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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‘The Magic Pill’ – A Documentary

 

On April 2, 2018 I started a very strict ketogenic diet. The main reason was not to lose weight.

It was to prevent what seemed to be the onset of diabetes.

Mom, Dad, Sis, and Bro all got it – my siblings got in their 40s. I didn’t, maybe because I’ve been trying at least to maintain a low carb diet since the early 2000s, but at the beginning of my 50s that number began to climb toward a fasting number of 125 – the definition of diabetes. I began taking metformin and got the number to go down.

That was a few years ago.

Fast-forward to 2018.

While never having diabetes, I spent my own money monitoring it. I began finding that fasting number beginning to come close to 125 – and sometimes leaping into the 140s. i would measure throughout the day and many times it remained elevated.

Because of my family history this set off alarm bells.

On April 2 I began a strict keto diet and have maintained it since. I’m down about 13 pounds, which is a nice side effect, but it wasn’t the focus this time.

Within 2 weeks my blood glucose went down between 20 and 40 points. At certain parts of the day it even goes into the low 80s.

I stopped the metformin about a week ago – and my blood glucose is fine – still touching the 80s during the day.

I eat mainly pastured butter and fatty meat, and zero carbs except for green leafy vegetables and stuff like asparagus, pickles, kimchee, sauerkraut, celery, cabbage – the very low carb veggies.

What has exasperated me in some of the chatter in Vegan circles is an absolutism in their chosen path – like there’s no other way to good health. Being a Vegan is *a* path – and a path with heart – but it’s not the only path. I am not here to say ‘I’m right and they’re wrong’ – I don’t see this as a zero-sum game. And you might notice so far my trademarked snark absent. I do that as sport, though sometime people do get hurt – which is never my intention. I’m being serious here.

What I have envied in the Vegan approach is a spiritual aspect – keto / Atkins – whatever you call it – has always been a Yin without the Yang to me. I’ve buried my nose in the science and found it plausible enough – and my personal experience corroborating it – that I have a scientific belief – but I found it spiritually empty and so my journey to become a ‘Cranky Buddha’ did not fit with my diet.

Now I feel I’ve found the Yang in ‘The Magic Pill’. The documentary shows people experimenting with a keto diet of whole foods and eliminating insulin to treat their Diabetes, eliminating chronic asthma, lessening the symptoms of Autism in 2 children, dramatically reducing epileptic seizures in one child, and appearing to lessen symptoms of early dementia in one woman.

But that’s not the point. I knew these were outcomes reported on a ketogenic diet that are being investigated.

Where I found my Yang was in the last half-hour. In there it shows how we have perverted our natures and ourselves through agriculture – and it does so elegantly.

We have paid the price in chronic health conditions almost unseen before the 20th Century because we have worked against the natural order of nature.

I’m not quite there yet myself, but I believe I an heading in the right direction – and this documentary lights the way in that it frames the keto experience as a natural expression of our humanness. The science behind Keto is attempting to catch up with what Humankind has known for tens of thousands of generations – except for the most recent where we have lost our way.

If you’re a Vegan, I still encourage you to watch. Maybe afterward you can check out the Facebook group ‘Vegan Keto Made Simple’. You won’t find a nicer group of folks on Facebook – I guarantee you.

For you folks either on a low carb / keto diet or doing your research, you shouldn’t miss it either.

Kitchen Experiment: Homer Simpson-Style Low Carb Vegan Pumpkin Almond Suprise

The ‘surprise’ was it was good.

Our cupboards are filled with the discards of good intentions never followed up on, of exotic treats and unusual ingredients that go unused, of family food-fads that peter out and leave us with excess Water Chestnuts, applesauce cups, or Quinoa that seemed like a good idea at the time but now when offered up to the kids is reacted to as a punishment.

I was looking for something different – something sweet – and something that wouldn’t totally ruin the fragile hold I had on the start of a low carb diet. I found one of those aseptic boxes of cooked, unsweetened, unspiced pumpkin – the sort of thing you’d use for a pie. I don’t ever recall seeing it – but I also don’t remember looking for boxed pumpkin, so that might have something to do with it.

