Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Is Atkins Induction? Part II

Last time, I addressed some misconceptions and pitfalls of Atkins induction. It's a simple diet, but it doesn't work with some current fads.

First, a word of caution: if you take amphetamines, diuretics (including high blood pressure medicine) or diabetes medicine, you need medical supervision on Atkins induction. Low-carb diets increase your adrenaline (not good if you're already cranked up on amphetamines), flush out excess fluid (bad in combination with diuretics), and normalize your blood sugar (you can get a hypo with LC plus medication). If your doctor objects to your doing Atkins, just ask him or her to monitor you. You might say that low-fat, low-calorie diets haven't worked for you and exercise hasn't worked for you either, but you've given low-carb diets a lot of thought and want to do a two-week trial.

If you use insulin, I'm sad to say you'll probably be on your own. I can't tell you how much to use, nor can anyone else on the internet. My best advice is to get Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution and follow his diet and insulin dosing methods to the letter. Test your blood sugar often (fasting and one and two hours after meals, more if Bernstein advises it). Giving yourself insulin without testing your blood sugar first and without knowing how much the insulin will decrease it is playing Russian Roulette. My mother has had some nasty hypos that fatigued her for the rest of the day by doing that. It could have put her in a coma.

Of course, few nutritionists or medical professionals will clue you in to the dangers of a high-carb diet: weight gain, diabetes (onset or worsening), hypoglycemia, high blood pressure, tooth decay, GI problems, the need for speed (amphetamines), and much more.

Intermittent fasting is not part of the plan. Some people lose weight and feel great on it, but it's not for everyone and there's no shame in not doing it. I don't think Dr. Atkins could have or would have done intermittent fasting, since he said that back when he had three chins, he went looking for the "hungry man's diet." He added that he had a big appetite but no willpower. While some of his patients ate one meal a day because that's all they were hungry for, and that was fine, he suggested eating a big, cozy breakfast and, if you wanted to, eating six small meals. For people with GI problems or wonky blood sugar, this is better than one giant meal a day. When I tried intermittent fasting, I went on the first food binge of my life. I'd been on a LC diet for several months, I was healthy, and I didn't have diabetes. In other words, I had "no real reason" I couldn't do intermittent fasting, according to some LC doctors in clinical practice. Yet there I was, eating honey and driving to the grocery store for more sweets when it was over.

Don't try to exercise the weight off. Later editions of Atkins' books may say that exercise is non-negotiable, but the original (Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution) barely mentions exercise, except to say that it wasn't a good weight-loss tool, but taking up a sport you enjoyed was a good motivation to stay trim. There have been recent intervention studies supporting the assertion that exercise isn't a good weight loss tool (weight-bearing exercises might help somewhat since they improve insulin sensitivity), and I can tell you from experience that even doing six hard workouts a week didn't keep me from putting on weight on my old carb-filled eating plan. Nor did it seem to help anyone in Denver's lindy hop scene (lindy being an athletic swing dance). The dance scene included some national champions and hard-core amateurs. Yet I saw some dedicated lindy hoppers gain weight over the years. And remember the 245-pound Jazzercise instructor? Challenging exercise will make everything higher and firmer. But if you don't carb up, you won't need to exercise your butt off.

Take your vitamins and minerals! Dr. Atkins recommended a high-potency multi-vitamin for readers, not because the diet was nutrient-poor, as some have asserted, but because his patients were deficient in vitamins and minerals. (For specific nutrient recommendations, though, I suggest a source more recent than 1972 since our knowledge of vitamins and minerals has changed quite a bit.) Some people are also either poor absorbers or burn through a lot of nutrients. Let me tell you things that have happened to me when I became nutrient depleted. Last year, I figured I didn't need to take iron anymore since I eat red meat daily. (A blood test years earlier showed I had iron deficiency anemia and needed supplements.) After a few weeks, I could barely prise myself out of my papasan chair and couldn't help lift my father after he fell. And when I don't take my multivitamin with zinc, I get acne. (Phinney & Volek recommend taking zinc for a month, then iron for a month, but if I went without iron pills that long, I don't think I could get out of bed.)

