VHALKYRIE   16,233
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A Plea to Please Read Dietary Books Before Jumping In

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One thing I love to do is defy stereotypes. In 3rd grade, a boy told me girls could never be as good at math as boys. So I went to college, studied math/electrical engineering/computer science, and I'm now a computer programmer! When I switched to a low carb diet, I defied the portrayal of all-you-can-eat-bacon and-steak by eating way more veggies and fruit than my low fat days.

Back when I weighed 160lbs, I tried numerous diets and failed. Mostly because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I was just trying something - anything - in order to lose weight. Sometimes it worked, most of the time it didn't.

At one point, I thought I'd try 'Atkins'. Except it wasn't Atkins at all. I didn't buy the book. I didn't know the reason for the methodology. I just thought, hey all the meat you can eat! So I ate more meat in the form of double quarter pounders.


Yes, people. I was really that stupid.

"Youth is wasted on the young."

So obviously I didn't lose weight. I gained weight and dismissed that Atkins doesn't work.


Years later when I grew a brain, I actually did research. When I decided to switch to low-carb, I read as many books as possible until I understood what I was supposed to accomplish. I think Atkins is great for bariatric patients who have a lot to lose. However, the level of restriction was unnecessary for me because I was non diabetic, and already lost most of my weight. I ended up choosing the "Protein Power" method, which allowed more flexibility.

One of the things that bugs me on the message boards is people who said they tried low carb and it didn't work. I'm not going to deny that it might not work as well for everyone. What raises my shackles is sometimes if you ask them which book they read, and they didn't read one.

If you didn't read a book, you're just fumbling around like I was with my double quarter pounders.

Low carb is very different than the conventional knowledge most of us were raised on. If you didn't read one of the many books out there, then you don't know the mechanism that makes it work.

Even worse, you don't know what pitfalls you're setting yourself up for. Particularly in mineral balance.

Strangely, when I switched to low carb, I found I was hitting my vitamin/mineral needs more easily. I credit the additional produce consumption, for sure. But there were still supplements I needed.

SODIUM - This is one that throws people for a loop when switching from high carb to low carb. High carb diets causes sodium retention due to increased insulin load. Insulin tells the kidneys to retain water and sodium. Elevated insulin levels tell the kidneys to retain a lot of water. Low carb diets flushes that water and sodium out of the kidneys. It is true that first week on induction (if doing Atkins) is mostly water loss due to this reason. Reduced insulin load signals the kidneys to release the retained water. Sodium goes with it.

An essential part of what makes low carb work is the low processed foods. Please, people, stop buying the Atkins bars. This is another one of the stereotypes that I cringe at. The Atkins bars are a marketing gimmick and a processed food. Ditch it.

When you're eating less processed food, you are also eating less sodium. If you are eating less grains and starches, you have lower insulin load, thus less sodium retention. Thus, you need to add sodium back into the system. The best salt to add is Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Pink Salt. Both contain other essential minerals like magnesium and potassium (which I'll cover shortly). Do not use ordinary table salt, which has been bleached and stripped clean of all these minerals.

POTASSIUM - Potassium, along with sodium, are essential for regulating electrical signals in our bodies, and heart rhythm. Our bodies like to keep our potassium/sodium ratios at a certain level, and expels excess in normal circumstances. But when we have an imbalance due to excess insulin, then excess sodium is retained and the ratio is skewed.

Back in my high carb days, I used to suffer from arrhythmia and spontaneous tachycardia events. I went to several cardiac specialists, who were never able to determine the reason why, but they said it was benign. When I switched to low carb, these disappeared, or at least to the point where I don't notice. I could never prove it, but I suspect that excess sodium from elevated insulin levels was interfering with heart rhythm by way of blood pressure. My blood pressure dropped significantly after going low-carb.

When switching to a low carb diet, there is a side effect. When the kidneys release retained water, they also flush potassium along with sodium. Sodium and potassium are also lost through perspiration. This lost sodium/potassium MUST be restored.

Muscle weaknesses, cramps, and palpitations are a few symptoms of low potassium.

Everyone knows bananas are rich in potassium, but many chose to forgo them because of the high sugar content. No problem. Choose these other high potassium/low sugar veggies:

Tomatoes/sun dried tomatoes
Spinach (raw)
Swiss Chard
Kale (raw)
Brussel Sprouts
Zucchinis with skin (my favorite!!)
Green snap beans
Palm Hearts

Once you are out of induction, have a sweet potato. More potassium per gram than a banana.

TONS of veggie potassium sources. You have no reason not to eat these every day. If you say, "But I don't like any of these vegetables", you're making it harder for the rest of us by perpetuating stereotypes, and discouraging people who might be helped by this.

There are over the counter potassium supplements, but proceed with extreme caution. If you are on medication of any kind, check before taking a potassium supplement. Potassium overdose is rare because normally our bodies will remove excess through the kidneys. Certain medications interfere with this process, and cause potassium to be retained. Impaired kidney function will also interfere with this. Unnaturally high levels of potassium is deadly. But you read the books, and you already know this, right?

CALCIUM - One of the arguments made to dissuade people from trying low carb is that it leeches calcium from bones, thus increasing risk of osteoporosis. Well, this is actually true, but you need to know why. You read the books, but let's review anyway. Our bodies like to keep a neutral pH of about 7.4, and will aggressively change body chemistry to keep it there. Eating protein, and ketone production from burning fat does have a slight acidifying effect. How this is countered is usually with calcium. If you aren't eating dietary calcium, then this calcium will be taken from bones. So continue to take your calcium supplements. The ingested calcium will be used to maintain neutral body pH, excess will be flushed through kidneys.

One other point about calcium. Bone density comes from weight training. If you want to lower your risk of osteoporosis, pick up the weights. Eating calcium alone won't make stronger bones.

MAGNESIUM AND ZINC - These two minerals almost all of us will have some deficiency with. I had trouble meeting the minimum requirements even in my low-fat diet days. The reason is because modern conventional produce is mostly devoid of minerals that used to be abundant. The plants are fed with steroid level artificial fertilizers, instead of naturally nutrient rich topsoil.

