VHALKYRIE   16,233
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Can Diet Soda Make You Hungry?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I've read several reports recently that said diet soda can still make people fat. The sweet taste drives a hunger response even though there are no calories. The ensuing hunger may cause them to overeat.

I didn't pay much attention. Diet sodas are safe for diabetic because they don't cause a blood glucose rise. If they don't cause blood glucose to rise, then they should be safe for me, too, because I'm not diabetic. Or so I thought.

However, over the past July 4th weekend, I may have changed my mind.

We stayed near Miami for the weekend. My husband and I took a day trip down to the Florida Keys on one of the days. We relaxed in the oh-so-blue-and-clear water, wandered around Key West, then headed back towards Miami. We stopped a seafood restaurant on the waterfront for dinner around sunset.

I ordered peel and eat shrimp, bowl of conch chowder, and a side salad. I avoided an alcoholic beverage (though I wanted one) because it was very hot and I was a touch dehydrated. I ordered a diet Coke, which they gave me in a large 16oz glass. I don't drink much diet soda these days, but we were on 'vacation'. The 'sweet' and saltiness of the diet Coke was very satisfying. I slurped down two of them.

The next morning, I woke up with insatiable hunger. The type where I would eat anything if I could get my hands on it. The uncontrollable type where I couldn't stop myself if wanted to. I never get hungry like that anymore. I only get like that if I eat a monster dessert or a big plate of pasta. I had neither the day before. What the heck?

I woke the DH and said I was hungry. He grumbled like a sleepy bear, and put the pillow over his head. Ok, breakfast was on my own. I made my way to a Whole Foods. The breakfast counter wasn't quite ready, and I was nearly out of my mind. I paced the store like a tiger waiting for feeding time at the zoo.

Snarl. Whine. Grrrrr.

Finally, the buffet was filled. I grabbed two hard boiled eggs, a fairly normal breakfast for me. They didn't have any bacon or fruit, so I just made off with the eggs. Two eggs are normally plenty to leave me feeling full at breakfast. When I get hunger cravings at home, eating a homemade pickled egg usually does the trick.

Except two eggs did absolutely nothing to lower my hunger levels this time. I still felt like I hadn't eaten at all.

Desperation. What do I do? Get more eggs, which were the only protein choice on the breakfast buffet that morning?

I decided to buy a package of buffalo jerky. I ate a plains Indian breakfast that morning - eggs and buffalo jerky. The Apache probably had a water skin instead of my Americano, though.

It was an 8oz package of buffalo jerky. I devoured about half of it.

And...it worked. My hunger was finally under control. I regained lucid thoughts that didn't involve food. 2 eggs and an extra full serving size of 4oz protein was way more than my usual breakfast.

Today, I had one over easy egg and a 2oz piece of leftover pork from last night. I feel satisfied - it's enough. I effectively ate double that after my mysterious hunger surge last weekend.

Now I tried to think, what the heck happened? What set that off?

My meals the day before:

Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1oz strip of ham, handful of berries.
Lunch: Salad greens with strawberries, salami and cheese antipasti (4oz), handful of cherries.
Dinner: Peel and eat shrimp (8oz), conch chowder and side salad.

I didn't feel hungry at all during the day. It was pretty normal. No carby, sugary trigger foods...

Oh wait.

The diet Coke?

I must have drank 32 oz of it with dinner. I rarely ever drink that much. I drink it on occasion, but I don't like massive quantities of artificial sweeteners on a regular basis. But I was hot, and I remembered the sweet/saltiness being very refreshing...

I believe that tripped an insulin surge, even though I didn't have anything carby/sugary. If I drank a small glass, maybe I would have had a little extra hungriness that would never register on my radar as being unusual. The quantity I drank was unusual, and may have caused a very noticeable response.

Going back to my recent blog themes about taking notes and learning what your body is communicating, this one is definitely going down in my register. I do not like that out of control hunger. It is why I've stuck with and enjoyed eating low-carb. I don't get that way anymore. I don't like being unable to focus on anything else but eating.

I was weening myself off diet sodas before, but now I am more wary of them. I won't be so quick to dismiss the studies about them driving hunger, even in the absence of calories anymore.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BTVMADS 7/14/2012 8:53AM

    I went through a similar scenario with my morning coffee. Because I use sweetener in my coffee, I never drink it unless I've also had a high protein, low-carb breakfast OR I'm about to go for a run. A coffee is nowhere NEAR the amount of "sugar" in a diet soda, yet I can still feel a sizable impact on my hunger levels for the rest of the morning. I can only imagine what it's like for folks who drink diet soda all day long -- their bodies must go through chaos.

