Lose 20 Pounds on a Keto Diet – But You’re Probably Not Going to Like This Post – Part 2

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Note: for those of you that didn’t read part 1, read part 1 – ‘k?

Sorry for the cliffhanger. I’m nearing 10 weeks in ketosis and have written 84 pages journaling my experience. Dumping that on you would be a bit much – but trying to summarize has been a bear. This is my second shot at it.

I’ve been doing (at least trying) to do a low carb / keto diet since 2003. In this go-round I have done a number of things radically different than in the past.

I made health – not weight loss – my goal. I have spent 15 years reading and researching this diet. I truly believe it to be the best diet for me. As I am focused on the health aspects, the moving of the scale is a nice perk – not the main goal. If the scale doesn’t move it might frustrate me – but it is not a failure. Eating off-plan is the failure.

I immersed myself in everything I could about the ketogenic diet. There are way more books, audiobooks, and podcasts with new information. Keto has become a ‘craze’ again and there’s a lot of new and interesting information and many people in Facebook groups discussing it. I personally don’t completely agree with *any* of the approaches I have seen, but have borrowed things from many of the approaches to forge my own version. I did a lot of experimenting and learning – and while I have been in ketosis for nearly 10 weeks now, how I stayed there has radically changed from the way I did it in 2003 – and the way I did it in April 2018.

I have started taking supplements again. When I looked I back to 2003 and asked myself what was different from when I first lost 80 pounds and now,  one big difference was I didn’t take supplements anymore. Back in the day I had taken a plastic film canister’s worth each day. I became disillusioned with vitamins (read ‘Do You Believe in Magic?‘ like I did to understand why) and had cut back to just a multivitamin – and only a few days a week. I began taking it every day and began to try to figure out what other supplements might improve health and am building up a ‘stack’ of supplements to see what impact it might have. I’m still experimenting here but will discuss this further below.

I fast 16 hours per day. I do what’s called a 16:8 intermittent fast daily. I skip breakfast – only having black coffee. This used to bother my stomach but I’ve apparently healed whatever the reason was for that and now it’s not a problem. I then have my lunch around 1pm and my dinner between 8-9pm. I don’t have hunger issues nor do I have food fantasies. Being in ketosis this long simply removes constant hunger from the equation.

I don’t snack. Here’s a really interesting notion I am experimenting with. While removing carbs reduces blood glucose, it’s not really blood glucose that is at the heart of the problem – it’s insulin resistance. Insulin is an energy storage hormone. When you eat carbs, your pancreas squirts out insulin to get the excess glucose out of your system, driving it into your fat stores mostly. After decades of abusing this system, your cells no longer respond to insulin and your pancreas has to squirt out more and more to get the same effect. So you can check your blood glucose levels and everything looks fine – but your insulin is through the roof.

So you give up carbs and your blood glucose goes down. That’s great, but you still have this insulin floating around. Know why? Because protein also stimulates an insulin response, you are STILL promoting insulin resistance.

So here’s an idea that seems to make sense: what if you were able to give your body an ‘insulin holiday’ – would being able to allow your body to not have insulin constantly in your bloodstream give your cells a rest and allow them to increase their insulin sensitivity?

Some people think it does, so I’ve decided to experiment with this. I’ve read that an insulin response can last up to 8 hours after a meal. This would mean that doing a 16 hour fast – with no calories coming in – gives me at least 8 hours per day where there is no insulin in my system.

The notion of snacking means you NEVER stop producing insulin. So the notion of a ‘snack’ is not part of my life.

There’s a second part to this which I will go into next.

I make sure my meals contain enough protein. What I read was that a particular amino acid – leucene – in adequate amounts – produces ‘Muscle Protein Synthesis’ or MPS. From what I read you need at least 3 grams of leucene in a meal to produce this effect – and leucene is approximately 10% of the amino acids in a piece of meat. From what I’ve read this will prevent muscle loss during weight loss even is you sit on your ass. A 16:8 fasting schedule provides me with 2 doses of this effect per day and maximizes the efficiency of the protein I take in per day. Remember that a properly formulated ketogenic diet is supposed to be an ‘adequate protein’ diet. If I have between 40-50 grams per meal I am well within the ‘adequate range’ but making every ounce of protein count.

