Today on Dana’s Low Carb For Life, I’ll tell you about a stunning new discovery I’ve made, rant about the “moderation and portion control” meme, and talk about low carb crunch, so stick around!
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Hey, Gang – welcome to episode 30 of Dana’s Low Carb For Life, your smart choice for a low carb lifestyle. For all you fans of the Nevada Manna sugar-free chocolate chips – the ones with my chocolate chip cookie recipe on the label – Andrew says to let you know that they’re back in stock, big time, just in time for the holidays! He doesn’t ship the chocolate chips in the summer because he can’t guarantee they won’t melt in transit, but that worry is past, so stock up! (In the interests of full disclosure, I should state that I’ll make a dime for every bag you buy. Don’t you need to make cookies?)
I’m sorry it’s been a month since my last podcast. I’ve been working on three projects, all at once. My publisher, Fair Winds Press, has contracted me to write a paleo diet cookbook, so I’ve been cooking, reading, generating ideas, and generally getting into gear on that – plus all the grocery shopping and kitchen cleaning that entails.
CarbSmart has asked me to work on a product line, too, so I spent quite a lot of time stirring up spice blends, not to mention shopping for the spices to make those blends, and writing out the slips to identify those blends, then shipping them off to my colleagues Marcy and Amy, who will be helping decide which blends are good enough to jar and sell.
Plus, as I’ve announced, I’ve been asked to tape a television pilot, and have been doing a lot of planning for that. I am SO excited about the television pilot. I confess that if the show doesn’t sell, I’ll be darned disappointed. Keep your fingers crossed!
During the month since my last podcast, a very interesting twist in my dietary path has occurred, and I’ll be telling you all about it in my first segment. I also want to share with you a thought I had the other day about how the “moderation in all things” folks are unknowingly sabotaging millions of dieters. Plus, in Low Carb Voices, we’ve got more ideas for crunchy foods; you’ll want to hear about that.
But first, let’s get to Dana’s Nutritional Magical Mystery Tour. This has been the most remarkable thing to happen to me in – well, in a long time. I wrote an article about it for CarbSmart Magazine the other day, and this week put it up on the blog at Hold the Toast.com, with an update. I figured I’d pretty much read you what I’ve written in those venues. Here goes:
Well, isn’t this interesting.
Background: I have been asked to tape a pilot for a possible low carb cooking show. I am very excited about the whole thing, but like anyone else faced with the prospect of going on television, I’d like to knock off a few pounds between now and then – “then” being early November.(Since writing this, that date has been changed to early December — the 9th, to be exact.) After all, I’ve never claimed to be a skinny girl, only to be a skinnier girl. For the past year or two, I’ve been wearing size 10 jeans, which at 5’2″ makes me normal-to-mildly-plump.
I had, in the past, tried the much-written-about HCG protocol. I had been willing to try it because it was clear that Dr. Simeons, who developed it, had a deep distrust of carbohydrates. I figured that made him my kind of guy. Indeed, his basic instructions for maintenance are “No starch or sugar for the first several weeks, and be cautious with them for the rest of your life.” The Simeons protocol is radical – inject low doses of HCG (human chorionic gonadatropin) once a day, and eat a low everything diet – just 500 calories a day. (I, characteristically, left out the allowed bread stick or Melba toast.)
The Simeons protocol had worked as advertised for me, though it was not a rollicking good time. Still, since then I’d talked to two doctors who did, indeed, feel that HCG was a safe and useful adjunct to weight loss whether you used Dr. Simeons protocol or not. One of those doctors was the fellow who diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome and attention deficit disorder. Quite a lot of his practice revolves around weight loss, and the effects of diet on straightening out hormones, and the effects of hormones on weight. He knows whereof he speaks.
So I thought I’d try the Simeons protocol again. But something unexpected happened. Since my last go at the Simeons protocol, because of my PCOS diagnosis, I’d started taking my fasting blood glucose every morning. I was on a couple of medications for blood sugar, metformin and Victoza.
I discovered that the Simeons protocol made my blood sugar go seriously wonky – up as high as 126 one morning. I started taking my blood sugar after meals, and discovered quite quickly that a supper of chicken breast and cabbage (a very tasty salad) left me with sugar of 147 two hours after dinner. Clearly this was not working out for me. I quit after just two days of the 500 calorie per day phase of the protocol.
