Thursday, March 31, 2011

Essential Low Carb Books

First and foremost, you should run, not walk, to your nearest book store and purchase Why We Get Fat And What to do About It by Gary Taubes.  This book includes a description of a low carb diet in the appendix, but it is not really a "diet" book.  The title is pretty accurate: it describes why we get fat and what we can do about it.

For a great low carb cookbook, try The Low Carb Comfort Food Cookbook by Mary Dan and Michael R. Eades and Ursula Solom.  Or try 1001 Low Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender.

A good description of a low carb diet, without all the theory you will get from Gary Taubes, is The 30 Day Low Carb Diet Solution by Michael R. Eades and Mary Dan Eades.  This book includes a 30-day meal plan, plus a bunch of low carb recipes.

On Guns and Hunting

That Nice Girl I Married bought a hand gun this summer, and we have been out shooting it a few times.  I have discovered that this is a fun and enjoyable activity.  The other day, a federal agent in our ward went with us and taught us a lot about proper hand gun shooting techniques.  This got me to thinking: perhaps I should buy a rifle and go hunting for my own meat.  So I went out shopping for a deer rifle recently, and found a Savage brand that is to my liking.  It is also not terribly expensive.

Someone else in the ward has promised to take me deer hunting in the fall, which is great.  I know nothing about it, but if I am going to be a true carnivore, I need to hunt my own meat.  My daughters have been eating a lot of elk and moose that my brother shot, and it is a good source of protein for poor students on a budget.  It is also fairly healthy meat, as it is grass fed and without any added chemicals.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


My wife and I watched the movie Fathead last night.  It was a rebuttal to Morgan Spurlock's very dishonest film, Supersize Me.  It was quite good and promoted the low carb diet (though not as low carb as the one I am following).  It covered many of the same topics I have mentioned in this blog, but in a humorous way.  If you are a Netflix subscriber, you can stream it over the Internet.  My youngest daughter was the one who told me about it and it was well worth watching.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just Thinking About Exercise...

...leads people to overeat.  I am a marketing professor, and this study, by another marketing professor from Cornell named Brian Wansink, was quite clever.  Participants were given written scenarios about exercise or shopping, then rewarded with a "thank you bag" into which they could scoop as many M&Ms and as much Chex Mix as they wanted.  Those who read about exercise scooped up 60% more of the M&Ms and 52% more of the Chex Mix than those who read a scenario about shopping.

So as I mentioned yesterday, exercise does not help people lose weight, since people tend to "compensate" themselves for their virtuous acts of exercising by consuming more.  Now I learn that you don't even need to actually exercise, you can skip directly to caloric compensation.

Weekly Update

I am reporting in on Tuesday, instead of Monday, since I was traveling home from Europe yesterday.  This past week, I lost 3.2 pounds.  Part of that loss might be due to fluctuations due to jet lag; it's happened before on Weight Watchers.  However, since my experience on the LCD is different from Weight Watchers, I cannot say for sure that jet lag is affecting things.  On WW, the day after I got home, I would show a large loss, then a gain the next day, recuperating some of the lost weight.  We will see if that happens tomorrow.

On the blood pressure side of things, I was 110/78 last night when my nurse wife took my blood pressure.  Perfectly normal.  And my blood sugars continue to do very well.  With one exception (last night, which might be due to jet lag messing things up), my readings have always been less than 140 one hour after a meal and less than 120, two hours after a meal.  The only abnormal reading continues to be my fasting blood sugars in the morning, which are a bit high (120-135).  However, I have recently learned that if you are heavy and losing weight, the burning of fat during the night will contribute to a higher reading in the morning.

So by and large, I am pleased.  I am down 19.2 pounds in six weeks, for an average of 3.2 pounds per week.  Follow my weekly progress on this chart.  More importantly, my blood sugar readings and blood pressure are almost in the normal range and I am cutting back on my oral medicine (after discontinuing the insulin injections).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Exercise Won't Help You Lose Weight

The first time I heard someone claim that exercise does not help you lose weight, I scoffed at it.  But more and more researchers are concluding that the role of exercise in weight loss has been wildly overstated.  The basic problem:  exercise makes you hungry.  There is an interesting article in Time Magazine this week on this very subject.  Gary Taubes has an extended discussion of the exercise/weight loss fallacy in his book, Why We Get Fat, and this Time Magazine article essentially makes all of the same arguments Taubes has made.

So why is the belief so ingrained in the public mind that exercise leads to weight loss?  Because lean people are more active than fat people, therefore, it MUST be the exercise that is making the difference.  This is a fallacy, similar to the belief that if we put books in more homes, we will produce smarter children.  Children who read do indeed become smarter and are more likely to be middle class, but it is not merely the presence of books in the home that leads to this.  It's because those homes that have a lot of books in them have parents and children who actually read the books.  Giving a book (or many books) to someone who doesn't read will not make a person one whit smarter.

