Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nervous About Perfect Health Diet

I did it today. I started in earnest the Perfect Health Diet. And I am nervous about it. We potatoes with dinner tonight and I figure I consumed about 35 grams of carbs with my potatoes. I finished the day at about 85 grams of carbs, which, for me, is a lot. I haven't consumed that many carbs since before I started a low carb way of eating.

The Perfect Health Diet makes a lot of sense; it recommends getting 50 to 150 grams of carbs from "safe starches," such as rice, potatoes, yams, and taro. The logic: your body needs a certain amount of glucose to function, and if you go very low carb, you force your liver to produce the glucose from protein. Which is not necessarily healthy for your liver. So I get why "safe" carbs are necessary, but it is hard to change old habits. It's a bit like changing religions, really.

And I am a type II diabetic and I really have to watch the carbs I consume. So I checked my blood glucose levels after dinner and they were fine. Two hours after eating dinner, including the potatoes, it was 118. Ideally, two hours after a meal, it should be below 120 but at a bare minimum, be below 140. So I met that standard. Jenny Ruhl said in a recent podcast with Jimmy Moore that most type II diabetic men she knows can handle 75 to 100 grams of carbs per day, so I am hoping she is correct. If not, I will have to scale back.

Another issue making me nervous is I am likely to gain five pounds, almost over night, by replenishing glycogen stores. But I have to keep reminding myself that it is only a water gain. The theory is, one molecule of glycogen bonds with four molecules of water, and since we normally carry around a pound of glycogen, that means, gulp, one pound of glycogen and four pounds of water. It's all psychological. I know it is going to happen and I know it is water, but it still makes me nervous. Paul Jaminet says it may not happen, so I can at least hold out a little bit of hope.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Tale of Two Weight Loss Experiences

In 2005-2006, I lost about 100 pounds on Weight Watchers. Of course, once I stopped starving myself (and I was hungry all the time on Weight Watchers), the weight came back on, and quickly. But it provides a useful contrast to my weight loss experience following low carb principles.

Because of the recency of the experience, I can compare results and draw some conclusions. Here are my weekly stats on Weight Watchers and here are my up-to-date states on a low carb way of eating. You will quickly notice that my weekly average weight loss on Weight Watchers is quite a bit higher than the average low carb weight loss.

Currently, I weigh about 245 pounds. On Weight watchers, the lowest I got was 196. But here is the really interesting thing: my lowest pant size on Weight Watchers was a 38-inch waist. I could comfortably fit into a 38-inch waist pair of pants from about 196 to 210 pounds. At 245 pounds, I am already into 40-inch waist trousers. Another 10 to 15 pounds, and I should be able to fit into those 38-inch waist trousers I still have in my closet.

On Weight Watchers, I had to get down to 205 pounds to achieve a "normal" BMI of 25. According to the BMI charts, for a 6'3" male, my "normal" and ideal weight range should be between 160 and 205. But after about 220 pounds, people told me I had lost "too much weight," and that I was looking emaciated. Those comments accelerated as I got closer to goal. I can't imaging what I'd look like at 160 pounds. I am guessing that on Weight Watchers, I lost a lot of lean muscle mass, as well as fat. That is not happening in my low carb lifestyle.

Now that I am wearing clothes that I wore on the Weight Watchers diet at 220 pounds, people are not telling me I look emaciated, but that I look great. And irony of ironies, according to the BMI scale, I am "obese." I still need to lose another five pounds before BMI tells me I am merely "overweight."

I am mostly losing fat, not lean muscle mass, and my body shape is different than when I lost weight with Weight Watchers. I can tell, and so can my wife. My stomach is flatter, by butt is smaller, and the muscle mass in my chest area is greater (I'll get around to posting photos one of these days). On Weight Watchers, I lost 60 pounds before anyone commented that I had lost weight. With low carb, people started noticing at about 25 pounds and they really started commenting when I had lost 45 pounds. I am fitting into clothing at a much higher weight than I was when I lost weight with Weight Watchers. Why? A high fat/low carb diet helps you lose body fat and preserve lean muscle mass. It's not because of excessive exercise (I walk the dog every day and occasionally lift weights, but I don't do chronic cardio like I did on Weight Watchers).

