Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Dog's Weight Loss Success Story

Molly (left) has a svelte new figure after a month on a low-carb, higher-calorie diet. I radically changed her diet after noticing that the Taste of the Wild kibble she eats is high carb and low fat--and that Molly was putting on weight, constantly begging for food, and spending less time on the treadmill.

When Molly started her new diet, I could pinch an inch of fat on her waist and back. Now I can pinch 1/4" on her waist and I can grab fat on her back only when she's lying down or sitting up.

Her old diet was two cups a day of Taste of the Wild dog food and a snack such as a carrot. Her new diet is, on a typical day, 1/2 cup of TOTW dog food, 2 tablespoons of rice protein powder, a magnesium tablet, and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil for breakfast and 1/2 cup dog food, a cooked chicken thigh with skin and without the bone, and a carrot for dinner, and a handful of nuts and 2 tablespoons of olive oil for a snack.

Macronutrient balance before:
carbohydrate: 50%
protein: 32%
fat: 18%

Macronutrient balance after:
carbohydrate: 19%
protein: 21%
fat: 60%

I haven't restricted Molly's calories: she's eating around 1,330 calories a day now opposed to 765 calories a day before. Yes, I've checked and rechecked the figures--this was a surprise even though I already knew that restricting calories isn't necessarily useful in losing weight. Anytime Molly begs for food, I feed her--usually some nuts or olive oil if it isn't meal time.

In absolute terms, Molly is eating a lot less carb (130 calories per day less), about the same amount of protein, and a lot more fat (660 calories per day more).

Molly's energy has been great. She's still not running on the treadmill as much as she used to, but last weekend, after walking a few miles around Washington Park, we came home and she wanted to go on another walk.

Molly's new diet isn't hard to prepare. For dinner, I usually give her some of whatever meat or eggs I'm having--chicken, a lamb burger, fritatta, etc.--along with 1/2 cup of kibble and some cabbage or a carrot. Yes, cabbage--it's just not dinner for her without a crunchy vegetable and she won't leave me alone until she gets some.

UPDATE 3/15/2011 We've ditched the rice protein powder since Molly doesn't like it and I've gone on a new diet to heal my cavities. She gets meat or eggs instead. We're a grain-free household now. If she's still hungry after a meal, I give her a tablespoon or two of nuts, half-and-half, coconut oil or olive oil (sorry, Anonymous).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dance with the Dolly who'll Dance in her Stockings

I love it when I solve two problems in one stroke. Tonight, I got rid of the knee pain I've been getting when I dance.

How? I danced in my socks.

During the first dance, while I was wearing shoes, sharp pains in my right knee made me imagine having to retire from lindy hopping one day. But having read about runners correcting their foot and knee problems by running barefoot or in minimal shoes (see this and this), I tried an experiment: I took off my shoes. Since you have to be able to pivot without sticking to the floor, I kept my socks on.

My first impression was that I could feel the floor. Years ago, my dance teachers, Dan and Tiff, talked about the floor being the third partner in the dance. I finally understood what they meant. My heels, toes and especially the balls of my feet felt every step, slide and tap on the wood floor. But the pain in my knee didn't return.

One partner was concerned that I'd slip and slide in my socks, but it didn't happen in socks any more than in my dance shoes--a pair of sueded tennis shoes I bought for $5 from Tiff a few years ago. (They were a tad too small for her.) I did backward kicks a la Frankie Manning, and every other styling move I could think of, without a problem.

The other problem I solved tonight was finding dance shoes. Suitable dance shoes have to fit my wide feet, buckle or lace so they don't fly off, they have to be flexible enough to let my feet bend, they have to have a sole you can pivot on, or a sole that can be sueded, and I need to be able to wear them with either cotton socks or nothing so that I don't get blisters. Having shopped for such shoes, let me tell you: this is a tall order. It's time consuming, and decent shoes are expensive. It's probably why so many people in the swing scene wear sueded tennis shoes.

Drawbacks to dancing in socks? I'll have a little less protection when someone steps on my foot. Being stepped on by experienced dancers isn't so bad: they react too quickly to press very hard, and their flat shoes spread out the force. They don't step on people often since they keep their feet close to the floor. It's out-of-control newbies taking high, wide steps in stiletto and kitten heels that worry me. For the safety of everybody, I wish dance clubs would ban those shoes. One of my coworkers sustained a broken bone in her foot when someone stepped on her at a dance.

