October 1, 2012

How calories count

Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat, likes to point out, "When you are cutting calories, you are also cutting carbs."

I was reading this article in the NY Times where he discussed a recent study. People ate the same number of calories; only it was three different compositions. One was low fat/high carb, one was low glycemic, and one was low carb/high fat.

All lost weight. They were lowering their calories, after all, and that generally works for anyone... at first.

Calorie comparisons miss an important point.
But the low carb folks lost the most weight. They had their metabolisms slow down the least from the loss of weight. And they had the greatest lost of actual fat tissue; not lean mass.

The participants reported that low carb was the easiest to stick to because they weren't hungry; the only one of the three diets tested to work this magic.

From my perspective, the Way of Eating that allows a person better health, better body composition, and not suffer from hunger... has to be the way we are supposed to eat. Don't you think?

September 24, 2012

Report from an outlier

It's just that all around me, people are: Eating.Carbs.Constantly.
It does not stop. Ever.

They are trying to eat in a way they have been told is "healthy." No meat, no fat, lotsa healthy whole grains.

So I observe this perpetual intake of whole grain cereal with fruit and skim milk;  nonfat yogurt containing lots of sugar with whole wheat toast, no butter but a dollop of jam; pretzels and snack mix and crackers and cookies and granola.

They cannot stop. They joke about it, "they walk it off" at lunch, they occasionally wonder about it. But they are told this is the healthy way to eat. They struggle against the screaming hunger... and then succumb to it.

Because they are "only" ten or twenty pounds overweight. Everyone around them is doing the same thing. They are considered Normal.

However, I never had that cushion. I was, on the exact same eating pattern, thirty and forty and fifty pounds overweight. I never had the luxury of laughing off a few extra pounds and a dress size higher than I wanted to be. My overweight status was always an emergency; a ridiculed, can't-find-jeans, stupid-fat-pig kind of emergency.

I couldn't overlook it, and be like everyone else. I was tormented by the fact that, as far as I could tell, I ate like everyone else, but I sure didn't look like anyone else.

It is a state of perpetual hunger. The only difference is that other people feed their perpetual hunger, and only put on a nominal, norm-adjusted, amount of overweight that is considered almost inevitable for their age group.

However, myself, and those like me, react in an entirely different way. We blow up like party balloons.

But this healthy advice wasn't satisfied with insult; I also got injury. If I did the same thing my peers did, upping my activity and lowering my calories, they dropped those few extra pounds. So did I; except I never got to an "acceptable" weight the way they did. I stayed overweight unless I starved myself. So I did.

Until I couldn't, any more.

Without eating low carb, and now, Paleo, I would now be over a hundred pounds overweight. I would have diabetes, high blood pressure, rampant arthritis, and rotten, rotten, moods.

How do I know this? The same way I have known for decades. I simply look around at the people who are my own age.

The difference is: I no longer eat the same way they do.

August 27, 2012

The cheese omelet: cravings extinguisher

Another mental barrier falls.

Now, when I think "pastry," I make my goat cheese omelet with jam. When I would like a classic New York bagel with cream cheese and lox from my favorite local breakfast spot, I have it as an omelet, instead. And the Deep Dish Pizza Quiche is a variation that can be dressed like pizza. (I enjoy it with sliced mushrooms in the base.)

make our own to control the sugar content
It all started with me exploring our local farmer's markets. I successfully avoided the artisan breads, but the jam aisle was far more tempting. When I reached the lady who used local fruits and 75% less sugar, I got some in my favorite flavors; blackberry, peach, and strawberry/rhubarb.

It's also a great place to get goat cheese; and I did. Once upon a time, I would have enjoyed this combination on crackers. But even gluten-free crackers have too many carbs for best results.

So I activated my latest trick: Will this work with eggs?

And the answer came back: Why not?

The flavors of the jam are so wonderfully fruity and intense a single spoonful can be spread over a 2 egg omelet, and still satisfy me. As they say in the British Isles: it works a treat. And I mean that! The beauty of low carb eating is that we can have "treats" every day... and still lose weight.

We simply have to redefine our definition of what a treat, is.

August 5, 2012

I am a fat burning engine.