I don't see it in Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution, but it's in the Protein Power blog and the book The Art and Science of Low Carb Living: take potassium and magnesium and eat salt, especially when starting a low-carb diet. Here again, I can tell you what can happen when you get depleted in some of these minerals. A few weeks ago, I decided I was too flabby and started Atkins induction (20g of carb per day). I was already low-carb, I just went lower carb. The next day, I had oral surgery.  A very low carb diet like Atkins induction depletes magnesium and especially potassium for awhile. Epinephrine, an anesthetic my surgeon used on me, can also cause low potassium, which I didn't know. I couldn't eat very much the first few days after my surgery--and I couldn't chew leafy greens or meat (I tried), foods high magnesium and potassium, respectively. So my potassium was really depleted.

Low potassium can give you heart palpitations. I knew this, having been through it before, so I started popping potassium pills when it happened. I popped them like candy, but I was still jittery, fluttery, and full of nervous energy.  It was so bad that after a yoga workout, I was so light-headed I worried that I couldn't make it home on the bus: the stop was several blocks away and I thought I might pass out from walking that far. It was a scary and uncomfortable. Doing some research later, I found out that potassium doesn't work if you're low on magnesium. I started taking magnesium and felt better within 15 minutes. Incidentally, after the yoga class, I stopped at a wine bar nearby and ordered a plate of cured meat and cheese and a big bottle of mineral water. Only later, I found out I needed magnesium (found in mineral water) and that pork (e.g., the cured meat I ordered) was high in potassium. That meal made me feel better for a day.

My Results doing Atkins Induction
I started at 130 pounds, about 10 pounds more than I wanted to weigh. When the palpitations started and continued after my surgery, I stopped doing induction because I knew I was low in minerals and didn't want to get worse. By then, I had lost three pounds and kept it off while still doing LC, just not induction. A week and a half after the surgery (June 23), I felt up to starting induction again. I've been taking all my supplements, following the eating plan pretty closely, and I've felt fine. Any palpitations have gone away with a potassium pill or two. After nearly a week, I'm at 125. It's only five pounds, but my watchband, jeans and shoes are all looser, my face is thinner and my belly is flatter. I've gone from the second to the third hole on my raincoat belt.

The oral surgeon's assistant said my mouth was healing properly; everything feels perfectly normal--the graft feels like it's part of my gums and I can barely feel a thin scar on the roof of my mouth. When I had septoplasty long ago, it didn't heal for years--not until I'd been on a LC diet for some months. But get this: my nosebleeds have almost completely disappeared in the past week. My skin feels softer and much of my keratosis is gone. It could be the unusually humid summer we've had in Denver this year--we'll find out as it gets roasting hot and dry this week.

Some people might find Atkins induction very restrictive, but one advantage is that it makes shopping and cooking a snap. Hardly any of the 50,000 products for sale at the grocery store are relevant so they don't get any of my attention. Since I quit eating crap-in-a-bag years ago, all that stuff looks the same to me, anyway. Yesterday at Natural Grocers, a woman had some food samples set up at a table. She complimented me on my necklace, then I said to her, "I'm sorry I can't sample whatever it is you have, I'm on Atkins." She said, "It's dog food, so I wouldn't want you to sample it." We laughed. I thought it looked like some chocolatey, high-fiber cereal in a remarkably plain container. Except for the chocolate, that's not far from dog food.

Speaking of chocolate, I've passed up chocolate bars completely. I've found abstaining from chocolate  bars is easier than trying eat them in moderation. We tell smokers to give up smoking, we tell alcoholics to stay on the wagon, we tell drug addicts to kick the habit, why do we tell chocoholics and people like them to use moderation? Yes, I'm a chocoholic. Once I start eating chocolate, I don't stop. Dr. Atkins actually addressed this in his book, saying that for reasons he wasn't able to discern, chocolate addiction was real. I have made some Coco Cocoa Fat Bombs from The Fat Fast Cookbook that have less than one gram of carb per serving, and they don't leave me wanting more chocolate. (Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution says fats are unlimited and that you can have no-cal sweeteners and powdered spices, so the bombs are within the rules.)

