Tuesday, January 30
"The L&L Plan" -- by me.
This stands for: "Live and Learn."
I am an expert at getting fat. In fact, I ought to have significant authority to opine on the getting-fat subject, since I obviously excel as a practitioner. If anybody can look back on their "success" at getting fat, it's me.
So until I decide on something better my plan goes like this:
Whatever I did that clearly made me fat,
Now I am going to do the opposite.
THE 17 COMMANDMENTS (so far) OF LIVE & LEARN:
1. I only ate once a day usually. Sometimes not even that.
L&L: I will eat several small meals throughout my day.
2. I lived pretty much on starchy carbs and insufficient protein.
L&L: I will avoid most starches and avoid making carbs too big a part of my diet -- not ultra low carb, just definitely not high carb, and maybe not even moderate carb most the time. And, I will always make sure I get enough protein.
3. I ate huge amounts of gluten containing foods, which I am sensitive to. In fact I nearly existed entirely on foods with either gluten or caseine, both of which I am apparently sensitive to.
L&L: I will avoid eating stuff my body thinks it's allergic to. I may not be impeccable at this but I will make it a much higher priority.
4. I drank almost no water, and lived on caffeinated sweet sodas.
L&L: I will drink almost no sodas, and live on lots of water.
5. When I did eat, I tended to pack way too many calories and everything else into a single meal.
L&L: I will keep my meals in sane and preferably even small proportions.
6. I ate dominantly late in the day, especially carbs right before bedtime.
L&L: I will eat dominantly early in the day, with any late-day food lower in carbs, and not eat right before bedtime (and if I do, make it close to zero-carbs).
7. I was a chronically stressed out trauma queen.
L&L: I will get over it. Anything that makes me rant, I will meditate and pray about. By this age I shouldn't need a mommy anymore.
8. I was chronically sleep deprived.
L&L: I will get at least 6 hours of sleep a night. Maybe sometimes more.
9. I worked 100+ hours a week. I never, ever took sick time (having the gift of getting ill on Friday nights and being well by Monday morning!). I never took vacation time either, though in entrepreneurial, start-up and contractor work there isn't much of either of those.
L&L: I will not work over ~45 hours per week except in emergency situations. I will TAKE sick leave sometimes, even if I'm not sick just to have a day off, and I will TAKE vacation leave. (And next time I will actually go ON VACATION and not work the entire time!)
10. I ignored myself entirely, putting work and others as more important than myself. I ignored my growing size. And I openly despaired of being metabolically cursed, in part based on a high-carb/low-fat diet not working for me and a whole family of women diets never seemed to work for.
L&L: I will pay attention to myself, do nice things for myself, and outside of my child, any contest between my welfare and someone else's is going to put mine first. I will weigh and take measurements and calculate body fat% weekly. Not daily to obsess, but weekly to evaluate. And I will not despair of anything at all, because I can do ANYTHING, and assigning my own destiny or fate (I mistyped that 'fat' - what a pun!) to some whim of nature is BS. You get what you concentrate upon. There is no other main rule.
11. I lived on fast foods, frozen foods and boxed foods.
L&L: I will not touch a fast food. If given no choice whatsoever I will consider having a chemically-treated salad but I will scold myself for not planning better. I will not touch a boxed food, aside from relatively healthy things like a little oatmeal. And the only thing frozen I will consider is fruit and veggies. And a very rare lowcarb treat.
12. I never planned for anything. Each day when some mealtime arrived I would always find that I was too busy, or it was too inconvenient, to eat, spawning chronic starvation-effect. Then each night when finally ready to leave off for the day and wind down, I would massively overeat because again, I never planned for food, I just did what was at hand and what I felt like at that moment.
L&L: To the degree possible, I will plan my food ahead of time, prepare it ahead of time, so that I seldom or never find myself at a loss for healthy food to eat.
13. I never exercised. Between serious protein deficiency, a zillion extra pounds to carry around, nutrient depletion, and overall sedentary entropia, my chronic exhaustion barely allowed me to get through a day -- thanks to intense "mentally driven" qualities -- let alone put the slightest physical effort into things.
L&L: I will eat in a way to support a healthy body, good nutrition and muscle mass, and I will EXERCISE whether I feel like it or not, to aid my metabolism, my energy level, and my general health.
14. I never prayed or otherwise meditated on my goals and weight issues. I put prayer in the spiritual category and my computer, weight and car in the real world category. To me the two categories were unrelated.
L&L: I will bring my relationship with God, Spirit, or whatever I am calling Him/Her this week, into all of my goals, especially those that relate to my personal health. Even the most skeptical look at self-influenced psychology would agree that any goal benefits from our prayers and meditations. I will remind myself every time I feel like whining about a pound, that it's only by Grace -- of one sort or another, I'm not always sure on the detail -- that I am here to whine about it at all. "Thank you for my life."
15. I avoided other people like the plague. I avoided leaving the house, dreading the horror of seeing someone I used to know. I didn't talk about my weight anywhere online, lest people lose their respect for me, or react like it was an indictment of my character. Basically, I was alone with it.
L&L: I will make it part of 'being more active' that I get out of the house, go and DO things, whether it's a trip to the park, the mall, or the bookstore. I will make a point to stay in a strong, supportive community of friends online who know me and know the BS I try to put over on myself sometimes and will call me out on it... while at the same time supporting the things obviously important to me. I will NOT be alone with it ever again. And I will find a way to help ensure that others still on this journey are not alone with it either. 'Social awareness and response' is a big part of motivation.
16. I ate literally zero fruits and vegetables and herbs, in any fashion. If I ever had a few bites, it would only be pure starch or sugar like a potato, apple or banana.
L&L: I will make a focus of my dietary intake (outside of protein) fruits and vegetables. I will experiment with ways to eat them so I can learn to like more of them. Carbs issues aside, nobody on earth ever got fat from eating too much broccoli or grapefruit.
17. I paid zero attention to my food intake both minimal and maximal. I never, ever worried about calories (as I felt there was no point; I was already fat).
L&L: I will not obsess over my food, or make counting it some dieter's version of Midas in the chamber with his gold. But I will at least pay enough attention to avoid eating very much less than or more than the 'range' of my adjusted-BMR calorie requirements per day. If it's easier to just eat and figure it out later, and eat more or less another day once I've learned better, fine. But what I DO eat should be recorded. I'm not really limiting any count, and I'm not counting it with 3 decimal precision. I'm merely paying attention to it so I don't do anything stupid without noticing.
I will add other rules if I come up with them.
For now, this is the eating plan I'm on.
Well ok. I've begun it, with some walking, and slightly relaxing carb intake, but I probably won't officially begin it until this Monday (February 5).
This is experimental. I'm trying to track body fat percentage, more than weight. So I'm going to have to see what I am losing/gaining each week, and then tweak stuff based on that. There is no established diet for someone who weighs nearly 400 lbs! And every body is different. Eventually I should have something that works for me.
Body fat % is the number I am going to be using from now on as "what matters". It does me zero good to lose weight if it isn't fat being lost -- that is harm, not help. I think the focus on scale-weight is destructive, as a result. I will only be weighing and measuring about once a week or 10 days, but that is what I'm going to judge my results by. I'm increasing carbs, so I'm sure to gain weight initially just from water/glycol. That's fine with me. My goals are somewhat larger than the day to day scale.
Q&A I've gotten so far (this posted on my journal last week):
Q. So how many carbs are you eating per day?
A. I'm not really limiting it, though I'm "watching" it. The only 'carby' things that are really allowed to be on my menu are vegetables (dominantly), the lesser-starchy fruits (I actually am allowing very small amounts of high sugar fruits like oranges and bananas, as long as they are fresh and only eaten with a lot of protein and fat and fiber to blunt the insulin spike), small amounts of whole-grain, Ezekiel or gluten-free breads etc. (not much of breads mind you), old-fashioned oatmeal or Ezekiel cereal (not much of those either), or some of the protein foods that also have carbs (like peanut butter, plain yogurt, etc. though no focus on those either).
So far, my highest-carb days hit around 60-70, and that's when I had like every carby thing possible all on the same day. Usually it's about half that, not because I'm trying to keep it low, but because I've adapted to eating ultra lowcarb! Once I establish a fairly set number of calories (it'll take awhile to work out what is right for me), I'll work on some kind of carb/fat/calorie-variance plan.