I'm on my third week of a new Intermittent Fasting milestone: 24 hours without food. I've gone as long as three days, eating only a big lunch every day. And... loving it!

I finally got my hip problem straightened out. This lets me be able to go for actual walks, and now, hiking. I find it much easier to spend a few hours climbing up and down mountains and walking through the woods than getting to the gym every day; and this activity is much more enjoyable. But to compress a week's worth of "gym time" into a day or two a week means using our friends intensity and stamina.

Our original engine burns fat
I think it was the hiking that got me this "higher gear."

Because I discovered that I could have a big breakfast, go hiking and deliver boxes and jump out of my car every fifteen minutes to take pictures and put in a ten hour day and then eat dinner; without being hungry.

My body was getting fuel from my fat. And I still have some.

Let me be clear: I wasn't eating because I wasn't hungry. I wasn't worried about not being hungry because of the benefits of taking long breaks between meals; known as Intermittent Fasting. Once we become keto-adapted, we aren't dependent on the glucose our liver and muscles can store.

We run off our fat.

If we have extra; this is how we most easily burn it. We engage our alternate energy system; the ketone based, fat burning, "original engine" that is considered to be the way our early ancestors managed.

It is so easy for us to obtain cheap, high carb, processed foods we forget how all those three things fit together. Living as hunter/gatherers could not be the same as our own existence which encourages and supports constant snacking.

When I was eating high carb and low fat, I ate every two hours. I was driven almost crazy with the constant hunger. I was tired of eating but the hunger drove me on.

Now, eating low carb and free of roller coaster blood sugars, I am also free to take on all kinds of activity, even sitting at my computer, for hours and hours, without having to stop and cram something else into my mouth to shut off all the alarms my body is ringing.

I can only see that as a marvelous thing.

July 16, 2012

How can eating fat make us burn fat?

It's a puzzle which can create a barrier; why do low carb eating plans encourage us to eat more fat? Don't we have more than enough of that already?

This is not a math equation. It's a word problem.
This is what comes of seeing our bodies as spreadsheets. This is why thinking of our bodies as spreadsheets does not work.

For instance, I lose best when I do 80% fat. Not everyone is going to like that, or do well on it; I average 1850 calories a day when I eat that way.

But when you consider I used to eat low fat, averaged 1200 calories a day, and couldn't lose weight for weeks on end, we see that our bodies are chemical factories; not spreadsheets.

Eating fat encourages our bodies to burn fat; that is where the food energy is coming from, so our body shifts its chemical factories to burn fat as fuel.

If we eat large amounts of carbohydrates, our body sets up the chemical factories to burn carbs; only, unless we are marathon runners, we cannot burn up that many. The body then cannot burn fat because all their "factories" are set up for carbs.

If we cannot burn up all those carbs; we're stuck with them. The body has to get those sugars out of the blood, using insulin.

So the body turns them into... FAT.

That's how we got fat in the first place. It was never from eating fat.

June 23, 2012

Adrenal Fatigue: I am now a believer

I have endured a really awful late winter/early spring bout of illness. In the fall, my office moved into a brand new wing of our old building, and soon winter closed in and sealed us up inside all this recent construction. I believe my illnesses were caused by "sick building syndrome."

I got pneumonia, and then a wicked sinus infection. I required three courses of antibiotics back to back. I "got well" without really getting well, because I could not get my energy back.

When every destination is too far
Adrenal fatigue is not an officially recognized medical condition. Yet my doctor checked me for anemia, thyroid, and other common causes of fatigue, without finding any solution.

It made sense to me that this added stress, on top of all my other stresses, could have "exhausted" my adrenals, which was what had made me exhausted too.

Before I asked him for a saliva test as outlined in the link above, I figured I would try to treat it myself with various strategies I had researched.

And... they worked. I am finally feeling my usual cheerful, creative, passionately-enthused self again. Here is what I did:

Dropped coffee. If that wail of "Nooooooooooo" could be heard on Venus; mine could too. I have my coffee fresh-ground and shipped to my door from a local coffee roaster. I use a French Press and heavy cream and I love my giant cup of coffee in the morning.

