My Crappy Diet So Far 11-05-2014

Everyone loves a cheery blogger – one chomping at the bit to seize the day and make it theirs – with a big grin and a spring in their step to boot.

I ain’t that.

Right now the most cheery thought I can conjure up is a meteor crashing through the roof and striking me dead.

But you didn’t come here to read about ol’ gloomy Gus here bitchin’ about life – you’re here because…well, I don’t have a clue why you’re here, exactly, but it probably has something to do with low carb diets – I’m guessing that from the name of the website.

So on Monday, November 3rd, I attempted to start my low carb diet again. I had tried on November 1st, it being the beginning of the month, and that’s a fine place to start. When that didn’t pan out, I tried November 2nd, since that was a Sunday – another good demarcation point to start. When that didn’t pan out I figured I’d try Monday.

I wouldn’t say the third time’s the charm, but I did get a little nudge from a couple of things that I think helped me to get a creaky and backfiring start to my diet.

The first was that I picked up the super-cheap Relion blood glucose meter from Wal-Mart and tested my blood glucose for the first time since the summer. My fasting blood glucose was 138. While I’m not particularly afraid of death, I have a significant fear as to how I arrive there. The direct meteor strike doesn’t concern me, but a lingering future of all my tiny capillaries getting chewed up by excess blood glucose, leading to blindness, amputations, and loss of sensation in my extremities among the many things that diabetes does to you before it kills you outright does register with me.

Then there was the number on the scale: 241.2. All I can say to that is: oh, fuck. I’ve spent a year drawing a line in the sand, having my weight cross it, then drawing another line in the sand, and now I’m above 240.

I’ve got to draw a line in the sand.

Day 1 was a mostly OK day, which coffee and cream at home, then coffee with a splash of Atkins shake as creamer, then Italian sausages with sour cream for lunch. Evening is always the worst but I managed to hold it together (mostly) with a bowl of my kale soup. I did  have some bread and butter as it seems I can’t get my act together to pull off a single good day from end to end. It could have been worse, however – like day 2.

Day 2 showed progress in both numbers. The fasting blood glucose was down by 20 points to 118 – I guess that 20 was courtesy of the Halloween candy lying about. I also got under that 240 number to 238.8 – a number that gave me some hope – though if you told me last year I’d be at this number I would have pulled out tufts of my own hair.

The day was more or less the same as the previous day, but the evening was different. I ended up getting McDonald’s for the kids and questioned my sanity in doing so as I drove 45 minutes with the smell of burgers and fries wafting up next to me. I didn’t touch it though – at least not yet.

At home I found some abandoned sausages in the deli drawer that said ‘sell by 10/22’. I wondered if they would make me puke-sick almost as an aside as I heated them in the microwave and ate them on the last of the low carb bread I am not planning to replenish.

I did have a leftover bite or two of a Big Mac and maybe a half-dozen fries. My younger daughter had candy corn that appeared out of nowhere – how long had it been since I had any? Now I knew: a half-dozen at that moment. Lastly, I had some dried apricots – just to make sure I couldn’t pretend it was even a halfway OK day from a low carb perspective.

Day 3 found me at the same 118 for a blood glucose number and down almost a pound to 238.0. The diet Gods were toying with me – making me think I could eat like I did the day before and not screw things up.

I brought the same Italian sausages and sour cream to work but it was so uninspiring that I couldn’t bear it. Instead, I went to KFC and had 3 of their grilled chicken thighs. I make no claim that these are ‘healthy’ – I once read a list of the ingredients that they tart these things up with to make them taste so darn good and I’m sure that they will increase no one’s longevity – but the things are zero carb and I’m in an ‘any port in a storm’ mode with my diet at this point so I could have done a lot worse.

 

As I am also having problems writing and not posting, I’m going to stop here and just say…to be continued.

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Cancer, Warburg, Seyfried, and EXTREME Low Carb Diets

I’ve made mention of a peculiar use for low carb diets other than for weight loss. You might have heard that low carb is successfully used in children for epilepsy (check out The Charlie Foundation for more info on that), but you might not have known that nascent research is being done independently and somewhat outside the normal protocols to determine if a very – and I mean VERY – low carb diet *might* work as a treatment for cancer.

Now let’s stop here for an important warning: if you have cancer, this most likely *isn’t* something for you. First off, for many cancers, traditional treatments do, in fact, work if treated early. It also isn’t a treatment that you can try on your own along with a standard course of treatment. Many of them are incompatible with a low carb diet. It also has only been tested in mouse models – and for only certain types of cancers. You’d need professional guidance if you wanted to see if this was right for you.

