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Am I Harming My Health?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A response I frequently see regarding my low-grain diet is, "You might be losing weight, but you're increasing your risk of heart disease."

For the past 30 years, we've heard 'heart-healthy grains' and low-fat diets touted as the defacto diet for good health.

Michael Pollan said it best in "Omnivore's Dilemma". Whether we choose low-fat, low-carb, flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan, we are all gambling with our lives that the choice will be the right one for wellness and longevity.

The reason many people turned to low-carb (or other diets) is because low-fat failed to make them healthier or thinner. In many cases, it harmed their health.

I was not fat in my youth or halfway through my 20s. I gained weight on fast food and chain restaurants in my late 20s. I'm now in my late 30s and finally found what I needed to lose weight and improve health.

Wheat elimination.

During the time when I was on a low-fat diet (approximately 4-5 years), I lost weight and rebounded year after year. Every year it was less on the loss, and little more on the rebound. My blood lipids were in borderline ranges, but they were declining. This was chalked up to normal aging decline. I already eliminated fast food, processed foods and refined sugar products, so this wasn't happening faster.

The 'heart healthy grains' took their place.

My blood pressure and blood glucose levels continued to rise. Despite the 'heart healthy grains', my risk of diabetes increased every year I ate 5-6 servings of them per day.

Salmon and ribeye steak don't cause blood glucose levels to spike.

Avocados don't cause blood glucose levels to spike.

Whole grain bread has the same effect on blood sugar as white bread.

Which is more likely to increase risk of diabetes then? Salmon, avocados, or wheat bread of any kind?

I just finished reading "Wheat Belly". When I changed my diet a year ago, I unwittingly put myself on a wheat belly diet. The single biggest change to my diet was cutting back my grain servings. You know the one where we were supposed to have 11 servings per day for optimal health? I only ate 5-6 servings per day and it kept me fat.

All of the issues Dr. Davis described went away. Bulging belly, inability to lose weight, IBS, and eczema. Cravings and insatiable hunger were things of the past. Blood pressure and lipids also declined to normal range for the first time in 4 years. All the traditional clinical markers of improving health, not declining.

I expected the book to be a lot of information I already knew, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Did you know:

- Lack of exercise isn't why people in the 50s were thinner than today. Women exercising was considered unseemly. The only appropriate exercise for women was gardening.
- Modern wheat is highly modified. It is completely dependent on human intervention for nutrition and reproduction.
- It is not the same wheat Mesopotamians and Egyptians cultivated. The ancient grains einkorn and emmer almost went extinct. These grains are higher in protein with lower glycemic impact than the modern wheat strain.
- It is not the same wheat our grandmothers used in the 50s and 60s. Our parents ate bread rolls with dinner that were significantly genetically different than modern wheat flour.
- Wheat contains a component that is highly addictive and euphoric. It is more like nicotine rather than an opiate. Snacking on crackers and chips is pleasurable and comforting, much like taking a drag is for smokers. Withdrawal symptoms are also similar to nicotine: moodiness, headaches, head fog, and cravings. Sounds like low carb flu, eh?
- Pancreatic beta cells are damaged by high blood sugar. The more beta cell damage, the more insulin resistant you become. Beta cells cannot regenerate - once they're gone, they're gone for good. If all beta cells die, you have irreversible diabetes.
- Whole wheat bread has a glycemic impact of 71. A tablespoon of sugar is 65. Snickers bar is 40. I eliminated Snickers from my diet 6 years ago, and replaced it with whole wheat bread. Two pieces of wheat bread with a slice of ham between it caused more beta cell damage than a Snickers bar.

When I get to goal weight, I was considering allowing a grain or starch servings per day in my diet. After reading this book, I will stick mostly to starches. Starches have a glycemic impact, but they don't have the addictive property of wheat that causes overeating. I prefer rice and potatoes over bread, anyway.

The hardest realization is accepting my beta cell damage is permanent and irreversible. Bad choices a decade ago mean I cannot tolerate carbs and sugar well today. An occasional indulgence like a frozen yogurt, sorbet, or cheesecake might mean less frequently than I hoped. Or rice and potatoes.

Am I worried that my diet today will harm my health in the future? 4 years ago, I believed the low-fat, heart healthy grains would help me avoid diabetes, and yet it hurdled me straight towards it.

As Michael Pollan says, we are all gambling our lives with any diet we choose. After 4 years of declining health on the ADA approved program, that one is not for me. 14 months of low-wheat diet has removed all my clinical risks of diabetes and heart disease, so I'm going to place my odds in favor of this.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    I'm old enough to remember the 50s and yes, you're right that it was considered BAD for women to exercise or be 'too good' in sports. We were proud of the fact we couldn't throw or run, haha, but at the same time, we also danced all the time and that's pretty strenuous exercise.