Which reminds me, did you read about the girl who was hospitalized for an addition to Coca-cola? As if we needed proof that so much caffeine and corn syrup is detrimental.... http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepag

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 7/14/2012 4:55AM

    Non-nutritive sweeteners trigger cravings and often binges later in the day for me.

A diet coke for lunch can set me up for a night-eating binge in the evening.

The only time I can drink diet sodas safely is at night, and I suspect it's because I'm asleep during the time the craving would normally be happening.

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VHALKYRIE 7/13/2012 9:33AM

    BESTMEICANB80: I was really surprised about my reaction. I can't say for sure that was it, but at this point, it is the most likely suspect. This morning I ate a 2 egg omelet and I'm full. That's normal for me. That day last weekend, I was out of control and the 2 eggs did nothing for my hunger. I'm certainly going to make more of an effort to stick with non-cola choices from here on out.

NEILITHICMAN: I always enjoy reading your comments! That's really interesting about the caffeine. I wonder if it revs up your metabolism, causing you to feel less hungry! I have a cup of coffee every morning, but I usually don't have any more caffeine for the rest of the day. My next substance is usually a glass of wine or beer in the evening, but that has more of a sedating effect, rather than wind up!

WOUBBIE: Hmmm! Very interesting! I'm not sure on the mechanism yet, but I am now a believer on the circumstantial evidence.

Comment edited on: 7/13/2012 9:36:52 AM

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WOUBBIE 7/12/2012 11:46PM

    Really interesting. I was just reading the other day about how artificial sweeteners trigger short chain fatty acids, which then act to fool your body into thinking it's not full yet. So. Totally believable.

Here's one source:


Comment edited on: 7/12/2012 11:47:10 PM

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TOWHEE 7/12/2012 11:02PM

    I've found that diet cola makes me hungrier. There are only certain times that I have one and I have to be careful about managing the 'munchies'.

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NEILITHICMAN 7/12/2012 5:36PM

    Always enjoy your blogs. For me personally I find it depends on how much caffene is in the drink. Diet drinks do seem to increase my hunger but if it's diet energy drinks like red bull or V then the high levels of caffene seems to kill off the appetite. I try to avoid any type of soft drinks if I can and I prefer to make my own lemon, ginger and honey green tea, but some days when I'm really struggling to stay awake I'll get an energy drink.

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CAROLJEAN64 7/12/2012 4:20PM

    I love the way you are sharing your experiences of listening to and figuring out what your body is saying and I'm extra glad I didn't get the 24 oz. drink with my lunch. Instead DH and I both a quart of lowfat chocolate milk and I drank about 8 oz. ate half my grilled chicken sandwich and feel full. It's good to know I won't have binge fever tomorrow.

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BESTMEICANB80 7/12/2012 3:27PM

    wow that is very interesting...i'm glad you shared this!! I am a caffeine addict, I love coffee with sugar and sodas. I've been trying for years to quit them, and more and more every day I am trying to harder than ever before. This is just one more reason for me quit them. Now that you mention this, I too notice that the weeks I don't drink soda at all my hunger is much easier to satisfy. When I drink coffee or sodas, I seem to be hungry all the time!! You are so right on with a journal, I used to keep one, sounds like i'll be starting one up again!! emoticon

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TRIANGLE-WOMAN 7/12/2012 2:21PM

    Sounds like you handled it well.

I know that I adore Diet Orange Crushes...so I stay away from them...I'm learning that anything that I "crave" is a warning flag to stay away!

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VHALKYRIE 7/12/2012 12:48PM

    SALONKITTY: I've been pondering whether the 'sweet' taste triggers the pancreas, or whether it happens when something sweet reacts to enzymes in the stomach. I'm not really sure. I'm thinking it is enzymes because fructose tastes sweet, but doesn't cause an insulin release like glucose. So I don't think the taste buds activate the pancreas.

BEATLETOT: Wouldn't hurt to try for a week or two, and see how you feel!

Comment edited on: 7/12/2012 12:52:11 PM

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BEATLETOT 7/12/2012 11:22AM

    Very, very interesting blog! I still drink a ton of diet soda, though I'd like to give it up...I wonder if I would feel less hungry if I didn't...I don't feel ravenous very often, but maybe...it's an intriguing thought, anyway. =)

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LADYIRISH317 7/12/2012 10:12AM

    I've quit the diet soda entirely.

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JUSTBIRDY 7/12/2012 9:59AM

    Every once in awhile I drink a diet Coke and am immediately reminded why I gave it up. I really don't feel well quite a while after drinking it. SOOOOO glad I ditched it. I used to have two diet cokes a day.

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EATNBOOGERS 7/12/2012 9:32AM

    Very interesting...