There’s also this: the theory as to why it might work contradicts decades of research.

Hear a quacking sound? Cancer has been called the ‘Emperor of all maladies‘ and had attracted charlatans willing to turn a profit on other people’s tragedy, peddling false hope and leaving their families penniless. This one is somewhat different, however, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but first you must meet Otto Warburg, but to meet Mr. Warburg we need to go back 90 years and also revisit out high school biology class for a little refresher. I promise I won’t get too ‘sciencey’ and I apologize beforehand to those readers who know this stuff way better than I ever will. Forgive me my simplistic explanations – but please call me out if I state something patently incorrect. I don’t want to misinform.

Most of the cells that make up this container we call you and I contain mitochondria. There’s a hundred fascinating things about these parts of the cell – you can only get them from your mother, for instance, and they have their very own DNA that is completely different from yours – but lets focus on the what they do for you. Mitochondria are considered the ‘powerplants’ of your cells and create the energy the cell needs to survive. They do a bunch of other things, but one of the important parts for our discussion is the energy production.

Otto Warburg was a researcher who, in 1924, noticed that the mitochondria in cancer cells didn’t properly respire – as in ‘breathe’. Yes – cells breathe, which is why *we* breathe – to get the oxygen the cells need to properly respire.

But cancer cells didn’t respire properly – instead, it appeared that they took a different approach that only allowed them to feed only on glucose.

Now, just because a cancer cell’s eating habits are different doesn’t quite explain why they’re cancer cells (at least that I know), but it does point out a cancer cell’s Achille’s heel: they’re sugar addicts.

As sometimes happens in science, some guys in lab coats scratched their beards, mumbled something about this being ‘interesting’ – and then it was mostly forgotten except perhaps as trivia while science marched forward with cancer treatments using surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Cancer treatments did get better, but now we’ve reached a point where new treatments might only add months to a patient’s life.

Then along comes Thomas Seyfried who writes a textbook named Cancer as a Metabolic Disease which challenges many of the standard notions about the treatment of cancer and recommends an extremely low carb diet instead of chemo – and gets himself into a mess of trouble – at least from a career standpoint.

Dr. Seyfried is a legitimate researcher who comes out with a book that overturns 50 years of thinking on cancer. This is going to attract two things: crackpots and the label of ‘quack’ from his peers.

I simply do not have the skill-set to judge his work as I am not an oncologist, but he had laid out a legitimate attempt to create a new way of thinking about and treating cancer and no one can deny that a low carb diet might be a heckuva lot better treatment for cancer – if it works – than chemo and radiation. Simply put: normal brain cells can live on ketones – cancer cells can’t, so a super-duper low carb ketogenic diet starves the cancer cells while normal cells survive.

Here’s Thomas Seyfried discussing his theory. Pretty sciency, though it allows you to gauge the man:

He doesn’t come off as a quack – more frustrated than anything.

His last answer in the Q&A is his most damning: if the standard of care raises blood glucose, then it leads to the ‘demise of the patient’.

“Oh.” Says the oncology community. “We’ve been doing this all wrong for 50 years? My bad – let’s fix that right away.”

You can see how his theory is a ‘turd in a punchbowl’ for anyone in the medical community invested in the current standard of care.

Here’s an example from one of his naysayers. It’s a well-reasoned criticism and well worth slogging through to help to begin to understand the point of view of the medical community.

How *I* got exposed to this was because a friend’s relative was diagnosed with a glioblastoma – a type of brain cancer that is pretty much a death sentence. I was reminded of the article I had read about a woman who was treating her brain tumor with a ketogenic diet and was even keeping a blog about it. I provided the link and my friend and their family, after a lot of research, decided on a doctor-supervised ketogenic diet.

It’s too soon to tell at this point if this was the right approach, but given what I’ve read about glioblastomas, there’s not much to lose.

Doing my own research I came across a website that offered a complete diet book for cancer patients trying a ketogenic diet, bought a copy and read it from cover to cover.

book-cover-med

I’ve read plenty of other books on ketogenic diets, but this one comes not from the weight loss community but out of the childhood epilepsy community where the stakes are higher. We’re not talking about fitting in that cute little dress but preventing debilitating seizures in small children – or not dying from cancer.

This is the most extreme low carb diet I’ve ever seen – because most diets try to make it comfortable for the patient. While this book bends over backwards to do the same, its primary goal is to manage a threatening disease.

I thought it would be interesting to try this approach – what the heck – and did it for a few weeks over the summer.