One thing I realized when I starting reading about low carb [ie, Gary Taubes, etc] is that also back in the 50's everybody 'knew' that bread, pasta, sugar, potatoes and so forth would make you fat - I was raised on what would essentially be a version of Atkins without realizing it but decided in the mid-80s to 'get healthier' and 'eat a healthier diet' - which is just about when I started to gain weight - why? Well, I wanted to have a 'balanced diet' and reduce the fat intake, which meant a lot more grain products. Hmmmm, what a coincidence! Now I'm re-learning how to eat more along the low-carb lines and I feel much better.

The nay-sayers who claim 'low carb' is unhealthy and a 'fad diet' are also usually pushing 'low fat' and 'balanced' diets - which can also be considered a 'fad diet' since the emphasis is fairly recent for those. I don't think they are healthier, esp after reading some scientific research on the topic.

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LISAINMS 8/3/2012 3:41PM

    I do eat farro (post-wheat-free) and without any of the previous wheat issues. Good stuff! Found it at Whole Foods. Dense, chewy and slightly nutty -looks like a fat oat when cooked. I like it as a cold salad with feta and sun-dried tomatoes.

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SALONKITTY 8/3/2012 9:08AM

    Wow! I have to read this book....so interesting (and disturbing) to hear of all the changes to wheat over the years. emoticon

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_RAMONA 8/2/2012 9:18PM

    Thanks for the response, Cathy.... Costco here sells a sprouted farrow... we ate a lot of it pre-Paleo. Nice to know we can perhaps go back to it later.

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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 8:47PM

    HLKLJGK: Thank you for that. :) I know this now, but I didn't know this 4 years ago when the damage was done. And we can't go back. At this point, a diet that is as unprocessed as possible (and that excludes milled grains flours) works best for me. I haven't reintroduced a lot of grains simply because I find them too calorie dense, and I'd rather eat other things like avocados. When I'm in maintenance, I may reconsider.

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 8:52:45 PM

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HLKLJGK 8/2/2012 8:38PM

    big difference between whole grain and whole wheat flour which leads to a lot of confusion.

Dr. Weil has a concise response:

"Simply reduce your consumption of processed and refined foods (such as snack foods, white bread, sweetened drinks, and sugary desserts). Eat more sweet potatoes and fewer white potatoes, less bread (unless it's really chewy and grainy), more whole grains and fewer products made with flour, more beans and more temperate fruits (especially berries, cherries, apples, and pears) and fewer tropical ones."

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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 8:15PM

    MOONCHILD1949: Great job with your A1C! I was never diagnosed prediabetes, but I was heading that way. My doctors were treating it as though it was an inevitability. :( I just stumbled on the 'cure' by accident.

GETSTRONGRRR: I thought the sections about the process of genetic modification the most interesting (and shocking!) part, too! I've never been much of a baker, but I did recently learn how to make a pretty awesome pastry crust, homemade bread and pound cake. I am really curious to try the ancient grains. I guess emmer wheat is known as farro, and einkorn is available on Amazon. I'll have to check a Whole Foods next time I'm near one. Farro supposedly has a GI of 40, but I can't find anything for einkorn. Dr. Davis' blood sugar was pretty low after eating it, so it must be similar.

Since I have a fairly good handle on how grains affect me metabolically, I'm really curious to see if emmer and einkorn trigger the same reaction. I've discovered that flaxseed crackers do not! So that satisfied my longing for crackers and cheese at lunch!

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 8:25:14 PM

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GETSTRONGRRR 8/2/2012 7:56PM

    Hey great insights as always. I too thought this book would be a re-hash of low carb preaching, with specifics on the high payoff of cutting out wheat.

I found his discussions on the genetic changes to our wheat supply pretty disconcerting. one of our favorite pastimes with my 2 sons was to make bread.....we would spend hours on weekends preparing the dough, letting it rise, baking it and making a meal of fresh baked bread, cheeses & butter...I almost installed a clay oven in the back yard.

Now, I'm not so sure that's a good hobby.....I'll miss the King Arthur catalogue

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 7:59:38 PM

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-LINDA_S 8/2/2012 7:50PM

    I had a glucose tolerance test which also measured insulin a little over a year ago. It was not pretty--prediabetes/insulin resistance. I adopted a largely Paleo approach although not all that strict, and when I had my first A1C (never remember which letters to capitalize!) in March, it was 5.1, which is quite excellent. I was eating lots of fat and protein and not much in the way of carbs and it sure didn't hurt me!

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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 7:03PM

    _RAMONA: Beta cells store and release insulin. Beta cells are destroyed in Type 1 diabetes by an autoimmune disorder. Beta cells are destroyed in Type 2 diabetes by excessively high blood glucose levels. They also naturally decline in function as we age...but overloading sugars shortens the life even further. Many cells in our body can regenerate and heal. Beta cells do not. :( It is one of the functions that has an expiration date.

I read some research being done for beta cell regeneration for Type 1 diabetics, but nothing conclusive.

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 7:26:58 PM

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NAYPOOIE 8/2/2012 6:55PM

    Ah, Grape Nuts. I remember eating those once. Those suckers are dense!

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_RAMONA 8/2/2012 6:50PM

    I've GOT TO get that book already!