But that might be the problem. If we have gotten used to goosing our adrenals into action with a dose of caffeine, from whatever source we use, we could be drawing our reserves too far down. Then, when confronted with extra stress, like my illnesses, they don't have any reserves to draw on, either.

When I stopped, at least I didn't get headaches; which is another sign we are relying on caffeine too much. I did get an overwhelming urge to nap more, and these naps were more refreshing than before. This convinced me I needed this healing sleep.

I still drink coffee. But it's not a daily or a constant thing; it's a treat.

Stress reducers. Now I start my mornings with peppermint tea, which has soothing effects on our digestion which can spread to our whole body. Other de-stressing herbal choices are chamomile, lemon balm, ginseng, and even catnip. I've discovered that a spoonful of rosemary in the tea blend acts as an excellent mind energizer and tastes deliciously different.

It's a scientifically supported fact that meditation relieves stress. So why not give it a try? Here's an excellent video which describes the Chakra Balancing method, but there are many to choose from.

I've also discovered Rhodiola rosea, which is also known as arctic root. This is a traditional herbal remedy which helped Scandinavians and other High North dwellers cope with their challenging climate. I really like the effect, which is gentle, but definitely there.

Upgraded my supplements. I had cut back on my D3 because I had improved my blood level of 36; much too low. But it turned out, the constant assault on my system from the chemicals in our new office meant I needed more D3, not less. Upping my dosage made me feel better quickly.

I also increased my chelated magnesium, which not only helps the D3 work better, it's a vital mineral which is depleted in most topsoil. Over 300 bodily processes use magnesium; I would like them all to work properly.

Since the highest concentration of Vitamin C in the body is stored in the adrenal glands, I followed the online advice to take supplemental Vitamin C; and also began feeling better soon after. While I do eat fruit, I obviously wasn't getting enough Vitamin C for my healing needs.

After any antibiotic therapy, it's important to refresh our body's supply of probiotics; which not only help us digest our food, but turn out to be important players in our immune system. My pharmacist told me I need to keep it up for six months, at least. I added a B complex to my daily regimen, too.

Toxin-removal strategies. I was taking kelp a couple of times a week; now I increased it to daily, and added spirulina tablets. These sources of sea minerals have toxin-purging effects. I also got out perhaps the biggest gun of all; I am eating an entire clove of organic garlic every evening after dinner.

Well, I chew it up somewhat and then wash it down. It's too large to swallow like a pill, and while it's a bit "lively" it also is a great way to purge heavy metals and PCB's from our bodies, along with its many other health-supporting effects.

I have also made a point of lowering my exposure by taking my full lunch hour, elsewhere. While we have a lovely new kitchenette for helping us bring lunch from home, and a big empty conference room to eat it in, I can no longer stay in the office all day without a break. This behavior probably contributed to some of us getting sicker than others, whose job duties led to them being out of the office more with meetings and site visits.

Fortunately, the new construction type of "sick building syndrome" gets better with age and airing-out; unlike mold, which gets worse. I am convincing the rest of the office that abundant fresh air in the new place this summer will pay off for us with health benefits next winter.

  • Ordering supplements from iHerb? Use the coupon code WAY903 to get $5 off your first order!

June 9, 2012

My life without bread

I had a gluten free triumph recently. One of my favorite restaurants has a "bagel & lox" plate, and as my eyes lingered upon its listing in the menu, I was inspired to ask for the salmon, cream cheese, capers, and onion... as an omelet. It was delicious.

Needs to have vitamins added.
This confirmed the fact that the tasteless "edible plate" part of our meals are not the truly satisfying part. We get a mental zap from wheat. After processing, it has so few nutrients that most of our bread products are fortified. It keeps our fingers from getting sticky.

But the more I ate wheat, the more I wanted. This is the opposite of "satisfying."

It's kind of amazing how much people freak out when they hear I don't eat bread. Nutritionally, culturally, culinarily; those damn grains are seen as absolutely essential.

Yet dropping them was a dramatic boon to my health. My tummy flattened more. I lost about eight pounds without changing anything else. I was less hungry between meals, and could go longer before I got hungry. My arthritis no longer required painkillers so I could sleep, and continues to improve.