I don’t add fat to my food. What kind of screwed up keto diet is it where you don’t add fat? Here the idea is that if you want your body to burn fat, you want it to burn your CURRENT BODY FAT – not the fat you ingest. I calculated my macros (carbs, protein, and fat using one of the many ‘keto calculators’ out there. This one at https://www.ruled.me/keto-calculator is adequate – and instead of aiming for an exact target I came up with my own ranges – these are mine:

Calories:     1200 – 1892
Carbs:        20
Protein:    94-124 (104 is ideal)
Fat:        77-155

This give me a wide latitude to play in and not have to worry about being so damned exact about things. I typically meet my minimums at lunch and have a larger meal in the evening. I tend to be at the low-end on fat – which comes from the meat. I very rarely add fats to my cooking – maybe olive oil to a salad though I don’t eat salad as often as maybe I should. And this leads to another interconnected point.

I have a very limited and simple diet. OK – this is where you stop reading. I get it. But if you are interested in how my relationship to food has changed, keep reading.

If you join the keto groups on Facebook, you will frequently be exposed to keto food porn on some of them. The inventiveness in these groups is boundless and you can find bread recipes, pizza, ‘fat bombs’, all sorts of snacks, and could happily avoid most carbs and still have your favorite indulgent foods. The problem is two-fold for me: these recipes take a lot of time to prep, and sometimes the calories are through the roof.

I don’t do this. I’ve stopped frequenting these groups that post the food porn. Instead, I’ve chosen to follow a very simple diet dominated by the following foods:

  • Chicken thighs
  • Chicken breasts
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Hot Italian sausages
  • Grass-fed, nitrate-free hot dogs
  • Nitrate-free bacon
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage)
  • Avocados
  • Arugula
  • Olive oil
  • Ghee (also called ‘clarified butter’)
  • Less than 4 oz. of cheese per day.
  • Salt
  • Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute

I’ve certainly had other keto-friendly foods (pickles, tomatoes, eggs, cauliflower, a little pasta sauce, salsa, among others), but the above list predominates.

You might be thinking: what a restrictive diet!

that is exactly what I thought as well – until I tried it.

I find it LIBERATING.

Nearly everything I cook is baked. I cook enough meat and veggies for 2-3 days. I measure out my portions into sandwich bags on a scale for lunch, then weigh out my dinner. Since I don’t snack, I have what I would call a natural and normal hunger response when I do eat – and I enjoy my food. I even find my portions to be almost too large at times – though my total calories for the day can sometimes be as low as 1200 calories. While you might think this is a rather bland set of flavors, my response to flavor has changed since I removed what I some call ‘hedonic’ foods with complex layering of flavors. I thought I never could wean myself off of my Orange-Tangerine artificial sweetener, but after a few miserable days, I didn’t miss it anymore. My palate has adjusted, I love my meals, shopping is a breeze, cooking is a breeze, lunch is a breeze – and now I know what it feels like to ‘eat to live’ rather than ‘live to eat’.

“I don’t eat that.” I’ve given up a lot of things – all grains, nuts (portion control problem), sweeteners, a lot of dairy (portion control problem), and so many other things I can’t count. I don’t have willpower nor do I believe in willpower as something that can be sustained over a lifetime against something as primal as hunger – and there is a bit of a mind trick I use to deal with this.

I have a lot of respect for ethical Vegans. They have made a decision that eating animal products is wrong and they do not eat them. They simply say: “I don’t eat that.”

there’s no negotiation here. Ethical Vegans don’t have a ‘cheat day’. It is black and white for them. I’ve decided to do this on my diet. I have foods I eat – and a very long list of foods I don’t. If offered, I say: “I don’t eat that for health reasons – and I can’t even have a taste.” If a further explanation is needed, I am eating this way to avoid getting full-blown diabetes and the best way for me to do that is not having the smallest cheat. As soon as you open the door to a small cheat, a larger one can easily creep in, and BAM! There goes all your hard work. This has happened to me too many times to count.

Like Vegans, people will think you’re odd – even odder than Vegans because their way of eating is better known. My diet is for health reasons first. I have my reasons for eating this particular way that most people won’t care about – and I won’t bore them.

I can easily sit and watch people eat all this stuff in front of me and I don’t care. My older daughter tried tempting me with bread at the steakhouse but my reaction to the bread was like a rabbit reacting to a slab of beef: utter indifference – because I don’t eat that. If I allowed cheats I would exhaust myself with the ‘how much can I have’? then having even a little taste will turn on cravings in the brain I don’t have anymore for 72 hours after the cheat, according to one doctor. So even one bite will at least make me miserable for 3 days – and at the worst, completely derail 10 weeks of hard work.

If I eat the way I do now, I don’t have diabetes. If I eat like a normie – I do.

I watch my salt, magnesium, and potassium. When you start a low carb / keto diet you lose a lot of water weight quickly as the carbs in your system bind to water molecules. No carbs and you lose that extra water – good – but as you lose the extra water you begin to mess with electrical pathways in your body and have the potential for problems if you don’t watch your electrolytes. This is how you get the ‘Atkins Flu’ as it was called years ago, or the ‘keto flu’. You get a headache, you get shaky, you get a head rush. This is your body’s electrolytes going screwy.