Magnesium is important for almost 300 different biologic functions, including metabolism. Magnesium deficiencies can also trigger cravings. It was primarily obtained by our paleo ancestors in drinking water. City tap water is a poor source of magnesium these days, and if you use a reverse osmosis filter or similar like I do, all of it is stripped out. (I remineralize my water with a couple rocks of Himalayan salt).

Zinc is essential for the immune system. Zinc deficiencies are more serious for children, but not deadly. Not right away anyway. The suppressed immune system will allow other diseases to proliferate to eventually kill you. Phytates from beans and whole grains from high carb diets suppresses zinc absorption. Increased zinc supplements may be needed in these cases.

No matter what diet paradigm you choose, BUY THE BOOK. If you want to be vegetarian, read "Becoming Vegetarian", which will tell you how to get all the nutrition you need. B12 is essential, it is not optional. I was appalled when I saw a comment from a vegetarian member on a spark blog saying that B12 is overblown, and she gets enough from the vegetables she eats. No, no, no! If you're not eating animal protein, then you must take a B12 supplement or fortified B12 foods. Less of a problem for ovo-lacto vegetarians, but the less animal products, the more supplementation needed. B12 deficiency will lead to permanent brain and nervous system damage. Don't mess around. Don't assume you're getting enough because you feel fine. B12 deficiency will take 10-15 years to manifest as a crippling impairment. If you want to be an informed vegetarian, I'll support you. But the person I mentioned above is making the same mistake as my double quarter pounder diet.

I'm not sparing the rod for low-carb either. If you want to try low carb, read one of the many books first. You, too, won't get the best out of it if you don't know the whys and hows.

My recommendations (for the record, I have read ALL of these):

"NEW ATKINS FOR A NEW YOU" - Dr. Westman, Dr. Phinney, Dr. Volek
It enjoys a wide following as the most popular low carb plan among all fitness levels. Ideal for people who are obese or morbidly obese, or have severe metabolic syndrome, because that was for whom the diet was originally designed.
"PROTEIN POWER" - Dr. Michael Eades, Dr. Mary Eades
For those who think Atkins might be a little too restrictive to stick with. This is the one I favor.
"PALEO DIET" - Dr. Loren Cordain
Great for people who are purists. Kind of like an omnivore "Raw Food" diet.
Unlike the others, he's not a doctor. Just a former ironman triathelete who reformed his diet and lifestyle based on paleo principles. He has a very large following for its easy to follow and moderate restrictions.

Sometimes we'll read the books and the diet still doesn't work out for whatever reason. At least we have an informed base for discussion.

Which did you chose? If you haven't yet, what's it going to be?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CTTAGENT 7/19/2012 11:36AM

    Love this blog. The mineral balance is something that my family has been working on, especially more since my dad has suffered from trying those medications. I wonder sometimes about how much mineral balances are thrown off by medications, and the doctors do not seem to admit that the meds can do that.

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VHALKYRIE 7/19/2012 11:10AM

    CHRISTINATOBIAS: Thanks for the suggestion on adding the authors.

I have not read the book you mentioned. I found "Paleo Diet" more interesting from a historical perspective (there's a lot of discussion about diets of early human history). Given the choice between "Paleo Diet" or "Primal Blueprint", I prefer "Primal Blueprint". It is a very casual writing style, and very easy to follow. Mark Sisson does a good job of making the complex biochemistry accessible for newbies. "Paleo Diet" recommends against dairy and beans, so it might not be a good choice depending on your preference for that.

I do enjoy math, and all sciences, really. :)

Comment edited on: 7/19/2012 11:47:42 AM

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CHRISTINASP 7/19/2012 10:24AM

    Thanks. I admit I"m '.lazy' - or rather short of time to read and research a lot. So my suggestions is that it'd be useful if you added names of authors for us newbies... and/or an ISBN number.

I was actually thinking of getting "Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life" by Nora T. Gedgaudas. Have you read that? Given that I'm not a native speaker of English and such books are pretty hard to read: Which would you say would be best to start with - that book or 'The Paleo Diet' or 'Primal Blueprint'?

PS I hope you actually LIKE doing math! emoticon

Comment edited on: 7/19/2012 10:33:47 AM

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VHALKYRIE 7/18/2012 10:45PM

    _RAMONA: Sure, be my guest!

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MRS.CARLY 7/18/2012 10:19PM

    I always love your explanations! You are one smart cookie! Um.....or maybe apple?

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_RAMONA 7/18/2012 10:06PM

    FANTASTIC blog... THANK YOU! If you don't mind, I'm going to link to it from my blog!

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LILBIT-2008 7/18/2012 12:16PM

    Great Blog.. thanks.

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CAROLJEAN64 7/18/2012 11:52AM

    Thanks for all the information. I think your blogs are a very important part of Spark. You do a great service because you stress being informed consumers.... which should translate to everything we do in our lives. We can be in control and be the "expert." Thanks for the reminder.

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NEWKATHYNOW 7/17/2012 9:55PM

    emoticon emoticon

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LYNDALOVES2HIKE 7/17/2012 6:22PM

    What a great blog - I'm so glad you posted this!

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    Thank you for all this info. I am new to the low carb thing and this was a good, quick overview. I plan to read and get a book about it so I am not wandering around not knowing what to eat. emoticon

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NEILITHICMAN 7/17/2012 4:50PM

    It's good for people to know alternative sources of potassium than just potatoes and bananas because they can both have a bit of a constipating effect. I grow plenty of spinach, zucchini and broccoli so we're never short of that.

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DOWNEASTB 7/17/2012 3:13PM

    Thanks for the potassium sources, I'll pass those to my mom. She's flirting with low carb after going through some blood pressure problems.

And I agree - people shouldn't let unfiltered opinions on forums (especially pro-grain ones like the SP main boards) be a substitute for picking up a darn book and READING!

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NONNAJEANIE 7/17/2012 2:38PM

    Wonderful advice!! I actually have one of the books you mentioned on your Spark page - recommended by my SIL - Why We Get Fat. I'll start right in on it, and also look at some of your menus and recipes.

Thank you so much! And thanks to Woubbie who linked me to your blog!


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LUCYSUNFLOWER 7/17/2012 12:58PM

    *stands up and applauds*

Thank you for speaking up! I have overloaded my own brain with several LC books, and I am finally coming to the point of seeing that I function best on a moderate approach. I could only get there by informing myself and experimenting.

