filter the other day. When I got it home, I just happened to read the box, which listed it’s features. One jumped out at me (here it is on their website – search for ‘fluoride’):

  • Removes 95% of mercury, while leaving beneficial fluoride in the water.

Beneficial flouride. Hmmm… I did a little digging, and came across a website named Flouridealert.org. I found this on their page ‘50-Reasons to Oppose Flouridation‘:

In the first half of the 20th century, fluoride was prescribed by a number of European doctors to reduce the activity of the thyroid gland for those suffering from hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid) (Stecher 1960; Waldbott 1978). With water fluoridation, we are forcing people to drink a thyroid-depressing medication which could, in turn, serve to promote higher levels of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) in the population, and all the subsequent problems related to this disorder. Such problems include depression, fatigue, weight gain, muscle and joint pains, increased cholesterol levels, and heart disease. It bears noting that according to the Department of Health and Human Services (1991) fluoride exposure in fluoridated communities is estimated to range from 1.6 to 6.6 mg/day, which is a range that actually overlaps the dose (2.3 – 4.5 mg/day) shown to decrease the functioning of the human thyroid (Galletti & Joyet 1958). This is a remarkable fact, particularly considering the rampant and increasing problem of hypothyroidism in the United States (in 1999, the second most prescribed drug of the year was Synthroid, which is a hormone replacement drug used to treat an underactive thyroid). In Russia, Bachinskii (1985) found a lowering of thyroid function, among otherwise healthy people, at 2.3 ppm fluoride in water.

The above was written by a Paul Connett, PhD – a Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University. He appears to be a legitimate professor (at least he was when I first wrote this 6 years ago – it appears he has since retired).

Oh, Jeez – here’s another thing I know nothing about. Another thing to make me seem even crackpottier than I already am. There is a huge crackpot element that opposes fluoridation. Here’s a comment from Yahoo Answers that shows the kind of nuttiness that gravitates to this subject:

Fluoride is accumulated in your pineal gland. This gland absorbs more fluoride than any body part and in very large quantities; it is now thought it has a lot to do with many of our health problems like early onset puberty in girls. As i have been able to awaken my pineal gland in the past thus access the crown chakra I will use my own self for the control. I do not know another person who has accessed the crown chakra or achieved christos. The feeling of oneness with the Creator and of travelling as if in deep space is gorgeous. The feeling of unconditional love and of peace makes me want to be able to do it or go there more often. Once awoken it is always awoken but you can fine tune it.

After the first two sentences, utter and complete New Age nonsense. But because whack-jobs gravitate to it, does that mean that it’s untrue? So now I’m led to the question: how did the notion that fluoride was so good for us that it should be put in most water supplies in the US come about? Think about it – that’s a massive health experiment – making everyone, young and old, with a vast spectrum of health concerns, all take a mandatory medication – that’s essentially what it is, isn’t it? So a visit to Wikipedia gave me an answer:

Community water fluoridation in the United States is partly due to the research of Dr. Frederick McKay, who pressed the dental community for an investigation into what was then known as “Colorado Brown Stain.”[8] The condition, now known as dental fluorosis, when in its severe form is characterized by cracking and pitting of the teeth.[9][10][11] Of 2,945 children examined in 1909 by Dr. McKay, 87.5% had some degree of stain or mottling. All the affected children were from the Pikes Peak region. Despite the negative impact on the physical appearance of their teeth, the children with stained, mottled and pitted teeth also had fewer cavities than other children. McKay brought this to the attention of Dr. G.V. Black, and Black’s interest was followed by greater interest within the dental profession. Initial hypotheses for the staining included poor nutrition, overconsumption of pork or milk, radium exposure, childhood diseases, or a calcium deficiency in the local drinking water.[8] In 1931, researchers from the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) concluded that the cause of the Colorado stain was a high concentration of fluoride ions in the region’s drinking water (ranging from 2 to 13.7 mg/L) and areas with lower concentrations had no staining (1 mg/L or less).[12] Pikes Peak’s rock formations contained the mineral cryolite, one of whose constituents is fluorine. As the rain and snow fell, the resulting runoff water dissolved fluoride which made its way into the water supply. Dental and aluminum researchers then moved toward determining a relatively safe level of fluoride chemicals to be added to water supplies. The research had two goals: (1) to warn communities with a high concentration of fluoride of the danger, initiating a reduction of the fluoride levels in order to reduce incidences of fluorosis, and (2) to encourage communities with a low concentration of fluoride in drinking water to add fluoride chemicals in order to help prevent tooth decay. By 2006, 69.2% of the U.S. population on public water systems were receiving fluoridated water, amounting to 61.5% of the total U.S. population; 3.0% of the population on public water systems were receiving naturally occurring fluoride.[3]