With salt, I make sure to salt all my food. Then I will have a glass of salted water if I feel weird – or just because I haven’t eaten in a while. I also take a magnesium supplement daily.

From what I’ve read, I am leery of taking potassium supplements. People on these keto Facebook groups usually use a product called ‘No-Salt’ – a salt substitute, but what these online groups don’t tell you is that some people – like me – are on ‘potassium – sparing’ blood pressure medications where is says on the damn label not to use this stuff. So I don’t. Potassium also seems to be the one that can also fuck you up the most – causing your heart to beat wrong. That’s something that can kill you and I am not going through all this trouble to die! I usually get my potassium through foods – an avocado is a great source.

Being this deep in ketosis also means heavy exercise or being out in high heat can mess you up way faster than normies walking around with excess water weight and electrolytes. I’ve heard people say they steal salt packets from restaurants and make sure they have a couple on hand – and some water – in case they feel weird during activities like these. This electrolyte issue also calls into question the bogus medical advice of drinking 8 glasses of water a day. For regular folk – so what – it gives them something to do other than eat, makes them feel full, and makes them feel good about themselves. Folk in heavy keto lose extra electrolytes like this. I will frequently drink a liter of seltzer on ice in the evening, or water during the day – but I really don’t count and do it because I’m thirsty.

I take ‘weight loss’ naps. Sleep is real important. I know a lot of people struggle with sleep – I don’t usually have a problem. One less thing for me to worry about as poor sleep can prevent weight loss – and is certainly not good for your health.

But here’s something I noticed in me by accident. Occasionally, on a weekend, I find the opportunity to take a nap. Lazy shit that I am – I take it. What I have found more often than not is if I weigh myself after the nap, I’ve lost a pound or two. It’s the damnedest thing. I’ve seen no one else mention this, but it does happen to me.

I measure my meals using Cronometer. None of the diet tracking apps are just right. Some can’t count net carbs. Some have nutrient values that are not based in reality. Some are just not designed very well. I’ve recently started using Cronometer and while the free version has annoying advertisements that can make you wait a few seconds before entering your values on certain screens, it is my current fave. I particularly like how you can set your own macros, clearly show net carbs, and view your micronutrient counts. There’s some things I don’t like – and some things that don’t work as expected, but here’s the thing: because I eat pretty simple, it’s pretty simple to enter my macros in a minute or two. Another app called Carb Manager is also good – I just prefer Cronometer.

I mess up at pretty much all of the above. Think of all of the above as the bullseye on a target for me. I aim for that center. Sometimes I don’t hit it – but that’s what I keep aiming for. Example: after a very good meal where I had two martinis (which I should not have had!), when putting away the food I ended up having some of my kid’s leftover mashed potatoes. While this didn’t cause me to go out of ketosis, it *did* cause my blood glucose to spike – my morning fasted glucose the next morning was 138. the day after it was 40 points lower.

Lesson learned: The way I eat determines if I am a diabetic. This one cheat helps reinforce the reason I have a ‘no cheat’ rule. I still drink from time to time. Usually red wine. It does not knock me out of ketosis and doesn’t raise my blood glucose – but it does increase insulin resistance and does slow weight loss – and does make me feel crappier the next day. I’m still working to minimize, if not eliminate this.

I feel better, but think I could feel better still. I still have a lot to learn not only about a long-term ketogenic diet as so much new research and thinking has been done in the past few years, but I have to learn about Me – my personal physical and emotional makeup at the present time in the context of a ketogenic diet.

Let’s face it: I’m 55. I’m probably late to the game of optimizing health – and there is certainly no shortage of people who want to tell me the right way to do this. Dr. Jason Fung, in the book ‘The Obesity Code‘ wants me to go on extended fasts lasting days.

I don’t know about that. I’ve read that there can be positive benefits – autophagy is one example – which is a recycling and cleaning of your body’s cells when you fast. (Here’s a link to some online doc I just found that discusses why it’s good for you.) Sounds good, but I’m not sure that I can’t get some of that same benefit with my 16 hour fasts – or occasionally eating once a day (which I can pull off with little effort). Or Dr. William Davis’ book and website ‘Undoctored‘ where he suggests you add raw potato as a prebiotic to a smoothie. Not too sure about *that* one, Doc – though I *did* take his advice to NEVER take calcium supplements with vitamin D because adding calcium to the diet has never been shown to help reduce bone loss – but there’s some evidence that this calcium ends up on you artery walls. I’ve got more to learn here, though to fully understand what he is saying.

