Monday, June 20, 2011
First, before we start our regularly scheduled program, a few updates.
One, I am semi-retiring from the message boards. Given certain recent events, it is clear that my new diet falls under the 'fad diet' category, and is not allowed on the general message board forums.
First, I'd like to show you an example of my 'fad diet' meal.
This is mixed green, kale, cucumber, bell pepper, guacamole, and blue cheese salad with grilled london broil strips. Handful of grapes and pineapple. Manhattan clam chowder.
Please compare this with the new USDA Food plate:
What am I missing here? Oh no, I forgot the bread. And my clam chowder is supposed to be a glass of skim milk.
This is about 465 calories. We went for a walk on the beach after lunch, and this is good quality fuel. If I followed the guidelines, I'd cut my vegetable portion down in order to make room for the bread. I'd be adding another 120 calories from the bread. I estimate I'd be at 545 calories if I removed a quarter of my veggies, and added a 1 oz slice of bread. So I'd be cutting my nutrients down, and getting more calories.
An additional 1/4 plate of veggies is way more nutrient packed than a slice of bread. And fewer calories. I tell people on the message boards that if they need to reduce calories and hunger, they should skip the bread and pasta. This causes outrage, and labels me a fad dieter.
I got this from the Whole Foods salad bar. When I went to pay, the checkout girl remarked at how incredibly healthy and delicious my lunch looked. She had no idea I was a low carber. Does it matter?
Anyway, I am moving my food log over to LiveStrong. I like their food tracker better. I am also moving my community involvement to Mark's Daily Apple. I think they can help me with my transition to my new diet. I am Vhalkyrie in both places, if you are also members.
I'm afraid that I have moved away from Spark's dietary message, and they are making it clear that differing ideas are not welcome. I didn't know when signing up it was their way or no way. They are the host, though, so I will oblige.
I am going to continue blogging on Spark. If you like my blogs, please make sure to add me as a Spark friend, as I may soon be changing it to private status. I will also remain active on my Spark teams.
------ Back to our regularly scheduled programming
Saturday, June 18, 2011
I have never been vegetarian, but I have skirted the edges several times. I heard about this book first from reading Dr. Mike Eades blog. His book "Protein Power" is referenced several times in "The Vegetarian Myth". He never consulted with the author when she was writing this, so he was flattered and surprised to be mentioned.
It sounded interesting, but I decided to read it on the recommendation of Spark friend ANDREA409. If you haven't already, go to her blog and read her personal story reading this book.
I don't intend for this blog to be a book review, so much as commentary. I took notes while reading, so I may be coming back with a more review type blog later.
The background you need to know going into this is the author, Lierre Keith, was a 20 year strict vegan. She writes about her philosophy as a vegan, feminist, environmentalist, philanthropist, and animal rights activist.
She then eviscerates every argument for vegetarianism and veganism. I mean, it is brutal. It is total annihilation that can only come from a fallen angel. It is her painful account, in both body and soul, that human beings were meant to eat other animals. There is no other way. Not if you want to be alive.
I have skirted near vegetarianism, but I lacked the conviction to truly take the plunge long term. I found keeping track of my macronutrients to be too difficult, as well as all the supplements. The supplements bothered me. If we have to take that many supplements, is it truly a healthy diet?
I never considered veganism because of the pesky B12 problem. B12 is an essential vitamin. And I do mean essential. If we do not get B12, we risk severe brain and nervous system damage. This damage is irreversible. It was enough to scare me away from even dabbling with veganism. B12 is produced by a bacteria. Animal protein like cows, sheep, lamb, chicken, eggs, and fish contain these bacterias that produce B12. We eat these animals, and we get the B12. There is no other way. Even if you take a B12 vitamin supplement, it is still cultured from this bacteria. A non plant source.
Then there is the problem that I, personally, have never known anyone who was a truly healthy vegetarian or vegan. I do not mean that disparagingly. But in my personal circle, the vegetarians and vegans I know are seriously ill. My vegan friend is morbidly obese, and anemic. No doubt vegans will say she is doing it wrong, and I can agree with that.
The times I have skirted near vegetarianism is during times of despair. Despair that I would never lose this stupid weight. The diet isn't working, maybe vegetarian is the answer. So I skirt close, then fall off. I lack the conviction.