Conclusion
The Atkins Diet has a reputation for being a horrible diet, but I think this is because of popular myths  and mental habit. And if some people really are eating pounds of meat, gobs of fat, and their full ration of cheese and cream, it might be because they're hungry and malnourished from starvation diets that have been pushed for over a hundred years. Or they might have a biological disorder that makes them very hungry; if that's the case, they're simply trading one high calorie diet for another.

Aside from my mineral depletion from the unfortunate timing of starting Atkins induction, I'm happy with it. If you're not sure about it, give it a two-week trial.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

We're Highjacking the Lead

In the article, some prominent researchers point to the many flaws in the lipid/diet-heart/cholesterol hypothesis and blame refined carbohydrate for soaring rates of overweight and diabetes. Others urge caution in eating saturated fat. Ornish says eating meat will damage the planet. There have been many recent clinical studies exonerating LC diets, but the science has been there since Atkins wrote about his diet in 1972. The end is in sight for the disastrous experiment the government performed on America, and later the rest of the English-speaking world.

*To highjack the lead is to take over the leading in partner dancing.

Friday, June 27, 2014

What Is Atkins, Anyway? A Definition and Pitfalls

Over the years, I've read some strange ideas about what the Atkins diet is:


  • All meat
  • A crash diet
  • Not low-carb, high fat
  • High protein
  • An eating plan where you gorge yourself


Wrong on all counts. A friend of mine was curious a few weeks ago about what it really was. I described it to her, and she can't stop raving about it now:

Friend: What do you eat?
Me: Meat, eggs, cheese, non-starchy vegetables, and fats like olive oil, mayonnaise, lard and butter.
Friend: How much do you eat?
Me: You eat until you're full.
Friend: When do you eat?
Me: Whenever you're hungry. You should also take some vitamins.

There are more details, of course, but that's it in a nutshell. How does such a simple diet get so convoluted in people's minds? I blame fads in eating and thought.

A trend now is to eat vegetables by the pound--no exaggeration. Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution specifically says not to fill yourself with vegetables--that's a tactic of traditional low-calorie diets. Atkins induction calls for two small salads a day--small meaning one cup of lettuce, loosely packed. What's wrong, though, with eating lots of vegetables? First, they aren't NO-carb. A cup of cooked brussels sprouts, for instance, has eight net grams of carb. A cup of chopped red peppers has six--and they're all sugar. Not much by themselves, but if you eat three cups of each, you're up to 42 grams of carbohydrate--that's 22 grams over induction. Second problem is the Chinese Restaurant Effect. Your intestines sense when they're being stretched and release hormones, the net effect being a release of insulin. It can happen even if you stuff yourself with sawdust.

Another trend is snacking on nuts. I've never had a significant weight problem, but nuts even put weight on me. A commenter at another site remarked that he didn't lose weight on Atkins induction because he ate too many calories...from nuts. Nuts aren't an induction food for good reason: they're easy to overeat (especially if they're salted and you're craving salt) and most of them aren't very low-carb. A cup of pistachios has 21g (net) of carbohydrate. Dr. Richard Bernstein says he knows of only person who can ration nuts out in tiny amounts; I recently read about someone who tells people to put their nuts in an Altoids tin--that's the right amount. If you're on Atkins induction, just don't eat them. Snack on meat or hard cheese or deviled eggs or pork rinds if you need to.