I detest hearing someone say that LC doesn't work - that statement is far too black and white to have any meaning at all!

And, by the way, you were my original inspiration for trying LC (and for buying about 8 different books - Amazon should give you a kickback! LOL)!!

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CATH63 7/17/2012 12:37PM

    Thanks again for a wonderful and informative blog! I have read the book - more than once - but it helps to be reminded to continue to consult it as needed.

I had not thought about all of the minerals you mentioned. I'll get on that right away!

BTW - the stick is still pink!

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BUTEAFULL 7/17/2012 12:05PM

    guilty...I jumped in without reading the Atkins book because everyone else in the office was doing the diet too

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WOUBBIE 7/17/2012 11:46AM

    Y'know, it's funny, but it never occurs to me that someone would just jump in and say "I'm doing low carb!" without actually reading anything or planning anything first, but come to think of it, that's probably all too common.

Considering how complex the subject is even if you HAVE done your homework it's no wonder why so many people claim to have failed at it.

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MYLADY4 7/17/2012 11:29AM

    I second that idea of becoming informed as much as you can. I have a whole library of books. Some good, some, not so much.

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MARBETH2 7/17/2012 11:16AM

    I'm glad you posted this! It's just some reminders to review and think about. I consistently forget about the magnesium concern. I'll try your re-mineralizing of water!

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WHENWILLIBEFIT 7/17/2012 11:15AM

    wow! what an informative post, thank you!

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Real World Results

Monday, July 16, 2012

Spark friend 4A-Healthy-BMI posted this link over the weekend comparing BMIs with people across the globe.


My results:

25BMI - Normal (upper range)
National Average - Below Average (lower than 76% of females age 30-44)
Global Average - Above Average (higher than 58% of females age 30-44)

I'm most like someone from Hungary.

Playing with the sliders, I'm just above the threshold of the 24BMI global average for my age group.

More women in my age group are overweight or obese than I am. I am on the high side of 'normal'. That means the 'average' is overweight or obese. 'Normal' weight is below average.

Playing with the tool some more, I put in my starting weight of 160lbs.

31BMI - Obese
National Average - Above Average (lower than 62% of females age 30-44)
Global Average - Above Average (higher than 91% of females age 30-44)

I knew the global average was going to be bad. The national average, though, is still startling. Even obese, there are a staggering number of US women who are morbidly obese. I had 44% bodyfat at 160lbs, and that is just in the 60th percentile. I had to push the weight in the calculator to 200lbs in order to reach the 90th percentile with 39BMI.

I put in my husband's info, and he was mortified. I'm not going to share the specifics because it's his personal info. But needless to say, it was a wakeup call.

If we're going to turn this around, we're going to have to admit there is something flawed about the advice we've been given in the past 30 years.

I looked up statistics from the CDC to see if Americans were following the advice of "exercise more, eat less".


Since 1974, Americans have increased their net average calories.

1971-1974 Average calories (age adjusted):
Men: 2450
Women: 1542

2005-2008 Average calories (age adjusted):
Men: 2656
Women: 1811

How about composition?

1971-1974 Carbohydrates|Protein|Fat:
Men: 42.4 | 16.5 | 36.9
Women: 45.4 | 16.9 | 36.1

2005-2008 Carbohydrates|Protein|Fat:
Men: 47.4 | 15.6 | 33.6
Women: 49.5 | 15.8 | 33.8

The general dietary advice starting back in the 80s was eat less fat and more grains. While the numbers may not seem huge, the general trend is that Americans tried to follow this advice. Carbs went up, fat and protein went down. Thus the general increase in calories is primarily coming from carbohydrates.

The next piece is whether Americans followed the advice to exercise more.

1998 Met aerobic guidelines:
Men: 45.4%
Women: 35.1%

2010 Met aerobic guidelines:
Men: 52.1%
Women: 43.7%

Again, general trend is Americans are attempting to exercise more. At least half the population meets the minimum guidelines for regular exercise. This exercise should be compensating for the general calorie increase, and thus slowing the trend. But this isn't happening.

Healthy weight Americans (18.5-24.9BMI) 1960-1962
Men: 48.3%
Women: 54.1%

Healthy weight Americans (18.5-24.9BMI) 2007-2010
Men: 25.8%
Women: 33.6%

Wow. The number of healthy weight Americans has dropped at a staggering pace. Let's look at this again. If at least 50% of Americans in 2008 are meeting regular exercise, then why isn't at least 50% of the overweight/obesity rate dropping? Obesity and morbid obesity are still climbing. There is no sign of it leveling out or dropping, despite aggressive campaigning.

Let's stop blaming compliance. Americans have shifted their macronutrients, and are exercising more. There are enough people complying that it should have shifted the national statistics. If it were working, the trend for obesity should slow or trend down. If this was all to the story, then this should have resulted in a slight general decrease in overall body weight, or at least a halt.

I see people working their butts off at the gym week after week who seem to never lose weight. I used to be one of those people, so I understand the story all too well. Do everything right, and there's no reward.

At what point do we admit the strategy for the past 30 years isn't working as a cover-all blanket, and we need a new solution? Or multiple solutions? One diet does not rule them all? While most of human history has been about surviving starvation, Americans are now tasked with surviving being crushed under our own body weight.

I was only able to break out of being a statistic when I looked at my own results and said, you know what? My real world result said this wasn't working.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MRS.CARLY 7/18/2012 10:21PM

    I avoid grains, but I sure still love my sugar. And I don't mean all that processed crap, I mean like HONEY, maple syrup, REAL stuff. That is my vice! The sweets! Crazy thing is I actually eat LESS sweets than I ever have in my life yet the weight is still slow to come off. Must be that old age!

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LYNDALOVES2HIKE 7/17/2012 6:29PM

    If you haven't read Gary Taubes "Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It," you might enjoy it - I don't agree with 100% of what he says but it sure made a lot of sense to me - and heck, I don't agree with 100% of what anybody says [probably including what I say, haha!] - either way, it was a well-written book and includes a ton of similar research.

Great blog - thanks!

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BOB240 7/17/2012 4:33AM

    It's not just Americans.. it's the West. There is far too much easily available food around.

For the decades around the second world war the UK had limited food. The government rationed food to what could be produced locally on farms. As a nation we were all on 2000 calories a day (approx) and filled up on vegetable, fruit,milk and meat. The result?