Q. How many calories?
A. I'm actually watching calories, but not with any obsessiveness. I'm hoping to get 2200-2500 calories a day. The problem with my extreme weight is that my official BMR is way too high to actually eat. So no matter what I do, I'm eating too few calories for my body, and if I ate enough to match my BMR, I'd certainly gain weight (can you imagine trying to eat 4000 calories a day?!). Yet, not eating enough really does slow down the metabolism, and losing weight too fast generally does mean losing lean weight as well as fat, so it's kind of a dilemma. I'm just going to do my best. I mean, I'd love it if I had some cookie cutter plan with exact numbers and a food list and it was all a no-brainer, but the reality is, I have to experiment and find what works for me. Eventually, if all goes well, I will be closer to a normal-weight, and estimating things like calories and body fat percentage will be a lot easier!
Q. How do you measure your body fat?
A. It isn't easy. It's not easy even when you're a normal-size. My calipers don't really fit around the giant roll of fat I've got at 1-2" above the right hip -- assuming I can accurately find that spot anyway. There is a nifty online body fat % calculator that uses height, weight, age, and body measurements, to estimate. It may be a bit high, but what matters more than the number is the "change over time," so I am using that. You can find it here: Body Fat Estimator. Mine registers as (don't faint) 60.99% as of 10 days ago, via that. Well, it can only get better, I guess!!
Q. So what kind of exercise are you doing?
A. Right now, I'm walking, and doing mild weight lifting. I got a heart rate monitor watch, and I'm working on walking at least 3 times a week. The freezing weather in my region has not helped this, but that should resolve before too long, it's not usually this cold consistently. (I've been going up the block and walking around the double driveway at the fire station -- the only place that wasn't covered with ice. If it doesn't snow in the next couple days, I should be able to go to the college track.) The weight lifting I'm doing is very entry-level, partly because my house is so crowded I only have room for the simplest exercises. My soon-to-be-ex husband is leaving February 8th, so as soon as I get his room cleaned out, we're making it an exercise room, and I can get into the weights a little more formally. Eventually I'd like to do the kind of exercise in 'Slow Burn' and 'The Power of Ten', but right now, it doesn't help me to learn how to do pushups really slowly if I can't even do one pushup, right! I'm working to force myself to be more gradual and careful than my personality is by nature -- I tend to be an extremist -- I don't want to hurt myself. I want this to work.
Q. So if you're eating moderate to lower-carb, and you're eating whole grains and oatmeal and yogurt and fruit, and exercise, how does this differ from things like SouthBeach, the Zone, Body For Life, etc.?
Well, it differs because I am not following their rules (and I have nothing at all against saturated fat in my diet, which differs from most of those). I'm not an expert on any of them to know how I vary.
Q. You lost 100 lbs on lowcarb in less than four months! So if it's working for you, why are you changing?!
I lost 100 lbs, and I believe that a significant amount of that was water, glycol, and lean body mass. I'm not dissing it! Lowcarb rocks! And I will continue to eat in a way that qualifies to most the world as generally low carb, even though to the ultra-low plans like Atkins/Eades it might better qualify as a 'maintenance' not loss LC plan. I mentioned in a previous post my thought processes regarding why I felt I was losing lean mass, and issues I see in the LC world that I think I want to account for in my own eating plan. Hell, if it wasn't for LC I might be dead already, I'm its biggest fan. I am not 'rejecting' lowcarb. I'm just shifting to a slightly more moderate dietary plan. If it doesn't work for me in the long run, I'll be back where I began. I can only experiment, gradually tweak it to make it worse, and see where I end up. I am just finally learning to listen to my body and I am not an expert on it yet. I want to give it the chance to show me what it can do, not just assume the worst about it, assume it's completely metabolically incompetent, etc. I want to eat well, lower carb than normal but otherwise just 'healthy' the way an LC maintenance program would, and see if over time I can bring my metabolism back to something halfway normal.
Q. You mentioned your kid going on lowcarb with you. Is she doing this plan with you?
As of Feb 9 when her dad is gone, she is walking with me in the mornings, and our house is 'healthy food' and nothing else. I'm also seriously considering starting to pack her a lunch for school, as soon as I get a lot more adapted to this new version of eating. I'm inspired by Regina Wilshire and her blog and the stuff she says about kids and nutrition (and her own kid) really makes me want to take a more proactive role in all my kids' food. My daughter is chubby now, and they continue to feed her breaded chicken strips, tater tots, canned fruit salad in syrup, a white roll and milk for lunch. For godssakes. It's amazing the whole school isn't diabetic already. She's been really great about walking with me so far, and I got her these cool japanese Bento Box lunchboxes so it'll be fun, but I don't think I'll do the lunch for another month or two. Meanwhile we'll be working our butts off on making our house into a nice place to live, with a cool place to exercise, and a focus on a healthy kitchen. We'll be painting the whole kitchen! Me and a 10 year old. That ought to be interesting... and it will probably qualify as nightly exercise for quite some time. ;-)
Q. But so... you don't have ANY rules? For quantity of carbs, meals, fat, etc.?
A. Well not really. I want to keep calories in a range but that's just so I can see whether I need to go lower or higher. My main rule is HEALTHY FOOD which creates built-in limits (how many calories can you eat a day in broccoli and chicken and oatmeal, seriously?). I am RECORDING what I eat. Not limiting it. (I have no problem with overeating, my problem is with undereating and too few eating times per day. If I can make myself eat several times a day, I'm doing pretty damn good by my measure. Being organized helps a lot!) When my food is recorded, I can look at my progress, and consider tweaking something about what I am doing if it's not working. But I refuse to buy ANY eating plan's assumptions at the moment, since I truly believe all bodies are different and I don't think I know enough about my body to make any final decisions. I am just eating what I consider healthy -- and which happens to be a fairly low carb approach, partly because I'm used to this, and partly because I know very well if I eat a bunch of pasta I'm going to pass out from the blood sugar crash afterward and that tells me I really need to pay attention to not doing massive carbs at one meal, especially without other nutrients to muffle the impact. It's hard to eat so many times a day. Just eating 6 times a day fairly healthily is a miracle of its own that ought to do me good.
I'll worry about the details once I see what my results are.
I actually have had so much I wanted to talk about that I just didn't know how to condense it from novel-length to blog post length. I probably can't.
I think what I should do, is go through my mental process over the last month+, so y'all are on the same page with me.
I admit that when I began on a lowcarb eating plan, I didn't have much in mind at first except "surviving." I didn't think I'd live another year (or even quarter) if I didn't do something immediately. So anything that made me able to move a little better, breathe a little better, feel a better, was what I should be doing. Lowcarb is ideal in that situation. It has such a fast water/glycol loss right off the top, that a person almost instantly has more energy, feels more limber, just what you need for finding hope for your future, finding the energy to keep-on keeping-on, finding the courage to hope that maybe something can change.
The initial weight loss following that part is probably as much lean body mass as fat, as there do seem to be limits on the speed of fat loss without lean loss, and initial lowcarb done at a high weight exceeds that by several orders of magnitude. But for most of us that is trivia: getting enough weight off fast enough that the imminent threat of keeling over is reduced, long enough to let us do something more medium-term proactive about our health, has to be the focus.
Once I began losing weight, I told myself that when I had lost 100 lbs, I would re-consider whatever I was doing, and do something about exercise. I knew that rapid weight loss, especially without major exercise, wasn't ideal. Or in the words of Richard Atkins, "Exercise is non-negotiable." But when I first began lowcarb, I could barely step up on a curb. I couldn't even stand, let alone walk, for more than 30 seconds without exhaustion and back pain. So it had to wait until I'd lost enough weight to be able to move decently.
As I neared the 100# mark, I began to be a little more aware of my body and what it could do than I used to be. On one hand, my increased energy, flexibility, and ability to MOVE, had improved my life in so many ways. On the other hand, I kept feeling that I was losing strength. One day, for 2-3 days, I would be able to do some new thing I hadn't been able to do before, such as nimbly bounce up my porch steps with no handrail, no two-feet-per-step, no groaning major effort on the top step (which is higher than the others). Then suddenly it would be so much harder, if not impossible. At first would think, "Maybe I'm a little low in protein or something," or, "Well everyone has stronger or weaker days," but protein and water didn't seem to change it. I began to feel like I was constantly encountering a two-part event: first I would lose a little more weight, feel a little better, get a little stronger; then I would get a little weaker, feel a little less energetic... though the scale would show I'd lost a little more weight. I started developing this superstition of sorts that I was losing muscle. That my rapid weight loss combined with no serious exercise to speak of, was gradually wearing away my lean body mass. I couldn't think of anything else that would explain why most all the gains I seemed to make in strength, were promptly reversed.