I suppose I'll look a bit odd, but so do a lot of people at the places where I dance. A few years ago, a friend and coworker was going to meet me at one of the clubs, but was put off by some people with purple hair. Besides, it's 2011, and the expectations of people who want current swing dancers to look like they fell out of an Andy Hardy movie are lost on 98% of us. If you really want to be period-accurate, though, some flapper or bobby soxer surely kicked off her t-straps or wedgies and kept on dancing at some point during the 30-year swing era. Smart woman.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Low Energy? My Big Suggestions

What a wonderful day to live in Denver. The ground might have been covered with snow, but it was sunny and seventy degrees (about 20C) and hundreds of people and dozens of dogs went walking or running in Washington Park (left). My dog, Molly, even played in the snow to cool off. It was warm enough to wear a t-shirt, drive with the windows down and flirt at stoplights.

When the sun goes down, another great reason to live in Denver is the swing dance scene, if you're into that. You can lindy hop four nights a week in Denver; more if you're willing to drive to Boulder or Colorado Springs.

Of course, it takes energy to enjoy long walks and lindy hopping on a school night. My best suggestions for increasing your energy if it's flagging: stop eating sugar and flour. Start eating a high-fat, adequate protein, high-nutrient diet. Eat when you're hungry, rest when you're tired. If there's still no wind in your sails after two weeks, look into which vitamins and minerals you might be low on. And if that doesn't work, see a doctor--you may have a hormonal problem or an illness.

That's it--my big suggestions. But that was enough to allow me to give up four-hour naps on Sundays and early bedtimes on dance nights.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gary Taubes Lecture in Denver

"One of the five worst scientists I've ever met." That's how Gary Taubes described a doctor he talked to several years ago--a doctor who took credit for getting Americans to eat less fat and consume fewer eggs. And poor science, said Taubes, is typical of the field of nutrition.

Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, gave a talk at the Tattered Cover book store last night on his new book, Why We Get Fat. Taubes, whose education is in engineering and physics, is a science writer who has, as he put it, "recreated [or compiled] the history of obesity" through his research. His talk mostly covered what's in Why We Get Fat, an accessible book. Having only 45 minutes, he covered mostly why we don't get fat; he said he'd never given a 45-minute lecture in his life.

For those who favor brevity, here's a highly condensed version of Taubes's message.

Why we get fat: too many carbs.
Why we don't get fat: too much fat, too little exercise and McDonald's are NOT to blame.
How does he know? too many examples of hardworking, undernourished, overweight people with no access to McDonald's. Too much good science that points to insulin.
What to do? Lay off the carbs.
What about calories? You have to reconcile this concept with the animal kingdom. Do lean dairy cows graze less than fatter beef cows and run around the pasture when nobody's looking? Do wild animals eat less because their belt is getting tight?

After his talk, Taubes answered some questions from the audience.

Q: Is chocolate a carbohydrate?
A: Chocolate is mostly fat, but has some sugar in it. (Ed: there's a fantastic recipe for no hidden carb fudge, courtesy of the Blood Sugar 101 site. Quickly, easily made on the stove top.)

Q: Are there particular kinds of carbohydrates to avoid?
A: Sugary, starchy carbohydrates. Lettuce is fine.

Q: Why do Asians, who eat a lot of rice, generally not have weight problems?
A: Possibly because they eat very little sugar.

If you'd like to hear Taubes lecture, there are several of his talks and interviews on Youtube:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lousy Mood? It Could be the Food

Here's a funny AMV(1) on what it's like to be depressed, apathetic and overly sensitive. Note: explicit (but funny) lyrics in the video.

Hearing this song brought a startling realization: I used to be emo, but with normal clothes. Sulking, sobbing and writing poetry were my hobbies. When I was a kid, my mother said that she wouldn't know what to do to punish me if I had done something wrong.

And yet things got worse. Over a two-week period in 1996, my best friend moved away, I lost my job and broke up with my boyfriend. I lost my appetite and lived on a daily bagel, cream cheese and a Coke for the next few months.