Well it's well known but as an example my grandparents died when they were 83, 85, 91 and 93. My grandfather who died at 93 smoked 60 of the worst cigarettes a day from the age of 14!

We are now at a stage as a nation where thoser born today - desite advances in medical care, have a lower life expectancy than those born in the 1960's.

What a legacy emoticon

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JUSTBIRDY 7/16/2012 10:59PM

    ...oh wait.....it's not that I didn't listen to reason.......All reasonable arguments for low carb were censored. I vow that I will do my part to never make it that way.

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JUSTBIRDY 7/16/2012 10:58PM

    V, have yur hubby check out Peter Attia. His blog is great, and I think it appeals to guys.

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JUSTBIRDY 7/16/2012 10:57PM

    I believed the low fat line completely and blamed non-compliance on my lack of willpower. So, I did not listen to reason, and would not have done low carb except that I backed into it accidentally. Now I can't believe that it took me so long to do it. I continue to brave the main message boards because I wish that I had read comments like what I write 20-30 years ago. It would have saved me from so much mental and health anguish.

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VHALKYRIE 7/16/2012 8:31PM

    GETSTRONGRRR: I'll have to make him read your blogs! Maybe other people having success with this will convince him I'm not really crazy! Well maybe I am, but not about this!

CATLADY52: It would be great if people would start backing away from the pizza box, one household at a time!

SALONKITTY: You have an excellent point about BMI being a better indicator for populations, rather than individuals. I don't hold high hopes that the industries around healthcare will reverse course soon, though in order to have things happen on a mass scale, it is necessary. The thing I am trying to do as an individual is to make a lot of noise and make things uncomfortable for them.

That really bugs me about the comments from people on the general boards: 'it's only a small percentage of the population'. I've been here 5 years. To see the number of blogs from desperate people crying their eyes out because they can't understand why it's not working doesn't suggest it's a small part of the population. The way that it is said shames some of these people from speaking out. As though admitting the low-fat diet doesn't work for them makes them some kind of genetic malfunction. It's very wrong, and it prevents people from finding what might work for them. I'm particularly bitter about this because, well, this was a contributing factor in my case. I was warned away from it, and never given an objective pro/con discussion. I happened to stumble on a thread where JustBirdy was arguing with the conventional wisdom that made points I researched further. That finally gave me a start point on what I should be looking for.

NEILITHICMAN: I'm not sure a race based BMI scale would work any better for me since I'm half Korean and German! Which one do I chose? I'm short stature like an Asian, but broader build like a European. I prefer to keep track of my bodyfat, for sure. But on the other hand, there is something psychologically comforting that I'm no longer "overweight" on the BMI scale, even if it is flawed. Just one more thing off my list.

Comment edited on: 7/16/2012 8:41:40 PM

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NEILITHICMAN 7/16/2012 7:35PM

    LOL I guess not.

I was a little suprised to see New Zealand so high on the table. But I suppose that part of that could be the make up of our population with quite a high percentage of our population being pacifi islanders. Tonga, Samoa, Micronesia and the Solomon Islands are all in the top 10 countries in the world for average BMI.

I did read somewhere that someone had proposed a sliding scale depending on race. With a healthy BMI being 18-23 for asian races as their frames tend to be lighter whereas it would be 22-27 for pacific Island races who tend to have larger frames.

I guess I'll just have to find someone who can measure my body fat percentage so I can use the FFMI (fat free mass index)

Comment edited on: 7/16/2012 7:42:27 PM

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SALONKITTY 7/16/2012 5:49PM

    Great post, Vhalkyrie. I had a friend who posted this same link on Facebook, proudly crowing about his BMI (he should have been Costa Rican, according to his numbers) and pointing out the terrible averages for Americans. It is interesting, and while BMI isn't necessarily an accurate picture for individuals, I do think it's valuable for assessing populations. Like you said, the high BMI isn't due to the bodybuilding population.

I agree, it's definitely time for everyone, but especially the health professionals amongst us, to wake up to the realities of USDA food pyramid, USDA approved school lunches, the ADA's whole weird agenda, etc. Time to start helping people learn to be healthy instead of keeping them miserable and fat. It's high time they admitted their "one size fits all" diet just doesn't work for a whole lot of the population. It's not just a "very small percentage of the population" who can't lose weight on those sorts of diets, as I've been told here at SP.

Something I really like about paleo/primal/low carb is that there is SO MUCH free information online that anyone can look up, providing they know it exists in the first place. Tons of great recipes, as well.

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VHALKYRIE 7/16/2012 5:16PM

    Agreed. BMI has plenty of faults. However, I don't think the nation has above average BMI stats due to bursting muscles. ;)

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NEILITHICMAN 7/16/2012 5:08PM

    Again I find the BMI to be a misleading figure. Since muscle weighs a lot more than fat if you are in decent shape as a male you're likely to have a high BMI.

If you have a man and a woman who are the same height according to BMI they should be the same weight, but male will always be heavier since on average they will be more muscular than the female.

According to my height of 1.8 metres my BMI recommends a healthy weight range of 65-79 kilos. When I was 17 I weighed 78 kilos and I hardly had a shred of fat on me, I've definitely put on a lot of muscle since I was 17. My goal is to get to 85 kilos and according to BMI I will be over ideal weight by 6 kilos, but I bet I won't look it.

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CATLADY52 7/16/2012 4:58PM

    Quite interesting stats there. It seems that there have been enough warning signs, and now is the time for us as a nation to practice our "won't" power. emoticon

"I won't have that second slice of pizza"
"I won't sit back and do nothing"
"I won't be complacent"

Just a few thoughts. emoticon

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/16/2012 3:38PM

    Ahhh, if only science were as pure and simple as we were led to believe in high school. But there are so many competing interests at play, that until demand changes or something catastrophic happens, we may never get objective analysis

I ran numerous marathons, have worked my ass off lifting heavy weights against gravity for years...my flattest belly since my 20s is just now starting to appear 3-4 weeks after cutting carbs....go figure!

Have DH give me a call!