Can you say more about "my beta cell damage is permanent and irreversible"?

I'm more used to hearing that the body can heal anything given enough opportunity... I even found 3 blogs that claim you can regrow your own teeth and heal cavities (though I am EXTREMELY skeptical, LOL).

Really... there might have been a point at which I might have considered abandoning this course of action... thanks to your blog... NEVER.

Have a great weekend... I'm off to spend mine in non-Paleo land. SIGH.

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JUSTBIRDY 8/2/2012 6:01PM

    oh, if exercise made us thin, I'd weight about 50 pounds!

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FATBASTICH 8/2/2012 4:58PM

    Great blog as always. As you know, I am new to the Primal/Paleo approach and so I like the shot in the arm your blog gives me. You make the point:

- It is not the same wheat Mesopotamians and Egyptians cultivated. The ancient grains einkorn and emmer almost went extinct. These grains are higher in protein with lower glycemic impact than the modern wheat strain.

It's facts like this that have me leaning toward only using things like quinoa when/if I end up wanting a higher carb addition to my day.

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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 4:43PM

    LOL Jack Lalanne!!

It's interesting that when I lived in Seattle I had a 50s housewife 'diet' of walking everywhere for my grocery shopping!

The 50s menu looked delicous! Well except for the tinned pears - eww. I might have a theme day where I have a 1950's meal - mmm! But what's kind of weird is the article said they ate more calories, but the sample menu had fewer calories. Hmm. I'm also not sure about how many calories are burned cooking. I don't burn that many calories cooking!

I'll have to research this more later! Thanks!

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 4:51:39 PM

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ARCHIMEDESII 8/2/2012 4:33PM

Women exercised in the 1950s. They watched Jack Lalanne !

Your post got me interested what women did for exercise in the 1950s. Here's a great article I found on the Daily Mail. It's a breakdown of food and calories British women consumed and expended in the 1950s.


oh and they did have fads too. here's a fun video youtube. Actually, the Bongo Board IS still considered a really good workout. Surfers and skateboarders still use them.


And you'll definitely enjoy this Grape Nuts commercial


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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 4:12PM

    ARLENE_MOVES: It's strange to me that the idea is so controversial! When I made the switch, it immediately made sense to me that vegetables are more nutritious and less calorie dense than bread. I didn't expect the other health benefits, but it was a welcome surprise!

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 4:27:05 PM

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ARLENE_MOVES 8/2/2012 3:30PM

    Leaving wheat out of my diet makes me so much calmer also. I have Wheat Belly on my kindle as well as hard copy so I can loan out to doubters.

All your points are spot on and anyone who decides to eliminate wheat will be doing themselves a huge favor.

Good job!!!

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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 3:12PM

    NAYPOOIE: That's exactly how I've arranged my 'personal' food pyramid. Grains and starches are in the 'enjoy sparingly' category along with cookies and cakes.

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NAYPOOIE 8/2/2012 3:08PM

    Kayotic's point is one I never thought about, but it's so obvious if you do give it some thought. All that grain goes straight to sugar, and should be at the top of the pyramid just like sugar.

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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 3:03PM

    ELISEL: Great points about the exercise, and I'd have to write a separate blog post to address it all! In general, I agree with you. I am not someone who believes that exercise doesn't matter. I just thought the author brought up an interesting point that people back in the 50s were generally thinner without chronic cardio.

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ELISEL 8/2/2012 2:58PM

    Great blog and very interesting points.

The only point I do not agree with is the first one...that lack of exercise has nothing to do with us being fatter today. True, women didn't do structured exercise like we do today but their overall days were more active. The average woman was doing much more strenuous housework...not everyone had automatic washers and forget the dryers and dishwashers. You were doing that yourself. Today many women sit at a desk for 8 or more hours. That wasn't true back in the 50s. Also you didn't drive everywhere like we do today. I see people driving to the post office at the bottom of my hill...a 5 minute walk! Many women back then would walk to the market daily to get what they needed. Being on the move all day instead of sitting also increases your metabolism so you burn more calories all day even when you're doing nothing. So I do believe that people in the 50s did burn many more calories in their daily live than we do.

But the other points I definitely agree with. The food we are eating today is not the same food they were eating then. It's kind of scary. I say do what works for you.

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JECKIE 8/2/2012 2:34PM


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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 2:05PM

    EATNBOOGERS: We do have very different diets, and you know that I have the highest respect for your choices! I love that you and I can share our differences, and still respect and support each other. :)

Like you, I agree that my body functions better on more fresh veg and fruit than grains.

EGALITAIRE: No one has explained to me why eating MORE vegetables and fruit in place of grains is detrimental, either. As I demonstrated in another blog, an avocado has more vitamins and fiber than a slice of whole grain bread.

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EATNBOOGERS 8/2/2012 12:46PM

    As I've commented before, you and I have dissimilar diets, but I *will* say that I feel like there's just too much "room" for grains in the US diet recommendations. Moreover, not enough emphasis is placed on the fact that white flour is essentially poison. I have found that in order to be the weight I want to be, to feel good, and to be as fit as I want to be, there just has to be a lot of room for fruits and vegetables (and a lot less grainy stuff than recommended).

