June 30, 2008

Thoughts and Experiences Giving Up Aspartame

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, then you probably know that I gave up Aspartame quite a while ago. There was a lot of talk on the boards at that time about how it was stalling out a lot of folks, and since reading Dr. Eades' view on it in his Protein Power Lifeplan book, and coming to the understanding/realization that even though the formaldehyde issue might be a bit of unjustified hype, Aspartame "was" literally exciting my brain cells to death.

Which gave me the creeps -- so I quit.

The hype has resurfaced again, among the low-carb community, as it generally does from time to time with newbies joining the boards and lists every day. And the oldies who "believe" that the formaldehyde issue is a legitimate concern, more than happy to explain the science behind their beliefs.

I wanted to say that those Internet scam sites that talk about the fear of Aspartame being unjustified because the woman who was supposedly behind all the hoopla is not a real person, or at least, the name circulating on the Internet, doesn't match up with anyone legit -- doesn't know what they're talking about.

The woman is, in fact, real, even though her true name doesn't appear on the letter that has been circulating the internet for years. Someone "stole" her letter and placed someone else's name on it. In fact, she used to frequent and participate in the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity egroup I belong too. So the letter that's going around now and then "IS" real.

And while her fear of formaldehyde "might" be unjustified, according to Dr. Eades, I personally feel her cause was hurt a bit due to her lack of scientific/biological understanding behind the symptoms she was trying to warn folks about. She knew Aspartame was bad, but couldn't get down into the nitty and gritty of why.

There really are symptoms that we tend to attribute to things other than Aspartame that clear up dramatically when we choose to delete it from our diet. And that's the angle she was coming from. Trying to warn folks of the dangers, and how life can improve when we stop using it.

Now in all truthfulness, I didn't lose any weight from cutting out the Aspartame. So it wasn't the cause of my stall problems. My health issues didn't go away. BUT...I did start sleeping better, and more regularly, so for that alone, it was worth it.

It wasn't easy to quit though. At first, I was really missing that "UP" it gives you. Cuz when I switched over to Shasta canned soda that's sweetened with Splenda, even though I was still getting plenty of caffeine in the coke variety, there wasn't near as much the pick-up as you get with the Nutrasweet. I found that to be quite a shock, because I'd always thought it was the caffeine that was doing that to me.

Plus Aspartame is found in soooo many artificially sweetened products, almost everything that is sugar-free, that I was constantly "forgetting" to keep myself aware. I'd whip up a strawberry pie made with both sugar-free jello and sugar-free pudding, then be up half the night for days until it was gone. Or I'd make up some jello with whipped cream when I was wanting some of that, or eat up all the individual cups of sugar free pudding in the refrigerator on my diet break, just because I could. And once again...didn't sleep well.

So it's been really difficult, not because I was craving the stuff, (it took me about 2 weeks to get used to not having that "pick-up" in the mornings, since I don't drink coffee and was using diet pepsi for that) but because it is so prevalent.

It's been awhile now, since I've had any diet sodas made with Aspartame. As when we went up north for a mini vacation recently, I chose to drink the corn syrup variety instead. Which at the time, I considered to be the lesser of 2 evils, since it was useful in upregulating leptin. But this past weekend, I was extremely curious to see if I'd have the same reaction to it. So I ordered myself a diet coke for breakfast.

Now don't ask me WHY I really did that, cuz I couldn't tell ya. But it was interesting.

In elimination diets, outside of allergy blood tests and skin tests, you can easily discover what you're sensitive to by eliminating the suspected food or drink from your diet for a few weeks, then re-introducing it. This is how a lot of us used to do it years ago. While I did go through all of the typical skin tests when I was insured through Kaiser, the allergy doc there told me my problem was chemical. And that he couldn't test me for that, so I'd have to go home and figure it out for myself.

Well...when you re-introduce something you're highly sensitive/allergic to, it causes an "exaggerated" reaction. Asthma, heart racing, stomach pains, whatever. You definitely know about it, and just pray it's falls short of shock. Which is a pretty sure thing, that it's something that your body is rejecting.

But you know what? When I had that diet coke for breakfast Saturday morning, I didn't have any symptoms at all. I even slept that night! So now I'm thinking it might be a cumulative thing for me. Something I can have once in awhile if needed, but not something I can have all the time.

The interesting things though...was what disgusted me about it -- was the TASTE. It was like an off-flavor, granulated undissolved sugar kind of a taste. Thoroughly disgusting. So disgusting that I only drank half of it! So I'm at the point where I now "prefer" Splenda I guess lol.