Yo-yo dieting has probably been around as long as diets. But a diet can't work for you if you're not on it. Go back to your old habits and you'll go back to your old problems. There are certain things you can't eat on Atkins if you don't want to gain weight or suffer from whatever problems drove you to low-carb. Likewise, you shouldn't smoke if you want to enjoy good health, but I never hear justifications for smoking as I do for eating sugar and starch: it's the holidays, I'm on vacation, I'll go on a diet later. The last one baffles me. If you know you need to go on a diet, why make it harder for yourself? It's like smoking five packs of Camels right before you go mountain climbing in the Rockies. Our friend who liked to snack on nuts remarked that he also often ate peanut butter and bread for a snack, justifying it by saying liked to live, didn't like restriction for its own sake and that Mark Sisson and others had cake on occasion.

Here, we come to honesty and accountability. I don't mean to bust the guy's chops (he seems nice enough), but you don't snack on 50g of carbohydrate on a low-carb diet--period! (Atkins induction is limited to 20g per day.) If you really thought there's no point in restricting carbs, you wouldn't be trying to do it. Comparing frequent, high carb snacks with treats enjoyed on special occasions by a lean, athletic person who doesn't need to lose weight is dishonest. And come on--peanut butter on bread is a convenient snack, usually for children. Key lime cheesecake with people you love is living.  (Atkins suggests losing a few pounds beforehand if you know you're going to indulge.)

Measuring things helps. Atkins induction limits salads to two cups and day and cheese to 4 ounces a day. Heavy cream is also limited. (Meat, eggs, fats and calories are not.) Get a food scale, some measuring cups and measuring spoons--don't eyeball servings. Daily weigh-ins let you see problems while they're small. If you wear stretchy or baggy clothes, you can gain a lot of weight before they're tight.

Don't Make Assumptions, Read the Book. Get a LC diet book with a program that makes sense to you and that you can live with and follow it to the letter. Preferably, the author should have a lot of experience treating patients or clients. I think it's better if the diet doesn't allow cheat days. You'll see better results if you don't cheat, you won't be cycling between carb burning and fat burning (it can take days to switch), most people lose their taste for sweets if they go off them long enough, and you'll form good habits. My friend who can't quit raving about Atkins did just that--she has The New Atkins for a New You and went by the book. A lot of people with problems didn't.

Click here for Part II.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I've Changed the Comments Settings

Some readers have remarked that they're having a hard time leaving comments. I've changed one of the settings from "embedded" to "full page," having read that that should help. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

1972: Carole King, M*A*S*H and...Food for 2014?

I feel well enough to try Atkins induction again. The palpitations are gone, even without taking potassium. My energy level is back to normal--no more trucking on the treadmill early in the morning  to burn off nervous energy or emergency meat, cheese and mineral water stops after yoga. It's back to lounging around to Chopin and Debussy in the morning and stopping at the wine bar for pleasure.

I'm using the original Atkins book: Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution from 1972. While looking in the book for a way to make gelatin (which is allowed on induction, but Jello(TM) and products like it have questionable ingredients), I felt the earth move under my feet: those recipes from 42 years ago look delicious and they're mostly real food. It makes sense, though: the cooks who wrote the recipes probably didn't have had a palette used to low-fat food full of added sugar or a bag of tricks to make low-fat food edible. Anyone who writes a recipe called "Cottage Cheese and Sour Cream Salad" can't have a mental hook to hang a low-fat idea on. The meat, vegetables and fat combine to bring out each others' flavor. And wacky products like soy burgers, rice flour, almond milk and boneless, skinless chicken breasts probably hadn't come on the scene.

Can we take all the boneless, skinless chicken breasts and patch up faulty tires and repair the treads on shoes and replace missing asphalt shingles with them and declare the boneless, skinless chicken breast dead? I want something else! When I saw "breaded chicken" in the book, I read "dreaded chicken." It turns out the chicken called for wasn't boneless, skinless, or dreaded.

The recipes didn't call for ingredients so primitive that they're now exotic to most of us, though, like tripe or a boar's head. No, 1972 is just far enough back in time for low carb recipes to make now. I had to improvise with the citrus gelatin since I didn't know how much sweetener was in a packet of Sugar Twin and never heard of D-Zerta or Shimmer. But if the batch turns out well, I'll post the recipe.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Getting Over Palpitations

Note to new readers: please note I'm not a health care provider and have no medical training. If you have heart palpitations, I have no idea whether the following will work for you.

