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?