Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dietary Articles of Faith

This is the last post on the Low Carb Wisdom blog. But I will be continuing my blogging at a new blog, Real Food Wisdom (more on the new blog below). I am abandoning this blog as I no longer consider myself to be following a low carb way of eating. I am grateful for the introduction to the low carb lifestyle, as it opened my previously closed eyes to the realities of eating nutrient dense foods. But I no longer believe the central, low carb article of faith: the Taubesian hypothesis that carbohydrates elevate insulin levels, which in turn drives fat storage. I also reject the belief that you must only count carbs, not calories and I reject the belief that exercise does not help with weight loss. These three ideas are elaborated on at length in Gary Taubes' book, Why We Get Fat.

This means I do believe there are good carbs (e.g., potatoes, white rice) and bad carbs (e.g., refined wheat or sugar), just as there are good proteins (e.g., meat) and bad proteins (e.g., gluten) and good fats (e.g., butter or lard) and bad fats (e.g., soybean or corn oil). I am also put off by all the low carb dogma out there, where you are a "sinner" if you eat a potato or white rice. Also, there is a growing recognition that the low carb way of eating is not a magic bullet, that low carb can cause problems (and abandoning low carb may actually cure those problems), and that some carbs may actually help with weight loss.

So what do I believe? How will I be eating in the future? I now consider myself to be following a version of the Paleo diet and briefly considered creating a blog called "Paleo Wisdom" (the name is available), but I didn't want to lock myself into another diet mode (repeating the "Low Carb" mistake by linking my way of eating to a specific, named dietary approach). The version of the Paleo diet that I follow most closely is the Jaminets' Perfect Health Diet, which is controversial in the Paleo community, because it doesn't shun potatoes, rice, and dairy. But I reserve the right to change my mind in the future about what I eat, as new evidence comes along.

So what do I believe? And how will it affect my future diet?

I believe that natural, real, whole foods are best, foods with very little or no processing. This means I am open to some non-Paleo belief systems, such as the Weston A. Price view of nutrition. It also means that things like potatoes and bananas are fine to eat, in moderation, and perhaps even correctly prepared, ancestral wheat.

I believe that eating animal products is essential to good health.

I believe that correctly rendered lard, butter, egg yolks, meat, coconut and olive oils, tree nuts and other high fat items are healthy for you and won't give you a heart attack. I am grateful to Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes for opening my eyes on this point.

I believe that calories count, that this is the biggest determinant of weight loss and maintenance. I also believe that calorie restriction is necessary for maintaining appropriate blood glucose levels. It is not all about eliminating carbs, it is also about limiting calories. Adding in potatoes and rice, while watching calories, actually helped me stabilize my blood glucose levels.

I believe in eating vegetables. Lots of vegetables. And some fruit.

I now believe that food reward and palatability are crucial concepts to understand in losing and maintaining weight. I believe that simple foods are best, for most occasions. Thank you, Stephan Guyenet.

I believe in exercise. Both resistance training and cardio vascular. Just not to excess.

I believe that eating nutrient dense, whole, real foods is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb approach to eating. Therefore, it is not necessary to add fat just to be more healthy. It is already high fat.

I believe in (this may surprise you) the Weight Watchers approach to losing weight. Not their low fat mantra nor their fat phobia, but their psychological perspective on weight loss, the weekly accountability of weighing in and the community support one gets from interacting with others on a similar weight loss journey. One of my most gratifying experiences in life was when I was a leader at Weight Watchers. I have written about this before and I am now actively considering re-joining Weight Watchers, but on my own terms. Calories count, but counting calories is a bummer. Counting points is easier. I can eat Paleo using their point system to track calories and I will lose weight. Plus I will gain the support of the people in the weekly meetings and perhaps influence some of their attitudes about eating real food.

So if you have enjoyed what I have written on Low Carb Wisdom, consider following me as I transition to Real Food Wisdom. The first post will be up shortly, probably tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dinner at the Paleo Restaurant Sauvage in Berlin

I was recently in Berlin, Germany, and had dinner at the Paleo restaurant, Sauvage (sauvage is French for "wild" or "savage") and want to report on the experience.

First of all, the only lighting in the restaurant was candle light, so most of the following photos are blurry, as my not-so-smart-phone had trouble focusing on the dishes.