I've really been pushing my kids on this, too. If they want a snack, I push them to have a fruit or veg or something protein dense, like nuts, or a hard-boiled egg, or a bowl of beans (which I think you don't eat?), or in the case of my one kid who's not veg, some sardines.

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 12:50:44 PM

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EGALITAIRE 8/2/2012 12:00PM

    The concept of wheat/whole grains being "essential" is at best a misnomer, at worst some form of conspiracy, intentional or unintentional.

There are no nutrients in wheat/whole grains that can't be obtained elsewhere. The dire warnings of imminent health decline by not eating whole grains are disingenuous. Something is only essential if it can't be obtained through other options.

I am very interested if anyone can explain why whole grains are essential, or even what makes them beneficial over say vegetables for obtaining fiber and carb energy.

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 12:00:44 PM

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CTTAGENT 8/2/2012 11:43AM

    Always some very interesting info.

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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 11:25AM

    Dr. Davis addresses this in the book. The reason the wheat derivatives are snuck into other foods is because it enhances hunger and makes you eat/buy more. The food industry knows very well what they are doing.

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BTVMADS 8/2/2012 11:12AM

    I really need to get my hands on that book! Although I have to say, I feel like I'd have to read it in secret and not let hubby know that I'm working against him emoticon

I think a huge part of the issue is the genetic modifications and bizarre chemical alterations we've made to wheat since the onset of industrialized food production. I also think that the reason why we're seeing more instances of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance is the fact that wheat derivatives are being "snuck" into foods. I have no problem with the idea of eating stoneground heirloom varieties of wheat in small quantities, just I have no problem with eating organic edamame or a single ear of peak-season sweet corn. But that doesn't mean that they should dominate our diets. One would never eat a diet comprised of apples, applesauce, apple chips, and apple juice -- and yet that's exactly what we do when we eat huge quantities of cereal, bread, soda, and snack products.

A HUGE part of the problem is that we're no longer eating these foods in their natural forms -- we get wheat in the form of bleached, spongy Wundah Bread, soy in the form of oils and protein isolates, and corn in the form of syrup and isolated starches. These foods are completely unnatural, and our bodies have no idea how to process them!

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WOUBBIE 8/2/2012 11:04AM

    If you need a perfect representation of "modern plants are not the same as heirloom plants" pick up any commercially grown rose. Oh, they LOOK perfect. Long stems, luscious colors, what have you. But do they smell like a rose? Fat chance. In their fervor to build a more commercially viable product breeders have bred the smell almost completely out of them. Whole generations are growing up without knowing the heady, wonderful scent of nature-made roses.

Thank God we don't eat them. Usually.


One of the most amazing realizations I made when ditching the wheat and sugar from my diet was that higher blood pressure and higher blood sugar were NOT a part of normal aging. I always assumed that they went along with the hormonal changes that were mostly beyond a person's control. Turns out, not so much...

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 11:09:27 AM

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VHALKYRIE 8/2/2012 10:37AM

    SNOWSNAKE: I treat a wheat serving more like an occasional indulgence, like a piece of cake, rather than an essential component of my diet. I eat it if I want to, but not because I believe it's vital. I prefer an extra serving of vegetables or fruit instead.

KAYOTIC: Eating more vegetables rather than wheat makes more sense to me, too! I agree it is backwards.

Comment edited on: 8/2/2012 10:41:16 AM

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KAYOTIC 8/2/2012 10:34AM

    Interesting points about the wheat. While I'm not totally wheat-free, and don't believe I would have to go that far, I can see why it works for so many people. That said, I really don't eat as much bread as I used to...and I've often wondered why the bottom of that pyramid was whole grains instead of fruits and vegetables...that seems backward, really!

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SNOWSNAKE 8/2/2012 10:31AM

    Wow, this is amazing info that you have analyzed and compiled about your experiences, and I had to read it twice just to absorb it all. Thanks for sharing, and you have made me rethink about my morning toast...altho not a bread lover at all.... it's something Im eating because I thought Im supposed to for optimum health, Now I am rethinking the whole relationship thanks to your informative blog. ***SNOW***

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BodyFat Measurements

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

I get a lot of questions about how I track my bodyfat.

In the past year, I learned that bodyfat and lean body mass (muscles, bones, blood, and organs) are far more important measures than weight at my stage of fitness goals.

However, even bodyfat may not be a reliable measure of how your body will look, according to this excellent blog from fitness trainer Leigh Peele: www.leighpeele.com/body-fat-pictures

As the article points out, knowing your bodyfat % isn't important. I started doing it because I wanted to track my lean mass. One of the arguments against low-carb diets when I started it is you lose lean mass. So I tracked it to find out if this was true. I wasn't going to continue if it harmed my health.

In my case, it wasn't true. As I've described, my lean mass actually increased last year once I started eating an appropriate level of protein.

