Thursday, November 20

The Long and Winding Road

In the late 1990s I lived in a tiny town an hour North of Fort Worth Texas. I worked hours after work on my own time teaching myself web-stuff where I had access to the database and middleware. I would drive home around 10pm most nights, on the small two lane roads that wound around a slightly hilly terrain. And sometimes, there would be fog. The kind of fog where, with your brights on, with squinting and leaning forward, you are just barely able to see about one inch of the white line on the right side of the road, immediately off the edge of the right front corner of your truck.

It starts to seem like purgatory. You're just driving this endless, winding road, in the dark, in the quiet, and the only thing that keeps you from dying any moment now is your faith-fixation on that one tiny little piece of evidence of road.

That's how I've felt about lowcarb much of the last year, particular the last several months. There was a time when I could see the road clearly. I could see for miles. Very-Low-Carb ketogenic diet was my dream come true. Weight fell off me. I lost a ton of medical symptoms. I'd not felt so good since I was 21.

Then I 'sort of' quit losing weight. Or maybe I quiet eating as well plus got more impatient or something. But in the end it did seem to amount to at the least, a great slowdown in weight loss. Perhaps it had been too easy before, because it completely demoralized me when it happened. When I not only couldn't see fast results, but I'd do everything right and my weight would stay around one level on my weight chart--and then start creeping up!--I felt helpless. Angry. Embarrassed.

And I started getting worried about my blood sugar. I could eat sausage and eggs, a meal I've had often on LC, and get a serious headrush-dizzy from a blood sugar crash a little while later. I went out and bought a blood glucose meter etc. so I could try and figure out what was going on. On the bright side, my glucose was not way too high too long. On the down side, my fasting bg was 60-70 and it went to a normal place after eating but then it fell and KEPT falling. The numbers don't lie: I had insulin resistance to a good degree. I knew I'd started with it and it had improved. But I never got that with protein meals before. What changed? Did weight loss trigger something else in my body?

And I worried about lowcarb. Here I'm trying to blog like the poster child for it because it "saved me" and I'm loyal. But I felt like hell. Not until I added carbs -- I started eating more fruit (mostly berries but occasionally a small gala apple), and legumes like peas and beans, and now and then even a corn tortilla, and all the sudden, I felt SO much better. I was eating 40-70 carbs a day but I felt like a new person. That was the good part. The bad part was I didn't seem to be losing any more weight on that approach than the ketogenic approach. And I felt like I was 'betraying' ketogenic-lowcarb because it quit working for me. Didn't I just spend two years talking online about LC? OK now a big chunk of what I thought I knew, apparently I don't.

I thought I had replaced the rules of calories with the rules of carbs. I was willing to pick up that different belief system. But it wasn't really a different belief system. Same plot, different characters. This time the bad guys are South Americans instead of 1940s Nazis but it's the plot we all know. X is good. Y is bad. Do it right and all will be well.

But it turns out we don't really know what causes weight loss for supersized people. We know from empirical evidence that a lot of really fat people do ketogenic lowcarb and lose a lot of weight and often fast. And then somewhere around 100-150 pounds later, some of them stop losing weight. Their body has changed in some way. VLC feels bad. More carbs feel good. But neither are pouring the fat off like previously.

I used to feel like I was on my path. Like I knew the road ahead of me and I walked it confidently. Like I had faith that I could see that winding road way off into the sunset, to that ineffably blurry time when "I would be ... ok". It might take a long time to walk, but I had found the road, now it was just doing it. I felt confident about my positive future.

But lately I feel like I have lost my way. The road has vanished in a fog. Even the experts can't help much if at all; metabolism of the supersized has no decent research; it's clearly different somehow but who knows how. My friends have often run into the same issues I have, and they don't have any answers either.

"Why try?", I wondered. "Day after day after day and weeks later I'm a pound heavier instead of lighter." I got anger. I got despair. And then I got offplan in a big way, and for two months ate utter crap. Leaving me profoundly bloated, so asthmatic I couldn't breathe, I gained some weight, and other issues. It was like an attack against myself.

And then I got my act together again. Regardless of weight loss, I know what I need to be healthy. I'm eating meat. Caul & Brocc. Peppers & onions. Berries and avocados. Pecans. And because I have NO IDEA what I'm doing, where I'm going, how to get there, or if I'll ever get there, the best I can do "wild guess."

I'm now taking so many supplements you'd just laugh if you saw. I'm off all diet soda. I'm greatly reducing dairy esp. cheese. Is this my plan because it's a great idea? Well, it closely mirrors the "Regina's good sense" approach with the eating plan she outlined for me back in... March? Which I was unable to stay with because it was so rational and healthy. So if I do ok at this for a few months I'll be closer to succeeding with her advice than I ever have been.