Just over a month ago, I increased my protein, without increase of calories or carbs. Instantly, I started gradually -- literally daily -- gaining weight. This didn't bother me really, because I felt better rather than worse, and even while this was happening, my rings were falling off my smaller hand, so I put them on the other, and then they were falling off the other hand--it was clear I was reducing. What I suspected was that I had some wasted but not fully gone muscle, which the added protein was salvaging. This contributed to my suspicion that maybe I really was losing lean body mass, and needed to do something about the exercise issue.
So I thought about it really hard. Heh. How many calories does thought burn?
Right at the 100# mark, things started changing. I wonder if part of this is subconscious, because I had such focus on that number. First, the weight loss slowed greatly and then stopped, although I had not done anything differently. I'd thought perhaps certain things I was eating (such as flax muffins) might relate, so cut them out, but it didn't seem to matter. Now, for many many years I have maintained and gained weight on only a fraction of the calories my BMR allegedly needs. So I know my body; I know it adapts quickly to some homeostasis that will maintain me, and that is my doom.
For over a month now, my weight has varied, going smoothly up and down from 380 to 400, back and forth. I am unable to see any real pattern in it that would tell me it was water, PMS, protein or whatever. For the first time since starting lowcarb, I have felt sort of removed from the scale, as if I can no longer track how I feel against the numbers it shows me. For my blog I wait until the weight settles so I feel it's consistent, then I post the new weight and an updated history of the scale. So far it hasn't settled, wandering around a 20# variance in a way that is pretty confusing.
Over the course of the last few weeks, I have weighed and measured. I currently weigh more than I did a month ago (though like I said, it varies). But here's the interesting thing: All of my measurements have continued to go down. So even though my weight has slightly increased, the size of my body has consistently been DEcreasing. For example, from January 8 to January 18, I gained four pounds. But I lost an inch on my hips, 3/4 inch on my waist, 1.5 inch on my upper thigh, 1.75 inch on my calve. (I didn't measure other parts.) So... even though it seems like I am gaining weight and that should frighten me, I'm getting smaller and that delights me. Doing both at the same time does seem a little weird, I admit.
But I think this is where body composition comes into the picture. (Meaning, how much of your body is fat vs. anything else.) I saw this photo recently (how I wish I could find it again to show you) that a woman posted, a before and after picture. She was doing weight training and cardio workouts between the time of the two pictures. In one, she is vastly thinner, firmer, stronger, obviously more healthy, very impressive. The difference on the scale? Three pounds. That's it. Because she was gaining muscle and losing fat (more back & forth than simultaneously), the scale barely changed at all. Her body certainly did though! It sort of emphasized to me that my focus on scale-weight is shortsighted. If I am losing muscle, that's nothing to be proud of. That's a bad thing, not a good thing. I should be focused on my body fat %, at least to the degree I can estimate such things, not on the scale. Losing lean mass reduces metabolism, slows weight loss, decreases energy and strength, and in general is the last thing I should want to do.
Ironically, I believe that most people who get really really fat, as I did, actually start the process with exactly this. If you don't eat enough calories, the metabolism slows down to match that. If you don't eat often enough, the body slows down metabolism to deal with perceived starvation. Without enough protein, the lean body mass decreases, further reducing metabolism. The thyroid output reduces and further slows your metabolic rate. Then, even eating the same too-small number of calories a day can cause weight gain rather than maintenance, as impossible as the numbers make that seem. Then eat your food in one meal, and you're sure to over-carb and over-calorie, storing more fat daily even if you're eating half your BMR in calories, because you can't burn it all off in one sitting. (Eating right before bed, as I did, is the worst.) Add to that stress, sleep deprivation, nutritional deficiencies, food allergens, and a variety of other issues known to impact metabolism, and weight loss/gain, and you have a perfect setup for gradually but consistently adding a LOT of weight to a body. One thing is sure: I may be no expert on weight loss, but I am certainly a master at weight gain.
So in January, I took some extra time to read a ton of archives of the lowcarber forum, and a couple others on that topic, encountering en-masse the personal stories of lowcarbers dating back years sometimes. When you read something all at once like this, you tend to be a lot more impacted by what seem to be "trends" than you would otherwise; you probably wouldn't even notice certain things otherwise, not without someone running statistics for you. But the "mega-dose" of reading a bulk of something all at once, will bring to your attention repeating elements. Some of the repeating elements were things that really bothered me; worried me, made me feel like there were some problems that were clearly common in our lowcarb world and yet, nobody really seemed to be dealing with them openly. It is as if lowcarb was this philosophy, we were all in it together, and it would be sacrilege to point out something that was a problem, even though pointing it out is no diss on LC at all!, just an observation of something that obviously needs tweaking or further consideration.
1. People regularly complained of long stalls. I don't mean long like a month. I mean long like 4-18 months. In the lowcarb world, the response amounted to what I would dryly compare to, "Just have faith." Well, I have faith in God, but I don't have faith in stalls. Lowcarb is not a religion. (Although to hear some forum discussions, you might be surprised!) As the saying I like best goes, "If what you're doing isn't working, do something else." If they were not losing weight but they were losing size or constantly feeling better, that would not really be a stall. A stall is where nothing particularly useful is happening. Why anybody would put up with this for more than a month, two at the most, without taking proactive steps to change something, is beyond me.
My cousin, a former natural bodybuilder, he and I sometimes talked about fat loss and so on, and I couldn't even imagine someone like him simply sitting around waiting for months and months for something to change. I realized that this was what it came down to. Bodybuilders wouldn't. Dieters would. It's like a different philosophy. As if dieters feel less deserving, or more sadly resigned to some fate of 'unfair and illogical body situations' so they just stoically accept this, as if it were the will of God or something. Bodybuilders don't have that kind of fatalistic crap in their mindset, and they are likely to change their approach weekly based on measurements and evaluating what didn't work the previous week -- two, at the most.
To me, it seemed like there was some inflexibility in the lowcarber world in general, like, "Lowcarb is the answer, and even when it appears the question has changed." I saw that many people went off lowcarb during long stalls, I'm sure in part because it would be damned demoralizing. But the real issue to me, beyond the lack of flexibility, beyond the rather surreal pollyanic 'faith' approach to it all, was the fact that the stalls happened AT ALL. This suggested a larger issue:
The body is marvelously adaptible. Eat fewer calories, it will reduce your metabolism to match. (It will also reduce your thyroid's T3 output, which also reduces metabolism.) Eat infrequently, it will reduce your metabolism to match. Exercise or be sedentary, it will increase or reduce your metabolism to match. So it struck me to wonder: if you eat lowcarb, will it gradually reduce your metabolism? Will the body "adapt" to lowcarb, just like it adapts to anything else? The more I thought about it, the more it seemed unreasonable to expect that it wouldn't, given it reacts and adapts to everything else we do.
2. The number of people who went off lowcarb eventually, and regained weight, seemed to be right in the same 95 percentile as every other 'diet plan'. Now, I know, sing it with me sistahs, "It's not a diet, it's an eating plan for life!" Yeah. I'm sure Weight Watchers people say the same thing. As I like to say, no eating plan works for you if you aren't on it. The reality is that for nearly everybody with rare exceptions, eating lowcarb can be a real pain in the butt, especially for people who are not used to making time and effort for cooking and planning ahead. Yet it disturbed me to think that it was apparently so difficult that the number of long term lowcarbers would seem to be so low compared to 'all the others' who had never returned, or who had returned having gained back the weight and then more.
3. Another thing that bothered me is that the weight gain was so insanely rapid for people. I mean, although my initial weight gain was fast, it took me 15 years to gain the rest of it. Most people, it takes them quite awhile to get to whatever 'high point' they've got. The weight gain when someone went off lowcarb was far more rapid than the initial, pre-lowcarb weight gain most folks had put that much on with. This again suggested to me that maybe the body was adapting to lowcarb, just like it does to low-calorie, so that the metabolism adjusted to it and when people changed their approach, the fat would just pile on.
Everything that seemed to be the biggest problems, that I noticed the most when reading tons of lowcarber journals and discussion in bulk, seemed to point to the same likely scenario: the body adapted to lowcarb, and nobody seemed to be doing anything about this, to prevent it or change or even recognize it.
4. In all the famous lowcarb books, in all the lowcarb "Philosophy," there is a heaven for good behavior. What I mean is, allegedly once you have lost whatever weight you had to lose on lowcarb, then you would gradually increase your carbs. Atkins has meals with so many carbs I'd need a week to eat them. The Drs. Eades as well. The idea was that once you didn't want to actively lose weight anymore, you could increase your carbs to anywhere from 55-150 a day, depending on the person. This sounds really good on paper. It sounds logical, like, you reduce carbs real low and lose weight, and then bring them up until you are simply maintaining. It all makes perfect sense, right?