I have never felt particularly guilty about eating meat. I take a native American approach. Thank the animal for its life. It is prey, and I am built with the digestive system of a predator. Prey is life, and it deserves respect. I long ago reconciled there is an order. A balance.
My western astrological sign is libra. My Asian astrological sign is a tiger. I am a libra-tiger. As a scientifically minded person, logically, astrology seems like mythology. However, I very strikingly fit the descriptions for both.
Libra: A very strong sense of justice, order and balance.
Tiger: Empathetic. Loyal. Independent and strong willed. Live by a personal code of honor and moral compass.
More scientifically, my personality profile on the Meyer's-Brigg scale is INFJ. Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Judge. This is the rarest personality profile - only 1% of the population. Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi, and Carl Jung were all INFJ.
So what is an INFJ? They are called counselor idealists. Highly empathetic and loyal. Very strong sense of justice, order, and balance. Independent and strong willed. Live by a personal code of honor and moral compass.
Coincidence? Uncanny and weird, and I can't even make sense of it. But there it is.
Taking up the cause of animal rights would seem a natural fit. So why was I never really vegetarian?
Maybe because I am a tiger, and I have an instinct that I could not deviate from. Every time I strayed, I got yanked back.
Factory farming is a horrific practice that needs to ends. But undergoing protein starvation is not the way to do it. I want animals to be raised in humane conditions. My grandma grew up on a farm that had its own self sustaining ecosystem. Cows and chickens. Milk and eggs. Dogs to chase foxes away. Cats to eat mice. A vegetable patch. They traded many items for others that they needed.
As factory farming is inhumane and unnatural, so is industrial agriculture. Land that is stripped of grass and trees, and planted with corn and soy destroys the soil. The soil is fertilized with nitrogen made from fossil fuels. This land is barren without the chemical fertilizers.
One of my favorite sci-fi books is "Years of Rice and Salt" by Kim Stanley Robinson. It is an alternate history story about what if the black plague wiped out the populations of Europe, and the dominate religions of the world were Buddhism and Islam?
There is one part in particular that stuck out at me. There is a passage in the Koran that is often misunderstood, and is used by radical Islam to promote misogyny and oppression of women. Mohammad said, "Treat your women as you would the soil beneath your feet."
As Westerners, this sounds horrific, right? Barbaric!
No. He was speaking to a group of farmers. He was telling them that soil that is healthy and rich with life, will grow life in which to feed ourselves. Soil that is mistreated, abused, and untended will not grow life. It will not prosper.
He was telling the men that women grow life, just as soil grows life. All life depends on the foundation. For plants, it is good soil. For humans, it is healthy and happy women.
This has been perverted by radicals, because we have lost the meaning of where life comes from. This statement has the wrong meaning for them because their land is already dead.
Soil is the bedrock of life. Modern agriculture strips the soil of life, and it subsists on life support with industrial chemicals. This is unsustainable. The age of fossil fuels is ending, and it will happen in our lifetimes. 2050, and crude oil is exhausted. Nuclear energy cannot power tractors. It cannot create the chemical nitrogen that our corn fields currently limp along.
Promoting agriculture as the savior of animals is noble, but horribly misguided. The fertile crescent where agriculture began is roughly in modern Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Turkey and Iran. It is now desert, due to stripping the land of its fertility, and not putting back into the land what was taken. It is barren.
There is a way to do crops and livestock sustainably, for us to get back in harmony with nature, but I'll save that for another blog topic. Also, the author goes into this in excruciating detail.
The message of the book is if we love animals, and are environmentalists, then we should be fighting for sustainable farms using crop rotation instead of chemicals. We should be encouraging livestock raised in free range. We cannot change our biology, as much as we wish we could.
One thing that I wonder if my vegan friends have considered is, what if they succeeded? What if we were all vegan?
They are not saving the lives of cows, chickens and pigs. Cows, chickens and pigs would no longer serve any purpose, and would stop being raised. These domesticated animals have become dependent on us. Most of them could not survive on their own anymore. They are available in numbers because we need them for food. And they need us. Otherwise, they would serve no purpose, and they would be extinct.