But I'm not doing it because I have big hopes. I'm doing it because I'm lost. So why not. It's a path. I might as well take it. Frankly I am not overly hopeful. I feel like I lost my faith, lost my lock on thinking I had some idea how my body worked, thinking I could trust that if I ate lowcarb and didn't eat massive calories than I would naturally lose weight, especially with a BMR as high as mine. When this ceased to work anymore, it's like my whole edifice of beliefs about everything lowcarb just came crashing down.

I don't know what makes me have more issues with not-eating and then over-eating than ever in my life; I didn't have them until I lost a ton of weight. Like the protein-reaction, could this be something actually triggered by a sudden high weight loss? It took awhile to kick in, if so.

I'm doing lowcarb in the flesh right now, but not much in spirit. I'm only barely with it mentally. I know it's better for my health anyway. But I feel slightly betrayed. By lowcarb. By my body. That what worked initially has not continued to work. That I have no clear idea on what else to do. And no idea what will work.

I'm only barely on the lowcarb road. It's dark. It's quiet. It's foggy. And I'm just riding that inch of white line with little but desperate faith, because it's all I can see.


Monday, November 10

Low-Carb Drama Queens at All Ages

This post is going to be one of those posts that is embarrassingly honest, at the risk of making me -- and my kid -- significantly less "cool".

Even the lowcarb world has its own version of what is cool and what is politically incorrect. Not surprisingly, anything which does not begin and end with "I eat lowcarb and it's the answer to the universe" is on the un-PC list, and lucky for me, so far, LC really HAS been at least part of the answer to my health universe, so I can't diss that shining ideal. But it hasn't yet been the whole answer, which is perhaps no fault to LC, it just means there's clearly a larger question, and it probably starts with 'nutrition' and possibly exercise involvement, as well as micronutrient (not just the macro of carbs/cals/protein) intake, as well as a drama queen getting off her supersized butt and doing it consistently.

Oh wait, you mean my own effort is supposed to be part of the process here?! Oh yeah! I forgot! (And to think, I was all set to blame Atkins, because we all know that his falling on ice is the reason I eat too much peanut butter and why we should keep buying Nabisco chips. Anybody who doesn't see the connection here hasn't been reading enough modern AP newsline 'public relations versions of ridiculously bad alleged-science studies funded by food producers' marketing designed-as-news.)

Aside from "the rest" of the answer to my health, whatever it(s) may be, there is another issue that lowcarb hasn't yet been able to solve: the issue of a single supersized (5'6" ~370#) 43 year old mom and her obese (~5'2" 180#) 12 year old daughter, hereinafter referred to simply as: The Low-Carb Drama Queens.

Drama Queen cue: "Good Morning!", also known as, "Mo-ommmmm, I'm hungry, make me food! What is there to eat that isn't meat or eggs or dairy or gluten-free almond/flax/coconut and can be made quickly 'cause I'm starving and you have to work?"

Answer: nothing. You will learn to like eating eggs and meat and almond/flax/coconut concoctions 365 days a year or you can starve. Alternatively, you can eat green vegetables (which you loathe). Don't complain. Your friends live on McDonalds and can wear skinny jeans. If you don't learn to live on chicken and flax you will cease fitting into your size 16 stretch denim leggings which already look like they are about to bust 4 seams simultaneously. And Mom will just continue being the size of a refrigerator but slightly better looking.

Should you successfully live on meat and glutenless other-things three times a day for the next seven days plus no bad snacks and no sneaking food in the night, your total reward for this impressive 168 solid hours of dedication will be: er, probably nothing. You might, maybe, have lost a pound, although increased exercise or muscle retention may in turn be making that seem worse instead of better. But you are supposed to have faith that if you combine those 168 solid hours of effort into another round and another round and another round that eventually you will see actual results. No, this does not equate to mom's belief in the tooth fairy.

Drama Queen negotiation: well can't we have enough cheese to stop a German tank in its tracks, like some Dairy Society version of Non-Lethal Weapons, with which we could completely obliterate the taste (and point) of having eggs or meat with the meal? Preferably also with something else high-fat for taste such as sour cream for example, or some lowcarb (but not when it's in quantity) ketchup?

Answer: well I suppose. There, I made you happy! Now, we just ingested a breakfast with as many calories as a federal banking bailout costs dollars, and hence the former experience will be just about as good for us as the latter. It is potentially true that if our overall carbs from all that cheese and sour cream managed to stay relatively low, we might not gain weight, but, given that (a) we can gain fat by even thinking of non-diet sodas (a medical process hereinafter known as "quantum soda metabolation") and (b) the carbs aren't real low in that case, well it's probably going to make things worse, unless (c) miraculously we don't gain fat from it, which merely means that (d) we managed to survive another meal and hours of life and get one meal closer to burnout and flying off the wagon in frustration, all without doing a damn thing about the weight problem.

