Saturday, September 30

Lowcarb and Learning Theory

"Learning theory" is a phrase used to describe the (ongoing, ever-evolving) results of a field of study about how humans perceive, process, and respond to information. It relates to what causes change in the human based on information processing (for better or worse).

As a layman's paraphrase of the generic basics for an example, let us say that the "action" we wish to 'train' is throwing a basketball, aiming to get it through the hoop.
  • If you provide accurate feedback to a human following an action, the body/mind perceiving the information -- such as "when you threw it exactly like that, it went in" or "when you threw it exactly like that, it bounced off the rim to the left" -- will be able to "learn" from this. The feedback is corrective or confirming, both of which 'teach' us. So: practice improves most anything, we all know this.
  • If you provide inaccurate feedback to a human following an action, the body/mind will learn just as well -- it's simply that what it learns is wrong. For example, if a basketball hoop were specially designed to ever-so-slightly move to the left just after the ball left your hands for the throw, eventually you would use that "corrective" information and begin throwing the ball slightly to the left, in order to succeed.
  • If you provide feedback that is highly negative, e.g., every time you throw a basketball someone comes and punches you in the head, then you create an aversion effect, where mysteriously you seem to be losing your desire to shoot hoops (I wonder why!).
  • If you don't provide ANY feedback following an action, or if you provide feedback that does not directly relate to the goal-attempt of the action, eventually you train-out the behavior. If barking at the moon did not get you strawberries, you'd have no reason to do it, and when you wanted strawberries that is not an urge you'd have, as it'd be unrelated to your getting them.

The lack of feedback, and even moreso, "inconsistent" feedback -- sometimes accurate, sometimes wrong, sometimes none, sometimes negative -- can literally train-out a quality or skill. I believe this is called an Extinction Paradigm. You have basically extinguished that tendency or skillset in the human.

Dr. Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body's Many Cries for Water, has an interesting idea. He believes that our culture, over time, feeding ourselves and our children drinks that are not water---the body doesn't by nature know anything but water--we have programmed-out our own innate thirst-reflex. He suggests that when the body asks for water and we give it other stuff, from slightly-off (like koolaid or coffee) to massively-off (like sodas), the body eventually is "entrained" to not ask for water because it isn't going to get it.

So eventually, the body quits asking. If a desire for clean water brings the minor poison of a soft drink cola, that is not only an inaccurate feedback for 'thirsty for water', it's actually a 'negative' aversion feedback.

He believes that over time, we become dehydrated literally to the cellular level. As it is gradual and has been happening over such a long time, we are oblivious to it. All the cells make do with a little less eventually, until finally, side effects start showing up, and then major problems.

He described a linear serious of ailments that can result from chronic dehydration, immensely aggravated by 'fiber' supplements that allegedly deal with the symptoms that dehydration caused in the first place, but leech massive water from the body when used, making it worse, making one yet-more dependent on them. I might have been more skeptical about his book except that my father has had every single one of the symptoms and ailments he described, in exactly the same order. I mean what are the odds. Most of these are things that the medical system has no good explanation for the causation of, except "bad luck."

By the time the body finally asks for water, it is only because it is so incredibly desperate for it, that it is simply is doing anything it can, no matter that the approach seldom works, to try and get your attention to get some.

The doc believes that replenishing the body all the way to the cellular level takes several months of drinking sufficient water daily. Like sleep, it is not something you can just make up all at once.

Soda is NOT water despite that it has water in it. It has to do with how the body processes the water -- he has nice little diagrams and simple explanations that even I was capable of understanding. (Although I felt he attributed too much to dehydration, in terms of health problems, aside from that I felt it was a book well worth reading.)

So, let's look at food. We need nutrients and protein most of all. Our body gets hungry. It starts in childhood, with many. And so we feed it -- mac&cheese? A happy meal with fries and coke? At best, that is somewhere between inaccurate feedback and non-feedback if it doesn't have the nutrients we needed. At worst, given the content of the food and affect on the body, it may be actual aversion training!

Not on a conscious level though. On a conscious level, we love sweet, we feel happy, we're inundated with marketing, McDonald's has the Star-Wars toys!, and the sheer mass quantity of sugar/carbs in the meal makes us feel "up-up-up!", while the drink is cold and fizzy (feel the burn! yeah!). Consciously we're getting nothing but positive feedback -- at first.

Unfortunately, the negative feedback of exhaustion, allergies/asthma, and more don't come until later, and as learning theory studies have always shown, the sooner the feedback, the greater the likelihood of learning from it. So, 30 minutes or an hour later when your blood sugar might drop is too late for that feedback to do any good for the conscious mind; we don't necessarily even correlate the two events. Our meal is already long past and forgotten by then.

So at a subconscious level, we have a body-function that eventually is trained out of bothering to really ask for what it wants because it doesn't get it, or seldom, and often gets something quite bad if it dares ask. No different than a family with an alcoholic angry parent, eventually the child, not sure if they'll get a kindness, ignored, or often abuse, in response to a question, is just going to avoid asking questions at all. So our bodies learn to avoid asking for what they want.

And at a conscious level, we have a body-psychology that is eventually trained into craving sugar, carbs, cold fizzy drinks, hot coffee, and the feeling of comfortable oversatiation that only eating too much bread-based carbs can give you.

We force the dissociation between body and mind from a young age.

The good doc Batman believes that you can rehydrate your body, heal it, and that gradually when you drink a lot more water regularly, your thirst -- for water, not soda or coffee -- will actually begin to gradually return. I have experienced this myself. It's not easy to do since in my case I didn't like water. I liked soda. But after drinking at least 3qts of water a day for about 10 days, the actual thirst-response started coming back. I started getting thirsty far more often (despite all that water!) and specifically for water, not sugary-carbonated junk.

I correlate this with the fact that some lowcarb docs note that insulin resistance can be lessened, and even Type 2 diabetes lessened greatly, as one eats low-carb and adequate-protein and nutrients finally, and the body gradually begins to heal.

(Not, mind you, that it's ever going to revert to what we think of as normalcy, as LC Dave points out.)

I am coming to believe that the basics of human learning theory are, unintentionally perhaps, working against us in our culture from the moment we start eating solid foods.

Some think -- rightly I suspect -- that placing importance on food such as a 'reward' is the wrong message to send to oneself, as it ties into the "emotional" issues with eating.

But on the other hand, food is central to physiological survival, and since the dawn of time man's been generally obsessed with it for necessary reasons. We may not want to have eating tied to our psychology, but the fact is--it is. I don't think we can wish that away. I think it's hard-wired into our biology, even if every human culture didn't steep its people in it.

So my armchair philosophy for the day goes something like this:

  • The more that we make lowcarb food important to ourselves;
  • the more enjoyment we get from eating it;
  • the more positive feedback we get from self or others from experimenting with it, cooking it, sharing with others about it, etc;
  • the more we literally create a 'celebration of food' gestalt with lowcarb eating;
  • then the more we are working to "correct and re-adjust" the psychology about food.

If we eat what we don't much like or what bores us because we "should," we are not only NOT working to "correct" our psychology (as much as our insulin-response), we are actually contributing in a negative way to that level of things.

And it seems to me that while we are healing ourselves, we have to consider the mind as well as the body. Our reaction to food goes from the most primal survival level to the most abstracted marketing inference: food doesn't just move through us, it moves us through and through.

So here's to creative culinary efforts; to sharing recipes and social bonding over that; to learning to enjoy food preparation; and to making food something special. Drink that protein shake in a princess goblet. Make that chicken with peppers dish or array of veggies and deviled eggs pretty on the plate, it can be done. Those are small ritual elements, but it's more our effort to pursue them, to take the time to make food a luxury for us, that matters.

Make lowcarb food for the mind and heart, as well as the body.


The Yum-Factor and Lowcarb Obsession

When you look at humans in tribal environments, you see that aside from sleep, human rituals and care of the young, nearly all their time is spent working on getting food or in some way dealing with food. For eons with humans, in terms of what one's time and mind are focused on, there has been a dominant obsession with food. NOT as a 'concept', outside of Christmas carols, but as a direct relationship to what you were going to put in your body. The two things -- food, and what goes in your body -- were not separate.