Except in the real world that I see on the lowcarb forums, this almost never happens--at least, not to anybody who has lost a significant amount of weight. (I really don't take the small losses as an example as they don't have to lowcarb long enough for that.) First, people often take so insanely long to lose the last 20 lbs that it becomes a lifetime probject. Second, even when people reach their goals, and they are in 'maintenance', I read what they say, what they eat daily, what their issues are, and it is almost unanimous: if they spent over six months (or especially over a year) losing their weight on 30 carbs a day, that's it. If they eat more than around 30 carbs a day, they start gaining weight.
So that promised nirvana of "increasing carbs so you could eat more like normal people, or at least not stress about spices and sauces," might look good on paper, but it almost never works in real life. The reality seems to be that long-term lowcarbers' bodies adapt to the carb intake and from that point on, increasing that intake causes weight gain. So in reality, induction was not just a two week thing. It was the way people had to eat almost for life. No wonder most people can't do it indefinitely. Nobody including Atkins himself ever expected people to live on that indefinitely. But the choice becomes to do so, or to gain back the weight.
Again, it all seemed to come down to: the body adapts. People get fat in part because of that adaptation. They begin losing weight on lowcarb, but eventually, whether during the weight loss or not long after it (maybe depending on how long it takes, how rapid the loss, etc.), the adaptation factor kicks in. (The fact that many lowcarbers not only ate the same general nutrient-counts per day, but often even the same food every day, seemed to me like it would only increase the adaptation tendency.)
So what are we doing about it? I thought and thought about this. I finally decided that "logically," if the body's adapting was the trouble spot, then maybe one needed to vary the number of carbs they ate once in awhile, so the body wouldn't do that. Has anybody else ever thought of this, I wondered? Surely I can't be the first person to notice this phenomenon, no matter how utterly silent and oblivious the lowcarb world at large online seems to be!
So I went to google and I typed in "carbohydrate variation" to see what would come up.
Bingo. I got about a million bodybuilding websites and bodybuilder blog posts as a result.
So I went to about a dozen of them that looked interesting, and I read the articles, and I read the message boards. Carbohydrate variation is also known as "carb cycling." Carb cycling has a variety of approaches and plans for it, each of which have their own name or acronym. In all of them, the message was the same, though:
The body adapts to anything done consistently. Carbohydrates, calories, and fat, if eaten at the same amount consistently, will cause 'adaptation' of the body, so it no longer is 'reacting' to something like a reduction. If you do things consistently, you have to reduce further and further to get results (by results I mean "change"), until it is unhealthy, and it is reducing metabolism from the start when you do so. Eventually you will be nearly starving and still not losing weight -- or even gaining it.
Well I've been down THAT road to the tune of nearly 500lbs. I 'adapted' my body into severe obesity once already. I don't have any desire to adapt my body to yet-something-else. My poor body has enough issues to overcome without adding yet one more.
When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. When you first make a "change" in your eating plan, your body "reacts to the change." Such as: it loses weight, or it gains weight, it loses fat, or it gains muscle, or whatever follows the change you made.
Once you do that thing consistently, though, it is no longer a 'change'. The body is no longer 'reacting'. There is a limited amount of time for body 'reaction' before it adapts and finds its balance with the new approach.
So, weight loss slows down. Or even stops. Stalls. Metabolism reduces to match whatever you have reduced on the intake-side.
It doesn't seem like rocket science to me.
One of the things I discovered when reading extensively about how bodybuilders did "low carb," is that the Atkins-Eades-etc. version of lowcarb is probably a misnomer. In the larger world, about 70-120 carbs a day is considered lowcarb. 40-70/80 carbs a day is considered VERY lowcarb. So as you might imagine, those of us eating 10-40 carbs a day are "ultra" or "severely" lowcarb on that scale. I hadn't realized that the average carb intake was hundreds a day -- and hence, how "radical" my eating plan was.
I had not before considered that my eating plan was "extreme." To me, high-carb/low-fat did not work for me, so lowcarb was simply what did. I started thinking more about the overall question of lowcarb.
First, the lowcarb approach done anything but briefly (such as bodybuilders do, to lose water prior to competitions), does seem to build in the assumption that everybody on it, maybe everybody period, has some profound metabolic problem with carbohydrates. Now I always assumed I did, once I discovered lowcarb worked for me; I thought that its working for me was the proof that I did. But it turns out, it works for most people. (Not everybody.) That doesn't imply a carb metabolism problem; it's just basic biochemistry. Now sure, getting really fat can really screw up a lot of things with your body and metabolism, you can become much more sensitive to blood sugar spikes, more insulin resistant, and the overabundance of fat itself has all kinds of chemical effects that slow metabolism in more than one way. But still, that does not prove that one has some terrible, incurable carbohydrate metabolic problem.
I began wondering if maybe one reason I was so quick to accept that idea, was simply because I was fat. You see, it is obvious if someone weighs nearly 500 lbs that they have a metabolic problem; as my brother used to say, "No shit, Sherlock!" But all of this time, I have held the belief that this is something that somewhere between genetics and circumstance, fell out of the sky on me. Wasn't my fault, my doing, my responsibility. It was a curse, and I lived with it, that's all. "Anybody else with this kind of metabolism would be the same way."
Well I got thinking a lot more about this, and doing a lot of soul searching. Eventually, I had to conclude that I have been a bit lazy and a bit too quick to accept an excuse. When I look back on my life, particularly my initial massive weight gain in my early 20's, what I see is that I did just about every imaginable thing that a person could do to gain weight. I ate once a day. I ate right before bed. I ate carbs due to hunger. I ate insufficient protein. I was incredibly sedentary -- busy as hell but all in sit-down things. I was massively stressed out. I was chronically sleep deprived. I was nutritionally deficient. In short, I did every single thing that a person needs to do, to gain weight. Lots of it. Fast. And to reduce metabolism. Fast. And to doom my future metabolism to something pretty dysfunctional. Fast. And it worked.
But if my metabolism is currently less than ideal, it is not because I am helpless to some metabolic disorder. I created my own metabolic disorder. In ignorance, true. Under the influence of a system that keeps telling people to eat less to lose weight, true. But so what. The point is, just because the high-carb/low-fat typical medical approach, which probably works for a few people but fails dismally for me, is not workable for weight loss in my case, and just because severe-lowcarb IS workable for weight loss in my case, doesn't mean there is nothing in between.
Severe exclusion of any major nutrient-source doesn't really seem that reasonable when you back off the LC belief system for awhile. Reduction, sure! Even low amounts, sure. But when it reaches the zone that everyone on earth but the few in that clique considers "extreme," maybe it's time to take a fresh look at things, without the near-religious bias of "my way is the right way!" woven into it. It may be right, or at least ok, but does that mean it's the *only* way?
When I further considered the issue of body adaptation, I realized that if you start very low carb, there isn't far to go. If one is to have any kind of a cycling plan that goes sometimes lower and sometimes higher -- by significant enough amounts to matter, mind you -- you would have to start at a somewhat higher level, so you were in the middle to begin with.
Of course, the problem with the 'near-eternal induction' level plan that most severely obese people are on, just due to the amount of weight they have to lose, is that it effectively resets what your body is adapted to. To begin with, we probably could have eaten 60 carbs a day, mostly in veggies and some dairy, and "gradually" gone into a mild ketogenic state, and lost body fat instead of body fat + lean mass. Now, however, eat more than 35 carbs a day, and I fall out of ketosis, because my body is used to eating 20-30 carbs a day on average.
So, if I had known all this to begin with, I might have begun the eating plan differently. But I didn't. Yet, I do not regret the last four months at all.
But now I believe that:
1. I think I have been eating too few calories. I think this is part of what is behind my lean body mass loss. People say, "You have to eat at least 1200 calories!" Could we please, as a whole lowcarb field, get a clue? People who are 300# or more need to eat MORE than that. MUCH more. They take advice just like others do and when the advice says something like that, they buy it. They need more. And this means that, unless you eat a cow and two chickens a day, they are going to need to eat a few more carbs as well, to make it more easily possible. Severely overweight people who are not already over-adapted to severely lowcarb, are going to go ketogenic usually at higher carb counts than thin people anyway, so this shouldn't be a big deal. If someone still wants to do a hard induction, fine, but it really should be limited to two weeks. I would no longer recommend to people that they 'stay on induction until their weight is lost'. It's going to take years to lose the weight when you start hundreds of pounds into obesity, staying on induction all that time isn't even healthy, not only because the body's going to adapt to that severe lack of carbs--something none of the carb experts ever talk about but I see literally *everywhere* so I consider this a rather fundamental flaw in the presentation of this eating plan--but because the carb count doesn't allow enough sheer food and different foods (for nutrient variance) (and no, vitamins aren't a replacement for food except for very brief periods where there is little option).