I recommend both books. Dr. Fung’s makes a strong case that the focus on health for most of us fat folk leads to minimizing insulin resistance. Dr. Davis has a grander goal and proposes an entirely new medical model where patients educate themselves to treat the underlying causes of disease, be smart enough to know when to involve a doctor, and to establish a doctor-patient relationship where they are partners in decisions because the patient might just know more about their disease state – and physicians stop acting like they know it all when the hours they work and the volume of information makes that impossible.

Right now my goal is to have my next blood work 6 months (October, 2018) from the start of my diet. It can take that long for numbers that can go out-of-whack as you begin the diet to normalize. During that time I will hopefully be able to lose more weight – which should help those numbers. I’d like to further explore supplements. Some I’m taking now I could not give you a clear explanation as to why I am taking them. For example: I’m taking 6000IU of vitamin D3 per day. Why? Because my Retinologist – a ketogenic nutrition nerd like myself except way smarter – told me that’s what he takes since he read the book ‘The Vitamin D Solution‘. I have the book, but haven’t read it yet. I am going to supplement with a small amount of iodine – 300mcg – because from what I’ve been reading from multiple sources, I have some symptoms of a sluggish thyroid – and most clinicians do not run the proper tests to determine this – and even the test they do run they misinterpret. But too much can also be bad and actually *cause* hypothyroidism. I have a lot of researching to do here. I want to study this area more closely and understand why I need a TSH test, a Free T3 test, a Free T4 test, a Reverse T3 test, a TPO antibodies test, and a TgAb test. *I* also need to understand the current thinking on how to interpret the results because docs won’t order test they can’t interpret.

I also need to understand a great deal more about why a standard lipid panel is not adequate for someone living a keto lifestyle. I know the short answer: the LDL-C. The ‘C’ in the name means ‘calculated’. It’s not an actual count but a calculation that isn’t particularly accurate for people on a keto diet. The NMR test actually counts the different LDL subfractions and provides a lot more precision as there are only a few of the LDL subfrations that are dangerous. I have to be able to convince my doctor so when *he* gets second-guessed by the health plan as to why he is ordering a more expensive test, he doesn’t have to hear them bitch about it.  Or I have to convince him to write me a prescription for it and then pay for it out-of-pocket – and it doesn’t even appear that I am legally allowed to order my own blood test in New Jersey – I’ll have to drive to PA to be allowed to get a blood work I will pay for myself as New Jersey thinks it is too dangerous to allow me to make these decisions for myself?

There’s also potential dangers to the diet – depending on who you listen to. Of course, a normal diet will most assuredly give me a case of Diabetes with complications of kidney disease, blindness, dementia, and amputations being some of the wonderful complications I can expect from that. But still – if not done right – keto can potentially cause pancreatitis, gallstones, kidney stones, and dangerous heart rhythms. All this leads to the my last point.

Don’t follow me – I’m lost. Ever see the bumper sticker that says that? It’s probably the best advice – the wisest advice I can give you. Don’t go on a ketogenic diet. Don’t do this. Don’t try this at home. Most people just want to be told what to do – they don’t want to do all this ‘thinking’. Ketogenic diets are poorly understood – or even considered dangerous (often for the wrong reasons) by most doctors.

There are people who learned about the keto diet 2 years ago, lost weight, set themselves up as an expert, and run blogs and Facebook groups signing people up for expensive courses on how to lose weight. They sure *act* like they got it all figured out…but I’m not sure.

I see one group contradict another. how do you calculate your protein intake? One group says calculate it using your current body weight – the other say by your *ideal* body weight. Some say saturated fat is great – others say it’s OK, but any added oil should be monounsaturated olive oil. Some think seed oils like corn oil and soybean oil are OK – I avoid them like the plague. I don’t see much discussion about the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. This is important. I see some people recommend taking a ton of fish oil – but don’t mention that it is a natural blood thinner and could be dangerous to people already on blood thinners.

I could go on…is your head spinning yet? My wife just asked me “What do you do all the time on the computer?” I explain that I spend most of my waking hours reading and researching nutrition and ketogenic diets. I don’t think she believes me – or if she does she thinks I am crazy.

I spend all this time – it’s my hobby/obsession – but the more I learn the more I know I don’t know squat. That is why a long time ago I got out of the advice business. Please read my disclaimer if you even remotely even consider applying anything here to your own life.

I could go on but I’m sure you’ve had enough.

 

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Spicy Italian Pork Sausage Keto Meatballs – Dairy-Free, Cheese-Free, Nut Flour-Free

I try to cook new things on the weekend to increase the variety. It’s gotta be pretty simple though because while I like to experiment, I don’t like it to take that long.

