November 27, 2007

Easy Strawberry Pie

Fresh Strawberry Pie Makes a Great Low-Carb Dessert
Quick and Easy
Fresh Strawberry Pie
(12 Net Carbs per Serving)
I made this recipe for husband quite awhile ago, but I just barely got around to trying it for myself using sugar-free ingredients.

It does use packaged sugar-free jello and pudding mix though. It wasn't really sweet, but it was a terrific low-carb fresh strawberry pie.

The carb count was a bit high, 12 net carbs, because I made it in a very large, quiche type pie plate and I had to double both the fruit and the glaze. You can cut down on the carbs by returning to the original recipe, which I'll provide in a minute.

Thanksgiving Ramblings

Well, I made it through the first holiday round without too much damage. Mostly, because I decided to stick to just low carb foods. I didn't want to put myself into another 2 to 4 week stall, since I've just pulled out of one. So I made a fruit salad out of splenda-sweetened fruit cocktail with whipped heavy cream, nuts, and coconut, the pumpkin casserole I posted about earlier, some deviled eggs, homemade cranberry sauce, and fresh steamed asparagus. Oh yeah, and a fresh strawberry pie.

However...that didn't exactly work as well as I would have liked. I made too much food, and ate too much food, even though turkey and ham took up half of my plate. So my carbs were still sky high for the day, even though I passed up the cheesecake, homemade rolls, and other higher carb goodies.

I've been paying dearly for my over-indulgence all weekend though. Lots of inflammation and pain. And I've come to the realization that sticking to just low carb foods or not, it wasn't really "worth" it. I would have been just as satisfied with much smaller carb portions. And a lot happier I'm sure.

Weight wise, I'm doing great. I weighed in this morning at 187 pounds. So I'm really happy about maintaining this week, considering we've been having to eat the leftovers every day. Plus we made a trip up north to Sam's Club on Friday, and therefore ate at our regular "all-you-can-eat" place for dinner that night. I usually gain a pound or two from that, irregardless of sticking to my diet.

So that just goes to show you that it was the "volume" I ate on Thanksgiving that has been giving me trouble this weekend, and not the particular foods I chose to make and take with us to our friend's house. I don't think I'm going to do that on Christmas. I think I'm going to carefully count my carbs ahead of time, stay within my allotment, and fill up on non-carb goodies instead.

November 17, 2007

The Story Behind Insulin Resistance

In the beginning of my carbohydrate studies, I came across the fact that our bodies don't absorb carbohydrates as they are...but it breaks them down into simple sugars in order to digest them. Which means you can basically consider all carbs as nothing more than sugar. But that's the "baby story" of it all. So I thought I'd go into a little more detail as to what is going on with that.

All carbohydrates are either simple sugars themselves, or a number of simple sugars hooked together. Which makes all the hoopla about complex carbs being "better" for you just a bunch of hooey. Because whether a carb is a whole wheat bagel or a piece of candy, it doesn't make a bit of difference to your body as far as carbohydrate is concerned. Brown rice, baked potatoes, whole grains, they're just a string of "simple sugars" hooked together that have to be torn apart by the body before they can be used.

Basically, it's the "number" of simple sugars hooked together that determine what these sugars are called. Simple or complex. A single molecule is called Simple, and includes glucose or fructose. A double molecule is a disaccharide, is also a simple sugar, an example of which is common table sugar. Three sugar molecules are known as trisaccharide, and many sugar molecules hooked together are polysaccharide. Starches (cuz that's what complex carbs really are) are just polysacchardies, chains of sugar molecules hooked together, so they aren't really any more noble or healthy than common table sugar is.

Where the "complex" comes in, is that they can't be absorbed by the body as they are, because our intestinal track doesn't have any means to absorb starch. So in order for them to get past the walls of the small intestines, they have to be broken down into their original, individual sugar components by the digestive system. So whether it began life as a baked potato, brown rice, or sugar from the sugar bowl, by the time our digestive tract gets done separating all of those strands so they can be absorbed, starch or sugar, it's all been reduced to...you gotta, sugar! And specifically glucose.

So in the end, no matter what nutritionists wish is true, there's no metabolic difference between eating a baked potato or drinking a can of regular soda. As they both contain about the same amount of easily digestible, and easily accessible glucose. No real "complex" magic at all. And when it comes right down to it, the baked potato is actually worse in terms of blood sugar surges and insulin spikes.

