Monday, December 30, 2013

Want Pretty Shoes with Less Pain? Try a High Fat Diet

I've never been a shoe horse. Being wide, my feet don't fit into most shoes of the right length. I went barefoot whenever I could as a kid and even now I prefer tennis shoes and flat sandals to ballet flats and stilettos. But tall boots are handy this time of year. I have a pair of Italian leather boots that are a little too long for me and rubbed my heels--until recently. Now, they're as comfortable as socks. Since I hardly ever wore them, it's hard to say when the change happened. But I've also noticed that I can brush hot grease off my skin and forget about it where it would have left a burn before. Several years ago, a grease splatter from a pan of Moroccan chicken left a trail of blisters up my left arm.

I don't have unassailable evidence that a low carb, high fat diet made my skin more resilient, but people on such a diet often find the same thing. Maybe it's better absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A and D and higher intake of zinc that make a difference. It can take awhile. If I remember correctly, it was about a year before I could go outside for long without sunscreen. 

Shopping for shoes today reminded me of this. Granted, I was selective about the shoes I tried on, but everything I could get my hoof into felt great. No, I didn't try on any granola girl hiking sandals.

Comfy as a tennis shoe. Image from
These don't come in a wide size; they were a quarter-inch too long. Nevertheless, nothing hurt, even with nothing on my heel. 

Speaking of shoes, Stacy London of the TV show What Not to Wear, is (or at least was, as of July this year) embarking on the paleo diet. It sounds like it was a difficult transition for her (as it is for just about everyone); maybe she can start a new show called What Not to Eat.

ETA: I wore these shoes to the office. The sole is fine, but the uppers make these some of the most painful shoes I've ever worn.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pale? Tired? Craving Chocolate? Maybe You're Iron Deficient

Here's a tale of two holidays. Thanksgiving day, I could barely get out of my chair. Answering three phone calls was a major annoyance and baking a crustless pumpkin pie was a slog. But over Christmas week, I've put plastic weatherstripping over windows at my parents' house, gone to a movie, done a lot of shopping (after watching a lot of What Not to Wear), learned to use my new Mac, recycled my old computer and printer, and taken two trunk loads of stuff to Goodwill after cleaning out my basement. I haven't cleaned out my basement in almost 18 years. I'm working out twice a week again. And my pants are falling off me.

What made the difference? Before Thanksgiving, I'd gotten out of the habit of taking an iron supplement. I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia a few years ago when I went to see a doctor for an unrelated problem. (He noticed I was pale and ordered a test.) Even with good diet habits since then (no medications, no grain, no dairy except butter, no coffee or tea within an hour of taking an iron pill, red meat every day), I need the supplement.

I resumed taking iron supplements just before Thanksgiving, but it took a week or two to feel up to speed. It also decreased my appetite. When you're undernourished, it can make you over hungry. Having been on vacation for the past week (away from the chocolate supply at work) has also helped my waistline.

* * * * * 

Even though I'm feeling more energetic, I've decided not to get chickens next spring. Some weeks ago, it was around nine degrees here (thirteen below celsius if you're outside the US) and getting out of bed early on such a morning to tend chickens is the last thing I want to do. Besides, I'm gone almost eleven hours a day at work. If a chicken got injured in the fence or by being attacked, it could suffer a long time before I could help--on a cold winter night in the dark. What I might do is put up some feeders for the birds that already live here. My yard has cover, seeds, birdbaths, and a chickadee box, and since a neighbor who used to put out bird feed recently died, this seems like a good fit.

My father is feeling better, too. A few weeks ago, he got fed up with the rehab center, called a cab and went home. He started declining until my mother fixed his thyroid medication (and they wonder why married men live longer). Dad was happy with the new furniture I bought him, but not so much about the four trash bags of junk food I threw out. He has some dementia, but he's generally reasonable and talked to his bank today about someone opening a credit card in his name last month. (The bank keeps asking what the credit card number was. How are we supposed to know when we never had it?)

The bank's question about the card number didn't make any sense, but my love of chocolate does: it's full of iron. One bar (which I can easily eat in one day) has 12 mg of iron. My supplement has 18. Here I felt like I was using, as FredT would put it. I thought it was stress. I thought it just tasted good. It's all that, but it must be the iron, too.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Regretting Holiday Hedonism? Various Guides to Low Carb

Hope you're having a Merry Christmas! It's the fourth anniversary of this blog and it's been almost that long since I started a low-carb diet and never looked back.

That's not to say I never have a moment of weakness. Too much chocolate last week brought back the GI problems that I set out to solve four years ago. I can't eat chocolate bars in moderation, so I don't keep them around anymore. For others, it's Christmas cookies, stuffing, bread, pie, and other carbs that make this the most fattening time of the year.

How to get back on track--or start a LC diet? Someone asked me this just yesterday. Since different approaches work for different people, here are a few sources for various types of people.

Just tell me what to eat.
Here's a quick guide to low-carb from Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt.

I want to know how this actually works.
Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, who have treated thousands of patients with low-carb diets, explain diet, hormones and hunger.

