Low Carb FAQ

[UPDATE: I am busy with a number of things and thought I might leave this post in place for a while, updating occasionally with new questions. Let’s see how this goes]

A lot of people get to this site through search engines, and I can see what these folks entered into the search bar to find me. A lot of these form questions, and I thought I could save you the miserable experience of reading through my site and instead provide a short FAQ of my answers to popular questions.

Please note I said my answers – not the answer. I am no expert. Consider me just some schlub answering your question and not any authority on the subject. Do your own research: I might be a loony.

At present they are in no particular order – and will probably stay that way. I’ll put the most recent at the top so the readers who keep tabs on me don’t have to dig.

Continue reading “Low Carb FAQ”

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Low Carb Meets Chinese Medicine – and Eats, December 13

We went out Xmas shopping and there was a health fair at the mall. There was an acupuncture table there offering a free ‘pulse diagnosis’ – they would have you take a test to measure your meridians – this was done by you holding a metal bar connected to a computer in your right hand, while the tester taps another probe also connected to the computer at various points on both hands and both feet. 

This (somehow) measures your energy fields, analyzes them, and spits out a printed result with a chart corresponding to various organs and their balance, along with a sheet that looks a bit like a blood test.

Briefly, acupuncture believes that you have these ‘pathways’ of energy that flow through your body which they refer to as meridians. In their thinking, these can be blocked, causing imbalance.

By using very fine needles, inserted into your skin along the proper meridian line, these blockages can be eliminated and balance restored.

I personally don’t have a prior experience with acupuncture myself, but I accept that there might be something there.

You can read more about it here, but regarding the science on this – there really isn’t much. 

But it’s the same with hypnotism – western scientists have studied this for years and concluded little, except that there might be something going on here, but they don’t know what it is.

Michael Shermer, in his book: The Borderlands of Science, calls hypnosis a ‘borderland science’. It’s not complete quackery, but it’s not a solid body of proven knowledge either, like, say, physics. 

I’d say that acupuncture falls in about the same place. As the article on acupuncture states:

“emerging clinical evidence seems to imply that acupuncture is effective for some but not all conditions.”

So anyway, I took the test, figuring it might be fun. 

Let’s see how low carb stands up to Chinese medicine.

My wife took the test, and the chart that got spit out had several red bars, indicating imbalances. The doctor then did the pulse diagnosis by laying 4 fingers on the pulse-points of both arms. 

I didn’t hear the exact diagnosis as I was having my own test done at the time.

When my test was done and it started to print out, the tester smiled and said: “This is the best result anyone has gotten all day!”

I took it to my wife and the Chinese doctor and told them what the tester said. The doctor grabbed the results from me, and looked them over carefully.

“This is very good. You should be very happy.”

He then did my pulse diagnosis. The form you fill out asks you what major health complaints you have – I left it blank: I wanted him to tell me what they were.

He asked me: “You left this blank – you have nothing wrong with you?”

I said, “Well, I’d like to lose some weight and exercise.” 

“Well, that is a matter of proper diet – stay away from fat – greasy stuff, you know?”

“Oh no, not for me – I live low carb, and eat a lot of fat and meat.”

He looked at me like he didn’t quite understand. “Well, that’s why you can’t lose weight – your diet.”

“No, actually I lost 80 lbs. The reason I’m overweight now is because I am not doing low carb strict enough.”

His eyes widened. “You lost 80 lbs.? It must have been the exercise you were doing.”

“But I didn’t exercise – I lost 80 lbs. without exercise.”

His eyes stayed wide as he attempted to process this information. He looked at my wife and daughter: “Do they eat like you?”

“No.”

He looked at them, and scrunched his eyes, “Good, don’t eat like he does. You need vegetables in your diet.”

“But I do have vegetables – I just stay away from sugars and other refined carbohydrates.”

He asked. “What diet was this?”

“Low carb – Atkins.”

He repeated the name: “Atkins” under his breath as he continued the pulse diagnosis for a few minutes.

There were 23 bars on the chart, and only one was in the red – just slightly out of range. It had to do with my urinary tract. 

He asked. “Do you have problems urinating?”