So it seems that dentists and an aluminum company thought it would be a good idea for everyone to take unmeasured and varying amounts of a toxic element because it appeared to prevent tooth decay. I have nothing against dentists, but they are tooth-centric, and aren’t exactly the health professionals I want to advise me about a substance that might impact other parts of my body. And why ALCOA, the aluminum company, would be involved is beyond me. This question puzzled me, so I thought to look at who supplies the fluoride. I found this page on the CDC website, which talks about shortages of fluoride, though it mentions. If you read the CDC page, it makes it appear that lack of fluoride is an immediate health crisis – enough to make you panic:

Adjusting the fluoride content of water is a safe and healthy practice that provides significant oral health benefits for a community. For the greatest benefits to occur, it is important to consistently maintain optimum fluoride levels. The three fluoride additives used for water fluoridation are derived principally from phosphate fertilizer production. Although shortages of fluoride additives for water fluoridation are infrequent, they do sometimes occur.

[You will note that some of the links referenced above don’t lead anywhere. Perhaps the CDC has quietly had a change of heart on the ‘safe and healthy’ practice?]

I wrote the above maybe six years ago and never published it. I thought it a bit too crackpot – but during that time I’ve eliminated as much fluoride as possible from my diet and my family’s diet. We still get dosed with the stuff – I still use the water filter that lets through the ‘beneficial fluoride’ but I don’t get fluoride treatments from the dentist for my kids and don’t buy fluoride toothpaste.

Then an article hit the news cycle  about common everyday chemicals that are affecting our brains – and fluoride was one of them.

I don’t consider The Atlantic to be a crackpot site, so I thought maybe I can be comfortable in letting this post see the light of day.

Here’s a link to the article – The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains.

And here is a recent bit of writing I did on the topic. It interweaves with the first part and a good writer would integrate the two to craft a single, coherent article.

But since I don’t have the time nor inclination to do so – nor do I feel the burden of wanting to be seen as a ‘good writer’ – I’m just going to put this out there:

Imagine this. Allergists, in conjunction with a technology company, find that a poisonous industrial waste, when given in very very small quantity, prevent people from developing allergies. Sometimes even severe allergies. What these groups decide to do is lobby the government to have this chemical put into the water supply so that everyone can benefit from the allergy eliminating effects of this substance. Now it is known that it does not work 100% of the time. It is also known to have some side effects. Additionally, depending on how much water you drink you might get a lot or a little so dosing would vary across different people. Children, adults the elderly, the very big, the very petite would all be getting essentially random doses of this chemical. It is also known that not everyone has allergies and so people who have no need for this chemical would also be getting it.

Would you think this is a good idea?

Believe it or not this more or less has already happened. The only difference is instead of allergies its cavities and the chemical is fluorideFluoride has a bizarre story. In the early 1900s a group of people were discovered to have spots on their teeth. These people also had no cavities. Investigations show that the water that they drank had a very high level of fluoride. This caused the speckles on their teeth as well as their lack of cavities. Then the story seems to get a bit murky. Somehow we went from a situation where it was found that a particular chemical could prevent cavities to putting a unregulated dose of a chemical that essentially is like a medicine with side effects and indications and potentially contraindications for people who shouldn’t be taking it and putting it into the water supply. How the hell did that happen?

