Low Carb FAQ

[UPDATE: I am busy with a number of things and thought I might leave this post in place for a while, updating occasionally with new questions. Let’s see how this goes]

A lot of people get to this site through search engines, and I can see what these folks entered into the search bar to find me. A lot of these form questions, and I thought I could save you the miserable experience of reading through my site and instead provide a short FAQ of my answers to popular questions.

Please note I said my answers – not the answer. I am no expert. Consider me just some schlub answering your question and not any authority on the subject. Do your own research: I might be a loony.

At present they are in no particular order – and will probably stay that way. I’ll put the most recent at the top so the readers who keep tabs on me don’t have to dig.

Continue reading “Low Carb FAQ”

Atkins Induction Day 5 – This Ain’t It

I have had a tough week – but a good one as well. I’ve been busy as all get-out, and pushing a lot of work through me. I haven’t smoked since I stopped, thanks to the nicotine lozenges – a problem in themselves I need to deal with but at a later date, and I’ve avoided alcohol. I have also been on what I characterize as a ‘news diet’ where I avoid the daily Wagnerian drama of the news. I am completely uninformed – but I am also less distracted. My mind is clear, and Things Are Getting Done – and that’s a nice feeling.

The  *ahem* ‘Low Carb Diet’ has not been successful at all, however. I got the mornings and the afternoons down pat: low carb all the way: a full fat Greek yogurt, heavy cream, tuna and mayo, chicken thighs with sour cream, roast beef and butter – all good stuff – with the exception of the mayo – too much seed oil in my way of thinking.

Evenings are the problem. They start good, descend to ‘OK’, then plunge into ‘what the fuck?’ territory. This first night, sitting with my wife in the kitchen while she ate after coming home late, a clear plastic container of bite-sized lemon cupcakes with white cream and a dollop of pure lemon-sugar goo, looking like the yolk of a tiny egg, sat on top in the middle. If they weren’t in front of me. If they weren’t in a clear plastic clamshell box. If they weren’t *lemon* I might not have crumbled.

They were good, mind you – these were above-par as 2-bite cupcakes go. The sugar blast didn’t obscure the lemon flavor – they were in a good balance to one another, and the cream was real – light and also properly sweetened so as not to overpower the flavor note of the cream itself but rather enhance it.

My only qualm with the product was this ‘2-bite’ labeling. They were single bite. I know: I had 4 and each one only took a bite. I’ll have to write a letter to the manufacturer about this mislabeling.

It’s been like that for the past 2 days, with other temptations and similar patterns, and history shows that evenings on a weekend are particularly rough. The only saving grace is that my ‘busyness’ will extend into the weekend and I won’t have too many opportunities to graze – though my rushing hither and thon *might* cause the consumption of crap on the run.

My tracking has also been haphazard  and I need to focus on improving that. I find it helps – even in the casual way I do it without worrying over every single calorie. It makes it much simpler, but I haven’t even done that to the level I want to be at for the past few days.

It’s why I call dieting a practice – and sometimes a ‘practice’ goes lousy for a while. It’s not a reason to give up the practice, or get upset – you just keep practicing until you get over whatever hump you need to clear – that’s all.

I did cook some BBQ last night so I have some low carb food prepped in the fridge. I do have a chance I catching a tailwind. We’ll see

.I’m 3.6 pounds down from my high of 213.6 on Monday, so it hasn’t been an entire failure.

Success in anything is a combination of smarts, hard work, and good luck. You can work on the first two, and it – sometimes – leads to increasing the chances of the third. I’ll keep practicing – ‘starting low carb induction every day’ – until it clicks.

It’s just the way I am.

Atkins Induction – Notes on Day 1

I am thinking that if this amuses me, I might try to do a quick daily  – or maybe sorta daily – chronicle of starting my low carb diet up again. We’ll see how this goes. When I begin a low carb diet I take a very personal and somewhat strange approach – but I’m almost too close to it to notice. I’m going to try to tease these tidbits out, though I give you no assurances that what I do is safe – or sane. It’s not advice – just reporting. Make of it what you will – I don’t mind.

If I do this, I will have to hit the ‘publish’ button without too much rereading, so if these appear rambling or redundant it might be because they are stream-of-consciousness. My apologies beforehand – there are many things I don’t publish because I over think them.