There are many good reasons to exercise, but apparently, weight loss is not one of them.  Another thing on which Weight Watchers has misled me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Sweet Life

I have read that by following a low carb diet that one will eventually lose the cravings for carbs.  While it hasn't yet happened to me, I have noticed that when I do eat naturally sweet things, such as raspberries, I am discovering they are really, truly sweet.  Since I haven't been cluttering up my palate with sweets in the past six weeks, I have learned to truly taste sweet fruits like raspberries for what they are.

In Belgium and France, where I spend a lot of time due to work issues, I have noticed they eat a lot fewer sweets than your average American, and many complain that sweets in the U.S. are too sweet.  I am seeing what they mean.  When I can truly savor and enjoy the sweetness of a raspberry, I realize that my taste buds had been deadened by the constant onslaught of sweet things I had been eating.  They are coming out of that sweet shock and it is a remarkably pleasant experience.

So How Much Weight Should I lose each Week?

When I lost 100+ pounds on Weight Watchers, it took me 10 months and an average loss of 2.4 pounds per week.  I gained it all back at about the same rate, since I was essentially living on a semi-starvation diet that was high in carbs and low in fat.  When I stopped starving myself, the weight came back on.  Now, I have found a better way, a dietary paradigm shift, a new, hopefully lifelong, way of eating.  But at the same time, I am discovering that everything I thought I knew about weight loss is wrong.

Apparently, I will lose weight at a different rate than on Weight Watchers.  During the first two weeks of the low carb diet, I lost 12 pounds, but it has slowed down considerably since then.  I will probably lose less weight per week than I did on Weight Watchers, since I am not starving myself.  Still, it was a question I wanted an answer to, so I did a bit of research.  The What They Don't Tell You about Low Carb Diets web site has a section that suggests a man in my weight range will probably lose about six pounds per month on average.  There are charts and graphs for men, women, and new dieters, and each graph is broken down into weight ranges.  The more you weigh, the more you will probably lose, at least at first.  As you get closer to your goal weight, your weight loss will slow.

So far, I have conformed to this pattern.  After the initial, dramatic weight loss, I have slowed a bit.  While my average over five weeks is still greater than three pounds per week, I expect that to gradually fall to the 1.5 pound per week mark.  I am happy and content with that, as this is not a race to my goal weight, and I won't be changing the way I eat once I get there.

Because, in addition to losing weight, the low carb way of life has saved me from my type II diabetes curse.  For that reason alone I would follow the plan, even if I didn't lose weight.  Losing weight is just icing on the cake.

Friday, March 25, 2011

News from the Low Carb Blogosphere

From the Metabolism Society comes this news:  low-fat diets, alone and/or in combination with exercise, had no effect on metabolic syndrome.  But as I've noted before, low carb diets have significant, positive effects on metabolic syndrome.

Recent evidence that intense cardio-vascular exercise, such as training for and running in more than three marathons per year, may cause damage to the heart.

Here is a fairly extensive, annotated list of diseases that can be cured or prevented by following a low carb diet.  For example, eating cheese can help to prevent tooth decay.

William Davis, M.D., a cardiologist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, discusses the unexpected benefits of a wheat-free diet.  He also points out that eating oatmeal causes significant blood sugar spikes.

Eating butter and cream will improve your cardiovascular health.

When checking your blood sugars, make sure to wash your hands with soap, dry them thoroughly, and don't squeeze to get blood.  Readings may be affected by +/- 10%.

Whole wheat bread causes blood sugar spikes that are similar to white bread.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


The Swiss do fondue quite well, so at dinner tonight, I had a meat fondue (plus a salad).  It was quite good.  We have been quite busy today, so lunch consisted of a few beef sticks and some almonds.  I will be happy to get back to the apartment tomorrow, where I can cook again.  No more time today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

France and Switzerland

Well, I am discovering that it is somewhat easier to eat out in France and Switzerland than I was fearing.  I cooked a bacon and cheese omelet this morning in the apartment in Antwerp, then drove with my colleague through France and to Bern, Switzerland, where we are spending the night.  I discovered that those rest stops in France sell smoked sausage sticks that are actually quite good.  I was also able to find some Sprite Zero, which surprised me.

Tonight in Switzerland, I had perhaps the best Caesar salad I have ever eaten, probably because of the real parmesan cheese.  Plus a "prime rib."  It's in quotation marks, because it was more like a steak than prime rib.  Oh, well, it was delicious.  Tomorrow, it is on to Interlaken, and we will see how it goes then as well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Carnivore in Europe

Well, I made it to Belgium.  I have discovered that the airlines will prepare all kinds of meals for people, but not for those of us on a very low carb diet.  I ate the chicken and the salad last night, and nothing else until noon today.  I left Fargo at 1:30 p.m. on Monday and now it is Tuesday in Belgium, 5:00 p.m.  Though I did doze a bit on the plane, I haven't really been asleep since I woke up yesterday morning.  So from the time I ate a small dinner until lunch, it was about 12 hours.

