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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Bestketonetest.com / Keto Mojo / Keto Clarity Club Blood Ketone Meter Review

If the title of this post isn’t confusing, then you are missing something.

A far as I can determine, The one-man keto juggernaut Jimmy Moore, who wrote a book ‘Keto Clarity’, has some relationship with a company that is able to sell blood ketone testing strips for a little over $1 each if you join the ‘Keto Clarity Club’. The site is https://bestketonetest.com/  and has Jimmy’s smiling face on the bottom.

There is *another* site – https://keto-mojo.com/ – that is essentially the same but doesn’t have any mention of ‘Keto Clarity’ and no Jimmy Moore. You get the same deal except that you join ‘The Founder’s Club’.

So yeah – a wee bit confusing. Jimmy Moore must get a cut from the first website and maybe nothing from the second.

Good for him. I’ve concluded that Jimmy Moore is far too valuable to the keto community to NOT wish him success in building a brand that generates enough money for him to continue doing what he does.

All of this aside, I bought the meter and joined the ‘Club’. The meter is expensive at $60, but if you really plan on testing for blood ketones, at a little over $1 a strip, you will save in the long run.

Yes – it’s pricy – but it is the most accurate way to measure ketones.

The pee strips that you can find at the drugstore are great to start and cheap, but their major flaw is the damn color change. It’s worthless in measuring how deeply you are in ketosis. They could be dark because you haven’t drunk enough water, or they can be light because you did.

The only thing the keto sticks are good for is a simple yes or no answer to: am I excreting ketone bodies? If the answer is ‘no’ you can fine-tune your diet to see what’s messing you up. Once you start seeing color, then you know you are on the right track.

The problem is that you can only use them at the beginning. If you succeed at getting into ketosis and stay there, the type of ketones excreted change and don’t show up in the urine anymore.

Important: you don’t need a meter to lose weight on a keto diet!

I lost 80 pounds without one.

But…for those of us that can afford one of these things, I think it’s a great product. To be clear: I’m not being paid in any way to write this, I have no connection to the company, and I wasn’t given anything for free. I bought and paid for this myself.

I find the device to be very well-built – perhaps the best-quality meter I’ve encountered. It is easy to use – if you don’t mind stabbing yourself and bleeding of course.

And for a numbers guy like I am, I find the ability to get precise number to be very helpful in staying keto.

You can also save money on the test strips in the long run by a simple testing routine:

  1. At the start of your keto diet, test once in the evening to get a 0.0 reading to prove you’re not in ketosis and the damn thing works.
  2. Don’t test on day 2.
  3. Start testing once in the evening on day 3. If you’re doing things right you should begin to see the numbers go up. They tend to be higher in the evening. It might take longer then 3 days so if you know you’re eating to the keto way and not filling up on processed low carb crap and you’re watching your protein intake, save your strips and wait until day 5.
  4. While you’re in ketosis if the number is above 0.5, the ‘sweet spot’ for weight loss is supposedly between 1.5 and 3.0. At the end of a week without cheats, test yourself throughout one day to measure how your body’s ketone levels fluctuate. Write these down and keep these as your reference levels. If you are not at least at 0.5 at each reading, you might want to examine your diet to see what food might be messing you up.
  5. After that, if you’re numbers are good, there’s little reason to obsessively test except to see if a new food has an impact, you cheated, or your usual routine was disrupted in some other way.
  6. After a month, do another round of testing throughout a normal day. As you become keto-adapted the numbers might change.

Following this plan you can get those 50 strips to last you 3 to 6 months and still have good, solid numbers to reference.

One last note: while I also check my blood glucose, I don’t recommend the Keto Mojo glucose test strips because they are double the price of the meter I use.

I’ll leave that discussion for another post.

Fat, Dumb & Happy Day 9

March 18, 2014 – 223.2

Feel much better today. Still in ketosis. I’m thinking perhaps the ‘healthy veggies’ in my soup were perhaps not so healthy. I’ve come to distrust almost all general health and nutrition advice  – and the more emphatic the announcements the more I distrust them – and feel very on-my-own to sort things out.

On my way to work I picked up more roast beef and Kerry Gold swiss cheese. The woman at the deli counter said about the cheese: “Good, isn’t it? I can only order it around St. Patrick’s Day.” How did she know I liked it? Perhaps my walking up and asking for that particular brand without hesitation showed her that I had it before and knew what I was buying.

“You mean you can’t order it after?”

“No – but I can still order it now – maybe I’ll buy another case before it’s unavailable – you’re not the only one who likes it.”

“If you buy it, I’ll keep coming back to get more.” I smiled.

As this is my new favorite cheese – I mean it.

5:30pm

All I ate today was the Kerry Gold Irish Swiss cheese and roast beef – and I feel a hell of a lot better than yesterday. I might have been able to eat more after the 2 servings I had, but I wasn’t obsessed with eating like the past two days – it’s a world of a difference.

Can I really have a food allergy? I’ve always thought of myself as someone who didn’t have allergies to *anything*.

(Well, maybe you can say I’m ‘allergic’ to carbs.)

If I keep experimenting and find this reaction to these vegetables consistently happens…well, that sucks. I love tomatoes and tomato products. I love the spice of peppers. I like artichokes but they aren’t a ‘core food’ – if you told me I could never have one again, I could deal with it.