I need some basic recipes. 
Broil a hamburger three to four minutes on each side 4" from the flame. Serve with a salad or steamed non-starchy vegetables (fresh or frozen) with some butter. Eat a can of sardines with mayonnaise and some celery with almond butter. Make some deviled eggs and serve with cole slaw (mix mayo, vinegar and a little stevia or Splenda to taste for dressing). Buy a roast chicken and a carton of a vegetable dish from the deli.

I need some more recipes. 
Dana Carpender and Dr. William Davis have recipe books you can download from Amazon or check out from the library. (Click the links for recipes online.) You can also de-carb some of your favorite recipes by substituting a clove or two of garlic for onion, cauliflower for potatoes, Splenda or stevia for sugar, almond flour for breadcrumbs (or use egg as a thickener, as in meatloaf) and just skip the rice, noodles and other starchy ingredients. If you're baking, though, you'll need different recipes to replace wheat or rice flour. Dr. Davis's books are a great resource for baked good recipes.

How do I eat out?
Get a bunless burger and a salad. Go to a restaurant and ask for a meat and vegetable dish. Buy a sub sandwich with no bun. Go to a diner and have bacon and eggs, no toast or hash browns. Have a plain coffee (cream or half-and-half is OK) at a coffee shop. Order some hot wings. Stay away from fish and chips places and pizza and pasta joints and don't even look at a bakery.

I'm having some problems on my LC diet: I'm tired, foggy, constipated, or craving carbs.
You probably have the Atkins flu: a two-week adaptation period to a LC diet. More fat, more water, and more salt will probably help you; a magnesium and potassium supplement could help, too, especially for constipation. Low-carb is NOT compatible with low-fat or low-salt. Don't make yourself exercise until this adaptation period is over.

You might have also started eating things you don't tolerate well. If you have stomach aches, lay off the vegetables and check out the FODMAPS diet. (I have FODMAPS problems myself and didn't find it that hard to figure out what bothered me. Experts make it out to be harder than it is.) See if anything has carrageenan, a thickener that's used to induce inflammation in laboratory animals. It's used in cream, cottage cheese, salad dressing, almond milk, ice cream, and other products.

You might be going through wheat withdrawal. Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist and one of the biggest proponents of a wheat-free diet, says a minority of his patients get terrible cravings for wheat when they stop eating it.

In any event, stay the course. As Dr. Michael Eades puts it,

If you’re three days into your stop-smoking program, and you listen to your body, you’re screwed.  If you’re in drug rehab, and you listen to your body, you’re screwed.  If you’re trying to give up booze, and you listen to your body, you’re screwed.  And if you’re a week into your low-carb diet, and you listen to your body, you’re screwed. 

I miss my carbs!
We all have to do things that aren't fun: paying bills, getting up early for work, washing the dishes. If you had a child who didn't want to pick up his things or wanted to take up smoking, would you indulge him? Saying to yourself, "I need a cookie!" (or "I deserve a frappucino!") is just as indulgent--and not worthy of a grownup. Take heart, though. Many of us who've been on low-carb diets for awhile find sweets and starches no more appealing than the box they come in.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cereal Killers: The Movie. Watch it Here!

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Cereal Killers

* * * * *

The film follows Donal – a lean, fit, seemingly healthy 41 year old man – on a quest to hack his genes and drop dead healthy by avoiding the heart disease and diabetes that has afflicted his family.
Donal’s father Kevin, an Irish gaelic football star from the 1960s, won the first of 2 All Ireland Championships with the Down Senior Football Team in 1960 before the biggest crowd (94,000) ever seen at an Irish sporting event.

When Kevin suffered a heart attack later in life, family and friends were shocked. How does a lean, fit and seemingly healthy man – who has sailed through cardiac stress tests – suddenly fall victim to heart disease?
Can a controversial diet consisting of 70% fat provide the answers?
Losing weight, improving lipids and eliminating inflammation on a high-fat, low-carb diet? Yes--even if you have the genes for inflammation and heart disease, as Donal O'Neill does. In the movie, he gets the labs and the DNA tests to prove that his diet of meat, eggs, berries, cheese, butter, macadamia nuts and green vegetables is the ideal diet for him. It's like Fathead, but with better scenery and less politics. I'm sharing it with my best friend, whose father takes Lipitor and went back to eating turkey bacon.

From the film's producers:

The film follows Donal – a lean, fit, seemingly healthy 41 year old man – on a quest to hack his genes and drop dead healthy by avoiding the heart disease and diabetes that has afflicted his family. Donal’s father Kevin, an Irish gaelic football star from the 1960s, won the first of 2 All Ireland Championships with the Down Senior Football Team in 1960 before the biggest crowd (94,000) ever seen at an Irish sporting event.

When Kevin suffered a heart attack later in life, family and friends were shocked. How does a lean, fit and seemingly healthy man – who has sailed through cardiac stress tests – suddenly fall victim to heart disease? Can a controversial diet consisting of 70% fat provide the answers?

