December 1, 2011

The Holiday Trap - starches

It must be admitted. The long winter holiday season, with its emphasis on "the feasting, the whole feasting, and nothing but the feasting" is the biggest part of the backsliding on a low-carb Way of Life.

Year after year, people do wonderfully with cravings and weight control... until the holidays, when they fall back into bad habits. From being driven by sentiment, to wanting to be polite, and the fact that "those foods" are now "made special," people slide into making one exception after another.

One temptation category is known as "comfort foods." These starches are the base for tasty toppings in almost infinite variety.

But the puzzling part is that this base is the least appealing of all foods.

Found in nature, but not alive.
Pasta, mashed potatoes, bread... these are not tasty foods.

If a part of our brain is protesting this cannot be, this was the exact thing we were craving, does that mean we would eat plain boiled pasta, an unadorned baked potato, or a naked slice of bread?

Nobody means that. Nobody does that.

Because they have no flavor.

How can we crave foods that have no flavor?

What we are craving is something else that starchy foods give us; something that is only coincidentally a matter of taste. The starch breaks down in our bloodstream as a "sugar rush."

At first, having abundant glucose in our blood perks up our brain. We feel sharper. Then, as the first release of insulin reaches our blood, it signals our muscles to relax and take in sugar. We feel more relaxed.

So when we realize it is the emotional effects of these foods we are craving, we can see them differently.

If this is the only way we know to reliably bring about this state, this kind of feedback is impossible to give up. The body must have relief from stress. It will come up with a million ways to get us to eat that.

However, starches have certain qualities that can be duplicated with vegetables; with better health results. Spaghetti squash is a well known example, but there's also zucchini, cauliflower, and mushrooms as healthy support for sauces. This will not push-crash our blood sugar.

Once we realize what is going on with starches, we find that the aftermath is also reliable. It leads to wild swings in our bodies and we become exhausted from trying to bring the body "out of the swerve." We ache from increased water, we feel queasy from the low blood sugar and we are dazed from the effects of the high end.

As we wonder what was so great about these foods, we get the breathing room to realize: we now have better ways of comfort.

November 28, 2011

Forget everything you thought you knew

One key to success with this new Way of Eating is quite simple; though difficult.

We have to forget everything we ever learned about food and health and losing weight.

Because it was all wrong.

There is no string
If we are told over and over how to lose weight and we try over and over to do that and we find it incredibly difficult but somehow manage to stick with it for a long period of time and then we find out it doesn't work, we don't do the sensible thing.

We somehow miss concluding that we are being told all the wrong things.

Like a child who feels they have no power, we instead decide that somehow, we missed a step in this process that we are told over and over is how it works and here is how to eat and be healthy even though it is a constant struggle and not only do we not lose weight we are also unhealthy but it has to be our fault because that is also what we are told over and over and over that the fault lies in ourselves and that is why we are this way and if we only do it right, if we only stick with it until the very very very end we will get what we want.

Only, we never do.

When I started low carbing, I confided to a friend that I felt so confused and uncertain about it, because "everything I've been told about food is being turned inside-out and upside-down."

But since I had learned a lot of stick-to-it-iveness from my previous weight loss attempts, I could do no less with this plan, despite the dire warnings of how i'm-gonna-drop-dead-any-minute. I've tried the meal replacement bars and diet soda plan, the eat every other day plan, and I've been know to fast for as long as five days! Eating crazy doesn't scare me.

Only... I felt good.

I didn't need willpower. I liked eating this way. I wouldn't be hungry for hours and hours. I slept well, I thought well, I felt well. And the weight went away with less effort than ever ever ever in my life before.

Seven years later... I still eat that way.

November 24, 2011

I'm thankful for my slim and healthy body

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I am both slimmer and healthier than I was seven years ago. I had tried so many other ways to control my weight that the dire warnings about low carb dangers did not matter to me. Because I kept reading equally dire warnings about how being fat would kill me!

My before and after simulation.
Anyone who has ever dieted knows the "keeping it off" part is the hardest. That is probably the most amazing part.

As seen at left, I used My Virtual Model to illustrate the difference in my appearance that resulted from my weight loss.

But that's only one benefit I gained. I also sleep better and never long for that afternoon nap any more. I have more energy and mental sharpness all day.

My blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood sugar all went down. Since going gluten-free my arthritis keeps dwindling so that now it's barely noticeable.

I did it all without suffering. I ate wonderful food like steak with garlic butter, salad with blue cheese dressing and bacon, hot wings, smoked almonds, and shrimp cocktail. I put Alfredo sauce on sauteed zucchini, tomato sauce on pizza quiche (extra pepperoni, please) and sharp cheddar sauce on ham and cauliflower to make Mock Mac 'n' Cheese. I make low carb versions of my favorite cookies and have a big hamburger on an Oopsie Roll instead of a white flour bun.