Comment edited on: 7/16/2012 3:43:09 PM

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What I Learned From the Biggest Loser

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Many of you know my story by now. In 2000, I gained 40 lbs to become obese at 160lbs on my small 5'0" frame. After moving to Seattle in 2003, I managed to lose about 20lbs doing not much more than eliminating processed foods and walking everywhere. In 2005, when I stalled at 140lbs, I became focused about losing weight. 2 years later I joined Spark.

I struggled. My weight didn't budge one bit some weeks, no matter what I tried. In darker days, I questioned whether I was doomed.

My major kick in the pants weight loss motivator was the TV show "The Biggest Loser". In 2005, that was Season 2.

There's plenty of debate on whether the weight loss of the contestants is realistic or safe. Does the TV show set up unrealistic expectations?

That didn't matter to me. Here's what mattered to me.

I saw people who weighed over 300 pounds lose weight.

These people were in far worse condition than me. They had huge advantages with Bob and Jillian as their personal trainers, who forced them to get up when they wanted to stay down.

I had no one but me. If I wanted to see my weight change, I was the one who had to kick my butt to do it.

I came home from work, and tuned in to watch while I ate my dinner (which motivated me to eat more veggies lest I disappoint Bob and Jillian). I cheered for every one of them. I wanted every one of them to succeed. I cried when I saw them succeed, and when they failed.

I didn't learn a darn thing about good nutrition or exercise.

What I learned is a body CAN be made to lose fat.

I tried various methods over the years before I found the right one for me. But I never forgot what I learned from "The Biggest Loser". Somewhere, someway, my body could be made to get rid of the fat.

If other people who were in way worse shape than me could do it, why not me?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KAYOTIC 7/16/2012 10:26AM

    I must admit that is a guilty pleasure of mine, despite all the criticism of the methods and how "real" it is. It's still motivating to see the transformations the contestants go through, even if at times the drama gets to be a bit much....

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BILL60 7/16/2012 8:17AM

    The show is a big motivator.

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MRS.CARLY 7/15/2012 6:14PM

    I'm still a fan of biggest loser...now I tune in on sundays to the extreme makeover weight loss edition. Have you checked out that one yet?

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 7/15/2012 6:10PM

    Yeah, I like the show, too.

I'd already lost almost 100 lbs before I started watching it, and I still found it motivating. If nothing else, it reminds me of where I came from and why I don't want to go back.

And I'm always surprised at the beginning of each season, when I look at the contestants and think, "Oh Lord, it's a good thing I wasn't THAT big, because I would never have had the guts to even start." And then I look up their BMI on Wikipedia and they're SMALLER than I was when I started...

Which just goes to show that I really need reminding! LOL

Comment edited on: 7/15/2012 6:12:02 PM

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NEEKEPOO 7/15/2012 5:40PM

    What great insight!

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CHANGING-TURTLE 7/15/2012 5:35PM

    I love Bob Harper!!!!! I also ride my exercise bike while waching it and when i see Bob I pretend he is telling me to go faster. I would do any thing for him.

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NEILITHICMAN 7/15/2012 5:24PM

    Yeah I like the show, I ride my exercycle while watching it so I don't feel like a couch potato sitting down watching a show about people getting more active.

I do think that it can be a bit discouraging for viewers who see people losing 10, 20, even 30 pounds in a week, while they might be seeing only 1 or 2 pounds lost on the scales. But the idea that these people who are morbidly obese can be working out for hours in a day shows you really don't have any excuse for not increasing your exercise.

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Realizing the Connection

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Every few weeks or so, my husband and I make a day trip up to Charleston, SC. We love to walk around the town and on the beaches at the Isle of Palms. While we are there, we bring large coolers, and stock up on groceries at Costco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. We don't have them locally where we live.

Eating as much organic meats and produce as we do is expensive. It is also harder to do where we live because it's not really a trend here. Thus we'll load up when we are in a neighborhood with these stores, then stash them in our large freezer. Wild caught fish, and organic fruit and veg are cheaper when bought in the freezer section, so this is another way I stock up. I still have to buy a fair amount of conventional meat and produce out of necessity. I try to minimize when we can.

Trader Joe's...well there isn't a better place to buy inexpensive wine! I became a wine drinker when I lived in Washington state. A decent bottle of table wine cost as much as a six pack of beer. I don't think I could tell you the nuances of a fine wine like a true connoisseur, but I know what I like. We found an amazing deal on organic wines at Joe's for $4 a bottle. We only bought a couple because we wanted to taste it first.

We came home, unloaded groceries, then made dinner. Ribeye steaks, roasted vegetable medley (onions, bell peppers, carrots, and celery), and mashed yukon potatoes. We opened the organic white wine, and it was amazing. It tasted of nectarines and honey. I'll be buying a case of this the next time we make a round.

The serving of mashed potato was maybe 50g. About the size of one portion from an ice cream scoop. This is a far cry from my days when I ate about 200g in one sitting.

As I took a bite, the potato burst with flavor. We seasoned it with just a little salt, pepper, butter and green onions. It was creamy and naturally sweet. I said to my husband, "I enjoy eating low carb, but sometimes a potato just tastes really good."

I'm not a role model for any particular health paradigm. Every diet can probably find a flaw in what I'm doing. I have definitively abandoned the low-fat diet, though.

About 2 years ago when I stalled on my weight loss, I thought eating too much protein was to blame. I cut back to about 40g per day, which was 15% of my total. Since I cut back protein and fat, I made up the calories difference with more carbohydrates in addition to my normal veg and fruit - brown rice, quinoa and potatoes. Protein only one meal a day. This was pretty close to an Ornish diet - 10%fat, 20%protein, 70%carbohydrates. This nearly wrecked my health.

One day in the mirror, I wondered why I suddenly looked so old. My eyesockets were sunken. I had ugly dark, almost blue-black, bags under my eyes. I got a stye under my left eye, which added to the growing grotesqueness of my face. I wore heavy amounts of concealer to try and hide my darkened bags. I wore lots of dark eyeliner under my eye to hide the stye because concealer and foundation enhanced it.

Despite my double chin from excess bodyfat, my face looked strangely gaunt. The skin on my cheeks seemed to sag as though they couldn't hold themselves up. My belly got bigger - I was getting fatter. It was mortifying. I could see myself deteriorating in the mirror, and I couldn't understand why. I didn't immediately connect it to the protein deficiency.

