March 20, 2008

There is no Spoon!

Falling off the wagon.
Getting yourself off-track.
Dropping the ball.

Is there really such a thing???

I'm not so sure that there is. Because all of these phrases describe an experience that only exists within the "diet mindset." A place we build when we don't want to take responsibility for our choices.

That's right...CHOICES.

Because there really isn't a wagon that we can fall off of. There really isn't a track that we can stay on or off of. And there isn't really a ball that we can drop.

I was watching a thread develop over at Low Carb Friends this morning about how to get back on track after a planned cheat or fall into temptation, and it seems that the greater majority of folks responding to that thread don't "want" to grab ahold of the secret that could release them from their guilt and suffering. They "want" to keep clinging to their dieting mindsets. They "need" to keep clinging to their dieting mindsets. Their black and white world attitudes and false beliefs that keep interfering with their success.

It's rather sad actually.

Because the truth is...there really isn't a starting line to get yourself back to. That place that doesn't exist. So there's no way to get yourself back there. There really isn't. There is just this moment, and what you CHOOSE to do with the very next one!

Dieting is like anything else: Living life and making choices. There are good ones, better ones, and not-so-good ones, but there really isn't any "falling" involved in any of that. A bit of stumbling--perhaps. But overall, living isn't all or nothing. It is just something that "IS."

So why do we keep stifling our ability to GROW and/or "move forward" choice by choice? Why do we keep insisting that our choices are a matter of right and wrong? Good and bad? Black and white? Rather than the lessons and learning experiences that they really are.

I suppose for some there is a kind of "payoff" involved in clinging to, and holding onto, the guilt when we believe we have fallen off that imaginary wagon. But it also seems that it's kindda convenient to BLAME temptation, or even our own inner weaknesses, when we don't "want" to accept that "one" less-than best choice doesn't really control any of the others we make. We are ALWAYS free to make a better choice next time. We don't HAVE to keep making the same type of choices.

Which probably means that...the way we eat the greater majority of the time, is exactly the way in which we live all other areas of our lives. A choice. And nothing less.

So WHY do we keep "insisting" that it is not?

Maybe it's time that we stop playing these silly games. Stop beating ourselves up. And stop blaming others and other stuff for what we are currently doing. Maybe it's time we get down to the business of living. REALLY LIVING. Because it seems that what we DO the greater majority of the time, the habits and lifestyles we create, is actually what we are. Not those "occasional" deviances and small enjoyments we all fall victim to now and then.

Which means that no matter what choice we make right now, we can always make a different one with our very next mouthful. Our very next minute.

So given that is true...then...we just need to accept that--THIS IS THE WAY I'M RIGHT NOW CHOOSING TO LIVE. And just get over it!

Cuz...there is NO spoon!

March 11, 2008

The Truth About Carbohydrates

Not all carbs are created equal.


That's the “subtitle” of an old Sparkpeople article being discussed (and freaked out over) in the Atkins’ section of the Low Carb Friends board today is most certainly true. But like all articles with an anti-low-carb agenda, it also contains a lot of mis-notions and falsehoods.


The “reaction” to this article is what got me thinking, though, not “what” this article itself contains, because it often seems like the low carb community, in their fever to defend a diet that they believe in, a diet that works for them, is often just as IGNORANT of what the truth about carbohydrates and ketosis really is, as are those who use the body’s NEED for glucose against us.


Carbohydrates are not as evil as a lot of low carbers try to make them out to be. Which is “really” what this article is all about. The tendency to take things to the extreme, as well as the tendency to paint carbohydrates as something we should avoid like the plague. When in reality, carbohydrates DO have their proper place, and many low carb folks DO tend to limit their diets unnecessarily to their own detriment.


Now it’s true that a carb rich diet can inflate the appetite which would then lead to weight/fat gain. It’s also true that low carb diets promote “short-term” weight loss. As well as the accusation that low carb diets are accompanied by severe dangers.


Check out ANY low carb bulletin board, and you’ll see this is true. There are dozens of individuals on any particular day asking “why their weight loss has stalled.” Especially those who have been dieting at Induction or near Induction levels for several weeks (sometimes even up to a year or more) who also go on to talk about what they have done to try and rectify the problem. Dangerous stuff indeed.


So if it IS dangerous stuff, “what’s” all the fury about?


Well…part of the problem begins when folks feel like their chosen way of eating is being “attacked”, for whatever reason. And when they believe the author of an article written to a totally different audience is directing their comments especially towards their chosen way of eating. Rather than LOOKING at “what” is actually being said, they go on the defensive, and charge full-speed ahead in saying this or that is “out of date” NONSENSE.


In this particular case, the material quoted for discussion began with the statement: What you should know about low carb diets.