My colleague from the University of Antwerp took me to a favorite restaurant, t'Injaske, and I chose an Irish rib eye steak that came with a small salad.  It also came with potatoes, but I passed on those.  The steak was quite good; the Irish know how to raise good meat.  I then went shopping for some food this afternoon and discovered that eggs are much more expensive here than in the states.  I still bought some, and some bacon and cheese for omelets, plus some good French cheese, so I am set.  Tomorrow, it is off to Switzerland.  Hopefully, eating won't be too much of a problem while I am traveling.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weight Loss, Insulin Update

I am not sure what happened last week, but I have lost another 3.6 pounds this week, for a five week total of 16 pounds, or 3.2 pounds per week on average.  Here is a chart of my weight loss progress.

Also, I stopped taking insulin a while back, and my blood sugars are very good, with the slight exception of the fasting blood sugar first thing in the morning.  Recently, that has been in the 120-125 range, and it should be below 110 for a diabetic and about 90 for a non-diabetic.  I am not sure why that is high, as I am hardly eating any carbs at all, usually fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day, and most of those in the form of green or leafy vegetables.  My blood sugars one hour after a meal are almost always lower than 120 and two hours after are usually between 100 and 110.  They should be below 140 one hour after and below 120 two hours after a meal, so I am in good shape here.

I will be reducing my dosage of Janumet this week, from two pills a day (morning and evening) to one pill per day (just in the morning) and I will see what happens.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fruits and Vegetables

I keep learning that I have been misled in life, nutritionally speaking.  Are fruits and vegetables the wonder foods they are made out to be?  I do eat veggies, especially leafy and green vegetables, and occasionally I eat raspberries.  But three recent studies have opened my eyes to the so-called benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables.

One study concluded that a diet high in fruits, vegetables and grains (and low in fat) did not significantly reduce the risks of coronary heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease in post menopausal women over the eight years of the study.

Another study concluded that a low fat, high fiber diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables had no significant effects staving off a second bout of breast cancer in women who already beaten breast cancer once.  This was a 7.3 year long study.

A third study failed to find any beneficial effects of a low fat, high fiber, high fruits and vegetables diet on recurrence of bowel cancer in victims who had already suffered from this cancer, even after eight years.

So, where are the studies that show beneficial effects of a low fat, high fiber, high fruit and vegetable diet?  I haven't yet found any.  That doesn't mean they don't exist, but it is quite easy to find studies that show no beneficial effects and I have not had such an easy time locating the studies with empirical results demonstrating the benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables (and low in fat).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Caveman Argument

No, this is not a commercial for Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO).  It's the argument for paleo nutrition and it goes something like this.

Humankind has evolved over the last 2.5 million years, and during that time, humans were mostly carnivores.  In other words, our caveman ancestors where hunters and gatherers who mostly ate meat and whatever high fiber sources of plant food they could find.  It wasn't until about 10,000 years ago that agriculture was started and plant food was used as a primary source of food, or in other words, less than one half of one percent of our existence here on earth.  Hence, humans simply have not had time to adapt to a plant based diet.  Even worse, sugar has only really been a big part of our diet for about 100 years, or less than 4/1000's of a percent of our existence.  They point to populations that have survived into the 20th century on a "paleo diet," such as the Inuits of Alaska who survived almost exclusively on fish and whale blubber for most of their existence, and who did not have the problems associated with the western diet.  However, once flour and sugar was added to their diets, the rates of diabetes, obesity, etc., skyrocketed.

A somewhat more religious version of this argument is that humans have only existed for about 6,000 years and God gave man wheat as the staff of life.  However, sugar was never included in the bargain.  Humans have only been eating large amounts of sugar for about the last 100 years (or less than 2% of our time here on earth) and our bodies have simply not had time to adapt to the onslaught of sugar we eat.  Had we eaten the way God intended us to eat, we would not have problems with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and all of the other problems that lead to metabolic syndrome or other problems associated with a modern, western diet (e.g., dental problems).  In other words, had we followed the Word of Wisdom as we should have, we wouldn't, as a society, be in this mess now.