Now that's not to say that there isn't differences in metabolic impact of certain foods. There are. But this notion of nutritional dogma tooted throughout much of my lifetime that complex carbs are somehow better for us than simple sugars isn't really true. It's just a nice gimmick to help sell diet books. Something that "sounds" good...and comforting. Yet is really just a myth at best. And a flat-out lie at worse. Because an average-sized baked potato is broken down into about a quarter of a cup of sugar!!!

Adding that much sugar to your blood causes it to jump up out of its comfort zone. Since the average amount of sugar in the blood is something like 1 teaspoon! So naturally, the danger alarm goes off, and the body puts out a call for the pancreas to produce Insulin. Under normal conditions, the pancreas then dumps whatever amount of Insulin it has been keeping in storage, so that it can begin to make more.

As I talked about in my previous post, this released Insulin washes over the Insulin Receptors and binds with them. Which activates the receptors and causes them to begin pumping the sugar out of the blood and "into" the cells where it is either used for energy purposes, or stored. With the pancreas continuing to manufacture and release Insulin until the danger is over. Until the blood sugar level has returned to its comfort zone.

But if the system doesn't work properly, and the greater majority of the time it doesn't, problems result. Mainly because Insulin will concentrate "all" of its efforts on badgering the Insulin Receptors into submission, while ignoring all of its other bodily functions, since high blood sugar is a life-and-death situation. While its other tasks are not. And that's why Insulin Resistance paves the way for disease. Because Insulin is sooooo busy trying to keep the blood sugar in check.

Now when there isn't very much Insulin running around in the blood, Insulin Receptors tend to upgrade the system by make "more" receptors so as to captures any and all insulin that might just happen to be floating by. But when there's lots of Insulin, due to our over-consumption of carbs, the body tends to downgrade the system by making "fewer" receptors. And the less receptors we have, the less effective Insulin is in activating them.

Insulin Resistance itself tends to be an hereditary disorder "triggered" by excess carbs. Because if you eat right throughout your life, the body won't break down irregardless of what you are predisposed too. I'm sure you've heard people say, "I was like that when I was young, I could eat anything I wanted when I was their age too, and not gain." The truth is, if you HAD NOT eaten anything you wanted to way back then, you wouldn't be in the situation you are in today. So the BEST TIME to start eating right is in your childhood. Before the problem starts.

The amount of Insulin required to keep the blood sugar within its comfort zone varies from individual to individual. And the greater majority of the population suffers with abnormal levels of Insulin to one degree or another, whether they know it or not. That's because blood sugar tests often come back NORMAL, since Insulin "is" doing it's job. It's just taking an abnormal amount of Insulin to do it.

So if you're overweight, the chance that you have high Insulin levels is pretty good. Which is why it's spoken about so much in low-carb circles.

November 16, 2007

Why the Focus on Blood Sugar?

For quite some time now, I've been trying to figure out why everyone's focus is on what does and doesn't cause our blood sugar to rise. If Insulin is the real enemy at the heart of our metabolic issues, the hormone that causes us to store fat where we don't want it, why not focus on that instead? Why WORRY about blood sugar at all? And why "use" the fear of rising blood sugar to sell products that wreck havoc on our bodies in other ways?

I'm about 80% of the way through The Protein Life Plan now, and from reading that book, I've come to realize that knowing the biological science behind how our body works goes a long ways towards answering that question.

Insulin influences EVERY cell in our body. Which is why Insulin control is so important to our health. It's the major nutrient storage hormone that drives "excess" blood sugar, protein, and fats into the cells. So they can be either burned for energy or stored for future use. Which means the excess blood sugar, protein, and fats comes first, and the excess insulin comes later. Or...at least, that's how it's supposed to work. Because Insulin's primary job is to keep the blood sugar from going too high. Keep it at an optimal level.

When blood sugar rises, the pancreas pumps Insulin into the bloodstream to drive the excess sugar into the cells, and thereby reducing the amount in the blood, and returning the blood to optimal levels. It does this by binding itself to Insulin Receptors then activating them throughout the body.

Insulin Receptors are proteins that reside on the surface of various cells, mostly muscle cells, and bind to the Insulin that is circulating in our bloodstream. When Insulin binds to these receptors, the receptors are "activated" which then allows them to perform their task of correcting the sugar excess. Like storing carbs as glycogen in the muscles and/or liver, for instance.

Now without binding with Insulin, the receptors won't work. So during Insulin "resistance" more than normal amounts of Insulin are needed to MAKE them work. Which obviously leads to very high Insulin levels. Because sometimes it takes quite a bit of badgering before Insulin can force those receptors to open. Which in turn, leads to greater resistance.