I’ve seen sausage balls – meatballs, essentially – but all of them had ingredients I didn’t want – so I invented my own:

In a mixing bowl, I added:

Ingredient Calories Fat Net Carbs Protein
14 oz. mild Italian pork sausage (Whole Foods 365 Brand) 900 60 6 78
2 jumbo eggs 180 14 2 16
1/2 cup coconut flour 240 8 12 8
3 tbsp nutritional yeast 60 0.5 2 8
2 tsp cayenne pepper 12 0 2 0
2 tsp baking powder 10 0 4.6
1/2 tsp salt 0 0 0 0
Total for the entire recipe 1402 82.5 28.6 110
Total Per serving (1/21) 67 4 1 5

I mixed all this together with a fork, then rolled them into cocktail-size meatballs, and put on a baking sheet into an oven at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.

The Verdict: pretty damn good. It tasted like an Italian meatball. No one would know there’s coconut flour in it. It was maybe a tad spicy for some folks but I like spice. You might want to eliminate that if you’re not into too much spice.

This was my first time using nutritional yeast. I don’t know if it really added anything to the flavor but they do taste good – and nutritional yeast has a lot of, well, nutrition in it. If you don’t want to use that, it would probably taste OK, but I really don’t know.

As to the effort: not bad. One mixing bowl to wash. One piece of parchment paper to throw away. Rolling up the meatballs was probably the longest part but prep time total couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes.

Might be nice with a little low carb pasta sauce.

I asked my younger daughter to try one. she looked at them suspiciously: “What’s in them?”

“Pork sausage meat.” Is all I said.

She tried one. There was a pause and then: “Woah! that’s a good meatball.” Of course if I had told her they contained nutritional yeast and coconut flour she never would have tried them.

Sneaky.

After having a few more I noticed that some were a little salty in spots. Perhaps that’s a warning to mix better or cut back on the salt.

Day 40 on my new approach to a keto diet

There is no one ‘keto diet’. It has many variants that appear more or less the same to the outsider but are very different to someone deep in the thick of it – like Protestantism.

And like Protestantism, each of these variants interpret the same documents that underlie the practice, apply them differently, then follow, or try to follow a certain high-level dogma that results.

Like any set of competing belief systems, there is a necessary infighting between the variants about details. Just one of the many differences is the use of ‘exogenous ketones’. This is a product that most often contains beta-hydroxybutyric acid, which is the ketone fuel your body creates and runs on when on a keto diet. Some people have put this into a supplement and sell it.

Some variants of the keto diet think this is fine. Others will remove your post from their Facebook group if you even mention them.

Another controversy is: how much protein? Some groups recommend a lot less than others – and both scoff at the other’s interpretations of the documents that support their position.

The same goes for fat. All the groups want you to moderate it, but some make this central to their belief system – others seem to pay lip-service.

Lastly (though by no means the last), there is what I would call the position on what I would call ‘Keto food porn’. To me, this is the intricate and tortured attempt to create keto meals that resemble their high-carb inspiration, or inventions like a bacon-weave taco shell, or a round meatloaf with cheese in the center, wrapped in bacon.

Keto is very trendy right now (which will probably pass as it did before) and people are bringing enormous creativity to foods and recipes.

Some people love this. Some people think this encourages consuming extra calories, and the first group replies: who cares about calories? Just eat to satiety.

On this 2018 version of a keto diet, as usual, I came up with my own road to follow. While this time I have immersed myself in the most current thinking, joining over a half-dozen Facebook groups and listening to at least 50 hours of keto podcasts to learn what the current state of keto is.

One thing it does NOT seem to be is ‘Atkins’. While I believe that none of these people would be talking about keto if it wasn’t for Dr. Robert Atkins, who died in 2003, few people discuss him, and the current products the company he started are not held in high regard.

While you might be forgiven for using these products, you would not be applauded.