The method I use is a handheld Omron bodyfat monitor. It is a bioelectrical impedence analysis (BIA) device.

Quick review of precision versus accuracy. If we were playing darts, high precision means all of your darts would be very close to the bullseye, but not necessarily close to each other. High accuracy means all of your darts land very near each other relatively, but not necessary near the bullseye.

I've found the BIA method to not necessarily be precise, but generally accurate when used under the same circumstances. I weigh and measure my bodyfat at the same time every morning. So my numbers are generally in the same range from day to day.

When I first started using it, I checked it against a gym caliper reading. It was within .5% at that time. So it was at least as close as a gym caliper. Good enough for my purposes.

All of the methods are flawed. The two most precise bodyfat methods are Dexa scan (in which your viseral organ fat is also visible), or an autopsy. Most of us would rather avoid the latter.

But really, I don't care what my real bodyfat number is. I'm not going to go into the full pros/cons of BIA because 4A-HEALTHY-BMI already wrote a great blog about it:

All I need is an *estimate*. A number. I could do it with online calculators, but I think that is even less trustworthy. I could buy calipers. I've chosen BIA knowing its limitations.

The numbers fluctuate from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. It varies most widely due to body water levels - a variable that can throw off all bodyfat measurements. People who freak out because they gained .1lb over yesterday should not buy these.

Me, I weigh with a scale and BIA every day. I bounced between 129, 128.8 and 128.4 all last week before dropping to 127.4 this morning. Daily fluctuations don't alarm me. I grab as many data points as I can so that I can spot trends. If weight keep sliding up, that's bad. Weight sliding down is good.

People who freak out over daily fluctuations should stick to weekly weigh ins. And I wouldn't recommend a bodyfat monitor, either.

This level of detail isn't necessary. I do it because I chose to. I think it has given me great insight into what my body responds to. Particularly because I am a smaller woman, and conventional dietary advice has given me very poor results.

I'm not after the optimal fatloss rate. I'm just keeping an eye on what works, and adjusting variables when necessary.

The main way that I keep an eye on what 'works' is my lean body mass. I can't estimate lean body mass without a bodyfat reading. The 'accuracy' of my measurement is good enough for me to notice changes in LBM, not daily, but over a longer period of time. Weekly is ok, monthly is better, multi-months is best. Weight loss and lean mass loss are signs I need to change course. Weight loss and lean mass maintenance or gain are go aheads to keep doing what I'm doing.

That is how I chose to measure my progress. YMMV.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GETSTRONGRRR 8/1/2012 11:07PM

    Ahh, yet another blog that appeals to my inner geek.

If it were up to me, I'd have a micro-USB socket attached to my temple, or better yet, a bluetooth signal from a chip in my arm sending all of my vital stats to a tracker for daily monitoring.

Until then, I make due with a bodymedia fit armband, heart rate monitors, GPS trackers, and a BIA scale I weigh myself on every morning.

I'm an obvious data hound, but I like to nip any trends early, so daily weight measurements work great for me.

I'm going to do a BodPod bodyfat measurement again at the end of this month.....It's a follow up from one I had earlier this year....it's a freebee on my company's insurance plan.

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EATNBOOGERS 8/1/2012 3:00PM

    Got my monitor. I'm definitely a fan of the check every day, too. I actually think being reminded of the "noise" in daily weighings is useful.

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EGALITAIRE 8/1/2012 1:19PM

    Yeah - its all about information - if we want to understand our bodies and how we respond to inputs and exercise, the more info the better. Consistently using the same device, even if flawed, presumably gives you information that is flawed in a consistent way.

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WOUBBIE 8/1/2012 1:10PM

    Thanks for posting the meter picture - I wasn't really considering getting one because I assumed (yeah, go ahead, smack me upside the head for not doing the homework) that they'd be out of my price range. Lesson learned! This should make my efforts less inscrutable from here on in.

Great blog, as always!

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JSTETSER 8/1/2012 12:14PM

    Thanks for the information. You taught me something today.

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ARCHIMEDESII 8/1/2012 11:32AM

    I love reading your highly detailed blogs. You're a true renaissance woman. Not only are you tech savvy, but you're a good chef and blog writer too !

Now, call me old fashioned. but I like the old school way of measuring body fat changes i.e. with a tape measure. it's certainly the cheapest. LOL !

I know that the 9 point caliper test is one of the "more" accurate ways to determine body fat. Hydrostatic weighing or the Bod Pod are considered the gold standard, but even they have a slight margin for error. All the body fat tests have a margin of error, some higher than others.

The more data a person collects, the more they learn about their bodies.


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August Goals

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Sparkfriend NEILITHICMAN asked me a really good question yesterday:

"What's your ultimate goal?"

The question actually took me by surprise.

What IS my ultimate goal?

Before last year, I was on a 4 year plateau. If I lost weight, I couldn't keep it off, and struggled to lose it again. It was a losing battle. Each year my stable weight slowly increased.

At one point, I'm certain that I resigned myself that the best I could do was 33% bodyfat. I never thought I'd see "normal" weight again.