I love what I eat and I eat what I love.

I regret nothing.

November 21, 2011

Why I'm not "cheating" for the holidays

It's that time of year... when the focus of our entire civilization turns to eating. Which always seems to lead to the same old New Year's Resolution to "eat right and lose weight!" Which, of course, occurs after the holidays.

Time to reset our biological clocks
None of this is necessarily bad. Festive occasions involve feasting, especially at harvest time, especially when we are facing a shorter day and a longer night. These biological cues seem to trigger a hungry response.

I plan to eat and drink and be merry!

It's my choices that are different from what they used to be.

This year, it's just the two of us, so it's shrimp cocktail, turkey breast, Waldorf salad, roasted sweet potato, and a pumpkin cheesecake. I'll have a couple of rum cocktails. All adjusted to use lower carb principles as needed, such as non-sugar sweeteners, actual butter, and full fat mayonnaise.

Fine for me, cooking in my own home... what about going to Grandma's? What about that famous Jello salad/special pie/homemade biscuits?

That depends. If we are able to have a few bites of our favorites as part of the meal and then get right back to eating low carb the next meal; no harm done. But if we plan to "eat like a normal person" we should at least understand the dimensions of the pit that yawns before us.

There will be bodily reactions. The true dimensions of what is considered "normal eating" becomes clear when we don't eat that way... then attempt to return. Eating wheat sparked reactions so subtle it took me years to notice them; a bloated tummy and my aching hands were actually wheat reactions, not normal digestion and aging.

Now, accidentally getting some wheat results in Stomach Lining Blowtorch Syndrome, which is very unpleasant. This is only the start of how rotten I feel for the next 24 hours. I can't look forward to biscuits and pie crust; they are literally off the table.

Even if you don't have a specific gluten reaction (and how would you know? Recent research indicates that as much as 1/3 of the population are like me and don't know it) the effects on the body of "lotsa carbs" is some form of digestive upset. People living with indigestion have become so common it's not even remarked upon; the drug store aisle keeps getting restocked and everyone thinks it's "normal." But how can that be?

We might have thought the "carb coma" and bloated feelings are standard holiday experiences, but when we add in extra urping and belching and tooting; it's not very festive.

When we live in the background noise of constant digestive rebellions, we don't realize how much of what we eat signals distress to us. Eating low carb, eating more "primally" lets us know that so much of what we have trouble eating is on purpose.

The body is signaling that "normal" isn't good for us.

November 17, 2011

This is your brain on carbs

There's one huge hurdle when it comes to changing our eating patterns to lose weight and regain our health.

We got this way because we are addicted to fattening substances.

We have to kick our addiction.

That's the core of obesity, eating disorders, being unable to pass a bakery, and trying to get over a failed relationship with applications of premium ice cream or plates of spaghetti.

Carbohydrates have a drug-like effect.
Why do we do it? Because our brain doesn't see treats.

It sees brain-drug.

Carbohydrates have known, studied, and cumulative effects on our mood-controlling brain chemicals.

When we feel bad, we know carby food makes us feel good... if only for a moment.

The funny thing about "addiction" is that it doesn't have to be a psychoactive substance because that is what our brain supplies.

Gambling, shopping, hoarding, and anger are also addicting behaviors because they reliably give the brain what it wants... the rush of relief from its current, less-pleasurable, state.

Since we have variations in our internal wiring, some people can use recreational drugs and easily stop; and some can't. Some people don't find stress relief in food, but in alcohol. Others remain social drinkers, or non-drinkers, their whole lives, but will blow their life-savings at the track during a time of crisis.

All of these things are present in many lives, but only in some do they become a problem. So the issue is not in the substance; we have, in human history, tried to ban certain things and behaviors in an attempt to stop them completely, only to find we have made the problem worse.

If we are one of the people who turn to treats as stress-relief, we have to eliminate them from our lives and find other, better, ways to handle stress. The good news is, once we break the feedback cycle... we can remove the desire to have these foods.

November 14, 2011

How does low carb work?

The simple version of low carb is:

carbs -> increase insulin -> increase fat storage

Low-carbing is a way of eating which reverses this bodily process.

The great indoor sport
What insulin does is not controversial at all.

In every endocrinology textbook since the discovery of insulin in 1921, it is simply stated that insulin is the hormone that sweeps blood sugar into our fat cells and makes them bigger.

When we eat carbohydrates, they turn to blood sugar. Fat does not do this. Protein gets skimmed off for body repair and other processes, and can, at the end of a long process, become small amounts of glucose released as needed.

So when we want to flood the body with insulin, we eat processed carbs. They fall into the bloodstream like a cascade of sugar... which is what they are.