“Yeah – I think it’s called BPH – benign prostatic hypertrophy. It’s been like this since I was in my 20s. When I told my doctor and gave him my own diagnosis, he seemed to agree with me and didn’t seem to be worried about it.”

“When were you last at the doctor?”

“In the summer. For a checkup.”

“What were the results?”

“Well, I have diabetes in my family, and my blood sugar was a bit high. My cholesterol was slightly high as well, but nothing he felt was worth medicating.”

The doctor saw an in: “Well of course your cholesterol is high – it’s because of all the meat and fat you eat.”

“Oh no, it’s because I was eating too many carbs. When I had lost the 80 lbs. and had a blood test, my blood work improved, with a total cholesterol of 186, the HDL/LDL ratios perfect, and the triglycerides were through the floor.”

His eyes did the pie-plate thing again.

“I am a vegan.” He said suddenly. 

“Oh – that’s works very good for a lot of people. Do you watch your ratio of Omega 3 fats to Omega 6 fats?”

He looked at me a bit strange, maybe almost defensively. “I know what you are talking about. I eat almonds and take flaxseed oil.”

“You might want to research the flaxseed oil. I’ve read two sources where it mentions that for men, flaxseed might be linked to prostate cancer.”

“I had not heard that.” He said. He appeared to be listening very carefully.

“Yeah – I had first learned about it reading a book by Dean Ornish.”

“Who?”

“He’s a very respected doctor that wrote books on reversing heart disease through a very low fat diet.”

He asked me to repeat the name.

“I am going to research this.” He said solemnly. We said our goodbyes.

Walking with my wife in the store a little later, she said: “do you believe what he was doing?”

“I don’t know – he did point out the BPH, but at the same time, if you are presented with a 46 year old guy and the chart is high corresponding to the urinary tract, it’s a pretty simple guess to think it has something to do with the prostate. Also – why didn’t he see that my back hurts a lot? Why didn’t he pick that up in his test?”

My back was hurting when I sat down with the tester, so you’d a thunk that the thing would have picked it up, right?

The Eats

First up, and hardly needing mention, was the 5am 16oz coffee with 2 tablespoons of cream. 

I was thirsty afterward, however, and had a bottle of San Pellegrino at 7am. At about noon I had a hard-boiled egg, then at about 3pm I have about a 1/3 of the remaining cup of Italian chicken.

In the evening I was hungry – maybe because I had people pushing me to eat spring rolls all day. These spring rolls were hand-made and deep-fried in peanut oil.

These things were to die for. 

Instead, I had the remaining 2/3 rds cup of the Italian chicken, a pickle, 3 slices of cheese, some leftover steak with butter, and one of my cryogenic meals frozen a few weeks ago – Italian sausage & meatballs. I washed all this down with a bottle of San Pellegrino.

I put lemon and two packets of Splenda in the San Pellegrino – the 2 packets of Splenda were the extent of my sweets for the day.

Later on in the evening, I sat down with some brie cheese and pork rinds with some wine. 

And right before bed, I had 2 leftover Swedish meatballs.

Now, while I typically don’t catalog it, I do weigh myself in the evenings. I have a theory about easy weight and hard weight.

Most days, I will notice a significant difference – maybe 2 lbs – from my morning weight and my evening weight. Then I eat dinner and this difference might disappear, or I might keep the pound or two off.

If I notice no change, or a slight increase during the day, I know that, even if I just drank water for the rest of the evening, I will probably gain weight.

So I wasn’t surprised that the scale reported a 2.6 lb. increase this morning to 206.6.

Now, if that did not happen, that would have been a pointer toward Irvingia having some impact, in my estimation. 

But instead, my body did what it usually does when it gets close to my setpoint weight of 203 – it bounces up.

No matter. It’s been little more than a week. There’s still 5 weeks to go, and nothing in the research on Irvingia indicated that there would be any impact on weight this early.

Not that it wouldn’t have been nice…

If Low Carb Makes So Much Sense, Why Do Other Diets Work?