What helps greatly is my auto-switch mental system. Instead of "bread," I think "eggs." Whether it's a Oopsie Roll, an omelet, or a deep-dish quiche, from sandwiches to pizza, what I want will usually pair beautifully with eggs.

Once I got this concept embedded, I don't feel deprived at all.

Deprived of convenience? Sometimes. Deprived of cheap & easy access? Definitely. But when it comes to what used to sit on that bread?

I can have whatever I want.

May 21, 2012

Dealing with derailments

Stuff happens. We have two choices; rage against the vagaries of fate, or adapt ourselves to changing circumstances and make the best of it. Only one of these choices results in success.

Over the past couple of months I've been dealing with pneumonia (which could be life-threatening) and a mean sinus infection (I'd rather have the life-threatening thing, thanks) which led to three rounds of antibiotics. They all had to be taken with food.

Add in my husband's chronic illness (he's great for bringing tea, but cannot get out to the grocery store) and the fact that I'd eaten my store of frozen meals during the first illness. Now we have a series of challenges that would only be topped by being teleported to Planet of the Vegans.

Fortunately, the only thing that would be wrong in these kinds of circumstances is giving up. Which I won't do.

Not every schedule gets kept.
The "every twelve hours" regimen of the antibiotics was a challenge because I generally skip breakfast.

When I discovered eating breakfast actually made me more hungry by lunch than if I skipped it; I started skipping it.

And I couldn't just have a snack with that pill, either. One of the rules which works for me is No Snacking.

It seems that when I eat a tiny meal, my pancreas doesn't release a tiny amount of insulin in response. It releases TANKER CAR of insulin. So I have to eat a meal. Every time. In this case, every twelve hours.

That is another beauty of eating low carb; a good, satisfying meal keeps me going for hours and hours!

Since I was too exhausted to cook, I relied on deli meat and block cheese and pre-sliced mushrooms and bell peppers which work well nibbled together in stacks. I grilled burgers four at a time and ate them wrapped in lettuce. I bought a lot of rotisserie chicken and bagged coleslaw and blue cheese dressing.

Even when the antibiotics upset my stomach, I just sighed and added more food; even foods like black beans or sweet potatoes that are normally too carby for me. They seemed to be soothing to my stomach, and they wouldn't do the harm that a bowl of chicken noodle soup would do.

When we eat low carb, there are very few options in the boxed and frozen sections of the supermarket. When we eat gluten-free, there aren't any. So I don't regret the extra effort, ever, that eating fresh and unprocessed requires.

It simply comes with the territory.

May 14, 2012

Planet of the Vegans

One of the complaints about low carb or Paleo-style eating is the emphasis on meat. Even after we get past the health objections, which turn out to be misplaced, we can be confronted with the ethical considerations.

How can we support eating meat when factory farms are filthy places which treat animals so badly?

This is not the answer.
This is, however, a false equivalence. The answer is not "stop eating animal products," which are, in any case, vital to keeping us alive.

The answer is to support sustainable farm practices, and humane animal handling. Far from being dangerous to the environment, animals can survive on lands that are unsuitable for farming, and even reclaim land that has been destroyed by large-scale agriculture.

How can we claim to revere life, and then ignore our own, and that of our friends and family, and that of the earth itself? We cannot.

This is why vegetarians, and vegans, despite wide-ranging mainstream support that includes medical and nutritional authorities, still feel embattled and isolated about their food choices. If they do not feel better once the honeymoon is over, if they re-commit and revamp and take more supplements and just rearrange everything, they will have that good feeling back again.

But that "good feeling" that so often results from switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet is not because meat is so bad for us; it often comes from getting rid of many junk foods, or taking up exercise at the same time, or completing other health goals as part of our transformation.

Because, despite the claims of those who embrace it, vegetarianism is not an universal answer to health. And veganism is downright dangerous. Long term lack of minerals and B 12, and has led to many prominent vegans declaring they had to be less strict for the sake of their health. Recently, they have started to promote more protein and fat than they used to, but these are often from soy and seed oils, which have their own health quandaries attached.