The low carb way of eating normalized my blood sugars very early on; it took me almost until 200 pounds for that to happen on Weight Watchers, and my cholesterol never stabilized into "normal" ranges. Low carb is very friendly to type II diabetics.

Best of all, I am not starving all the time like I was on Weight Watchers. Low carb eating is very satiating, even if the weight is not coming off as fast as on Weight Watchers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rice Syrup and Blood Glucose Response

I have been pondering lately on what constitutes a "low carb" diet and have just finished reading Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet (here is an overview of the diet). They suggest a low carb diet of 50 to 150 grams of carbs per day, with a bias towards more rather than fewer carbs (or, as they say in the book, 200 to 600 calories from carbohydrates). They recommend getting carb calories from safe starches, such as rice, taro, yams, and tapioca. This is substantially higher than most other low carb experts, but their book was compelling (I will review it at another time).

In the book, they say eating natural sweeteners are okay, especially if they come from the "safe starches" mentioned above. Specifically, they talk about rice syrup. So I bought some certified organic brown rice syrup from Now Healthy Foods. On the label, we read:

Unlike simple sugars, such as monosaccharides and disaccharides, Brown Rice Syrup is a polysaccharide, or a complex sugar. The unique structure of complex sugars allows them to be absorbed and broken down more slowly than simple sugars, avoiding rapid spikes in blood glucose. Slower absorption also allows the body to utilize complex sugars for energy instead of having to store them as fat for later use.

Based on this label and the Jaminets' claim that it is okay to use, since it is from a safe starch, I decided to do an N=1 test and see how my blood sugars reacted to it. I made some ice cream (one cup of cream, one cup of half and half, six egg yolks, one tablespoon of pure vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of rice syrup). A serving size is one half cup and has about 220 calories and 11 grams of carbs, mostly from the brown rice syrup (it was delicious, by the way). To make this an even stronger test, I ate 3/4 cup of the ice cream, for 330 calories and 17 grams of carbs (my total carb count for the day is about 50, including the ice cream).

I ate the ice cream about two hours after dinner, and my blood sugar was 106 just before I ate the ice cream. Full disclosure: I am a type II diabetic and take Metformin. This probably had an impact on the test. Nevertheless, my results were very interesting. I ate the ice cream then tested my blood sugar at 15-minute intervals to see the blood glucose response. Here are the raw data:

8:20 p.m.          106
8:35 p.m.          109
8:50 p.m.          125
9:05 p.m.          137
9:20 p.m.          142
9:35 p.m.          130
9:50 p.m.          133
10:05 p.m.        116
10:20 p.m.        108

And here is a graph:

The blood glucose response was actually very normal for me. One hour after eating, the reading was 142 and two hours after eating, it was back down to 108. According to Jenny Ruhl, one hour after eating it should optimally be 140 or below and two hours after eating it should be 120 or below. But she also says the critical threshold to avoid organ damage is to have the reading be at least 140 or below two hours after eating. When I eat low carb (50 to 75 grams of carbs per day), my blood sugar is almost always 140 or below after one hour and 120 or below after two hours.

So for me, this is convincing evidence that, indeed, brown rice syrup is a safe sweetener. Not to be used in excess, but not problematic, either. I may have to strongly consider following this Perfect Health Diet .

Mayonnaise Substitute

Homemade mayonnaise is wonderful, and not made with U.S. subsidized farm products like soybean oil used in most brands of mayonnaise. We use olive oil at home when we make homemade mayonnaise and it tastes very good, like the mayonnaise we encounter in Europe.