The opposite of Insulin Resistance is Insulin Sensitivity, and that's what we're really striving to achieve. Because when Insulin Receptors are sensitive to Insulin, they need very little of it to work.

So it's not really a "chicken and egg" kindda thing, where you don't know WHO the original villian is -- blood sugar or Insulin -- but more a matter of keeping our Insulin receptors in good working order so that on those rare occasions when we feel the need to over-indulge a bit, the receptors will be able to take care of all of that excess we have chosen to put into our bodies.

I also see a KEY here in regards to stubborn weight loss. Because it's "excess" Insulin, as well as excess sugar, protein, and fat that seems to get us in trouble. Excess Insulin inactivates it's own usefulness. Making Insulin Sensitivity, and the healing of our Insulin Receptors where our TRUE focus should be.

And yet...just what "is" an excess, in regards to all of these nutrients, is such a matter of debate these days. Especially with the Kimkins controversy and the FEAR and "herd mentality" that is still driving the majority of folks in the low-carb community to over-indulge on fats and calories for the sake of health.

According to Dr. Eades we MUST create an energy IM-balance in order to lose "fat" successfully. So for some, low carb dining is self-regulating, just as Atkins said. But that's because the majority of choices being made on a daily basis are less caloric dense. Like focusing on protein-veggies. Rather than on low-carb tortillas, heavy cream desserts, and cheese. But for others, who normally gravitate towards a more fatty diet, it becomes a conscious choice to "lessen" their intake of higher caloric, albeit low carb, foods like cheese and nuts in order to achieve that deficit.

Because...while the goal here is too keep Insulin LOW enough that receptors will stay sensitive, and blood sugar "even" enough that not a whole lot of Insulin is needed to achieve that balance, the goal isn't to eat all of the fat calories or even protein that one WANTS to keep their emotions blunted or hid. Even though fat is basically neutral in regards to Insulin. The goal is to HELP our bodies use up our fat stores for energy. And that is accomplished through energy deficit.

Through TEMPORARY deprivation.

Cuz isn't that 'why' we turned to low-carb in the first place? Because we wanted to regain our health? Regain normal weight. And regain our lives? HOW can we do that if we don't follow the biological principles that will allow that to happen? HOW can we do that if we "allow" Kimmer and all of that mess that is still going on to scare us away from good, solid biological science?

We can't.

So work towards keeping your Insulin levels as low as possible. Work towards making your Insulin Receptors as sensitive as possible. But also make sure your food choices and/or activity levels are creating an energy im-balance -- because it takes a lot more fiddling with our dietary faire that just making sure the foods we eat don't raise our blood sugars.

November 14, 2007

Comfort or Addiction?

While doing some research recently on gluten intolerance, I came across the interesting fact that wheat, corn, and barley, and to a slight extent dairy, contain opioid substances called exorphins. Eating grain gives us an opium-like effect as it stimulates the opioid receptors in the brain (the pleasure centers), making them, to various degrees, addictive.

To me, that was rather enlightening because 20th century speak likes to call all the wonderful things we can make with these opioids -- COMFORT FOODS. Comfort foods because eating them tends to make us "feel" good. And that good feeling is the reward we get for eating...you gottcha... CARBS!!!! And that makes grain (aka wheat, corn, and barley), and to a lesser extent dairy products (aka cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream) many people's "first" drug of choice.

It's no wonder that carbs cause some serious, real cravings!!! Even to the point where just "thinking" about a particular comfort food, or seeing a picture in a magazine or on TV, makes us want to eat that food. RIGHT NOW!!! And since these foods activate our reward centers in the brain, we aren't just talking about a desire for taste. Good Food. We're talking about something much more deadly than that. Especially since escaping from the clutches of food addiction, and that horrible cycle of on again, off again dieting, can be almost impossible for some.

I'm willing to bet that if we look at our cravings more seriously, the cycle and patterns that goes along with them, that we'll find we are nuturing them and embracing them because we are receiving "payoffs" of some kind. Usually payoffs similar to what others experience by taking drugs or drinking alcohol. Like reduction of anxiety, or gaining a sense of well being or euphoria.

Isn't this what's at the HEART of emotional eating? What emotional eating is "really" all about? Hiding our true emotions, by focusing on food, food that makes us feel good, rather than the problem at hand. Or patronizing our upsets and difficulties by treating ourselves to something we feel we deserve? And isn't the NEED to "satisfy" our pleasure centers in the brain, RIGHT NOW, the real reason why folks don't seem to be able to make the transformation from diet-mind to lifestyle change?