"Starch" is just a name for sugar that isn't sweet. "Fiber" is the parts taken out during processing, that does slow down the process. But most of what we eat in what is considered a "normal diet" is a small amount of actual food surrounded by sugar and starch and other substances that drive up blood sugar.

What goes up must come down. Past a certain point, blood sugar is a poison. This is how poorly controlled diabetics start having breakdowns in every single system in their bodies. Insulin is the response to a blood sugar emergency.

Where does the blood sugar go? Into our fat cells.

The higher the blood sugar, the more fat gets ushered into our fat cells and then locked down tight; because as long as insulin circulates, fat can't get out.

November 11, 2011

Category Killers

I do think the most astonishing thing about my Way of Eating, to most people, is the categories of food I don't eat any more.


Part of this is a misconception about what these categories are. "Wheat" is only one word... but it encompasses a huge percentage of what most people eat on a daily basis.

Poison is a category.
I think back to my three squares of the past; toast and cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, and something with noodles or pasta followed by pastry.

Yes, when you take out wheat, what is left?

It's something I now call "food."

Meat and vegetables and diary and nuts and fruits; these are my new basics. No longer merely standing around in ornamental and condimental states, these "foods" are my new foundation.

When we flip the lens of our perception to take out all grains, what is left seems too small to sustain life. It is akin to a magic wand being waved over our bedroom, removing all the cotton cloth. We are left with scraps of elastic, most of a linen suit, and that polyester shirt we kept because it doesn't need ironing.

But that is not so. What is left has actual nutrients our bodies can use. Grains actually have a lot of phytates, which are nutrient-blocking substances. All those B vitamins in grains? They do us no good if we can't use them. Likewise the protein; we have to eat more of the grains to get the same levels of usable protein.

This leads to the "health" recommendations of soaking and cooking grains; this ancient processing methods help remove the phytates which block absorption of nutrients.

This is one of the keys to low carb living; we actually eat less. Because our food is more nutritious.

November 9, 2011

But you gotta have carbs!

I hear it over and over again. "Your brain needs carbs!"

Yes, it does... and no, it doesn't.

In actuality:

The old wives tale that you must eat 130 grams of carbohydrate a day has no basis in science. Is is one of those factoids that has been passed from teacher to student in the health profession for generations--long after anyone remembers where it originally came from.

Lies that will not die!
This oft-repeated statement is not quite a lie; because your brain does have glucose needs; aka, blood sugar. Other organs in the body can run on other things... but brain needs sugar is the more accurate statement.

However, this sugar doesn't have to come from carbs.

Our livers have a magic trick up their sleeve. It can use protein and turn it into glucose! When the liver performs "gluconeogenesis" our brains can't tell the difference.

Not only that, our brains seem to detect a lack of circulating glucose when we eat low carb; because the brain starts utilizing ketones (made from fat) even more, actually lowering its need for glucose.

The fact that the body has such adjustments readily available suggest that it was not unknown for the body to have to cope with a "carb shortage." In fact, since our brains actually run better on ketones... it wouldn't be out of line, at all, to conclude that a "carb shortage" is our body's natural state.

When I imposed about 50 grams of carbs on my body, every day, my body reacted to this state with lowered blood sugar, lowered body fat, lowered blood pressure, and lowered triglycerides. These are all things medical science wants me to lower.

So I don't think it's a shortage of anything my body needs.

November 7, 2011

So what the heck do I eat?

It's inevitable. People find out I eat low-carb and gluten-free, and after they've gotten their eyes back in their sockets, they exclaim, "What the heck do you eat?"

Not found in nature.
When the answer is really simple. I eat food.

I eat food direct from nature; un-manufactured and un-messed with. Turns out, this one simple rule covers a multitude of problems.

If my response to their question is, "I only eat un-processed foods," that sounds really good, doesn't it? And it is!

We are so used to eating foods that someone else plops in front of us, we have stopped figuring out where they come from and how they got this way.

If there's one hallmark of our modern, carb-laden, industrially produced diet... it's that word, processed. We're not talking about cooking; before it even reaches that stage, it's been ground up and chemicalized and emulsified and extruded. Then it's concocted with other stuff that is food; but food that is concentrated wildly far from our body's expectations.

Seed oils were sold to us as "healthy" alternatives to animal fats. Yet they have a wildly unbalanced Omega 3/6 ratio, which in turn promotes inflammation in our bodies. We do eat seeds, just as we do eat corn. But modern industrial processing extracts and concentrates these substances to levels our body never expects. Then, our body reacts badly to what amounts to an "overdose."

I eat meat and non-starchy vegetables like lettuce and broccoli and spinach. I eat eggs and cheese and heavy cream. I eat nuts and fruit in its original form. I eat butter and coconut oil and bacon.