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BILL60 7/12/2012 9:31AM


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SALONKITTY 7/12/2012 9:17AM

    I thought that diet sodas made me feel hungrier a couple years back when I was drinking them regularly. Is it just the sweet taste? Or does it have to do with the chemicals they contain? Anyway, good on you for identifying the culprit and looking further into it. Oh, and I wondered about the chowder too, but I see that you said it was tomato based...

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VHALKYRIE 7/12/2012 9:07AM

    TAMPATINK67: Great thoughts! The chowder was tomato based, and I dipped my peel-n-eat shrimp in butter. :) This was a good quality restaurant where they catch their fish fresh daily, and used real butter. No HFCS.

Comment edited on: 7/12/2012 9:10:37 AM

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TAMPATINK67 7/12/2012 9:02AM

    was the chowder a thick cream based? if so, it may also have had a flour base to the roux... did you use the cocktail sauce with the peel and eat? if so, it was probably made with HFCS ketchup.

even if the soup was a clear broth and you skipped the cocktail sauce, I wanted to highlight those two potential areas of hidden carbs for other that may read your blog - and combined w the diet cola... I was thrilled to read that you were able to identify the trigger and manage the cravings!!!!

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JECKIE 7/12/2012 8:48AM


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AGENTMNA 7/12/2012 8:45AM

    Interesting....off to research!
BTW, great blog! emoticon

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Where Would I Be Now?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Digging through my old fitness data is eye opening. I don't have a ton of data from the early years (particularly regarding bodyfat levels and measurements), but I can make estimates.

When I weighed 160lbs, I wore size 14 pants.

~ 7/2003
Starting Weight: 160lbs
Waist: ~34"
Hips: ~44"
Bodyfat: 42%
Lean Mass: ~93lbs

A personal trainer at the gym took my caliper readings in 2009:

Starting Weight: 131lbs
Bodyfat: 33%
Lean Mass: 88lbs
Size: 8

I lost weight, however, I also lost about 5lbs of lean mass. I engaged in plenty of exercise, riding my bike 1 hour every day after work. Exercise was not able to prevent lean mass wasting.

I started more closely watching lean mass and bodyfat last year. One reason is because low-carb diets were a big unknown to me at that time. I read that the drops in weight were purely due to water loss, and not really fat. The only way for me to be sure was to start tracking the data.

Gym caliper readings so I had a start point:

Weight: 134.4
Bodyfat: 35.72%
Lean Mass: 86.4lbs

Very bad news. Since my reading in 2009, I was getting fatter, and still losing precious lean mass. My blood pressure was also getting worse. Diet and exercise were failing me.

Was it age related slowing metabolism? I was 29 in 2003, and 37 in 2011. No matter how many calories I counted or calories I burned, was I doomed to lose mass and gain fat?

After 2 months of cutting carbs to 60-80g and making sure I always ate at least 90g protein per day, here's what happened:

Weight: 126lbs
Bodyfat: 28%
Lean Mass: ~90lbs

Couldn't gain that fast, right? Ok, what about 6 months later? Caliper readings from the gym:

By 11/2011
Weight: 126lbs
Bodyfat: 26%
Lean Mass: 93lbs

What happened here? Did I start hitting heavy weight lifting?

Actually, I didn't. My exercise was almost exclusively moderate cardio with high resistance (elliptical and treadmill with low cadence/high incline), planking, a few resistance band stretches, swimming, cycling, and hiking. Basically, what I have always done. My gains came primarily from changing my diet composition.

I lost lean mass from 2003-2011, but gained from 2011-2012. If it was simply age related genetics, then this shouldn't have happened. If carb=fat=protein in terms of energy usage, then changing my composition shouldn't have changed anything. I held my activity level and calorie total static. The only variable that changed was my diet.

I'm only one person. My experience is anecdotal. I'm not a controlled science study. I didn't have a team of scientists recording my progress. I made changes, recorded my progress, and made my own conclusion.

If I just accepted that I was doomed to get fatter and fatter no matter what, where would I be now? Probably not sitting in a size 4 pair of capris while writing this. I read recently an article from a doctor 'debunking' that low-carb diets cause fat loss. He said it is only water loss, and there's no change in lean mass.

There was some water retention loss, for sure. But going from a size 8 to a size 4 is enough water to bathe my cat in.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MUTANTQUEEN 7/12/2012 3:17PM

    Great information. Thanks so much.

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TRIANGLE-WOMAN 7/12/2012 2:15PM

    To bad we don't have a control group on our lives!

I must say, pretty compelling data! May I ask how you measured Body Fat vs. Lean mass? I'd love a reliable "at home" method to do it.