We KNOW that low-carb gets rid of most of these physical sensations, the cravings for carbs, and that other, less intrusive foods can be used to help us find comfort. Yet...we STILL want wheat. We STILL want sugar. We STILL want to load up all of our recipes with cream and cheese?

WHY????

Because...like any other vice (drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, over-the-counter meds), it's a real addiction. A PHYSICAL addiction with pleasure-center payoffs, that literally SCREAM at us when we don't give them what they want.

You know--it's funny, but in the beginning of returning to low carb, I didn't think I'd ever be able to live without potatoes and corn on the cob. But I don't even give those things much of a passing thought today. Even when going out to eat. They haven't turned out to be addictions as all. But i can't say that about other stuff. Because for me...it's bread, pizza, and ice cream. They are forever calling my name.

We Haven't Really Given Up Our Diet Mindsets Yet

The greater majority of Americans spend most of their lives squandering their true health potential. And yeah...that even includes us. Cuz for the most part, if you spend any time among the various low carb bulletin boards, egroups, and forums, the familiar song is one of kicking and screaming against the transformation we are supposed to be accomplishing here.

Oh, we SAY that we want it. We say that what we are doing is a lifestyle change that will bring about much desired weight loss. We say that we are not on a diet. That we not only "feel" better on low-carb, but that we actually enjoy eating this way. And yet...for the most part, people are struggling to make that happen.

I've been watching this, and pondering this for quite some time now. But a post someone made to one of my low-carb egroups the other day really hit the nail on the head. Thanks Tish. I think the real problem among the majority of the low-carb community today from what I see, is that we haven't really given up our Diet Mindsets yet. We're just too danged addicted to the "kings meat" to let it go.

The Eades have an interesting approach to the world of diets. And while I've heard folks talk about what the Cavemen used to eat, and how we should do the same, (aka a mostly raw foods diet), I really haven't seen it put into the same type of paleolithic framework that the Eades do. That was then, this is now, so how are we going to resolve the situation? How can we correct the consequences of ignoring and spitting in the face of nature's design?

We KNOW that modern society with our modern way of eating and dining causes all sorts of diseases and health issues. We also KNOW that a great majority of these ills can be corrected and even reversed with a simple change in diet. But "most" of us aren't ready to truly embrace a protein powered life. We just aren't. And all the information in the world isn't going to change that. Because the true power that knowledge brings is only in the LIVING. The BEING.

There is NO try.

Until we "firmly" get it into our heads that Insulin Control is the true Key to our inner emotional desires, and not the brownies or the Cheetos or whatever it is that are constantly calling our name, we truthfully won't see the transformation we claim we want. Because as more and more truth comes to light, insulin seems to have it's finger in almost every single 20th century demise. From clotting disorders to sleep apnea, insulin is the two-edged sword that has so far recked our life. And new illnesses, disturbances, and syndromes are being added to the list all the time.

If nothing else...The Protein Power Life Plan has certainly, finally gotten it into my head that Insulin MUST be kept low. There's no negotiating with that. Because if it isn't, health and fitness will 'always' be just outside our reach. Yeah, we might be able to shed a few pounds. Maybe even a LOT of pounds by going "on" and "off" of a diet. But at what cost? Struggling and fighting and kicking against the low-carb, paleolithic bricks for the rest of our lives?

What kind of a life is that?

November 09, 2007

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Casserole (Low Carb)

How to Make Faux Sweet Potatoes Using Pumpkin
Low-Carb Pumpkin Casserole
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought it would be nice to post this recipe early, before Thanksgiving, in case any of you want to try it out. 

It is adapted from a recipe my sister-in-law gave me last Thanksgiving for sweet potatoes.

I don't like calling things fake or faux because it tends to give the brain and taste buds the wrong idea. Like when a lot of low carbers call cauliflower salad faux potato salad. Or when they whip cauliflower for faux mashed potatoes

With a name like that, my mouth wants to taste potato, it doesn't want to taste cauliflower, so I've named this exactly what it is: a nice and tasty pumpkin casserole with a crunchy, buttery topping.


November 05, 2007

Protein Power Nutrition -- Echoes of Kimkins

Several of Dr. Michael Eades' books arrived in the mail a few days ago, and I've decided to read the Protein Power Life Plan book first. The purpose of the book is to answer a lot of the questions that have been asked of the Eades since their Protein Power book came out, to address subjects that need a bit of clarification, plus give additional information they have come across since then.