These foods can be cooked or ground up or expressed for me. I don't extract my own coconut oil or grind my own almonds for nut flours. The people I get them from aren't doing anything weird with them. They are just doing the heavy lifting and putting it in packages. This is something I could do myself, if I had the equipment.

So my favorite response to the question, "What do I eat?" is the truth: real food.

How can there be anything wrong with that?

October 28, 2011

Dieting is not about willpower

Willpower has limits.

All too often, the unsuccessful dieter blames their own "lack of willpower." Why did they give in to that treat, those choices at dinner, the late night doughnut drive-through?

Why can't they dine upon a single lettuce leaf drizzled with fat free dressing?

Because such eating won't keep them alive, that's why.

demotivational posters - DETERMINATIONWe can think our problem is lack of willpower... but we would be wrong.

Our problem is that we are told we must starve ourselves to lose weight.

Then, when our bodies rebel against low intake, when we struggle against starving ourselves... it's our fault we can't do
see more Very Demotivational it!

If we thought about it, we would see how ridiculous that is. But we don't get a chance to think about it; we are so overwhelmed with judgmental messages about how piggy, undisciplined, and hedonistic we are.

My own liberation came about when I realized how unfounded such charges were in my own case.

I have discipline. I have lots of discipline. I couldn't have developed my binge/starve cycle without it!

I've gone as long as five days without eating. I've kept myself to 1200 calories for weeks on end; until I stopped losing weight. Once the scale stopped dropping (and it was never as low as I wanted it to be) I stopped finding the will to starve myself.

Fact is, every overweight person in the land has proven themselves able to discipline themselves... only, not indefinitely. We cannot struggle, and win, against our own instincts, indefinitely.

The problem is that starving ourselves doesn't work. Or, you know, it would work.

October 26, 2011

But what about all those studies?

Isn't it true that "studies show" eating low fat and whole grains prevents heart disease and cancer and fatness?


Because it's not ethical to lock a bunch of people in a room and randomly assign them to lives on weird diets, there's many ways science uses to get around this most direct approach. These ways, in turn, all have their own problems that need to be gotten around. And so forth.

This graph proves my point.
But the real problem is that so much of what we are told to eat comes with hidden agendas.

Once someone has an agenda, "studies" can be tormented into yielding up whatever is being sought.

These conclusions are then simplified in a way that highlights their controversial or frightening content once they reach most press outlets.

That's because such conveyors of information are not... conveyors of information.

They are ways of selling advertising.

If a media outlet's reason for being is to convey information, the resultant article will explain that this conclusion is tentative because it is from a rodent study, and common lab animals are known to react to foods differently than the way humans do. Or that this is a correlation, and such studies only suggest fruitful places to find theories, not create strong support for them. Or that this study was done through self-reporting, and those are notoriously inaccurate.

But if a media outlet's reason for being is to sell advertising, such dull facts will not get the job done. They need something dramatic, like Eating Fat Will Kill You. Only people who read all the way to the bottom will discover that trans-fats make cellular membranes unstable. Since they don't understand what that means, they will only remember the headline.

Then this same article will get used by someone who wants to sell statin drugs and scare people about cholesterol. Or by a vegan who is promoting their diet for political reasons but wants to make it about health. Or by a weight loss expert selling their low fat diet book.

There is strong evidence that trans-fats (if the label says partially hyrdogenated, beware!) are dangerous to health because of their dysfunctional effect on the way our cells transport nutrients and defend against intruders. So my example headline is accurate... but also misleading.

October 24, 2011

Why low fat doesn't work

The conception that fat in our diet leads to fat on our bodies is spectacularly wrong.

I use the word "spectacular" because so much of our body consists of fat. Yet we act as though the extra padding on our bellies and behinds is the only place fat turns up; and we usually don't want it there.

So if we simply starve our bodies of fat, they will use up the "extra" and behold! New wardrobe.

Of course, the whole "fat is bad for us" theory didn't start out this starkly stupid. Because this is not how our diet experts treat protein.

This is good for us.
They recognize that protein is a vital micronutrient, and that we need a constant supply. Opinions vary on how much, especially if these opinions have a vegetarian slant.

Ideologues differ between cutting down on animal products for health reasons or humanitarian reasons. However, the assumed consensus that fat and protein are actually bad for us springs from the fact that both are much more abundant in animal sources.

An excellent series at The Hungry Cow blog states that a typical hunter-gatherer would have consumed 55-65% of his calories from meat and fish. We did gather plants; but this was pre-agriculture. None of those healthy whole grains showed up for many millions of years. This is how we evolved our big brains; with protein and fat.

Humans crave fat because we need it just as much as we need protein. Our brain? 60% fat. All the insulation that runs along our nerves, making sure they don't short out like a bad toaster? Made of fat. Our cell membranes, the stuff that keeps us from melting into a puddle of soup? All fat.