Nowdays, it's hard to be bothered with food. We often rush from the moment we get up and get kids to school and get ready for work and work all day and do errands afterwards and outside of our lunch hour or whatever we arrange for dinner, usually we are paying no attention to food. When we do put food in our bodies, it is often based on available time and available energy to prepare, or what is in arm's reach, or what someone else likes (a kid, mate, etc.).

This is no small issue. Looking at the protein requirements for the average person, and at what they actually eat, I'm willing to bet that most people don't eat anywhere near enough protein. So they don't have sufficient energy.

When you have less energy, you get less exercise because you haven't the gumption to get up and go. When you get less exercise and you're lower in energy you're more likely to eat carbs because carbs are energy-in-food. Protein is like power that our body translates into energy internally. Carbs are like external-energy we're pulling into us to help.

Too many carbs, not enough exercise, lead to weight gain and eventually to insulin resistance, which inevitably amplifies things into more weight gain, which leads to vastly less energy for obvious carrying-it-around reasons, so more craving for carbs to support the body and more insulin resistance and more weight gain -- it's the modern insulin-hamster-wheel of obesity.

So if you 'track it back', it seems that a great deal of all the carb-obsessed, nutritionally-deficient, exercise-inhibited problems in our culture, all start at the doorstep of insufficient protein.

Which means if I'm lowcarbing and not getting enough protein, that's a big deal.

Now, not to be obvious, but in order to get protein, ya gotta EAT. Which I at least won't do unless I like the taste of what I'm eating. So lowcarb better be yummy or I'm not lowcarbing, I'm fasting.

I suspect the lean-body-mass starvation that is chronic throughout much of human life in our culture, due to protein deficiency, may well contribute to a whole host of medical (and possibly even mental and social) problems far more extreme than just obesity.

Unlike every "natural" culture of humans, who for survival are forced to put a huge emphasis on the acquisition, preparation and storage of food, many people pay incredibly little attention to the detail of the food we put in our bodies.

But it seems almost inbred to humans since the dawn of time, that food's an obsession with us. And it seems marketing takes advantage of this. You'd never know we weren't obsessed with food to look at any form of marketing! Magazines and stores and TVs are nearly overwhelmed by the obsession with food. Even the obsession with beauty, health and sex fall second to the obsession with food. (Well, the sex obsession may be catching up, particularly as men become a higher % of the population doing even grocery and furniture shopping.)

So, oddly, it's as if we are still obsessed about food as a concept, we're just not really obsessed with the food we put in our bodies.

It's a form of dissociation.

If we asked our body what it wanted to eat, it would probably give us sexy dreams about steak or fish, broccoli and avocados, strawberries and cold clear water. Somehow, I doubt that apple pie, hershey bars and french fries are of any interest to the body -- and to the degree they are chemically bad for the body, even harmful, quite the opposite.

But they're of huge interest to our brain. Why? Because we've been indoctrinated with an obsession about the concept of food, devoid of the context of what we actually put in our mouths.

They're of huge interest to our palate as well. Why? Because we've been eating that way much of our life, in some cases when our parents ate badly all our lives, and we've learned to associate that food with 'getting energy' we lack, with positive reward from our parents, with sex and fun and other abstracted pleasures in a lifetime subjected to marketing.

Some people feel they have emotional reasons for eating. Personally, I think nearly everybody has emotional reasons for eating (or sometimes for not-eating, which is really the same issue just a different reaction), because nobody in our culture who hasn't grown up in the closet could have avoided the pervasive influence, since early childhood, of the many messages about and associations with food.

If Jane is thin and eats when she's upset, nobody even notices. Nobody cares. Jane doesn't care. She's thin, why should she care? But if John is obese and he eats when he's upset, it's considered a major psychological problem.

If this is a problem, I'd suggest it's a problem that the vast majority of our culture has -- it's simply that we only notice it or care about it when the metabolism of the individual fails to "compensate" for that.

Since I went back to a lowcarb way of eating, I've been almost forced to obsess on the food I put in my mouth. I rather have to, because my normal way of eating is completely different.

To start with, prior to lowcarb, I often ate only one meal late in the day, that's been my norm for decades. Secondly, whatever I ate was carb-laden and too much (although almost any mega-carb meal is 'too much' unless you're about to work out hard or run a marathon). My family's idea of food has been fast-food or packaged food with an occasional home cooked meal--rarely. I work and my husband handles the food, animals and garden, and we share the kid duties. He really isn't interested in cooking every night, let alone to deal with daytime food, let alone even more than that, for arranging snacks or whatever.

This makes my getting sufficient protein very difficult -- it's even difficult to get enough calories, unless I eat something massively high in fat. It means I need to take off work (I work from home, more than 8 hours a day) and go do something about my food.

I am pretty stubborn about food. I can be hungry, and standing looking at a refrigerator stuffed with wonderful fresh foods, and if I don't feel like eating those foods, I will go hungry and walk away. I'd rather be hungry than eat what I don't like or don't feel like. Maybe this means that my psychology has more sway with me than my body... I think that would probably be a fair statement.

I have to like the food that I am eating or I'm not going to eat it, period. Maybe if my parents had forced more veggies on me I'd be different, who knows. I'm finicky as hell. I tend to obsess on a certain food and eat it constantly and then am totally sick of it and can't eat it for a long time. I get weary of foods easily and really need variety. I behave similarly with other subjects, like music, and personal interests, so I think some of this is just personality.

And perhaps because of my lifetime of eating, my body-psychology (not function) feels a genuine need for something that at least can function-as breadish foods (tortillas and bread) since a ton of other food options -- variety! -- open up when you have those.

And sometimes, I want sweets. Do I need them? My body doesn't. My mind apparently does. And maybe that will change. But right now, pretending that is not so would only make me feel deprived and result in me eventually eating off-plan carby-crap that would blow it for me.

So staying on lowcarb is profoundly dependent on my ability to make foods that I like, and enough variety of them that I can stand it. Including breadish stuff and sweets.

There is a good chunk of the lowcarb world online that is fiercely dedicated to the meat-eggs obsession. And it works for 'em, I'm telling you, most of these people drop weight the way I can drop money at -- so they've got a lot of leverage for respecting their opinion.

But I can't eat like that. Not sure I can afford it for one. And the "heavy darkness inside me" when I do that is something I really dislike. And I don't have time for the required cooking, for another. And I just flat out can't stand it! Perhaps I will evolve into some kind of paleolithic hunter who really just wants to eat meat and steal eggs from nests and forage for roots and berries, but it certainly isn't that way right now.

Right now, if I'm going to eat twice a day -- let alone more often -- and if I'm going to get anywhere near the protein and calories I'm supposed to have -- I must have good tasting food. Yes! I expect food to be decent tasting! Sue me. Call me a baby. I don't think it's a lot to ask. In today's world of year-round food options at the grocery and online-sales of specialty ingredients, I don't see why this should be such a big thing to ask for.

I think that I am not alone in this. I think this issue is greatly behind why so many people cannot maintain lowcarb in the long run.

People go offplan dominantly because they want to experience a certain taste that is not on plan. They just can't stand it, they have got to have the garlic bread and mashed potatoes at the family barbecue, they've got to have the cranberry sauce and apple pie at thanksgiving. Now, they might have resisted just one or two things. They would have suffered without their favorite yams, for example. But suffering without all of it -- left with plain turkey (gravy is usually made with corn starch) and a few green beans and iced tea, when everyone else is eating richly and drinking eggnog and having warm pies with ice cream -- come on.

Let's get real. This takes monumental willpower on most people's parts. And if the person has not been eating enough protein, and worse if they've been eating stuff like lowcarb bars and other stuff that can spark cravings, their own body is going to be working against them.

If you don't want your employees to steal, your child to do drugs, and you know they are massively exposed to opportunity and encouragement, you wouldn't just shrug it off as their problem if they give in to temptation. You remove temptation, or you do something that helps mitigate that circumstance. Usually both.