Over the past several days, I've had a rough time with heart palpitations and feeling physically jittery. I was wondering if I was going to turn into one of those people who can't sit still. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it would be a major lifestyle change.

Kidding aside, something wasn't right and I really needed to get back to normal. I tried popping potassium pills like candy. I ate more. I doubled up on my iron dose. I went to yoga and even got on the treadmill at 6 AM yesterday. I tried the nuclear option of eating more carbs to stop peeing away minerals. Most of these things helped, but the problem kept coming back.

A comment from Galina made me look up epinephrine, one of the drugs my surgeon used to anesthetize me Friday. First, the assistant at the surgeon's office said they didn't use epinephrine, then said they did, and said it couldn't have been a side effect because so many days had passed (she also got the date of the surgery wrong). But hypokalemia (lack of potassium) is one of the side effects listed on drugs.com. If epinephrine reduces potassium, the potassium isn't going to come back just because the drug has worn off. Drugs.com also says that arrythmias have been reported in patients with underlying cardiac disease. I don't have cardiac disease, but one of the symptoms of hypokalemia is abnormal heart rhythms. I'd also changed my diet recently (started Atkins induction, which can reduce levels of potassium, salt and magnesium temporarily). And for a few days after the oral surgery, I probably didn't eat enough. Even under the best circumstances, I don't absorb minerals well. The combination, I think, sent me over the edge.

So why didn't popping potassium pills fix this? I wondered if potassium absorption might depend on magnesium because of a supplement I saw at GNC that had both minerals. I was grasping at straws, but I was desperate. A search in Google books confirmed this (the synergy, not my desperation). But had I searched my Kindle, I'd have found the answer faster:

However, persistent hypokalemia unresponsive to sodium and potassium replacement can be a sign of underlying magnesium depletion....the best test for magnesium depletion is a 20-day course of oral replacement...a long as the patient has normal renal function. (The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D., RD and Stephen D. Phinney, MD, Ph.D., 2011, page 166.)

I didn't suspect I was low in magnesium because that typically gives me GI problems in the form of trouble swallowing and constipation. But popping magnesium pills has brought relief. Hopefully, I'll be in bed tomorrow morning listening to classical music instead of burning off nervous energy on the treadmill.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Post-Surgery: How it's Going

It's going both well and badly.

My mouth is healing. It stopped bleeding after a day and the chunk my surgeon removed from the roof of my mouth (the size felt somewhere between a shotgun pellet and a pea) feels like it's mostly grown back. Both sites are still tender, though. I'm talking better; I could barely stand to move my mouth for a few days. And I'm down 4.1 pounds since I started Atkins induction a few days ago.

But I spent an uncomfortable day today: my heart was pounding even though I was sitting at my desk having a slow day at work among pleasant coworkers. I popped potassium pills to little avail. My distress could have a few causes:

Very low carb diet, which has given me palpitations before.
Low blood pressure. Right before surgery--when I was about to have my mouth cut and sewn, and I needed a potassium pill to chill out--it was 97/60. Bleeding for a day and relaxing would have only lowered this number.
Low blood sugar. I haven't taken my blood sugar (I'm a wimp about sticking my fingers, but not about getting a shot in my gums, for some reason), but palpitations are a sign of low BG. Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution says that some people have persistent low blood sugar even on the induction phase and suggests megadoses of certain vitamins. If that doesn't work, he suggests going to the next phase of the diet--that is, adding a bit more carbohydrate. He says weight loss will be slower, but it's important to have a sense of well being.
Not eating much. I didn't have a proper dinner last night; I had a light breakfast and lunch today. I felt better tonight after having the meat and cheese plate (which I liberally salted) and a big bottle of mineral water at a wine bar up the street from where I took yoga (which also made me feel better: burning off nervous energy with my head mostly down).
Missing my iron dose last night. I took an iron pill a few minutes ago and immediately felt better. ETA: I just took another, along with another can of Perrier, and feel back to normal. Just don't try the old "if a little is good, more is better" at home unless you know what you're doing.