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KAYOTIC 7/12/2012 10:20AM

    Nice way to review all that info you've been tracking, looks like you have found a system that works for you!

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MRS.CARLY 7/11/2012 8:26PM

    I just did my body fat percentage testing today! No one i know personally knows their body fat Percentage, but mine is 31 %, but good news is my lean body mass is 111 pounds. I will post a blog about. I definitely want to keep my muscle mass for sure!!!

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NEILITHICMAN 7/11/2012 4:29PM

    Do you have a goal to get to in terms of % body fat or are you happy at your current level? I must admit that I never really tested my body fat percentage because I do all my working out at home and I don't have the tools to measure it. I don't like the idea of BMI because that doesn't take into account muscle mass, I play a fair bit of sport and do plenty of pretty hard exercise so I've got a pretty hefty frame and I don't think I could get down into the "healthy weight" range according to BMI. Just to give you an idea. If you google images of Dan Carter Rugby Player you'll see he's in pretty good shape. He's the same height as me and weighs 90 kilos, according to his BMI he's bordering on obese.

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WOUBBIE 7/11/2012 4:04PM

    I think it's fascinating to see your data over time! I really admire the way you never gave up looking for a solution that made sense.

Naypooie is right about promoting our successes to nay-sayers, even if it's a pain. Sure, we may come across as zealous, but I'd rather be zealous in a positive, productive, helpful way than be politically correct and useless.

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NAYPOOIE 7/11/2012 2:15PM

    BM Bill, I did not mean they literally say "kill". I have heard them say LC will raise your cholesterol and cause a heart attack, it will destroy your kidneys, your brain will starve because you have to feed it carbs. All things that would seriously impede, if not end your life.

If they were true.

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VHALKYRIE 7/11/2012 1:56PM

    CAREN_BLUEJEANS: Yes, I do have current stats. :) I've posted some of them in previous blogs, but I'll share more details in a couple weeks.

Comment edited on: 7/11/2012 10:57:10 PM

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EATNBOOGERS 7/11/2012 1:51PM

    Wow, that's a long stretch of fitness data. If nothing else, I appreciate your careful approach to all of this.

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BREWMASTERBILL 7/11/2012 12:54PM

    Jesus NAYPOOIE, you make it sound like a cult. I've never heard anyone say it will kill you. Studies show it's just no more effective than anything else. *shrug*.

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NAYPOOIE 7/11/2012 12:39PM

    And this is why we need to go out there and refute the low-carb naysayers. Yeah, it can be a pain, but otherwise how will people ever hear about low carb success? All they'll hear is that it will kill you.

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CAREN_BLUEJEANS 7/11/2012 12:19PM

    I read the title to your blog, and was delighted that you looked at your data and analyzed it to see what works for you. Have you done your stats lately?

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CATH63 7/11/2012 12:18PM

    Love it...especially the last sentence!

I've been upping my incline on the treadmill lately...hope it works as well for me!

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NWFL59 7/11/2012 12:09PM

    emoticon emoticon What you're doing is obviously working well for you! emoticon

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5 Year Sparkiversary

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I love writing in journals. Perhaps because I am an only child, writing thoughts on paper is my way of conversing with myself without looking like a lunatic. Blogging is similar, but no longer talking solely to myself.

emoticon emoticon

It's fascinating to travel back in time to see what I was thinking way back when.

Except my teenage journals. That's full of embarrassing drivel about some guy I liked, we passed notes, what did the smiley face at the end mean, did he like me, I think I liked him, and should I let him know (for the record, no, I didn't). Anne Frank diaries they were not. I grimaced at the thought that if I ever have children/grandchildren, they might find this, anticipating pearls of wisdom from grannie, and being utterly disappointed. I saved them the dishonor and quietly discarded the evidence.

On the other end of the spectrum, my journals from college were fascinating. I was quite the philosopher, as we all are at that age, I suppose.

...and then it descended into embarrassing drivel about a boyfriend. That boyfriend was so bad, I nearly gagged at how I positively beamed in my descriptions. I removed those sections and discarded them. I kept my philosophical musings. Now children and grandchildren would have to speculate on the missing pages. What secret was grandma hiding? Was there a hidden family fortune? Did grannie know who really shot Kennedy? No kids, grannie was hiding the evidence of yet another stupid boyfriend.

I went through my old Spark blogs tonight because I was looking for something I thought I wrote. I didn't find what I was looking for because I got caught up in remembering other stories. One of the surprising revelations: this month is my 5 year Sparkiversary.

I've been a member of Spark since July 3, 2007 . My first entry in August 2007 is pretty interesting. I blogged about how my rice noodle lunch left me hungry, and I vaguely had an understanding that protein might somehow help this.