So in lowcarb, you arrange it so you don't need to go to the lunch truck for your food. Because let's be honest, even if they offer a couple very simple foods you could eat, the smell of the spicy deepfried burritos and onion rings is going to whack your whole body hard. The olfactory sense is supposed to be the most powerful memory and pleasure stimulating sense there is, and anybody on a diet who ever smelled something they couldn't have will easily vouch for that.

And, when you can't help but be in a situation of massive carby food like family holidays, you provide an alternative: Make your own cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, mashed potatoes, apple pie, and eggnog. Can you do all that on lowcarb?! Sure. OK, it's true, your "mashers" might be from a different veggie that tastes amazingly like potatoes when done that way; your apple pie might be zucchini pie which also tastes amazingly great in a similar way to apple pie, and there might be a couple specialty ingredients like thickeners and sweeteners to make some of the stuff lowcarb instead of highcarb. So what!

If you eat it all at once, won't you go over your daily carb limit? Yeah, all at once, almost for sure. But you could have some of all of that, and all together still ingest lest carbs than a 'small', one-dish 'cheat' on normal carby food. That much won't toss your ketosis generally, and if it causes a few days of carb-cravings you have to beat with protein until they recede, it still is unlikely to have nearly the effect that falling completely off the wagon would.

Some people's lives depend on staying on lowcarb eating. Going off the wagon (as they say) is not just an issue of blowing a diet. It's an issue leading to horrifying ailments in diabetics, and horrifying health and lifestyle issues in obese people, and death to both. This is not something that flippancy is appropriate for, or casual reference to 'well they oughtta have willpower' or anything like that. That is not a proactive way of approaching the question of how to save lives and pursue health for people. If we want to save the lives of the people, we need to look at the reality of how people do eat, how they need to eat, how they can eat, and do everything we can to work out a plan for ourselves, or our families in need, that lets them have a good food life, while being healthy as well. No eating plan works if they are not on it!

What works for me is food that I want to eat. Sometimes that is steaks and chicken and salad and broccoli and a few berries in a protein shake, perfect for lowcarb. Sometimes, it's waffles, or something on bread, or chocolate.

There's only one solution. I have to do enough cooking, experimenting, and gathering recipes, to make myself familiar with a wide variety of lowcarb food options. So if I really want chocolate or lemon or I really want spanish rice or pancakes or eggnog, I have an option to deal with that need.

That need is probably more emotional than physical. But as noted above, it's likely there are few people who don't have some degree of psychology involved in their eating, we just only notice it with the overly- fat or thin people. It is still just as real and it still needs to be addressed if the goal is to keep a person eating on-plan.

I'm reading recipes endlessly. I'm collecting favorites like a new fevered-hobby. I'm experimenting daily with what might be edible for me. I'm imagining new variants and possibilities. I got "Rye flavor" bakers use to add to the flaxbread with a little caraway seed for better bread to have open-topped sandwiches with. I'm trying to get this "Oatmeal flavor" to add to flaxmeal cereal with a little brown sugar extract for a hot cereal-like option.

My mouth and my psychology want the taste. My body doesn't need to really have oatmeal or brown sugar. If I have some of the taste, while I am chewing and swallowing, I am happy. If I try to build in some protein to that, and if other meals better make up the protein/nutrients I might not be getting from that, what difference does it make?? Maybe eventually I can develop more love for what is yet-better food, and less love for stuff that is carbish. But right now, I need to be on the eating plan.

Just like Richard Atkins was not real worried about whether induction phase of his diet was short on veggies, because there was a vastly greater danger of the patient keeling over from a heart attack long prior to a lack of green beans doing them harm -- in the same vein, I am just not so worried about whether it is better to only eat proteins or avoid all forms of artificial sweeteners. The bottom line is that if I am staying on plan, then every single day, I am one step closer to saving my own life. Isn't that really the first and most important thing?

Maybe if I could just ditch a lifetime of breadish-obsession and sweet-needs and chocoholism, I'd be healthier, I'd lose weight faster. But if I want to lose weight at all I have to stay on-plan right? And 'm not sure that can happen at the moment unless I have more variety in tasty food.

I see a lot of people online when I read various lowcarb forums. A surprising number of the food lists on journals are so dull my entire appetite falls asleep from boredom.

Since I started lowcarb, suddenly, I love food!

I paid almost zero attention to food before this. I ate whatever I felt like that was fast and close at hand. If it wasn't, I didn't eat. I ate while doing programming work, while standing, while in the car, with no attention to the detail. My husband learned that if he brought me food I ate and if he didn't, I didn't eat. If he brought me two of something, I ate that seemingly happily; if he brought me six, I ate that the same way. If it was there at hand I would eat it. I've never really cared much about the detail, except that it has to taste good to me and I can't be sick of it. I am very focused on whatever I am doing, and food usually has to interrupt that.

My best friend recently pointed out that not only had lowcarb not made me restricted but it had blossomed my entire interest in food. It has! I find it so exciting to go through the options!

Now like humans of old, I am being forced to put a lot of time and attention toward acquiring what will enable me to survive. Far more than normal. At least till I get handle on this. Some may think it's unreasonable or obsessive, the amount of time I've spent on it (I've heard this complaint recently). Let 'em!

My food is gonna taste good, and it's going to have variety. I insist! I can do this.

Off to the kitchen to experiment. I hear flax pancakes calling me. Viva la Low Carb!


Friday, September 29

Rumplestiltskin: Flax's Fairy Tale

I remember third grade. Becky had long hair so she got to be the girl in our school play, and I consoled myself that it was my recent haircut that dropped me to the role of Rumplestiltskin, the male magical dwarf-entity that saves the weeping young maid from losing her head (literally) by spinning all the king's flax into gold. To my credit, my final "angrily stomping into collapse" when she outsmarted me was so convincing that teachers rushed the stage to see if I was hurt. Which kind of stole my thunder I admit. But I digress.

Until a short time ago, I'd never even heard of flax except in that fairy tale. I wasn't even certain what it was. Some kind of plant. Which apparently in the old days, when there were fairies and kingdoms and spinning wheels were common, could be spun into thread -- and in one improbable instance, gold.

The lowcarb world for the last several years has been in the throes of an internet-driven experimental evolution that would make any inventor -- and the staunchest capitalist -- darn proud. Wow, it's a different world today than it used to be.

In January 2001 when I first tried lowcarb, the options for "food that wasn't meat or dairy" were severely limited. I was running the tech side of a small corp with an IT product and working 100 hours a week at least, and a single mom, so with all that available time for cooking... that means none... I lived on microwaved cheese over pepperoni. Pitiful, I know. It worked. But I knew it wasn't a workable long-term eating plan, which I hoped to have time and readiness for 'someday soon'.

There were other ideas, of course. If you wandered into a lowcarb forum, you could find about 1,742 ways to eat with pork rinds. In pancakes, even! Leery but willing to be brave, I tried it.

I decided I'd rather die.

But that was before the advent of the ready availability of a ton of products that are specific to the lowcarb eating lifestyle. Some just got more popular and available, such as DaVinci's zillion flavors of sugarfree syrups. Some were brand new.

Sucralose can't be sold in the US as a sweetener except by Splenda, which finally (thankfully) the market did the hula around (ever the entrepreneurial spirit!) by presenting several products that are "sweetened BY" the stuff -- such as the syrups; such as Fiberfit; such as Sweetzfree. They are "not sweeteners, of course..." -- of course. They are just (in the case of Fiberfit) 8x sweeter than sugar -- or more -- and can be substituted for it. How convenient! Thank you. I will happily testify that I use those products only as flavor syrups and fiber supplements, guys---call on me anytime.

Forms of sugar common to the food industry were made available in retail to consumers finally. Erythritol, Isomalt, and Acesulfame-K (that is found combined with Isomalt in the product Diabetisweet) were suddenly as near as The first two provided the bulk and qualities of sugar. Polydextrose provided bulk if you were going to be using a high intensity liquid sweetener instead. No longer stuck with putting up with Splenda's carb-laden "filler" material, the whole world of desserts opened up to lowcarbers in a new way.