Maybe the surgery, decreased appetite, missed iron and propensity for palpitations were just a bad combination. I'll have three proper meals tomorrow with a little more carbohydrate and take all my vitamins and see how I feel.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Pain Relief without Anesthetic; Atkins Induction Results

I've run into a problem with Atkins induction: my brand new shorts are now so loose on me that I can get them on without unbuttoning them. Truly, two days ago, nothing in my usual size fit. Cue the sappy violin music.

Having to have your clothes taken in isn't the worst problem. What about dental surgery, though? Back in my Body for Life days, I ate a lot of carbohydrate and ended up with a bunch of cavities, a few of them at the gumline of my bottom front teeth. As much as I brushed and flossed, I constantly had plaque on my teeth back then. Even though I haven't had any tooth decay since starting LC, the gumline there (where my old dentist had to remove gum tissue to put in a filling) has receded and I've had bone loss. Gum tissue doesn't stick to fillings, so it just keeps receding. To avoid any further bone loss, my oral surgeon (the one who gave me my dental implant a few years ago after an accident) grafted some tissue from the roof of my mouth to the gum.

My Atkins induction results will probably be skewed toward more weight loss since I have to do a liquid diet for a day, then gradually go to soft foods. It will take several weeks for the surgery to heal. No problem--I lived on soft and liquid foods for a few months after my face hit the sidewalk in 2012.

I'm feeling OK. I had low-carb, non-dairy, no-alcohol eggnog for dinner and I've been playing video games and listening to music that make me feel better: Totalfat, Nightmare, The Hives, and 80s metal. A tune on a cello doesn't do it for me. Research at the University of Utah shows that music relieves pain for some people by providing stimulus that competes with pain pathways (see this). The anesthetic wore off hours ago, but as long as I'm listening to the music and engaged with writing or playing games, I can't feel the roof of my mouth, just the graft area. My TMJ pain, which started flaring up, is gone, too.  But I'll get some liquid Motrin for backup.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Doing Old-School Atkins

Last time I wrote about getting jittery and having a rapid heartbeat on VLC (very low carb). I cut way back on nuts a few weeks ago and felt remarkably better: more energy, and I can tell I lost a little weight because of the way my shoes and watchband fit. As I mentioned, taking a potassium pill helps the jitters and rapid heartbeat, and if it gets really bad, I can just eat a candy bar (we don't have safe starches at work). So for the first time, I tried Atkins induction. Why Atkins induction? It started with shorts. I'd been shopping for shorts and everything was very short (think Officer Jim Dangle on Reno 911), wildly patterned, ridiculous (where do you wear lace shorts if you're not starring in a Korean drama?) or knee length. There was even a high-waisted, pleated, acid washed pair from circa 1985. So when I saw a gray pair with sailor pant buttons, I bought them--even though they were pretty short (but not tight). Think Officer Dangle again. Being conscious of wearing short shorts at age 45, I took some selfies and realized I'd put on weight. I went out to buy new batteries for my scale, but knew enough already to buy Atkins induction foods on the same trip.

It turns out I've put on ten pounds from my ideal weight. Not the worst problem to have, but one to nip in the bud. I'm one of the few women in my family over 30 and under 200 pounds and I don't want to find out if I have to genes to become very overweight. Even though I've done LC for four years, I'd never tried Atkins induction. But a friend of mine is doing it now and she can't quit raving about it. I got out my copy of Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution from 1972 to see what I could eat:


  • meat
  • eggs
  • two small green salads a day
  • butter, lard, mayonnaise, broth, full-fat dressings
  • olives, pickles
  • pork rinds
  • no-cal drinks like coffee, diet soda, tea, mineral water
  • juice of one lemon or lime.
  • condiments (salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar, vanilla and other extracts, artificial sweeteners, dry powdered spice with no sugar)
  • gelatin dessert with artificial sweetener
  • a small amount of hard cheese and a little cream, but I don't do well with dairy proteins. 