But homemade mayonnaise has one big problem: since it has no preservatives, it doesn't last very long. It is also somewhat of a mess to make, though using a food processor definitely helps. Thus, the inconvenience of having to make mayonnaise all the time led me to find another solution. And I found a great one.

Use sour cream instead! There are fewer calories per serving (mayonnaise: 90 calories per tablespoon; sour cream: 60 calories for two tablespoons), and it tastes great. Since I am now counting calories, this is an important benefit for me. I use Daisy sour cream, as there are no additives or preservatives and it is made with 100% grade A cultured cream. Tuna salad, egg salad, and homemade salad dressings all taste really good, without any of the health dangers of using products made with soybeans.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Counting Calories Works For Me

To misquote James Carville, "It's the calories, stupid." I have successfully broken through my stall, by limiting my calories. I bought into the low carb hype about a "metabolic advantage" and the idea that "calories don't count." About four weeks ago when I started slowing down in my weight loss I decided to restrict calories, since some voices I respect talked about the necessity of counting calories.

Thinking back on it, it is remarkable that I lost almost 50 pounds without counting anything except grams of carbs. I guess that shows how overweight I was. The greater satiety from eating fat and protein filled me up and I spontaneously consumed fewer calories, which directly led to the weight loss. However, as I am losing weight, my metabolism is adjusting as well, and the weight loss started slowing, then stalled. But since I started counting calories (and exercising more), I have started losing weight again. Even though I have been restricting calories (using the free livestrong.com program), I am still not hungry most of the time, so this is clearly the way to go. I guess it helps that, with exercise, I can consume 2,700 calories per day and still lose weight. Only about thirty pounds to go until I hit my goal.

"Low carb" is still the way to go, as it is a much more pleasant weight loss experience. However, I think I am redefining in my own mind what "low carb" actually means. But that is the subject for another day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Does One Justify Dietary Dogma?

Chris Masterjohn has quite an important blog post about dietary dogma and why we should not be dogmatic. I recommend everyone read it.

But it did bring up an important idea on which I would like to elaborate. Where do our dietary dogmas come from, and how are they justified?

Is our dietary dogmas based on religion? Religion often offers an absolute standard for Why We Do What We Do. Dietarily speaking, do we eat Halal (Islam), Kosher (Judaism), lacto-ovo vegetarianim (7th Day Adventist), or abstain from coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, eat lots of wheat but eat meat sparingly (Mormon)? Religion uses some form of revelation to justify the dietary dogma, but this begs an important question: whose source of revelation is the "right" one? This is not a question that can be answered empirically. The religious adherent is backed up to the wall of faith, and there she or he must make a stand.

Is the dogma based on science? Scientific justification is not as solid as many suppose. For example, here is a question with no answer, despite decades and perhaps centuries of trying: what is the demarcation between "science" on the one hand and "non-science" on the other? We almost venerate science by assuming it is a special, different sort of knowledge, containing Truth. So non-science must equate to non-Truth. If this is so, then it is important to know the dividing line between "science" and "non-science." Is it possible to come up with a definition of science that gives "scientific" knowledge a privileged status over "non-scientific" knowledge, one that no one can poke holes in? This is not a trivial question.

For a really good primer on this "problem of science," read the book, What is This Thing Called Science? by Alan Chalmers. This is a philosophy of science primer often used in college courses and remarkably easy to read.  He starts with logical positivism and in a balanced fashion looks at each of the definitions of science, then pokes holes in them all. He does this for falsificationism, Kuhnian paradigms, research programs, methodological approaches, Bayesian approaches to science, scientific realism, new experimentalism, and even Feyerabend's "anything goes" view of science. He leaves us with the distinct impression that science, as a justification for anything, is built on a foundation of sand. The history of scientific progress is actually quite messy, and the sociology of science has a lot to say as well. For example, how objective can a scientist be, when scientific progress is dependent on a funding source and when tenure depends on getting the right type of articles published in the right outlets?