No longer did a devout LCer have to sadly do without anything remotely sweet -- or fall off the wagon entirely when a chocolate craving hit. Now they could make their own desserts and bring 'em to the party, or have them before or after. LC was now a workable plan even for those who couldn't live without the occasional dessert.

And no more culinary wallflowers! -- every LCer became an ad-hoc chef, experimenting with revamping high-carb products into low-carb alternatives, or creating whole new ideas, and sharing with their LC buddies online, who would further experiment with variations and flavors and ingredients. (For great examples of this fabulous principle in action, check out the Deep Dish Quiche Pizza and Mock Danish threads in the lowcarber forum.)

Much was helped too by the contribution of LC's favorite real gourmet chef, Karen Barnaby, whose food is sometimes too gourmet-complicated for cooking clutzes like me, but sometimes (like Cauli-flied 'Rice') a total savior... and she certainly has made it possible to have a classy dinner with guests, with food everyone will love, and still be lowcarb.

A variety of ingredients that were pretty low in carbs found their way into kitchen labs everywhere. Unsweetened coconut got real popular -- there are at least a hundred desserts, cookies, breadishes and more using the stuff. Hard cheeses like parmesan bloomed into new ideas, like as a sort of crunchy coating for the Munchy Parmey Chicken Chunks.

But it just got better. Wheat flour's carbs got you down? Wheat Protein Isolate 5000 became available, using the protein of the wheat for a flour with superlow carbs and a ton of protein. Vital Wheat Gluten can be added if needed. Almond "meal" became a standard, in part thanks to retailers like Bob's Red Mill that sold every 'farm-related' product you might want, and of course any cook with a coffee grinder could make their own almond meal. It didn't rise, of course---but it bulked up beautifully, and dense bread was a damn site better than no bread at all. I feel that almond flour was the "idea catalyst" for an explosion of "experimental" use of any product that could possibly be ground into meal that had a fairly low number of carbs.

And the star of flax was BORN!

Flax seed, 'golden' or brown, can be milled into a meal. It provides a great 'bulk' without any bad taste. And a lot of fiber. And with a few ingredients common to lowcarb kitchen experiments, can make the difference between "making bread in the microwave in 3 minutes" vs. looking mournfully at that egg salad and wishing it had a piece of toast underneath it. You can add flavors, sweeteners or savory spice, and have a dense but not overly heavy bread for anything from cinnamon french toast to caraway-seed sandwich bread. (Great spices at and great extracts at by the way!)

Is it like "normal" high-carb bread, that is soft-risen inside and thin-crunchy outside? Not really. But since that crap's gonna kill me anyway, I'm not complaining -- flaxbread tastes a darn site better than some "healthy" breads I've had in my life and it's actually good, made well.

Thanks to WPI5K, almond meal, flax meal, and other alternatives -- including some "bake mixes" that do for lowcarb what bisquick did for our mom's generation (such as CarbSmart's line or CarbQuick), you can create a somewhat different but darn good version of pie crust or cobbler-topping or waffles in the morning.

Flax seed has begun to be used in more and more recipes you'll find in the online lowcarb world. It's extremely lowcarb. How else can you get a workable and pretty tasty "breadish" as I call it---any product bread-like---with about 2 carbs and 10g protein per slice? Who's yer friend baby if it ain't flax seed?! Philly cheesesteak doesn't need a fork anymore. My thick garlic cheese spread finally became a workable food again. Chopped chicken in pesto, toaster-oven'd with a little cheese and hot peppers on top, is back on my to-die-for food list. Yay!

The expansion of ingredient-level foods over the last few years has made the lowcarb lifestyle possible even for people who can't or won't live solely on meats and eggs and a few fibrous veggies and fruits for the rest of their lives. And for those who worship all things bread-ish but can't take the gluten without asthma-like effects, flax seed has none of that. Yee. Haw.

The use of a lot of versatile vegetables that nobody'd bothered experimenting with before has opened many doors as well. You might not believe me that cauliflower--which I despise on its own--makes something similar to chicken-fried-rice that is so good, every time I've made it for (non-LC) friends they eat theirs and all my leftovers too and rave. Didja know zucchini, prepared a special way, ends up making a helluva pie filling that is a heck of a twin to apple pie? Come on, whodathunkit?! Cauli mixes into a great mashed potato-like or even cheesy twice-baked potato-like food that even high-carb folks will love and often not even know the difference if you don't tell them.

One of the most interesting things about the lowcarb food-world developments is that often, it is not so much that a given product is a "replacement" for high-carb (despite the 'mock' naming of many dishes), as that it is simply a new dish of its own, similar-to or usable-as things we know, but worth the spotlight as its own good stuff without comparison.

One thing I think the LC world really needs to focus on is re-naming a lot of their stuff to match what it IS and not what it was originally developed to replace the craved-taste-of. For example, "mock chicken fried rice" or "mock apple pie" should just be "chicken fried cauli" or "zucchini pie". I dare anybody to taste the stuff and complain. As long as LCers make it seem like their food choices are just "fakes" of high-carb stuff, rather than awesome foods on their own, there is going to be some psychology in how folks perceive the options. It should just be different food. Which tastes great!

But thanks to a versatile breadish I tried today, right now my hero is FLAX SEED... flax meal... O let me adore thee, flax!

As so many people grow smaller, the profits for suppliers of low-carb ingredients grow larger. I bet the sudden interest from the low-carb (and diabetic) world has taken the flax growers and sellers by happy surprise. That new cash crop is probably like a genuine fairy tale for 'em: finally, they're spinning flax into gold!


Wednesday, September 27

Good Morning! Have a Carb Craving!

So it was 3am but I was wide awake, and two big boxes of lowcarb products were sitting in my living room, waiting to be unpacked into the Official Low Carb Wall Unit. As I was starting the project I was noting that I was actually kind of hungry, which is rare. I needed more protein, but I didn't want more cheese and didn't want to cook anything as I figured sleepiness would hit any moment.

Unwrapping Netrition's excellent packaging (I rave because they only charge 5 bucks no matter what you buy, so it's fair to be appreciative), which is kinda like lowcarb christmas only much more work getting to the goodies, I came upon two boxes of Atkins "Morning Start" bars. I bought these just to try them. They seemed to have fewer carbs than the other bar-versions and I thought well, maybe now and then I'll need some protein quickly. I thought it might be nice to have stuff like that on hand for emergencies.

I decided right then would be a good time to try one. They were lower on protein and higher on carbs than I suspected, but frowning fiercely at it didn't make that change, so I went ahead and started eating it. I admit, I couldn't help thinking of the sheer quantity of food I would have been able to eat had I not been wasting carbs on this little thing about half the size/weight of a snickers.

The taste wasn't bad. But then it hit me. SWEET!! Not just sugar-sweet or fruit-sweet or cream-sweet but specifically, "carb-food-sweet". Must have been the granola in there. I felt as if I could feel 'carb cravings' starting in me literally as I ate the darn thing, as if it triggered something in me. I chalked it up to my imagination and sleep deprivation, finished it and finished the project, which took awhile, and went to bed.

This morning I woke up hungry. Cranky and hungry. I wanted chocolate; pastries sounded ideal; but mostly I just wanted food and a lot of it. Wanted to eat everything I even thought of.

Didn't have time for a real breakfast before work, so I dragged out one of the many toys netrition brought me -- Designer Whey chocolate peanut butter caramel protein powder (is that decadent or what?!) -- and added some of Blue Diamond's chocolate almond-milk-stuff with a tablespoon of DaVinci caramel and a splash of cream.

Eh. It was ok. I may never be truly fond of anything that contains protein powder, I think it is vile to the molecular level no matter what its brand disguise, but it was drinkable and I'm guessing most people would say they like it, given the endless waxing poetic I hear about protein shakes in all the lowcarb places online.