Note there's no unlimited vegetables, no nuts, and no fruit. The book says very little about exercise (it's optional) or fasting. Readers are directed to eat only when they're hungry, eat only until they're full, take a high-strength multi-vitamin pill, and eat small frequent meals if possible. These things seem like common sense; when you accept that weight gain is hormone-driven and that it's mostly carbohydrate that drives those hormones, the whole diet looks like common sense. Unfortunately, quirky, counterintuitive ideas like eating vegetables by the pound, eating fat bombs when you're not hungry for them, or adding "safe starches" have captured people's imaginations lately.

I followed the diet pretty well today; I did have a few cherry tomatoes and went a little overboard on salad. I used cocoyo (homemade yogurt made of coconut milk and culture) as dressing; I figured it was fine. I had some guacamole with my pork rinds tonight; I figured that was fine, too. Results after one day? I craved coffee, just as I did when I started LC. I never liked it before that. I felt a little jittery and had a fast heartbeat once, but a potassium pill made me feel better. I had to pee every few hours. What was surprising was that I didn't feel like snacking, since I've always been a snacker. I couldn't even finish the lunch I brought. I do have a bad chocolate habit; I found it easier today to go without it entirely than to limit myself to a few pieces. I didn't have any LC flu symptoms--I wasn't tired or constipated (I take a magnesium supplement), but this wasn't a radical change.

My latest photo, where I'm in the gray and white sweater, shows me at around my current weight. I'll post more photos as I progress.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Irregular Heartbeat on Ketogenic Diet

A commenter brought up something today that made me think of the radical view that we need to get rid of all industrialization and live like...I don't know what. Following herds that don't exist in any great number and living off the land with skills almost nobody has anymore? Living like Mennonites? Like gentlemen farmers, who (it has been argued) needed slave labor to have the leisure to pursue scholarship and culture? I have nothing against going off the grid if that's what floats your boat, but people who would, say, blow up dams to force other people off the grid remind me of a TV series called Death Note. In the series, a high school student finds a notebook that kills by heart attack anyone whose name is written in it. He starts writing the names of criminals in it because he wants to create a world with only good people in it. "So," someone predicts, "you'll be the only bastard." Sure enough, the student (Kira, taken from the English word for killer) also kills his pursuers, anyone who can out him as soon as they're compromised, he threatens heads of state, and plans to eventually kill useless people (that is, force people into servitude) in pursuit of a goal that's turned into becoming the god of a new world. Hubris: a timeless theme.

On a happier note, I've been eating fewer nuts and more meat. I cut down on nuts because too many bother my stomach. As a result, I've felt less hungry and look like I've lost a few pounds, but have had to start taking a magnesium supplement again. My dog might lose a few pounds, too: she likes to eat when I eat, and I'm snacking less often at home. I've also had to start taking a potassium supplement again. When I go below a certain carb level, my heart races sometimes and I feel jittery. Peter at the Hyperlipid blog talks about problems some people have on ketogenic diets:

The first paper which had me thinking was this one: 
"Both the pre-and post-exercise levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol were enhanced"
This is the sort of thing I file as interesting. That is, until the anecdotes trickle in about people who have gone to extreme ketogenic diets and have developed abnormal cardiac rhythms. You know the thought train that grabs you when you discover LC eating, that moment of realisation: Carbs are bad. Followed by: All carbs are bad. Most people can do zero carb with absolutely no problem. With reasonable protein intakes it is really very easy and doing a "Stefansson", using an all meat diet, is not difficult. But a few people will get in to problems. If you are wired for a heart problem along the lines of Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, cranking up your adrenaline and noradrenaline levels might not be a good idea. If you have atrial fibrillation, ditto.
I'm not even on an extreme ketogenic diet; I know I'm eating more carbs than allowed on Atkins induction (20g/day). I've gotten some vegetables that are a little higher in carb, like tomatoes and portobello mushrooms, and inadvertently, butternut squash instead of spaghetti squash. I tried fried sweet potatoes a year or two ago but they didn't agree with me.