How Do You Get Into Ketosis?

The Path for Getting Into Ketosis
Body Can Use Glucose,
Amino Acids, Fat, or Ketones
to Fuel Activities
Glucose, as a source of fuel, is often mentioned in the context of dieting, but the body actually has four different types of fuel it can use to fuel your activities:
  • glucose
  • protein (amino acids)
  • fatty acids
  • and ketones
Your metabolic state pretty much determines how fuels are stored, as well as the proportions of how they are used.

The key to fuel utilization is carbohydrate availability.

When carbs are available in adequate supply, the body prefers to use glucose for its energy needs. 

When carbohydrates are restricted, the body can use other things to fill in, so it's generally understood by the low-carb community that carbohydrate isn't a necessary nutrient because the body can adapt itself to a different form of fuel, if needed.

It can also use a different metabolic pathway. At least, for awhile, and it's that different metabolic pathway where folks stumble and present ideas about ketosis that are not correct. 

In this blog post, I'm going to share how you get into ketosis to the best of my current understanding.

June 24, 2008

Afraid Of Climbing the Carb Ladder

I know I've talked a bit about this topic before, how folks are soooo "afraid" to climb the Carb Ladder, and how it can slow the metabolism after awhile, by interfering with T4 to T3 conversion. But I saw a post over at Low Carb Friends today that sort of pinned it right to the wall.

For the most part, we have really super-demonized carbs. Let's face it. As a community, we have. Partly because when writing to and for the masses, things get lost to personal understanding. We read that in Dr. Atkins' opinion, carbs matter more than calories, and then run off half-cocked thinking we need to stay at Induction levels for extended periods, because carbs are "the" thing to focus on.

Wow. Calories don't matter...only carbs do. So we run to the grocery store and buy more expensive brand-name products to save a carb or two, thinking we're doing something GREAT for our bodies. The lower in carbs something is, the better...right?

Well...maybe not.

Because there's some serious tunnel vision going on. It seems to me that the whole terminology of a "Low Carb Diet" is extremely misleading and damning. "LOW" carb isn't necessary or even best for everyone. It's how we get into Ketosis. It's how we initially stop elevated insulin levels. It's how we initially reap better control over our blood sugar. But it's only phase 1.

The Atkins Diet consists of 4 phases. Not just 1. And yet...people are IGNORING that fact, even those who are smack right in the center of the low-carb community eye, in hopes that staying at lower levels of carbs will reap them a "faster" rate of weight loss. Except that isn't necessarily true. Especially if they have been low carbing for a long time, and haven't entertained the idea of moving on -- due to either fear of adding in carbs, or the fact that their current rate of weight loss is slow.

The first post that caught my attention today, was from someone who CLAIMED they couldn't add in starchy carbs without gaining. Okay. A typical problem, gluten intolerance most likely. But when pinned down as to the details, this person was literally using a 1 to 2 pound weight gain as justification for not moving up the carb ladder. I can't do that, she said, because the last time I tried, I gained a pound or two.

Oh--the horrors of that!!!

Look folks. What I'm seeing from my own vantage point is a serious misunderstanding of how the body works. With glycogen storage weight freaking people out to the point where they are willing to live the rest of their lives with a depressed metabolism, rather than figuring out that Dr. Atkins DID know what he was talking about. Even if all we have to go on, is what he said in general to the masses.

I see this kindda crap all the time. How we "have" to limit our fruit choices to berries and melon. How we "can't" eat anything starchy, even at the grain rung, or we aren't doing low-carb anymore. How regaining the water/glycogen storage weight we lost during Induction is to be avoided at all costs.

It's just crazy the way some folks think. And even crazier how they try to brainwash others into thinking the same. Cuz some of this stuff is repeated and magnified within the low-carb community sooooo much, that it's all spoken about as if it all were pure gospel truth. Which it isn't. We aren't really living a LOW carb lifestyle. We are supposed to be developing a "controlled" carb lifestyle.

Which is: NOT THE SAME THING!!!

It's not about taking our carbs down to extremes, and holding them there. It's about lowering our insulin level, and keeping our blood sugars steady, and thereby reducing or eliminating our cravings to eat more than we should. It's about recouping our health from all of the damage caused from elevated insulin and blood-sugar levels. It isn't about being fanatical low-carb police. It's about learning how to create NORMALCY for "us." As individuals.

And the biggest PROBLEM I see, is the lack of knowledge in "how" to add carbs back into the diet. What to expect. What is normal and should be accepted, and what is not. What is a problem. Cuz gaining ONE or TWO pounds, due to "temporary" glycogen storage weight while the body takes the time to up-regulate the enzymes it needs to digest starchy carbs or fruit isn't it.