When people realize they cannot draw the demarcation between science and non-science, they often retreat to a Justice Stewart Potter type of defense: "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." This is also an indefensible way of justifying scientific knowledge, as it is open to subjective judgment.

Then there is the "it works" defense. I have used this one to defend low carb diets, as it has unquestionably worked in my case. But I am a sample size of one; does it "work" for everyone? Do I have a right to project my success onto others? Is it possible that it won't work for someone else? Also, can I conceive that it might stop working for me in the future? So this is an equally poor justification. Weight Watchers also worked for me, but I never want to go back to that plan. For that matter, starvation will also work to control diabetes and to lose weight. But is it wise?

So why do we believe that low carb is "The One True Way of Eating?" Because it works? Because science tells us so? Because we have faith in it? Because an authority figure wrote a book about it?

Without critically thinking through some of these issues, I might as well check my brain in at the door and stop learning new things. Follow, but not question, the "received" wisdom of the Low Carb Elders. When they have spoken, the thinking has been done. Line up and follow, or else you're an infidel!

Or learn wisdom and seek out that which is good, that which works for you. Recognize that there is more to learn and discover out there, and keep an open mind. Challenge your beliefs; it will make your rationale for following your particular dietary plan stronger.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thinking Through Diet Options

The recent Internet firestorm involving Gary Taubes and Stephan Guyenet has left me with a lot of questions.

As a weight loss method, low carb works--to a point. I have lost 55 pounds in six months, but I am still 30 pounds from my goal weight and I am stalled. There is a lot of chatter on the Internet about stalls: they happen after you lose between 17 and 20% of your body weight. I have lost about 18% of my body weight fairly effortlessly without really counting anything on a low carb diet, then I stalled, and am now counting calories to break through the stall. So far, I am very slowly creeping downward.

Is Taubes wrong? Is the problem carbohydrates, or something else? Clearly, what he advocates (reducing carbs) works, at least to a point, and at least for me. But why does it work? In substantially reducing carbs, I have cut out all forms of wheat and most forms of sugar, two carbs widely believed to be problematic. Heck, even the low fat, high carb dieters come out against sugar. But is Taubes condemning all carbs, when only some of them are bad? Isn't this what happened with fat? Ancel Keys waged war against saturated fat and now America is lipophobic (afraid of fat).  Taubes describes the complete history of the Keys and the lipid hypothesis ("saturated fats cause heart disease") in Good Calories Bad Calories.

Is Gary Taubes doing the same thing to carbohydrates?  One person described Taubes as the "Ancel Keys of carbohydrates." Ouch, that's gotta hurt. But Taubes is relentlessly promoting the "carbs are bad, carbs --> insulin --> fat accumulation" hypothesis. So the comment may hurt because there is more than a ring of truth to it. Is Taubes pushing a solution that is potentially as bad, in its own way, as Keys' agenda was? America is now lipophobic; will Taubes cause us to become carbophobic as well?

Many in the low carb blogosphere point out that carbs are not bad across the board. Certain foods, which happen to be carbohydrates, are bad (e.g., high fructose corn syrup, sugar, flour and wheat products, etc.; see Kurt Harris, M.D. and Paul Jaminet, Ph.D. [see this page, too] ). But vegetable oils, such as corn, soy, canola, etc., are also bad, according to these two sites, and they are fats, not carbohydrates. Kurt Harris tells us to ignore macro nutrients (fats, carbs, protein) altogether and instead avoid the NADs, or "neolithic agents of disease." In other words, fructose, wheat, and vegetable oils. Both Harris and Jaminet are okay with eating non-problematic carbs such as white rice, yams, and potatoes. However, neither Harris nor Jaminet are diabetic and their plans for eating are not necessarily approaches to weight loss.

So I could see myself following one of these plans (or adopting the Weston A. Price style of eating), after I lose my weight. However, I am still 30 pounds away from goal. What to do? Low carbing has helped me to lose weight, control my blood sugars, normalize my blood pressure, and sleep better, but can it get me all the way to goal? Weight Watchers took me all the way to goal, but that is a semi-starvation plan and high in carbs, which is not good for my type II diabetes.