So compliance on low fat diets will always struggle between poor and terrible. Not only does our body crave animal fat, fat itself is important to a feeling of satiation.

Without it, we are always hungry, and always wanting to eat.

October 21, 2011

Because it is empty, and because it is my stomach

How did I become overweight? Oh, there isn't any question, is it? I ate too much!

This is your stomach on high carb.
By the time I was a teenager we weren't eating the meat and vegetables I had grown up eating; we were now too poor.

Ironically, we were eating Food Pyramid years before it came out; because we did what poor people always have done. We "stretched" our expensive meat and vegetables by dicing them up and scattering them through a cheaper base like macaroni or rice.

I would have a serving of such casseroles, along with a glass of lowfat milk. It was lowfat because I would cut our whole milk with nonfat powdered milk to save money. This was one of my periodic duties; mixing the milk at night and letting it sit in the fridge so it didn't taste so horrible.

My mother was trying to feed four growing kids on a low budget. None of us knew she was actually working from the future USDA Food Pyramid: with its small portions of fat and meat and dairy and its huge portions of grains.

Yes, another irony: the famous Food Pyramid could have been shortened to: eat like you're poor. Which can lead to the famous "poverty paradigm." In countries with food shortages, poverty results in overweight mothers, and skinny, stunted, children.

The science writer Gary Taubes, in his book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, points out that this makes no sense:
If we believe the mothers were fat because they ate too much, and we know their children are thin and stunted because they're not getting enough food, we're assuming that the mothers were willing to starve their children so they could overeat. This goes against everything we know about maternal behavior.
I would have my serving of casserole and low fat milk and two hours later I would be screaming-off-the-wall hungry. Fortunately, there wasn't any shortage of milk or casserole; we were not that poor.

So I'd eat again. And again. I would be sobbing with frustration when, late at night, I'd find myself searching the fridge for more, loading up a bowl with cereal and that milk, the cheap bagged cereal that wasn't sugary, it was puffed wheat and puffed rice and sugar from the sugar bowl.

I didn't know that low fat/high carb is the kind of food that simply pours glucose into the blood. If it gets too high, it's deadly poison; so the body responds by flooding with insulin. This hormone yanks the glucose out of the blood and into our fat cells.

When the load is so high, the blood sugar dips too low; and we become ravenously hungry.

Over and over.

October 19, 2011

It's not our fault

I honestly believe that.

For the millions who suffer from overweight, and its accompanying Syndrome X, which is a metabolic disruption that leads to cardiac disease, stroke, and diabetes, I want to say: it's not your fault.

There's an animated map of obesity on the CDC's website, which shows how the nation got fatter over time.

No question but that's an environmental change. We're the same genotype we've had for thousands of years. And despite the popular notion that our "lifestyles" have radically changed in that period of time, I don't think that's the case.

We're told we're more sedentary; but in 1985 there was already cable TV and computer games.

We're told it is increased access to fast food; but there were plenty of chains in 1985.

Now, from 1965 to 1985: huge changes. When I was a child in 1965, there were three television stations, and maybe a UHF station that came in on rabbit ears wrapped with tinfoil. We were thrown out of the house to play and told not to come back until it was dark.

If we went to McDonald's the portions were much smaller. When we ate dinner there was always meat and vegetables on the plate, and we were not allowed to snack because it would spoil our dinner.

If "eating more and moving less" was the reason for obesity, it would have already been in full bloom by 1985. But I can tell you what happened in 1992: that's when the Food Pyramid came out.

I can tell you for a fact: people did change the way they ate. Dinner changed from a meat and two vegetables to a pile of pasta.

People started eating more and more and more.

But this didn't happen because of marketing or "lifestyles" or anything else. It happened because, when we eat according to the food pyramid, we are hungry all the time.

And it's not our fault.

October 17, 2011

One bad idea leads to another

When it comes to understanding how people jump to the wrong conclusions, I'm fond of the saying:

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Once enough influential bodies accepted the lipid hypothesis, both nutritional theories and their real world applications had to conform to its conclusions.

Low-saturated fat diets were recommended for heart patients. Then these same diets were considered a good idea for people who wanted to avoid becoming heart patients. Since overweight was a risk factor for heart attacks, it only made sense to recommend these same nutritional principles to those seeking to lose weight.

As the media and the food corporations began picking up on this message, it became even more simplified... and distorted. From "lower your saturated fat" the message became "fat is bad." That was easy to splash across a box or bag, so food manufacturers began touting their low-fat products.

Since so many outlets thought fat was bad, the general public internalized these messages. In the 1980's, it was repeated over and over that cutting fat from one's diet lowered the calories, and since "everyone knew" lowering calories was the way to lose weight, it made a relentless kind of sense to the embattled victims of overweight.