Now the focus of the book is way different than the focus of the Atkins books. Because Atkins didn't really take a lot of "time" within his writings to delve into the science and biological aspects behind the low-carb theory to any great degree, the way Mike Eades does. Plus Mike Eades tends to be more "open" and "upfront" about his own personal clinical experiences. Rather than just show the successes (without the struggles) in an attempt to prove his diet works.

I had heard awhile back that Dr. Eades believed in counting calories, but had never run into that subject on his blog. So I wasn't sure if that was true or not. Well...I finally found a section in the Protein Power Life Plan book yesterday that discusses his views on calories. And quite frankly, they are eerily an echo of the Kimkins philosophy. Which makes me wonder if Kimmer possibly read and adopted into her views (the plan she presented to the public that is) way more low-carb theory than she ever admitted to. Because I see just as much Protein Power amid her plan, as I do Atkins or Stillman.

Take this quote from the Eades' book, for example. The context is in regards to a letter he received from one of his readers who sent him a copy of her dietary journal, wanting to know WHY she hadn't lost more than 4 pounds on his diet so far. Her diary revealed that she was eating around 5,000 calories per day. An enormous amount for sure. But not really unheard of, since she "was" keeping within her carb allotment faithfully.

"The second lesson is that if you want to lose weight you have to watch your calories -- even on a low carbohydrate diet -- particularly if you're a small person. Remember, low carbohydrate intake means a lower insulin level; and a lower insulin level means that you can easily unload fat from your fat cells. But, if your body has no need to use any of the fat from your fat cells because it has more than enough fat to meet all its needs coming in from your diet, its not going to go after your stored fat, and you won't lose weight. To lose weight, you've got to create an energy deficit. For the vast majority of people, simply following a low-carb diet will easily create enough of a calorie deficit to bring about a reasonable weight loss. But small people have to be careful because they can easily eat enough calories despite keeping their carbohydrate intake low to meet their caloric needs without ever creating a deficit. The good news is that if you are trying to lose weight, the minute you do reach your goal, you can increase your calories substantially without the fear of gaining weight -- as long as you keep your carbohydrates restricted enough to keep your insulin level low. This will be an easier task than when you started because after your period of carbohydrate restriction you will have increased the sensitivity of your insulin receptors, allowing you to eat more carbohydrates than before while still keeping your insulin controlled."
(pages 51-52)

Now before you ask me what the "first" lesson we learn from this woman was, Dr. Eades basically restates that lesson at the end of this quote. That if your insulin is low enough to stop the fat storage process, you can really eat a lot of calories without gaining weight. Just like this woman did. And just like a lot of low-carb dieters can. However, if your goal is to LOSE weight, then the caloric food choices we make become "very" important. Because, just as Dr. Eades stresses in this section of the book, you MUST create a calorie deficit.

Most can do that naturally, if you listen to your body, eat only when you're hungry, and stop eating when you are full. But that doesn't work for everyone. If you happen to be short, if you happen to be disabled, if you happen to consistently make high caloric-dense food choices (lots of cheese, pork rinds, cream, etc.), then you aren't going to see much weight loss without keeping a conscious eye on your calories. According to Mike Eades, that's just fact.

And I've heard this from a number of folks who have gotten close to their goal weight, and then stalled. That there often comes a time in your weight loss journey when you "have" to become calorie conscious. When you have to focus on less calorie-dense foods. When you HAVE to do everything within your power to keep your insulin level low at "all" times.

The take-home from the Protein Power Life Plan has been a rich bundle of information so far. And I'll be discussing some of those things I'm reading and incorporating into my own plan in upcoming, future posts. But since I'm short, and having a lot of trouble losing weight this time around, comparatively speaking, this quote really jumped out at me yesterday. Because, when I was cycling between Kimkins and Atkins awhile back, my so-called Atkins days "were" extremely generous in high-caloric foods like cream and cheese.

I can really "see" how what Dr. Eades says is true.

Because it was "one" of the things that first attracted me to the Kimkins diet. It was a TRUTH that I recognized within my heart and soul. If you eat as much fat as your body "needs" it will never get around to using your fat storage. In fact, lots of the things that attracted me to the Kimkins diet initially, I am finding within the Protein Power plan. A bit uncanny, but I just keep reminding myself that a few truths doesn't an entire Kimkins diet make. Because the Protein Power diet plan isn't taking these things to nutritionally bankrupt extremes. It's just placing them within the framework of biological science...where they belong.

Maybe that's WHY so many people were "able" to be deceived by the Kimkins plan, because it was initially founded on certain truths. Or at least, interpreted that way by most. But like all religions that begin to fall under a cult mentality, power corrupts. Making apostasy from the truth inevitable.