So anyway…

In work I stuck to roast beef and butter, then a plain greek yogurt. Dinner was 2 pork burgers (ground pork cooked like hamburger), 1 hamburger wrapped with swiss cheese, some low carb ketchup, and a slice of low carb bread, toasted, with olive oil, oregano, and salt.

You’ll notice that except for a slice of low carb bread and the ketchup, which made up maybe 5% of my total calories, all of my foods are pretty perishable. I think eating food that rots easily is an important part of eating healthy.

You’ll also notice there’s not a lot of ingredients. The total number of ingredients in my entire day’s food would be less than on a typical microwave dinner. There’s also cultured foods – both the cheese and yogurt are cultured – or given the change to be eaten by microorganisms before I eat it. Very little of my total ingredients were put into chemical drums and shipped from a chemical factory. The bread and ketchup certainly contain these items, but again, they were only 5% of my calories.

There was also nary a vegetable in sight. I like vegetables – some of my best friends are vegetables – but I personally don’t feel the need to have them every day, all the time.

I also had 2 teaspoons of Carlson’s Cod Liver Oil. This is an experiment on my part. I bought it on a whim and it is too soon to not if I think this stuff is good or if it isn’t, but I will tell you – a little research shows this stuff is, like most things in nutrition, somewhat controversial – but that’s for another post.

I (somehow) maneuvered myself around the paella, the rice, the Chex Mix (‘Mmmmmm – Chex Mix’ Says my inner Homer Simpson.’) The temptations were there, but I managed to avoid them.

As to how I felt, my energy flagged toward the end of the day. Understandable as I worked from 8am to 6pm straight – mostly complicated brainwork. While I had coffee in the AM, I am drinking much less than I used to. I once could go through 3 pots a day – now I am down to perhaps half that. Still a lot – but not for me until recently.

Before bed I took a metformin and an adult multivitamin. I do not have diabetes but I have a strong tendency in my family for it and would like to forestall its onset as long as possible. The ADA (American Diabetes Association) says it’s OK to give ‘pre-diabetics’ metformin for this purpose, and I got my doc to agree.

The adult multivitamin I take because it doesn’t have iron in it. With the meat I eat, I don’t need more iron. I am suspect of ALL supplements – for a number of reasons – and even take this one wondering if it helps or harms. I take it because I most certainly am not a slave to the notion of a ‘balanced’ diet and think that there are probable some micronutrients that I am deficient in – it might help.

I am also sucking on nicotine lozenges. Having used them to quit my brief and intense relationship with cigarettes a few weeks ago, I am now addicted to them. They do not help with weight loss – I have proven that to myself. Apparently many people do believe this as I get many hits to my failed experiments on this. I read on some weightlifter blog that I was ‘clueless and doing it wrong.’

Sounds like me.

My daily totals for Monday were as follows:

Calories: 2,602 – a little high, but I’m OK with it
Fat: 201g (71%) – about the range I shoot for
Net Carbs: 17g  – fine with it
Protein: 169g – a little high

Not a bad first day, and while I don’t obsess about the number on the scale, getting all bent out of shape when it doesn’t go in the direction I like, it did go down to 210.6, which is a 3 pound loss. I’ll take it.

Starting Again – Again

If there is one thing I would like to banish from the diet community mindset it’s that you can’t ever, ever eat the way you used to and not gain all your weight back. As I’ve surely said before, much of nutrition science isn’t ‘science’ like physics is ‘science’ – it’s folklore.

Perhaps not exactly folklore. Yes – plenty of researchers have run many test on many rats, mice, rabbits and people and discovered interesting things about nutrition along the way. Even assuming that all of it is true, things start to get very fuzzy very quick when at the end the researchers draw their conclusions. Conclusions very frequently find very subtle tendencies that come off as much more definitive in the conclusions drawn. Sometimes the conclusions don’t match the data collected at all. Then herds of people who collect particular types of conclusions to validate their preconceived notions find the studies that best validate their points of view and collect them like trading cards, inflating the points that support their view, and poo-pooing the ones that don’t.

I have been spending a lot of time lately reading books on the history of food, diet, nutrition and digestion, and let me tell you: while the researchers might have more modern lab equipment and no long wear frock coats to work, much of what eventually comes out of all the measuring and probing looks no different from what was concluded 100 or even 200 years ago.

Atkins himself only popularized a diet that had already existed in a number of forms for years. He learned about low carb reading research by another doctor, and that doctor was, no doubt, inspired by a chain of others going back to the 1800s when a fat undertaker lost a lot of weight on a low carb diet and wrote his ‘Letter on Corpulance’.