My understanding of the events in so far as I feel like researching it at the moment has to do with World War II. During the draft of World War II so many potential soldiers were rejected for service because of bad teeth that a decision was made to add fluoride to the water.

This is also a time where we decided to take American citizens of Japanese nationality and lock them up in prison camps. Not every decision that we made because of World War II was a smart one.

The problem with labeling fluoride as somehow bad for you or the results of poor thinking suffers from one big problem: crackpots love this. Dissing fluoride has become a sure fire way to label yourself a crackpot fool. You can’t even question this without people immediately labeling you as slightly unhinged. Why is that? Why can’t we revisit this without being labeled a crockpot? We know a lot more now than we did then and we even know things now that were known then that but weren’t brought up as part of the discussion.

Remember: World War II was a war like no other. Hitler’s plans for America was to essentially turn us into a slave colony. There was a real potential that this could happen. We haven’t had a war since that mobilized the entire country to focus like we did then. We can be excused for the excesses of that war because it truly was a war of good and evil. Studs Terkel the famous author wrote a wonderful book about World War II with that exact thesis: The Good War.

Perhaps almost 70 years later it’s time for us to revisit some of the assumptions without being labeled a crackpot.

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 5

Friday, March 14, 2014 – 1:30pm

I seem to be suffering from an excess of energy. Yes – excess. When you’re feeling sluggish most of the time it becomes the norm, but I’m feeling my energy increase and it is making me antsy as I sit behind a desk and stare at a computer all day.

For the unabashedly slothful, energy can be a nuisance.

I needed to take a walk to clear my head a bit, then came back and had another lettuce wrap. Having run out of the roast beef, I broke 2 small hamburgers in half, covered in low carb ketchup, and wrapped that in the swiss cheese. It was good, though the burgers were cold and not everybody is into that.

Did I mention I eat weird stuff?

I eat weird stuff.

I’ve been loathe to track my eating from the perspective of calories, carbs, protein, fat, and the percentages, net carb counts and the like. I mean – what’s the point? I’m in ketosis, I’m eating a small group of low carb-friendly foods, and losing weight: any extra tracking would be an unnecessary burden.

Instead, what I have been doing is tracking just *what* I eat. I keep a simple spreadsheet and if I eat a food, whatever the quantity, I just put an ‘X’ in the field. I also track my weight, if I’m in ketosis, and what my fasting blood glucose is if I remember to test it.

Here’s a screenshot if the above description makes no sense to you (entirely possible as I wrote it):

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 2.07.00 PM

When you’re not in the mood for obsessive tracking, this at least gives you a reasonable big picture of what you’re eating. While a bit light on the usual specifics, it does easily show the good, the bad, and the ugly. Also, since quantities are merely an ‘X’, a bite of bread still shows up as a new line – for me, this is some oddball incentive to avoid cheating: I’d have to list it.

Out of all the 24 eaten items above, four are somewhat bothersome:

  1. Mayonnaise

  2. Sucralose

  3. Almond milk

  4. Low carb ketchup

While all of these are low carb, each *does* have problems in my estimation.

Mayonnaise – I get a canola-based mayonnaise where the oil is expeller pressed (Whole Foods store brand). This means the oil isn’t heated to extract it – it’s squeezed out. That’s way better than the usual soybean oils used, which are usually extracted using a petroleum product hexane and possibly high temperatures. This process denatures the fat molecules and possibly contaminates the stuff with petroleum byproducts. Nasty stuff that I like to avoid.