Don't believe me? Did you know that the clydesdale horse is at risk of becoming an endangered species? They did not have much purpose after the rise of the automobiles.
Cows and chickens that were not raised for food would cease to exist at all. Who would tend them? Who would care for them? Why would you?
Great book. Highly recommended.
Friday, June 17, 2011
I read Spark's article on the new USDA "MyPlate", and just sighed. Of all the articles I've read lately about it, Spark seems to be the only one with a generally favorable opinion.
Compare the Spark and LiveStrong articles regarding "MyPlate"
I agree with LiveStrong that "MyPlate" is not really different than the old pyramid, it is just packaged different. It is the same old advice that made many of us fat. Protein represents a horrifically minuscule portion of the plate. Grains still take up too much, especially if we are supposed to eat it 3 times per day.
This thing really cost $2 million dollars?
You have to realize what a really huge paradigm shift I have gone through. Just 2 months ago, I was an ardent believer in this. I believed that a low fat diet was the healthiest diet. I believed that I wasn't losing weight because I just wasn't following it strictly enough. It wasn't working, so I decided to go more flexitarian. I eliminated most animal proteins from breakfast and lunch. I only ate animal protein at dinner.
This made me protein deficient.
And now, I am a dietary apostate.
I finally got my weight and appetite under control. I feel more balanced. Being a libra, this is pretty important!
I eliminated the grain group entirely. Protein takes up about 1/4 -1/2 of the plate. Veggies take up the rest. Fruit and dairy are eaten once per day.
According to the government MyPlate, my diet wouldn't be balanced. Grains are not an essential food group. Are we really supposed to drink a cup of milk with each meal? The ADA and AHA fail to mention for kids servings, a chocolate milk in school lunch contains almost 30g of sugar from high fructose corn syrup. A regular glass of milk contains 11g sugar from lactose. They say this is ok because it is more important for the kids to drink milk.
No. This much sugar is making our kids obese and heading down the path to Type 2 diabetes as young as 13.
While Spark and the government emphasize that this is a good diet for "most" people, it doesn't say who this wouldn't work for.
I'd say this dietary advice might work for most people, who are not overweight, and do not have insulin related issues. That excludes most of America that is overweight.
I am clearly not "most" people. I had to go out and search for the proper diet for me. After years and years of following this advice and not getting anywhere, I abandoned ship.
As a society, we have a tendency to apostatize people who go their own way. Most of us recognize that diets like HCG are sketchy, but people still do it. Why?
I am not so cynical. I do not think these people are stupid. I do not think they weren't trying hard enough. I think they tried the approved low fat diets we are all supposed to follow. They were left uncontrollably hungry, and did not lose weight. They blamed themselves and their lack of willpower.
HCG is doctor supervised, btw. Not saying that means it is good. I would not do it myself. I think it shows that people honestly want to follow doctor's advice, even if this one seems a bit tenuous.
Why are low carb diets still shunned by the medical community?
Low carb diets still carry a stigma. My diet of protein and a half plate of vegetables is only unhealthy if you buy into fat in foods makes us fat. It does not.
When I first started my diet, my fiance was extremely concerned. I posted a picture of my progress on my Facebook recently, and friends immediately wanted to know "my secret". When I told them, they seemed shocked. It was not the answer they were expecting. More protein and veggies. No grains, starches, or sugars. What about fat? I eat plenty of fat. About 40-50%.
Let me show you a representation of what I eat.
Smoked salmon salad with avocado
Roast chicken breast (with skin) and broccoli and snap peas with real butter
Roast chicken salad with avocado and cheese.
Cheese and onion omelet (whole egg) with avocado and tomato.
This food leaves me feeling nourished. I don't see anything unhealthy about it. When you count it up, it comes out to about 40-50% fat, though. The ADA and AHA say this is dangerous.
They say I should be getting fatter eating this much fat. But I am losing fat, gaining muscle.
They say my heart arteries should be ready to explode. My resting heart rate, a sign of fitness, has dropped. Lance Armstrong purportedly has a resting heart rate of 35bpm. Mine isn't that good. It has dropped from about 76 bpm to 60bpm. My heart is stronger, pumping more blood, more efficiently. A sign of lower blood pressure.
