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.

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.

Weight Loss and Happiness are Two Different Things

We only get one ride on this carousel. Pick a horse you like, go for the brass ring, and even if you don’t get it, be sure to enjoy the ride.

The above popped in my head after reading a harrowing and sad story of weight loss in Slate magazine. Titled ‘I Once was Obese’, it chronicles just how miserable the author needed to become, and has resigned herself to continue being, in order to become a size 12.

Is it worth it? I won’t judge this person, except to say that she makes a solid point against the ‘virtue’ of weight loss. ‘Virtue’ – the quality of a person – cannot be measured by a waist size. Neither can happiness, though a lot of fat people think a certain weight will make them happy.

Un, no – it doesn’t. Fat or thin, if we don’t know how to make ourselves happy, we will find things to bitch about. Continue reading “Weight Loss and Happiness are Two Different Things”

Fat People Lose Their Thinking Skills Faster Than Thin People

Lifted from Business Insider, who lifts stuff all the time:

Fatter people are more likely to lose their memories and brain power quicker than those who are thinner, according to British research.

Those who are obese, and have other health problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, lose their memory and thinking skills almost a quarter faster, found researchers at University College London.

Their study was based on almost 6,500 Whitehall civil servants, whose health was monitored between the ages of 50 and 60.
They were weighed and measured, their blood pressure and cholesterol levels were taken, and they were also asked what medication they were taking.

In addition, they were asked to perform mental tests three times during the decade, which were used to assess memory and other cognitive skills.

Of the 6,401 civil servants in the study, nine per cent (582) were obese. Of those, 350 were also classed as “metabolically abnormal” – meaning they had two additional risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, were taking medication for either condition, or were diabetic.

The researchers found the obese tended to lose their mental powers faster than their thinner colleagues, while those who also had additional conditions lost their memory and thinking skills fastest of all.

The latter group experienced a 22.5 percent faster decline on their cognitive test scores over the decade than those who were healthy.

Archana Singh-Manoux, of the Paris research institute Inserm, who contributed to the study, said their results indicated the idea that people could be obese but still healthy was flawed.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We do not yet know why obesity and metabolic abnormality are linked to poorer brain performance, but with obesity levels on the rise, it will be important to delve a little deeper into this association.

“While the study itself focuses on cognitive decline, previous research suggests that a healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol in midlife can also help stave off dementia.

“With dementia figures spiralling towards a million, the findings suggest we should be conscious of our general health throughout life.”

Of course, it could have something to do with being a fat British civil servant – these’s types of observational studies are fraught with danger when you start extrapolating their conclusions to people outside the study.

Still interesting, though it doesn’t explain all the thin stupid people – fat people have *certainly* not cornered the market on stupidity, as can be evidenced by reading the news.

The Odd Trick I Use to Manage Hunger

This is an odd trick – one that I am sure will NOT work for a number of people, because it isn’t something that is physiological, like drinking a glass of water before meals, nor psychological, like using smaller plates. Each of these types of tricks usually don’t work for the vast majority of people, but it’s handy to know they exist and try them out and see if they work for you.

I think having a bag of tricks that you’ve tested and found work for you is the cornerstone of any successful diet and long-term weight loss.

This trick is slightly different from the ones mentioned above, however – this one is spiritual.

I try to avoid politics and religion here – it’s just not the place for it. This little trick, however, does not require belief in any particular deity, nor require anything that should violate the principles of any religion I know of. I also find it helpful here and there when managing my own hunger from time to time, so I thought I would share it.

Here it is: when I am feeling hungry and miserable because of it, I try to intentionally bring the hunger into focus in my mind. Explore it deeply, knowing that I’m not too far away from a time where I can make it disappear with a meal lessens the fear and the pain.

And when I do this, I think about all the people who have ever lived – billions upon billions of people – living and dead – and every single one of them have experienced a hunger like mine. Some of these people – a large amount of them – experienced hunger for many years – and perhaps their whole lives. Many people right at this moment are experiencing intractable hunger because of an accident of birth – an accident I have so far been fortunate enough to avoid.

If I was transported to another place or another time where I could not be understood, any human being I met in this travel would be able to understand on a real and profound way my experience of hunger.

Hunger is universal, and connects all mankind in a bond of shared experience. Of all human experiences, hunger is one of the very few that is truly universal.

This little contemplation helps to put my own hunger into perspective. It doesn’t necessarily change the hunger, but it changes my response to it.

For a good many of you, this won’t be your cup of tea – that’s fine. There’s plenty of other diet ‘tricks’ out there and if you find just a couple that work for you, that might be all you need.

But if this sort of thing resonates with you, then I’ve done my good deed for the day.

What Is the World’s ‘Best Diet’?

I just stumbled over Yoni Freedhoff the other day when I read his article in US  News. I’m going to be checking this guy out much closer. He’s a bariatric physician in Canada, and wrote this:

Your best diet is the one that keeps your calories reduced, your hunger at bay, your cravings controlled, and provides you with a regimen that isn’t merely one you can tolerate, but rather one you can honestly enjoy. The reason there are so many diet books and gurus out there is that there truly isn’t one right way to go.

So feel free to wade through the bookshelves, sample from the gurus, and poll your best friends. They may offer up some really wonderful suggestions and strategies. But ultimately, never let yourself get cornered into a dietary pigeonhole. If one approach isn’t working for you, try to identify what it is you’d need to tweak in order to like it. And when it comes to those real-life moments where what you want doesn’t fit with your chosen approach, try to remember that perhaps it’s that very inflexibility that’s led you to give up altogether in the past.

Live the healthiest life that you can enjoy, not the healthiest life that you can tolerate.

like that – a doc who understands happiness must be part of any weight loss plan.

Read the whole article – it’s worth your time.

I’m going to be reading his blog Weighty Matters very closely in the next few weeks, to be sure.