Drama Queen cue: It's lunchtime, also known as "Mo-ommmm, make me food, I'm hungry! What can we have that isn't what breakfast was and isn't meat or veggies or funky flax/almond/coconut variants?"

Answer: nothing. You will learn to like eating eggs and meat and almond/flax/coconut concoctions 365 days a year or you can starve. Alternatively, you can eat green vegetables (which you loathe). Don't complain. It's not the fault of girls you see all over the place that they were probably born with genetics that make them thin while you were born to a 300# insulin resistant mother with high blood pressure and no prenatal care until 7 months and a lousy diet before, during and after pregnancy. No I'm not telling you that you were cursed at birth, your grandparents already tell you that, I always tell you that your destiny is in your own hands and we can get a handle on this if we work on it. Would you like some asparagus with that? No, of course I am not trying to make you vomit. We're going to have hamburger patties again. Yes, for the 1,928,834th time. Would you like some ranch dressing to dip that in?

Drama Queen cue: it's dinnertime, also known as "Mo-ommm, make me food, I'm hungry! What can we have that isn't lunch or breakfast and isn't meat or veggies or funky flax/almond/coconut variants?"

Answer: nothing. You will learn to like eating eggs and meat and almond/flax/coconut concoctions 365 days a year or you can starve. Alternatively, you can eat green vegetables (which you loathe). Don't complain. Your mother needs to be on a lowcarb eating plan and she actually LIKES meat. Whether this is because she is twice your size and an O positive blood type, vs. your A negative blood type, is unknown, and I heard that's all a 'fad' anyway. To salvage your having to eat meat... AGAIN... I am going to make the meat in a way that you can best stand. I will coat small chunks of chicken in parmesan and bake it and we'll dip it in ranch, or I will drown it in alfredo sauce and we'll bake it. Of course, now we just ate enough calories to ensure this dinner will not lose a single ounce of weight off our bodies, although it may, IF sufficiently lowcarb, prevent yet another ounce from being added.

Drama Queen cue: it's after dinner but before bedtime, also known as "Mo-ommm, make me food, I'm hungry! What can we have that isn't lunch or breakfast and isn't meat or veggies or funky flax/almond/coconut variants?"

Answer: nothing. You will learn to like eating eggs and meat and almond/flax/coconut concoctions 365 days a year or you can starve. Alternatively, you can eat green vegetables (which you loathe). Don't complain. Your growth hormone and many other things have been affected by your being self-sleep deprived and eating carbs before sleep most of your life, so we are solving this by ensuring any snacks are lowcarb. Here, have a string cheese. No, you may not have 11 string cheeses, have ONE.

Next Morning: Drama Queen darling, what happened to Drama Queen mom's cream cheese? Oh, you ate the entire bar with a spoon? And the peanut butter too? And all three of the lowcarb ice cream bar 'treats'? And drink the last six diet sodas? And the entire bag of (8-servings) peas, the legume (not-quite-a-veggie) you like nuked with butter? All while I slept? Despite my attempt to ply you with protein and fat so you wouldn't be hungry? I see. Oh, and you're hungry again because it's morning? Let's re-start that cycle!

End of the week: the scale says, "You ate 2.7 billion calories this week. Your carbs were fairly low, though. You have not really lost any weight. You did rebuild some muscle thanks to the extra protein-aminos. Hence, you have gained a pound."

Drama Queen mom considers her options.

1. Put the child in prison. Build a door at end of hallway that can be locked. Alternatively, explore "the child with the Iron Mask" scenario. This might, after all, lead to her become a rich, if resentful, book heroine someday. Unchecked: not yet tried.

2. Get rid of all interesting food ingredients that allow my average meals to be slightly more interesting, or that allow small treats, or occasional quick foods. This includes cream cheese, peanut butter, any lowcarb treat, diet soda. This leaves: meat. small amounts of cheese. Sometimes a veggie. Check: done. Result: now MY eating plan sucks totally compared to how cool it was before, my variety is lower, my treats are nonexistent, and I can't make anything that doesn't require 'cooking meat or eggs'.

3. Become Mom From Hell. Make food, make complaining about food before, during or after akin to a federal crime by so freaking out at any complaint that child is afraid to mention it. Child will eat it or mom will threaten to rip out her tonsils and stuff it in. Check: mostly done, with variants. I skipped the tonsils part. Problem: this only works in limited duration. Like any other kind of misery, you can get used to it, and then it loses its effectiveness.

4. ____________ please insert your better ideas here.

PJ, aka Drama Queen Mom.