Another worrisome thing is just how dangerous this diet can be if you do it wrong – and most of these people climbing aboard the keto bandwagon do not understand the seriousness involved in altering your body fuel source and the serious medical problems it can cause. I will leave the authoritative research to others – and to you to dig up – again, I have nothing to sell and nothing to convince you to believe. These are the things I’m concerned might happen to people who achieve nutritional ketosis but are ill-informed about the pact with the devil you sign:

  1. Alcohol. If you are deep in ketosis, too much alcohol can lower that threshold for alcohol poisoning. Having a ready supply of carbs in your body can help mitigate a bout of binge drinking that ketones cannot, apparently.
  2. Pancreatitis. If you are unknowingly predisposed to this, a massive cheat can push you into this condition
  3. Gallstones. I had read that fat is necessary for the prevention of gallstones. Fat-phobic people predisposed to gallstones who try a high protein and lower fat version of keto might set themselves up for this. There could be other reasons as well.
  4. You can get dehydrated easily and your relationship to water needs to be watched. Too little OR too much can be bad
  5. Electrolytes. One thing normies eating a standard diet don’t tend to worry about is their electrolytes. People doing a keto diet do need to be careful about this because your need for sodium, magnesium, and potassium change. This can screw up the electrical system in your body – and you know what your electrical system does? It controls the beating of your heart! OK they say, I’ll just take supplements. Not so fast. TOO MUCH can be as bad as TOO LITTLE. People are messing with system not only they don’t understand, but that their doctors don’t understand.

It is for these reasons I DO NOT RECOMMEND A KETO DIET! The science surrounding this diet has been my primary hobby for more than a dozen years. To the regular person who comes along with no interest in learning the intricate details, I would not recommend this to them unless they had medical supervision by a doctor who knew the ins and outs of a ketogenic diet – and good luck finding one!

Stop reading yet? No? Ok – the rest of you left, let’s continue.

So what am I doing differently this time?

The first thing is that I have simplified my diet considerably. I have given up almost all artificial sweeteners (except sugar-free ketchup – not ready yet), dairy, nuts, cheese – and of course all grains and carby foods like potatoes. I now drink black coffee and plain water.

A partial list of what I’ve been eating for the most part?

  • Ground beef (moving toward New Zealand raised grass-fed beef)
  • Chicken thighs (moving toward organic – and I’d love to find pastured but haven’t yet)
  • Steak
  • Pork belly
  • Fire-roasted tomatoes and green chilies (for my chili)
  • Red and green bell peppers
  • Organic chicken broth
  • Lettuce (iceberg for now until people stop getting sick off of romaine which is a ‘thing’ as I write this)
  • Beefsteak tomatoes
  • Acocados
  • Asparagus
  • Organic celery
  • Eggs (organic and pasture-raised when possible)
  • Bacon
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut flour
  • Mushrooms
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Organic hot dogs from grass-fed cows
  • Sauerkraut
  • Psyllium husks

And I am planning to try experimenting with adding:

  • Ghee (aka clarified butter – considered OK in a dairy-free diet by people not eliminating dairy for religious or ethical reasons)
  • Broccoli florets
  • Nutritional yeast (a powder that sorta kinda of tastes cheesy, is full of nutrients, and might be good sprinkled on my broccoli)
  • Cabbage

I did not start here 40 day ago. It took a while to convert from my diet prior to April 2 where my primary food group was McDonald’s. What prompted the change was a sudden, worrisome trend in my blood glucose. I was seeing numbers up to 140 in the AM and they would stay elevated – even with taking metformin.

In less than 2 weeks I was able to get that number down by 20-40 points. In the mid afternoons I can see numbers in the low 80s – and this is with my stopping the metformin over 2 weeks ago.

Carb withdrawal at first was miserable. I comforted myself with an abundance of American cheese – God, I love the stuff! I also guzzled down seltzer loaded with Orange-Tangerine artificial sweetener in the evenings.

I also had Greek yogurt in work and Kerry Gold butter in my coffee. That was after the coffee and heavy cream I had in my coffee at home. I usually didn’t eat solid foods, though I would grab an Atkins shake and have some chicken broth with extra salt at lunchtime. This seemed to help with the mild headachy feeling I would get – but otherwise I felt good. Here and there was 2 squares of dark chocolate.

I gave up on the Greek yogurt because it seemed to trigger hunger during the first week.

There were some trashy, though low carb choices, along the way. Oscar Mayer bologna as well as bologna’s more refined cousin, Mortadella. Kielbasa. Pork rinds. These didn’t impact my blood ketones, which I measured obsessively. I got as high as 3.5.

I stopped negotiating with myself in the second week. I no longer thought about ordering McDonald’s and not eating the bun. I could watch people in work and at home gobble up carbs – even pizza – and it not bother me. It wasn’t willpower – it was that I had detoxed myself from carby foods and no longer had an interest. While I would not say even now that I don’t miss pizza, I don’t have this terrible craving for it, either.

Besides – I had substituted a bunch of junky keto-friendly foods to take the place of the high-carb junky foods.

To be clear: I started this particular go at the diet primarily for my health. And that worked: I lowered my blood glucose and stopped taking metformin. I also pulled off 10-12 pounds in 2 weeks. That was nice – but not the primary goal.