Still, this mayo isn’t ‘good’, in my estimation, it just isn’t as bad as most of them. Canola oil is higher in omega-3 fats than most seed oils, but I believe you should try to avoid ALL seed oils. Other than a few very expensive oils, most seed oils are filled with omega-6, which, while necessary for health, the typical american gets way too much of. (By the way, olives are technically a ‘fruit’, so olive oil is NOT a seed oil, is somewhat unique because it is a quality source of monounsaturated fats which most believe are good for you, and is on my list of oils that are just fine).

Canola is also a food never eaten by humans until maybe 40 years ago. Canola has another name – rapeseed – not a particularly marketable name – and was only used an an industrial lubricant for machines and stuff like that because it had an ingredient that would make people sick. some clever plant breeders developed a version that virtually eliminated the offending compound – and because this was done in Canada, they renamed it ‘Can’ (Canada) ‘ola’ (oil). What this means is that nobody really know what kind of long-term effects Canola might have – possibly none. We don’t know.

Problem is – I love mayo. Yeah, you can make substitutes, use sour cream or something else, but nothing beats the real thing. I have made my own mayo with olive oil, but this can be tricky and any lack of patience in the creation can cause the creamy mayo to ‘break’ and turn into a useless speckled goo which I have to throw away.

Hopefully I can get up the courage to tempt fate and try this again in the near future . My recipe worked out well – when I didn’t screw it up.

Sucralose – are artificial sweeteners bad for you? All I know is that I lost 80 pounds using sucralose and probably kept the Atkins organization afloat during their lean years after the low carb bust of 2003 by drinking enormous amounts of their shakes. Their bars can be problematic and cause stalls, but their shakes never stalled me. Keep in mind – that was almost a decade ago and they have reformulated their product since then. My weight loss response to them might be very different today – a reformulated product and a decade older.

While I personally think artificial sweeteners do have an impact on me – i think it tends to stimulate my appetite – there’s a ‘quality of life’ issue going on here – if I become utterly miserable pining for sweets I am less apt to stay on the diet. So for me, I see it as the lesser of two evils. Yes – there are people who think it impacts your gut bacteria: yet again I think this is a very personal effect and I try to find my own answer by seeing what results I get.

I have nothing to complain about at this stage of the game so will keep using it until I feel like not using it. Again, my only response to it is an increase in appetite and as I think I have not been overeating – what’s the issue?

Almond milk – I like this stuff. Heck, even my kid likes the stuff, but it is processed and I don’t know if I have any reaction to some of the ingredients – right now, given my progress, it appears not. This is also another food with omega-6 fats, though considerably lower than the calorie-packed mayonnaise. If it was the only one, perhaps it would be OK – or perhaps I can live healthy and happy with *both*. I can read the literature on this and come to an academic decision – or I can test myself and see what happens.

Low Carb Ketchup – More sucralose. Other dubious ingredients that might or might not cause mischief. Another quality of life issue. Lesser of two evils.

The Ides of March, 2014 – 219.6

It was a long week. I can’t begin to describe the level of brainwork I’ve been doing as of late – at least for *my* brain. It’s like doing heart surgery – and learning while you do so. There are also plenty of conference calls about ‘when I will be done’ – no pressure. The weekend will provide no respite – I have other things I need to brain through so I’m going to be doing a weekend of mental gymnastics.

In retrospect, my rather casual decision to start up an extreme low carb diet when I did might have been, accidentally, the best possible time to do so.

I’m under a lot of pressure but don’t ‘feel’ the pressure in a way that is in any way debilitating. I can perform without the emotions that might degrade my performance. My brain is sparkly clear and working at it’s peak capacity. Mine is not a top-quality brain by any means – but what brains I have are working at maximum efficiency.

I think I have to give a lot of credit to low carb for this. I remember first reading the Atkins book and his assertion that too many carbs can cause ‘brain fog’. When I read this I thought this the statement of a quack. When I started Atkins a decade ago I did so as a skeptic – I *never* thought it would work, and I ignored the ‘brain fog’ comment because I didn’t buy in to the whole low carb thing anyway.