I’ve tried just sweetening this stuff with some sucralose in the past but that just doesn’t do it.

Then I noticed the forgotten almond flour. I try to avoid too many Omega-6s and most nuts are chock-full of them, but I’ve promised myself that I wasn’t going to get anywhere at present if I put too many restrictions on myself. Almond flour is low carb, high fiber, and tastes good, too.

I don’t have measurements for you but the box of pumpkin was roughly the size of your regular soup can, and I kept putting in almond flour until it had thickened considerably. Maybe 3/4 cups? I mixed well, and gave a taste.

Not bad. The almond flour ratcheted back the intense pumpkin flavor and the pumpkin blunted the almond flavor. It tasted like what? A pumpkin pudding? Pumpkin cake batter? I could picture throwing in a couple of eggs as binding and baking it into a cake of sorts but I didn’t go there.

It really wasn’t bad as-is. As a young adult/dope I used to occasionally buy rolls of cookie dough and eat it raw so I have a little Homer Simpson in me – and this was way better for me than that was. It *did* need a little touching up, however, so I added about 4 drops of liquid sucralose, maybe 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, and a 1/4 tablespoon of nutmeg and mixed well until no powder showed in the mix.

If I had intended to make this rather than bumbling around it would have taken less than 5 minutes.

I ate maybe a cup of the stuff and was quite satisfied. Whatever flavor-hole needed filling, this did it, I have maybe 3 cups left and can see myself probably finishing it up in the coming week.

I also realized the purely by accident it happened to be vegan, which helped the title of the post be even more absurd than it already was.

UPDATE 5/9/15: I have received comments on this that essentially say: ‘Worst. Recipe. Ever.’ Despite this, I’m having some for breakfast today and I still think it ain’t that bad. If you like pumpkin pie, it’s not a bad substitute in my opinion. Go ahead: hate on me, hate on my recipe.

Kitchen Experiment: Low Carb Pork Belly Chili

It didn’t start out as ‘pork belly chili’. In fact, I had no idea what I was making. There was a nearly 2 pound chunk of pork belly aging in the freezer and I needed to make something low carb for the coming week. The pork belly would be the star – but who would be the supporting characters?

I put the still frozen pork belly in the oven at 300 degrees and shook some of Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute – a mix of spices that seems to work for anything – on top. I tented the thing with foil and went to Trader Joe’s to figure out what was going to be the supporting characters for our porky star – and hoping the house wouldn’t explode while I was away.

The place was crowded and my first choice – cauliflower – was nowhere to be found. Trader Joe’s is a great store, but produce is not one of their strong suits. Instead I rounded up the following:

  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 container of organic white button mushrooms

These are all good low carb ingredients, though one might quibble over minor flaws in each of them if you really tried. Eggplant is part of the ‘deadly nightshade’ family, for example.  I didn’t want to play that game of going so extreme to analyze each one to that level of detail. They might have their flaws, but they were ‘good enough’.

At home I added some things from the cupboard and some castaways:

  • 3 onions
  • 3 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 box of cherry tomatoes that had not aged well after being abandoned in the vegetable drawer. I cut away the bad parts and tossed them in.
  • 1 large can of fire-roasted tomatoes

I had let the pork belly cook for 2 hours, then had taken it out to cool. Once I could cut it without getting burns I chopped it into bite-sized pieces and tossed it in to the veggies I cut while it was cooling. The beauty of pork belly is it comes with its own oil, so the vegetables cooked in delicious pork fat.

I peeled the eggplant and diced it into small chunks – going for roughly the size of the pork belly chunks – about the size of a pinky tip.

I had no idea what i was creating until it was done. When I tasted it, it had too much of an eggplant taste. Blech. I then decided to turn it into a chili by adding:

  • chili powder
  • cinnamon
  • cumin

No measuring, just eyeballing. I *do* tend to be heavy-handed on the spices, if that’s any help. Lots of chili powder, half as much cumin, and half of that in cinnamon is the best guidance I can give.

When my carnivore daughter came home her nose caught a whiff of meat, chili powder and cumin. Her eyes widened: “What smells so good?”