Naming your elephant Rover will not make them a dog.
The low fat/high carbohydrate diet was born. Nutritionists were quick to plug any holes in the dam by explaining that of course we had to exercise, too!

If it didn't work, it was our fault. It must be because we were still eating too much and not exercising enough.

The latest wrinkle in trying to make it work is the admission that processed carbohydrates are nutritionally empty and should be "eaten in moderation."

That also led to enshrining the unprocessed version of carbohydrates as the centerpiece of our daily intake; thus the emphasis on "healthy" whole grains.

All along, this officially-embraced, heavily-promoted, staked-a-reputation-on-it lipid hypothesis led to cholesterol-lowering drugs, the idea of very low fat diets to reverse heart disease, and a higher health reputation for vegetarianism. As a nation, we dutifully lowered our fat and increased our exercise.

Except none of this makes any of the science of the lipid hypothesis actually work.

October 14, 2011

The wrong road

Dr. Ancel Keys was actually the "K" in the famous K-rations used in the military during WWII. He did experimental research on the minimums required to keep the flame of life alive in human beings during times of food scarcity. (The resemblance to the "starve yourself" advice given by modern weight loss gurus is merely an eerie coincidence.)

Keyes lived long -- but not well
Keys, seen here shortly before his death at the age of 100, formulated the "lipid hypothesis," which theorizes that eating saturated fat leads to the clogged arteries of atherosclerosis, which in turn leads to heart attacks.

He was not a medical doctor; he received a Ph.D. in oceanography in 1930. But his human nutritional studies had led to a great deal of institutional respect. When he concluded, based on data from the European nations dealing with rationing as a result of WWII, that it was their lowered saturated fat intake that led to a lowered rate of heart disease; he was listened to.

His Seven Countries Study was the first study to systematically examine the relationships between lifestyle, diet, coronary heart disease and stroke in different populations from different regions of the world. It pointed clearly to saturated fat intake as a driver for heart attack incidence.

Except... he actually had data from twenty two countries. He left out all the countries which did not support his hypothesis.

This, in science, is known as "cheating."

In the words of a ground-breaking NYT article, "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?":

Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health ... is the de facto spokesman of the longest-running, most comprehensive diet and health studies ever performed. 
He says that low-fat weight-loss diets have proved in clinical trials and real life to be dismal failures, and that on top of it all, the percentage of fat in the American diet has been decreasing for two decades. Our cholesterol levels have been declining, and we have been smoking less, and yet the incidence of heart disease has not declined as would be expected. ''That is very disconcerting,'' Willett says. ''It suggests that something else bad is happening.''

October 12, 2011

What is the carbohydrate hypothesis?

I lost weight, and maintain my loss, by fitting my eating plan to the "carbohydrate hypothesis." What on earth is that?

100 years ago, this was a circus fat man.
This is the scientific theory that says eating carbohydrate in excess of our body's needs is what creates too much fat on our bodies.

Is this some new, cutting edge, theory? I wish.

It was first published in 1863, by a formerly obese British undertaker, William Banting.

The booklet describing Banting's successful weight loss was called Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. It became such a bestseller that "banting" was a synonym for "dieting" in the British Isles for many decades.

As detailed in the comprehensive guide to the subject, Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories, this scientific approach was solidly supported, and widely advised, right up to the 1960's. Weight Watchers started, in 1963, as a carbohydrate-restriction plan -- which was completely uncontroversial at the time.

Ever wonder why many restaurants still offer the "diet plate" for lunch, consisting of a scoop of cottage cheese on a lettuce leaf? A bread-less lunch is lower in carbohydrates; that's how popular and accepted the notion that "carbohydrates are fattening" had become. What happened? Why, in our own time, do so-called "diet experts" actually advocate eating even more carbohydrate and then exercising it off?

Ironically, it wasn't obesity research that created what we might call the "eat less, move more" theory of weight loss; the one so many labor in vain to follow. That was a side path carved out by the cardiac disease theories of Dr. Ancel Keys, who formulated the "lipid hypothesis." It was based on clinical observations that the "plaques" which clog up arteries are composed of cholesterol.

It was theorized that this made cholesterol the problem. It turns out cholesterol was not the problem; it was a symptom of the body's attempt at a solution. But by the time we figured that out, a whole bunch of more wrong assumptions had been acted upon.

October 10, 2011

Our toxic food environment

It's becoming more popular to recognize the "toxic food environment" we all live in as citizens of industrialized countries. Except the advocates of such a concept usually get the toxic part wrong. High fat and too many calories are the factors they claim are behind the Obesity Epidemic.

Except the way I lost weight, and have been keeping it off, was by increasing my fat and calories.

Wheat and sugar -- the obesity factory of the future!
How can an entire industry, combined with the weight of modern medical knowledge, be so wrong?

Because they have fallen into the trap of not knowing what it is they do not know.