And then when I started doing Atkins I suddenly understood what he meant by ‘brain fog’ – and saw the difference on only my second day doing it.

A decade ago, at 265 pounds, I would struggle through the afternoons as a powerful sleepiness would descend upon me after lunch. So do a lot of people – it’s almost considered natural. It’s hard to notice non-events sometimes, but I clearly remember this sleepiness in the afternoon disappeared on the second day of my first go at low carb.

I had tried the diet because I wanted to lose weight – never in my wildest dreams did I think it would have any psychological impact.

It did.

It can be explained easily enough by blood sugar: eat a big sandwich and a bag of chips at lunch and we insulin resistant folks ride a sugar-powered rollercoaster up the giant wooden mountain – then come tearing down again. Our blood sugar also affects our emotions: as a kid, my father’s sudden and uncharacteristic flares of extreme temper for no reason whatsoever brought him to the doctor – where it was determined that he had full blown type-II diabetes. This was after he acquired a month’s-long habit of having a big bowl of ice cream after dinner.

I remember being at the doctor’s office with him and my mom and the doctor stating with firm conviction: “Eating sugar had nothing to do with this.”

This was the late 70s – and that was the standard thinking at the time. Remember, Atkins was a nutritional apostate at the time – just another quack doctor regarded by the mainstream medical community as not unlike John Harvey Kellogg – brother of the cereal magnate – who used to remove large portions of people’s intestines and give them yogurt enemas to ‘cure’ them of ‘autointoxication’ – a popular imaginary disease from the late 1800s through the first third of the 1900s.

(I am *very* interested in the history of diets and have a bookshelf full of books on the subject though I write little about this – perhaps someday…)

Anywho, back to my main topic (if I had one).

I had mentioned previously the ‘energy problem’ – being antsy at work because of an excess of energy. This was put to good use after work as I efficiently went to Walmart and restocked my supply of pork rinds and Lindt 85% dark chocolate – two old goto foods in my low carb adventures, then hit Trader Joe’s for more of the Almond milk. Then I came home and made short work of a pile of mail that I had neglected to go through, making phone calls, questioning bills, and cleaning up a big mess of paperwork I simply could not bring myself to tackle.

When I had completed this, I was ready for whatever was going to be my dinner.

There was cake and pie downstairs, courtesy of my wife’s sweet tooth. I was as indifferent to them as I was indifferent to low carb fare only a few days ago and went for a few hard-boiled eggs wrapped in cheese splashed with low carb ketchup. I also had a healthy amount of peppered salami with more cheese – I wrapped these in romaine lettuce leaves and ate like a sandwich.

As I wake around 5am these days, I like to be in bed by 9:30, then read until I fall asleep – usually around 10pm or so – but I couldn’t sleep. Insomnia is not a problem I’ve suffered from for decades.

I remembered Dr. Mike Eades of Protein Power mentioning that sometimes ketones can cause insomnia, and the best cure for this? A little sugar. He stated a bit of the stuff won’t hurt and might help you get to sleep.

Sometime after 11pm I was hungry again and went downstairs. As I went down the stairs I saw one of the Lindt chocolate bars I bought. It occurred to me that I could kill 2 birds with one stone perhaps. I had 4 squares of the chocolate which is about 7 grams of carbs between the cocoa and the sugar (Great stuff, by the way. I was never a fan of dark chocolate but I’ve come to love this particular dark chocolate.)

I fell asleep within maybe 20 minutes.

When I woke this morning I was down to 219.6 – my lowest morning weight so far during this round of extreme low carb. My ketones were high – actually they aren’t usually high in the mornings – they are light for reasons that are unclear to me – it’s the afternoons when they are usually very high. It certainly shows the chocolate before bed had zero impact on ketosis.

I’ve a busy weekend ahead so I’ll stop here for now.

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.