After the first 2 weeks the scale did not really budge, however, and while I was still committed to the diet for health reasons, I did want the weight loss to be part of it.

Finally, on day 34 I decided I might be strong enough to pull off eliminating all dairy and artificial sweeteners.

Boy oh boy, did this suck!

The cheese got replaced with more calories from meat and tomato slices with my burgers. While I still continue to use sugar-free ketchup, the amount of artificial sweetener is trivial compared with how much of the orange-tangerine stuff I would blast into glass after glass of seltzer on ice.

I started eating avocados more regularly. They can be tricky as they go bad so quickly but I’ve been able to manage. Once almost ripe, they keep in the fridge for a few days. When you take one out, eat it that day. Mostly works well.

I don’t drink the Atkins shakes. I’m drinking my morning coffee with coconut milk – and recently nothing. I no longer put butter in my coffee at work – and find that a little coffee goes way farther than it used to. I sometimes find myself not drinking any coffee at work – and when I do, it’s black. I don’t really drink fats anymore.

While not every day, on some days I find myself only eating one large meal a day. This happened quite by accident, but then I found out it was a ‘thing’ – OMAD (One Meal A DAY) or 23/1 Fasting. It seems there’s this notion called an ‘insulin holiday’. Here’s how I understand it. It is not only sugars that trigger insulin: proteins trigger them almost as well. So while your blood glucose might be low, your insulin might still be high – and as you have insulin resistance if you’re like me, eating nothing for a while gives the body a chance to not have to produce insulin as if you were snacking all day – and this might lessen insulin resistance over the long-term – at least that’s how the thinking goes.

There is a trick to this, however: eat too little and you put your body into ‘Starvation Mode’. Do this and your body can do all sorts of things – like make your hair fall out while holding on to every last calorie like a miser – and make you feel quite crappy – and there are voices on the Internet that don’t think this can be done without putting you into starvation mode.

So what I am doing is counting my macros more closely. I used a calculator I found here, and it gave me these ranges:

Calories:     1200 – 1892

Carbs:        20

Protein:    94-124 (104 is ideal)

Fat:        77-155

So the lower end is my target – and that ends up being one very satisfying meal per day. I don’t do this on all days – sometimes I have an avocado at work, and/or chicken broth. Sometimes I just have salt in water – depends on how I feel.

But you know the weirdest part of this: my narrowed food choices are liberating!

My diet seems easier. I’m not futzing around with food or thinking about food all the time. Diets can make you obsess about food more than not being on a diet. The simplicity makes things easier to track – and I hate tracking. The overhead of the diet is a lot less. I have more time for other thoughts than what I am going to eat – and amazingly enough – I don’t feel deprived.

That was the last thing I ever expected to say.

I could go on – like about what supplements I am taking – but I’ll stop here for now.

 

 

 

REPOST: Low Carb Crockpot Beef and Daikon Radish

Daikon Radish, for those of you unfamiliar with this vegetable
Daikon Radish, for those of you unfamiliar with this vegetable

04/16/15 Update – I just made this again except simpler: just the meat, fire-roasted tomatoes, daikon, an onion and Worcestershire sauce. It came out great and I thought I’d unearth it from the 2013 archives for those of you who haven’t seen this one. 

This kitchen experiment was prompted by a recipe my wife made with short ribs and daikon radish. You often find this mild radish in Japanese cuisine, julienned into fine threads and served raw with sushi. I had never considered cooking radishes, but I thought I I was eating potatoes when I tried my wife’s dish.

This gave me the idea of a beef ‘stew’ of some sort so it was time to perform an experiment and potentially waste $20 worth of food. Of course, being a hot an muggy day, I was inspired to make it a crockpot recipe (I wonder about me.)

Using just the daikon and the stew meat as the main ingredients and a large can of fire-roasted tomatoes in a supporting role, I threw in whatever else I found lying about the fridge, low carb, and reaching it’s golden years in terms of edible lifespan.

  • 2 pound stew meat
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 shakes tabasco sauce
  • 1 large can fire-roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 10 shakes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 daikon radishes, each as long as a forearm, diced into chunks about the size of a thumb
  • salt
  • pepper
  • oregano

I used the fire-roasted tomatoes in particular to save a step: browning the meat beforehand. I think this step is to introduce the flavor notes from the browning and does not change anything else about the result. I spared myself the extra time spent but getting those flavor notes from the tomatoes.

I placed the beef at the bottom, then added can of tomatoes then the cut veggies.

You will note that I did NOT use beef stock nor add water. The hope was that the liquid from the tomatoes and the juices from the meat and veggies would be enough. Crock pots are tricky in that they need enough liquid to transfer the heat to the solid pieces of food – and crock pots are s-l-o-w so you don’t know for 8 hours if you’ve created a delight or a disaster when experimenting.