2. I think I have been eating too seldom. The body does not, cannot, store protein, though it can store most other things. About 3 hours after you have eaten, whatever protein you ingested is gone, digested. The body constantly needs protein. So every time you eat farther apart than three hours, let's say it is 5 hours between your meals, your body just spent two hours feeding off your lean body mass. Even when you sleep it does this. I believe eating literally every 3 hours, like bodybuilders do, would have a huge benefit to everyone but especially to the severely obese, because it would help them eat as much as they needed to per day (it isn't easy), and it pretty much kills hunger even when one is not in ketosis, and because in my observation, a lot of severely overweight people have more of a problem with NOT eating enough (and then later, being driven by the body's starvation response to binge) than eating too often.
3. I think I have been eating too few carbs. I know, the experts say that "zero carb is fine because nobody needs carbohydrates." I shudder when I see the effect this has on people who really work out hard but are still trying to live on 10-20 carbs a day to do it, because their body adapted to that during their weight loss. I will not argue that on some grander physiological perspective, nobody "needs" carbs "since you can live off your own body." (People doing weight training should not *want* to live off their own bodies -- particularly at the weight training point when the muscle is screaming for nutrients -- does it help to break down muscle (or starve it) to feed muscle?!) I only question whether it is necessary. I do not live in a cave, I live in Oklahoma, and trying to be "severely" lowcarb in America is like trying to be Amish in New York. It's possible, but it's almost ridiculous how much trouble it is. Can I do it if I must? Certainly. Must I? It is that I'm not sure about. I got the idea that because a severe eating approach worked, that must be what I needed. I think that is a leap to conclusion not supported by any real evidence. It is entirely possible that a more balanced eating plan, which as a side effect would make long-term staying on it and social-integration a whole lot easier, might work just as well for me. Would I lose 100# in four months? No. But I don't believe more than 1/3 that at the most was actual "fat" (vs. water, glycol and lean mass) anyway, so that really shouldn't matter, since I don't want to be losing any more of that if I can help it.
So after a great deal of thought and evaluation, after considering a variety of other eating plans that involved carb cycling, and even calorie and/or fat cycling as well, after reading several plans that I thought were well thought out (such as 'burnthefat.com' -- although I am not against dietary fat especially saturated fat like the author is, aside from that I generally think his approach is very well thought out) -- I finally decided that, just like my original low carb plan that I made up myself, now, I am going to go on my own eating and fitness plan.
It took a lot of reading, thinking and tweaking before I came up with something. I started with something that was geared to 'repair metabolism', with nutrient ratios and so on. It was such a pain in the butt to try and get counts right for with food that I finally threw up my hands and decided to take a different approach entirely. I will post my new eating plan -- which I have not begun, though I was supposed to begin last week! -- as the next blog post.
As a last note, most of the research there is about lowcarb, is not super long term -- I mean, it's not severely obese people on induction or near-induction level carbs for long periods being looked at. I believe some of the issues I've talked about here, like the need for variation in carb intake to prevent body adaptation, simply don't get run into with the average study. Maybe this is why there isn't more about it in the common literature. I mean it's all over health and fitness authors who include moderate to low carb, but I don't even remember seeing it in the ultra-low carb authors' books. This isn't anything new, or novel (at all). It's just not normally an issue in the lowcarb world, and maybe part of that is because most people are trying to lose 20-60 pounds, not 350.
Monday, January 8
(Heh. I bet you thought this was about something else.)
I've had a real challenge while on low carb, especially the last 2 months, with a variety of factors, including:
How many of us work our butts off for someone else, but... only "hope to get around to" the things we want to do?
* remembering to eat
* remembering to weigh myself
* remembering to take my supplements at all, let alone 3x a day
* being able to drink water consistently through the day so that I can get a gallon in by the end of the day
* not eating frequently enough (rather than only once or twice a day, or meals separated by 6 hours)
* not preparing properly so when I go to eat, there is something lowcarb available that does not take me 30 minutes to pull together (if at all)
...All of which combines to other side effects, like not getting nearly enough protein each day, and more.
Yeah I know. After reading that you're thinking, "You can't remember to eat?! You have no brain!"
Yes, there is that...
But seriously, I wake up in the morning and I'm into the "get kid to school mode" and then I move on to the "I work from home mode" and that's that. I'm used to putting the kid, the job, in fact everything, before "me" on my priority list.
I'm very focused. When I'm doing thing X, I am totally doing it. I'm busy, and I don't remember to do stuff until usually late afternoon, when I realized I've blown it yet again -- I didn't eat frequently, I didn't drink water, weigh myself, take supplements, get stuff ready that I needed, etc. 15+ years of eating one meal a day and tuning out the world while I obsessed on work is a hard habit to break.
How many people are unusually competent as mothers or church planners or business people but feel like they're constantly a day late, a dollar short, and behind the 8-ball in their personal life?
So my friend was telling me, "Set your alarm!" and I said well then I'd have to reset it a zillion times a day. I heard myself say that and thought to myself, "My gosh, am I the laziest human alive?! You know, I think I might be!" Talk about making excuses. But it got me thinking about it.
I had prepared a ton of chili verde, in the fridge and the freezer, in those little Glad plastic 4oz (1/2 cup) containers. I had baked some Cocoa Muffincakes v1.8 which began a healthy muffin and turned into a sweet treat by the time I was done with it. So for the first time in awhile, I had actually prepared food in advance that I could eat as needed. Plus I have a variety of stuff right now that I could munch on if I chose.
So the day BEFORE today, I sat down, considering what I had in my fridge and pre-pared, and worked out what I should eat today that would bring my nutrition numbers to my ideal.
Why did I never think of doing this before? Planning my food in advance? As if I have to be so undisciplined that I require spontaneity for food or something, how silly -- it's not like I don't know what I like. (Surely, until recently, humans were usually very carefully planning food in advance and/or eating whatever had to be eaten before it spoiled.)
I put the info in my spreadsheet that I use as a food journal, with set times. Every so many minutes or hours, I was due to do something, usually combined with eating. I would eat X, or Y; I would weigh myself; and I made a point that each time I needed to eat, I would grab my 1/2 gallon water bottle, drink 8 long gulps, and then go do whatever I was doing. After I finished eating I would try to drink 8-16 more gulps, which when you are eating meat is not that hard because it makes you thirsty.
I set my alarm. And when it went off I would instantly re-set it for the next time (90 minutes later), do my thing, and come back to work. It didn't take hardly any time, contrary to my expectation that getting up so many times a day would be too time consuming.
The result is:
* Today was by far my most ideal nutrition counts in the four months I've been lowcarbing.
* I drank a full gallon of water today and never did I really feel like I was waterlogging myself, because it was very gradual and consistent.
* I had many separate eating times of very small amounts throughout the day. I never felt hungry, I never felt full. The more protein your weight requires you get in, the more you need multiple meals, since taking massive protein/fat in one meal isn't really ideal.
* Since my food's planned ahead I never reached the middle of a prep only to discover we are now out of something I need, or it has gone bad.
* I got far more movement in my day since I had to get up every 90 minutes.
* I went to the bathroom every 90 minutes (remember that gallon of water!) but it wasn't like being 'constantly interrupted' for it, because I was already up doing my thing anyway, so it just became a routine.
* I actually felt like I was accomplishing something!
Now attach praying, stretching, weighing, taking vitamins, etc. to some of those 'timed events' and you have a very constructive day.
I knew it was going to be a successful day. How could it not be? I had a plan!
And importantly, it's never much. It's never like some gigantic effort, like making a big meal or doing an hour of exercise or drinking a whole quart of water or something else that's a real pain no fun. Every 90 minutes, I drop what I'm doing and do what I should -- and it usually doesn't take longer than 5-10 minutes max. And by the end of the day, I find that I have accomplished a LOT -- all in tiny little pieces.
So in addition to my "lowcarb lifestyle", I have other things that are important to me, from prayer to getting my kid to karate. My friend pointed out that for 20 bucks there is a great electronic scheduler with alarm at Amazon. You can schedule any number of "appointments" -- every Thursday at 5:30 for example, to get ready for karate, or weekdays, or one-time things -- or, a regular "eating+" schedule that is consistent and happens in many segments throughout the day.