My next entries aren't until November 2009. Not sure what motivated me to start writing, but it seemed I was a whirlwind. Like some kind of dietary confessional, I had to tell the story of where my weight came from.

In subsequent years, I blogged about constantly battling with my weight. I'd lose, only to regain. I told tales of losing and regaining the same 5 lbs over and over. I found tales of gaining weight over the holidays and being downtrodden.

In January 2010, I was so close to the answer I sought. I blogged about insulin, and its effect on blood sugar in even non diabetics like myself. Except I needed to take it a step further. I suppose I wasn't ready then.

I blogged about a friend's success with a low carb diet, and I wrote a rather dismissive response. I claimed that I could never give up mashed potatoes at dinner. Well, if one has to eat their own words, it's tastier if it's about food.

I found a blog that described my lean body mass when I weighed 160lbs as ~92lbs, which is exactly what it is now. Except I had 44% bodyfat then and now I have 28%. We all have killer abs underneath our fat suits, we just can't see them. I'm still working on finding mine.

I describe my discoveries with low carb and paleo. The message of these blogs written with the purpose of hoping to inspire the hopeless. If I could find a way, then anyone can. That the hungry can be well fed, and still lose weight. If diet got you into a metabolic mess, then diet can get you out. No matter what diet paradigm you chose, it requires discipline, perseverance, dedication, and commitment to the lifestyle.

I wonder what my stories this year will be...


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

Q8PRINCESS 7/15/2012 12:45AM


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YOUNGNSMYLIE 7/11/2012 8:55PM

    Happy Sparkversary to you! 44% to 28% is a great accomplishment, and keep writing those journals! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/11/2012 8:23PM

    Very nice! You have certainly helped me in this Low Carb wilderness.

Chalk up those old journals into the same category as staying with the fashions of the time....I still have picture in 70s leisure suits, 80s big hair, 90s attitude, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Then again, I read some of my musings from college and remind myself how incredibly perceptive I was!

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CATLADY52 7/11/2012 5:38PM

    Happy Spark-iversary! I never did keep a journal or diary or anything resembling them. Not because I didn't think about it, just that I was so busy living the life I did there was never the time or inclination to do so.

Enjoy your days while you can. emoticon

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WOUBBIE 7/11/2012 10:53AM



Yup. Those old journals are interesting for a bit, but definitely not something you'd like your kids to have seen. My kids already know that I wasn't actually BORN wise, I just got there one stupid mistake at a time, just lilke they will.


(Wise!? *snorts* As if.)

Comment edited on: 7/11/2012 10:53:50 AM

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JUSTBIRDY 7/11/2012 10:03AM

    happy sparkversary!!!!!! emoticon Oh, was I the one who led you to the dark side? I think I remember a mashed potato comment. I would have said that about bread two years ago myself. funny how we keep moving forward despite ourselves.

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BILL60 7/11/2012 9:30AM

    Happy Sparkversary.

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EATNBOOGERS 7/11/2012 9:04AM

    Awesome blog post, and happy Sparkversary! You definitely weren't the only one to journal about boys!

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TOOTHFUL99 7/11/2012 7:14AM

    Journals can sure help to get through tough times...even teenage angst. I learned this years ago from an English teacher who made us write in our journals everyday. Years later, I was embarrassed to read what I wrote, knowing that this poor woman had to read it. Those journals hit the trash bin.

Years later, when my kids were little, I was going through a tough time. Writing my thoughts down helped me muddle my way back to sanity. lol. Those writings went in the trash, too. I didn't want my kids to see some of the frustrations I had trying to be their mom. It wasn't them, it was me.

It seems like the only time I blog is after a big trip or when things aren't clicking for me. The bad part about blogging is that it's forever. Can't throw them away! They're out in cyberspace for all to see. I guess I think more before I type!

Happy Sparkversary!!

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SALONKITTY 7/11/2012 2:29AM

    I loved this blog! I used to keep diaries as well, but when I moved out of my family's house, I dumped them because like you, I felt they were too embarrassing. Thinking about future generations trying to guess about those missing pages from the college years made me laugh! I totally understand your motivation, though....haha. Wow, 5 years on Spark People! Happy SP Anniversary to you, and congratulations. 28% bodyfat is LOVELY! Good for you, that's a lot of hard work. emoticon

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Finding What Works for You

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I wasn't overweight as a child or teenager. I was probably a bit scrawny. I became overweight after college. Perhaps that was why I didn't fully accept that I was genetically doomed. Bad choices put me where I was; perhaps good choices could put me where I wanted to be.

When I talk about what I discovered works for me, I am not making a blanket statement that everyone should do it. If the standard American low-fat diet works for you, then I am happy for you. Honest.