I was still hungry. Or maybe I was just driven to eat. I prowled the kitchen like I had food-lust and finally found a tiny bag of pecan halves I'd gotten at the store, and ate them. All of them. Then I continued prowling -- and suddenly stopped and said, THAT DAMN BREAKFAST BAR!

In nine days I haven't even been hungry, even despite not eating every other 24hrs! I have had zero cravings for anything. I have not even been tempted by carby food, not because I don't like it but because I've had no appetite, I'm full of protein and water all the time.

Yet I eat one "lowcarb breakfast bar", I actually feel the effects even while eating it, and within six hours I am foraging like an animal fearing starvation!

I should give the rest of them away.

{Bars claimed!}

Tuesday, September 26

IF I could only do IF and still get enough protein

I've been doing the IF (intermittant fasting) aspect of my plan since I began lowcarb induction on the 18th. Unlike some who've talked about their experiences with IF, I'm really not hungry during the fasting periods. Of course, I'm in the induction phase, which tends to kill appetite.

The problem is, I can't seem to get the protein I need each day, or anything else for that matter. Since I'm only eating either the first or second half of the day, I have approximately half the food each day that I normally would. A little more the first half, as my change-point is 5pm.

Even without IF, the last time I did LC I found it difficult to eat enough protein in a day. I believe I've been chronically protein deficient for much of my life. I like meat, but it's usually been something only eaten for-sure at dinner and even then in limited portions. Suddenly I'm eating lots of meat yet even with an added protein drink I can't make even 100g per day let alone the 140 or so recommended for my body weight (which is at the highest end of the scale of PPLP's recommended amounts).

4oz of a given meat averages 25g protein. This would suggest six meals a day each with a dose of meat. That is just not going to happen without a drastic schedule and food revamping. This is going to require that I adapt more shakes, or some homemade protein-bars, that much is clear. Still, even assuming I have mega protein at hand, on demand, who the bleep can ingest that much of it in half a day?! Hell it's a major effort to ingest that much in a whole day!

I'm wondering if maybe the IF is not really appropriate for me at this time. NOT because of any quality of the IF itself, which I expect is just as beneficial as suggested by Dr. Eades. But because of being on induction, where perhaps the body chemistry is a little more unpredictable in terms of energy levels (my experience), it's hard for me to know whether I'm weak because my blood sugar has dropped from not eating, or because that's just some side effect of induction.

Mostly, because of being such a high body weight, where the immediate need to get sufficient protein in a day outweighs the longer-term benefit of IF. (Rather like Atkins not caring about his patients on inductions having fewer vegetables, as his primary concern was to get them to drop enough weight, they wouldn't keel over long prior to having time to worry about their vitamin balance!) If I could appropriately arrange my food, IF would work fine, I'm just having trouble with it.

Perhaps some different arrangement of hours, giving me more 'eating hours' per day, would help. Or perhaps, a less than 24 hour period of fasting would help. I don't know. My current IF ended 45 minutes ago; I just had a lovely dinner. But I am thinking of making this my last IF period, until I can get "the habit down" of sufficient protein per day even on a regular LC eating plan... get more familiar with the foods and possibilities so that kind of thing is a breeze.

Maybe new-induction is not an ideal time for IF, not because of anything about induction or IF, but because people just beginning the eating plan may not yet be as good at combining LC things to reach their daily nutritional goals.

OK. Until such time as I can be responsible enough to at least meet 80% of my protein goal most of the time on regular LC, I don't think I should be doing IF, which (due to my own schedule, cooking and eating imperfections) seems to be resulting in me only getting 40-60% of my protein goal each day.

This is NO reflection on IF -- I respect science, and I think the research seems strongly in support of the values of intermittant fasting. I would like to incorporate this into my eating plan at some point in the future, perhaps when I weigh less so my protein demands are lower, perhaps when I'm more experienced with LC so my ability to "flex my food to fit" nutritional demands is greater.

I feel a bit badly about it though, 'cause I wanted to do it long enough to give Dr. Eades feedback on its use during induction and by someone of my weight. Well, I guess that's the thing about any kind of experiment -- no matter what answer you get, it's still an answer, for whatever it's worth.


Monday, September 25

Lowcarb for Life vs. for Convenience

There was a debate thread on one of the forums recently that got me thinking about the issue of why people eat lowcarb to begin with.

There's this guy, apparently a former football player who then gained some weight, lost about 50lbs on lowcarb (which for a guy, probably took all of 3 months if that, if LC was done right). Now he eats LC most the time and 'whatever he wants' one day a week.

That's actually more moderate than most in his category. Most go back to high carb eating, and shift to LC once in awhile if they have gained more than 10 pounds. People like this, they don't have any metabolic issue really. They got fat because they ate too much and often ceased previous activity (not unusual for people who are athletes in high school or college).

For them, lowcarb is hobby. Or as he put it, just a 'tool'. There is no reason for them to make it an entire lifestyle. Why should they? They don't need to.


Most the people on lowcarb that I know don't do it for fun or a handy discipline. They do it because if they don't do it, they will go diabetic or continue gaining weight, either of which lead to the "...or they will die" option.

Those are the people who tend to have massive carb cravings if they mess up their diet. They are the people who tend to have a much more difficult time staying on-plan as a result. They are the people who have to moderate their carbs because the side effects of not doing so are just too problematic.

They can usually have 'treats' -- things higher than their normal carbs -- sometimes without a big deal. But actual 'cheats' -- a whole carbfest meal -- will hurt.


One of the things most people don't get about lowcarb is that the "one bite won't hurt you" theory is wrong. On a calorie diet, it works that way. So you go over calories. That's just a few less saved that day. Eat less the next day. Big deal. Don't do it regularly if you want to lose weight.

If you go too far over carbs, it's an entirely different story. The result is one of four things:
1. potentially nothing, usually if it's not a big excess, and/or you've been doing this a long time so your body's adapted, or you're really seriously in ketosis so it'd take more than that to push you out. Do it regularly though and it'll be one of the other options.
2. nothing happens to your ketogenic state but you start craving carbs within a couple of days, cravings so strong they are near the level of drug-addiction-withdrawals in intensity. The risk of going offplan jumps into the stratosphere during those times.
3. you literally knock yourself out of keto and you have to completely re-do induction... 1-3 weeks of ultra lowcarb, harder than the average period for most.
4. you stall, meaning you were losing weight consistently and suddenly that just stops happening and may take days or a week to see again. This one can happen in conjunction with any of the three above.

When a person treats carbs like calories, you can be sure they are lowcarbing for convenience, not "to save their life." If it were different, you wouldn't need to debate with them; they would aleady know, probably the hard way.


I got all snarky because when someone like that pops up on a thread where someone is saying, "Gosh, I so want to cheat and eat this 120 carbs treat!" (equivalent to 12 pieces of regular bread toast, or 4 candy bars), and someone who does LC as a hobby essentially tells them hey why the hell not, go for it, it's not gonna hurt anything... well you know, that's a bummer, 'cause it really might and if they weren't looking for an excuse they wouldn't have asked other people to justify it for them.

If you tell someone you're going to the annual fair and gosh those funnel cakes call you, they'll tell you that you gotta be strong. Yet often the same people will say it's ok to blow it on thanksgiving or christmas. What's the difference? They both only come once a year! It's an example of the fact that most of lowcarb philosophy is a subjective mental state.

Atkins used to say, "One bite WILL hurt you." You have to truly get OFF the sugars and stay off them. But for LC hobbyists, even one DAY doesn't hurt them, maybe more. So they're all for encouraging people to not only go ahead and 'cheat' -- but hell, even PLAN cheating, because who can possibly just adapt a different eating plan forever, they say? Who could have the discipline to eat foods that are good for you -- or at least, if they aren't, are deliberately created to be fairly low carb -- on an ongoing basis?

Hmmmn. Maybe people who be insanely fat or DIE if they don't? Could be.