To not only BE normal weight, but also have the possibility to EXCEED it, is something I have not considered in a long, long time.

My somewhat moving goal of 120lbs is what I'll shoot for. I'll evaluate how I like the look of my body then to see what changes I want to make.

My longer range goal is I've decided that I really want to be a MDA, Tom Naughton blog, or Dr. Eades success story. I hope they will find all my collected information interesting!

For now, my August goal is to keep doing what I'm doing. It's working. I see no reason to change it. As an incentive for starting off this month, my body rewarded me with another pound down this morning. So my plan is the same as last month, and I'll keep doing it until my body says I need another adjustment.

Food Intake:
90g protein minimum
80g carbs maximum
4-5 servings veg
1-2 servings low glycemic fruit
Omega 3 rich fish 3x per week
Minimal starches and grains (1x per week, if desired)
No fast food/chain restaurants
No diet soda
2 liters water per day

Omega 3 Fish Oil

30-45 minutes 4x weekly elliptical/treadmill on high resistance settings
1-2 per week HIIT session
Daily wall push-ups/planking/squats
Weekend cycling or kayaking ~2hrs Sat/Sun
1 rest day

You might notice a few things missing from my goals.

Fat - The only fat that I avoid are hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Since I don't eat processed foods and fast food, this isn't a problem. I limit red meat not because of the saturated fats, but because of the high omega-6s in factory raised cattle. Other than that, I eat fat in whatever form it naturally comes. Avocados, nuts, nut butters, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, full fat cottage cheese and yogurt, eggs, meats, and a variety of cheeses. English cheddar (very sharp) and French Brie (very creamy) are my favorites.

Weight - I don't know what my weight will be at the end of the month, so I don't add it as a monthly goal. As long as I'm losing from week to week, then the end total doesn't matter. All I want is progress at the end of the week/month. Not a particular number. If I start noticing stalls, then I'll make adjustments.

Bodyfat - Same as weight. Don't know what it will be. I track this because I can't estimate lean mass without it.

For my personal data, I'm changing over my food tracking to "DailyBurn", but I'll try and keep my food tracker on Spark up to date, also. I've also altered the method that I estimate BMR in my spreadsheet, and added moving averages per the excellent suggestion of 4A-Healthy-BMI.

August goals, here we go!

Edit: Oh yeah! About my pullup goal. I haven't forgotten it. Dropping the bodyfat is part of that plan.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NEILITHICMAN 8/5/2012 9:31PM

    Good to see I got you thinking. good luck on your goals (those HIIT sessions can be killers, I used to do big sessions when I was training for badminton competitions)

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GETSTRONGRRR 8/1/2012 10:59PM

    Good info, thanks.

Man, do I now have to start dissecting my fats into Omega-3s and Omega-6s?!!?!? I so enjoyed the rib eye steak I had tonight.

Yay for pullups.....pushups will help some with them

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    Good goals!

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WOUBBIE 8/1/2012 5:30PM

    Whew! Glad you remembered to mention the pullups!


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VHALKYRIE 8/1/2012 5:20PM

    FATBASTICH: Thanks! I'm thrilled if it helps anyone out there, because it sure took a long time for me to learn!

TRIANGLE-WOMAN: Total carbs are the grams reported in the food tracker. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting fiber from the total. In the Spark Tracker, click on "See Full Report" then scroll down to the bottom to find the fiber total. It may also be in your weekly summary at the bottom of the food tracker (not sure if it is a setting, but it's there on mine).

As for whether it makes a difference...well...I haven't paid a lot of attention to net carbs in the past. I've just started adding them in, but I haven't noticed if they affect anything with me. I just go with the total carbs when counting, because it's so easy to overeat carbs. ;)

Comment edited on: 8/1/2012 5:32:37 PM

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TRIANGLE-WOMAN 8/1/2012 4:24PM

    Great goals!!

From what I understand, you can count carbs as "total" or "net" i.e. you can subtract the fiber from the total and get "net" carbs.

Do you think that matters? How do you count the carbs (total or net)


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FATBASTICH 8/1/2012 1:18PM

    Good luck in August! I have quickly grown to really enjoy your blogs. You're writing style is fun to read but your logs are packed with detail and information. Thanks for sharing all this with us.

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Net Change in the 14 Months

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More stats, for those who are interested. :) Only reporting on days where bodyfat was measured (or significant event marker).