Also, this is upscale, fine dining. Berlin has some very inexpensive restaurants, but this one is for the foodies among you, and, consequently, has prices to match. I ordered a starter, main dish, dessert, and bottle of designer mineral water. I do not drink, so wine is not included in my total. I spent 45 euros on the meal, or approximately $60. But I am a foodie and it was so very worth it. The only thing missing from the experience was my wife, who is also a foodie, but who did not accompany me on this trip. The other professors on this study abroad trip had no interest in eating "caveman" food and I know them well enough to know they are not foodies. So I went alone. Melissa McEwan, you are not the only one who dines alone from time to time.

The restaurant is rather small and I doubt it could hold more than 35 to 40 patrons. It was minimally decorated, but that was fine because they only used candles for lighting and you couldn't really see a lot (though there were electric lights in the kitchen and bathrooms). Very Paleo, that. The wait staff was very friendly and helpful, but professional and unobtrusive. They never interrupted my meal to ask me how if I liked it (I hate it when American, non-professional wait staff interrupt my meal to ask me that banal question). The staff at Sauvage only asked about the meal when they removed the plates.

Here is the menu in German (click to enlarge). The wait staff was very helpful with the translations.

Not all items were available, and the menu changes often, depending on the fresh foods they can obtain. So what did I order? In addition to the designer bottle of mineral water, I had a Paleo antipasti plate as a starter.

The plate had some crackers made with nut flours and other natural ingredients (crunchy and tasty), some dried seeds, two types of fermented vegetables, some carrot chutney, a roasted garlic clove, and a meat sampler. It was served on a stone plate and was very, very tasty.

Here is the main dish (sorry for the poor quality of the photo):

The main dish was a 100% grass fed filet mignon with  a garlic and coconut oil topping, a salad, some mashed celery root, and some fermented beet and carrot shreds. I must say this was an exceptionally good choice that delighted my taste buds. I eat a fair amount of steak, including filet mignon, and this was perhaps the most tender piece of beef I have eaten in a good, long time. Perhaps ever. And it was cooked to medium rare perfection.

This was my dessert:

It was an orange custard cake on a Paleo crust, though I am not sure what the crust was made with. This was called a "Primal" dessert choice, not Paleo, since they used butter in the custard (egg yolks, orange blossoms, butter, and spices) and was topped with a small amount of cooked apples. The apples were the only thing that was really sweet about the dessert, but it was perfect and I have lost my sweet tooth anyway.

This was an excellent meal and in all my future trips to Berlin, I will stop by, if it is still open. Which I think it will be, since the restaurant was full on a non-weekend night. I made a reservation a few weeks in advance and I was very glad I did.

The meal was very European in the sense that it took several hours to complete and was served by a professional wait staff who were also very knowledgeable about the Paleo lifestyle. I arrived at 6:30 p.m. and left at 10:00 p.m. The thing I love about European cuisine is the savoir vivre that accompanies the food. You don't do dinner and something else, such as a show, dinner is what you do. You savor the flavors and spend time on conversation. Unfortunately, I was alone, but the experience will be a treasured one for me. And the best possible compliment I can pay Sauvage is this: I will be back the next time I am in town with another group of students. And not because I wish to support Paleo restaurants (though I do), but because the cuisine was simply superb.

Directions using public transportation: Make your way to the Alexanderplatz station on either the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn. From Alexanderplatz, take the U8 (direction Hermannstrasse) and get off at Schonleinstrasse. Head south on Kottbusser Damm for a couple of blocks and turn left at Pflugerstrasse until you get to number 25. All in all, about a 10 minute walk from the Schonleinstrasse U-Bahn station.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dinner Tonight

I am still trying to decide what to do with this blog, since it is called Low Carb Wisdom and since  I no longer believe in the carbohydrate-insulin-fat hypothesis. I have converted to a more ancestral way of eating, more Paleo, more Perfect Health Diet, with a focus on real, whole foods, and without the dogma I see on so many low carb sites. So until I decide what to rename the blog, I thought I would post some photos of what I have been eating. Most people are curious to know what I eat anyway.

Here is a photo of dinner tonight (click to enlarge):

I ate a 250 gram (roughly 8 ounce) Irish rib eye steak (100% grass fed) cooked in a small amount of coconut oil (perhaps one or two teaspoons). Since I am not in Ireland (sad cries), the steak is obviously imported. The salad is what the British call "rocket" (and what the French call roquette); we in the states call this "arugula." The photo also shows some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. For a dressing: olive oil (the good stuff: first cold pressing from Italy) and balsamic vinegar, with a bit of salt and pepper. Two large cups of filtered water to drink, and for dessert, 10 grams of 70% Cote d'Or dark chocolate. Total calories: about 1,000, give or take. I doubt I have consumed more than 2,400 calories today and have walked a lot (13,000 steps and counting).