After a lot of thought, I will keep on with the low carb way of life (but I will double my carbs),  count calories, exercise more, and perhaps other things (e.g., eliminate all artificial sweeteners, eat only whole, real foods), if necessary, until I reach my goal. However, I am very open to suggestions. When I am at goal, I will likely switch to one of the plans mentioned above for weight maintenance and general health.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Taubes Coming Under Fire

Gary Taubes is coming under some Internet fire for comments he made at the Ancestral Health Symposium this past weekend. He basically chided the impeccably polite Stephen Guyenet of the Whole Health Source blog because Guyenet does not agree with everything Taubes says. The Internet widely views Taubes as the loser in this issue.

Guyenet politely took Taubes to task for his comments and then Paul Jaminet of the Perfect Health Diet politely defended Guyenet. Others were not so polite in their defense of Guyenet.

Now Guyenet, in his polite, scientific way, is taking on Taubes' central hypothesis that carbs (particularly refined carbs) leads to insulin spikes, which leads to fat deposition. He lays out, then refutes, Tabues' three main carbohydrate hypotheses. Just read the article. Though technical, it is worth the read.

So, if carbohydrate restriction doesn't lead to lowered insulin levels, which then causes weight loss, as Taubes suggests, how do low carb diets work? The answer is not clear, as Guyenet states, but he suggests it has something to do with greater satiety and a spontaneous reduction in calories consumed. I've come to this same conclusion and realized I needed to watch my caloric intake. I'll elaborate more in a future post.

So, what is my opinion on Taubes? I do not view him as the profiteering devil envisioned by Evelyn Kocur. I think he has made some great contributions, including demonstrating that the low fat dogma is just plain wrong. My eyes were certainly opened by reading Good Calories, Bad Calories, even if some of his ideas have been shown to be off base. And he introduced me to the low carb way of life. All I can say is, it works as advertised, at least for me. It is directly responsible for my current weight loss and the control of my type II diabetes. And for that, I am extremely grateful to Taubes. He has had a huge impact on my life, for the better.

That said, I have also learned a lot about healthy diets from folks like Jaminet, Guyenet, Chris KresserKurt Harris, Sally Fallon, Weston A. Price, and others. All follow some version of a low carb lifestyle, but have discovered reasons for healthy eating other than "carbs are bad." This has directly led to the creation of this blog and has allowed me to transcend and move beyond a strict and very low carb diet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Low Carb Information?

There are a lot of theories pertaining to the low carb way of eating on the Internet and in popular books. And not all of the theories are sound, or backed by hard, empirical, scientific data. So I am curious where people get their ideas from. Are you getting your ideas from a science journalist? A comedian? A romance novelist whose books have "bodice ripper" covers? Physicians (such as this one, this one, this one, and these two)? Nutrition researchers? Weight loss celebrities? Cookbook authors (such as this one, this one, and this one)?

Personally, I have learned from all of the above. However, my vote for the most hard hitting and accurate information about both the low carb way of eating and type II diabetes goes to the romance novelist with the bodice ripper covers. She has three web sites: one called Blood Sugar 101, one called What They Don't Tell You About Low Carb Diets, and a diabetes research update blog. The Blood Sugar 101 site really lays it all out and is perhaps the most important type II diabetes web site on the Internet. She explains everything associated with type II diabetes, including the low carb way of eating, medications, finger sticks, diabetes on a budget, etc. And her diabetes update blog is my go to source for up-to-date diabetes information.

Her low carb site is informed by years of experience and empirical evidence. She discusses stalls (and how to overcome them), how much weight you will lose, what happens when you fall off the low carb wagon, how to overcome "keto breath," lots of practical "in the trench" advice, etc. Ounce for ounce, it is the most meaty and useful low carb site on the Internet.

I cannot comment on her romance novels, however, as my tastes in fiction go more to science fiction and epic fantasy.