April 20, 2011: (Low-fat diet)
Weight: 135.0

May 12, 2011:
Weight: 134.4
Bodyfat: 35% | 48lbs
Lean Mass: 86lbs

May 20, 2011: (Start date low-carb diet - minimal grains/starches)
Weight: 134.4

June 2, 2011:
Weight: 131.7
Bodyfat: 34% | 45lbs
Lean Mass: 87lbs

July 7, 2011:
Weight: 126.2
Bodyfat: 28% | 35lbs
Lean Mass: 91lbs

(Break between August 2011-June2012)

July 12, 2012: (Post honeymoon + 1 month low activity and french fries)
Weight: 132
Bodyfat: 30.5% | 40 lbs =(
Lean Mass: 91lbs

July 31, 2012: (Pretty close to back where I was a year ago)
Weight: 128.4
Bodyfat: 29.1% | 37 lbs
Lean Mass: 91lbs

Net change (14 months):
Weight: -7.4lbs
Bodyfat: -5.9% | -11lbs
Lean Mass: +5lbs

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VHALKYRIE 8/1/2012 7:29AM

    The measurements pre honeymoon were gym calipers. Post honeymoon measurements are with an Omron handheld fat monitor. Again, I don't care what the real number is. I track general upward or downward trend. =)

I'm unlikely to ever get the hydrostatic testing done because I'm not really that bothered. If I were to spring for a test, I would be much more interesting in gas analysis to measure my BMR and RMR. But approximations through my BodyMedia device is sufficient for my purposes, also.

Comment edited on: 8/1/2012 7:29:43 AM

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LYNDALOVES2HIKE 7/31/2012 11:46PM

    Good for you - I'm curious as to what method you used to measure your body fat. Did you get the underwater measurement or use the electrical impedance method [usually a scale that calculates body fat or a hand-held device, often made by Tanita]? Either way, I'm really glad you are having such great results - good for you!

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GETSTRONGRRR 7/31/2012 8:41PM

    Nice stats....pretty good correlation to the carbs huh?

Now start up some ST, get those pull-ups going, and watch those lean muscle numbers go up!

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BALLOUZOO 7/31/2012 7:21PM

    This is very scientific, how do you feel? Congratulations on bouncing back!

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VHALKYRIE 7/31/2012 4:49PM

    To be honest, I'm not sure yet! For a long time I thought I would never see the scale move again, and didn't think I would get this far!

Way to go on your goals!!! WOOHOO!


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NEILITHICMAN 7/31/2012 4:43PM

    Way to go. What's your ultimate goal?

I've made progress this month too, dropping 2.2 kilos or 4.8 pounds. I'm not sure on the body fat percentage but I did an online calculator based on height, weight and waist measurement and that came back at about 25% bodyfat.

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July End of Month Assessment

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I can't believe the end of month is already here!

My stats for these 30 days are as follows:

Weight change: -3.6lbs
Bodyfat: -1.1% | -3lbs
Lean Mass: -0.17lbs
Avg Exercise Minutes: 30
Avg Calories Burned during exercise: 217
Avg Carbs/Fat/Protein (g): 72/70/96
Avg Carbs/Fat/Protein (%): 22/48/30
Avg Calories Eaten: 1320
Avg Calorie Differential: -505

Skip the rest if you aren't interested in the analysis. :)


At the beginning of the month, I rebooted my weight loss goal after coming back from honeymoon.

In the past, restarting weight loss has been an exercise in frustration. Things just don't seem to work as well as they did before. It can be demotivating.

In the past year, I took a far deeper look at my weight loss journey than I ever have before. I made myself my own n=1 case study.

In "My n=1 Weight Loss Analysis" part 1 and 2, I described my methodology. I tracked a wide number of variable in an excel spreadsheet.



Now I have pretty good picture of how my body behaves on low-fat versus low-carb diet. I also know that it is possible to slip and lose gains, just like on any diet.

So how has rebooting my diet worked this time?

In February 2011, I restarted my low-fat diet and I barely lost anything. That was one of the events that lead me to research low-carb around April-May.

Having repeated this frustrating cycle too many times, I admit I was nervous rebooting low-carb.

Would history repeat itself?

According to the overlay of my weight last May versus this July, it is almost exactly the same.

Any perceptions I had about it being 'slower' than last time were just my impatience. I went back to the same way I ate last year, and my body is responding similarly.

I changed the method in which I track my bodyfat, so I recorded it more frequently than last year. The fluctuations are very confusing, and I don't know how to interpret them yet. I think more data collected next month might be more conclusive. Despite how much the bodyfat is varying, the important thing is my lean mass calculations consistently show I am maintaining lean mass. My weight loss is due to bodyfat.

When I started low-carb last year, I lost 6lbs and gained 1.6lbs lean mass in the first 30 days. I lost 3.6lbs this time and no lean mass gains, negligible loss. However, last year I was starting out with higher bodyfat, higher weight, and less lean mass. I probably lost more water weight last year, accounting for the bigger weight drop. I was also undereating protein on my low-fat diet, so the lean mass gains was due to eating an appropriate amount. My lack of lean mass gains this time tells me that my exercise level and protein consumption has reached homeostasis. If I want more gains, I will have to increase my resistance training/protein. I'm not ready for that yet. I want to maintain my LBM at this stage.

The main puzzle is the weight change is inconsistent with BF and LBM totals. I'm not sure what this means. Hoping August's data will help me figure it out. [Update: Fixed error in bodyfat reporting. Weight difference is within expected +/- margin.]