Blood Glucose reading one hour after eating: 109.

Friday, February 3, 2012

So What did I Eat?

Several people have asked me about what I ate on my 30-day clean Paleo experiment that helped me to bust through my stall. So I thought I would elaborate.

First of all, let me say I am a tall (6'3"), 50-year-old male. My goal weight is between 215-220 pounds. Also, I tried to keep it simple. I ate very palatable foods, but choices low on food reward. For example, steak, which is very palatable, but does not cause me to want more, as more rewarding foods do. So here is the menu.

Every morning, I ate two fried eggs (cooked in coconut oil) and either some homemade sausage or thick sliced bacon. Plus water.

Lunch was a bit more varied. I would often take a soup made with beef or chicken stock, that contained some meat, but lots of veggies and a safe starch (white potatoes or rice). I tried to have something made with bone broth every day. I would also take a salad, with tuna fish, olives, olive oil, and Balsamic vinegar. Sometimes, I would take a piece of meat that was leftover from dinner (e.g., chicken or ribs) instead of either the soup or salad.

For dinner, I would eat a piece of meat (beef, pork, chicken, salmon or other fish) plus vegetables. If I hadn't eaten a safe starch for lunch, I would also include a small sweet potato. The only condiments I used were salt and pepper.

I rarely snacked, but if I did, it was usually berries of some sort. Upon occasion, I had some herbal mint tea, unsweetened. And I made sure I drank adequate water.

In addition to all of that, I would eat two to three Brazil nuts per day, plus take liver pills. That is, frozen pieces of raw liver that I had chopped up into pill-sized shapes that I could swallow (thanks Chris Kresser for that great idea; I have a hard time with liver). I would also supplement with other vitamins, as per the Perfect Health Diet.

Whenever possible, I practiced intermittent fasting. Sometimes for as much as 24 hours, but mostly I would go 13 to 16 hours between eating. Once dinner was over (usually around 6:00 p.m.), I didn't eat anything else until breakfast the next morning (around 7:00 a.m.; later on weekends).

And it worked beautifully.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Busting Through My Stall

One of my new year's resolutions was to do a 30-day, very clean Paleo experiment. I chose a hybrid of the Perfect Health Diet and Chris Kresser's Personal Paleo Code reset diet. So for the past 30 days, I gave up dairy, artificial sweeteners, dark chocolate, most packaged and processed foods, and all forms of sweeteners, artificial or not (e.g., no more maple or rice syrup). I avoided eating out as much as possible and concentrated on eating real, whole foods that I cooked myself. I made sure to eat safe starches each and every day, in the form of sweet potatoes, potatoes, or rice. I do not drink alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated teas, so they were not a problem for me. And I paid attention to calories, as they matter. Today is day 30 of this experiment.

What Happened 
So what happened? Several things, all of them good.

First, I busted through my stall. For about six months, I had stalled in the 242-245 pound range, though in recent weeks I had gotten up to has high as 249. That was a good 25-30 pounds above my ideal weight (I am tall). On January 1, 2012, I weighed 249.8 pounds and this morning, January 30, 2012, I weighed 233.8 pounds, for a total loss of 16 pounds.

Second, my blood glucose levels were excellent. They fell, and rapidly. In particular, my fasting blood glucose levels were a bit high (the "dawn phenomenon"), but they fell to below 100 most mornings. One-hour readings were almost always below 120 and two-hour readings were close to 100.

Third, I broke an addiction to artificial sweeteners. I haven't had anything with an artificial sweetener for 30 days now and have drunk nothing but water and herbal tea. Something caused me to have big headaches the first week, as I was weaning myself from non-natural foods. It was like the caffeine withdrawal I had when I finally gave up diet colas three years ago (I am not a coffee or caffeinated tea drinker). I don't know what caused the headaches, but I am wondering if it wasn't all the artificial sweeteners I had been consuming.

Why I Believe it Worked
So why was I able to drop 16 pounds in 30 days, when I was stalled for six months? Because I was consuming fewer calories, bottom line. When you cut out dairy, sweeteners (artificial and real), chocolate, and other processed foods, you simply eat less. I noticed that immediately, when I realized the range of foods available for me to eat was quite limited. I also stopped snacking. Plus the foods I actually ate were whole and real. I only ate out when I absolutely could not help it.

