Sunday, June 12, 2011
Some might be wondering how my culinary adventures have been going since my dietary change to grainless low-carb. It is different, but not in the way you'd think. Since I started learning how to cook just a mere 7 years ago, I had been using ingredients like 2% milk, low fat cheese and olive oil. Was trying to avoid fatty foods. I still use olive oil, but now my cooking repertoire has opened up to using heavy cream, butter, coconut oil, and hollandaise sauce! I'm attempting to make creme fraiche for desserts and cream sauces.
I had strawberries and cream for dessert the other day. I replaced mashed potatoes with cauliflower gratin.
For lunch yesterday, I had 4oz seared tuna, salmon sashimi, and a salad topped with blue cheese, avocado, cucumber and strawberries. I took an iced latte with whole milk for dessert to go. Find me the dietitian that says this is an unhealthy lunch!
Dinner was a salad (no croutons), steak, asparagus, and a glass of wine. The only thing I cleaned off my plate was the asparagus. I got an 8oz steak. I used to have to cut my food in half before I started eating so I would know when to stop. Now, because my appetite is under control, it just stops when it is supposed to. I ate half my steak, and my brain flicked off again, saying "I'm done".
I was elated. I can't tell you how liberating it is to be free. I feel like I'm living life. I thought always being hungry was just normal. It was my high insulin and fat starvation. It's unbelievable, and at the same time, very believable, that a single hormone was driving my stark lunatic hunger. I mean, ladies, be honest. Many of us have hormones drive us crazy at certain times of the month! If you are uncontrollably hungry, or can't stop yourself from eating a whole package of cookies while on a high carb diet, that's your insulin controlling you. You aren't weak willed. 2 months ago, I wouldn't have believed it myself.
As my body adjusts to my new way of eating, it just gets better and better.
I did have a brief period where I was unusually hungry. Remember I told you about how my pancreas was overshooting the amount of insulin I needed. It does indeed seem to be adapting. I'll write a "low carb survival guide" for this kind of stuff soon. I think a lot of people start low carb, feel sluggish, then feel hungry, and they give up, thinking it wasn't working. What they didn't know was it WAS working. Your body has to reset. This means some things will swing up and down as your body tries to figure out what's going on. You aren't behaving like you used to.
And then it settles down. And then you are free.
A long time ago, I dismissed the Atkins diet because I thought it was silly that people could eat as much steak and bacon as they wanted. I still think it is silly. Even though calories in - calories out is somewhat misleading, you still have to consume less than your body uses. Seems contradictory, but it's not. If you eat enough to meet your needs, your body won't turn to stored bodyfat to makeup energy shortfall. However, it will not store excess energy UNLESS you drive your insulin up with something like breadsticks before dinner, or a big piece of cake.
I am not doing Atkins, btw. I'm doing Protein Power. It is less restrictive, and more flexible than Atkins. See my previous blog for references.
I do not eat as much bacon and steak as I want. Overeating is never a good idea, I don't care what diet you are on. But there is something else. I can't. I find it very hard to overeat steak anymore. My "I'm done" switch goes off, and I stop eating. Overeating looks unappetizing. It's something I have never understood before. How were skinny people able to just stop eating? How did they have that much control?
Now I know.
Here's something we were inadvertently doing when we started eating low fat diets. We removed the nutrition, and the part that makes your "stop eating" switch go off. Fat. A very easy experiment you can try at home. Drink a cup of skim milk and wait about 20 minutes. It is not satisfying. You don't feel full. Now drink a cup of whole milk or heavy cream. In 20 minutes, you feel satisfied. It's not the calories. It's the fat. Fortified vitamin D skim milk is pointless. Vitamin D is fat soluable. You can't process the vitamin D without fat.
When you separate the yolk from the egg to make your low fat omelet, you are removing the part that contains vitamin A, D, E, K, and the important omega-3 fatty acid. 100% of those are contained ONLY in the yolk. 90%+ calcium, B6, B12, iron, thiamin, and folate are contained in the yolk. You're also removing the part that makes you feel not hungry after eating it - the fat.
It is not hard to see vitamin D deficiencies are on the rise, not just due to lack of spending time outdoors.
Not only was my insulin load driving hunger, but the lack of fat and nutrition. I wasn't just figuratively starving, I was actually starving. Overweight and nutritionally starved. That is modern America.