I could do this on my computer now -- but I'm not always at my computer, so that's not convenient. Something small that could be clipped on a purse, belt, backpack, tossed in the car to travel with you, could combine work and personal AND even your "plan of discipline" sounds fabulous to me. I ordered it, so when I get it later this week I'll let you know what I think.
Meanwhile, I actually made nearly 200g of protein today, a full gallon of water, at 20 carbs and 2200 calories -- and everything I ate was fabulous. I wasn't stressed or rushing. I wasn't trying to do math in my head and guess about my food or 'forage' in a hurry for lunch. I got my prayers and stretching and other things taken care of. And from the beginning of my day, here's the kicker:
I KNEW IT WAS GOING TO BE A SUCCESSFUL DAY.
How could it not be? I had a plan!
I had everything all worked out ahead of time.
It was easy, it was fast, and it got done.
Think about it. We plan our work days, our meetings, our lesson plans, our grocery lists. Those of us who do jobs like project management for a living, plan the 'flow' of things so there are no surprises (we hope), no panicking rush, no running out of resources, no bottleneck vs. desert of workflow for vendors and contractors, etc. We plan it, we document it, we report on it.
Funny most of us don't put as much "Organization" into the rest of our lives, isn't it? Why NOT pre-plan and schedule your food/water and minor activities? It's not like you can't change your mind if you need to. Isn't LIFE at least as important as the job? Isn't being competent and feeling good about what we accomplish in many areas just as important personally as professionally?
I'm used to putting the kid, the job, in fact everything, before "me" on my priority list.
Why not "get my act together" by sitting down and making a plan for shopping, for pre-cooking/storing, eating, and all the little things I must do? Why not set an alarm or organizer-reminder so that we get it all done regularly, unhurriedly, gradually -- and perfectly?
Many years ago in Los Angeles as an independent contractor (troubleshooting, mfg. line process, software training, etc.) my business card said, "Organizing Your Organization." Why not organize my own life? How many of us work our butts off for someone else, but then for ourselves, only "hope to get around to" the things we want to do?
How many people are unusually competent as mothers or church planners or business people but feel like they're constantly a day late, a dollar short, and behind the 8-ball in their personal life? Maybe it's because we aren't used to making the same kind of effort on behalf of ourselves that we do for others.
The Big O is now underway. I'm making plans. I'm following plans. And it's pretty amazing, frankly, how with a minimum of effort, I am accomplishing more than ever.
Sunday, January 7
Yesterday I did two more stages in the chocolate muffin with lowcarb and high protein experiment. By version 1.7 (seven trials), I think it's pretty damn good personally. You could put cream cheese frosting on it and call it a cupcake. It does require some LC ingredients at least if you make it like I did. I call them Cocoa Muffins v1.7 (recipe link here). (If you're not a lowcarber.org member, here's a link to an image that has the recipe, nutrition count, instructions.)
Edit 1/8/07: Use version 1.8, here instead for much moister, chocolatey-er muffins. However, the calorie/fat count on this version is much higher, as it upped the oil a lot.
Today I spent three solid hours walking walmart with a heavy basket that cost me over 1/3 my paycheck. Sheesh! But I got a ton of kitchen utensils and stuff like that which I needed, and a bunch of meat for some major prep cooking, and as usual the kid made out like a bandit by the time it was over, with a new sweater, tennis shoes, a bunch of art supplies, and some fruit juices she wanted. I've made it clear that at the end of January when her dad departs, this house is lowcarb and that means her too, so she is living it up while she can!
It was more exercise without cease than I've done in eons. I was getting kind of weary and my back was "thinking about maybe complaining" when I finally got home, got the stuff in the kitchen and sat down.
Later around 11pm I got enthused and energetic again and decided I would go ahead and make the chili verde now instead of later. So I spent 1.5 hours just cleaning and chopping the various ingredients, only to realize I was very tired and my lower back was starting to complain. Then I realized I still had to cut up nearly 10lbs of pork and brown the outside before I could put everything in the crockpot.
I gave up my pride and begged my soon-to-be-ex husband to do it. Which was SO impolite, since it was 12:30am by the time I suggested he spend 90 minutes doing that! But he did and so tomorrow morning around 9:30am we will have a big ol' pot of chili verde. And there is more meat and less veg than usual this time so it's super lowcarb/high protein.
I'm frustrated that I keep forgetting to weigh, but when I did, my weight wasn't changing. I'm not moving fast enough to meet my goal in this 12 week cycle if I don't get my butt in gear. As of last Monday (a week ago), I finally got my protein up to an average of 100+g per day and my water to a minimum of 2qt per day. I thought this would greatly up my restroom habits and weight loss, but the weight didn't move and I keep wondering where the heck the food is all going since a lot of it doesn't seem to be leaving me!
Tomorrow I'm cooking a big seasoned briskett, as well as all this chili verde, so I will have a bunch of food frozen and refrigerated. Once the briskett is done, I think I might make burritos with lowcarb tortillas and pre-shredded cheese and wrap them tight in foil and freeze, for some nukable meals of that too.
Did you notice the nifty Flickr flash picture thing down on the left nav? I saw that at Lady Atkins' great blog and got myself one.
Anyway. I keep thinking that I have energy and get really upbeat about wanting to DO something (for once), and it goes well, but I tire out much sooner than I expect. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is... ah... not used to exercise. My body isn't yet keeping up with my enthusiasm!
Friday, January 5
He suggested that I had to wear my seat belt. I explained to him that I couldn't. My '88 Cad seatbelt didn't begin to fit, I had been unable to find any info online or at dealer about an extension. One of the bizarre things I never knew is that almost every car's seatbelt is unique. So there is no such thing as an extension that would fit any seatbelt. He said he understood, warned me I might be stopped by others, wished me well.
As he walked away, I muttered under my breath, "Loovvvvve a man in uniform."
At the same instant, my incorrigible ten year old turns to watch him walk away, her eyes wide, and breathes, "He oughtta be AN UNDERWEAR MODEL!"
I nearly choked! What on earth does SHE know about underwear models?! My gosh!
Hilarious. But that's beside the point of this post...
Today I did the normal routine. Pull half the strap around the front of me, as much around my waist as possible -- and I realized...
It fits. Not only that, it wasn't even any real problem to fasten it. It's snug, but not insanely so.
Maybe I am one of the few people who would be proud of being able to wear a seatbelt, but there you go. One more sign lowcarb is working.
Sometimes, "better health" is almost like when pain goes away -- after a short time you forget it ever existed; you forget to be properly appreciative for the better state you're now in!
I want to mention as a preliminary thanks: My cardiologist "wrote me a prescription" for The Protein Power Lifeplan book by the Drs. Eades. Had it not been for him, I am not sure I would ever have found -- or believed in -- this eating plan. He never pushed it on me. He never even told me to go on a diet. He simply said, "This will help you, if you're interested." I was. And it sure has!
And of course, had the book not been information-packed, yet highly readable, even interesting, and something that genuinely gave me hope, I might not have gone farther. I also read two of Dr. Atkins's books. These people are changing the world, one body at a time.
First I lost a bucketload of retained water in my tissues. No longer swollen up and bloated everywhere. Much more limber. More energy. No more feeling a painful bruise if a kid or cat barely leaned on me.
My sleep improved. I could actually sleep mostly through the night, to begin with, which was novel. I could wake up fully, without feeling like at some point in my sleep I'd been run over by a freight train. I lost some degree of the total exhaustion that the combination of weight, bloating, and sleep deprivation had combined to.
My mental clarity improved. I could think more clearly, and my memory was better (though better sleep might be part of this too!). My general mood and frame of mind was improved. That makes sense... since the more exhausted you are, the more everything aches and hurts, the less cheerful one is likely to be.
My acid reflux vanished. No more choking on burning vomit. Cheers to that, mate! I tried to tell a friend of mine how well it had worked for me and encouraged her to try it. Of course, she wouldn't. The doctor says high-fat and low-carb is bad for you, she says; now she is on a chronic medication to prevent or minimize her acid reflux. Hmmmn. Steak vs. drugs. Hard to believe anybody would find the latter healthier!
My asthma went away. If I am really emotional plus over-exercising at the same time, I will still manifest a little of it, but the chronic wheezing and oxygen deprivation that filled every minute of my life vanished. No need for inhalers now. I keep an albuterol in my purse in case I should ever have some major episode but I never use anything now... I don't need it. Apparently it is at least partly related to gluten, to which I am sensitive, but didn't know until I went lowcarb. When I eat two lowcarb tortillas or other gluten product, I get the tiniest bit of asthma about 24-36 hours later, but I don't do that often and otherwise, I have none, since my average diet removed all the gluten-containing foods I used to eat constantly.