The book that influenced me the most, the one that introduced me to the low carb way of eating, is Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. However, I am learning that Taubes is a theorist and some of his ideas, such as calories don't count and exercise doesn't help are not grounded in scientific data. This book has been enormously influential in my success, but I am starting to see the holes in some of his arguments. For that reason, it does not take second place. That honor of the second most influential source of information goes to the book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., and Stephen Phinney, M.D., Ph.D. Written for other physicians, it lays out the low carb lifestyle and documents every point they make. I have reviewed the book previously on my other blog, so I won't go into great detail here. Suffice it to say that it explains the "how" of the low carb way of eating.

And a well-deserved honorable mention goes to the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. (read my review). More than a cookbook, it explains what is necessary for healthy eating and how to prepare foods to achieve optimal health. Not low carb per se, but it is extraordinarily informative. I am doing much of the cooking at home and her cookbook is my go-to source for healthy recipes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why Low Carb Works, At Least For Me

I've previously bought into a lot of the low carb hype: there is a metabolic advantage, carbs are fattening, low carb cures all, etc. But with time, wisdom arrives. The low carb way of eating seems to work for me, and, after a lot of thinking about it, here is why.

Protein and fat are very satiating and keep me full. Indeed, research shows that low carb dieters spontaneously consume fewer calories after feeling full, which leads to weight loss. This, I think, is the key element in weight loss on a carbohydrate restricted diet. But there are some other factors, too.

Protein and fat simply taste better than the low fat fare I ate on Weight Watchers. I hate skinless chicken breasts but love steak, eggs, and bacon. And vegetables. Food choices are simply easier, and for the first fifty pounds of my weight loss, I didn't have to count anything (although, I am now counting calories). I doubt I will ever go back to a Weight Watchers style, low fat diet. I genuinely like what I eat when low carbing.

That said, there seems to be a lot of misinformation about why low carb diets work. This post by Dana Carpender is a prime example. Dana, I love your cookbooks and use many of the recipes. But you are simply wrong here. She claims a five pound weight game came from eating a few too many grams of carbs over one week. In one sense, this is true and accurate. But it's not because carbs are fattening, as she implies.

When you slip up on a low carb diet, you do gain a lot of weight, almost immediately. But it's all water. When carbohydrates are stored in your body as energy in the form of glycogen, each molecule of glycogen is bonded to four molecules of water. This accounts for the first, rapid weight loss on a true, low carb diet: you deplete your glycogen stores (a 150 pound person has about a pound of glycogen stored up) and the water bonded to it. Hence, five pounds. When you replenish those glycogen stores by eating too many carbs, the water "loss" comes back. You can literally gain five pounds over night by cheating on a low carb diet.

I am quite certain this is what happened to Dana Carpender. Just get back in the saddle and try again, though you will deal with some side effects, such as hunger and higher blood sugar levels, for a couple of days. But be wise and understand it is a water gain, not a fat gain. Making you retain water is not the same thing as gaining fat, and the carbs she consumed are not fattening in the sense that she is storing extra fat. She is simply storing extra water. Think through it logically, folks: a few hundred (or even a few thousand) extra carb calories will not cause you to gain five pounds of fat.

Monday, August 8, 2011

On Exercise

I've done a lot of thinking about exercise lately. The standard thinking on the subject is that exercise is a powerful tool for weight loss. However, in recent months, the role of exercise in weight loss has been questioned. The basic problem: people work up an appetite when exercising, and consequently consumer more calories. A friend of mine who is an exercise physiologist at the same university at which I work, told me the role of exercise in weight loss has been oversold, and that while exercise is very good for the health, it doesn't help with weight loss, only the prevention of weigh gain. One study showed that even thinking about exercise caused people to eat more.