I find both of these arguments compelling.  Think about what people at the time of Joseph Smith ate.  Grains and only a very little meat, but hardly any sugar.  The fruit they consumed was in season and in small quantities, and it wasn't bred, as it is now, for sweetness.  In short, it was a very healthy way of eating.  Our modern diet, high in processed foods and refined carbohydrates, and loaded with sugars, is killing us.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Visit to the Zoo

Yesterday, we visited the Henry Doorly zoo in Omaha, Nebraska.  It was an enjoyable visit but I really noticed one thing:  many of the herbivores and omnivores in captivity were fat, but not the predators.  The big cats were lean and lithe, but the hippopotamus, the bears, the gorillas, the wild pigs, etc. were all fat.  Many of the animals that subsisted mostly or entirely of carbohydrates were the fat animals.  Not all:  the gazelles were lean and lithe, and the fish-eating penguins had lots of body fat, but as a general rule, it fit.  I found this very curious.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Carbs, Carbs Everywhere, and Not a Bite to Eat

So we are on the road in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  The Fairfield Inn where we are staying offers a "free" breakfast, and I went down to see if there was anything I could eat.  Almost nothing.  There was a small container of cream cheese I could eat, but no hard boiled eggs, no breakfast sandwiches (from which I could steal the insides), no nothing.  Carbs as far as they eye can see.  Waffles and syrup, bagels, muffins, pastries, jams, fruity yogurt, and skim milk.  All made with so much processed and refined carbs that they barely deserve to be called "food."

So I went out exploring, when I noticed a Hardee's across the street.  I remember reading that they sold a "Low Carb Bowl," so I went to check it out.  Not bad, actually.  It contains egg, cheese, and meat, so I bought two, one for me and one for that Nice Girl I Married.  While I wouldn't actively seek out the low carb bowl, it is nice to know it is there, in case of traveling.  I miss traveling with our travel trailer, as we can cook appropriate food when we need it.  But if I stay in a hotel again, I will try to find the nearest Hardee's.  At least in states that have Hardee's restaurants (no such luck in Utah).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Interesting Research Articles

As I continue on my journey, I am discovering more and more scientific literature with conclusions that are startling.  Why did I not know this information before?  Nutritional public policy is way behind the times.  I spent a bit of time on the Metabolism Society web site and discovered many scientific studies on the impact of the LCD on cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, obesity, cancer, etc.  Below are a few gems I found from this site.

Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease.  A meta-analysis of 348,000 subjects over 5 to 23 years leads to this conclusion:  "[T]here is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] or CVD [cardiovascular disease]."

Are Refined Carbohydrates Worse than Saturated Fat?  This article still believes saturated fats are bad, but it also concludes that replacing fat in the diet with refined carbohydrates is bad, too, and suggests adding more sources of vegetable fat and consuming non-refined carbs and lean protein.  It reports on a large scale study on the affects of saturated fat on myocardial infarction (MI; heart attacks) and concludes that "saturated fat intake was not associated with risk of MI compared with carbohydrate consumption" but that replacing saturated fat with refined carbs "significantly increased the risk of MI."

Low Carb Diets and Cardiovascular Disease.  Conclusion:  "A diet based on restricting carbohydrates leads to spontaneous caloric reduction and subsequent improvement in emerging markers of CVD [cardiovascular disease] in overweight/obese men who are otherwise healthy."

The Effect of a Low Carb Diet on People with Severe Type II Diabetes.  Conclusion:  "The 30% carbohydrate diet over 6 months led to a remarkable reduction in HbA1c levels, even among outpatients with severe type 2 diabetes, without any insulin therapy, hospital care, or increase in sulfonylureas.  The effectiveness of the diet may be comparable to that of insulin therapy."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So Why Didn't I Lose Weight This Week?

The short answer is:  I don't know.  I am still quite new to the low carb way of life.  Plenty of people have lost a lot of weight this way, and keep it off, so I know it works, but I may need to do some fine tuning.

The long answer is:  There are several possibilities.  First of all, my weight loss experience on Weight Watchers has taught me that you simply don't lose weight every week.  There are random fluctuations at times, and a weight loss plateau is somewhat common.  Perhaps the same is true for low carb diets (LCDs).

Secondly, the proportion of fat, protein, and carbohydrates are different for everyone, but I have learned that this is NOT a high protein diet.  It is a high fat diet.  Perhaps I have eaten too much protein and not enough fat.  A lot of people are suggesting that 75% of calories on an LCD should come from fat.  In an LCD, when you restrict carbs, you replace them with either fat or protein.  I am consciously trying to consume more fat this week and a bit less protein.  I have not eaten too many carbs, that's for sure.

Another hypothesis is that I have simply eaten too much, period.  I am trying to listen to my body more and pay attention to when I am full.  In general, I do not get hungry between meals, but I may be consuming too much at meals.  This goes hand in hand with eating too much protein and not enough fat.

Finally, perhaps my body is simply catching up to the rather dramatic weight loss I had during the first three weeks and will continue the downward trend this next week.  We will see.  One thing is certain, I am committed to this way of life.  I have read too many studies now to discount what I have learned about the dangers of carbohydrates to someone like me.  I am very sensitive to them.