They have observed that lowering calories lowers weight. Then, they stopped thinking.

This is how we get told that we are fat because we are simply eating too much. And we should get our giant behinds off the couch and move more, too.

Except... such methods have a failure rate of 95%. I don't want to do anything that has a failure rate of 95%! Yet when this is the best our "experts" have to offer, is it any wonder that people feel despair over changing their overweight fate?

I lost my weight, and have been keeping it off for a staggering seven years, by increasing my fat and calories; and lowering my intake of dietary carbohydrate. This actually targets the cause of overweight; overproduction of the hormone, insulin.

According to the "carbohydrate theory of overweight," carbohydrate drives insulin which drives fat.

What truly makes our food environment toxic is the overwhelming abundance of carbohydrate.

October 7, 2011

Believing in what doesn't work

Even doctors can be fooled by assumptions, as in treatments that do not have a proper scientific basis but are used on patients anyway.

This same kind of fact-blindness is at work when we are told that to lose weight, we must "eat less and move more." And we do. And it doesn't work.

I'm saying this as someone who successfully mastered it. For my body, it took an hour and a half a day of structured exercise (and this is all on the machines, no prep or commute time.) It took eating every two or three hours, of foods that made me hungry, like salad with no fat dressing.

This was a very difficult plan. This is the best they can do?

I went in young and strong.

I felt I had damaged my body with my binge eating and malnutrition from my periodic starve cycles which followed. I ate all the healthy foods like whole grain bread and low fat yogurt and rice cakes. I did a lot of cardio.

This, ironically, was the exact wrong thing to do.

When I couldn't exercise at that pace anymore; that whole way of eating worked against me.

Yet, it was still the only one they offered.

I did not regain my health and slimness until I was willing to admit there must be something wrong with the expert's advice. So I went against their advice, and it worked out well.

Or, I'm a mutant. Except; I'm not the only one.

October 3, 2011

But those are my favorite things!

I know that people regard my suggestion to eliminate wheat and sugar as an extreme one.
But we also know where moderation has gotten us.

Wheat and sugar have powerful effects on the body and the brain.

Our systems clamor for these foods because they have a short-term soothing effect.

Our metabolism reacts badly to these foods because they stress our energy pathways.

No good comes of this.

This is why it is so difficult to "cut down" on our favorite treats. The more we restrict them, the more we think about them. To imagine life without them, we envision ourselves unable to escape from the torment of wanting them.

But the opposite happens. The more we stay away from wheat and sugar, the less we want them.

Wheat contains exorphins and sugar raises serotonin; these are feel-good brain chemicals. It would be ridiculous to think we wouldn't reach for anything that soothes us so well in times of stress.

We knew these weren't health foods. Why wasn't our willpower strong enough?

Because willpower, like our muscles, are good for only so many "reps" and then it runs out of steam and stops. So we can't rely on our conscious brain continually over-riding urgent messages from our metabolic cellular structure.

We have to base our new eating system on a new eating system. Because few can eat artificially for long, and no one thrives on it.

September 30, 2011

The wrong tools

We are all familiar with the concept of how wrong it is to try to use a screwdriver like a hammer, or vice versa.

Yet we might not have fully grasped how the concept of eat these foods, only less of them is just as dysfunctional as trying to hammer with a screwdriver.

There are certain foods which act chemically on the body to make us fat. If we eat less of them, we will be less fat.

And yes; if we eat none of them, we will not be fat.

The two main culprits in creating overweight are wheat and sugar.

When combined they increase each other's bad qualities. When they constantly drive our blood sugar up, this tells the pancreas to release enough insulin to compensate for the tidal wave of sugar (wheat flour raises blood sugar faster than a Snickers bar) that is heading its way.

Insulin is the hormone that sweeps the sugar out of the blood and into our fat cells. Reduce any of this, at any point, and we lose the fat on our body. Because insulin is the hormone that keeps the fat locked away.

Then we eat more to fuel the activities of our body, since our body isn't letting us use the fat we have stored for fuel. Insulin's too high.

I'm so exhausted, we cry, as we keep topping off our tanks with "energy food;" high carbohydrates and low fat. Why doesn't it work? Because it's not energy food if we can't burn it. On the Industrial Diet of lots of processed carbohydrate food, we take in far more carbohydrates than we can possibly burn.

Other foods burn differently. Fat is a macro-nutrient that does not raise blood sugar; and is very satiating. This is the nutrient that will heal our broken, overweight, metabolism.

When I started eating less carbohydrate and more fat, there were hours at a stretch where I wasn't hungry. At all. And when I did eat, I was satisfied. I found the food to be delicious.

This is a way of eating I can manage indefinitely.

September 26, 2011

Stop talking about motivation

Many of us think that if there's any magic cure for overweight, it's motivation.