(I will insert parenthetically that I know folks for whom the Simeons protocol improved their blood sugar, sometimes substantially. I am not one of them.)
But I had the HCG in the house, and the assurance of two doctors I respect that low-dose HCG is safe, and helpful for weight loss in general. I decided to keep using the HCG and try the Atkins Fat Fast. I’d read about it for years, of course, but never gotten around to trying it. Based on the work of Kekwick and Pawan in the 1950s, and Dr. Frederick Benoit in the 1960s, demonstrating substantially greater weight loss with the same calorie count when most of those calories come from fat, the basic jist of the Fat Fast is quite simple: 1000 calories per day, 90% of them from fat. It’s recommended that you have 5 small “feedings” a day, each of about 200 calories.
This is harder than it sounds. No, not because I’m ravenous all the time, I’ve actually been remarkably comfortable on what is, admittedly, still not a lot of food. I don’t have any ketostix on hand, but I suspect I am in quite a deep ketosis, which should suppress appetite. My energy level has been fine, too. No, what’s hard is actually getting 90% of my calories from fat. I haven’t gotten there yet; generally I’ve hit the 80-85% mark.
What do I eat for those 1000 calories? For breakfasts I’ve splurged and had three slices of bacon, with two eggs scrambled in all the grease. I’m Breakfast Girl, so having my biggest “feed” first thing worked well.
After that, I’ve eaten stuff like:
* 1/2 ounce of pork rinds with 2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese, and a few sweetened jalapeno slices.
* Tofu shirataki noodles turned into Fettuccine Alfredo by melting in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon onion-and-chive whipped cream cheese, plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
* One ounce macadamia nuts – this is 1/4 cup. Yes, I measured.
* One ounce pecan halves, fried in butter.
* Traditional shirataki made into sesame noodles with a sauce of 1 tablespoon each either almond butter or peanut butter, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 tablespoon chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, a touch of garlic, and Sriracha sauce to taste.
* “Chocolates” made of coconut oil and cocoa powder, plus a little liquid Splenda, and shredded coconut meat.
Servings are very small – for instance, just one of those little chocolates, made in a mini-muffin pan, would be it for a few hours. My breakfast holds me for at least 5 hours, and after that, I have just enough of one of these fatty foods to make me not-hungry, but certainly not enough to feel full – just keeping hunger at bay. It’s just enough food for that, I find.
Dr. Atkins said not to do the Fat Fast for more than 3-5 days. I stuck with it for six. In the past couple of days I have liberalized, aiming for 1300-1500 calories per day, but staying with the super-high fat percentage.
The results? As I write this, I have lost six pounds in just over a week, and it looks like more, I think. (This may be a result of the HCG. It seems to help the body lose fat where it most needs to lose it.) That makes me very happy.
What makes me even more happy is what this super-high-fat diet has done to my blood sugar: It is normal. Normal, normal, normal. I have stopped taking my metformin and Victoza, and my morning blood glucose is consistently in the 80-95 range. This thrills me to the core.
I don’t know whether the very high fat percentage is responsible for this, or if it’s the caloric restriction, or both. My best guess is that it’s the fact that I’m eating considerably less protein than I formerly have – apparently my body is really good at converting protein into sugar. (It should also be noted that I am not drinking alcohol these days, again, in the interests of looking as good as possible for the television taping. I do not know what effect this has.)
I think I have found my new “normal” low carb diet – super high fat, super low carb, moderate protein. I also think I will do perhaps three days of the Fat Fast at least a couple of times a month; clearly my body approves. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing the Fat Fast Monday through Wednesday, then liberalizing from Thursday through Sunday. This sounds very liveable to me.
We frequently hear low carbohydrate diets referred to as “high protein diets.” I have known for a long time that this was not so, and try to remind people that properly done a low carb diet is a moderate protein/high fat diet. Still, many people panic at the idea of eating “all that fat”, and still have a sneaking suspicion that they should choose mostly lean meat and vegetables.
Clearly, for my body at least, this is not so. Not that I’ve been choosing all lean meats; I’m a rib eye and pork shoulder steak kind of girl. But from here on out, I’m likely to eat 6 ounces of good fatty meat, not 12 – and to melt some butter or coconut oil over them. I will be aiming for my minimum protein requirement for the day (about 70 grams), rather than eating the 125 or so grams of protein that has been my usual intake. And I will be searching for new and creative things to do with super-fatty foods.