Non Scale Victories

For whatever reason, I did not lose any weight this past week.  The first three weeks were pretty dramatic, so I guess I shouldn't be too worried.  One thing I did learn from Weight Watchers through both of my failed attempts at weight loss on that program was to celebrate non-scale victories, or NSVs.  Their basic idea was to not let the scale tyrannize you or determine your sense of self worth, and to look for victories that do not come at the scale.  So even though I no longer adhere to the Weight Watchers philosophy of eating, I can borrow other ideas.  So here I go.

First off, my blood sugar levels are really good and I celebrate one week of being off injectable insulin.  I am assuming my blood pressure is also good, but since my nurse-wife is out of town, I haven't checked it for a few days.  My carnivore diet has definitely lead to an overall improvement in my health and that is most definitely an NSV to celebrate.

Second, I have gone down two notches in my belt since I started, and yesterday, I pulled out a pair of jeans that had a waist size of 48 inches instead of the 50 inches I have been wearing.  The 50 inch jeans were getting quite lose and it was a pleasure to discover the 48-inch jeans fit a lot better.  My wife will now have a lot of jeans fabric with which to make a jeans quilt.  So I am not taking up as much space as I used to.  A great NSV.

Finally, I was chasing the dog around the couch yesterday and realized that I had a lot more energy than I usually do.  So we chased and chased and chased and I did not get tired like I usually did (and Titan really enjoyed the activity).  I have also noticed that when I walk around the mall in the mornings, I have more energy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another Insulin Update

My blood glucose levels remain well within the normal range, except for the fasting blood sugar in the morning, which has been over 130.  One hour after a meal it is usually 120 or below and two hours after a meal, it is 110 or below, sometimes dropping as low as 90.  That is really, really good, better than anything I have experienced in a long time.  I don't understand the morning reading, though.  I will have to keep watching what is going on there.  It is nice not to have to inject insulin every day, though.  I am still on the Janumet tablets, but over the next few months, I will try to wean myself off of them.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

High Fructose Corn Syrup

In his book, Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes discusses the uniquely fattening properties of sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup.  I am discovering that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is in a lot of products: regular soda pop, bread, ketchup, Nyquil (and other cough medicines), doggie treats for my carnivore buddy, Titan (I have stopped buying these for him), Slim Jim beef sticks, not to mention pretty much anything that is sweet.  It is so ubiquitous that it is actually rather hard to avoid.  I have started reading labels very closely.  It even pops up in places I totally don't expect.  Just the other day, I was reading the label on diet Sunkist orange soda, and there it was (the "diet" Sunkist Orange Soda is actually quite caloric).  And I was quite surprised to see it in medicines and cough syrups.  If you are going to cut out carbs from your diet, HFCS should be one of the first to go.

Why is HFCS a problem?  It has been linked to obesity, it fuels the growth of cancerous cells, and it exacerbates type II diabetes by aiding fat deposition and preventing you from feeling full, among other things.

Low Carb Snacks

There aren't very many crunchy things on a low carb diet, but there are some.  Celery sticks dipped in natural peanut butter, or even just creamy ranch dressing, are quite tasty.  Pork rinds are both crunchy and salty.  I had never tasted pork rinds until the other day, when I saw a bag in the chips aisle of the store, and on a whim bought some.  There are flavored and regular pork rinds, and they kind of taste like bacon, which is indeed a good snack.  Cauliflower florets dipped in creamy ranch dressing are good, too.  One quarter cup of almonds only have two grams of carbs and I bought a big bottle of them from my local Sam's.

Other non-crunchy snacks I eat include cheese sticks, pepperoni rounds, hard boiled eggs, and raspberries (in moderation).  I have discovered that commercially prepared beef jerky actually has a rather high carb count, but some beef sticks do not.  Oberto beef pepperoni sticks, for example, only have one carb per stick, but I cannot find them in Fargo.  My wife has been charged to bring back several bags from Provo, as she is out there visiting the kids.  Slim Jims, on the other hand, are high in carbs, as they have high fructose corn syrup in them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Carb Cravings

Wow, yesterday I suffered through some pretty serious carb cravings.  I did not succumb, but I did drink a diet A&W root beer.  My wife has been telling me I drink too much diet soda, and I agree, so I haven't had one in a week, since March 4.  I've been drinking water instead.  However, the diet root beer helped a lot.  She also bought some raspberries, which are good and high fiber/low carb, so I made some whipping cream and sweetened it with sucralose (0 carbs) and had raspberries and cream.  I also made sure to eat two salads as well (one for lunch and one for dinner).  That satisfied the cravings and I still consumed fewer than 20 grams of carbs today.

Long term, I feel like I need to break my cravings for carbs, especially for sweets.  They tell me it can happen.  But I am taking baby steps in this process and right now I needed the crutch afforded by the diet A&W.