Even though I am an old hand at ketosis, this was hard. I felt like passing out one hot summer day walking a nearby downtown, which I summed up to dehydration: you don’t store *any* water weight on this diet so it probably made dehydration a huge possibility. I felt much better after a bottle of water and a salad.

I didn’t keep up with it but I consider the book an excellent reference for anyone interested in what an ‘extreme’ low carb diet looks like. I have to admit that my own diet is in tatters as I write this but if/when I get up the gumption to start again I am going to use this book as a guide – perhaps not going as ‘full-on’ as a cancer patient might, but rather as a target I can afford to miss, given that even coming near to this protocol will still be a very adequate ketogenic diet.

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?”

13 Simple Rules To Lose Weight and Be Happy Doing It

There’s so much advice on weight loss – where to begin?!?

May I be so bold as to say begin here?

You want some simple rules that will peel off the weight? Based on real-world experience from a not-too-bright person who doesn’t really exercise, doesn’t have all that much willpower, and loses weight? A guy who has been at it for 9 years and has kept off 65 pounds most of that time? Here you go:

  1. Write down everything you eat. Practice keeping a journal. The definition of ‘practice’ is that you will fail a lot, but you keep at it and get better  – like playing the piano. Make your journal as simple or as detailed as you like. Experiment. Journaling raises awareness
  2. Ride the motivation wave. When motivation is high – go with the flow. When it isn’t – relax. It’s like sailing: when the wind doesn’t blow, wait patiently and enjoy the view.
  3. Don’t be in a rush.
  4. If you are unhappy on your diet, mix it up. People lose weight on low carb diets AND low-calorie diets. It’s not illegal to switch back and forth. I won’t tell
  5. Practice not snacking.
  6. Don’t drink your calories if you can help it. Make this a practice as well.
  7. Practice the reducing of processed foods in your diet as much as possible. Avoid as many chemicals and additives as you can
  8. Stay away from weight-loss supplements – they’re expensive, possibly dangerous, and will NOT lead to long-term, sustainable weight loss
  9. If you have a lot of weight to lose, consider going on a diet first, take off some weight, then exercise. Anyone who tells you that you can’t lose weight without exercising is simply wrong.
  10. Unplanned cheats should NEVER upset you. In the long-term, they don’t matter. Just get back on the horse tomorrow
  11. If you lose weight then plateau, think of it as a place to rest. To throttle back, to recuperate before the next leg of your journey
  12. Don’t do anything to yourself that smacks of emotional abuse or physical abuse. Your health and well-being can’t be measured by a number on a scale.
  13. Realize that weight loss might make you happier but it won’t make you happy. If you pin all your hopes on weight loss making you happy, you’re in for a letdown when you reach your target. Happiness is being at peace with yourself now – not in some future place. It doesn’t mean you don’t strive for things, or don’t work hard, or even fail occasionally. If you count your blessings and fight the good fight every day, you’re in a good place.

That’s it. Short and sweet. Start your practice now.

Can a Low Carb Diet Sabotage Long-Term Weight Control Through Appetite Supression?

For most people, a low carb diet is not their first diet. We come to low carb after failure with isocaloric diets, where we starved while eating tiny portions that were supposedly ideal for our bodies, but not for our appetite. In between meals we watched the clock, counting the hours, minutes, and seconds until the next unfulfilling meal awaited. In between we sipped (or gulped) water, maybe ate carrot sticks or celery, and looked forward with a combination off desire and dread of the next low-calorie meal, hoping this one would fill us up, and usually disappointed that it didn’t.

We got used to hunger if we kept with it long enough. Hunger was just a part of dieting that couldn’t be avoided.

Then someone came along and told us about low carb – and the promise that you can lose weight and not be hungry. Hard to believe, but for many of us, that’s exactly what happened. Low carb diets – especially ketogenic ones, can kill an appetite dead.

It’s a dieter’s Shangra-La. Eat til full and lose weight. Months pass, and we change in two ways. First, the appetite suppression lessens simply because we begin to build a tolerance to it. I believe the power of Ketosis has the most impact on someone who has been high carb all their lives, but that appetite suppressant naturally lessens with time on the diet and the gradual reintroduction of carbs that is usually the natural progression of these diets.

The second change is we grow less tolerant of hunger. We’re less used to it, and as the ketogenic aspects of the diet lessen, through acclimation or through the gradual introduction of carbs, our lessened tolerance of hunger gets us in trouble as we eat greater quantities of low carb food, and the weight loss stops.

I’m wondering if building a ‘hunger practice’ into a low carb diet from the outset – periods where we practice being hungry for short periods of time – might prove beneficial as we progress to long-term weight loss and maintenance.

Just my own theory – does this resonate with any of you?