This has all left me rather suspect of ‘nutrition science’ in general and ‘weight loss science’ in particular.

I think I have arrived at the point where each of us must not seek the perfect weight loss guru, but rather find that guru in ourselves.

The next question that surely arises is: how do I find this guru then? You find it through experimentation and patience, trying this and that until you find what works for you. Edison was said to have tried 10,000 different materials as the filament in his light bulb before finding the one that actually worked – at least for a few hours.

I am sorry to say, that you, my dear dieting friend, probably need that same sort of tenacity and ability to fail over and over without discouragement in order to attain your goal.

The good news is that this does not mean a grim life of deprivation unless you choose to hitch your wagon to those sort of gurus that propose a grim life of deprivation. Life might be a puzzle to most of us, but one thing is clear: we were meant to enjoy food. And there are ways that we can eat and be satisfied and even lose weight, but as of yet there is no single royal road to this goal.

We are biologically different enough in the ways we have adapted to eat, and contain very different chemical oceans inside of us. Low carb has been very good to me and my health so far. I am certain that my way of living might have proven fatal to others.

It’s with these thoughts that I begin yet again to rein myself in so that I can pull off some weight. At 213.6 I am at my highest. I got here because I chose to – not so much as a bizarre proof of my dieting prowess but simply because I wanted to eat pizza with the works, ice cream bars and a juicy steak and wasabi mashed potatoes at the Mother’s Day dinner yesterday. I ate without guilt, and to the point of bursting. It was fun. I love food, and the inch-thick steak went well with the dipping sauce and the potatoes. The two baskets of bread before the dinner did not stop me from polishing off my plate, though toward the end I must admit that, like a marathoner, I wondered if I was going to be able to reach the finish line.

It was close – but I did it.

To further set the stage, this year has been a doozy in terms of stress – and I am a stress eater. The stress got so bad that I even started smoking again for 3 weeks, and was quite heavily drinking Trader Joe’s cheap red wine on an almost daily basis. These got old pretty quick, however, and I stopped both – I made myself sick of both, and am now only sucking on nicotine lozenges – better than cigarettes, certainly, but another annoying habit I will have to kick in the near future. I don’t see it as something bad, however – it’s just ‘something to deal with’.

Diet, nutrition, health, longevity and exercise have all gotten too wrapped up in morality. Both Hitler and Gandhi were vegetarians – I think that makes the point sufficiently.

And what about ‘health’? Should we reach the end of our lives ‘preserved’ or ‘spent’? And does what we eat really matter too much in all of this? Genetics play a big role in this. Years of ‘good eating’ might still land you in an early grave, and it is well-known that many centenarians have been found to have a fondness for cigars, booze and rich foods.

Your name is in that book and there’s a date next to it. You might be able to move it around a bit, but I don’t think that you can move it much. And even if you could – is a long grim life of deprivation worth the trade-off?

As Mae West said: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

One thing I am pretty sure of is that eating ‘virtuous foods’ – ones that proclaim their healthiness on their boxes or packages – is about the surest way to RUIN your health.

So today, with no guilt and no regret, I will again begin my diet. I’m going to start with an old favorite: roast beef and butter. Mostly fat and a little protein. I’ll also bring yogurt to work.

If I know me, I’ll probably fail – but then I’ll begin again. And again, if need be. It’s not the diet that works, it’s the constancy of diet. That ability to begin over and over and not let failures discourage you that seem to lie at the core of whatever success I have had. First and foremost, it’s about learning to lose weight without making yourself miserable.

So I start again. Let’s see what happens.

New Years Resolution to Lose Weight in 2013? Your LowCarbConfidential.com Quick Start Guide


This is the time of the year where the traffic to my site skyrockets as folks decide that they want to make a change for the better in the new year and have decided to try a low carb diet to lose some weight.

Unfortunately, I have over 500 posts here, and it’s a bit harrowing to try to navigate all this – even for me. Really – at 500+ posts, I might want to begin to pare down some of the less useful posts (ie: crap) so that people don’t get lost in all this.