Featuring interviews with Dr. John Briffa and Prof. Tim Noakes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Low-Fat: the Microsoft of Diets (2)

For some reason, my settings were changed and my last post didn't show up in feeds. Click here to read about how low-fat diets are like Microsoft products.

Low-Fat: the Microsoft of Diets

You know the feeling: there's a system out there that's wildly popular, almost everybody uses it (except for some maverick non-fiction-loving nerds), and its proponents are at the top of the heap in their field. And yet the system isn't working for you. There's bloating. The help from on high isn't helpful. It takes so long to accomplish anything.

It isn't you, it's the operating system. Low-fat diets are like Microsoft products: they're everywhere, and they work well enough for some people, but for others, they're an epic fail. Over the past few days, to work around an issue that Microsoft has known about for years and years, I've had to manually resize dozens of images every time I opened a document. And I've spent the entire evening tonight figuring out why my computer was at a standstill. (It turned out the automatic updates feature in good ol' Microsoft has been running up my CPU usage to 100%, bloating it like five servings of fruits and vegetables and a bowl full of whole grains. Disabling it has brought it down to 15% and made my computer functional again. Unfortunately, it has to be enabled to even get manual updates.)

How is this like low-fat diets? If your body doesn't run well on glucose for whatever reason (GI problems as I have, wonky blood sugar, dental problems, a weight problem, hormonal issues, mental function issues, etc.), it can take everything you have just to get through the day if you're trying to do low-fat. Most people without those problems won't understand.

Like the theories behind low-fat diets (the cholesterol hypothesis, the diet-heart hypothesis, the sugar-bad-fiber-good hypothesis, the ever-changing Mediterranean diet with its French paradox, and so on), Microsoft is a moving target. Office 2010 took the tools people had used for 20 years and scattered them. Some of the tools are gone. (The quick access toolbar is fine until you have to work on someone else's computer.) Third-party vendors, like makers of extra-mild toothpaste and stomach remedies and diet pills and moisturizers, are there with software you can download to work around Microsoft's problems so you can get something done.

There has to be a better way. The paleo equivalent of modern-day software might be DOS, which I actually found easier to work with. Maybe my next computer will be a MAC; maybe I'll get a Google tablet. I'm not paying $90 for Windows 7. Microsoft may think it's untouchable because its products are entrenched. But not so long ago, people switched from manual systems to computers. They can switch from one system to another system as well--and in the interest of saving time, money and frustration, they may do so. Microsoft is being protected by the network effect (it's widely used and companies want to be compatible with one another); low-fat diets by authority (government regulations that some people are subject to and scare tactics from authority figures). But no moat is unassailable.

Monday, December 2, 2013

HOW Many Teaspoons of Sugar in a Can of Coke?

Dr. Briffa recently blogged that Coca-Cola misrepresented how many teaspoons of sugar are in a can of Coke. A Coca-Cola executive said there were six; Dr. Briffa calculates that there are 8.66 teaspoons: 35 grams of sugar divided by 4.5 grams per teaspoon equals 8.66 teaspoons.

But by my calculations, 35/4.5 = 7.78. I posted a comment to Dr. Briffa's blog, but it wasn't published and is no longer awaiting moderation.

All of us can't be right.

ETA: Dr. Briffa published my comment.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Weakness, Diabetes, Dementia: A Common Link?

My father will be coming home from the hospital any day. He went last week because he was so weak that he could barely move after he fell. He's doing better, but he'll need round-the-clock supervision. Dad has the impression that he's stronger than he is. I was with him during a visit with a psychiatrist, who saw him because he said he was going to call a taxi and leave. Dad said he thought he was at a bank. He drew a good clock, but put the wrong time on it. He did well on other questions, such as the date, the president, and his personal history, but last night, he kept saying that my mother was at the hospital. She wasn't, and has no way of getting there on her own.

When Dad comes home, he'll find some new furniture, some technology to help him, and someone besides Mom to make sure he doesn't hurt himself. What he won't find is a bunch of junk food. I took home four trash bags full of chips, crackers, cookies, pretzels, potato mix, gravy mix, cake mix, cornbread mix, macaroni and cheese mix, oatmeal, sugar and grapes. I suspected my mother has been indulging in this carbage more than she's admitted when she said, "You didn't leave us anything to eat!" I did remove most of the food from the kitchen, if you don't count oils, spices, and anything else you wouldn't just pop in your mouth.

Maybe this is a major reason Dad doesn't feel good.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't decide for my parents what to eat. But my father is losing his mind, There is evidence that Alzheimer's disease (a type of dementia) can be helped with ketones; the disease is commonly called, even in scientific literature, "type 3 diabetes." Dad wasn't diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, but getting rid of the junk food may help him and it won't hurt him. It will help my mother, too, since she says that having junk food around is like living in a crack house. 

Even the doctor said Dad should be on a low carb diet because of his diabetes. That will be helpful when I ask neighbors to please quit bringing my parents high-carb food. I'm going to bring them coconut oil in the hope that it will help my father. The video below is about Mary Newport, a physician who helped her husband's Alzheimer's with coconut oil based on a study she found that used medium-chain triglycerides, which are often derived from coconut oil.