Gary Taubes makes two, contradictory statements in his book, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, the book that introduced me to the low carb lifestyle. He says that, when eating low carb, calories don't count (I am on record as stating that calories do count, at least in my personal experience). Then he claims that exercise fails to help people lose weight, because they get hungry after exercising and eat more calories, preventing them from losing weight. So which is it?  I bought into this idea through the first fifty pounds of my low carb weight loss and haven't been exercising for weight loss. But with my recent stall, I am rethinking this. Tabues can't have it both ways: either calories don't count, or exercising helps. Personally, I think calories count, so does this mean exercising might help with weight loss?

I see a flaw in the argument that exercise causes us to eat more. First of all, that statement should be, "exercise can cause us to eat more," but it doesn't necessarily have to do that. This is a lesson I learned while on Weight Watchers: don't deviate from your program and exercise. That way, you don't overeat, even after exercising. That seemed to work for me and is what helped me to reach my goal weight on Weight Watchers. There is no immutable law that says you must overeat after exercising; one can exercise willpower and not overeat after exercising.

So here is what I think I will do. Continue monitoring my calories on livestrong.com and stay below the calorie threshold for my height and weight in order to lose two pounds per week, continue eating low carb, and exercise. I will do it for at least six weeks before reviewing the results. My prediction: I will bust through this weight loss stall and get back on track in the weight loss department.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Doubling My Carbs

In the past six months, I guess it would be fair to say I have become a bit "carbophobic." In fact, I have been following a "very low carb" way of eating. Why? I can't really say for sure.  I have type II diabetes and this low carb lifestyle has effectively put my type II diabetes into remission. It makes sense: carbs drive blood sugar responses, so cut back on the carbs. That is also the key to weight loss.

But why very low carb? I honestly don't know. I came to the realization that I was carbophobic a while back and decided it wasn't rational. I had been consuming, on average, 20-25 grams of carbs per day, mostly in the form of green, leafy vegetables and the small number of carbs found naturally in eggs. The theory is, to stay in ketosis, you need to consume 50 or fewer grams of carbs per day. That helps the most with weight loss. So if that is true, why was I trying to stay below 25? Why not simply stay below 50?

So in recent weeks, I have roughly doubled my carb count. I am still below 50 net carbs (after subtracting out grams of fiber), but it has made a huge difference in the types of foods I can eat. For example, the other night, I made ice cream from the recipe in Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions. In half a cup, there were about 300 calories and 16 grams of carbs. I keep my calorie total below the threshold needed to lose weight for a person my size and height, and my total carbs for the day were under 50. I also monitored my blood glucose levels and there was no blood sugar effect to doubling my carbs at all. And the homemade ice cream sure did taste good and add enjoyment to the meal. I am also hopeful that doubling my carbs will help shake things up and get me through this current stall (I will know on Monday when I weigh myself).

This is all part of my new approach to the low carb way of eating. I am challenging many of the assumptions I have made about losing weight by low carbing, as many of the posts in this blog detail. Next up: exercise. Gary Taubes tells us it doesn't help with weight loss. Is that true? Or just another Internet myth...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On Low Carb Willpower and Self Control

When I first discovered the low carb way of eating, I was very excited, because I could lose weight without being hungry. My hunger, I supposed, was what was driving my obesity. And there is some truth to that. But I have seen enough people try low carb, lose some weight, perhaps 20 or 30 or 40 pounds, then abandon it. If you are not hungry, and if you are losing weight, why abandon the way of eating that produced these results?

For me, sticking to the low carb diet is easy, because of a trade off between the low carb way of eating and the ravages possible from my type II diabetes if I fall off the low carb wagon (I have written about this trade off before). But it also boils down to this: willpower and self control.

You need willpower and self control to avoid the siren song of a high carb diet. In talking with people who have fallen off the low carb wagon, it usually boils down to two problems: 1) the necessity of cooking and planning to provide low carb options at mealtime (which can lead to boredom) and 2) the desire to eat favorite carbohydrates (and which are everywhere). Neither one of these problems is a deal breaker, but you have to want to eat this way, or you will eventually abandon it. And you must exert self control in your choices. You can get fat eating low carb foods if you eat too much.