“Chili.” I said.

What I haven’t told you is that she is not too fond of pork belly. Bacon she’s good with – in fact, any part of any animal – if prepared well – had better watch out. THIS 16-year-old girl will not be turning Vegan any time soon.

“Is it ready?” She asked.

“Yep”.

She took a bowl and tried some. She gave me the thumbs up sign as she ate. While she has a sophisticated palate for a teenager, she has been exposed to Dad’s low carb cooking for over a decade. While she would rather starve than eat anything sub par – I wish I were the same – she liked this.

I personally find that the eggplant, if diced into small pieces, can bulk up the chili – and eggplant has the wonderful ability to soak up oils which works well with pork belly. The strong flavors of the spices minimized the eggplant flavor notes – which just did not go with pork belly in my estimation – and made the texture more complex.

I’ve done similar recipes – I’ve played with the definition of ‘chili’ enough to create what some people would label ‘abominations’ – but this one got readily eaten by the members of the family who could care less about diets and low carb, so for me – it’s a keeper.

The April Fool: Day 7 Continued

I got up late – most likely due to the fact that I woke up choking in the middle of the night. Ugh. I also felt like merde. My breakfast of black coffee didn’t seem to bother me much – my body is far too used to this to consider it abuse – in fact, I sometimes find black coffee *settles* my stomach – but I don’t know how THAT works.

Lunch was a Fage yogurt with EZ-Sweetz and by then I felt a heck of a lot better. Not 100%, but not like I did when I rolled into work. Mid afternoon I felt a slump coming on and treated myself to Dunkin Donuts coffee with cream – of course I always get the largest container they have.

Late afternoon was 3 pieces of American cheese and 2 hard-boiled eggs with ketchup.

At home we had a friend over and my wife had ordered pizza. I came in a bit late after having to detour to the high school to pick my daughter up from practice. I said my greetings, avoided the pizza and garlic knots with mariana dipping sauce and went for my oldest avocado. I mixed it up with some salsa and sour cream and sat down with them at the kitchen table next to a plate of my younger daughter’s half-eaten pizza and knots and ate my dip with chip.

My friend knows of my – ahem – peculiarities – in eating but it came into the forefront because I was sitting there eating like this in front of him for the first time.

“So what do you eat?”

“Well, I tend to eat a lot of fat. I feel better this way. I try to get 70% or more of my diet from fats.”

“You avoid saturated fat, right?” He smiled.

“Oh no – I eat plenty of saturated fat.”

His smile froze. He was born and raised in France and is one of the nicest and most gracious people I know, and he wasn’t going to be impolite and tell me that I was insane.

“Saturated fat isn’t actually all that bad for you, its seed oils like sunflower oil and peanut oil that you find in most processed foods that contain way too much Omega-6 that I believe is bad for you.”

“So I suppose you don’t eat a lot of nuts.” He offered.

“Well, some nuts are worse than others. I avoid peanuts but I eat macadamias. It depends on the nut. I drink almond milk, which isn’t that bad. I really can’t eat the way most people eat – I feel awful and get fat doing it.”

I then said: “I suppose you can call me a food faddist. Yes – my diet is a bit extreme. But before I ate this way I was 265 pounds. I ate this way and lost 80 pounds – and the only reason I’ve gained weight is because I DON’T always eat like this.”

“Look at me.” He said. “I eat whatever I want.”

“You are a product of a culture that always ate freshly prepared whole foods. You’ve always been athletic. You moderate your intake of sweets. this stuff was ingrained into you from childhood. I lived in a culture where you grab a box of processed crap, add water, microwave and you have Mac & Cheese. 30 years of you eating and living your way left you thin and fit. 30 years of eating my way left me metabolically-damaged.”

“I’m not telling you to eat the way I do.” I continued. “You’re fine. Me – I eat they way I eat and avoid a host of problems.” I then told him this story that I wrote but never became a blog post but now it is.

