‘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.

Creamed Asparagus and Scallion Soup

UPDATE: I’ve been eating this the past couple of days and have a few tweaks to add

I love my immersion blender. 12 bucks or so at most large grocery stores, these things can take the place of a regular blender or food processor with minimal cleanup.

I was searching the Internet for something low carb I might be able to make with some ingredients I have lying about and came up with this idea based off another recipe I found.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of fresh asparagus
  • 10 scallions
  • 1 box (32 oz) chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/3 pint heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 20 turns of the pepper mill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using a soup pot I melted the butter on high heat while washing and cleaning the asparagus and scallions. I chopped it in 1/4″ lengths. Thrown into the pot with the butter, I stirred on high flame intermittently for about 10 minutes while looking for the rest of the ingredients and the immersion blender.

Be careful with asparagus. While I cut off more than an inch of the bottom stems, it was still more fibrous than I would have liked and might be off-putting to some. My solution: cut the asparagus – especially at the stem end very, very closely together to be sure any fibers will be as short as possible. The immersion blender won’t fix this.

I do this with kale when I make kale soup and use the stems and it works splendidly.

After that, in went the chicken broth. I brought to a boil, then added the garlic and onion powder, turned down the heat, and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Once the simmering was done, I turned off the heat and blended until smooth. Then I slowly poured in the cream with the immersion blender on.

Now it was time for a taste – and I came up with a trick to have a good-sized taste with the extremely hot soup not burning my mouth.

We have some small metal ingredient cups about the size of the business end of a soup ladle. The keyword here is ‘metal’. Using a soup ladle I put a few tablespoons into the cup. It became almost too hot to touch – good. All that heat was being conducted out of the soup into the metal cup. To make something hot, you got to make something else cold. In less than 30 seconds I had a mouthful of the stuff at a temperature that would let me taste it.

It was very good – creamy and flavorful. I did think it needed a little salt and put in a teaspoon at that point and mixed it again with the immersion blender.

Oops – maybe just a teensy-weensy too much salt – the broth and butter brought their own salt and it was *almost* enough. My advice if you try this: be careful with the salt.

The final product was delicious. It’s a one-pot meal using only a few utensils and in a half-hour you have a great soup for a cold, possibly snowy day. It’s also suitable for vegetarians who use dairy – not usual for my recipes.

I did find after repeated lunches of the stuff that it was missing ‘something’. I added more salt and pepper at work and it was better, but it could have used some other ‘something’ – but what?

Any ideas out there?

Recipe – The Cream Spinach Fat Bomb

Quick and easy to make – and quite good.

I’d better be right about fat being harmless though or I might be in a body bag after this one.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1/2 box of cream cheese
  • parm cheese (the stuff in the cardboard can)

Directions

Thaw the spinach in the microwave for 10 minutes. It will leak so place the boxes on a plate to catch the leakage.

Once thawed, let stand for 15 minutes at least – it will be too hot to handle the next step.

Now that it’s cooled, use a strainer to squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as possible – but don’t kill yourself over this – good enough is good enough

In a microwave-safe bowl, toss in the spinach, along with a stick of butter and the cream cheese. After about 4 minutes the butter and cream cheese should easily mix into the spinach without fuss and to my surprise got absorbed into the spinach. There were no puddles of butter as I feared.

The taste was good but a little lacking. A healthy sprinkle of the canned parm cheese made it perfect.

It *looked* like ordinary creamed spinach – but we know better. This innocent-looking creamed spinach was a Cheesecake Factory-style Fat Bomb made to look ‘lite’ and ‘healthy’. It was one of those menu items where you’d go: “Oh – I don’t know *how* they can make creamed spinach so tasty!”

Just for the heck of it I ran the numbers for the whole thing in my LoseIt! iPhone App:

  • Calories: 1,408 (1,200 of these calories come from fat)
  • Fat: 135g (81%)
  • Carbs: 37g (10%)
  • Protein: 33g (9%)

I would say that realistically this serves 4 – which means I ate 4 servings in one sitting.

Me and my body need to have a little ‘sit down’ to talk about ‘portion control’ – ya think?

This would be a splendid recipe for a pot luck – and you can look ’em in the eye and say it’s ‘diet’ – though change the subject if they start asking questions about the recipe. Based on the crowd at the New Year’s party I went to, this would have been gone in a flash.

Need I say it? This is safe for a ketogenic diet. In fact, it is *so* safe you might want to dial it back a notch – though this is ideal for people doing a ‘fat fast’ (though you don’t eat as much as I did). It is also vegetarian as long as they are the type that do dairy – there’s so many variants it’s hard to keep track.

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?

 

Why Do So Many People Look Down on Low Carb Diets?

I find it amusing from the perspective of a guy who actively seeks out saturated fat in his diet that people are still stigmatized for going on a low carb diet. Despite the fact that a lot of research has come out in recent years vindicating low carb diets from being labeled dangerous quackery, I STILL find it challenging to find a full-fat yogurt or 80% lean ground beef in my grocery store as everyone still seems so enamored of low-fat options.

Something about low carb elicits a sense of revulsion in many people – so much so that many low carbers go to great lengths to hide their adherence to low carb.

Why is that? Why would low carb – just one of many diet approaches you can find in your bookstore alongside some very wacky alternatives – be marked with a scarlet letter?

Here’s some of my guesses:

Continue reading “Why Do So Many People Look Down on Low Carb Diets?”

From a Paper in the AMA Journal: Let’s End the Diet Debates

Right after I posted this last post, I read an article that makes it seem like I’m not alone in my thinking.  The authors of a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association just last month seem to be thinking along the same lines as I am:

As the obesity epidemic persists, the time has come to end the pursuit of the “ideal” diet for weight loss and disease prevention. The dietary debate in the scientific community and reported in the media about the optimal macronutrient-focused weight loss diet sheds little light on the treatment of obesity and may mislead the public regarding proper weight management.