Edit: I know SparkPeople are SmartPeople, but I have to say this for the benefit of the concerned. If you are taking any medications for any medical conditions, please talk to your doctor before making changes to your diet.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
I realize that I've been rather evangelical about my new found discovery. I'm not trying to reach the skeptics. I'm hoping to reach the person like me who was diligently following the plan, and got nowhere. In some cases, maybe they even got worse.
A lot of the pushback I get is "Glad low carb worked for you, but it won't work for everyone." I actually like that argument, because then the corollary to that is "High carb/low fat diet doesn't work for everyone, either."
If you have no insulin resistance, then high carb/low fat diet will most likely work for you, and you'll have no idea why anyone else has trouble losing weight. Those of us who can't lose weight must be eating fast food, or eating cookies, or maybe we're just stupid. We're not trying hard enough. In other words, the blame has been shifted on us. Can't lose weight? It's your fault. Maybe it's your genetics, so just accept being fat, and that you're going to get diabetes and heart disease.
I'm glad I'm not a person that takes no for an answer. No one tells me what I can or can't do.
So what led me to go deeper down the rabbit hole is this notion a calorie is a calorie, and calories in - calories out and all will be well. Except as we ALL know, weight loss rarely ever fits neatly into that equation. The explanation is then, "Well we can't predict what the body does. There's a lot of variables."
I'm a math and science minded person. That notion of "other variables" tickled at the back of my mind.
One of the reasons my boss both loves and hates me is because I question everything. I don't know why, but I have an instinct for when something isn't quite correct. And I start searching. I have been called a "bloodhound" for problems. Maybe not a term of endearment, but I'm not bothered by it. I take it as a compliment. I care more about being effective, than being popular. I work in aerospace. I happen to work in an industry where finding problems in your coworker's logic is rewarded. It saves lives.
I was once told by my favorite professor that all of science is based on discrediting your colleague's theories. It was on that premise that I started wondering why we just accept high carb/low fat is the only healthy way to live. How did scientists decide that fat and cholesterol was killing us? There was contradictory information. My grandfather had bacon and eggs for breakfast every day. He went into his 70s without diabetes and never took a single statin. He died of cancer due to smoking. The egg yolk didn't kill him.
Fortunately, I live in an age when there is lots of information available.
I want to take a short minute to thank sparkers SparkBirdy and LadyRose who helped point me in the right direction. I was able to find what I was looking for in very short order. I might have spun my wheels a bit longer if I wasn't able to hone in on it right away. I checked out "The Paleo Diet" and "Protein Power". It clicked.
I found a very interesting interview with Gary Taubes, author of "Good Calories, Bad Calories". He said he was writing an article about salt and had an interview with a shady scientist. This scientist claimed he successfully convinced the nation that salt raised blood pressure, and he also helped turn everyone against fat and saturated fat. He hung up the phone and called his editor. If this guy had anything to do with the health mantra of low fat diets, then something wasn't right.
I'll let you make up your own minds. If you have a lot of weight to lose and have found it near impossible to lose fat. If you have an uncontrollable addiction to sweets. If you are impossibly hungry all the time. If you constantly overeat even when you aren't hungry, and don't know why you can't stop. If you have tried the standard diet over and over and failed. If you have insulin resistance, and it keeps getting worse, not better.
I offer the chance to take the blue pill, or the red pill. Don't read any of these, and continue on your way. Take the red pill if you want to see what they don't want you to see about diet and nutrition.
"The Paleo Diet" by Loren Cordain. This isn't personally my favorite book, but it was the first one I read that encouraged me to look further. I have heard "The Primal Blueprint" is better, but I haven't personally read it yet. These might appeal to you if you are at all interested in learning how our species has eaten for 2.5 million years. Low fat diets have only been around 30 years. We were not built to tolerate grains very well. We could very well adapt to a high grain diet, but it will take another 10,000 years of evolution eating it. You and I will most likely get sick and die eating a high grain/low protein diet.
"Protein Power" by Drs. Michael and Mary Eades. Now this one is my favorite. It is a very detailed explanation on how the metabolism works. Insulin and insulin's effect of fat storage is in every first year medical textbook. I can't make sense why doctors continue to treat obese patients with more carbohydrates, since carbs stimulate insulin. Lightbulbs went off in my head. I couldn't lose fat because I kept pushing my insulin up with carbs. I was only eating "whole wheat" carbs, but it didn't matter. I'm insulin resistant enough that it prevents my fat loss. Hallelujah. This was my red pill.