I couldn't stick with it. I abandoned it because I couldn't sustain it, not because I consciously realized what I was doing wrong. Once I started eating protein at every meal again, the dark bags under my eyes disappeared. My weird accelerated aging reversed. As the muscles in my face rebuilt, the stye under my eye disappeared so it no longer stuck out.

It was only then that I realized the connection.

I eat yogurt and cheese regularly, so I'm not quite paleo. I eat 60-80g carbs with potatoes and rice on occasion. I found that I can maintain ok if I eat a starchy carb once per day. I'm focusing on fat loss again, so I've cut back to once per week. I still drink wine and beer regularly.

I'm not an exemplar for low carb purism. I'll probably never be voted most popular blog because I think I am still too bitter and angry about being told low-fat is the only healthy diet, and actively deterred from something that would work for me. Perhaps I still harbor too much resentment to be truly persuasive or convincing.

I can't tell the story that people seem to want to hear: "I just counted calories, stuck with the plan, drank skim milk, and it all worked out!" This wasn't my story.

I don't believe that my diet is the end all be all diet for every person. But I'd appreciate if certain experts would stop trying to place blame that low-fat didn't work for me because it was somehow a failing on my part.

I'm really glad that someone (Dr. Mary Enig) challenged the belief that margarine was healthier than butter. I'll keep challenging that the FDA food pyramid (or plate) is the only healthy diet. It didn't work for me.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KWRIGHT26 7/16/2012 9:17PM

    I LOVE mashed potatoes! My mom skins them completely and whips them with a hand mixer, with milk and BUTTER. They are SO GOOD, and a few weeks ago when I was too sick to eat much of anything, it was the best comfort food. Soft, gentle, and the doctor told me to salt them liberally. Most awesome stomach flu ever.

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VHALKYRIE 7/16/2012 12:21PM

    SMILINGTREE: Not so long ago, I used to kill myself at the gym 1hr 5x per week trying to burn off calories. It did work for a time, and then it didn't. I eventually found that macronutrients really did matter, and was easier to manage. On the same number of calories, I lose with 30 min 3x per week exercise. I usually do more because I'm so bursting with energy, I can't wait to get into my exercise clothes. I wish this was more normal for everyone.

If what you're doing works and can sustain it all the way to your goal, then it is the right thing for you. Good luck!

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WOUBBIE 7/16/2012 11:29AM

    I'm always pleased to find how much more sensitive my palate is to ALL foods now. When I do break down and eat something carby the taste fairly explodes on my tongue. At work I allow myself one M&M-with-peanuts every couple of hours and every single one of them tastes as delicious as if it were the first time I tried them!

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SMILINGTREE 7/16/2012 10:33AM

    Isn't it interesting how different we all are? I cannot simply count calories and come out okay, either. In fact, if I don't work out, often and to exhaustion, I do not lose weight, despite the fact we all "know" 80% of weight loss happens in the kitchen.

I've had the opposite struggle than you have - I have to work hard to eat "enough" protein. I'm not convinced that my body needs as much as is recommended.

Thanks for sharing your story. It's always interesting to read about what works and what doesn't for different people, especially when it isn't what works for most people.

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ARCHIMEDESII 7/16/2012 10:14AM

    Trader Joe's has excellent prices on their frozen fish. I think their wines are really good too. You certainly can't beat the price. If you get a chance, try their riesling. it's a little more than the table wine, but very tasty.

Also, have you been going to your local farmer's markets ? That's how I have been saving on veggies. I hate the heat of the summer, but I love going to farmer's markets. their produce is soooo much better than supermarkets. Every time I go to the supermarket, I am appalled at what they are charging for veggies.

Oh and I hear that Charleston is supposed to be a really pretty city. One day I'd like to see it.

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VHALKYRIE 7/16/2012 9:41AM

    EATNBOOGERS: It would be interesting for me to go back and collect data from what definitely didn't work for me.

Here's what I found on my food tracker during the period when I tried an Ornish Diet-like plan.

Carbs: 176g | 53%
Fat: 44g | 30 %
Protein: 53g | 16%
Calories: 1341

This was beyond disasterous for me. The feedback report on the Spark tracker praised me for meeting all my nutritional goals...

I'd never be able to eat 800 calories without giving in! If you see anything like that on my food tracker, it's because I only tracked part of the day. I didn't undereat, in fact, the opposite effect happened. This diet left me so hungry, there were days when I ate over 2600 calories.

There is a baseline minimum for protein. Active people should eat 1g protein per 1g lean mass. Generally .6/1g lean mass for sedentary people. For me that currently means 90g protein per day.

Comment edited on: 7/16/2012 9:45:59 AM

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EATNBOOGERS 7/16/2012 8:54AM

    A lightbulb went off for me... I forget that you're really tiny and that therefore, you probably eat and need fewer calories than I do. 40 g of protein is *nothing*.... 20% of my calories coming from protein is *at least* 60 g, but it's generally more like 70-90. Were you only eating 800 cal? That seems like you'd throw your body into starvation mode. I'm not going to look it up, but I also wonder if there's a certain "baseline" of protein that one needs. I'm not talking about a percentage of calories; I'm talking about a baseline amount that a body needs to function. So one thing I'm wondering is whether these calories/nutrient ranges do a good job of taking into consideration the differences in body size/type....

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 7/15/2012 6:26PM

    Most of the "popular" blogs are just telling people what they want to hear, fitting into a comfortable and popular paradigm. I get very little out of them, most times.

You just keep doin' what you need to do.


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MRS.CARLY 7/15/2012 6:18PM

    Ugh, the most popular blogs kind of irritate me. Sometimes I read them and I find out later the person is like ONE week into their weight loss journey...still on that beginner's high.

Come and talk to me again after 4 or 5 years of trying to lose weight and maintaining weight loss. THEN we'll see how ya feelin' HA! I guess I'm negative too!!

I hear you on the protein. It works best for my body too!!

What was the brand name of wine...I love wine too, but I don't drink it often because I'm paranoid it will slow my weight loss down even more, but I sure would like to enjoy a glass or two per week!!

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CATH63 7/15/2012 1:57PM

    How do you vote for "popular blogger"? I nominated you for Spark Motivator last week. Did they notify you or do they keep that a secret?

