My Wife’s Theory on Why Low Carb Works for Me

The past few days I have not been particularly vigilant in my record-keeping – I just haven’t felt like it, so I can’t provide even rough numbers on calorie counts or proportions of fat, protein, and carbs.

I can say I have been following my diet: mostly fat, some protein, and little in the way of carbs. I have also eaten what feels to be a lot: I walk away from the table more than full thinking I ate too much – but the scale still trends downward – at the moment I am 204.

My older daughter has come to enjoy my olive oil mayonnaise: “Daddy, that mayonnaise you make is really good.” She – like my wife – are not ones to throw complements haphazardly. Usually, she would say nothing, or perhaps utter a Spock-like: “Ummm.”

I have avoided the pizza and the donuts. The ice cream and the blueberry cornbread. I did have the cream spooned off the top of the unhomognized milk we’ve gotten as of late and had at least a half-dozen tablespoons of the stuff with some blueberries – what a flavorful dish.

Continue reading “My Wife’s Theory on Why Low Carb Works for Me”

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Atkins Induction Day 8 – Keep Failing, Keep Trying

I’ve been doing this Atkins low carb stuff for nearly a decade now. I’m stuck at present in a familiar pattern: I do good, then not so good, then better, then worse – and my weight bobs around a particular number.

It’s about the time for me to relax – not the diet, but my expectations.

It’s the expectations that cause us to fail far more often than the diet itself. In the past in times like this I’ve taken the ‘fail each day’ approach: I wake up knowing I’ll probably screw up, give it my best shot, then either I screw up the day or don’t.

You might say I am being negative, but actually this approach reduces negativity in a strange way. Someone once said: “It is impossible for an optimist to be pleasantly surprised.”

True dat. If I screw up, I’ve cushioned the blow. If I have a good day I am more pleased than if I had simply expected it as a foregone conclusion. I find this approach works for me.

“Just Do It.” Might work for other people or for sneaker advertising  but if you have a less than stellar record of being successful at things, persistence can often make up for a deeply ingrained talent for screwing up.

Can ‘natural-born screwups’ lose weight? I have.

I had a decent day yesterday and hope to have a good day today. I’m going to set myself up with foods that I hope will help me succeed today.

And if I don’t succeed? There’s always tomorrow to try again. Perhaps try different low carb foods, or eating at different times. I keep experimenting and see what happens. For example, I’ve been eating way too much low carb bread, which I love but I find stalls me. I finished up the last slice yesterday and hope to avoid buying more. Perhaps I’d be smart to buy some iceberg lettuce, which can act as a container for food like bread does.

I’ll keep at it, trying this and that until I find my groove.

Atkins Induction Day 5 – This Ain’t It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s just the way I am.

Atkins Induction Day 3 – I Don’t Exercise – Or Do I?

On Wednesday I received my weekly email report from my Fitbit – a little device about the size of a clothes pin that tracks exercise by monitoring your steps, the flights of stairs that you climb, and general overall motion to try to put a number to your daily activity. Then, when in close proximity to its base station, it phones home with the latest numbers and tallies the day’s totals. It also syncs with my calorie-tracking app to gauge this against the number of calories eaten.

But I don’t ‘exercise’. I don’t power walk, swim, bike, snorkel, bungee-jump, spin, jog, Jazzercize or limbo – or any other activity that might even resemble an act that requires gym equipment, sweat pants, or sneakers strategically chosen for the precise exercise activity they are designed for.

My motto is: whenever I get the urge to exercise I lie down until the feeling passes. Usually with a good book.

This usually gets a laugh, followed by a head shake. But it’s also the fact, Jack: I do not have any form of activity that would require me to visit a sporting goods store or a gym.

This is supposed to be a no-no on a diet. You can’t lose weight without exercise…can you?

I have. I can. I will this time as well.

I’ve proven over and over that exercise isn’t necessary for weight loss. I will not say that this is optimally healthy, but I do seem to hear from my exercising friends about their ‘sports injury’, months of physical therapy, and as I age, the hip and knee replacements.

So exercise isn’t entirely healthy itself.