They say the weight I have lost on low carb is only water weight loss. Does this look like it is just water weight?
2 Months Ago:
2 Days Ago:
So water weight made me look fat? Not bodyfat? I lost about 8% of fatty water so far, then. And still going.
I keep hearing stories about people who are getting better on low carb diets. I hear a few stories every once in a while of people who said it didn't work for them. Overall, though, I am hearing people who say it does.
My fiance, the skeptic, is even coming around. He eats at Wendy's almost every day for lunch. His typical lunch was a small chicken side salad and a baked potato. This is a perfect match, according to the government "MyPlate". Vegetable, protein, and a starch.
He would come home from work, ravenously hungry, and literally start tearing our cupboards apart looking for snacks. This used to drive me insane, as I was usually cooking dinner.
I told him to skip the large starchy carbohydrates. He could have a large chicken salad, but skip the baked potato. He could have a double cheeseburger, but no french fries. Diet Coke only. He thought it was crazy and ridiculous, but he tried it.
Last night during dinner, he admitted to me that he isn't ravenously hungry when he gets home anymore. He said I was onto something. He is a lot more willing to hear my ideas and what I have learned.
That testimonial is a huge boost to keep me going. It makes being a dietary apostate worth it.
Note: As always, this refers to people who have no underlying health conditions. See your doctor if you are taking medications before making changes to your diet.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
A long time ago, I didn't understand the whole low carb thing. I had an image of people eating gobs of bunless burgers, bacon, and no vegetables. I didn't think that could be good.
Now that I am a convert, I still don't think that is a good idea. Overeating anything is bad. And we need our veggies.
All of the things I have been reading lately really changed my mind about our species, and the way we are supposed to eat. Our digestive tract is short, more like a true carnivore - canines and felines. Herbivores have a very long digestive tract. The thing that makes us omnivores is we have lost the ability to synthesize our own vitamin C. Most other mammals can synthesize vitamin C in the liver. We have to get vitamin C from plants and fruit. However, there is an exception. Inuit eskimos are able to get vitamin C from eating raw seal meat.
I remember not so long ago being jealous of a friend who could seemingly eat anything. Whole milk in her coffee. Hamburgers. Hot dogs. Bacon. Cheese and sausage plates. Lots of stuff we deem to be "bad". That should have been my first clue. Maybe it should have donned on me, if she is eating all that "bad" food, staying trim and healthy, then maybe it isn't actually bad. Maybe my low-fat cottage cheese that always leaves me hungry is bad.
The muted appetite is still something of a surprise to me. After being nutritionally starved for over 10 years, I seem to be at a loss on what to do without ravenous hunger. I'm not hungry, should I still eat? How do I know when I should eat? On some days if I followed only my appetite, it would leave me very low calorie. Is this still ok? I don't know. I am at a loss. This is uncharted territory.
Overeating is a bit more straightforward. It is very hard for me to overeat now. I noticed something clicks off in my brain when I'm done eating. I have recently learned what that "something" is. It is called leptin. Leptin suppresses appetite. It does indeed flip a switch in the brain saying, "I'm done".
Insulin resistance and leptin resistance go hand in hand. If you are constantly hungry, overeat, and can't stop when you are overfull, your leptin responders aren't working properly. Constantly elevated insulin seems to mask leptin. This is an imbalance our body doesn't know how to handle. Insulin resistance comes from overeating sugars, and never before in our evolutionary past have we had such a vast amount of sugar available, in either table sugar or bread form. Especially not high fructose corn syrup.
For many people like myself with this situation, a low grain/low sugar diet comprised of mostly protein and vegetables might correct this situation. My insulin levels are lower. My leptin seems to be working again. Fixing my blood sugar balance fixed my leptin.
For others, it gets more tricky. Especially for post menopausal women.
I found this interesting passage on Wikipedia about this:
"In addition to white adipose tissue—the major source of leptin—it can also be produced by brown adipose tissue, placenta (syncytiotrophoblasts), ovaries, skeletal muscle, stomach (lower part of fundic glands), mammary epithelial cells, bone marrow, pituitary and liver.