I crossed my fingers and set the crock pot on low for 8 hours.

After 6 hours I had a small bowl.

The stuff was great. 6 hours proved to be enough.

The combination of vegetables made for a flavorful broth, the meat was tender, the fire-roasted tomatoes added nice flavor notes and the Worcestershire sauce and tabasco added some complexity that didn’t overwhelm the dish or make it too spicy. The chunks of daikon reminiscent of potato in texture and played their part nicely. Imagine a vegetable soup with meat and potatoes.

I didn’t know what I was going to get when I started this, but these are all fine ingredients that tasted great together.

The feedback I got was it might have used a little more salt, and in retrospect I would dice the daikon a little smaller next time – I found myself breaking the daikon into smaller pieces.

Given the temperature, eating hot soup was somewhat bone-headed as it put me in a sweat, but regardless, I think I have another interesting crockpot recipe to add to my repertoire for the colder months when this would fit the bill after coming in from the cold on a winter day.

I have one of those large oval crockpots. I’m guesstimating that we have 8 servings here. If that’s the case, here’s the nutrition info:

Calories: 333
Net Carbs: 8 grams
Total fat: 20 grams
Protein: 26.5

Zucchini Pasta in Creamy Italian Sauce – and Gizmo Review

Gizmo with bit of zucchini left over. Bloody finger not shown.

I bought this thigamijig a few weeks ago while picking up pasta for the kids. I don’t remember what the darn thing is called as someone tossed the blister pack it came in, but it allows you to take a zucchini, twist it in this contraption and make zucchini noodles. This is one of those types of things you see advertised on infomercials where, if you act now, they send you Ginsu knives or something else you really don’t need but sounds cool.

It looked like a piece of crap. I bought it anyway.

The ‘why’ seems reasonable: I already have a mandoline, a kitchen device which allows you to create zucchini noodles, but mandolines is large, come in a box with multiple pieces, feels like work, and has caused blood loss as mandolines are designed so that the user slides their fingers towards razor-sharp knife surfaces.

This thing is small and can be tossed in a drawer. It just seemed like so much less of a commitment to use it.

Today I finally opened the package and tried it with the following impromptu recipe:

  • 1 medium zucchini, twisted into the gizmo to make noodley strips.
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup pasta sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch or two of oregano

This took all of 5 minutes to make:

In a frying pan, I melted butter until it was close to burning, then turned down the heat. Next, I twisted the zucchini into noodles over the pan. Then I added the cream cheese and the pasta sauce and smushed the cream cheese until it melted. Next, I added parmesan cheese, oregano, and cayenne pepper. A few minutes of cooking – and more blood spilled by tempting fate and twisting the zucchini too far – and it was complete.

More sauce than noodles, the small amount of pasta sauce with the cream cheese made it look like a vodka sauce.

I went to eat it and my daughter wanted a taste. She loved it – so much to the point that I gave it to her and she finished it herself. She told me that it wasn’t good – it was excellent. I made a second batch – double the amount this time. While the twisting of the zucchini in the machine is simple, my hand started to get tired after the third zucchini, so while good for whipping up a quick dish for one, the mandoline still has its usefulness for larger volumes (and potential for greater blood loss).

My older daughter had some of the next batch, and while not effusive in her praise, did finish the bowl that she took.

the recipe is a keeper – and the gizmo isn’t such a piece of crap – though let’s see how long it lasts before it breaks.

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.

Quick & Easy Low Carb Oatmeal Substitute

[Haven’t written in a while and for those regular readers curious how the diet’s going: awful. I plan on writing more in the new year but for now here’s a recipe]

Recipes of this sort have been knocking around the low carb and Paleo sites for a while now and having the ingredients sitting around looking for a use, I thought I would come up with my own super-simple version.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons almond meal
  • 4 tablespoons coconut flakes
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 drops of EZ-Sweetz

You can see that the prep time for the above was about a minute. 2 minutes in the microwave, and you’re done. I did have to mix it, slicing up the mixture with my spoon as the egg had set and made it hold together. I also added a bit more almond milk, making it probably closer to the 1/2 cup mentioned above.

The result was pretty damn good if you ask me. Considering I was eating a tasty, hot and filling breakfast in less than 5 minutes, I’d say I must consider this as worthy of being added to my list of regulars. This wouldn’t be half-shabby as a dessert as well.

Nutrition Info:

Calories: 360
Fat: 30g
Sat fat: 11g
Carbs: 11g
Net carbs: 6g
Protein: 15g