Tomatoes and peppers, however, leave me somewhat mortified – though as I once heard from a toxicologist: ‘the toxin is in the dose’.

Perhaps I can still have these in limited quantities and not have problems – and not make myself ‘Solanine Soup’ again. Another experiment.

8:30pm

Dinner was more of the roast beef and Kerry Gold Cheese – this time with mayonnaise. I also had a Fage yogurt with some sucralose, and some wine and dark chocolate. I have been blaming wine for carb-fests for years – was it really the culprit? Or something else in my diet? I had the wine, the carbs all around me were left untouched, and I went to bed the regular hour without any noticeable hunger.

Maybe it’s more complicated than I thought.

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.

The 2014 Diet – Week 1: Surfing the Urge

From years of personal experience, I think one of the best ways to sabotage a new diet is try to do too much too fast. Instead, for the first week of the new year I am only focused on one goal: eating only the allowable foods for my personal low carb plan, which are:

  1. Meats, eggs, and dairy products full of what I consider ‘good fats’
  2. Butter, extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil
  3. Nuts and nut products from only almonds and macadamia nuts
  4. Non-starchy vegetables
  5. 70% or more dark chocolate and pure sucralose (EZ-Sweetz) to calm any sweet tooth

That’s pretty broad. There’s no calorie-counting, tallying macronutrients, exercise requirements or even the slightest bit of portion control. Many might not agree with the allowing of artificial sweeteners, but to me the point isn’t to punish myself for past food transgressions nor is it to attain instant nutritional/moral perfection – the point is to just get myself acclimated to eating to a workable plan. I can always fine-tune it later.

While the above list includes a lot of tasty foods, it removes a lot as well:

  1. Any wheat products – I’m experimenting with a gluten-free diet.
  2. Any sugar except for the tiny amount in the dark chocolate
  3. Any fruit except berries
  4. Starchy vegetables like potatoes

Removing just those 4 items from my list has made my grocery store a much smaller place. As you’ve surely heard, all those inner aisles are pretty much made from those 4 items.

Too bad I like all those things.

To deal with any feelings of deprivation after a few months of indulgence in anything I wanted that I need to get unused to, I am going to try practicing a few techniques I came across in ‘The Willpower Instinct’. I highly recommend the book because while I have already played with many of the techniques mentioned, the book is structured in a way that presents them to maximum effect – way better than you’ll read here.

So here’s the two techniques I’m focusing on this week – one is the primary and one is the backup.

‘Surfing the Urge’ – here’s an amazing realization that seems to me might be the key to all dieting success:

All strong food cravings eventually go away whether or not you satisfy them.

Think about it: cravings have an ebb and flow to them. Whether it’s drinking, smoking, cupcakes or a loaf of crunchy Italian bread, the craving is sometimes stronger than other times. Instead of resisting the urge, don’t give into it but rather go into it: explore how it feels, maybe like getting stuck in a rainstorm and getting so wet and being so far from shelter that you go beyond the point of even caring. It is what it is, you deal with it, and feel the feelings you feel almost as if you are watching yourself, and eventually their power will lessen and your mind will move on to other things – and eventually you’ll be able to change out of those rain-soaked clothes.

Usually my feelings are of feeling sorry for myself. I don’t resist the feelings, nor intellectualize them, nor shame myself for having them: I just let them run their course. If I’m genuinely hungry, I have plenty to choose from that I can eat instead of the prohibited foods, so it’s not like I’m punishing myself (though that’s what the whiny inner child thinks). Eventually the feelings lessen – perhaps they grow tired of themselves, like someone never given a chance to speak that is suddenly given the floor and, with their newfound freedom, find they have nothing to say.

There’s a second technique as a backup to Surfing the Urge, when the feelings feel unbearable and you can’t bear the feeling anymore.

‘In 10 minutes’ – If surfing the urge isn’t cutting it for me, I promise myself I’ll give in – in 10 minutes. somehow, this stupid trick you play on yourself can actually work. Whatever primeval aspect of ourselves this connects with can actually be fooled by this. Again, imagining that you are talking to a child is the best analogy because this part of you *IS* still a child in a sense. Telling yourself: “in 10 minutes” can calm this aspect of yourself – and there’s no reason why the next time the urge comes back you can’t say ‘in 10 minutes’ again – you can keep this game going as long as it works for you.

These 2 techniques will not guarantee perfection – don’t think they do and discard them the first time they fail you – but if they get you 50% of where you want to be, you’re half the way there.

Let’s see what a week of this brings.

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”

Shopping Low Carb: Whole Foods, Supermarket, Trader Joe’s, and Amazon Subscribe and Save

Shopping low carb – at least the way that I do it, can be a pain in the ass. The reasons for this are:

  • The conventional supermarket has the most variety and the best prices generally, but the specific items I’m looking for are either unavailable or at a higher price
  • The specialty markets (ie: Whole Foods) have more of the items I am looking for and the prices are comparable or better than they would be at the conventional supermarket – the problems is that the rest of their stuff is immorally overpriced
  • The ‘value specialty markets’ (ie: Trader Joe’s) provide an eclectic selection that ranges from treasures to junk
  • Some things are only available mail order – or only economical mail order

What this means is that I have become used to buying food at 5 different stores.

A pain in the ass – see what I mean?

Let’s take a tour.

Continue reading “Shopping Low Carb: Whole Foods, Supermarket, Trader Joe’s, and Amazon Subscribe and Save”