As I’m in bed this morning waiting for the precise perfect moment to roll out, I happened to dwell on the several ads that I’ve been glancing at in magazines and the newspaper recently.  I say recently, but they’re always there, just more so in the beginning of the year, it seems.  You’ve seen the ads, I’m sure: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the hypnosis ads, the food plan ads, all the health clubs, and plenty of before-and-after photos and testimonials to go with them.  When you’re at the supermarket checkout line, count the number of magazines that have a sure-fire diet plan on the cover.  (Even Dr. Atkins’ diet was the darling of the Vogue readership for years before he published his New Diet Revolution in 1973.)

I’m to the point in Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories that I firmly believe that the only effective way to lose weight is to cut out carbohydrates and make dietary fat a good percentage of your daily diet.  Exercise is not necessary and can actually work against you if you’re trying to drop pounds.  I’m in the middle of an experiment right now, so I can’t really carp for the time being that I haven’t lost any weight doing just this for the last seven weeks.

But come on… other people lose weight doing other things.  Even I have.  One year, I lost over 20 pounds by simply eating a bag of raw vegetables for lunch every day.  Boring as all get-out, but I got into a routine, stopped thinking about it, and the pounds came off.  (Yes, after I stopped that routine, they went back on.)  My first wife and I paid a lot of money to a chain called “Weight Loss Clinic” where we had to go every day to be weighed by a nurse and report what we were eating on a very low calorie diet.  We both lost over 50 pounds each and we both regained most of the loss within six months.  Around that time, we started getting postcards from the business asking if it wasn’t time to come back in if we needed to.  Perpetual customers, what a concept, but hardly original:  the obsolescense factor is a well-known marketing tool.

So why do all these other approaches work at all?

Maybe the key word is “effective,” as I used earlier to describe low carb.  Do you know anyone who lost weight through exercise who gained it back when (if) they stopped their routine?  How about eating low calorie?  I know plenty of people who’ve tried this, and for them it’s a continuous battle with hunger; all they ever seem to talk about is food and how much they want it and how many things they are tempted with.  I personally don’t know anyone who’s lost weight by being hypnotized, but my wife tried it once to quit smoking many years ago and she sat through one session and came back with the report that it was a bunch of nonsense.  (To this day she will occasionally cluck like a chicken, but she doesn’t realize it and I don’t say anything.)

If you’re overweight and you want and need to lose a significant number of pounds, isn’t keeping those pounds off the real issue?  Look at how many studies of subjects on various diets end with those people losing either an insignificant amount of weight or not being able to stay on the eating plan long enough to make a difference.  How many subjects maintain a significant loss for a year or more, a factor considered essential in rating the effectiveness of an eating plan?

I’m not saying low carb is going to work for everyone.  Not because the science is at fault, but because we’re human beings.  There’s a psychological element to dieting to lose weight, and even if we’re losing, we’re leaving something behind that we enjoyed.  Maybe some kind of special food or drink, maybe the camaraderie of joining friends eating things that we now know are very bad with regard to overall health.  Working out takes time away from other things we’d perhaps rather be doing.  Some people get bored doing anything for too long, especially if it takes effort and discipline.  Even some of the women in the Atkins group in the recent Stanford University study of popular diets strayed toward the end, although this group did better than any of the other groups in both weight loss and “sticktuitiveness.”

John Galt knows, I don’t consider myself a poster boy for low carb.  I’m just as guilty of regaining a lot of the weight I lost in 2003.  Almost all of it was because I returned to eating high carb foods, and it started immediately after I started eating carbs.  It was not difficult to eat a low carb diet month after month, year after year.  I never had a problem turning down celebratory cake slices at birthday parties, or dessert when eating out.  I haven’t felt a desire to patronize the snack machine at work except for an occasional bag of peanuts. 

When I read that eating carbs begets an urge to eat more carbs, I believe it because I’ve been through it and I see it all around me every day.  There’s little satiety in carbohydrates.  Conventional nutritional wisdom tells people to fill up on fiber to make them “feel full” and therefore fend off their appetite.  I’m amazed when I think about how infrequently I feel any hunger at all, in fact, I probably eat when I do because it’s “time” to eat more than for any other reason.

I’m still looking forward to correcting the results of my backsliding, and maybe, just maybe, this time I’ve learned my lesson for good.  Anything’s possible.