My complexion is a little clearer now, most of the time at least. Increased water intake might be partly responsible for this, but increased fat intake -- fat is used for skin and soft tissue cells -- is probably the main reason.
I lost 100 pounds so far. Do you have ANY idea how much easier and less exhausting it is when you lose 20%+ of your massive bodyweight fairly quickly? It's amazing.
My feet are smaller. I fit into a pair of tennis shoes and for the first time in years I am wearing shoes with some kind of decent support. I used to "hobble". Every step was terribly painful. All that weight on my poor feet, with no real support. Now I walk comfortably with nary a thought to my feet.
My thighs are smaller. When I started, I could hardly stand on my scale, even with its slightly oversized footprint, because it required squeezing my legs together so hard to get both feet next to each other on the scale! Now it's not really a big deal to put both feet on the scale and stand there.
My butt is smaller. When I started, I couldn't get into the largest size pants I could buy -- 6x -- now they fit me very comfortably. I don't wear them plain -- I always wear skirts -- but I wear soft pants under the skirts now. This is the first winter I have not been wearing a skirt with nothing under it and open shoes when it was 20 degrees below freezing. It's surprisingly more comfortable now.
I can walk better. Excessive fat puts the spine out of alignment and displaces the hips' ability to have the normal range of motion for walking. Last September when I began this eating plan, I could not even stand up for 30 seconds without my back hurting. After two minutes I was in agony. Even walking across the house wasn't easy. I could not walk around Walmart to shop. I didn't ride the electric cart, I simply avoided shopping entirely, pawning it off on other people to help me. Now I can walk around super Walmart for an hour and I am at the most kind of weary; no back pain at all. I can take my kid to the movies without it being a major event to get in and out. I can even consider stopping by a store AFTER that. Amazing.
I can sure move more, aerobically. If I did have to walk somewhere, such as from the car to a building, I had to walk more slowly than someone very old with a walker, or my breathing would get erratic, asthma would kick in (exercise induced asthma: the body can't get oxygen to that much body fast enough), my heart would pound dangerously -- in short, I could barely move without imminent risk of a heart attack. Now I can not only walk around, but I can walk at a normal human pace, sometimes even briskly for very short distances, without breathing overly hard. This is not just because I lost weight, it is because my protein uptake and oxygen increase has enabled my muscles to better utilize the oxygen my heart pumps to them. Even without losing weight, improving those two issues for severely obese people can help a lot.
I can do things that require muscle much better now. I can walk up stairs without having to put both feet on each stair like a little child. I can do so without using my arm(s) on the handrail for extensive muscle support. I can get out of my car (which is low, so requires lifting UP out of it) without having to desperately push against the door and seat -- in fact, I can simply slide out from under that steering wheel much more easily, and lift myself that small way on one leg comfortably. I can step on and off curbs far more easily. I can actually lift a leg UP enough to step over things -- or to step into pants.
The whole top half of my body is smaller. I had several new 5x tanks with built-in shelf bras that I had bought and barely worn. They were comfortable but a little loose -- the straps a bit too long -- to begin with. Now they literally fall off me in every dimension. I might as well give them away. Meanwhile I had a few 4x very thick, tight sports shirt-bra things I'd bought that I could barely get into (let alone out of) that now fit very comfortably. These are ideal for exercise. Now if I would just do some. :-)
I can experiment in the kitchen now. When I began, even 5 minutes to try and put food together for myself was a horrible thing with my back hurting, my feet aching, and exhaustion taking over me. I couldn't even make an actual dinner. Now I go in the kitchen for 30-60 minutes and do experiments with all kinds of new lowcarb foods. I brought my CD/MP3 player into the kitchen and my little girl and I dance around in there as I prepare things.
Tonight, I made a yummy "Egg Cake Choconuke" which is my term for a rich cocoa-fudge "mock danish" as some call it. It was divine. The kid helped measure and stir and we split it. Single small serving for each and we were happy. (Recipe: 2 large eggs, 2oz cream cheese, 2 tsp dutched high butterfat cocoa powder, 1.25 tsp Fiberfit™ sweetener powder (equiv to 10 tsp sweetener), mixed well in rounded cheap glad plastic bowl, and nuked it in that for a couple minutes (+/- depending on microwave). Eat with a spoon. Like a cross between cake and bread pudding, depending on your liquid content. Each serving: 2.56ECC, 5.97Protein.) Gee whiz. Low carb is so HARD, hahaha!
But seriously: most of my food is yummy meat-based dishes I make in the crockpot. A lot of the rest is some form of eggs. And I love cheese, so I often have that in or on food, or even as a major food (such as a bunch in a lowcarb tortilla, with some herbs and spices, grilled as a quesadilla). I like peppers so they are my main vegetable, though I sometimes have salad, onions or broccoli as well. I try to eat several times a day in small doses and drink a lot of water. The important part is that I am never hungry, I eat stuff that tastes great, and I'm losing weight anyway.
The changes in me over the last nearly-4 months are not just in body and mind though. Some are also in what you might call heart and soul.
I have been set free. Another way of putting this would be: I am getting divorced. Now people might think this is a bad thing, or unfortunate. Quite the contrary. My husband and I are on very good terms.
The end of my dsyfunctionally continuing to support a man who won't work for a living, won't spend time with his kid, totally over-dominates my living space, has to be driven everywhere like a child, makes a disaster of my house and landscape, and has zero relationship with me, all this for eleven years (!), is at an end. Thanks to lowcarb, I was able to escape the brain-fog, and the exhaustion-based terror of being unable to fend for myself let alone my child, that has kept me in "needy dependency" on him.
I have more "SENSE OF SELF." I am not angry and we are not 'fighting' (you can't fight with a passive/aggressive anyway), I have just recognized that I am a decent person, and I deserve a man who loves me, and my child will be better off with a happy, functional, clean and workable home and visiting her father, rather than living in squalor and misery with him local. I deserve a man who does something constructive with his life and mine, instead of living on eBay and video games all day. I deserve a real "relationship." I put all those years into it, and he can go make his own living now. I am taking charge of making a nice house and environment and life for me and my little girl.
I have taken up music again. Songwriting, guitar and vocals were literally my life from the time I was a small child until my early-mid 20's when I suddenly gained a ton of weight and abruptly had to give up music, as I was too mortified to be in front of anybody. I have lost that greatly needed creative and emotional outlet, probably at a high cost to my psyche. I have let that back in again and am playing, singing, writing, for the first time in 17 years. It's like some "alive" part of me that had been closed down and boarded up and buried, is running through me again, making me remember more of "myself" and what I feel and what has meaning to me.
I have gone back to a lot more prayer and appreciation of life again. When I was so much more exhausted, mentally-muddy, easily hurt or injured, for some reason it was more difficult to concentrate on anything, including any sense of spirit, and I often felt sad or angry or depressed instead of positive. I feel more clear now, not just mentally, but even in terms of my relationship with what I consider the Divine.
It has been 108 days since I went lowcarb. All of these things have happened within this timeframe. That is less than 4 months.
If you are severely obese, can you imagine turning your life around like that? Can you imagine finding someone to love -- and it turns out to be yourself? Can you imagine so radically improving your life that you feel like a whole new person? It can happen.
It takes some planning, some shopping, some crockpot cooking is easiest, and the determination to NOT eat carb-laden foods -- instead, once you finish the "detox" of the initial eating plan (so you drop a lot of the carb cravings), just learn to make food you love! -- it can be done.
I am living proof that a person can go from nearly 500 lbs, barely being able to walk or even stand, hardly functioning at all in the world others know, unable to do their own shopping, cooking, or cleaning -- to a much more vivacious, physically and mentally competent, creative person who finally feels hope for a future again.
The timeframe for everyone is different. Men tend to lose faster than women. Some women can lose 100lbs in 9 weeks and some it takes a year. It depends on how much weight you start with, what you eat, how much water you drink, what exercise you do, what supplements you take, and how focused you are on your goals mentally. But I have not done much that is special besides WANT IT and eat lowcarb. And in less than four months I have accomplished this.
I might be dead already if I hadn't. That is what made me go on lowcarb at 2:00 AM one morning a few days after my birthday, when I realized I could barely walk, stand, or function as a human being anymore. When I realized the chance of me being around for my little girl in two years, let alone when she is someday having her own child, were growing more slim by the minute.