So to successfully lead a low carb lifestyle, you need willpower and self-control. The low carb way of eating is not a magic weight loss bullet. Simply put, yagottawanna live this way.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A High Fat Diet--But Don't Overdo It

A low carb diet is really a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet. If you cut out carbs, they must be replaced with either protein or fat, and since too much protein can be toxic, that means it is, of necessity, a high fat diet.

I have posted the macro nutrient content of my diet for a couple of days (here and here) and you can clearly see that fat makes up between 2/3 and 3/4 of the calories in my low carb way of eating. So, indeed, it is a high fat diet.

The temptation, on the Internet at least, is to eat more fat to see how it positively impacts your health. Couple this high fat folk belief with the erroneous belief that only carbs matter in weight loss, not calories, and you have a recipe for weight gain. If you add substantial calories in the form of additional fat, you will likely gain weight or stall out your weight loss. I fear that is what has happened to me over the past few weeks. I have been adding butter and heavy whipping cream to many things, and stalled out. Adding 12 tablespoons of fat will lead to weight gain, not increased health (though to be fair, this is the only day where he went overboard by adding 12 tablespoons of additional fat to a meal. The other meals on his blog within a week or two of this one are much more normal).

So this is why I have started this new blog: to add a rational twist to low carbing, instead of following all of the latest fads I see popping up on the Internet. The low carb way of eating is naturally high fat; we don't have to add any more fat to make it high fat! I like the taste of fat, and I guess I so desperately wanted to be able to eat as much of it as I wished to without weight gain that I didn't stop to think about how silly that idea really was.

As an addendum, Volek and Phinney, in their book, The Art and Science of Low Carb Living, show that for maintenance, after you have lost your weight (but not during weight loss!), you must gradually add more fat to your meals, up until you hit the calorie level for your age, weight, and height. This makes sense, as you are no longer burning through your own personal stores of fat, but they very clearly specify calorie levels. As I have mentioned before, calories count.

Monday, August 1, 2011

From a Committed Low Carber: Learning From Weight Watchers

I've said some harsh things about Weight Watchers (examples here and here). But let me be honest: I've also learned a lot from Weight Watchers. Not necessarily about nutrition, as I will not be eating low fat again any time soon, but about other aspects of weight loss.

WW celebrates non-scale victories, or NSVs. So you didn't lose weight, but your wedding band fits better. Or you are losing inches, or you are moving more. They invested a lot of time in framing success to include things other than the scales. Now that the low carb diet is stalling for me, I am celebrating a lot of NSVs.

WW celebrates significant milestones, such as a loss of 10% of your body weight, 25 pounds, 50 pounds, 75 pounds, 100 pounds... Achieving these milestones is very difficult, and they are appropriately recognized. I have celebrated on my previous blog my first 10% goal and 50 pound weight loss.

WW provided a "safe" environment, in which everyone can feel comfortable sharing weight loss successes and failures. I think the search for a "safe" environment may be one of the reasons why a lot of low carbers seek out others on the Internet. As a former Weight Watchers leader, I know the weekly pep sessions were very helpful. It's simply people helping other people to succeed.

WW helps prepare for upcoming food events (e.g., Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) by mental rehearsing, anchoring, empowering beliefs, and other psychological tricks. Since Gary Taubes claimed in Why We Get Fat that obesity has been reframed as an eating disorder, or a psychological proglem, the low carb community tends to avoid psychological tricks. Personally, I find them useful, as weight loss is, for me at least, first and foremost psychological. I have to get my head "in the game," so to speak. Willpower, as I mentioned before, is a crucial low carb success factor. And ultimately, willpower is psychological. Weight Watchers helped a lot in the willpower department.

So even though I do not agree with their weight loss program or share their nutritional beliefs, I am taking the useful things I learned from Weight Watchers and applying them to my low carb lifestyle.