I go to the grocery store and the woman at the checkout asks if I’ve ever tried the grass-fed frozen beef I’m buying. I tell her no, and say that I sometimes buy the grain -fed organic. She answers: “I *only* eat grass-fed.” For the brief time it took for me to check out, we found common ground in keeping grains to a minimum, shared a laugh over one of her fat-phobic customers, but differed on whether low carb is ‘going too far’.

In work, a pair of perpetual dieters do the low-calorie, low-fat diet and exercise. Not being one of ‘them’, I diet alone. Lean Cuisines and low-fat yogurt populate the fridge at work, brought in by others who keep their dietary habits more mainstream.

On a business trip, at dinner, the person to the left of me told us they were a vegan raw foodie who ate whatever they wanted when they traveled, but at home lived on vegan paleo smoothies. A strapping, handsome guy – it apparently suits him well. The person across from me was into Crossfit, the exercise cult, and was being pressured to go full-blown Paleo but was only doing it part way, to the chagrin of her trainers.

To the right of me was a fellow who ‘ate meat only when offered’ and said he ate a lot of hummus.

My wife inundated me with daily diet tidbits from her social network, apparently filled with people beginning to feel their age and catching glimpses of the spectre of death for the first time: “if you avoid/eat X you’ll live 20 years longer.” She’ll say sagely.

On the phone with a colleague I noticed her speaking about 30% faster than normal. I didn’t recognize her voice initially and told her.

“Oh, I’m doing a cleanse and it must be the energy shake I take every morning.”

Maybe it’s me, but it seems like everybody is following – or trying to follow – a diet routine chosen somewhat haphazardly or even randomly – a friend recommended it, Dr. Oz recommended it, or they just cherry-picked a bunch of rules and rolled their own diet.

The French culture has a healthy relationship with food for the most part. My friend never *had* to think about these things because the habits he was raised with are by their nature healthy and come to him without much thought.

“You mentioned you have a blog – what is the name?”

Now I got uncomfortable.

“I keep it anonymous. This way I can write freely. I wouldn’t be able to write it if people I knew read it – it’s an experiment in authenticity. It’s really a sort of private diary that I should probably keep to myself but instead I post it.”

“It’s really quite boring.” My wife chimed in.

“It is.” I agreed. But people still come. There are a lot of little niches out there and some people – especially people trying a low carb diet – find this stuff interesting.”

“I think it is also somewhat voyeuristic.” My wife added. “People like to look into the lives of other people.”

“That’s true. People have admitted that to me. But I also get comments about how a particular post resonated with them, or how my blog keeps them going on their own diet. Because I post frequently, Google is very kind to my blog and people who are starting low carb stumble across mine. One post I dashed off years ago has gotten 70,000 hits – some famous authors haven’t gotten that many people to read their stuff in times past. This year I am on track to have 750,000 page views.”

Thankfully, the subject got dropped about this time and we moved on to other topics. As I might have mentioned before, my anonymity is important to me. If I know my friends were reading this I would censor myself – and there would be little point in continuing. Discussing my waking with GERD the other day is TMI for my circle of friends. Unlike most miscreants, I don’t use my anonymity to be an idiot to other people – I use it to express myself without the burden of my public persona. If you think about it, this is how it was for the vast majority of writers even 50 years ago. Few people would ever tie them to their work. Even using their real names, they had an expectation of anonymity for the most part.

Today with the Internet, maintaining an Internet presence becomes a part of your public persona. Before you go on a job interview, the HR person is going to Google you. I think this has led to a very great loss: the pursuit of unattractive authenticity. Honest, deep feelings get left on the cutting-room floor because we need to meet certain societal norms. To some extent we’ve become an Internet of ‘posers’ and are constantly warned through stories about people posting honest opinions that sometimes there is a price to pay for honesty.

It’s why I hate Facebook: my friends – who are my friends because I felt a deep connection to them – seem like cartoon cutouts of their real selves. There’s a community pressure to conform and breaking this means you can be forever typecast, labeled, and once labeled, discarded. Labels are a way of drawing conclusions and moving on. You become: ‘the lady ow always posts cat pictures’ or ‘the guy who posts bible quotes’. All the rich complexity that is ‘you’ disappears and you become as deep as a minor character in a bad sitcom.