Friday, March 11, 2011

But Won't a Low Carb Diet Give You a Heart Attack?

This is perhaps the most common reaction I get when telling people about the low carb diet (LCD).  The belief that saturated fat will lead to heart attacks is well ingrained in the American psyche.  (It's also illogical.  Obesity leads to heart attacks, so getting lean reduces heart attacks, but a diet designed to make you lean also leads to heart attacks?  You can't have it both ways).  Just because you believe something doesn't make it true.  There has been a fair amount of research recently on the effects of the LCD (see below).

So no, in fact, I won't have a heart attack because of following an LCD.  But I might very well have had one following a traditional high-carb, low fat diet.

Recent studies in major journals all confirm that the LCD improves cardiovascular health.  This blog post by a Ph.D. in medical biochemistry links to and summarizes the results of three major studies appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, The New England Journal of Medicine, and The Journal of the American Medical Association.  All show that an LCD lowers risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugars, and high cholesterol.  Plus click on the review article listed below, which concludes basically the same thing.  The LCD is a heart healthy diet.

A 2007 review article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that LCDs "lead to appetite reduction, weight loss, and improvement in surrogate markers of cardiovascular disease."  Further, it concluded that LCDs improved blood sugar levels in both healthy people and those suffering from type 2 diabetes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Carb Withdrawals

If any of you are contemplating a low carb diet, I would strongly encourage it, for all the reasons laid out in Gary Taubes' book, Why We Get Fat (And What to Do About It).  However, be warned that for the first two to three weeks, you will go through carb withdrawals that can cause some side effects.  Taubes describes it this way (p. 214):

"When you replace the carbohydrates you eat with fat, you're creating a radical shift in the fuel that your cells will burn for energy.  They go from running primarily on carbohydrates (glucose) to running on fat--both your body fat and the fat in your diet.  This shift, though, can come with side effects.  These can include weakness, fatigue, nausea, dehydration, diarrhea, constipation, a condition known as postural, or orthostatic, hypotension--if you stand up too quickly, your blood pressure drops precipitously, and you can get dizzy and even pass out--and the exacerbation of preexisting gout."  (For a more technical explanation of this process, known as ketosis, read this article by Michael R. Eades, M.D.).

Taubes warns us not to "confuse the short-term effects of what can be thought of as carbohydrate withdrawal with the long-term benefits of overcoming that withdrawal and living a longer, leaner, and healthier life."  The symptoms can be lessened with adequate sodium intake and Taubes cites physicians who recommend adding one half to one teaspoon of salt a day to the diet (or by drinking one to two cups of chicken or beef broth daily; p. 216)

The first two weeks can be somewhat miserable, even while you are losing weight.  The first day or two, I suffered diarrhea and for about two weeks I could tell I was a bit dehydrated and tired, and I had headaches.  But  after about two weeks, I started feeling a lot better.  I have increased energy, I am sleeping better, I am not nearly as tired as I was, and my wife tells me she hasn't heard me snoring.  Oh, and my blood pressure dropped to normal and my blood glucose levels have fallen dramatically, almost to "normal."

One more thing: you will have carb cravings.  At first, I slaked those cravings by drinking diet soda (because the diet soda is sweet), but they seem to have diminished quite a bit now and I am not feeling quite the need for sweetness that I did at the start.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Insulin Update

Well, it's been three days now since I stopped injecting insulin.  How has it gone?  First, the base line.  My physician (an internist) tells me that two hours after a meal, it should be 165 or below.  Another expert says it should be 120 or below within two hours after a meal, and that "normal" people are usually 100 or below within two hours after a meal.  Each of the past three days, I have been between 110 and 118 one or two hours after a meal.  So while I am not quite normal (you all knew that anyway), I am well below the threshold set by my physician and her diabetes educator, and below what the other expert cited above suggests.  The blood sugar reading one to two hours after a meal is the best predictor of health (less than 120) or complications (greater than 140) and experts suggest this is the most important indicator to follow.

Fasting blood sugars, or your reading first thing in the morning, for normal people are between 70 and 85.  My physician says a "normal" reading is between 70 and 110.  Anything above 110 is a cause for concern.  My fasting blood sugars have been on the high side, averaging 134 for the past three days.  I am seeing if some of the foods I am consuming are affecting that blood sugar reading and if that doesn't come down, I will probably go back on a low dose of insulin for a while.  However, the critical indicator, less than 120 one to two hours after a meal, is fine, so I will wait and see for the next few days before resuming injections.

One month ago, despite injecting 26 units a day of Lantos a day, my blood sugars were all much higher.  Today, they are in much greater control than they have been in for years, and I believe the low carb diet is working.  It may just take a bit of time to get my readings into the normal range.

Here is a handy one-page flyer from the Blood Sugar 101 website, that explains what to do to lower your blood sugar levels.