After going gangbusters on a low carb diet, I got sloppy and started eating things that were probably not good for me. Dark chocolate tops that list. I pretty much ate some chocolate almost every day and for me, chocolate is a trigger food. Also, I bought into all the "high fat low carb" fairy tale hype I had seen on the Internet. So I was making an effort to add fat to everything. What I didn't really realize was that a low carb or Paleo diet is already high fat; you don't have to add fat to make it high fat. When you cut back on carbs, fat fills the void. Naturally.

I also ate a lot of energy dense foods as snacks, such as cheeses, almonds, almond flour, other nuts, and ice cream. You simply cannot eat all you want of these types of food and lose weight; calories count. This is a message that needs repeating on the Internet.

Challenges I Faced
It wasn't easy to do. I got withdrawal headaches from something that were very unpleasant for the first week. Then my father passed away and I spent 10 days on the road, eating what I could, when I could. On only one occasion during the funeral trip was I forced to make a compromise. I hadn't eaten much and, because of traveling, had to eat on the road. I probably consumed fewer than 1,000 calories that day, but I did buy a stick of beef jerky and some smokehouse almonds from a convenience store to get through that particular situation. I also had a really bad cold two weeks into the process and took some cold medication (but not a lot) . I had wanted to have a chemical free experience, but life happened.

Lessons Learned
Here are some lessons I learned:

  • Calories count. 
  • Whole foods are best. 
  • I was addicted to chocolate, which means I will probably have to avoid it in the future. 
  • I can survive without diet soda. 
  • I miss cheese, but will not go overboard with it when it is reintroduced. 
  • Coconut oil is my friend. 
  • I got sloppy and careless on the low carb diet, and consumed too many calories each day, which is why I stalled.
  • Paleo is a much better eating philosophy than low carb.
  • The low carb conventional wisdom found on the web (e.g., "Add fat!") is wrong.
  • However, as a road warrior, low carb is easier to live with than clean Paleo, if one is forced to eat out a lot.

Moving Forward
I will be gradually reintroducing some of the foods I have not eaten for a while, but continue to pay attention to calories. I am getting near my goal of 215-220 pounds and I want to reach that, as I want to go paragliding in Switzerland this summer. I am still taking refuge in the Carbsane Asylum and not blindly accepting what I read on the web anymore. There are many wise voices on the web, but also lots of fairy tales.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eating Safe Starches Lowers my Blood Glucose Levels

Recently, I have been aggressively monitoring my blood glucose levels and I have noticed a very interesting pattern. On days when I do not eat safe starches, my fasting blood glucose level the next morning is approximately 105. However, when I do eat safe starches (usually a sweet potato, regular potato, or white rice), the next morning my fasting blood glucose level is approximately 95.

So I have been testing this idea by purposefully not eating any safe starches one day and checking my fasting blood glucose level the next morning. Like clockwork, my blood glucose levels are higher the next morning. When I eat safe starches, the fasting reading the next day goes down to 95. I am getting a 10-point drop the next day by eating safe starches. This is a very consistent finding.

Even more curious, on days when I forego the safe starches, I am actually consuming fewer calories than the days when I eat them. My menus have been very consistent across all of these tests (I am trying to eat simple and dull meals, as suggested by Jenny Ruhl and Stephan Guyenet). So if I am eating less food, why are the fasting readings always higher? For purposes of full disclosure, my one hour readings are almost always below 125 and two hour readings are almost always below 100. Not bad for a type II diabetic. The Perfect Health Diet has effectively controlled my disease.

So is the consumption of safe starches actually contributing to lowering my blood glucose levels? That is what it looks like to me.

See my previous entries on safe starches here, here, and here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Safe Starch Update

As I have previously mentioned, I am a type II diabetic, as well as a Perfect Health Diet adherent. I have been following the PHD quite rigorously for a while now and wanted to report on the progress.

First, I eat safe starches every day as part of my Paleo diet. Usually a half a cup of rice or a small- to medium-sized baked potato. Lately, I have been eating sweet potatoes (small to medium sized) most every evening, without anything added. And I check my blood sugar regularly. Two hours after eating a dinner of baked salmon with lemon infused olive oil, salad, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a medium sized sweet potato, my blood sugar was 95. My fasting blood sugar was 101 the next morning (my morning readings have always been high; Jenny Ruhl calls this the "dawn phenomenon"). Now these are not "normal" readings, but they are very good for me, especially given my history.

What is interesting is that my blood glucose levels have consistently fallen since adding in safe starches (and following the other aspects of the Perfect Health Diet), especially my fasting blood glucose readings. So I still reject the safe starch exclusion for type II diabetics. If it helps, like it does for me, eat safe starches, even if you are a type II diabetic.