Low Carb Confidential for 2014

CoolWhip-Frosting-1024x685

When Dr. Oz, Cameron Diaz, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kim Kadashian all talk up low carb diets, you know that low carb has gone mainstream – again. It did so a decade ago but I think things are different now. In the past decade a lot of new research seems to show that, at the very least, low carb is not the ‘killer diet’ naysayers warned about 10 years ago and a ‘well-managed’ low carb diet might possibly be good for some of us.

For the sciency folks, 2013 brought this viewpoint published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: A Call for the End of the Diet Debates. The central point I take away from this is there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet and divergent diets such as low carb, high protein, veganism, paleo, and even old-fashioned calorie-counting, will work for some subgroup of people based on their age, predisposition, genetics and current medical conditions. It is not the diet itself as much as it is how the person responds to the diet and how well they can manage living on it long-term that matter.

Your doctor might try you on a half-dozen different medications to treat a given condition until you both find one that works – why would we have ever suspected that our diets would be any different?

Yes – the diet wars will continue I am sure. There are a lot of people who believe there is one right way to do things – usually theirs – and will argue endlessly for the self-validating honor of ‘being right’.

Meh. I’ve come to find this excruciatingly boring – except for the blogs of Anthony Colpo and Adele Hite, both of whom argue their (very different) positions with such passion and rapier wit (as well as some well-played cheap shots) that I can’t help but to enjoy their posts.

Me? I do what I do and have little desire to convince anyone of anything. I also don’t recommend you thinking anything I write is ‘advice’ – I’m in no position to advise anyone on anything. I’m just a crazy anonymous blogger who likes to string words together for his own amusement and post them on the Internet for the amusement of others and to clutter up search engines.

Low carb is my plan, and I will continue to play with the finer points, but this past year I have found myself looking at a lot of things in a new light – partly because it’s been an awful year for me from a diet perspective.

For the past few months I wasn’t even trying.

A year ago today I was 210. This morning, January 1, 2013, I am 225. 15 pounds is not all that much, but this minor fender-bender of a year is going to turn into a major car-wreck if I don’t break the current pattern.

In October I wrote that I was taking a break until my weight got under 200 – then promptly dropped all but the most superficial pretense of low carb dieting and here I am on the eve of 2014 – fatter than I’ve been in a while.

Meanwhile, this year, perhaps more than in others, I’ve read less and less on the science of low carb itself and more on the history of diets, the psychological and social aspects of food and nutrition, as well as the nature of science itself. Among the books and lectures I have read and listened to – and sometimes struggled to understand – are:

So – yeah – the diet part, the science stuff with all the molecules and compounds, micronutrients, macronutrients and the like have not ceased to be important, but even if you full well knew with 100% certainty what to do in order to lose the weight, slay the dragon, get the girl (or guy), and bring about world peace, it doesn’t matter if you’re still eating Cool Whip Frosting out of the container with a spoon. (Which I did last night – I was amazed how this nightmare of partially-hydrogenated oils and sugars bound together with a panoply of other multisyllabic ingredients was able to produce something that tasted so real – it was devilishly good.)

All this research has led me in new and interesting directions. It’s not just the diet, stupid – it’s how you diet – aside from the food – that has intrigued me the most this past year. Just a few of the things, to be specific, are:

  • The mind game that surrounds dieting. This mind game is played by us as we think we know what a diet is, as well as the mind game played upon us by a society that – especially in the US – worships indulgence and excess while promoting a body type that can only be attained by waifish teenagers and photoshopped celebrities. Where did this paradox come from?
  • What different diets do to the brain. I myself noted a mental change when I did a prolonged bout of ketogenic low carb – what’s up with that? I did some research on that subject and while the science is new, it is intriguing.
  • I have also been researching human disgust. Yes – this is actually a branch of science. Disgust is a fascinating human emotion because while it is universal like fear or anger, each culture defines it differently so foods that elicit a ‘yum’ in one part of the world elicit a ‘yuck’ in another. What this has to do with diets is that often you need to abandon certain foods and try new ones to make a diet work but some people find the notion of new foods truly puke-inducing to even think about. Their choices then narrowed to only a few items, their diet becomes unsustainable and they fail. Why is one person’s delicacy another’s food dare – and can we change this about ourselves or is it fixed and immutable? And another thing: why CAN some of us eat the same thing over and over and not be bothered by it?
  • Habit and willpower. How do we quash old habits and replace them with new ones? How do we stick to our plan when fatigued, stressed or distracted? What exactly *IS* ‘willpower’, where does it come from and how can we make more of it?
  • Exercise. I’ve long-held that exercise is useless and counterproductive for weight loss because it burns such a tiny amount of calories that you would have to spend hour after hour exercising to lose weight. I still believe this, but what if ‘burning calories’ isn’t the point of exercise as part of a weight loss program at all? What if the last thing you ever want to do is try to count the calories burned after exercise but you still should consider it because of other properties it has to promote weight loss?

My hope is that in 2014 I will tackle some of these interesting aspects in more detail and make some sense of them – at least to me – and get to my goal weight of 185 partly because of low carb and partly because I intend to apply some of this new thinking.

Low Carb Dining at the Emergency Room

I’m popping in to relate a little adventure that has a few of those items that go into the bucket list labeled: “prefer not to”.

These items were:

  • first time driving myself to the emergency room
  • first time getting a CAT scan
  • first time getting surgery of any kind
  • having an emergency appendectomy

This was how *I* spent my weekend.

Now, this went about as well as could be expected and is not the point of this post- really. I showed up early before the appendicitis was advanced. That made an already routine surgery even easier. I was completely calm throughout the entire process, with an: ‘oh, well – these things happen’ attitude and an utter lack of drama (which I am sure the hospital staff appreciated). I had laparoscopic – or ‘keyhole’ surgery – and have only 3 tiny holes in my abdomen, took a shower myself the next day and left the next morning.

It was so I uneventful that a ‘get well soon’ card would seem out of place. This was less traumatic than most bouts of the flu.

What this post is about was maintaining my low carb diet. After 2 weeks I had finally gotten in the groove of low carb and I wasn’t about to let a potentially life- threatening condition spoil my diet.

Appendicitis has the benefit for dieters of killing appetite – before it kills you, of course, so eating wasn’t on my mind prior to surgery – getting that damn appendix out of me was my primary focus as I felt like hell.

Later, now appendix-free and out of recovery and into my room, I was brought a meal of ‘clear liquids’.

What garlic is to a vampire and Kryptonite to Superman, this ‘meal’ was to a guy who just got into ketosis that day:

  • iced tea with high fructose corn syrup
  • raspberry ices with corn syrup
  • jello with high fructose corn syrup (noted on the printout I was given with the meal as ‘flavor: red’)
  • cranberry juice with high fructose corn syrup
  • a packet of sugar
  • 1 bowl of low sodium chicken broth

Think about it for a moment: my first meal after surgery and more than 12 hours after eating did  not contain any actual ‘food’ as I saw it. The printout that came with it gave the following tally:

Carbs: 76, fluids: 780, calories: 310, protein: 2, fat:0, sodium: 128, potassium: 61.

So a little math shows that my meal was 99% carbs – and the crappiest carbs possible. I would have been better off getting fed via a glucose IV.

I wasn’t going to touch that crap and only had the soup, which I have a strong feeling caused the death of no chickens as it sat at the bottom of the soup water like a fluorescent yellow chemical spill and I had to stir it to make it mix. It was likely a ‘chicken flavored’ bullion cube rather than the real deal.

When the server came for the tray she seemed disappointed in me. “Why didn’t you eat?” She frowned. It almost seemed a personal rejection to her – like she had spent all day preparing it for me.