The question of living an ethical life is not something that can be solved by opting out of ethical questions by using avoidance.

Pretending there is no Cycle of Life is in itself life-denying.

April 23, 2012

Eat more fat

What is the key to successful low carbing? Simple!

Eat lots and lots of healthy fat.

If that sentence made your brain explode, I understand. We've spent the last few decades being told that the DEADLYFATZ is the cause of all our woes, and what will eventually kill us. Yet, as I have explained in a previous post, the science behind fat avoidance is highly suspect.

So our biggest obstacle to low carb success can be our own brains. What we are asked to do seems so difficult; yet, once we are past our prejudices, it turns out to be incredibly easy.

Isn't this a treat?
It's so easy because this is how the way our body wants to eat.

For instance, I just had lunch. It was ham, a broccoli/cauliflower/carrot mix, all covered in this cheese sauce.

I made the cheese sauce with cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream, and butter.


Everyone agrees that it is yummy. But we've been told it is also so very bad for us.

But it's not. Fat, especially natural sources like dairy, are very good for us.

Many of the studies that have demonized fat used suspect sources; such as inflammatory seed oils, or sources loaded with transfats, such as hydrogenated fats. These are unnatural sources we are not used to digesting, or using in our bodies.

Every one of our cells is surrounded by a membrane made of fat. Our brains are 60% fat. This is not something that is bad for us!

The key to losing weight with low carb is eating lots of fat. This keeps us full, longer; that lunch I had will last me 5-6 hours. Also, fat has no impact on our blood sugar.

It's not fat that makes us fat. It's high blood sugar.

February 27, 2012

The Weight Loss Olympics

If there were a Weight Loss Olympics, I'd have a hundred gold medals around my neck.

If we look long enough, that's a ice cream cone.
Shakes 'n' Bars - I invented the Figurines & Tab diet.

Prefab Plan - I went long, assembling my meals from those frozen dinner boxes.

Sports enhancing drugs - You don't test for Dexatrim, do you?

The Calorie Count - Once upon a time, I could eyeball a whole meal and get within 50 calories.

Leaving it in the training room - Ninety minutes a day, floor calisthenics and aerobic machine, every goldurn day for years.

Portion sizing - My palm, my scale, my doll-sized plates.

Starvation Marathon - Five days with nothing but water and B complex pills. Bring it!

In this contest, you win... by losing. And I was a winner. I lost and lost and lost and lost. But the weight always came back, with friends.

That is because I was not addressing the actual problem. The actual problem was that my metabolism was not designed to handle the flood of carbohydrates the "nutritional experts" were pushing on me. I'm a bright girl, I do system processing, and I actually did put together low fat meals with lots of healthy whole grains which fit within their calorie guidelines. And exercised. A lot.

But as I neared forty, the stupid weight started creeping up again... and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't exercise enough, or eat as little, as my body apparently wanted in order to not gain weight. So I did.

It doesn't matter how much we apply ourselves if we aren't doing it right.

February 20, 2012

Clueless Eating

I used to follow Pasta Queen, a funny writer who lost half her body weight, then wrote a book, Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir, which I also read and enjoyed.

Funny thing: she did exactly what everyone gets told to do to lose weight. She got overweight by relying on packaged food, mindlessly eating while watching television, and being clueless about portion sizes. She started cooking, and exercising, and "watching what she ate." She published her memoir and closed up her weight loss blog and moved on.

So some people do have a weight problem because of what we might term "clueless eating." I was wandering through the web, got to wondering how on earth people really could lose weight on Nutrisystem, and wound up killing an evening by reading hundreds of reviews on a dozen different sites. There were people quite successful on Nutrisystem and loved it and wished they could do it again except it's so expensive, and they are basically this:

It's about portion control and I can eat anything I want I just have to stick with the system and I learned so much like how to make a salad and that you can figure out what hungry really is like I thought when my belly started hurting I should stop but it's not like that at all!

So yes, these poor folks were Clueless Eaters; so clueless, in fact, that they cannot go through the supermarket and assemble their own Nutrisystem for much cheaper just by tossing those Lean Cuisine & Weight Watcher boxes into their cart and doing some simple math to add those marked calories up to 1200 a day and they're done.