Undoubtedly, that subject heading caught their attention, since that is where the quoted material for discussion began. As it would almost any other low carb reader. But here’s the interesting thing. The very next paragraph underneath that heading is ABSOLUTELY TRUE. ALL OF IT--


“Following an extremely low carb diet is disastrous, dangerous, and above all – boring! Carbohydrates are NOT the enemy. Including the appropriate amounts and types of carbohydrate-rich foods in your diet is essential for long-term health and weight loss/maintenance.”


Yet it was treated with sarcasm, judgmentalness, and unfounded accusations against the author’s authority and expertise to make such statements from the responding low-carbers themselves. IGNORANT low-carbers who had “no clue” as to WHAT was actually being said in this article. Because they even went so far as to claim this particular paragraph was “inaccurate” and full of “misinformation”. As well as other truthful claims later on in the article (like the brain needs carbs, for example) being BS.


But is it???


Because EXTREMELY low-carb diets “are” dangerous over the long term, as well as boring. That’s WHY there is a carb ladder Atkins’ followers are SUPPOSED to be climbing. And that’s WHY Induction level of carbs, and Induction “types” of carbs, are NOT to be followed long-term. Dr. Atkins was VERY CLEAR on that point.


Yet I’m constantly reading posts that say a given person is STILL on Induction, or Induction level of carbs weeks after they should have moved on. I’m constantly reading posts about people who have taken their calories down to the “barely eating” level, and shut off even their veggie carbs in an attempt to correct their thyroid/metabolism issues. As if ‘that’ (even MORE severe lack of nutrition) is going to fix things.


The next section was entitled “The Body’s Immediate Reaction to Low Carb Diets”, and once again, in their fury, as well as ignorance, the responders ignored the word-combo IMMEDIATE REACTION. As well as the science behind what the author was talking about.


What followed was the pathway the body INITIALLY takes when you “first” enter into a low-carb diet. How the body “first” switches from deriving glucose from carbs, to deriving glucose from protein in an effort to keep itself in glucose burning mode. Thereafter making that converted protein no longer available for protein needs in the body.


The article also goes on to say that Ketosis, is the incomplete breakdown of fat (which is where the metabolic advantage comes from by the way) and is an “abnormal” state. The famine state. Well, SURE IT IS. Because Dr. Atkins said that Ketosis was the “ALTERNATE” metabolic pathway, not the one that is “preferred” by the body. Since burning sugar is easier than burning fat. And it’s this famine-thinking state that causes the body to joyfully give up its fat stores. Without being miserly about it.


Now…the responders DID get a little bit upset about this woman’s description of the Atkins Flu, as well as her cautions in regards to what one can initially expect in terms of exercise and energy output when you FIRST go on a low carb diet. Crying “foul ball” since they, themselves, are no longer experiencing the lack of energy, headaches, dizziness, nausea, inability to keep up with their same exercise routine, etc.


I found it especially interesting that human nature, such as it is, tends to keep us focused completely on ourselves…to the blindness and near-sightedness of what being discussed could do for others. Because let’s face it. HOW many low-carb diets can easily be placed into the “extreme” low carb box where the long-term diet itself remains at the point where all of these ugly symptoms would indeed be continuously experienced and perpetuated?


Why is it SO HARD to just take what is said for what it’s worth? WHY do we have to take everything that is written so PERSONALLY? As if we, ourselves, are being “needlessly” attacked, even though we, ourselves, might NOT be following an EXTREME low-carb diet??? Atkins, Protein Power, self-made or otherwise.


Now you’d think that the gist of the complaints against this article would be better founded in the author’s beliefs regarding the long-term affects of a low carb diet. So what are they?


Again—she’s talking about those who SEVERELY restrict their carbs over the long term. How severely restricting carbs causes the other two micronutrients in our diet, protein and fats, to increase. A no brainer. With the first claim regarding the elimination of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans increasing the risk of certain cancers. What surprised me was the poster's response to this claim. She asked for references that would prove it to be a bunch of BS.


I don’t think anyone is going to be able to give the poster what she really wants, though, because this claim is also TRUE. Without a “good supply” of antioxidants and fiber, found in fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans, we ARE more at risk of getting cancer. So the question isn’t whether or not this statement is true, because it is, but how are we going to protect ourselves from these types of cancers within a low-carb framework?


And the answer, of course, is to “not” SEVERELY restrict our diets to Induction levels over the long-term. But to climb up the ladder and add back in “all” of these foods at the proper rung.


Now, the next accusation is rather interesting. And I don’t really have a good answer to this one. Protein foods are high in purines, which are broken down into uric acid, and if the blood level of uric acid is elevated, gout can result. So my GUESS is, in order to avoid this from happening, is to make sure you’re drinking your water in order to flush this stuff out of your system. But I could be very wrong about that one, since I’ve never studied that issue.