“It’s all sugar – I don’t eat sugar.”

“Are you diabetic?”

“Not really, but I’m on a low carb diet and I’m not going to eat this.”

“I can get you sugar-free versions of everything except for the berry ice. ”

“Oh – I’d eat that.” I said.

I soon got another tray and another bowl of broth with sugar-free versions of the jello, cranberry juice, a lemon wedge (how I was supposed to use this baffled me) and a packet of Splenda.

While this ‘meal’ covered an entire tray, it had a total of 31 calories – which is kind of amazing. If I wouldn’t mainline simple sugars they were going to starve me to death.

Lunch was another hearty 31 calories.

Mid-afternoon a resident checked on me and asked me if I would like solid food and put in the order. The nurse told me: “now you can order real food. You can get cookies, a sandwich, pasta – anything.”

Thanks for the recommendations, nursie.

Instead, I ordered grilled chicken breast, broccoli, zucchini, tomato soup with a salad and blue cheese dressing.

Finally – real food! 476 calories, 23 from carbs, 32 from fat and 26 from protein. I wasn’t going to starve to death after all.

The next morning I was able to order whatever I wanted and called for an omelette (made with real eggs – you have to ask), ham and cheese and a sausage on the side. I was also able to have some coffee.

This meal totaled 553 calories, 40 grams of fat, 36 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbs as per the printout.

I also noticed that comment had appeared on my printouts: ‘Patient wants sugar free’.

What I found was that it seemed that the individuals that I talked to about my dietary preferences were OK with it – either they didn’t care or agreed with me. The nutritionists that ran the place, however, still held old-guard notions about a ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet.

I’m home now and I’m fine – just sore.

And I can eat as per my plan again – no dietary restrictions.

Why Do So Many People Look Down on Low Carb Diets?

I find it amusing from the perspective of a guy who actively seeks out saturated fat in his diet that people are still stigmatized for going on a low carb diet. Despite the fact that a lot of research has come out in recent years vindicating low carb diets from being labeled dangerous quackery, I STILL find it challenging to find a full-fat yogurt or 80% lean ground beef in my grocery store as everyone still seems so enamored of low-fat options.

Something about low carb elicits a sense of revulsion in many people – so much so that many low carbers go to great lengths to hide their adherence to low carb.

Why is that? Why would low carb – just one of many diet approaches you can find in your bookstore alongside some very wacky alternatives – be marked with a scarlet letter?

Here’s some of my guesses:

Continue reading “Why Do So Many People Look Down on Low Carb Diets?”

The Pleasurable Respite of A Weight Loss Stall, Part-Time Low Carb, and My 10th Anniversary on Low Carb

10thcake

Putting aside the niggly details surrounding my lack of progress in my current attempts at weight loss, I really can’t complain:

From a Paper in the AMA Journal: Let’s End the Diet Debates

Right after I posted this last post, I read an article that makes it seem like I’m not alone in my thinking.  The authors of a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association just last month seem to be thinking along the same lines as I am:

As the obesity epidemic persists, the time has come to end the pursuit of the “ideal” diet for weight loss and disease prevention. The dietary debate in the scientific community and reported in the media about the optimal macronutrient-focused weight loss diet sheds little light on the treatment of obesity and may mislead the public regarding proper weight management.

I find the ‘science wars’ on nutrition and weight loss tiring. Looking for the ‘best’ approach to weight loss is the wrong approach. ‘Best’ needs to be defined by the individual. Everyone who wants to lose weight should experiment with multiple approaches and find not only the approach that works for them, but also makes them happy. It’s a lifelong thing – and I hate the word ‘struggle’ – I’d rather call it a ‘practice’. Every day, show up for your diet, ‘punch the clock’, make the effort and then after giving an approach a chance, evaluate how you feel physically and psychologically. Continue reading “From a Paper in the AMA Journal: Let’s End the Diet Debates”