"The 30 Day Low Carb Diet Solution" by Drs. Michael and Mary Eades. This is a less biochemistry detailed version of "Protein Power". If you just want to know the basics in layman's terms with an easy to follow meal plan, this is it. See shocking details like the USDA food pyramid is identical to a pig farmer's feed formula. Want to be as skinny as a pig? Then eat according to the government dietary recommendations.
If you are middle aged, try "The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle" also by the Eades.
"Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes. I avoided this book for so long when my eyes were shut. If you believe a calorie is just a calorie, then this book is anathema. I should have read this years ago - this is would have opened my eyes earlier. This is a VERY science and research heavy book, though. If you are a science minded person, this one will appeal to you. If you would prefer a condensed, more reader-friendly book, then read "Why We Get Fat, And What to Do About it". I have not read the latter, but I have heard that it is an easier read.
Don't have time to read? Try watching "Fat Head" by Tom Naughton. It is on Hulu, and you can also watch it on streaming Netflix. You should be able to get enough intro knowledge into all of the things that I have been going on and on about for weeks.
Skeptical? This is all fad diet nonsense? I'm not going to try and convince you. I still invite you to check out the books and make up your own mind.
Some will read this and immediately hate it because it challenges everything they thought they knew. Believe me, I know how you feel. That's fine. Don't try to digest it all right now. Come back to it later.
For those with an open mind, come with me, and take a deeper look.
Friday, June 10, 2011
I weighed in this morning, and I was in shock.
I haven't seen that number in...I don't know how long. College? After college? Before the boyfriend that nearly wrecked my life?
Here is the condensed story of "me".
I was never overweight as a child or teenager. I was moderately active in high school and college with soccer and martial arts. After college, I got my first "real" job that wasn't minimum wage. It was a desk job as a computer programmer, and I was "on-call" 24-7. I worked somewhere between 60-80 per week. A coworker and I became romantically involved. We ate out at almost every meal. McDonalds for breakfast, Mexican for lunch, and Chili's or Applebee's for dinner. I went from about 127 to 160 in a very short period.
I drank about 32-64oz of fully leaded Coke per day. Why I did this, I don't know. Obviously this was bad for me. Why I blamed "old age" (at 26) for "slowing metabolism", I don't know. I can only conclude it was arrogance. I arrogantly believed I could eat and drink like this without consequence.
Anyway, dear boyfriend was financially irresponsible. He nearly destroyed my immaculate credit record by draining our bank accounts and my credit card. The one smart thing I did was kept a personal savings account with my own money in it hidden from him. When I left him, I used that money to leave and move to Seattle.
So I moved to Seattle broke and fat.
It took me 5 years, but I paid off the debt while maintaining my great credit record (tip: always pay on time). I didn't have to declare bankruptcy. I borrowed a little from my parents towards the end, then paid them back. I got rid of the last of my financial baggage from that relationship.
But I still carried the weight. I was able to lose a lot with a healthier lifestyle in Seattle, but I could never quite get below the 130 threshold. I got to 127 once before the new boyfriend (now fiance) and I went to Jamaica, but it quickly rebounded.
Here's a sample of a day before I cut starchy carbs.
Breakfast: Blueberries, yogurt, 1 cup Kashi cereal.
Lunch: Udon noodles with asparagus, onions and bell peppers, and poached egg.
Dinner: Stir fry with pork tenderloin, 1 cup rice.
Sounds pretty healthy. I didn't lose any weight eating this kind of stuff on a daily basis, though. So this must have been a high fat/high calorie day, right? Wrong.
Calories in - Calories out completely failed. According to Spark, this should be the perfectly balanced ratios.
I was maintaining my weight and bodyfat. Where is the junk? So unfair to have junk in my trunk and I didn't even get the benefit of being "bad".
With the exception of the breakfast, my meal was fairly typical of an Asian diet. I have often pondered why my Asians relatives can eat rice at every meal, and yet not have the overweight/obesity problem.
Well, I think it really comes down to they consume a lot less sugar than Westerners, especially Americans. We buy 12oz cans of Coke. In Asia, coke cans are 6oz, and most kids share a can with a sibling or friend. They drink it maybe once a month as a treat, not everyday like Americans. Asian desserts are not very sweet compared to American cakes. Most of my friends in school didn't like my Korean sweet red bean and rice dessert because they weren't as sweet as a Twinkie.
If we were to look at the mitochondria of Americans, we would find signatures for corn. Corn in the form of high fructose corn sugar.
Which is what I did with those 32oz Big Gulps. I used to buy them because they were a "good value". $1 for that much Coke - what a steal.