Isn't the Low Carb Diet Expensive?

Refined carbs are perhaps the cheapest form of food, so if you eliminate them from your diet, yes, you will spend more money on food.  But that is not all there is to it.  However, instead of reinventing the wheel, I will link to a post by Dana Carpender on the same subject, as she addresses this subject better and more forcefully than I could.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Other Carnivore in the House

This is my carnivore buddy, Titan.  He likes my new carnivore diet, as there are plenty of tasty scraps to satisfy his love of meat.

So What do I Eat?

Take yesterday, for example.  I had a ham and cheese omelet for breakfast, tuna salad with cheese and real mayonnaise for lunch, and salmon with olive oil and cabbage with ham for dinner.  For snack, I had a hard boiled egg, a cheese stick, and a dozen or so pepperoni rounds.  So it's not all beef and pork, though I do eat my share of that.  Total carb count for yesterday:  about 10 grams.  My wife is discovering that I am more than willing to make her eggs and meat for breakfast, too, which she appreciates.

Research on the very low carbohydrate diet shows that since protein is more filling, people spontaneously eat fewer calories than they would otherwise because they feel more full.  This is so true!  The great big benefit of embracing my inner carnivore is that I am no longer hungry and those intrusive thoughts of food have generally left me.  I am sleeping better (though I am having more vivid dreams) and I have a lot more energy to burn than I used to have.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Joy of Fat

Being fat is a drag, but EATING fat has added flavor back to my life.  For the longest time now, I have been trimming fat off of meat, choosing low fat options like salad dressing (yuck!), avoiding eggs, shunning butter, and skinning chicken before I ate it.  But let me say for the record that fat is delicious!  Creamy bacon ranch dressing is wonderful, tuna packed in oil is sooooo much better than tuna packed in water, butter makes the world go around, and bacon...  well, 'nuff said.  What have I been missing out on all these years?  I have rediscovered taste since giving up on Weight Watchers and embracing my inner carnivore.  Plus I have learned that low-fat options take out the heart healthy fat and make up the difference in carbohydrates, which are cardiac killers.

For those of you who are still skeptical, but don't want to read the book Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, try this shorter, online article by the same author.  It is called, What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?

Vital Statistics, Monday, March 7, 2011

Weight:  288.0 (weekly loss of 2.4 pounds) Follow my weekly weight loss progress.
Blood pressure:  116/80
Average Fasting Blood Glucose:  114

Great progress all the way around.  My blood pressure has fallen from an alarming 140/98 the first time my wife checked it to the reading yesterday of 116/80 and I have dropped 13.6 pounds, all in three weeks.  For a "normal" person, a fasting blood glucose level should be somewhere between 75 and 90, so I still have a ways to go.  But not too bad, given that I have reduced, then stopped altogether, my insulin injections.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stopping the Injections

Today I have stopped injecting insulin.  I have been dropping two units a day, from a high of 26 units of a long acting insulin called Lantos, to six units yesterday.  My blood sugar has been steadily dropping on my carnivore diet and I have been closely monitoring the change.  I will continue to monitor it closely and see what happens.  I am still on Janumet, a combination of Januvia and Metformin, 1,000 mg twice a day.  If the blood sugars stay down, my next task will be weaning myself off of the Janumet.  Which I have every reason to expect they will.  Wow, will that save me a lot of money!  It costs about $65 per month for the Janumet and about $75 per month for the Lantos.  That much savings will easily pay for all the extra protein I am consuming.

A Low Carb Diet and the Word of Wisdom

One of the first objections to the low carb diet (LCD) I encountered was the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89).  How can I justify eliminating flour and fruits and eating a lot of fat and protein when the Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat meat sparingly and that all grains are ordained for the use of man?  Not to mention fruit?

First, look at what is NOT in the Word of Wisdom.  No mention is made of refined, bleached flour and there is nothing about sugars.  Think of it this way.  In 1833 when the Word of Wisdom was given, hardly anyone ate anything sweet.  Sugar was not readily available and collecting honey came with its own set of challenges.  What sweet fruit they ate at that time was only eaten in season and it was probably a lot less sweet the the apples, pears, and oranges we eat today that have been bred for sweetness.  In short, back then, people did not have a "sweet tooth" in the way we do today.  The average two-year-old in the country today has probably consumed more sweets than the average 20-year-old in 1833.  Refined sugar, and in particular, high fructose corn syrup, are probably behind much of the obesity and diabetes epidemics that are now raging.  Combine this with processed and bleached, refined flour, where all the nutrients God put into wheat are stripped out, and which is very easy to digest and convert to glucose, and you see the problem.