Maybe "this embarrassing incident/this pair of pants/this picture of me at my friend's wedding" will be the motivation I need to do something about this weight!

We never stop to think about how absurd this is.

If we are already lurking in Lane Bryant or the Big & Tall shop, or pulling an outfit out of the closet uncertain how it will fit, or fearing the next binge, or worrying if we will fit in that amusement park ride, or refusing to take a booth in a diner, or avoiding reflections below our collarbones the way a vampire might... all these things aren't motivation?

Obviously we don't mean motivation. Because we have plenty of that. We are simply at a loss to figure out why it isn't enough... and so, we think we need more.

If only we could have stuck with it, we sigh, thinking back to the last scheme we tried. I must not have wanted it enough.

Fact is, all those tactics designed to make us Stop Eating: the pig that oinks when we open the fridge door, the pre-packaged tiny portions, the shakes we throw down instead of lunch, the delightful cocktail dress in our goal size that hangs on the back of the closet door; why do none of them work?

Because none of them, including the much-wished-for Magic Motivation, keep us from being hungry.

We might resist for a while or a long while, but just like holding our breath when we were kids, our body forces us to do what we have to do to survive.

But I don't need cake to live! I can survive without Triple Fudge Twirl ice cream! Why don't I crave steak and salad?


We are putting too much on Motivation's shoulders. We are underestimating our Hunger. We don't know we are Hooked.

We don't understand why we are standing at the microwave, nuke-defrosting the frozen cheesecake we had bought for company. It is supposed to sit in the fridge overnight and be cut into lovely slices, but instead it is exploding all over the paper towel we draped over it.  We will eat it anyway, burning our tongue on the over-done edges and scraping our teeth on the paper towel.

What got us here?

It was eating food, that isn't food.

September 23, 2011

Sixty pounds? Big deal!

This is not one of those OMG they had to take the wall of my bedroom out and use a crane kind of story. And thank goodness. I have nothing but the deepest sympathy for such people; because there, quite easily, could have gone I.

The sixty pounds I lost in the last six months of 2003 represents the largest single loss of my life.

But if you added up the pounds I have continually lost over my adult lifespan; it would be quite the arresting visual metaphor. Some guesstimates I just did with a handy spreadsheet program pegged it at a literally staggering 830 pounds.

So if you add the weight, 220 pounds, I was at when I embarked on the only successful weight loss plan I've ever undertaken, I could have reached 1050 pounds.

Which is sadly not a record. The highest weight is currently held by the deceased Carol Yager (1960 - 1994) of Flint, MI; 5 ft 7 in, (my own height, to give me a chill) estimated to have weighed more than 1600 lbs at her peak.

This is why I'm impressed by a sixty pound loss that I have kept off for years. Because when I started I was a typical teenager wanting to lose ten pounds. It was the yo-yo dieting that kept making the pendulum swing; and the typical "gain it all back with friends" syndrome resulted in my looking at middle age weighing over 200 pounds.

It wasn't that I couldn't lose the weight. If it became an Olympic sport I coulda been a contender.

I've binged/starved, used OTC appetite suppressants, calorie restriction, extreme calorie restriction, meal replacement, vegetarian, raw food, low fat/high exercise. Each one lasted for varying periods of time.

Each one turned out so obnoxious I wouldn't try it again, so dangerous I was afraid to try it again, or would refuse to work when I tried it again.

And I gained it all back with extras.

This time, I took it off and I'm keeping it off. And, this is a first... it's darn near effortless. It's now, quite simply, the Way I Eat.

September 21, 2011

I've decided

That’s the challenge before me; the last ten pounds.

I’m giving myself a year. A year? I hear everybody saying. For the luvapumpkincheesecake it will take you a year?

Yes. Because I only want to do things once from now on.

I've spent 38 years trying to get rid of these last ten pounds; and the many many others that caused so much despair and misery. I went on regardless. I don't think struggling with my weight stopped me from too many things, since I had times when I did feel I was slim enough to observe the differences. The problem was, those times didn't last without a lot of effort that could have been put into better endeavors.

Image from, click to view their delightful images
Since figuring out what works for me, and refining it to this point, I can tell that I get far more accomplished, every single day, that is not about losing weight.

I've not only been able to stick with a consistent pant size which pleases me; I've also improved my moods, bulked up my confidence, and given my well-being a tremendous boost.

At a time when so many people are giving up on their weight problems and settling for poor health, I've been able to revitalize my brain and body.

I've decided that however long I have left; it's going to belong to me. I have quite the backlog of unrealized dreams. Each one of them would be ashes without the ability to enjoy the day without pain and sleep through the night without raging at myself.

If I take away the drain of constantly fighting my own impulses and instincts, thrashing to stay on top of depression and despair, what might I accomplish?

I want to finally figure that out.