My belief is if the way you are eating and exercising gets you results, then it is the right thing for you. Keep going.

If you're getting results by doing something like a HCG or Twinkie diet, my opinion is, it's your life. You're an adult and can make your own choices. I may not agree with your choice, but I can still like you, respect you, and we can be friends. My opinion, though, is that you'll lose the weight and gain it back because you took a 'magic pill' route. Losing weight is tough. Finding what your body needs is tough. If you take an easy way out, then you haven't learned anything. You still don't know what your body needs to be happy, healthy, and running in harmony.

I respect all of you and your choices, and I hope you can do the same for me.

I've been a member of Spark since 2007. If you go back through my blogs, you'll see that I was the biggest enthusiast of the low-fat diet. I believed it was the healthiest way to live, and supported by science.

My shift came around last year in 2011. It was a paradigm shift. I changed everything I thought I knew. Paleo diets I once dismissed as a fad became the centerpiece of my fitness goals.

When I write my blogs, I am writing to people who were like me. Exercised regularly, diligently counted calories, eliminated fast food and sugary drinks, and yet were hopelessly stalled. If that worked for me, I would have had no reason to look elsewhere. If regular exercise and counting calories alone is enough for you, then you have no reason to change what you're doing. My blogs are not directed at you. If it works for you, I don't want you to change what you're doing. Keep going.

For those whom it is not working, then maybe you might be able to take something away from my experience. Maybe there are pieces of information that fit. Take it away with you, adapt it, and find your own uniquely you formula.

Finding what 'works for you' requires you to be completely honest. Before proceeding, check these off:

- Exercise moderately minimum 3x per week
- Count calories and stay within limits
- Not constantly hungry. If you're eating what your body needs, you shouldn't feel hungry. Hunger doesn't mean you're losing weight - it means you're hungry.
- Not eating fast food
- Not eating junk food: cookies, crackers, potato chips, cakes, etc

If you could not answer yes to all of these, then focus on fixing that first.

If you answered yes to all of these, then here's what I suggest:

- COLLECT DATA. A food tracker is an essential tool. Tracking lets you know what your body responds to. If you answered 'yes' to the calorie count question above, then you are already doing this. Keep doing it. But instead of focusing on the calories, focus on the composition. Track your carb, fat and protein grams. The Zone diet ratios are a pretty good start point to experiment with composition - 40c/30f/30p. I use many of Spark's tools, but I also keep offline logs. I prefer the raw data so I copy to an excel spreadsheet frequently, but Spark's tools are just fine.

- TAPE MEASURE. Take measurements regularly. Fat under your skin is very dense. If you're burning fat, you'll shrink.

- TRACK BODYFAT. The bathroom scale will not give you an accurate picture of your body composition. If you don't know your lean mass, then you won't really know if the changes are working. If you don't see changes on the scale and give up, you'll never really know if you were succeeding or not. Pick a method of tracking bodyfat and stick with it. It doesn't matter if it is the most exact or precise. It just needs to be consistent. Calipers are the cheapest, but tricky to use. You'll get better with practice. I use a handheld bodyfat monitor. I don't care if it is less precise than other methods. I only need for it to be consistent so I can tell I'm making general improvement. Pick a method, then track it. Spark's measurements don't have a bodyfat field by default, but you can add one.

- GIVE IT TIME. Changes don't happen overnight. One day is not enough to assess whether you're making progress. I give any major change 30 days to definitely say whether something was 'successful'. However, if you don't see at least some marginally positive progress in 2 weeks, I question whether any significant impact was made. With no change in 2 weeks minimum, I'd reassess and tweak.

- LOOK AT WHOLE PICTURE. Progress is one or more components improving. If you're tracking weight, tape measure, bodyfat, blood pressure, pant size, etc, then you have multiple components to compare general improvement. If all remain static, reassess your strategy.

- TAKE NOTES. Write in your food logs how you feel regularly. For example, one of my notes said, "Hungry after eating an orange. Unusually moody." Does that mean oranges are bad for me? No. Oranges are extremely delicious and packed full of vitamins. However, if I'm snacking, the idea is the food should leave me feeling sated. Thus, an orange isn't the best snack idea for me.

It doesn't matter if it was within calorie range - if it doesn't leave me feeling satisfied after eating it, then I need another choice. It's intuitive, but it didn't hit me in the head until I started taking notes.

Couple other examples:

"Feel ill after drinking milk" - I'm lactose intolerant. I should not do this.
"Ate spaghetti at noon and I'm ready to eat my shoe at 1:30" - Pasta kills after-lunch productivity.
"Ate salmon salad, and didn't need afternoon snack" - Salmon salad keeps me full - eat more of this.