I don't know why they can't do that. I could do it with real food, in my sleep, at fifteen. Some people do that and it works and all's well and they can't understand people, like me, who can't seem to do that at all so it must be my fault I am deficient in some way.

But since my problem wasn't Clueless Eating, it didn't work.

January 26, 2012

A holiday triumph

Since the holiday season began on Thanksgiving to now... I'm down a pound! With nine pounds to go, this is thrilling news for me. Because I did kinda indulge over the holidays. But this is the first time I did it this way:

Whole foods. I am continually amazed that I can eat more carbs using Paleo principles. At least in my body, all carbs are not created equal! In past holiday seasons, I would have a cookie here and there (the homemade kind from known masters) and some pumpkin pie on Christmas Day, and I would hold steady.

But ditching wheat has changed my whole outlook. There just isn't that much left to cheat with. And I have zero cravings in that direction, now that I've resisted for a whole year. When I would track a comparison day from last year, it was the same number of carbs. But they all came from unprocessed sources this time.

Fussy choices. Now, fruit is my "indulgence" and I eat it with Greek yogurt or heavy cream. I did a lot of pork rind French toast, with some Splenda syrup stretched with mashed berries. But that's about it. My tastebuds have become so sensitive to sweetness I didn't even bake LC goodies this year.

The closest thing to cheating was some sweet potatoes; a lower carb, higher nutrition version of white potatoes that I seem to get along with. Occasionally.

And yes, I had some holiday drinks, too. But I was strict; no sugary mixers, at all. Rum is my spirit of choice, and there's always a diet soda option to pair it with. What works even better is supplying my own mixer. The bar doesn't mind bringing me a shot in a tall glass with ice. So I tip an extra buck for their trouble; it is worth it for both of us.

Low stress. I got a big ham and we just picked on it for a week at a time. Instead of cooking for our annual holiday party, I picked up a deli platter and a box of mini-cheesecakes at the grocery store. Our guests brought more of their own favorites, and everyone was happy!

When something holiday-related would come up that I didn't want to do, I didn't do it.

Like a Boss. That's right. I did it My Way.

There's so much about the holiday season that we feel we have to do... when we don't have to. If there is something Other People make us feel compelled to do, from baking with sugar and flour to eating with sugar and flour... the ethical thing to do is resistance!

Other People aren't going to get the bloating and gas and heartburn. Other People aren't going to find half the clothes in their closet becoming too small. Other People aren't risking diabetes and arthritis and heart trouble. Or maybe, you know, they are. But it's an individual choice. We're individuals, too.

Other People aren't going to derail the way they eat for us. Why should we?

January 16, 2012

No, I'm not deprived.

People find out the way I eat. First, they are stunned. I can see the gears turning as they try to imagine it.

If they are successful at imagining it (and some cannot do this very well) they are then amazed. 95% of the time, they say, word for word, "Oh, I can't live without bread!"

I know they probably won't listen from this point on; changing their diet has just, so to speak, left the table.

But either way, they always ask me, "Don't you feel deprived?"

I'm so deprived!
That's a fair question. I answer it with a question.

I ask them, "When's the last time you had bacon? Salad with real dressing? A steak with garlic aioli? Coffee with heavy cream? Vegetables with butter?"

Their eyes start glazing over and they get this faraway look. Because they rarely eat those things.

Those are "treats." They are indulgences that happen on rare occasions. Daily life is different.

Every day, they eat bread, with fake butter. They drink coffee, with powdered creamer. They eat naked broccoli and skinless chicken breasts and fat-free yogurt.

Either they eat things that have been rendered "health-safe" by taking foods that are supposed to be rich and creamy and luscious and making them cardboardy and watery and tasteless. Or they eat things that are already considered  "health-safe" like whole grains and starchy vegetables and sugary fruits that drive up their blood sugar and lead to metabolic syndrome.

I gave up certain stuff, and it improved my health, and now I don't miss those things.

They gave up different stuff, what they eat now is making them feel sick, and they still miss the stuff they gave up.

They are "deprived" far more than me.