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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you think this is a good idea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can The Soap You Use Make You Fat AND Cause a Heart Attack?

Maybe – if it’s antibacterial soap.

First, let me point out that ‘antibacterial’ soap is completely unnecessary. The FDA says so:

the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.

It’s a marketing ploy – a magic word on a label that is supposed to make you feel one particular soap is better than another. We’re scared of germs, and some sharp tack came up with ‘antibacterial’ soap to play to this fear.

And we fell for it.

Now it’s an antibacterial arms race of sorts. The chemical that gives soap – and a lot of other products – an antibacterial action is triclosan, which is a pesticide approved by the FDA in 1969 – betcha you won’t find that fact on the soap label.

There’s also the potential that the stuff can disrupt our endocrine systems – the system that regulates our hormones and can make us fat:

‘In animals studies triclosan lowers thyroid hormone levels

As well as a concern in the medical community that all this ‘antibacterial’ this and that is sort of a Crossfit workout for germs, making them stronger and more resistant as they evolve to resist these chemicals – causing more antibiotic-resistant germs to exist – which means that when you *do* actually get a bacterial infection that is life-threatening, it is becoming more likely that docs will have a hard time finding an antibiotic that can effectively treat it.

But let’s not quibble over these minor issues, right? We’re going for bigger fish here – new research that shows that triclosan actually weakens your muscles. If you’re not a jock and think this doesn’t concern you, remember: your heart is a muscle. While the entire article is worth a careful read, let me cherry-pick a single quote from a probably disreputable source – Smithsonian Magazine:

”The effects of triclosan on cardiac function were really dramatic,” said co-author Nipavan Chiamvimonvat. “Although triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potent cardiac depressant in our models.” He speculates that in some cases, triclosan may be responsible for exacerbating heart problems in patients with an underlying condition.

Oopsies.

The good news is the FDA is ‘looking into the matter’ at present and might or might not do something about this ingredient appearing in adhesives, fabrics, vinyl, plastics (toys, toothbrushes), polyethylene, polyurethane, polypropylene, floor wax emulsions, textiles (footwear, clothing), caulking compounds, sealants, rubber, carpeting, and a wide variety of other products. They are going to ‘begin the process of reviewing in 2013‘.

Don’t you feel better?

Finishing up my little rant here, the Smithsonian piece ends with a quote from one of the researchers. It’s a classic of scientific understatement:

”Triclosan can be useful in some instances, however it has become a ubiquitous ‘value added’ marketing factor that actually could be more harmful than helpful,” said study co-author Bruce Hammock.

Ya think?!?

 

Know It All Diet Researcher Says He Knows It All – No Further Discussion Necessary

Not too long ago I read an interesting article in the New York Times entitled In Dieting, Magic Isn’t a Substitute for Science. It starts with a question that deserves a thoughtful answer:

Is a calorie really just a calorie? Do calories from a soda have the same effect on your waistline as an equivalent number from an apple or a piece of chicken?

The reason the NYT is even asking this question now is because of the research that recently came out that seems to indicate that high protein or Atkins-like diets have a small metabolic advantage over simply calorie-counting.

Now – the study was small – it is really, really hard to do this sort of research. Expensive and time-consuming – and unless you do these studies on prisoners, it’s hard to be sure exactly what these subjects ate exactly. Nonetheless, it is an interesting finding, when put into perspective as less than definitive.

The NYT talked to Dr. Jules Hirsch, emeritus professor and emeritus physician in chief at Rockefeller University, who has been researching obesity for nearly 60 years, who quickly dismissed this study as so much hogwash.

Now, I don’t want to be accused of taking a cheap shot at a gentleman I do not know, but the good doctor has been involved in research for 60 years, during which time the population has only gotten fatter. Something’s going on here:

A Year of Losing Weight – or Maybe Eight Years

Last Thanksgiving, after a year where I had ballooned up to about 238 pounds rather quickly, I recommitted to low carb yet again.

Today, one year later, I am down to 205.

That works out to 33 pounds in 1 year, or 0.63 pounds a week, an absolutely horrible number – if you’re in a rush about things. But for me, its different. I’ve been doing this low carb thing for eight friggin years. It’s not a diet I go on thinking I lose weight, then go back to old habits and somehow thinking the weight won’t come back.