Pretty straightforward. Learn what your body is communicating with you.

Do what works for you.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TRIANGLE-WOMAN 7/12/2012 7:17AM

    You have some FABULOUS blogs.

I really needed this one this AM. I feel so stalled and I've checked off all your list. I know that lower carb is good for me. I get positively narcoleptic after eating baked potatoes. No joke. I eat a potato, I take a nap!! LOL

Over the last few years, I have changed the overall composition of my food pretty radically, but I'm not 100% consistent. Being half Italian, pasta and pizza can be hard to avoid!

Thanks for the pep talk and giving me something to shoot for!

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LISAINMS 7/11/2012 4:03PM

    I agree with everything you have said. We each have to find what works for us. Some can simply do calories in/calories out and get weight loss. Some need to work with macronutrient ratios and others need to reduce foods that disagree. The important factor is to feed your body plenty of nutritious food.... something that most people need to improve on. Scrap the processed foods and eat whole!

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KWRIGHT26 7/10/2012 11:28PM

    This is a win on so many levels (I read the previous blog too.)

I think we get scared into never investigating our nutrition. Calorie counting HAS to work. Cutting fat HAS to work. Exercising X minutes at Y intensity Z days per week HAS to work, and if it doesn't, then you're just not doing it right AND YOU WILL DIE OF A HEART ATTACK TOMORROW. Isolating variables is never considered even though it applies so well to every other aspect of life.

Car running rough? Try different gas. Air your tires. Check your shocks.
Feet hurt? Try different shoes. Change your socks.
Itchy skin? Change your soap. Soften your water.

We learn as kids that if something doesn't work, then try something else. We apply it as adults. Some of us make jobs out of this advice (I'm talking to the engineers, here). This applies to our health, too, and if what we're doing doesn't work, we must try something else.

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/10/2012 8:28PM

    Great methodology! I feel like it has taken me 2 years to fine tune my body so I know things like optimum heart rate when working out (through and HRM), my ability to load up on different weights for different body parts.

The issue has been that working out has given me free license to eat, but that is so not true....the calorie in.calorie out math has not been adding up, so now I hunt the nutrients.

I'll look into the note taking thing, but that might be a bridge too far (why can't they just develop an app for scanning my food and allow me to record a voice tag for the meal!)

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CAROLJEAN64 7/10/2012 7:40PM

    This is a wise, thoughtful and inspiring blog. I just finished reading a blog about listening to your body. Now I know what to listen for....

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KPDRMNG 7/10/2012 7:27PM

    Liked your check list and how you made notes on how certain food made you feel. I need to start that one since I'm stalled. Thanks so much for sharing.

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JUSTBIRDY 7/10/2012 6:09PM


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EATNBOOGERS 7/10/2012 5:27PM

    Remind me again pretty please how you're tracking body fat? Thanks! :-D

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VHALKYRIE 7/10/2012 5:09PM

    NEILITHICMAN: That's great that you have a healthy relationship with food that you can enjoy a few items and still meet your goals. My point is that if some people think they are stalled on their weight loss, then they should try to eliminate the junk food to make sure that isn't a factor. Some people think a little here and a little there won't hurt, but it adds up, they're eating more than they think, and it's not really occasional at all. So if a person thinks their weight loss is stalled, then that needs to be eliminated as a variable at least short term.

Comment edited on: 7/10/2012 5:12:32 PM

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NEILITHICMAN 7/10/2012 5:01PM

    Good blog, I'm fine with all of them except the no junk food one. I used to beat myself up if I ate a little junk food in the weekends because I usually eat healthy during the week. But I've learned that the occasional chocolate bar, or hamburger in the weekend isn't too bad, so long as I don't go overboard with junk food, I'm still exercising regularly and I factor it into my calories so don't go outside my calorie limits.

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CATH63 7/10/2012 1:02PM

    Excellent blog - as always!

So glad you wrote about the hand held body fat things. I've been really wanting to know what my fat percentage is but didn't want to waste money on something that might be inaccurate or erractic. I'm with you...if it's consistent then I'm not as concerned about accuracy as long as it's pretty close.

Thanks for the great info!

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WOUBBIE 7/10/2012 10:40AM

    Excellent blog - again!

I like your "checklist", especially the requirement that you find a way of eating that doesn't leave you constantly hungry. While human beings are tough enough to endure frequent hunger for months, even years, to reach a weight goal, NO ONE but a complete ascetic or a masochist can sustain that over a lifetime. At some point you have to find out what you can eat that allows you to get to and stay at your desired weight without feeling starved.

This is all great advice!

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EATNBOOGERS 7/10/2012 10:37AM

    YES on the bolded suggestions (except I don't have a bodyfat method right now.... hmm, need to get on it!).