Now the post I saw that really hit the nail on the head, was someone who tried to tell these guys that moving up the carb ladder doesn't mean you "ADD" back foods without consciously readjusting and lowering your calories elsewhere to compensate. Cuz it isn't true that you can eat all of the calories you WANT, and still lose weight -- "IF" you want more than what's required to create a deficit.

As you move up the carb ladder, you HAVE to eliminate or cut down on something else. And more than likely, that something else will be fat calories. So yes, when you do this, you are more than likely going to recuperate at least partly, from your initial liver glycogen depletion. You're going to store carbs that you don't currently have the enzymes to metabolize, due to the body's normal down regulation of enzymes when something is abstained from for any length of time.

It's not body fat though, so we need to stop stressing about it. We need to allow our bodies the space to function in a normal way. We need to stop trying to create UN-normalcy.

Storing glycogen in our livers and muscles due to either a temporary overflow of carbs, or a temporary inability to deal with them, is a normal, body function. Because your body can't begin making the enzymes it needs to deal with a higher level of carbs until you begin eating at that higher level. Glycogen storage is also how the body fuels intense exercise. Intense immediate fuel needs over and above fat burning.

We really need to correct our faulty thinking. Cuz glycogen storage and carb enzyme up-regulation isn't something BAD. It's how the good Lord made our bodies to work. It's how we temporarily deal with an excess of calories.

So we really need to break out of our low-carb myths, and focus more on making this a LIFESTYLE. A "normal" lifestyle. How we should have been eating all along. Because until we do that, until we stop fearing carbs and begin to look at them in a whole new light, using them to our best advantage as something to actually FUEL our bodies, along with the good fats we've been eating, we won't really become the dream that Dr. Atkins always had.

June 16, 2008

When Real Life Crashes Into Your Plan

One of the things I've been noticing lately, and have talked a bit about before, is the fact that the greater majority of folks involved in the low-carb community are not new to low carb. They aren't at goal weight either, but have tried to use a low-carb diet to reach their goal weight more than once. And most of them...several times.

Since my own plan requires that you move into maintenance for a minimum of 2 weeks every so often, I'm beginning to "see" and "understand" what a lot of these people are going through when life requires them to go off plan. Their feelings, their dieting mind-set, and the way the others in their lives are reacting to them being "off" of their diet.

Now granted, there are just times when real life crashes into our plans of choice. Like when I first came down with Meniere's. So I can completely understand that there are times in our lives when "dieting" isn't the best option. At that time in my own life, I was doing Atkins and having a lot of success with it. But being bedridden, at the mercy of someone else's cooking, and being shuffled from doc to doc without knowing what was wrong with me, "dieting" really wasn't something I could continue doing.

But because I was still living in the arms of the "diet mindset", I moved back into my old ways, a type of haphazard impulsive eating. I went "off" of my diet, due to circumstances, and back to the high-calorie, non portion-control eating that made me fat in the first place.

Isn't that what MOST of us tend to do????

Probably because that's what feels "normal" to us. And because of that, because we think only in terms of being "on" our diet or "off" of it, we don't even THINK about what we should be doing to maintain our current weight loss. Because of the stress in our life at that particular moment, we just gravitate towards what's normal for us. What's automatic. All of those forbidden yummies we were depriving ourselves of before, because that's what we've been missing the most.

Let's be honest with ourselves for a minute though. Few of us keep protein and fibrous veggies at the center of our diet when we're not on one. So we eat too many calories, too many starchy carbs, because we believe that's okay to do whenever we're not dieting. Within the dieting mindset, there is only dieting or not dieting. There is no maintenance. So our food choices will reflect that. And so will our weight regain.

Because we will have moved back into the definition of insanity and begun abusing ourselves...yet again.

If we believe we've been depriving ourselves up to this point, we're gonna do whatever we have to do--to fix that. Because--hey, we're not dieting anymore. Even though in reality, we're clearly sabotaging ourselves. Backtracking over our prior success. And reaping all of the consequences that go along with being caught up in that kind of mind set.

Now...the question is...does this kind of eating (fulfilling our feelings of deprivation) really have to be done in a disorganized, haphazard, impulsive way in order to find the satiety we seek??? The comfort we need during severe times of stress?

I don't think so.