My blood sugar is normal! Without medication! HOORAY!
Since I wrote this, I have changed my approach a bit: I am Fat Fasting every other day, while on the days in between I am eating ad lib, as much as I like, but still focusing on staying quite low carb and getting enough fat. I have not been losing more weight, though I have been maintaining with ease. However, my blood sugar is still stone normal. Was 92 when I got up this morning. It appears that so long as I eat this way, I don’t have any blood sugar trouble at all.
This both thrills and annoys me. The “thrills” part is obvious. The “annoys” part is because I did not realize when I started this experiment that I was signing on for a lifetime of limiting myself to 1000 calories, mostly of fat, every other day. If you hadn’t figured it out from the career of writing cookbooks, I like food. I like cooking, I like trying new stuff, I like eating interesting and varied meals. I’m not crazy about being borderline hungry all day every other day. I also miss being able to have a little wine on those evenings. And I have yet to figure out how to work in my gelatin on Fat Fast days, since it would increase my protein, something I don’t want to do on those days.
However, I am very, very happy to be running normal blood sugars. Every time I got up in the morning and my blood glucose was over 100, I would think in dismay, “I’m rotting!” Elevated blood sugar, even modestly elevated blood sugar, speeds aging, causing irreversible damage. It is, officially, A Very Bad Thing.
So I will persist, because as irritating as it is, it works, at least for me. I may well do another 5-6 day stretch of the Fat Fast before I shoot the television pilot.
Being me, I have been coming up with new things to eat within the parameters of the diet — can’t resist the recipes. I’ve been planning to try Fat Fast Chocolate Truffles, made of cream cheese, baking chocolate, and liquid sucralose. Also think I’ll try sour cream with a little liquid sucralose and vanilla, the way I would sweeten yogurt, with 1 or 2 strawberries cut up in it. I also have quit the bacon and eggs on most Fat Fast days — turned out they were using up more of my 1000 calorie allotment than I thought. The exception is when I wind up doing my Slow Burn weight training on Fat Fast days — my guru Fred Hahn insists that I have a good whack of protein after lifting.
Complicating matters is the fact that Fair Winds Press just sent me a contract for another cookbook, this one of paleo recipes. I’m generating ideas at full speed, but can only try them on myself every other day, which hamstrings me considerably. On my Fat Fast days, That Nice Boy I Married is the official recipe taster, but of course that means that I can’t test recipes with ingredients he dislikes on those days.
Still, the bottom line, the most important factor in the equation, is that I have found a way of eating which — at least for now — has completely normalized my blood sugar. I don’t know if it will do the same for you, but if you’re eating low carb and are still medicated for blood sugar problems, it’s worth a shot, I’d say.
Standard Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. This information is just that: Information. While I did this without doctor’s supervision, I am a daredevil hotshot, and also took my blood sugar a lot in the process. Depending on your medication, it is possible that you could have a hypoglycemic episode by doing this, though I did not. Be cautious, especially as regards motor vehicles and heavy equipment, and any other circumstance that might make getting light-headed or woozy more dangerous than it otherwise might be. Consulting your doctor is a fine idea, unless your doctor is a total anti-low-carb dork, at which point I recommend you consult a different doctor. Permanently.
Moving along! In a few minutes we’ll have some more ideas for crunchy low carb foods from listeners on Low Carb Voices, but first, I want to tell you about a thought I had just the other day
about popular attitudes about dieting, and how they influence long-term success. One of the criticisms frequently thrown at low carbing is “Oh, you just gain back all the weight when you go off that diet.” Not to put too fine a point on it, er-DUH! You think that happens with any kind of diet? Maybe? You think the problem is that people go *on* a diet with the idea already in the back of their minds that they’re going to lose their weight and then go *off* the diet? Of course they do. This is why the regain rate for weight lost is well over 90%.
People pay lip service to the idea that they need to make long-term lifestyle changes, but go into it with the image already in their minds of that golden day when they can go back to eating “the good stuff.”
Another common criticism of low carb diets is “Any diet that calls for you to give up whole categories of food is a fad diet.” For some reason this accusation is never thrown at low fat diets, nor is it leveled at vegetarianism. No, no, it’s just giving up concentrated carbs that is “faddy.”