You take a different perspective when you’re in it for the long haul like I am. Eight years ago I was 265. Today I am 60 pound lighter. Plenty of people can lose a lot of weight, and almost all of them gain it all back within five years. I didn’t, which makes me something of a freak.

I’m sure you’d all like to know my secret, and I’d love to tell you – but the more I reflect on it, it’s not all that simple.

I’ve concluded that low carb, at least for me, is not what you think. And losing weight is not just low carb.

Losing weight and keeping it off for the long-term is more of an elaborate con job that a person must consciously perform on their own mind, their body, and on other people. And a big part of the con is that what works now might not work later, so to keep the con going, you have to be prepared to adapt.

For me, 8 years ago, the place to start was Atkins. I got the book, followed it, and got myself into ketosis – lots of ketosis. I got used to living on very low carbs – maybe under 40g per day – and did so for months at a time. The weight came off: 70 the first year, and another 10 the second that got me to my target weight.

I felt great and had more energy and mental clarity than ever. I was also completely insufferable – blabbing on and on about low carb to anyone who would listen. The problem is: no one cares. And if they might care, like other fat folks, they think you are a little nuts to go on low carb.

Being an insufferable food fanatic aside, I had given up alcohol as part of this 2-year go at the diet. This was hard as I had always loved drinking. A die-hard beer drinker, I gave it up forever. At the 2 year mark, however, I thought I could add alcohol (though not beer) back in, so I would have red wine, martinis, and vodka & tonics.

Bad idea.

I’ve done a lot of (ahem) personal research in this area and have concluded that if I want to maintain my weight loss – as well as be able to manage the inevitable weight gain that tries to creep back – I need to completely abstain from the stuff.

So here’s the bargain: drink and gain weight or don’t drink and lose weight and/or keep it off.

I have been trying to prove this bargain wrong for the better part of the past 6 years and have not been able get it to work.

So I’ve stopped drinking, completely, about 6-7 months ago, and I believe it has contributed to my weight loss.

I’m lucky in that my life is not one where the conviviality of alcohol is an important component of my happiness. I don’t go bar-hopping, don’t ‘watch the game with the guys’, nor do I do much of the other things that usually involve alcohol.

I like reading and writing, and spending time with my family. Call me boring.

For those of you that do enjoy partying, I am well aware of the problem. People who drink to have a good time want you to drink as well, and it is awkward to say no. There is also the tendency to think that people who don’t drink and once did must be alcoholics – and if you are not drinking, you not only must be one, but you bring to mind in others that they might be one as well.

It is also hard to stop drinking without sounding sanctimonious.

I think PJ O’Rourke once said something to the effect that: you have to drink to prove you are not an alcoholic.

The subject of drinking came up yesterday with a bunch of young adults I work with. Asking my drinking habits, I said: “If I drink, I get fat – so I don’t drink.” Said to a bunch of skinny kids just getting their start in a world of alcohol-laced good times, I’m sure that I sounded weird. One girl said to me helpfully (as everyone is a diet consultant): “Just don’t drink beer.”

If only…

Our drinking discussion continued as I had much drinking-related experience to share with them, and I doubt I came off as sanctimonious, but you never can tell. No lectures necessary, no detailed personal stories required, except the personal excess stories that people relate in good humor about the joys of alcohol. I remember. I enjoyed them. I have only good memories as alcohol was never a problem for me – I just don’t drink anymore.

So maybe I’m not totally cool, but I’m OK, I guess. Or maybe not. I’ve long ago given up caring what other people think about me, which is handy if you are going to go on a low carb diet anyway.

Next up is that I have come to the conclusion that low carb doesn’t work in the long run. Now, before you freak at this heresy, let me explain.

Low carb is a con job that you can pull on your body and lose a bunch of weight that will stop working after a couple of years.

The good news here is: Low carb works for a couple of years.

In low carb circles, there is talk of ‘The Golden Time’. It’s that magical first-time shot at Atkins where the weight melts off. The story usually continues that the individual relating the story then gains the weight back, and their second go at Atkins does not work as well.

This is a complicated thing to understand (for me, at least), but as I see it, you are fat forever. Once you have gained weight, you have acclimated your body to that weight. No matter how thin you might get, your body remembers that higher weight, and wants to go there again. I read of a study that measured chemical markers (or some such thing) in fat folks who lost a lot of weight and they were similar to the markers of people who were starving.