Now, when I start my diet the thought of exercise never occurs to me – I focus on the food intake and perhaps a bunch of other things, but not exercise. This isn’t a recommendation – heck – I don’t even recommend anyone read this blog. I’ve done little to promote it, write haphazardly, and frequently document my dieting facepalms interspersed with poorly researched nutritional navel-gazing spiced with banal comments about my day.

But you are here reading this and I’m here writing, so I’ll continue with my point.

That Fitbit gizmo sends me a week’s worth of tracking in an email – which is about my only interaction with the device other than throwing it in my pocket every day. Take a look:

lcc exercise

This is only a part of what it tracks. It has the ability to track the soundness of your sleep – but I sleep like a baby – so I don’t bother with that.

What it DOES tell me is interesting, though: despite my dedicated avoidance of formal exercise of any sort, I apparently walk over 20 miles per week, climb over 50 flights of stairs and roughly burn 2,600 calories a day while avoiding it.

All that little stuff that I do while avoiding exercising – doing dishes, putting out the trash, running up and down the stairs in the morning before leaving because I invariably forget something, walking in to work and fetching coffee at irregular intervals from the coffee maker – adds up.

So perhaps ‘exercise’ as some formal ritual that gets performed each day using specially designed equipment, clothing, and perhaps a gym membership isn’t necessary to get exercise. Perhaps you are already exercising and don’t know it.

Maybe you, too, can just get by with the exercise that occurs as you live your life while you focus on your diet.

That’s why I use my Fitbit – to remind me of this.

Speaking of diet, after destroying my ketosis with carbs the other day, I once again attempted to follow the straight and narrow. The day at work was somewhat quieter than the previous one, but I was still busy from a little after 8am to 6pm. I brought in hot dogs from the BBQ over the weekend and had 3 of then, naked, all by themselves, throughout the day along with a yogurt. I also had cream in my coffee.

In the evening at home I threw some chicken thighs on the grill along with my last pork burger and ate maybe 4 ounces of the thighs with tablespoons of sour cream and the pork burger with a slice of low carb bread and some low carb ketchup.

I also had maybe 3 ounces of hard dried sausage smuggled back from the Caribbean  We bought it on vacation from a friendly gentleman in a Panama hat from Provence who flew to the store there to hawk his farm’s sausage and enjoy the weather, no doubt. Delicious stuff. My wife came back late and had some of the chicken thigh along with other eats and I sat with her and talked. I did avoid mindless eating at this point except for a few green olives and a few pieces of pickled garlic which I hesitated on because I might reek of garlic today. Oh, well. It supposedly keeps vampires away – maybe it is effective on coworkers as well.

There were some of Brad’s Vegan Kale Chips as well. We have plenty. There was a sale of this ridiculously expensive stuff – 1/2 off – and my wife bought a case – saving another 10%. I like it, though it is a bit high in carbs.

While we talked I lovingly fondled an apple she had bought but avoided eating it – too healthy perhaps. If it was a sack of cookies, however, I might have been a goner.

I ended the day with a chocolate-covered marshmallow – my only ‘giving in’ and hit the sack not particularly hungry.

My tallies for the day were:

  • Calories: 1,532 – a little low for me, but certainly not in some zone of starvation.
  • Fat: 109 (65%) – Too low for me. More fat!
  • Net Carbs: 25g  – Not bad compared to yesterday. I didn’t bother to count the chocolate marshmallow because I’m lazy, but a quick check right now tells me it was about 7 grams of carbs and 40 calories – I’ll live.
  • Protein: 99g – Right about where I want to be.

My weight this morning inched down to 209.6 and the blood glucose is 117, even with the metformin last night I took with my vitamin. It’s not a terrible number but not a great one either – but I can live with it.

Atkins Induction – Notes on Day 1

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

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

So anyway…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds like me.

My daily totals for Monday were as follows:

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

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

Starting Again – Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was close – but I did it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Restricting Calories Cause Us To Gain Weight?

This comment that I made on my own post for stewed pork bellies keeps going through my mind:

What if your body during overfeeding in certain circumstances might actually reduce the surface area of your intestines, decreasing absorption of calories. Conversely, what if cutting back on calories increases your ability to extract every last calorie out of food?