Before I do that, however, I thought I could provide a guide to some of my more popular posts – as well as some of my own favorites that I think would be most helpful in hitting the ground running on a low carb diet. Continue reading “New Years Resolution to Lose Weight in 2013? Your LowCarbConfidential.com Quick Start Guide”

How I lost 10 Lbs.: Jan 2, 2011 to Feb 5, 2011

My Weight from Jan 1, 2010 to Feb 5, 2010

On Jan 3, I wrote this post, starting a new stab at peeling off the pounds. To spare the internet more pointless blogging, I stated that I’d write about it again only when I lost 10 lbs. It’s really only interesting then – most of us play around is a 5-pound range and it’s water weight a lot of time. But when you get to 10, some fat had to go.

This morning the scale read 222.0. I lost 10 lbs.

It took about 5 weeks to lose it. I did it in my usual half-assed way, but the weight did come off. That’s a respectable 2 pounds per week – the recommended rate. I actually chronicled many of the days, but it’s just so much blah, blah, blah that I’ll spare you and give you the short version:

The Good:

  • Ate lots of kale soup with locavore pork sausage, burgers from grass-fed beef with organic onions, Fage yogurt, nitrate-free hot dogs, organic eggs, organic butter, organic lettuce, high-end low mercury tuna, sardines, smoked oysters, broiled trout – among other things low carb, on my healthy list, and forgotten.
  • I’ve noticed a general lack of cravings for sweets (though I’ve had my moments)
  • Some days, my appetite goes dead – I have to remind myself to eat.
  • While I don’t check every day, I’ve been in ketosis on and off throughout the month.
  • I’m controlling my blood sugar. In the past, I’ve woken to blood sugar as high as 157, and averaged it the 130s. Now I’m seeing blood sugar in the 80s twice in a week and my average is staying below 120.
  • Indulged myself here and there. A cookie here, a Lindt chocolate ball there. Some Chinese food that probably contained carbs I could have avoided. Half a slice of pizza and the leftover pizza toppings my kids pull off. I lived a little, gave in to my cravings in moderation, and still took off 2 pounds per week. It adds a balance to my life to be able to do this and still lose weight. It’s not easy, but it seems to be getting easier.
  • There is a direct correlation between my weight and my happiness. Despite the bad and the ugly below, I feel better.
  • My clothes that I bought in the fall to fit me – before I put on even MORE weight – now fit again.

The Bad:

  • Probably drink too much coffee, though I’ve noticed my cravings for it decline in the past month.
  • Drank too much red wine, which I’m sure has slowed the rate of weight loss.
  • I’m seriously torn about vitamins because I’ve come to believe we can’t trust what’s in ’em. I have only had my vitamins a few days in the past 5 weeks. I don’t know what’s worse – taking them or not taking them.
  • I don’t eat consistently. No routine. Sometimes when the appetite goes dead, I don’t eat for extended periods, which I don’t feel is good for you.
  • While trying to avoid chemicals, I have indulged in the SodaStream soda mixes, nitrated deli meats, deli cheese and putting EZ-Sweetz on my Fage yogurt, though I am adapting to having the plain Fage yogurt without the sweetener – sometimes I do – sometimes I don’t.
  • I have been sick with a chest cold since December. I think I’m on the verge of shaking it – but I’ve been saying this for weeks now. I’ve been the victim of the Northeast snow and freezing rain, and I’m sure having to shovel snow for hours has not helped me get better (though it might have burned some calories – quite a workout).
  • I gave up the exercise when I got sick – figuring that I needed rest more than exercise – but I haven’t started up yet.
  • I probably don’t eat enough veggies, with the exception of the kale soup – I’ve simplified and refined the recipe and it’s awesome. Throw some shredded cheese on top and melt it into the soup and it’s even more awesome.

The Ugly:

  • The nicotine lozenges, which helped me kick the cigarette habit I briefly took up during my vacation, is now a habit.
  • Unusually high levels of stress from work have not made things ideal for cutting back on the wine or the lozenges – both have to go, but right now isn’t the time – I need to get through a crisis period at work and have a clear head to tackle these.

The Curious:

  • I noticed what could be coincidence – but maybe a correlation? On a number of nights after a very low carb day, I would splurge with a small high-carb treat – say 20 grams of nearly pure glucose – and in the morning my blood sugar would DROP. My unprofessional, amateur endocrinologist hypothesis is that insulin response needs periods of ‘exercise’ to keep in top shape when on a very low carb diet. Most people’s insulin response is like a chronic, obsessive exerciser – exhausted from too much working out. But on a very low carb diet, it gets time to relax and recover. The occasional Lindt chocolate ball is like moderate exercise and keeps the insulin response fit and trim – but what do I know?