Neither do I know about the formation of kidney stones. What “really” causes them.


Which raises the issue of how IGNORANCE (a lack of knowledge) is really our own worst enemy. Because look how “easily” someone could be persuaded to believe in mis-understandings if they didn’t know any better. If they hadn’t taken the time to research this stuff, and arrive at the truth.


Because we all KNOW that eating a diet “high” in protein, cholesterol, fat, and even saturated fat DOES NOT raise blood lipids. Even though that’s what MOST folks believe. And even though that’s what MOST registered dietitians (including this one) teaches.


So I think that rather than waste our time stressing out over, and bringing rebuttals to the USDA Food Pyramid table, which this dietitian (as well as almost all dietitians) holds up in this article as being the No. 1 diet guide of choice, we just need to “accept” the fact that not everyone NEEDS to follow and/or believe in a low carb diet. Because low carbing isn’t for everyone. It just isn’t.


For a great many folks, a more moderate approach works quite well. It just all depends on one’s physiology. One’s lifestyle. One’s food of choice. What you can or can’t live with or without. As well as what one’s metabolic issues and needs are.


Because for the most part, dietitians, and even doctors, are just parroting what they, themselves, have been taught. And if they haven’t had any clinical experience with low-carb diets, if they haven’t been involved in witnessing the changes and improvements in health that come from following such a diet, they won’t really know very much “about” low carb diets. Other than what they’ve been fed.


So for fun…I took the diet recommendations given in this article:


2 servings fruit (1 cup berries)

4 to 6 veggies

6 starches (2 lc tortillas, 2 sl lc bread, 1 cup organic canned corn)

½ cup beans/legumes (black soybeans)

and 3 dairy (cheese)


and plugged in all low carb foods that most of us are familiar with into that formula. I came up with a daily total of around 60 net carbs.


So…HOW you take this article, and WHAT you get out of it, all depends on your own personal frame of reference. Are you focusing on the POSITIVE aspects of what is being said, checking over your own dieting style to make sure you're not falling prey to extremes, or are you focusing on what you don’t personally believe that she does.


The take-away from this whole thing for me, is pretty much summed up in my own experience as of late. DON’T STAY ON INDUCTION over the long term, because you WILL mess up your metabolism. You WILL pay for it later on. Because your body will adapt to fat burning to the extent that your lowered metabolism and hormone levels will cause you to stall. Especially If you have had a lot of weight to lose like I did. And you WILL run the “risk” of falling short of your goals.


So don’t be in such a rush, that you are willing to sacrifice your health for the sake of weight loss. Because if you choose to do that, you WILL one day, be sorry that you did.


I KNEW that going in, because I’d SEEN that back in the early 2000s when folks who stayed on Induction levels ended up with much slower metabolisms by the end of their dieting phase. But when push came to shove, and “I” was the one who was having trouble loosing the weight, I chose to ignore what I KNEW. And am now paying the price for that.


Too bad hind sight is always 50/50...

March 06, 2008

Patience...Cutting Across Dietary Plan Boundaries

I've been doing quite a bit of reading over at Lyle McDonald's body recomposition site the last few days, and it's interesting to watch folks who tend to mosey over there. Because their expectations for the most part, are inflated and unrealistic. The same as we see within the low carb community.

Now...most of these impatient souls I've been reading as of late have low carb backgrounds. So they aren't really as ignorant as they pretend to be. They KNOW that lower carbs forces the body to burn fat, EVENTUALLY, and yet...the patience they need to allow their Plan of choice the necessary "time" to work is seriously missing in these folks.

Especially in the ones who "tweak" their chosen Plan right out of the starting gate.

It's like when folks eat things not on the Atkins acceptable foods list for Induction, or those who don't have any "clue" how many carbs per day they are eating if they are following another low carb plan, and then cry for help to those who are just going to ask them if they are doing it by the book.

Now granted...some folks DO do their Plan of choice by the book, and still don't see immediate results, but most of the time that's because their metabolism is in serious need of healing. Especially if you've been dieting for any length of time. And that INCLUDES low carb dieting. Because low carb is just as hard on the thyroid and other hormonal supplies as any other diet.

But they don't want to HEAR that.
They don't want to give their bodies time to readjust and normalize.
They don't want to take a diet break,
or give their bodies time to feel safe.

They want "weight" loss, as in the numbers on the scale going down, and they want it NOW.

The funny thing is, their focus is completely cock-eyed. Because isn't it SIZE REDUCTION that we are all striving for? REALLY???