I can only conclude that the best way to avoid being fat is to never allow yourself to get fat in the first place.

Yeah, I know: a little late for that wisdom.

So all this sucks, and if you’d like to set some time aside to feel sorry for yourself, please do so. I always recommend feeling sorry for yourself as part of a normal and necessary grieving process – but put a solid end date on it. Commit to a solid period of teeth-gnashing, wailing, and hand-wringing, but put a circle around the day on the calendar when you’ll stop. Get it out of your system. Then c’mon back and let’s get back to business.

OK – done feeling sorry for yourself? Then let’s continue.

Here’s why low carb doesn’t work in the long run: your thyroid.

Anthony Colpo, once a darling to the low carb community, has spent enormous time and energy bashing low carb because he experienced symptoms of hypothyroidism after being on low carb for a couple of years. I think he’s right. I myself have experienced some of the same issues he mentioned, as well as others:

  • Feeling cold when other people don’t
  • thinning hair
  • depression
  • crappy memory

As your thyroid controls your metabolism, and a slower metabolism means that weight loss becomes harder, this also means that extreme low carb will ultimately fail – and might lead you to go to a doctor because of the depression and crappy memory and instead of accurately diagnosing the lower thyroid, they misdiagnose you as depressed and put you on a anti-depressant, which might deal with the depression, but provide you with a whole host of new issues to deal with  – and still not address the fundamental issue of low-carb-induced hypothyroidism.

Here’s a link to Anthony Colpo’s article on low carb and hypothyroidism. Please be advised – he’s a bit of a jerk – and he knows it – but I still like him and think that his points here have some science to back them, as well as my own experience.

Anthony’s failure in all this is to think that low carb is bad because people in the low carb community think that low carb is forever. I think they’re both wrong.

I think – and am betting on – that ketogenic low carb is a great way to lose weight, but it’s use is limited to a few short years at most. After that, a more complicated meal plan – one that not only allows for, but needs carbs, becomes necessary to keep the metabolism up and running.

So if you’re new to this – ignore Anthony Colpo for a year or two. Then carefully read what he has to say. Use your one-shot at ketogenic low carb for all it’s worth, and be aware that just when you’ve acclimated yourself to avoid nasty, evil carbs, those same carbs will come back to save your ass from hypothyroidism.

Now, there’s one important assumption that I am making here that I freely admit I might be wrong about – because what the hell do I know?

My assumption is that hypothyroidism induced from ketogenic low carb is reversible. I might also be wrong, not being a doctor, that my self-diagnosis of hypothyroidism is even correct, though the fact remains that hypothyroidism is known to be under-diagnosed, at least this hyperbolic website – Stop The Thyroid Madness – thinks so.

Others do too, but I’m too lazy to link them – find ’em yourself.

Now you might make a reasonable argument here: why would I go on any diet that could cause hypothyroidism? Great question.

I answered that for myself as: because every other diet I tried doesn’t work.

I lost a lot of weight in my twenties by strict calorie counting and exercise. I gained all of it back in a year – and then some.

I lost a lot of weight in my thirties by strict calorie-counting and exercise. I gained all of it back in a year – and then some.

I tried going on an extreme low-fat diet (Dr. Ornish). I never lost any weight.

I went on low carb in my forties and lost 80 lbs., stopped suffering from the symptoms of GERD, stopped eating tums like candy, stopped getting low blood sugar plunges in the afternoon that I could barely keep awake through, have kept a family propensity for diabetes from occurring, had greater mental clarity, and more energy – and have more or less kept a good portion of this weight loss off for most of the last six years, and done so without exercise, which I don’t really enjoy.

I’ll deal with the possibility of hypothyroidism 60 lbs. lighter over all that other stuff. I ‘can’t have it all’.

The introduction of carbs is tough – it’s like threading a needle. I love carbs, and given the opportunity, I would sit and eat a bag of chips like any good fat person could. While I try to avoid bad carbs like the chips, candy, cake, cookies and the like – I don’t.

I do have much less than I used to, before low carb, in the days when my junk food consumption took on awesome proportions, but I am still able to pack away a good amount of carbs before I know it.

This probably has something to do with my 0.63 lb per week weight loss, but there’s another aspect to this.

Sustainability.