The absence of leptin (or its receptor) leads to uncontrolled food intake and resulting obesity. Several studies have shown that fasting or following a very-low-calorie diet (VLCD) lowers leptin levels. It might be that on short-term leptin is an indicator of energy balance. This system is more sensitive to starvation than to overfeeding; leptin levels change more when food intake decreases than when it increases. It might be that the dynamics of leptin due to an acute change in energy balance are related to appetite and eventually to food intake. Although this is a new hypothesis, there are already some data that support it.
There is some controversy regarding the regulation of leptin by melatonin during the night. One research group suggested that increased levels of melatonin caused a downregulation of leptin. However, in 2004, Brazilian researchers found that melatonin increases leptin levels in the presence of insulin, therefore causing a decrease in appetite during sleeping."
This seems to be how starvation diets and fasting wreck your metabolism. It lowers your leptin. Lower leptin compels you to eat more. This is the binge that plagues every anorexic. This is a survival mechanism. You're starving, so go find food. Low leptin plus elevated insulin levels prevents your body from accessing stored bodyfat. So you are forced to stuff yourself with any food you can find. How to correct this? I don't know. If it were me, I suppose I would keep calories high, and try pushing that insulin level down even further with very low carb temporarily. (My opinion, not medical advice. See your doctor first if you have any underlying conditions before making changes to your diet.)
The last paragraph says if you aren't sleeping well, your leptin isn't working. It is a vicious can't-win-for-losing cycle. Can't sleep well, so you can't lose weight. Can't lose weight because you can't sleep well. And if you are post menopausal, your ovaries aren't helping to produce leptin anymore.
It is also circulates in proportion to bodyfat. The more bodyfat you have, the longer it will take for leptin resistance to correct itself. Again, vicious circle.
Also, exercise does not have statistically meaningful effect on leptin levels. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, but it does not increase leptin sensitivity. Exercise can improve bodyfat loss, and the bodyfat loss is what helps leptin sensitivity. Overtraining exercise stimulates cortisol, which prevents fat loss. So exercise, but don't overtrain.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
There is some debate on whether you can lose weight on diet alone, and if exercise is less important. Gary Taubes says exercise doesn't really matter for weight loss.
I say, it depends.
I agree that nutrition is the first place to start. If you want to change your body, you have to change what you eat. "You are what you eat" is absolutely true. What you eat makes up your mitochondria.
However, exercise is also a part of the equation. Here is why. I've been sharing my revelation that elevated insulin levels makes us fat. Insulin is NOT just important to diabetics. If you have weight to lose, you have to pay attention to your blood sugar.
For some people, all they have to do is modify their diet slightly, exercise more, and they are on their way.
Some of us have damaged our insulin receptors. What does that mean? It means when you eat a cookie, your blood sugar rises. Your pancreas releases insulin to make your cells absorb the sugar. Except if your insulin receptors are damaged, they don't respond properly. So the pancreas sends even more insulin to wake them up. You get Type 2 diabetes when your insulin receptors refuse to respond at all, your pancreas can't produce enough insulin to wake them up, causing blood sugar to spiral out of control.
What's the number one cause of insulin receptor damage? Sugar abuse. For me, it was 2 years straight of Big Gulps and chain restaurants. Those mere 2 years was enough to send me into obesity, and 8+ years trying to right this ship.
Changing to a low carb diet causes my insulin levels to drop. Less sugary foods (even from whole grains) means my pancreas gets a break. However, there's still the pesky problem of the sleepy insulin receptors. With slow insulin receptors, even minor levels of carbs could stall weight loss, or heaven forbid, cause weight gain.
You can repair insulin receptor damage with nutrition to some degree. Citrus peel is one supposed remedy. Good thing I drink water flavored with a lemon wedge every day, all day long. I drink it because I like it, but if it has a health benefit, even better.
However, exercise is the best remedy. Even if you don't change anything about your diet, exercise will improve insulin sensitivity. This is why some people are able to just start moving, and they will lose weight.
Some of us, unfortunately, require more intervention. In my case, even complex carbohydrates was enough to stall my progress. I have to limit carbs to vegetables and limited fruit. Grains and starches are off the plate at the moment. It all depends on the degree of damage.
Here is an article for reference on exercise improving insulin resistance. This study was for obese adolescents, but I'm certain it holds true for adults. We just don't bounce back as fast as the kids.
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