So now on to the next 10 – see you at 212.

Atkins Induction: The Rules This Time

I’ve been in the state known as ketosis, brought about by following the rules of Atkins Induction, more times than I can count. I have also been either very successful or not-so successful at staying in Induction for an extended period of time and losing weight.

While I am not recommending long-term ketosis- Atkins doesn’t, and you’ll find few people who do as there’s little research as to what it might do to long-term health – I try to stay in Induction for extended periods – months.

Anyways, for those of you who don’t follow my blog, to summarize the last couple of years: I’ve been maintaining while trying to lose – win on one level, but a big fat fail on another.

I lost my weight in 2003, when I was a carb fiend. Such an abrupt change to low carb produced phenomenal results: 65 lbs. in the first year – another 15 in the second.

As is standard with losing weight and aging, some has crept back on. I’m still down 50 lbs. from my high in 2003, but I’m not satisfied.

So I did some looking back at what I’ve tried that succeeded, what failed miserably, what caused initial progress to evaporate, what and what traps have I fallen into again and again. Continue reading “Atkins Induction: The Rules This Time”

The Food Monotony Project – Day 6 Update

A screenshot from the iPhone app ‘Lose It’

I started what I’m calling the Food Monotony Project on Tuesday, Jan 19, and since that day I’ve eaten mostly to plan. The thinking behind this goes back to a blog post I wrote in July of 2008. I forget a lot of my posts, but the points in this one kept rattling about in my head -I kept thinking: maybe I should try out these ideas for real.

Only took me like a year and a half to get around to it.

This past week, eating during the day was some combo of Atkins shakes and bars. The evenings were mostly bologna on a slice of low carb bread. The calories from Tuesday through Thursday were below my budget of 1,683 (more on that number in a minute). Monday through Thursday worked because I ate my evening ration (hard to call it a ‘meal’) and took a nicotine lozenge right after. Friday was a blowout – way too much food in the evening – simply because I forgot the ‘lozenge after eating in the evening’ rule.

No matter – Saturday morning showed me 6 lbs down since Tuesday – and the application I am using to count calories – Lose It (see screenshot above) – tracks calories by the day and week – which put Friday night into perspective by showing me that – for the week, I was right on track – the previous few days of being below my calorie budget added up to the amount I overate on Friday.

I’m not exactly thrilled to count calories, but eating fewer foods, and foods that are easier to measure, make the task suck less. In reality I am counting carbs first, but watching my calories as well. And – except for Friday, I’ve been able to keep those carbs, on average, in the low 20s. Continue reading “The Food Monotony Project – Day 6 Update”

The Food Monotony Project

Earlier in the year, I bemoaned my lack of weight loss and set a goal for the year of losing 40 lbs. – then did nothing to try to reach that goal. There’s been a number of life changes at work and at home that have put the pressure on and lately, I’ve felt that actually just getting through the day is achievement enough. This happens to all of us – it’s nothing to feel sorry for yourself about, or to dwell on unnecessarily, but instead you brace oneself for a bumpy ride, hold on to your seat, and wait till things smooth out, which they usually do eventually.

During this time, the thoughts about what to do different this time led me back to something I rejected long ago, as well as something I wrote on 2 years ago. The first thought was on a post about food monotony, that is, food as a utility. It’s a notion I had that part of the problem about dieting is that you replace one food obsession – eating too much – with another type – eating the correct types and quantities. I speculated that just thinking about food less might be many naturally thin people’s way of keeping slim. Continue reading “The Food Monotony Project”

8 Days in Ketosis and 10 Lbs. Down

I’ve been lax in journaling – I promised I would do so some time back.

Apparently I lied.

Anywho, I have been quite adherent to an Atkins induction-style diet, and have been in ketosis for about 8 days straight. When I started this, about 10 days ago, I had puffed up to 218.6 due to a ‘what-the-hell’ attitude, which I find I sometimes have to indulge to an extreme to exorcise it.

I believe: if you give in to ‘what-the-hell’, don’t do it half-hearted – go for it!

You will probably feel like crap the next day – a great way to steel one’s resolve and get back to your diet.

Last night I got on the scale and was 207.8 – nearly 11 lbs. down. Yesterday I was able to actually fit into a pair of pants that 2 weeks ago were cutting off circulation to my lower extremities – a nice indicator of progress.

So what have I been doing? Continue reading “8 Days in Ketosis and 10 Lbs. Down”