I find the ‘science wars’ on nutrition and weight loss tiring. Looking for the ‘best’ approach to weight loss is the wrong approach. ‘Best’ needs to be defined by the individual. Everyone who wants to lose weight should experiment with multiple approaches and find not only the approach that works for them, but also makes them happy. It’s a lifelong thing – and I hate the word ‘struggle’ – I’d rather call it a ‘practice’. Every day, show up for your diet, ‘punch the clock’, make the effort and then after giving an approach a chance, evaluate how you feel physically and psychologically. Continue reading “From a Paper in the AMA Journal: Let’s End the Diet Debates”

Cauliflower Rice – A Low Carb Substitute for Rice

It’s obvious to us low carbers that rice is a no-no. I love rice, however, and so does my wife, who does not follow a low carb diet per se, but is looking for ways to cut back on her carbs a bit.

I had remembered an old low carber trick I had never tried: using cauliflower as a rice substitute. Cauliflower does not taste like rice, but the flavor is mild enough to act as a low carb substitute in dishes where the meat and sauce is placed on a bed of rice.

You might be asking yourself: “cauliflower is nothing like rice – how does this work?”

Continue reading “Cauliflower Rice – A Low Carb Substitute for Rice”

Atkins Induction Day 9 – Actual Atkins Induction

I can usually feel it coming on – but not this time. I suppose I’ve gone in and out of ketosis so many times recently  that, like an athlete, I have been conditioned to do this to the point I don’t even notice it anymore.

If you are new to this – you’ll notice.

When I notice it, it feels like a heaviness. It doesn’t conjure up any particular emotions, nor scramble my brain – in fact, my mind feels clearer when I am ketogenic. I do get a mild headache sometimes, though nothing that I can’t ignore.

For those of you new to this, ketosis, (what used to be called ‘induction’ by the Atkins folks though I believe they’ve retreated from calling it that as the name sounds somewhat harsh), is the product of eating so few carbs that your body cuts over to its backup fuel system and you burn fat and begin excreting ketones in your urine as a byproduct.

I am 5 pounds down from a week ago, but no accolades: I’m apt to screw up and this might be temporary.

I was in ketosis last night as well as this morning. I am 208.6 – a terrible number because it means that I’m not the 193 I briefly got down to in the fall, but a wonderful number because according to the stupid BMI scale I am no longer ‘obese’ but just overweight.

“Obese’ is such an ugly word. In comparison ‘Chlamydia’ sounds like a beautiful girl’s name and ‘Syphilis’, the name of a Roman general.

I’ve found myself as of late focusing on one thing: the percentage of fat. I like seeing it in the 70% range or over when I do my calorie and nutrient count. To do this is not an easy feat, I’ve found. You need to be mostly carnivore. It doesn’t leave much room for veggies, and this doesn’t concern me because, hey, who came up with this ‘balanced diet’ shit in the first place?

Perhaps the notion of ‘balance’ is in the eye of the beholder?

For the most of humanity, people ate whatever the fuck was available, or died of starvation. These people didn’t know what a vitamin was and didn’t care. Even today, one culture might argue that the other’s is unbalanced. A Hindu or Buddhist vegetarian diet seems unbalanced to me – there’s no meat. Some cultures think ‘a day without rice is like a day without sunshine’.

And through all these cultures and their different ways of eating, the lifespan mentioned in the Bible – ‘threescore and ten’ pretty much held until the advent of modern medicine that has proven quite well at adding years to life but the quality of those years? Not so much. I see it in my own Dad: kept alive by a spectrum of medications, his heart beats while his mind is gone from Alzheimer’s – or maybe the medications. He doesn’t recognize anybody, and talking to him is like listening to a series of short recordings of my old Dad – the one I want to remember – randomly played back. He’s reduced to a series of disconnected sound-bites – a human Furby.

Hell – I’ll take my threescore and ten and be happy eating my meat and butter and die at 70, to the great pleasure of the people who prognosticate that my diet will kill me, rather than end up like that.

For me, a day without butter is like a day without sunshine’. I am also still taking Carlson’s ‘lemony’ cod liver oil. I have my suspicions about this stuff, but that I’ll leave for another post, except to say that I wrote to them last week asking just how the stuff was produced and never got a reply.

I set what I believe is a reasonable goal for Saturday – get to 205 pounds again. It’s possible, but there’s no guarantee even if I stay in ketosis.

While I hope I get there, it’s OK if I don’t. The reason?

I actually feel better when I am in ketosis. Fewer mood swings, my mind is clear, I have more energy. Regardless of my weight, it’s all good.

Starting Again – Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was close – but I did it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Mayonnaise Replacement with Greek Yogurt

I am a slave to mayonnaise. I love the stuff. I love it so much that I can eat it by the spoonful. The problem is the types of fats typically used in mayonnaise. I typically avoid seed oils like the plague because they are chock full of omega-6 oils, which are necessary to health, but the amounts in seed oil are way beyond what we need and have the potential to be harmful – this, at least, is what I believe.

As omega-6 fats are found in scads of other foods – avocados, meat, eggs, and scores of other stuff – there’s little concern of not getting enough. It’s the ‘too much’ that could prove worrisome.

Now, for those of us with culinary skills, you can make your own authentic mayonnaise from olive oil – but I’m not talented enough – or persistent enough – or maybe just too darn lazy.

So I have been on a quest to come up with a ‘replacement’ – rather than a substitute. While it might seem like just semantics, calling something a ‘substitute’ sets you up for disappointment as a substitute will always prove lacking. Continue reading “A Mayonnaise Replacement with Greek Yogurt”