And generally speaking, that means we need to foster the patience to allow that to happen. Because if we don't, if we set ourselves up with time constraints and unrealistic expectations, we are only going to reap disappointment somewhere down the line. We are only going to get discouraged enough to quit taking care of ourselves all together, believing that what we are doing isn't working. When it very well could be working just fine behind the scenes.

It's funny just how many folks are losing inches at the same time they are crying and whining about the scale not moving. Or those who have been dieting for quite some time, who NEED to take a dieting break for awhile (eating at maintenance levels or just barely above so as to reset their metabolisms and hormone balances), but rather than do that, INSIST their Plan of Choice either isn't working, or is no longer working for them.

How do they know that, if they haven't taken the time to do whatever is necessary to reset their metabolisms? How do they know that, if they haven't followed their Plan of choice, at least initially, exactly like the book? How do they know that, if they aren't patient enough to give their chosen Plan of Choice TIME to "begin" working? Because let's face it, if our bodies don't BELIEVE we are serious about whatever we are doing, it isn't going to respond initially in the way we hope it will. It's going to PREPARE for us to jump ship...yet again.

I see this quite a bit in the low carb community. Folks CONSTANTLY "tweaking" and "shaking up their plans" from week to week, and some even more often than that, then can't figure out what is wrong when their bodies become sooooo confused that they shut down fat metabolism. Completely. No one thing is ever followed or experimented with long enough to work. And I've been guilty of that myself. I know.

Refeeds and Free Meals are a pretty "scary" phenomenon. Especially in the beginning, because your body needs time to heal. Your body needs time to adjust. Which is why you generally gain a few pounds initially. Not necessarily fat pounds though. But glycogen and water. Because if you've been doing low carb correctly, at low carb levels at least, for any length of time your glycogen stores should be "very" depleted.

Which is the WHOLE POINT to taking diet breaks, refeeds, and free meals. To fill up those stores, and hence gain a few pounds in the process. So that your body can reset itself again back to as close to normal as it can. For wherever your metabolism is at now, due to the length you've been dieting so far.

But that isn't always "acceptable" for most folks. They don't want to see stalls in "weight" loss. They don't want to see the numbers on the scale moving upwards, even for a couple of pounds. They don't want to put their fat loss on hold. Even for a single month. They want results, and they want those results...right now.

So...from what I've seen so far...most of those folks eventually reap failure. Because they don't want to sit back and wait a month for their bodies to become secure enough to begin losing weight again.

But what's the alternative?

If we return to our old style of eating, we will reap what we were before. Most of us KNOW that. In fact, most of us FEAR that. So we keep searching for a magic pill, that magic bullet that is going to give us what we want.

The ironic thing is -- all of that searching, and all of that tweaking, and all of that jumping from one plan to another is just helping to DELAY our goals from seeing the light of day. Because if we had "stayed" with the Plan that was BEST for our own personal situation, or MOVED to the Plan that is best for our own personal situation, and then given that Plan time to work its magic, we would be losing weight by now. Rather than continuing to discouragingly look for something else.

Patience is certainly a virtue, and it's lack cuts across ALL dietary plan boundaries. It runs across all borders. And creates havoc, disillusionment, and failure wherever it's not found. Because we aren't perfect machines. We aren't laboratory specimens that react in exactly the way science and biology say that we should. We are individuals...real people living in an imperfect world. And in real life, in an imperfect world, things don't always happen in exactly the same way as they do on paper. What holds true for mice and other laboratory animals doesn't always work the same way for us.

So I think it's TIME that we begin to place our focus where it belongs. And that we do everything in our power to BE PATIENT with whatever it is we are currently doing. MAKE SURE your Plan is "really" NOT working before you jump ship and charge full speed ahead...somewhere else. Give your Plan of Choice a sincere chance to work it's magic.

This point was driven home to me this past week when I viewed some pictures over at that body recomposition site. There was a woman who hadn't lost a single pound, weight wise, throughout her whole 6 week trial run. Yet her body was considerably SMALLER, and better curved after her 6 week round of PSMF. Noticeably so.

Muscle really does need to be rebuilt sometimes. Especially if we have been abusing, and not taking care of, our lean body mass. Especially if we haven't been getting adequate protein because we've driven our calories and protein consumption down far too low for that.

And that means WEIGHT GAIN is often necessary to fix the problem.

Sometimes even to the point of REGAINING whatever it is you have recently lost on the scale. The scale lies. It's the worst measure there is, of our success or failures. THE WORST. And yet...we tend to rely on that source of measurement more than any other.

If we want to reap our goals, that seriously needs to be fixed. We need to STOP relying so much on the scales and start relying on "what we actually look like."

Because...after all...isn't size reduction the name of the game???