This would mean that every calorie-counting diet will end in disaster as you teach your body to grab every calorie it can. It’s a race to the bottom, with calorie restriction to lose weight resulting in having to cut back MORE until you can’t take it, quit your diet and go back to how you used to eat, but being you’ve got yourself a high-efficiency gut now, your weight balloons.

There is only a little research that fuels this speculation of mine, but it would explain a lot about why traditional diets don’t work – wouldn’t it?

To expand on this a bit more, my source is my friend and frequent commenter, Dave Brown. He left the following comment, with sources cited, on the website of the British Medical Journal:

Almost to a man, the world’s top nutrition and obesity authorities believe that weight control necessitates a balance between caloric intake and energy expenditure. We’re told that because fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram as protein or carbohydrate, eating too much fat is a major factor in the obesity epidemic. Another half truth.

Sifting through weight control literature, one encounters occasional evidence that the body does not absorb every calorie that finds its way into the stomach. The digestive system is basically a chambered tube with an entrance and an exit. Just as a wood stove does not transfer all energy released through combustion to the environment being heated, the transfer of digested energy molecules is considerably less than 100 percent efficient. Researchers report overall calorie excretion rates ranging from 20 to 60 percent and fat excretion rates ranging from 2 to 42 percent. The soluble fiber fraction in the food is largely responsible for the percentage of calories that exit with the fecal material.

Another important consideration is the fact that, physiologically, the body constantly remodels itself internally to accommodate the quality, quantity  and timing of food intake. For example, the size of the stomach and the surface area of the small intestine tend to increase with food restriction and decrease with increased fat consumption, thus changing the absorption efficiency of the digestive system.

Clearly, there is much to be learned about how the digestive system responds to different mixes of fiber, macronutrients, and micronutrients. Calorie excretion deserves some attention.

The particular point here I find intriguing is:

 the size of the stomach and the surface area of the small intestine tend to increase with food restriction and decrease with increased fat consumption, thus changing the absorption efficiency of the digestive system

Wow. If that is true, then my speculation above – that cutting calories can make you fatter – might be correct, and would mean that restricting calories for weight loss might be self-defeating and everything we think we know about losing weight is wrong.

I’m reflecting on this after an AWFUL week of dieting. I have typically eaten high fat during the day, the routine being heavy cream in my coffee, 3 ounces of extremely fatty pork belly in a soup of pure fat which I consume instead of discard, and if I’m still hungry, I might have a bit of mayonnaise, or some cream cheese wrapped in a slice of ham just to make it easier to eat.

At home, however, the diet goes out the window. I’ve had large bowls of pasta, my daughter’s made-from-scratch cake, brioche, a Fillet-O-Fish sandwich, and a number of decidedly NOT low carb fare – and my calorie count is 3,300 calories over what my Loseit! app, a calorie-counting app that buys in to the standard ‘calories in, calories out’ , says would be required for me to lose 0.5 pounds per week – and there is 2 more days in the week to go.

But I’m down to 205.2 from the beginning of the week where I was 212.

I’m not recommending anyone do this – this was not intentional on my part, nor do I necessarily think this is a healthy thing to do. I wanted to avoid the pasta and the cake and all the other stuff that one is not supposed to eat on a low carb diet. I don’t think they are good for my health and would like to avoid them.

Some days were close to 4,000 calories. I’ve also had days where my carb count was over 300 grams.

But I ate it and still lost weight.

So what is going on here?!? Now, to be totally honest, 205 is a set point weight for me. I am probably stuck here if I don’t get a handle on my carb intake – but it seems that I can pretty much eat what I want in the evening and stay here – 60 pounds lower than I was a decade ago – if I am good during the day – and that day consists of 800 to 1,000 calories with 80% of them coming from animal fat and dairy fat.

As my ability to set goals and keep them seems to be pretty piss-poor as of late, this experiment wasn’t intentional – and I have no idea what the next week will hold. If the recent past portends the future, I’ll set goals and screw them up, so whether or not this accidental experiment continues is anybody’s guess.

Interesting, though – isn’t it?