Is a diet that goes on for 8 years a ‘diet’? Is the whole concept of ‘dieting’ so screwed up that we are all doomed to fail at them? How can we possibly think that we can undergo some temporary period of deprivation to get thin and we’ll stay that way? It’s rubbish.

I might be spinning a fantasy out of whole cloth, but I might be able to look back at the past couple of years and say this:

After the first few inital years of ketogenic low carb success, the onslaught of age, along with the reduction in thyroid function, combined with alcohol, began the inexorable climb in weight – which I beat myself up over even though it wasn’t really willpower, but rather a combination of things. As I increased the effort, I not only saw no results, but decreased my thyroid function further, making me a cranky and depressed bastard to be around. I then recognized that I was beating myself up over it, with my family as collateral damage to all this, and stopped. When offered carbs, I didn’t act like I was attacked, I ate them. I enjoyed myself, the food I ate, and my family.

And my weight ballooned. Obviously, low carb works for me because when I stray from it even for a few short months, the weight comes back. Like I said before, my body is permanently fat, regardless of my weight, and unless I eat a certain way, I will gain it all back.

I don’t look back at this as a bad thing. It was learning. Effort is not without cost. Willpower can get you through some things short-term, but long-term goals need something else.

When I recommitted last November, it was with the new angle that I would not allow myself to engage in self-abuse as part of the diet. I do my best. If the family wants to do something like go to a restaurant that’s high carb, I do my best there, too. And that might mean carbs, and it might mean a day in the proverbial toilet as far as the diet is concerned, but it’s family, it’s joy, life is a series of moments that never come again, and I am not going to miss them, or participate under a cloud of resentment and acrimony because of a diet.

There are plenty of other times that I can enforce an austerity in eating – a food monotony, if you will – that keeps this all together. Eating at work I reduced to a routine that is simple to maintain and that I enjoy. I have my Fage yogurt when I get hungry first thing in the day – whenever that is. I don’t manage my weight as much as my hunger. Folks – I find this to be the single most important thing you can take from this rambling post. If you manage your hunger, you won’t suffer as much. So I eat when hungry – screw the science about eating breakfast. If it works for you – great. I’m listening closely to find my own rhythms.

Next meal might be a can of tuna or sardines. If I cooked over the weekend, it might be some low carb meal I cooked.

Evenings are hit or miss. Sometimes its low carb. Sometimes not. I always aim for low carb, but if that falls by the wayside, I try to limit the portion size. Considering that my total carb count until evening is possibly as low as 5 grams, coming home and having some bread at dinner, which seems lavish for a low carb dieter, can still keep my total net carbs under 50. One slice of bread is maybe 11 grams net carbs.

You might argue that I am wasting my carb intake on bread, which is far less good for you than the carbs from vegetables. I agree. But unlike alcohol, I would like to maintain a truce of sorts with bread and eat it in limited amounts as the past year has proven I can.

For the past month, I have plateaued between 205 and 210. A lot of dieters get frustrated at plateaus – I’m not. On a long climb, a plateau is where you can rest, reflect, and gain energy for the next part of the hike. Switching metaphors, I went to the casino, and won – and I’ve walked away from the table, and kept my winnings. I still low carb, but I don’t do it guns a-blazing right now. The holidays are coming and I’ll focus on keeping my gains only.

The last part of this regards science. I’m sick of science, really, and at this point I’m giving that a rest. I’ve concluded that if I wanted to, I could pick any position regarding weight loss and nutrition, back it up with science I find on the Internet, and have rousing debates with other folks on the Internet who might believe essentially the same thing as I do, but differ in the details.

It can be quite interesting, the character assassination notwithstanding, but does all this science achieve what we all want it to achieve: health and weight loss?

Looking around, it doesn’t appear so.

Right now I’m spending my reading time on the history of diets and the history of medicines, as well as the sociology of diets and dieting. Without an understanding of history, we can fool ourselves into thinking ‘we’ve got it figured out this time!’ while with history, we can see that sometimes it’s the same damn thing all over again, it’s just this time our technology is better and more precise.

It doesn’t necessarily mean our thinking has evolved, but that we’re more sophisticated fools.

I’m going to conclude this ramble with an apology. I’m sorry I took you through this meandering mess of thoughts. The post I wanted to write is in here somewhere, but my time to write is limited. We’ll have to go with this – and I’m sorry if I wasted your time.