I had tried counseling, and didn't find it helpful; in fact, I found reviving painful memories was pointless. Not thinking about them, on the other hand, worked wonders. Later on, so did studying philosophy and learning to think through emotions instead of just riding through them.

But what's blown away all the techniques is diet. Since I started my low-carb, saturated fat fest almost a year ago, the old problems evaporated. I can't remember the last time I needed to stop and regroup. I believe the high-fat diet has had everything to do with that.

Psychotherapist Julia Ross says in her book The Mood Cure, "...much of our increasing emotional distress stems from easily correctable malfunctions in our brain and body chemistry--malfunctions that are primarily the result of critical, unmet nutritional needs."(2) She recommends, among other things, eating plenty of good fats and protein. "Our clients generally love the way they can come alive on their omega-3 foods and supplements." (3) Saturated fat, Ross explains, is needed for vitamin and mineral absorption, skin health, blood sugar control, brain health, and cancer prevention, to name a few things. It's an important part of her cure for patients with eating disorders(4), something Dr. Robert Atkins had been doing for years.(5) Ross also recommends eating enough food and including vegetables.(6) (I noticed years ago that eating a salad improved my mood.)

Sweets and white flour starches tie for bad mood foods #1 and #2 in Ross's book.(7) (Remember my Coke & bagel diet?) Dishonorable mentions go to skipping meals, low-calorie dieting, low-fat diets ("firmly associated with depression"), low-protein diets ("low energy and low-mood"), and pre-packaged food.(8)

Michael Eades M.D., co-author of Protein Power, observes, through research and clinical experience, that low-fat diets cause depression and mental disorders. He writes,

MD [Mary Dan Eades, M.D.] and I have always noticed that at the same time the bookstore shelves were laden with books on low-fat dieting they were also filled with books on depression. I don’t think this is a coincidence. The brain is a fat dependent organ composed primarily of fat. An enormous number of scientific studies have shown that people who don’t get enough fat nor enough cholesterol tend to develop depression and/or anxiety. MD and I have seen this first hand. Ten or so years ago we participated in a clinical study for an anti-obesity drug that worked by inhibiting fat uptake in the gut, thereby putting patients on a low-fat diet irrespective of how much fat they actually ate. One of the big problems we had was that the patients on the drug became depressed, anxious, or both, went to their regular doctors and were given prescriptions for antidepressants or anxiolytic medications. One of the guidelines of the study was than anyone who took one of these medicines was disqualified from continuing. We fought this problem continuously, so we know that low-fat diets cause mental problems. During the past 20 years the average fat consumption has fallen about 25%-30% as the obesity epidemic has surged, leading, I’m afraid, to a whole lot of antidepressant prescriptions. I would have to say that the increased drug use doesn’t cause obesity, but is, like the obesity epidemic, a consequence of a sea change in the American diet.(9)

No wonder I felt so lousy for so long with problems that were difficult, but shouldn't have left me doing nothing but putting one foot in front of the other for months. As for my diet when I was a kid, I may have inadvertently been on a low-fat diet. I ate milk and cereal for breakfast (cereal is sugar and flour; milk is a little better but I didn't like much on my cereal). I ate a sandwich with lean roast beef or pastrami on a squishy bun, a Coke and a piece of cake for lunch. Dinner was a little lean meat, cooked until it was like shoe leather (trimmed of fat because I didn't like it) and a canned vegetable. My mother was the cook in our family, but I don't blame her for not knowing how the food affected--well, probably all of us. She's now on the low-carb, high-fat train, she seems happier than she's ever been, and she thinks "I Must be Emo" is hilarious.

1. "Death Note Emo Song." Music: "I Must be Emo" by Hollywood Undead. Video: Death Note.
2. The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A., p. 1.
3. Ibid, p. 149
4. Ibid, p. 153.
5. The Atkins Diet Revolution by Robert Atkins MD, p. 266.
6. The Mood Cure, p. 155.
7. Ibid, p. 122.
8. Ibid, p. 134
9. "How Does Life Fat Thee? Let Me Count the Ways" by Michael Eades M.D., July 11, 2006,

UPDATE, 2/13/11 My mother firmly denies cooking the meat until it was like shoe leather. She just cooked it "well-done." You say potato, I say po-tah-to.