It's tough because when some hobbyist lost some weight with LC they figure they're now the expert on all things lowcarb I guess, because they are a success story. Which is great, more power to them. But that only makes them an expert on how to eat low carb for a few months to lose it, and how to eat it "as often as may be convenient for them" after that. It doesn't necessarily make them an expert on the 1001 more detailed body chemistry issues that are behind why most people eat lowcarb.

The difference in effect on the body, on seriousness about the eating plan, on attitude toward high-carb food, and -- most importantly -- in consequence of violating the eating plan -- is huge.

I guess I wish more people realized that.

Thursday, September 21

Feeling deprived vs. bothering to cook

I often hear people talking about how hard it is to stay on lowcarb because they just can't resist the high-carb foods around them.

I understand that the foods are great. What I don't understand is why most people aren't more proactive in dealing with that issue:

My goal is to learn to make so many totally awesome low carb foods, including desserts, that there is never ANY reason for me to feel insanely tempted, to feel like life is unfair, to feel like I am deprived of high carb foods.

There is a growing number of lowcarb ingredients that allow vastly more options than there were three years ago. Not to mention there are a lot of veggies that replace each other really well IF you know how to cook & prepare them correctly to achieve that. You can make a mock apple pie, mock mashed potatoes, lemon curd, chocolates (of a variety of dessert types), all kinds of cookies, cheesecake in a zillion variants, ice cream in every imaginable flavor, pizza, fried rice, breads, waffles, and I grant that a few of these amount to replacement foods, however, they are often so awesome tasing that even high carb people will ask for thirds and eat all your leftovers and often not even know it isn't the original if you don't tell them.

And plenty of things ARE real. Cocoa is not high carb; only sugar is. All hail the god of sucralose liquid (the 'reverse molecule' version of sugar) in sweetzfree, fiberfit, polyD and DaVinci's flavor syrups, as well as splenda and other options that are solids. Cream is not high carbs; only sugar is. Cream cheese is not high carb either. Nor is real peanut butter. The only reason these things tend to be high carb is sugar and flour. Sugar can be replaced (and its bulk with PolyD). Flour can be replaced in 'some' things -- mostly in things that don't need to "rise".

At this point, while it's still sometimes more work or more demanding on creativity, there is such potential in creating low carb foods at home, often from fairly healthy base ingredients, that there isn't a lot of reason for someone to go about feeling deprived. The logical solution to craving anything is to figure out how you can make a lowcarb version of it that tastes great enough to delight you. Presto. You're not deprived.

I might add that when you stay off sugar and carbs long enough, often the things you used to love like crazy in the high-carb world taste different to you. So once you're lowcarb, often something lowcarb will taste better than a regular pie would, as your body doesn't have to react to the sudden massive kick of so much sugar/starch.

Ever in search of the perfect recipe!

Monday, September 18

Opportunity Knocks (A four-part Saga)

On September 18 at about 2am, my scale said I weighed 467 pounds.

A reading like that should be followed by some Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reassurance like DON'T PANIC!

Then again, maybe it shouldn't. I'd say that's way past time that panic should have set in.

Twice -- very briefly, once for 3 weeks as a trial, and once for three months then abandoned -- I changed to a "Low Carb" 'lifestyle'. More accurately, to an "adequate protein, adequate water and low carb" eating plan. It worked great, but I didn't stay with it. Reasons vary.

Standing on the scale, I decided it was time to do it for real. For good.

Let's go back just a bit.


Part 1 of the Saga

If someone came up to you and said, "Guess what! There's this way that you can eat a bunch of awesome food, lose weight, and feel so much better!" would you say, "Oh no... Another diet!"?

Some people have metabolism that requires they regulate their carbohydrates. I'm one of them.

Until a few years ago I never knew that anything existed that would deal with my weight. Most the time I've lived on one meal a day. On a purely caloric basis, I should have weighed 1/3 what I did -- if that. I'm otherwise healthy, and usually more able than plenty of folks I see who weigh half what I do. But obviously, something just ain't right.

I've watched my family members, my entire life, battle weight. I've got aunts, for example, who have quite literally been on a diet close to every day for the last 40 years. One thing or another. An addiction to Diet Shasta. And with constant, extreme dieting in one fashion or another -- a zillion variants on what the Magical Medics with the Million Dollar Unhealthcare System say one should do -- they manage to "only" be 40-150 lbs overweight. Every day they are in misery and humiliation and degraded self worth about it. Honestly, it just makes me sick to see it.

When I gained over 200 lbs in less than 2 years in my mid 20's, I realized I had not escaped the genetic charm. When low calorie and aerobics every morning and living on yogurt and salad and popcorn not only didn't make me lose weight, but made me gain it, I realized that I was just following their path. The idea of suffering that neurosis and decades of failed attempts was horrifying. I was a born performing artist who was never going to perform again thanks to my weight, that was bad enough, that abrupt end to my life's plans had already made me a bit suicidal. The idea of following their footsteps was the final straw.

I decided I was going to take it much like losing a limb or getting some disease and just focus on "living despite that" one day at a time. I would not obsess on it and let it overshadow my life. OK, so I was fat. You know, some people are homely, or overtall, or skeletal, and that is just the way we are. I decided I'd just give up on having a love life, give up on songwriting and performing, "take it like a man" -- although I'm a woman -- and find something else more constructive to do with my attention than obsess about what I apparently couldn't change.


Part 2 of the Saga

In mid 2000 I was 35 years old and I went into the hospital. I was healthy 'except' the 'recurring bronchitis' I'd had for over a year turned out to be untreated asthma infections. Since I'd never had any known allergies all my life, it never occurred to me that I could have asthma. Let alone "severe asthma." One night, breathing ceased to be "autonomous" -- and I knew if I went to sleep, I would not wake up.

I hate hospitals. I put off going for hours. Cleaned the house, took a shower first. Packed some things. When I saw the doc in ER, I opened my mouth to tell him that it was probably no big deal, only to hear myself blurt out, "If I say this means nothing ignore me! I'm totally type A and in denial!" I was astounded that issued from me, talk about your subconscious taking over!, and I must have looked it, as the doc and nurse looked at me, each other, and burst out laughing.

Well it turned out my poor lungs had so many coats of infection they'd literally hardened into barely-expandable little objects. They checked me into the hospital on the spot and put me on oxygen and started forcing me to use this heated industrial inhaler machine with this thick vapor that was a steroid, to start to break up all that crap in the lungs so I could cough it out. (And that was a real joy, as you might imagine.)

During my hospital stay, at one point my little girl was visiting, I was all stressed out about work, and a nurse on her third new IV attempt was pouring fluid into my tissues and flatly refusing to accept my insisting the PAIN meant it wasn't in the vein. That triple-stress and anger response to the pain, combined with having just spent 3 days inhaling a high-dose steroid every four hours!, and trying to keep it all in so I didn't shout in front of my kid, tripped my system I guess, and my heart rate apparently jumped to 298.

Nurses in blue and tennis shoes came skidding around the corner and into my room, looking astounded that I was sitting up talking. "How do you feel?" asked one of them, looking at me very oddly, and I said, "I feel fine, I just -- oh WOW, I'm so DIZZY suddenly...!"

And that is how I came to "have a cardiologist" even though -- aside from the most minor, often untraceable heart murmur I was born with -- I had no actual health issues. And a "respiratory specialist" even though until not long before I'd never had any kind of respiratory problem, and it seemed rather hard to believe that 'severe asthma' would hit someone in adulthood out of the blue.

Well, I had severe acid reflux, but everyone else I knew did too so I figured that was normal. I was incredibly depleted on energy... but so were others. I responded with allergies (where I never had before) to every potential pollen... but so did others. Little things.

So I went to see my cardiologist once I was home, on oxygen until the little alveoli could grow back in my lungs. He saw that I was reading a Jane Roberts book, and said, "Oh, you're a reader. Great." And he wrote me a prescription.

The prescription said, The Protein Power Life Plan. Author: Eades.

I got the book, but since I don't actually have any heart problems (well, not counting my weight!), and I knew it was some kind of diet book, I avoided it.

When I finally read it, I was inspired, and astounded, and yet... afraid to hope, I guess.