The calorie differential is interesting. According to calorie in-calorie out math, a differential of -500 calories per day should equate to a one pound loss in a week. I did lose almost 1lb per week this month. It didn't work that way last year, but that may have been because I was more biochemically imbalanced. Perhaps my metabolism is functioning in a way that the thermodynamics is applicable. It's too early to say, as this could be coincidental. We'll see if there's a pattern at the end of August.

In any case, I still believe the calorie composition matters for me. Eating more than 150(g)+ carbs would cause me to gain weight. You'll have to take my word for it, because I don't have any intention of experimenting with this further!

So what does this mean for August? If my historical pattern holds true, then my best gains in body shape will happen next month. I will be right where I left off in January before my schedule changed and the slight backslide.

Then looking farther ahead, my next challenge will be maintaining gains into the fall and holiday season.

Edit: Error in my bodyfat calculation. I reported it as 1.1lb change when it was supposed to be 1.1% change. 1.1% change in my bodyfat IS a 3lb loss, thus net weight change is consistent with what I expected. Correction made above.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

_RAMONA 7/31/2012 2:56PM

    Just for the record... you are one of the most BALANCED people I know!!!

...so easy to hide behind 'privacy' and take pot shots at those brave souls who live their lives with nothing to hide and who hide nothing (YOU).... for the purpose of making the world a healthier place.

I put this in my blog today:

"Don't try to win over the haters.. you are not the jackass whisperer."

...seemed apropos!

{{{{{{{{{ HUGS }}}}}}}}}

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VHALKYRIE 7/31/2012 11:27AM

    Depends on what you mean by balance. Balanced meaning like South Beach? That would require me buying low-fat foods, and I'm not interested in pursuing that again. The only foods I have dropped to meet my low-carb fat loss requirements are grain and/or starch servings, which I can eat once per day while in maintenance. But not when weight loss is the goal.

Comment edited on: 7/31/2012 11:27:44 AM

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CAREN_BLUEJEANS 7/31/2012 11:20AM

    Your 30 day stats are impressive. You've done low-fat & low-carb, but have you tried balanced?

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VHALKYRIE 7/31/2012 11:10AM

    Update: I made an error in my bodyfat. My BF was actually a -1.1% change, which is a 3lb fat loss. That is more consistent with what I expected with the net weight change. The remaining difference is within my expected margin of error.

Comment edited on: 7/31/2012 11:12:17 AM

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VHALKYRIE 7/31/2012 10:08AM

    I know all of the numbers are estimates. ;) I don't need them to be precise...just generally accurate. As long as they are consistent, then that gives a general view of positive or negative trends. I don't really care what the 'real' numbers are. As long as the values and tracking methods are consistent, then it all averages out over a long period of time. It doesn't need to be precise to be useful.

Here is 4A-Healthy-BMI's very excellent blog about the imprecision of using a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis device (and calorie calculators), and why she still chooses to use it. It sums up my feelings on it as well.


My interest isn't in precision, but in trends. I'll discuss further after August. :)

Comment edited on: 7/31/2012 10:44:40 AM

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LYNDALOVES2HIKE 7/31/2012 10:04AM

    Unless you are getting an 'underwater' or hydrostatic body fat measurement, the BF/LBM fluctuations are most likely what is called 'measurement error' - that is, if you are using the electro-impedence method that's common on scales or with various hand-held devices, it measures much more than 'just' body fat - your water retention, even how full your bladder is at the moment, and other factors will all affect the measurement result. Calipers are also likely to yield wide fluctuations or variations in the measurement - the truth is, none of the body fat measurement methods are as precise as the underwater method.

As for the calorie deficit, another 'hard truth' to swallow is that the measurements on calories, both on the intake and burning sides, are also just educated guestimates and may be off considerably - look at the research articles on the topic and in particular, look up the Atwater energy equivalents and read some of the problems associated. Again, unless you are using a special laboratory measurement called doubly labeled water, you're not getting very precise measurements. There are plenty of devices such as FitBit or Body Media that use indirect calorimetry but that's also just an estimate based on averages and not specific to the individual. There's also a 'special controversy' over measuring basal metabolic rates, predicting how much of the 'energy' [ie, calories] is metabolized and what an individual's specific energy expenditure might be at any given time. Keep in mind that just like the scale varies in its measurement throughout the day, so will any other measurements having to do with metabolism - in fact, they can vary wildly depending on a lot of other factors, many of which are outside our control.

Finally, keep in mind that our bodies are NOT calculators and we don't run like machines, either. There are many, many variations to consider, both between individuals and also within ourselves, so it's futile to get too caught up in the numbers other than as a general guideline.

Anyway, hope that helps you understand the significance [or really, the lack of precision] in various ways to generate the numbers a little more - and in the meantime, good job on your results plus a big thank you for sharing the comparisons!


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CHRIMSONFYRE 7/31/2012 9:41AM

    At the beginning of this month, I began a "reboot" as well after my honeymoon the first week of July.
I seem to be doing better than I was before the wedding, but I have a long way to go.
It looks like your stats are pretty good, at least you have not put weight back on! Looking at everything now you know where you can do things better and get back to your goals!
emoticon emoticon

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