The right way, the proper way, the officially sanctioned way to lose weight is to eat a “balanced diet,” (a term for which there is no scientific definition, by the way), but to eat less. Oh, you’re supposed to eat “healthy foods” – you know, lean meat and skinless poultry, whole grains, fat free dairy, all that – for the very most part. But you’re also supposed to have a “treat” now and then – you know, some of Mom’s homemade cookies, or the dessert when you’re out to dinner, or some chips now and then. After all, it’s not healthy to deny yourself. Everything in moderation. Just control your portions.
It does not seem to sink in that this approach is virtually useless over the long haul. But why? I had a thought about this the other day:
If you are a food addict, a person who eats compulsively, it is virtually certain that you are actually addicted to carbs – nobody binges on hard boiled eggs. If, like me, you’re a person for whom eating carbs is like eating hungry pills, moderation is problematic at best. If, like me, you have been at a place where you regularly stole to support a pathological sugar habit – yes, I did this – moderation looks like an even worse bet. And knowing what I now know about the addictive properties of wheat – I talked about this in my podcast about Dr. William Davis’s book Wheat Belly – moderation, for those of us who are susceptible to addiction, becomes a dim prospect indeed.
So here’s my question: Where are the “everything in moderation” folks when we start talking about other addictions? About alcoholism? About tobacco? Where are the people saying “Oh, it’s unhealthy to deny yourself. You should be able to have just one or two beers on Saturday night.” No one who is serious about treating alcoholism says this. Where are the people saying, “Oh, c’mon, you can have two or three cigarettes a week. It’s unhealthy to be too rigid.” Everyone knows that’s insanity – if you’ve finally broken a pack-a-day habit, you’d better not have a single puff, or you’ll be cozying right back up to Joe the Camel in no time.
It’s commonly acknowledged that one of the reasons that losing weight permanently is even harder than quitting smoking or getting sober is because you can’t quit eating entirely – you have to learn how to eat in a way that lets you maintain a healthy weight. This is true, as far as it goes – but it doesn’t go far enough. The point that’s been missing all along is that it’s the “everything in moderation” attitude that makes it so damned hard. You *can* quit the foods that trigger your addiction completely, and you should. It is no more “unhealthy” or “faddy” to completely give up sugar or wheat or cold cereal or any other food that sets off uncontrollable cravings and binge eating than it is to completely give up cigarettes or whisky.
And it is no more “sensible” or “moderate” to insist that recovering addicts have to learn to consume the substance of their addictions moderately than it is to suggest that a recovering heroin addict should be able to have just a little Vicodin on the weekends. It’s worse than futile; it’s downright destructive.
Regarding crunchy low carb foods, Jen H writes:
Baked kale chips are good- just google “kale chips” for a recipe.
An excellent mock “Cheez-Its” cracker is super simple. Just cut a slice of Kraft Deli Deluxe American cheese into 12 or 16 little squares and put on parchment paper. Microwave for 1 minute. They’re awesome! Other cheeses might work but this particular brand is perfect.
I also fry shredded cheese in little circles on a skillet. Awesome chips or chalupa/tostada shells. Try pepper-jack cheese!
Also, I make crackers with almond flour and egg whites. 1 cup almond flour to 1 egg white generally + any spices you wish. Sesame seeds are great! Roll dough in little balls and flatten until quite thin on nonstick foil or parchment paper and bake until golden around the edges. I’ve sweetened these, added vanilla and drizzled them with chocolate as well.
Cool! Thanks, Jen. By the way, I’ve done the microwaved cheese with nacho cheese seasonings on it – a little garlic, a little cumin, a little cayenne, like that – and they’re wonderful. Also good is Parmesan. Particularly good for making crunchy Parmesan bits to go on a salad in place of croutons. Remember that you have to use cheese with no additives. The pre-grated or shredded stuff usually has cellulose added to keep it from clumping. Cellulose isn’t evil, it’s just fiber, but it’ll mess up your crunchy cheese. So read the labels, or shred your own.
We also have a call from Cheryl, who has a new take on the low carb favorite, macadamia nuts. Give a listen:
Thanks, Cheryl! I’m going to try that; frozen macadamias would be absolutely perfect for one of my Fat Fast days.
Dr. Simeons’ ebook, Pounds and Inches