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CAROLJEAN64 7/15/2012 12:31PM

    I think one of the great things Spark might be missing out on is the fact that eating healthy.... while different for everyone.... can make us more aware of the messages our body is sending us and how we can then adjust our eating to meet our particular needs. I found I need more protein to keep myself feeling full.

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/15/2012 11:26AM

    Hey, I think I voted you popular blogger once....I'll do it again to be sure!

It's pretty amazing how you can fine tune your intake and correlate various foods with how your body reacts....not sure I'm there yet, only because I'm not sure I have the patience to control individual variables as much.

Funny you should mention Mary Enig.....I just started reading "Eat Fat, Lose fat" and would not have known who she was before this past friday night.

I think you are all over this! You have found what works for you, researching the science and taking the best of breed to make it work for you.

Now, just find a quick and easy way to tackle those pull-ups, write a book about it, and you'll really be in the money!

Comment edited on: 7/15/2012 11:26:57 AM

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Why Calories and Composition Matter for Me

Friday, July 13, 2012

Over the 4th weekend, my husband and I took a road trip down the Florida coast. Since we had a lot of car time, I took my Nook eBook reader with me. I've become a fan of my favorite cooking magazines in eReader format. As you know, I'm trying to declutter my home and magazines take up an enormous amount of shelf space. I've experimented with various formats to save recipes I like, but allows me to declutter the magazine shelf. I love my mags on the Nook because I no longer have to worry about shelf space! Cataloging so I can find things is another story, but overall I think it is a win.

As I was 'flipping' through 'pages', I clicked tabs to bookmark interesting recipes. Later in the drive, my husband said to me, "Doesn't looking at pictures of the cakes and cookies make you hungry?"

This took me by surprise. Well, no. It didn't make me feel hungry or have cravings.

My husband and I are at odds with our diets. He drives me crazy when he comes home and starts raiding the fridge while I'm trying to finish cooking dinner. He battled me on how the amount of fat I eat is unhealthy. One day I challenged him to go a week eating a chicken cobb salad for lunch instead of his normal Subway sandwiches and tell me how he felt. At the end of the week, he admitted he didn't feel as hungry when he got home from work.

He understands that large quantities of carbs drives up hunger, but it doesn't stop him.

We've come to an agreement that I make protein and veg dinners without starchy carbs. He's gone back to his Subway sandwich lunches, and he raids the fridge every day when he comes home.

I wish he wouldn't, but I'm not going to nag or pressure him. It's not my style, and it would just build resentment anyway. So I lead by example.

Men have a metabolic advantage when it comes to losing weight. Men are genetically adapted to lose fat and gain muscle. Women are genetically inclined to gain fat and lose slower. Sucks, but it is what it is.

However, I lost weight at a faster rate than my husband. My husband lost some weight before our wedding by eating Lean Cuisines. He's regained almost all of it. I maintained my weight loss after we came back. This week I've focused more on weight loss, and I'm seeing results again.

There's a lot of debate about whether calories totals matter, or the macronutrient composition of calories. My non-expert opinion? It is both.

Yes, calories count. Are you surprised I say that? I thought low-carbers said calories don't matter! Eat as much bacon as you want, and lose weight!

Maybe that works for some people. It doesn't work for me. I am a petite woman at 5'0". My margins are smaller than the average person. I have less room for error. Thus, my technique has to be 'cleaner' than the average.

It worked the same when I practiced martial arts. Because I was smaller, I had to perform my technique better. I did not have girth and strength to overcome shortcomings with technique. If I placed my hands or feet in the wrong place, I could not budge someone bigger than me. However, if I performed it perfectly, larger opponents fell to the ground as anyone else.

Same with my weight loss. Calories matter for me. My technique has to be cleaner.

For some people, they probably can eat as much bacon as they want, as long as they keep carbs low. For me, keep carbs low, fat moderate, and moderate protein. I do better when I stick to leaner protein sources like fish.

I'm not really sure what dietary paradigm I fall under. My carbs intake of about 60-80g per day is high compared to some low carb diets, but it is very low compared to a low-fat diet. My fat intake is about 70-100g per day, which would make Dr. Ornish have a heart attack. Protein is 90g+ per day minimum. I eat yogurt and cheese on a regular basis, so I'm not really paleo.

My running average of carb/fat/protein is currently about 20%/55%/25%. While this is 'high fat' compared to Dr. Ornish, it's fairly low compared to some low carbers who go to 70% or higher. My calorie range tends to fall within 1400-1800.

1g Protein = 4 calories
1g Carb = 4 calories
1g Fat = 9 calories

My BMR is about 1800 calories per day with about 30 minutes moderate exercise.

Do you see why my range is narrow? If I must have minimum 90g protein, that is 360 calories. If I must have maximum 80g carbs (made up of veg and fruit), that is 320 calories. The rest of the calories need to come from fat. To meet my BMR limit, that is 1120 kcal / 9g = 124g fat maximum.

To meet 1800 calorie upper limit:
360/1800 = 20% protein
320/1800 = 18% carb
1120/1800 = 62% fat.

The only option I have is to pull back my fat grams to about 70-100g to make a deficit of about 55%. Making fat deficit works better for me than making a general calorie deficit.

70%+ fat doesn't work so well for me. No, it's not because I can feel my arteries clogging up. If I pulled back carbs further in order to meet 70% fat, then I sacrifice nutrition in the form of veggie and fruit. Not an option. 90g protein is minimum to preserve my lean mass and keep BMR revved high. Non negotiable.

Our bodies require two types of fuel - glucose and fat. Low fat diets mean you burn more glucose. Low carb diets means you burn more fat, both from dietary intake and stored body fat. When insulin levels are kept low, dietary fat is burned, not stored.

High performance athletes who are already slim can perform and do well with a higher carb intake. For dieters, though, it may be more challenging. It didn't work for me, anyway.

But eating very high fat diet also doesn't work so great for me because again, my margins are smaller. If I supply my body with a high level of dietary fat, it has no need to dip into stored fat. Thus I deprive it just a little bit of dietary fat, so it is encouraged to burn stored fat. This is backed up by Dr. Eades, who says that smaller women may need to eat leaner sources of protein than others.