I set up a "three week trial" for myself in January of 2001. I would go off it, I promised myself, using that to ensure that I could at least do it that long. I wanted to see if there was anything to it at all, or if it was just one more of the zillion ways that had never worked for my aunts. (And it is---but they never did it correctly.)

I was working two jobs worth of hours -- actually more -- and a single mom -- I really didn't have time to cook, prep, plan, nothing. I did one shopping trip and bought like every meat, cheese and dairy product I found edible and figured I'd find my way.

On day 10, I realized something:

My acid reflux was gone.
My 'severe asthma' was gone.
My allergies were gone.
My complexion was totally clear for once.
I woke up in the morning awake and alert for the first time in eons.
I had energy.
I could think more clearly.
I was more limber and could move around more easily.

I didn't have a scale to fit me so I didn't know if I lost any weight.

I was utterly baffled. How could a "diet" have what amounted to medical benefits?

I had an existing appointment to keep with my "respiratory specialist." He asked how I was doing with those (expensive) three inhalers I was to be using every day. With shining eyes and enthusiasm, I told him how I'd gone on a lowcarb eating plan and how so many "minor" health issues had totally vanished -- including my "severe asthma". I breathed for him. I thought he'd be really proud of me and glad for me.

He asked if I was still using my inhalers every day. I said "Doc, maybe you didn't understand me. I don't NEED the inhalers anymore. They are not preventative, they are "treatment" for a problem, and I don't have the problem anymore! " He seemed kind of upset. I added, "I think that my asthma was actually a reaction to some food that I'm not eating anymore. Now that I'm not eating it, the so-called asthma is gone!" Now he seemed actually quietly angry. I was so confused. Then he suggested that if I would not obey his prescription requests then I should probably not be his patient anymore. I just stared at him in astonishment.

Damn it, I really liked that guy, I mean really -- he was smart and handsome and charming and witty and I was crazy about him -- up until that moment.

I went to see my cardiologist and thanked him for the book reference and told him of my experience with all these other minor health issues vanishing. He was not surprised at all, of course.

I told him of the respiratory guy's reaction. He wasn't surprised about that, either. I said, but why? Why did he never even once suggest to me that my asthma even "could potentially" be related to the food I ate? He's an expert! How could this never even once come up?!" He just smiled and (politically, I thought) said not a word.

The three week trial ended. I used this as an opportunity to gradually eat other foods for a day, then back to LC, to see what I might react to, to try and find the culprit. After another 10 days or so I was out of ketosis, but I had learned what I set out to learn:

It is apparently wheat gluten, and milk (though dairy otherwise is mostly ok). And gluten is in many things even meats (to help bind the burger) and every form of normal bread, so that meant almost anything fast food, my standard diet at the time, was a problem. I've since found that some researchers estimate 10% of the population is "sensitive" to gluten. Most of us don't know it because it's so ever-present in our lives, we are never full off it long enough to detox and realize the difference in how we feel.

During my three week trial, I searched for lowcarb recipes online. Everybody kept talking about all this junk I didn't have. From appliances to artificial sweeteners to what seemed a bizarre collection of offbeat baking materials, everybody else knew what they were doing and I was the big dork totally clueless. I couldn't make much of anything. If the ingredient wasn't available at my super walmart, then it was not do-able. I would get so frustrated about it.

Back then, there was only one lowcarb tortilla and I didn't like it; there were no wraps, there was no lowcarb bread. It sucked. I was living mostly on nuking cheese and pepperoni, on string cheese, scrambled eggs, and jalapeno jack grilled burgers. I branched out to crockpot chicken, and salads with chicken. Still. I knew I'd need a wider range of food if it was going to work for me.

I determined that "in the future, someday hopefully soon, I will go back on low-carb eating." I didn't have time to plan/cook/etc.; I didn't even have time to sleep, my work was crazy. I also determined that "until then, whenever I have some extra money, I am going to buy stuff that would make staying on this plan workable."

So over time, I bought appliances, I bought specialty items, I worked on gradually creating an 'inventory' that would be everything I needed. For "someday."


Part 3 of the Saga

Around Spring of 2005 I decided to do lowcarb again. I went for it. And it worked GREAT. I lost 70 pounds in 3 months. I felt fabulous!

In June, my estranged-for-5-years husband moved in. And he didn't want to eat lowcarb. And since I was working and he wasn't, he agreed to "handle the food" for the household, and since I did nothing but work and sleep then thanks to work, it seemed a lifesaver. Except once he found one small thing he could make, like say a lowcarb piece of toast with a spread, he seemed to think I should eat that for every meal from then on as it wasn't much trouble, which of course sent me foraging for other stuff, which had to be quick.

I started getting and eating the quick frankenfood "lowcarb bars," which seemed to really increase my cravings. We went out to eat a lot and I tried to order right and pick around stuff, but eating out should be an 'occasional' thing -- when you do it a whole lot, the 'extra carbs' creep up. The cravings hit me so hard, it was just horrible!

One night I fell, taking several Outback Steakhouse pumpernickel bread loaves, blooming onion pieces, and a Sidney's Sinful Sunday with me.

I didn't get back on the wagon.


Part 4 of the Saga

As 2006 wore on, I got more and more sedentary. It got harder to do stuff you need to be able to do, like... stand up! My back would hurt within 30 seconds just from standing. Let's not even start on walking (with a spine misaligned by adiposity, and thighs that were in each other's way).

I was trying to find time for a little meditation in my busy schedule, so I started having my husband (aka "DH") go in and shop while I would sit in the car. Eventually, I had ceased to do much of anything. And it got harder to do anything. And in September, I turned 41.

A few days after my birthday I dug out the scale (the one I had to shell out a ton of money for, to find one that went high enough...). And I weighed myself, and saw that while I had gone from 482 to 411 over a year prior, I had gained back up to 467.

It was about 2am, but I decided, that's it. I can hardly move, can't hardly stand, can't hardly walk, am SO exhausted all the time, my body's getting older, and I think I am going to DIE if I don't do something. I am going back on the plan.

Third time's a charm, so they say.


This blog is for me: to make notes about my progress, my feelings, etc. Sometimes I might copy something from another blog of mine in here if it applies.

I am positive, you see. I believe that eventually I will have lost so much weight, peoples' mouths will hang in awe.

And when I reach that point, I'd like to be able to point to a documented history of it. So maybe other people in the situation I'm in now, hoping that there is hope for them, can find it and know there is.


It's not a hobby, not an occasional tool. It's a lifetime eating plan.

It's not a diet. It's an opportunity. So... opportunity knocks. Now's my chance. And that rocks! I choose to live.

Welcome to my probably-astoundingly-dull blog about low carb.

Sunday, September 17

Protein Shakes, Variants

All recipe threads are backdated to prevent interference with current blogging.

Since there are near-infinite variations on things like protein drinks, mock danishes, flax bread, etc. I've decided to make one thread for each major food and then just note the variants as I experiment with them.


Strawberry Cinnamon Brown Sugar Protein Shake Intensely strawberry, and very sweet, this is more a dessert than anything. But with this combo of ingredients I didn't taste the protein powder enough to bug me, for the first time ever. Hours later, the 'cloying sweet' bugged me but during the eating experience it was nearly candy-like but cool.

Strawberry Cinnamon Brown Sugar Protein Shake

1/2 cup soy milk, 1/2 cup water, 6 ice cubes
3 frozen strawberries
2 scoops Designer Whey Protein, Strawberry
1-2 Tbsp DaVinci strawberry syrup
some "brown sugar" extract-flavoring
maybe 1/2 tsp of cinnamon

I think a tad more cinnamon and even a little nutmeg wouldn't go wrong. But it was good. The miniscule amount of protein powder that my picky taste buds could discern underneath all that strawberry overkill didn't bother me.


Soy Milk + Designer Whey Protein, Strawberry

1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup water
6 ice cubes
2 scoops Designer, Strawberry

That was actually not bad. I detest protein powder and hiding the taste in a shake seems almost impossible, but the strawberry seemed to "mute" the flavor much more than the chocolate peanut butter caramel flavor did. Of course I used some soy instead of the almond stuff, too.