All that aside, after our friend left I ate a bit of the cheese my daughter pulled off her pizza and went to bed to read.

It sucks not having pizza. It sucks not eating the raspberry ice cream my daughter left on my nightstand – but I felt a hell of a lot better by the end of the day than I did at the beginning.

And that truth would not be posted for those of you who find value in it without my anonymity.

Confirmation Bias News for Low Carbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I feel so much better – don’t you?

 

2014 Diet: How I Eat Makes Other People Uncomfortable and Wishing for Death

[This is directly from my weight loss journal – thought I’d share]

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 – 219.6

Up at 4:50am. Had my coffee black. Wrote a blog post then headed to work after getting the kids out to school. In work I had my first coffee with coconut oil. Around noon I had a yogurt. Then about 3pm, hungry and stuck on a conference call I had my kale soup from the freezer – cold. Um, no – it isn’t good this way, but I had another hour on the call and was hungry. I also had an Atkins bar.

On the way home the kids wanted McDonald’s. This has ceased to be a regular thing and had become the occasional ‘treat’ so I said OK.

Would Dad resist the smell of fries wafting up from the bag next to me? Dad did.

At home I saw my wife had bought salted butter imported from Belgium – a favorite. This has caused me to grab a piece of bread more than once, but I tried it on some raw zucchini instead – nope – a non-starter. It does work on pork rinds – but I’m out of those so the butterfest will have to wait.

My younger daughter asked me: “Daddy, do you still eat butter all by itself?” This is the second day she’s asked about my food choices – perhaps she’s finally awoken to how odd her Dad eats in comparison to the rest of the world.

“I never eat it alone – I usually put it on something.”

She related when the daughter of a family friend had visited and asked: “Does your Dad still eat butter all by itself?” I don’t know how this urban legend arose but I do recall having the family over for dinner and discussing diet many months ago. The friend’s younger daughter seemed incredulous – the father felt the need to emphasize my disclaimer that I eat this way because of 40 years of metabolism-damaging eating habits as his daughter was tending toward weight gain at the time and had embraced the standard ‘healthy diet’ – although the family embraced home-cooked, whole foods and portion control and the kid has no need for my kind of diet – hers is fine for her.

“Well, Kayla asked when she was here last week ‘Does your Dad still eat butter by itself and I told them yes and she said yuck.’” I must have made quite an impression – and perhaps her Dad reinforced my craziness after the visit to be sure his daughter didn’t get any ‘ideas’ – I’m fine with that. While low carb has gotten more mainstream press as of late, it is still abnormal. Far less accepted than other fringe diets like Veganism or Paleo that tend to evoke more respectful curiosity than full-out attack that low carb still gets.

Seriously: how I eat makes other people uncomfortable.

Anyhow – back to eating. I ate a lot, and for the first time since I started, did a pretty good job of tracking. After having more than 750 calories before I got home, I had an additional 1,750 or so for dinner. Two hamburgers on ham with cheese and low carb ketchup. Cheese with mayo and lettuce. Half an avocado with salsa. 4 pieces 90% dark chocolate – and another big glass of almond milk which has become my new best friend.

My pretty accurate tally for the day was:

Calories: 2,654
Fats: 189g (66% of calories)
Net Carbs: 31g
Protein: 160g

As to how I felt, I was a little lower energy than the past few days though my mood was calm. I was in work and in the midst of trying to sort out the details in a high pressure situation I briefly had the thought ‘I wish I was dead.’ This is not uncommon – many coworkers related similar passing notions such as: “If my plane crashes, at least I won’t have to tell the client X.” It is not suicidal thinking but rather a release valve.

What seemed out-of-place when I had the thought was the sudden realization that I had not had *any* of these thoughts for a few days – it’s lack of presence was suddenly noticed.

I am deep in ketosis – again – is there some connection with mood? I think so, at least for me.

When I got up this morning to weigh myself I figured with the kind of eating I did last night I would be lucky if I maintained. Instead, my weight dropped almost 3 pounds to 216.8.

Low carb never ceases to amaze me.