There is always a price. My price was damaging my metabolism. Fructose in high quantities has been shown to damage insulin receptors, increasing insulin resistance. Higher insulin resistance means less able to tolerate carbohydrates. It means weight gain, difficulty in losing weight, and higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome like diabetes. High fructose corn sugar found in soda is a super concentrated form of fructose.
If I had just eaten fruit, I'd probably never have developed an insulin problem, so I don't want anyone to think I'm saying "fruit is bad!". But super concentrated fructose like soda...well. It is unnatural. You'd never find that much fructose in an orange as you do a can of Coke. That was damage. Time will tell how much I can heal. It is unlikely I will be able to recover the sensitivity that I had before my weight gain. I feel relieved that I at least know what is going on, and I can at least halt the progression.
No doubt some people will have done the same or worse than me, and were able to bounce back, no problem. I was not so blessed. My body is clearly telling me "no more".
I am half Asian, and if Asians generally eat less sugar, then it makes sense that Asians probably have less tolerance to it than other ethnic groups. Studies have shown that Japanese who immigrate to Hawaii tend to develop diabetes at a much greater rate than European immigrants. Most likely due to adopting a higher sugar western diet that they have not adapted to. While I am also half German, I think I have inherited less tolerance to high carb/sugar from my Asian ancestry.
I feel lucky that I can do something about this before I do develop metabolic syndrome. No doubt if I had developed detectable levels of insulin resistance, everyone would have said it was my genes. "She worked out, ate low fat and healthy, and still got diabetes." "Oh that's a shame, just can't fight genetics."
I think perhaps I have more of a propensity towards insulin resistance, but I refuse to accept this as my inexorable fate. Not after what I have seen with my own eyes.
So now I am steadily losing weight by cutting out starchy carbs, which was the hidden form of sugar I didn't pay attention to. Some skeptics say it is just water weight loss. No doubt some of it is water weight - insulin has the effect of making your kidneys store more water and salt than it should. But here is my evidence that it is something more:
- My measurements are shrinking. I've gone from 33inch waist to 29inch. While I don't have quite a washboard, my stomach is looking more flat, rather than distended.
- Lean mass is holding stable. No drop in muscle, according to my data.
- I fit into a pair of jeans I haven't worn since college.
- My bra fits evenly across my back, without squeezing fat.
- Stretch marks.
If I'm feeling less shy about it, I'll share some before/after photos later. Right now, I'm just holding them private, as proof and motivation that I am on the right track.
The stretchmarks are bothersome. I look at them and sigh. However, as unsightly as they are, I am looking at them like tree rings. They have a story to tell. Abusing my metabolism, and arrogance of my youth. Bad choices.
But I also intend for them to tell a story of redemption and hope.
Thursday, June 09, 2011
Yesterday, we both had long days at work, the kitchen was a mess, and I didn't have anything ready to cook. We decided to go out for BBQ, then go for a walk on the beach. I ordered pork ribs, collards, and cole slaw. I checked the BBQ sauces, and they were all loaded with sugar. I decided to do without. The pork ribs were the meaty country style, with four ribs.
A really strange thing happened. I ate two ribs, then I suddenly couldn't eat anymore. It wasn't my stomach. Usually when I overate, my stomach was distended, and I felt like I was going to "explode". This time, something in my *brain* flicked off. I looked at the ribs remaining on my plate, and they didn't look appetizing. My brain said, "No more." I didn't feel sick or overstuffed, I just felt *done*.
I asked for a box. Normally when waiting for a box, I would continue to pick at what was on my plate. It used to drive me crazy. Why couldn't I stop picking at the food? Why couldn't I control myself? This time, I just felt done. I didn't pick at it. I didn't obsess about it. The meal was over.
The low-carb diet is very new to me, and I am approaching it with the eye of a scientist, trying to observe and record.
My theory is when I was in a state of elevated insulin load, and a moderate state of insulin resistance, my hunger and satiety signals weren't quite working the way they were supposed to. Insulin is the hormone that drives hunger. When my insulin was always elevated due to the amount of carbs I was eating, I don't think my satiety switch for being full ever went off. I just ate and ate until my stomach became engorged.
I bought a carton of omega-3 enriched eggs. This morning, I made an over easy egg to go with my leftover pork ribs for breakfast. Can I say how natural it feels to eat complete foods? No separating the egg yolks for the whites. Just cook it and eat it whole. It feels more natural, than to constantly be working on how to eliminate the fat.