Because as I stand back and WATCH folks go "off" of low carb, regain at least part of their weight at best, then have to return to low carb somewhere down the line in order to regain control over themselves, I'm thinking that the KEY we need to use to overcome this behavoir seems to be found within the fatal flaw of not knowing how to eat at maintenance. And that if we DID know how to eat at maintenance, we probably could prevent -- or at least minimize -- that little crazy person who comes out whenever we're not dieting.

So I'm beginning to think that by focusing on maintenance NOW, and making that a part of our life...pondering "what" we're going to do when we reach that day, as well as HOW our plan handles that area, we can go a long ways towards knowing what to do when we come face to face with a situation that warrants a maintenance way of eating.

We do NOT "have" to go off of our diets just because life interferes sometime before we reach our goal. We can move into maintenance--right now--right where we are currently standing. And thereby prevent ourselves from losing ground. We don't have to be lacking in the knowledge of how to get through the trying times. And neither do we have to lack the comfort foods we're seeking, and particularly needing during that time.

We just need to have an alternate plan already in place. Something we can move into when the chips are down. When life crashes into us, and we just can't stand "dieting" any longer.

June 06, 2008

Can You Really Do Low Carb For Life?

There seems to be a mistaken notion that low-carb diets are somehow magical, and that adhering to them somehow "guarantees" success, while adhering to another type of diet "guarantees" failure. With comments like: "The further you go on plan, the easier it is to stay on plan," "You're not allowing yourself to get into ketosis which is why those cravings are getting to you," and "There is no healthy weight loss plan that allows you to eat pizza and garlic bread...get your head on straight," only furthering and encouraging the misnotions.

Let's face it. It isn't true that the further up the carb ladder you climb, the "easier" it is to stay on plan. Because if you haven't made honest to goodness changes, permanent changes, then it's still not going to be easy. It really isn't.

Nor does ketosis cure everyone's cravings for carbs, making them not missed anymore. Because ketosis isn't a magic pill you swallow that will rid your life of emotional eating patterns. Yeah it will "help" to curb metabolic issues, but it won't solve your problems if you're running around looking for something that'll make you feel better when you're under stress. And it most certainly won't solve your problems if you're experiencing extremely low leptin levels.

Nor is it true that low carb is the ONLY "healthy" diet.

So what is all the demand and ruckus towards living a low carb life really all about? Why is ridding ourselves of a diet mind-set important, and is it even possible?

Well...maybe--for some. But...maybe not--for others. It all depends.

Lots of folks succeed over the short-term, but then eventually fall off of the wagon, and end up regaining their weight back -- at least partially, and more often than not...even more. This is just as "clearly" visible within the low carb community as anywhere else if you look at all of the returnees.

So WHY is our moto -- doing low carb for life -- not working? Why are soooo many people falling off the low-carb wagon in the first place? Why is low-carb success not any better, statistically speaking, than any other diet plan?

I think--because...even though taking off the weight can be accomplished through almost any diet one sets their mind to follow, it takes CONSCIOUS DAILY EFFORT to keep the weight off. To "retain" a good, healthy foundational way of eating whether one is so-called dieting or not. And that takes "giving up" the diet mind set. Coming to the realization that permanent weight loss is a journey. And that all diets, including low-carb ones, are tools and gimmicks useful to get us to the finish line, but not so useful when it comes to staying there.

Blaphemous? Perhaps. But irregardless...it's true. You can't get from journey to lifestyle while still using the term "Low-Carb Diet." You can't get from journey to lifestyle while still "believing IN" a low-carb diet. You really can't. Because this shouldn't be a diet. Diets are something you eventually go off of. But a lifestyle is something you adopt and actually make a part of your life, one change at a time.

It is only after you figure out that the CHANGES you are incorporating "must" be for life that the miracle will happen.

The low-carb diet itself isn't the miracle. The change is the miracle. The "doing something different than what you did before" is the miracle. The releasing of the definition of insanity.

Because as long as you continue to cling to the dieting mindset, the cycle will continue to be repeated. Diet, fall, regain...diet, fall, regain. It's as simple as that. And just because you've been blessed enough to find the benefits of a low carb diet, and what that way of eating can do for you, that doesn't guarantee you'll achieve success.

Empowerment comes ONLY when we choose to change.

So keep this thought in mind: the life you have led up to this point, is the type of life that has created what and who you are today.

Are you happy with that creation? Then choose to make the changes that will guarantee to make those changes permanent. If you are not happy with that creation, then you still need to choose to make permanent changes, although different ones. Because if the changes we are making today (or yesterday) are temporary, eventually we'll return to our old ways.

And it's those blasted old ways that have gotten us into the mess we're in, in the first place.