I had to look up Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome. In my younger days, I was sometimes told when I went to give blood that I had sinus arrhythmia. My biological mother had four leaky heart valves. Another relative had Addison's disease, an illness of adrenal failure. Sure enough, though, some case studies have shown that administering potassium normalized patients' heartbeat. Potassium makes me feel better, too. I should take a bottle with me wherever I go. I'd hate to go the way of Kira's pursuers for the lack of a pill.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Trolls Inspire Gift of Sheep

Dear Trolls,

I can't thank you enough for trying to set me and my poor, misguided low-carb and paleo friends on the right path. It must be painful for you to read blogs and articles about eating things like bacon-wrapped shrimp, coconut chocolate tart, juicy barbecued ribs, and full-fat lemon ice cream. Nevertheless, you soldiered on to show us the way to vegan/low-fat/CICO/food reward/MMEL enlightenment. Your kindness and time and effort you've shown are appreciated.

But I do have two things to say. First, you're wrong. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there it is. Nearly all of us have already tried eating less and moving more, or reducing calories and fat, and the community is full of former vegetarians. In fact, hunger and fat accumulation are driven by hormones. This isn't the gospel according to Gary Taubes, it's in endocrinology textbooks (see this and this). High-carb diets aren't the answer to diabetes, a disease of carbohydrate intolerance. This is common sense and the common experience of thousands of diabetics who've used low-carb diets to mitigate their disease. (See this and this.) And saying that the problem is too many calories is as useful as saying that the problem with an overflowing toilet is that there's more water coming in than going out.

Ah, you say, but what about all the literature and research on low-fat and vegan diets? The research on low-fat diets is actually unimpressive (see this for a short rundown). Further, at least two main vegan authors are frauds. Neal Barnard claims in The Power of your Plate that anthropologist Richard Leakey has said that humans evolved mostly as vegetarians. Dr. Leakey said exactly the opposite in books he wrote shortly before and after The Power of your Plate came out. The one source Dr. Barnard cites actually says,"There was probably a major change in the diet of early humans, with a large increase in meat eating, at that period..." (page 249). See this and this. Likewise, T. Colin Campbell of The China Study fame wrote a book called The Low-Carb Fraud, which, unlike Dr. Campbell, I took the time to fact check. There are more errors, misleading statements and outright lies than there are pages. (See this.) How can we believe anything they report when they've told so many whoppers? And why lie if low-fat vegan diets have good results?

Photo from Heifer International.
Second, your misguided advice is nevertheless well-intentioned. In the spirit of helping strangers out of nothing but human concern, I've donated $1 for every troll comment I've seen since I started counting on May 20. Today, I went to the web site of Heifer International and donated $11 for all the comments (and threw in another $9 because of the way donations are packaged). Ten dollars of my donation went toward one share of a sheep. Sheep milk, according to Wikipedia, is higher in protein and fat, a little higher in carbohydrate, and much higher in calories than cow or goat milk. Sheep from Heifer International provide milk and wool for families living on rugged terrain. The charity says,

The wool sheep provide is a valuable resource, providing warm clothing for families and children living in harsh environments. Entire communities depend on sheep for their livelihood. Donating sheep gifts to a community:
  • Provides warm clothing for families living in harsh environments 
  • Boosts income through sales of extra wool 
  • Enable families to Pass on the Gift to others quickly 

Sheep can graze the hilliest, rockiest pastures unsuitable for other livestock. They can also provide milk for hungry families. Your sheep donation makes a perfect gift; sheep are adaptable and are able to survive nearly anywhere in the world.
To Christopher, Carbsane, and some random trolls over at Dr. Briffa's blog, you're an inspiration.