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.