Soy Milk + Designer Whey Protein, Chocolate

Same as above but Chocolate flavor. I didn't like it so much, I could taste

Soy Milk + Designer Whey Protein, French Vanilla

Same as above, a little lemon and a little banana. Bleah. Maybe I should have done no lemon and more banana.

Almond Breeze + Designer Whey Protein, Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel

1 cup Almond Breeze, chocolate
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
6 ice cubes
2 scoops Designer, Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel
1 Tbsp DaVinci, chocolate
2 strawberries

Eh. I could still taste too much of the 'protein powder' taste for my liking, although I admit the first drink or two were the worst; the drinks after that didn't seem so bad, maybe I adapted. It seeemed to mimic the effect I got from the almond stuff, which was like "a great chocolate flavor but added to water instead of milk". Will have to try this again using soymilk.

Chicken Casserole Verde

Recipes are backdated to prevent interference with current blogging.

This is a slight variation on a recipe I found at the lowcarber forum (read it here) that we really liked. Next time we make it, we'll make twice as much... we really chowed on the leftovers for lunch the next day, they nuke beautifully.

Chicken Casserole Verde


4 cups cooked chicken (or turkey) -- shredded or cubed

2 teaspoons Taco Seasoning (you can make this yourself)

8 ounces softened cream cheese (Philly light has slightly fewer carbs by the way)

1 tablespoon minced green onions or chives

7 ounce can Green Mexican Salsa (we used green enchilada sauce)

4 ounce can chopped green chiles

6 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded (you could make it spicier by using pepper jack, though it is a bit more carbs)

4 green onions, chopped (this is just to sprinkle on top)

Optional: we would add some super-thin sliced jalapeno and some red pepper flakes 'cause we're hot-spicy addicts but that's up to you.


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees while you grease a full size baking pan and put the chicken in it.

2. Add the taco seasoning and mix the chicken around in it to coat.

3. Mix cream cheese with the onions/chives and green sauce in a medium bowl. Stir in the chiles.

4. Pour sauce evenly over chicken and top with the cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with green onions.

Makes 6-8 servings.


The original recipe poster was kind enough to include this:
Per 1/6 recipe: 432 Calories; 29g Fat; 38g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 4g Net Carbs
Per 1/8 recipe: 324 Calories; 22g Fat; 28g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 3g Net Carbs

But personally I would figure it out yourself based on what you add, because mexican sauces in particular vary widely.


This is already deemed a staple in our house. The leftovers are as good as the fresh stuff. I think I could eat this several times a week and be happy. Even the kid was nuts about it.

Mushroomy Chicken with Bacon

Recipes are back-dated to prevent interference with current blogging.

This is rather like recipes I've had before that are "cream of mushroom soup dumped on chicken" except it's homemade. It's good stuff. I've modified my version (of course -- if I don't modify something, I just link to it) slightly. The original was on the lowcarber forum (read it here).

Mushroomy Chicken with Bacon


2-4 boneless chicken breasts (or whatever you prefer.)

2 tablespoons butter, melted (a little more if you have more than 2-3 pcs chicken)

slices of bacon to match your quantity of chicken

crushed garlic (quantity to taste)

1 cup mushrooms, sliced (if everyone eating is LC, just 1/2 cup. Otherwise, put in more and the LCer can just not take so many of them. It's better with more.)

1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Your favorite seasoning to taste for your chicken (seasoning salt, etc.)


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Optional: you can half-cook the bacon first if you prefer your bacon a little more done in the final product. (Of course, the bacon dripping on the chicken is the point of this, and you lose some of that, if you half-cook it first.)

2. Pour melted butter into a baking dish of whatever size will fit all your chicken. Add chicken (if it has skin, put that side down), and sprinkle with your seasoning and the garlic. Turn the chicken over, season that side, and lay the bacon strips on top. Sprinkle with mushrooms.

3. Bake 45 to 60 minutes, until chicken is done (is no longer pink).

4. Remove chicken and whatever's on top of it to your serving plates or somewhere to keep warm. Pour all the juices from the baking dish into a small saucepan and whisk together with the cream over low heat until thickened. If you have an issue with the 'reduction' taking forever, try some Not/Starch (replaces corn starch wonderfully and is lowcarb, buy it here).

5. Pour sauce over the chicken and serve warm.


Well it depends on how much you make. Chicken and bacon have no carbs. Mushrooms and cream have some. USDA says a 'medium white mushroom, raw' weighs 18grams and has .59 carbs. It says 'cream' (heavy whipping) .34 (about 1/3) a cup weighs 80.92 grams and has 2.26 carbs.


You could crockpot chicken, fry some mushrooms in garlic and butter, and then dump the crockpot runoff and shrooms into a saucepan and make the sauce for this recipe and have something similar -- we crockpot more than we bake, especially in summer.

We didn't make a side with this but I think grilled green beens with pepper, garlic and butter would have been great with it.

All three of us loved it, the kid too. This is a nice one for leftovers you can store in a bowl and nuke for lunch. It might be freezeable but I wouldn't chance it since most dairy doesn't do too well frozen and this has a bunch of cream in the sauce.

Saturday, September 16

Munchy Parmey Chicken Chunks

All recipes back date a month so they don't interfere with current blogging fyi.

OK, the first-source (prior to modifications, etc.) of this recipe seems to be in Dr. Atkins big recipe book (buy it here) under the title Angel Wings. However, it mosey'd on over to the awesome LowCarber forum on a thread called Heroin Chicken Wings (read thread here). I modified this slightly and I didn't use wings at all, so to further devolve the name of this poor recipe, I call my version Munchy Parmey Chicken Chunks since... well, that's exactly what they are.

Munchy Parmey Chicken Chunks


A bunch of chicken. Use whatever you want. We used about 2-3 pounds of boneless skinless breast of chicken, cut with kitchen scissors up into pieces that held about 2-3 bites.

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Personally this recipe's so parmey that it makes you wanna yell OUI! so I think mixing a little Romano in would be nice, we'll do that next time.

2 Tablespoons dried parsley
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
Did you know that the higher quality the paprika, the bolder the color? You pay bigtime for the screaming orange level but wow. It's cool.

P.S. I thought there was too much parsley-etc. in this, I'll reduce it next time.

The original recipe had salt but they're insane. Parmesan is so salty already! I wouldn't add any salt unless you're selling drinks to the people you're serving them to.

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 cup butter, melted

Optional: garlic; bit of cayenne; red pepper flakes.


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut the chicken into pieces

3. Combine the cheese(s) and spices in a bowl.

4. Line a shallow baking pan with foil. You'll be sorry if you don't.

5. Melt the butter in whatever fashion you prefer.

6. Dip each chicken piece real well in the butter, roll it around in the cheese and seasoning mixture, and arranged it in the foil-lined pan.

7. Bake for about 1 hour.


Makes however much you make with it! Each piece has only a trace of carbs, since chicken doesn't have any and there's not so much stuff on any given piece.


This would be ideal with marinara sauce but it's carby. We had it with blue cheese dressing for dipping.

My 10 year gave this her "I ate all mine, do you have any more?" approval.

This is a very 'munchy'-like meal. It's not like a warm dinner or something for guests at a table. This is an awesome thing to make when you're going to be sitting around watching a screen and everybody else is munching on junk you can't have if you're lowcarb. Or if you're going to have to eat in the car or something. There aren't many LC foods that are sorta-crunchy, this is novel in that regard.

Thursday, September 14

Weight Tracking

This post is backdated to keep it from interfering with current blogging stuff.

Weight lost since September 18, 2006

I keep a spreadsheet, so I update the little screenshots of it over time.

Current twelve-week cycle: 2

Friday, September 1

code testing

This post is backdated to prior to the blog's beginning. I use it to test new CSS code when I'm making changes or updates to the blog design. Please ignore it! :-)


This is a test of a quote section.


That is all.