While calories matter, it is harder for me to overeat if I don't overeat carbs. It is impossible for me to overeat protein and fat - there's a point where I have to stop. In my old high carb days, my stop point happened when my stomach became distended and felt like bursting. Now, I hit a stop point where my brain clicks off and food becomes unappetizing, well before the bursting point. I can overeat carbs quite easily. Left out of control, it will trigger a binge craze the following day.

My husband may think I'm superhuman because I can look at pictures of cakes and not go out of my mind. I think it is understanding how to get my biochemical messages under control, instead of letting them control me.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KAYOTIC 7/14/2012 1:12PM

    When I was tracking I noticed I was around 20% protein, 30-35% fat and 50% carbs and I do find those ratios work well for me. I think for folks that have more trouble with carbs they do have to figure out what will work for them, and I like your approach to working those numbers and finding your ratios, the only way to optimize this on an individual basis is really personal trial and error....and with all your data, you are really able to focus on what those are for you, so well done!

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BTVMADS 7/14/2012 8:45AM

    What a bummer that your husband tried to prove you wrong and made your choices into such a big deal. It sounds kind of like how my sister reacted, especially when I visited her over the holidays. It's really not that hard to cook in a way that meets my needs, or to understand why eating lots of lean meat, healthy fats, and vegetables is a great way to live.

My husband gets it, even if he doesn't live that way, and never complains because our dinners are still delicious and satisfying. But that's just kind of Miles' personality -- he doesn't care what he eats as long as it's delicious. Of course, it's easy now because it's just the two of us and we only eat one meal together each day. Once we have kids, and we have to decide how they will eat, then it's going to become a much more complicated situation.

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VHALKYRIE 7/14/2012 7:55AM

    So many great comments! I gotta get going this Saturday morning, so just a couple and I'll respond to the rest later.

EATNBOOGERS: I tried Flexitarian a while back, if you remember, and it didn't work out for me. :( I couldn't get enough protein, and my health declined noticeably. I wasn't able to get it to work, so I had to abandon it. Also, despite eating 'whole grains' and brown rice, my weight was creeping up. 140+ carbs, no matter what the source, makes me gain, difficult to lose, and triggers cravings. I admire that you are living the life and able to make it work!

And total agreement about the husbands. ;)

4A-HEALTHY-BMI: Welcome to check my food tracker for what I eat! Too much protein will cause me to not lose or gain weight (triggers gluconeogenesis), and the timing matters too. A 8oz steak in one sitting will trigger a glucose like response, so I eat 4oz or less spread out in order to meet my 90g minimum.

Comment edited on: 7/14/2012 8:18:51 AM

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 7/14/2012 4:54AM

    Cool to see your ratios laid out in this way, because it's fun to compare with mine.

I prefer more protein, more carbs (veggies mostly) and less fat.

And like you, I had to find out what keeps me full and energetic by trial and error.

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KICK-SS 7/13/2012 11:26PM

    No matter what I do, high fat, low carb or high carb, low fat (which I don't do anymore), but I still have to keep my calories around 1200 per day. I choose the high fat, low carb because I get more good food and have no or at least much less cravings! But I DO have to keep an eye on calories and the older I get the less calories I can deal with... Not fair!! emoticon

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/13/2012 9:17PM

    Great blog as always!

As i read and understand the science behind keto-adaptation, it seems to make more sense that calories do matter....although for a different reason.

I am seeing that eating more fat does has not caused an increase in weight in me.....but I am not losing either.

I think we need a calorie deficit, even on low carb/hi fat lifestyles to tap into the stored fat to lose.

My bodymedia fit tells me I burn 2100-2200 cals/day if I do absolutely nothing. Depending on how hard and long I'm at the gym, I can increase that to 2600-3000. So far I've stabilized eating 2200-2600 cals/day.....hence not much loss.

However, when I have eaten those same calories with a higher carb ratio, the weight crept up

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IRONBLOSSOM 7/13/2012 5:04PM

    Very interesting. I feel like a slacker on the diet portion! I'm still figuring out how to keep my calories under 1800 (or like yesterday, under 2500!) without worrying much about the composition of those calories! As long as I hit my daily fruits and veggies target and stay in my calorie range, I'm happy. You're definitely at the next level, keep it up!
emoticon emoticon

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BECKYB73 7/13/2012 4:39PM

    I love reading your blogs and following your thought process as you live the best life you can!

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EATNBOOGERS 7/13/2012 3:56PM

    I think this is interesting, because I think to some degree, it might be true for most women in relationships with men.

I eat about 20% protein, 30% fat, and 50% carb. I'm also mostly vegetarian (with most meals vegan), and 20% protein is effort for me. This ratio works well for me, and I definitely do well as a vegetarian.

I'm a lot taller than you (I'm 5'9"), but my husband is about 6 inches taller than me. Obviously, he has a lot more calories to play with. He also has a different relationship with carbs than I do.

Where you and I are completely on the same page is that simple carbs are just not okay. I also prefer whole grains to thing made with whole flour, which is a place I differ from my husband. I just am not as interested in bread or bready things as he is. It just doesn't work for me. And I think my husband might be like yours in that he hasn't really put a lot of thought into all of this... ;-)

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WOUBBIE 7/13/2012 1:32PM

    I agree with my blue ninja friend! Your blogs are very helpful and really interesting!

I've gotten so much good info and food for thought from your last couple of weeks' worth of blogs!

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CTTAGENT 7/13/2012 12:05PM

    I am like you in that I do not get hungry looking at recipes, but my mouth may water or my brain will tell me that looks like a good recipe from the ingredients.

I too find that if I eat get my protein and fat, with few carbs, I do not overeat. It is very interesting how the brain takes that meal, and when the body is provided with enough, it does not desire any more.

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BLH507 7/13/2012 11:12AM

    I have learned so much reading your blogs. I am following your example and adjusting my ratios somewhat. I didn't do well on induction levels and can't maintain the low levels of veg and fruits. I started eating more veg, some fruit and lowered my fat intake some without really worrying about the ratios and observing what they are. It has ended up at C/F/P approx 25/50/25 for the last few days. I feel better and I am more in control so will continue for a bit this way then evaluate.

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LEANIE64 7/13/2012 11:02AM

    I'm with you..I can't eat a high fat diet and loose..I have to count those calories..not going over 1200 seems to work for me..Thanks for the interesting blog.

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