The wheat germ, wheat bran, and vital wheat gluten are all parts of the wheat I can eat.  Just not the starchy flour that strips all of this out.  If we ate like they ate in 1833 when the Word of Wisdom was revealed, we would not have an obesity and diabetes problem that throws our bodies out of whack, and a Word of Wisdom based diet would be perfect for us.  But we don't, so we need a solution that will solve the problem caused by readily available sweets and easily absorbed carbohydrates such as refined flour.

But what about meat?  First of all, an LCD is not about meat, it is about fat and protein.  Granted, a lot of fat and protein comes from meat, but eggs are a cheap and excellent source of animal protein.  So is cheese.  And when we say "meat," do we also mean poultry and fish, or just beef and pork?  Second, consider a contextual argument.  In 1833, it was very hard to preserve meat, as there were no refrigerators and no freezers, so meat spoiled quickly and became dangerous to eat (hence, the logic of being counseled to only eat meat in winter and times of cold or famine [D&C 80:13]).  We do not have that problem today, as spoiling meat is generally not a health threat.  Logically, we can consume more of it.  (Most Mormons ignore the counsel to eat meat sparingly anyway, as well as the dictum to not eat fruit out of season [D&C 89:11] and for many of the same contextual arguments:  it does not apply to us today).  Further, meat is ordained for the use of man (D&C 49:19) and anyone who tells you otherwise "is not ordained of God" (D&C 49:18).

Speaking of eating meat in times of famine (D&C 89:13), when we eat too many carbs, they are quickly processed into fat and not used for energy.  As counter intuitive as it may seem, fat people are always hungry because they are "starving" at a cellular level, since what they consume is being stored as fat, not used as energy.  I would call this famine, and meat is allowed under this circumstance.

So not following the Word of Wisdom got us into this problem in the first place.  Thus we need to get out of the problem and if abusing carbs is the problem, the way out is to restrict them.  Restricting them means eating more fat and protein to compensate.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why am I doing this?

Twice in my life, I have lost 100 pounds, both times using Weight Watchers.  I was even a leader at Weight Watchers meetings for about a year.  And within two to three years, I gained my weight back.  Now, approaching 50, I have become concerned about my health and determined to make one final attempt at becoming lean.  I am a type II diabetic who recently had to switch to insulin shots and my third try at Weight Watchers was a complete bust.  I was 100% honest on the new program for four weeks, but only lost 0.8 pounds in that time, not my normal experience.  Something wasn't working.  At first, I blamed the new Weight Watchers program.  But one day, I was reading, and the author, Glenn Reynolds, linked to a book by Gary Taubes, called Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It.  I downloaded the book from and listened to it one weekend.

This book changed my life.  I was converted, completely, as my weight loss biography mirrored the failed attempts detailed in Taubes' book.  I had considered myself weak-willed, gluttonous, and slothful for failing at keeping weight off, but then I learned why I had failed:  too many carbs and too much insulin in my system.  It's too complicated to explain how that works, just read Gary Taubes' book if you are interested.  It is short and interesting.  But a low carb lifestyle boils down to this:  avoid most carbohydrates and eat a lot more saturated fat and protein.  Eat as much meat, poultry, and fish as you like (but stop when you are full), and consume fat, including the saturated fat in animal products.  Eat small quantities of leafy green vegetables (and a few other vegetables) but avoid most carbohydrates:  flour, sugar, starchy vegetables like potatoes and rice, and anything made with those ingredients.  I am striving to live on fewer than 20 carbs a day.  Bye bye bread. Hello bacon, eggs, and steak.

My wife and I went on a business trip to Las Vegas, and without telling her, I decided to begin my very low carb journey.  When she found out about my decision, she was not happy.  We fought a lot about what, and why, I was eating and I kept insisting she read the book.  She finally did, and saw the light, too.  Now she is not heavy at all, but has seen the value of the very low carb lifestyle.

Now I am three weeks into my journey.  My blood sugars have stabilized, I am reducing the amount of insulin I am injecting by more than half, and my blood pressure has gone down.  Oh, and in three weeks, I have dropped 13 pounds.  And I am no longer hungry.  On Weight Watchers, I was hungry all the time.  Gary Taubes calls WW a "semi-starvation" diet, and it was.  That is why I failed, and why most people who do semi-starvation diets fail to keep the weight off.  But protein makes you feel full, and keeps you full.  It helps me to not obsess about food.  Prior to embracing my inner carnivore, I could hardly make it past 9:30 a.m. without eating something else, despite eating (what I thought was) a healthy and hearty Weight Watchers approved breakfast.

I was going to die of a heart attack on my previous high carb, low fat diet, but I won't now.  For those of you who still believe saturated fat causes heart attacks, look at the empirical research before you comment.  Hint:  there is none.  Here is a piece of medical research to chew on if you still think I am crazy:  If you cannot trudge through the turgid and dense academic prose, skip directly to the summary at the end of the article.  "LCD" stands for "low carb diet" and CVD stands for "cardio-vascular disease."