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Resuming Where I Left Off

Monday, July 09, 2012

Last night I shared how I "unlocked" the secrets of manipulating my metabolism. I thought it might be interesting to share the data I collected that lead me to my revelations.

4/22 last year I started an excel spreadsheet. I struggled losing fat, and I though taking data scientifically would help me pinpoint the answer. I was shooting for Zone diet ratios of 40c/30f/30p. I expected that I was overeating calories, and I wanted details.

The details, however, eventually led me down a different conclusion.

Carbs: 155g | 44.83%
Fat: 47g | 30.59%
Protein: 85g | 24.58%
Weight: 135.6 lbs
Bodyfat: {Unknown}
Lean Mass: {Unknown}

Carbs: 152g | 48.45%
Fat: 39g | 27.97%
Protein: 74g | 23.59%
Weight: 134.6 lbs
Bodyfat: {Unknown}
Lean Mass: {Unknown}

By 5/12, I realized something was wrong. I lost barely a pound despite an average calorie deficit that should have had me losing 4lbs over the month. I lost nothing since my measurements on 5/4. The normal answer was because I was close to goal weight, it's harder to lose. Except I wasn't near goal weight. I started tracking bodyfat - I was shocked it was almost 36%! It was infuriating because my execution that month was near-flawless.

Carbs: 152g | 46.91%
Fat: 52g | 36.11%
Protein: 55g | 16.98%
Weight: 134.4 lbs
Bodyfat: 35.72%
Lean Mass: 86.14 lbs

Fortunately, I am not one to be dissuaded or discouraged. In fact, this kind of setback can be an extreme motivator for me.

Sparkfriend JustBirdy pointed me in the right direction, and I researched paleo diets. After even more research, I settled on the "Protein Power" low carb plan from Drs. Michael and Mary Eades. By the time I made the switch on 5/20, I lost no additional weight or measurements since 5/4.

Carbs: 89g | 30.30%
Fat: 55g | 42.13%
Protein: 81g | 27.57%
Weight: 134.4lbs
Bodyfat: {Unknown}
Lean Mass: {Unknown}

Eating more protein/fat and less carbs scared me. I tiptoed my way in. I didn't know if I was doing the right thing because it flew in the face of everything I was told about weight loss. Except what I was told about weight loss wasn't working. Thus the seed of rebellion was planted. Maybe it was time to question the establishment.

Two weeks later, I got a surprise.

Carbs: 83g | 29.10
Fat: 57g | 44.96%
Protein: 74g | 25.94%
Weight: 131.7 lbs
Bodyfat: 33.86%
Lean Mass: 86.64 lbs

I lost 2.7 lbs since 5/20, and my bodyfat measurements showed it was all fat loss! No muscle loss, and even managed to put a little on!

At this point, I had no more doubts. By November 2011, I was 126lbs with 28% bodyfat and ~90lbs lean mass. I went from a snug size 8 to a snug size 4. I no longer actively sought weight loss because my schedule became very busy. But I maintained it through the holidays, a college schedule, and a long extended vacation because of wedding/honeymoon.

Now I'm ready to resume where I left off.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VHALKYRIE 7/9/2012 6:56PM

    4A-HEALTHY-BMI: Agreed! Keeping track of info really is the best way of finding out your needs.

STARTINGINLIMBO: Sorry to hear that. If you did Protein Power, then you know that the ratio of HDL/Trig is important, and the LDL type. I'm not sure what my cholesterol is (nor am I worried about it), but my blood pressure dropped significantly.

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    I did the protein power plan years ago and it got my weight down nicely, but my cholesterol was awful....

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EATNBOOGERS 7/9/2012 5:44PM

    I'm really glad that you have something that works for you!

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 7/9/2012 2:56PM

    I can definitely say that it helps me to

1) lift
2) eat at least 150g of protein per day

Glad you found what works for you! I suspect that many of the successful folks have to do similar experiments on themselves. I sure did!


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VHALKYRIE 7/9/2012 10:04AM

    DOLLFACEDX: Hope you find something useful!

BOB240: That was from last year when I was still learning. :) I'll post current results soon. I don't want to say anything too early because I know there will be skepticism until I have more concrete examples. More later...

Comment edited on: 7/9/2012 10:15:33 AM

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BOB240 7/9/2012 9:59AM

    Looks good.. Actually from the last spreadsheet you are still a little low on protein to maintain LBM. - It is hard to get enough protein and I usually throw in a protein shakes or eat Greek yogurt

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DOLLFACEDX 7/9/2012 9:25AM

    Sounds like you're on to something here - gonna read your previous blog...

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