I am still too shy for posting pictures, but I do have before and after photos. In perhaps another 50 lbs I hope to have the courage to post them.
A special thanks always to Dr. Richard Atkins, and Drs. Mary Dan and Michael Eades, whose books and good works helped inspire, encourage and educate me.
Thanks to lowcarb eating, for the first time in 17 years, I am finally truly ALIVE.
Wednesday, January 3
Even in the most admirable pursuits, such as science, this is going to bring human qualities into it -- including politics, marketing, commercialism, information control, power struggles, and the tendency of humans to focus on what they already believe in and to resist change.
A recent discussion on a lowcarb forum included a quote so great that I'd like to include it here.
Reflections On Scientific Dogma
by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick
The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute has today decided to award
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2005
Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren
for their discovery of
"the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease"
It was good to see these two winning the Nobel Prize, with the key piece of following text appended.
This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who with tenacity and a prepared mind challenged prevailing dogmas.
"Who with tenacity and a prepared mind challenged prevailing dogmas…." A few short words. As if the Second World War could be encapsulated thus, "In the Second World War, the Allies defeated Germany, Japan and a few other countries after a series of successful engagements."
I followed the helicobacter story from pretty early on in the proceedings. At first, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were personally attacked and ritually humiliated for questioning the wisdom of their superiors. When this didn’t have the desired effect, their work was rubbished. Barry Marshal, at one point, was forced to swallow helicobacter pylori himself, then develop ulcers, in order to prove that bacteria could cause ulcers.
As the work of these two became better known, and appeared to be threatening the multi-billion-dollar market in ulcer-healing drugs, the major pharmaceutical companies lined up expert after expert after opinion leader to intensify the attack. It would have been easy to fold under this level of pressure. Good on Marshall and Warren for sticking to their guns.
Their story highlights an issue about science that has bothered me for years. Namely, the incredible, stifling power of dogma. One would hope that scientists have open minds, but the more you study science, and scientific thinking, the more it becomes clear that the minds of most scientists remain firmly, and highly aggressively, shut.
I have tried to train myself to put all ideas into one of three places — probable, possible or unlikely — and never to allow myself to become emotionally attached to any hypothesis. But most scientists, especially medical scientists, seem only to have two places to store their thoughts. They are true or false; right or wrong; sensible or stupid. This is usually supported by the killer scientific argument, “Do you know who I am, young man?” This is knows as Eminence-Based Medicine.
… If I had just one wish, it would be this: that all scientists took the following oath. "I shall always support and encourage new ideas, no matter how superficially idiotic and wrong they may seem. I shall also remember that established and comfortable ideas may well be wrong, and should be attacked and criticized at all times."
The chances of this happening are, officially, fat.
PS: A raised cholesterol level causes heart disease. Ho, ho, ho.
People often ask why others question science; or ask, "Isn't trusting some of the research that supports lowcarb vs. research that doesn't seem to, cherry-picking what you want to believe?"
Concerning skepticism about science, for which I have great respect as a process, I think the above essay is an excellent rejoinder.
For the rest of modern science, I can only say: show me the money. Show me the funder; show me the scientist; and for godssakes, show me the real paper, not just the media presentation, the media gets more wrong or misrepresented in its 5th-grade-level sound-bites than it ever gets right.
And importantly: show me the conditions of that research. Who can forget Dr. Richard Atkins publishing about how more than 30 carbs a day "would not work" to put someone in his "induction" process, and then seeing research done with 55-100+ carbs per day, that did not get the same result obviously, billed as allegedly having "disproved" his findings about his lowcarb eating plan bringing certain body results? Even though technically it only confirmed what he'd already said but on a different facet of the topic? The devil is in the details, as the saying goes, sometimes a bit literally.
Concerning the results of "truth" about lowcarb, I say: show me the weight loss, the blood count improvements, the removal of all kinds of minor medical symptoms, and the great improvement in overall health and quality of life.
I don't have to look farther than my scale or mirror and my own life -- or that of so many other lowcarbers I know -- to see the reality when the rubber hits the road on this question. Lowcarb rocks. Maybe other eating plans work for other people. But lowcarb is saving my life -- and improving my health, mental and physical -- one day at a time. I'll leave the science to the scientists. For me, what counts is what works.
Monday, January 1
Year 2007 Resolutions
SECTION A: Me Me Me
A1. I resolve to stop for at least 15 seconds within the first 30 minutes of waking up each day, to concentrate on FEELING GRATEFUL FOR MY LIFE, and FEELING LOVED, and FEELING HOPE ABOUT MY FUTURE. And to say, "Please help me" to the Divine. 15 seconds. How hard is this?
A2. I resolve for one year, this year, to care more about myself than others. My first duty is to myself. When I am happy and cared for, I can be of better help to all -- and a better, stronger example for my daughter. My motto is WWXD: What Would Xena Do?
A3. I resolve to bring regular exercise, at least 3 times per week to begin, into my life. This may have to begin with little more than counting how many seconds I can hold a half sit-up and things like that: that is fine. But it has to be something.
A4. I resolve to make a genuine effort to get at least 6 hours of sleep per night. If this means I don't get as much done and see my best friend less, then that is what it means. My health, my weight loss, my attitude, my mental clarity, are paramount.
A5. I resolve, when affordable, to get my nails done regularly. Though the left hand must be super-short, keeping the right hand short to moderate length but strong will be great for guitar, and keeping them up and painted will be a small concession to luxury and taking care of myself.
A6. I resolve to do at least one archetype meditation per week that is specific to either weight/size-loss, health, or something else important in my life. It doesn't have to take a long time. The impact of these on my reality is profound. There is no excuse for not taking 15 minutes for this.
That is all for the ME category.
I COME FIRST.
SECTION B: Kid Kid Kid
B1. I resolve as of February on to bring my entire house into lowcarb eating. I will supply fruits for snack, LC bread and LC tortillas, but otherwise the child will have to learn to eat lowcarb. There is no excuse as a mother for feeding her crap because it is faster/easier/she begs. She's nearly fat. My responsibility as a mother is to her health, more than to my convenience.
B2. I resolve to get the kid to bed at a decent hour nightly and without bedtime carbs. She is chronically sleep deprived, often unsupervised during the night, and has learned disrespect for my efforts on this front. Aside from which it probably greatly affects her HGH output and metabolism. I will do what is needed because that is my duty as a loving mother.
B3. I resolve to make the kid do stuff with me. Allowing her to play video games or whatever instead of helping me cook, allowing her to do no chores but be messy, is just bad for her, and it diminishes time spent together and her sense of contribution to our mutual life.
That is all for the KID category.
BETTER PARENTING NOW.
SECTION C: Food Food Food
C1. I resolve to use a kitchen timer so that every 90 minutes from waking to sleeping, I am reminded to drink as much water as I can hold. At the most this should involve approximately 6 minutes per day. Six minutes to greatly improve my weight loss, my skin hydration, my health. I can do this. This means filtering water and filling water bottles at night or morning. YES, I can do this.
C2. I resolve to take at least two days per month to do some major LC cooking that can be stored in the freezer. Examples: chili verde, chicken stew, a big turkey, big meatballs, LC burritos. It can make the diff between LC turkey and pepperjack with fresh vegg quesadilla for me and kid vs..... junk or starving.
C3. I resolve to at least mention my food a minimum of 5 out of 7 days per week in my lowcarb journal. Inattention to my eating (and to eating at all) contributes to poorer upkeep of the matter.
C4. I resolve to arrange for my breakfast the night before, so it has pre-planning and is more likely to happen. This is the hardest meal of the day for me so far, but it hugely affects how hungry I am and the effort I will make to eat the rest of the day. Now that I know several foods I can prepare in bulk, there is no reason why I can't arrange for something, even if it's just a couple mini-muffins, a couple meatballs, whatever.
That is all for the FOOD category.
FOOD IS A TOOL: USE IT WISELY.
SECTION D: Others Others Others
D1. I resolve to make a list of the people I need to communicate with and to make a point to email or write them something at least every six weeks. I am falling out of touch with people who care about me and hurting their feelings. It does not take much effort! Just a little organization.
D2. I resolve to visit my grandmother for a couple hours at least once a month. She's old, she lives 5 blocks away, there is just no excuse for not doing so. Ry must come. She can read a book if she's bored but she needs to learn that this is a family responsibility. When I am old I hope someone visits ME.
That is all for the "others" category.
CHARITY STARTS AT HOME.
And that is my 2007 list of resolutions!
I AM QUEEN OF MY DESTINY! RULE WELL.
Here's to a fabulous 2007!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!