I removed the meat from the bones and weighed it. About 3oz. WOW! My satiety switch for last night's meat went off at the exact right amount of protein. I did not overeat. My natural hunger and fullness signals worked just like they are supposed to, and I didn't count a single calorie at dinner!
Now the strange thing is yesterday I was pretty darn hungry all day, even though I didn't eat any high glycemic foods, and my carb count was very low. But my hunger was telling me my insulin load was a little high. Strange. I did a search for "low carb hunger". What I found is a theory that because I have been overweight for a very long time, and have overeaten carbs for a very long time, my pancreas is overshooting my insulin load. When you get ready for a meal, your pancreas releases insulin BEFORE you start eating in anticipation of a meal. This is to prevent your blood sugar from spiking to dangerous levels. Since I have been a chronic overeater, my pancreas has adjusted to releasing a lot of insulin to handle blood sugar. Now that I have cut back my starchy carbs (which for all intensive purpose is equivalent to sugar), my pancreas is overshooting the amount of insulin needed. The result is, I'm feeling hungry. In the short term, this actually temporarily increases my insulin resistance.
I'm now trying to treat my overweight status as a 'medical' issue. I am ill. My metabolism is not working the way it should. The bad news is, I have done damage to myself, and I need time to reverse it. The good news is, my body is responding.
My metabolic programming is broken. Fortunately, I am a programmer. I can reprogram this. I just had to learn a lot more about biochemistry than I ever thought I needed!
For now, I will continue what I'm doing. I'm trusting that my pancreas will learn that it doesn't need so much insulin any more, and will adjust. In the meantime, I will treat the excess insulin with low intensity exercise. Gary Taubes says exercise doesn't matter for fat loss, but I disagree. Exercise does have the effect of lowering insulin, and correcting insulin resistance. Too much intense exercise can be counter productive, though. For the moment, I think low to moderate exercise with strength training is the appropriate remedy.
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
“I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” - Jimmy Dean
I am 88lbs of pure MUSCLE!
Yeah, not very impressive, is it? I'm petite at 5'0", but this still sounds puny. Bleh!
And I've got 41lbs of pure FAT!
Bleh, bleh, bleh!
Once I figured out my numbers of lean mass, I immediately started considering whether I should work on building more muscle first, or lose continue shedding fat.
Muscle will definitely improve my metabolism, but in order to do significant gains, I would have to increase my calories. Can't gain muscle in a calorie deficit. Anyone who says otherwise is mistaken. The only case where that is true is someone who is extremely out of shape and very overweight. The body will compensate by adding more muscle, even when in deficit.
It's summer time, so I've decided that I will continue focusing on shedding fat, and I'll just accept I'll be a runt for a little while. I'm hoping to set my goal weight to 110lbs. At the end of summer, I'll work on adding body mass.
Yes, 110 is very small. Before anyone gets concerned about it, I'm 5'0". I have 88lbs lean mass. 110lbs is 21% bodyfat, which is the lower end of normal.
While many girls would love to be that tiny, I do not. I'd rather have more muscle. I'm active, and I'd love to be a pseudo athlete. I'd rather be sleek and lean like a cheetah.
So my goal for the summer term is 88lbs muscle/22lbs fat ~ 110lbs.
In the winter, I will get a personal trainer to help me bulk up properly. Not that I will not be 'bulky' muscle like a man. I'm a woman. I lack testosterone to get the BIG muscles. I will just get tighter and leaner, like a cheetah.
The women you see with really huge, man-like muscles have to do it by taking steroids. Or they are a transsexual. Lay off the steroids if you don't want to look like a man, but pick up the weights.
[Edit: Some women may big up more easily, but this is generally not the norm.]
I am positive that I now know the correct formula to shed fat. It requires some sacrifice.
I see myself as a pseudo athlete, not a runway model.
I want to look like this:
So it starts with this:
To be healthy, do this:
I am active, so I am healthy. But I am still fat. I have learned that body shape really is 80% what goes in here:
In order to get this:
I have discovered I need to get rid of this:
Sure I enjoy bread, pasta, and rice. Rice being my favorite of the three. But I have discovered that I don't need it. The most nutritious slice of bread cannot compete with a big bowl of salad for vitamins, mineral and nutrition. I have also discovered that I don't want it as much as this:
If all it takes is ditching the grains and starches, all I can say is, I wish I had done it sooner. I wish I had not banged my head against brick walls. I wish I had not continued to try to force a square in a round hole. My dietary component was just wrong, wrong, wrong for my goals.
My goal was always just over the horizon. All I had to do was adjust my sail.
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