April 30, 2010

A Better Life Perhaps, But the Cost is Obesity

I was reading an article in the online edition of the L.A. Times this morning called "Life Has Never Been So Good for our Species." A modern-day technology-slanted approach, comparing hunter-gatherer days to today -- regarding money earned per person, accumulated goods, crime rate, leisure time, and pollution.

The piece was meant to paint a rose picture of today's life, even with all of its current financial and environmental problems, to yester-year. Except what jumped out at me was the noticeably missing tidbit regarding health care costs and obesity.

When you add the fact that more money and consumer goods, and more leisure time with less labor-intensive jobs has taken our overall obesity level from 20% in 1997 to over 34% today (the overweight category stayed about the same at 1/3 of the American population), it doesn't look like modern life is as good for us as the article claimed.

Nothing new to low carbers. We understand there's a strong addiction component inherent within the context of carbohydrate foods, be it added processed chemicals or higher-glycemic index reactions. But there's a lot of those on a low carb diet who are stalled and stagnant, a lot who are still addicted to processed foods, as well as TVs and computers. We don't get off the hook just because we've stopped eating sugar. Genetic factors, environmental, behavior, and socioeconomic factors still apply.

Look at any low carb board, egroup, or community and you'll see dozens of folks saying "I'm Back!" Because we're just as susceptible to food advertisers, emotional whims, and social-engagement feeling-left-out-of-the-loop events. Real Life, as Dr. Atkins used to call it. Only we're ill-equipped to handle the food issues and social Mac trucks that plague our efforts. We don't seem to be able to rid ourselves of the dieting mindset.

It's easy to say "It's a lifestyle, not a diet." But much harder to put that into practice.

Were the hunter-gatherers really so poor? Were they missing out on what current, modern-day society offers? Maybe not. It might have been a harder life, but if the cost we are paying for that extra ease and luxury is risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and death, it might not be worth the price.

April 24, 2010

A Personalized Diet Plan, Switching Mindsets

I haven't done much of anything this past week, other than writing for Suite 101. 

Partly because the Meniere's is going bi-lateral on me and I'm having trouble adjusting to, and catching myself, when I fall to the left, rather than falling to the right. And partly because I'm finding it a real struggle to break free from a high-fat mindset in order to implement my personalized diet plan.

Finances are playing a role, since for all the work we went to advertising my husband's handyman business last month, nothing has materialized; even though our poster is sitting in the window of almost every business throughout the entire county. But I'd be lying if I said that was the issue. Because it's not. Changing mindsets. That's the issue. It's harder than I thought it would be.

After reading a recent comment from a few posts back, I came to the realization the other day that the Atkins Diet has firmly infiltrated itself into my life. My whole life. I've literally bonded with it. So much so, that despite the knowledge that I don't digest fats very well, and despite the fact that I've spent a lot of hours thinking about what type of healthy diet plan I'm going to go to next, my meals are still loaded with fat.

I began with the Atkins Diet. I always revert back to the Atkins Diet after each attempt at switching to something else. And I guess that's what happens. It becomes a part of you, because that's what you've done for so long. 

Alfredo sauce made with real, heavy cream. Lettuce salads loaded with homemade Thousand Island dressing. Sugar-free cheesecake. Chicken and tuna salad with lots of mayo. Deviled eggs. Homemade sugar-free hot cocoa with extra heavy cream. Bacon or sausage and eggs. It's just how you eat when you're doing Atkins. 

But I'm not supposed to be doing Atkins anymore; I'm supposed to be doing a personalized version of South Beach. I don't think my mind has completely wrapped itself around that idea yet, because all of my diet food ideas lately have been high fat still, and my body is not very happy about that. Another reason I've fallen so behind in my blogging as of late.

Despite the physical issues, I don't feel very inspired myself, so how can I inspire someone else?

It hit me this morning that it's a lot like tunnel vision. You begin a low carb diet, and if we enter it with the proper mindset, we start to make it the very foundation of our lives. We learn and follow the rules. We learn the current science that backs up whatever plan we're doing. We believe in it so strongly, we want to go out and revolutionize the world. But it doesn't take everyone to goal. It really doesn't. 

I'm beginning to understand that if I continue clinging to that foundation, long after it has run its course, I can do myself more harm than good. Yes, I can stay where I am, maintain my current weight, and stay relatively healthy now that I've quit my job, and have a gluten-free home. But it's stagnant. It doesn't help us fulfill our goals. It just blinds us to the truth, that if we're not moving forward, we're not growing. 

For some reason, I forgot what a few have tried to tell me over the years, that as we travel this path our body is going to change. Whether that means we now need fewer carbs, more carbs, less fat, or more fat, less calories, more calories, or even refeeds and carb cycling is individual. And really doesn't matter. What does matter is that we take the initiative to move.

It all comes down to respecting our body enough, and what it's trying to tell us to do, which isn't necessarily what everyone in the low carb community is saying and doing. What's okay for them, might not be okay for us. Just gotta accept that. It's not healthy for me to live my life in the bathroom, just because the biochemical science behind low carb in general says fat shouldn't be feared. 

Now...if I can just figure out HOW to do that--

April 11, 2010

A Low Carb Diet -- To What Lengths Should We Go to Promote It?

There was an article in the New York Times a few days ago, written in question and answer format, where someone supposedly asked the NYT, "Other than celiac disease, is there any reason to avoid gluten in the diet?" The answer written by C. Claiborne Ray has the celiac community a bit upset.

Celiac forums are taking about it, celiac bloggers are talking about it, commenters are talking about it, and for good reason. Because the answer was flat out ridiculous.

Regardless of the sarcastic, condescending tone against those of us who are self-diagnosed celiacs -- having put ourselves on an elimination diet that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that if we aren't celiacs already, we're most definitely on that path -- the answer the author put forth was as much a blow to the low carb cause as it was for those who have gluten sensitivity.

So I couldn't help but wonder...

To what lengths is it okay to promote the low carb agenda?
To what lengths is it okay to preach our beliefs and opinions as fact?
To what lengths is it okay to get the idea of a low carb way of life into the hands of those who need it?

It was downright scary to think that this gastroenterologist was allowing his belief in a low carb diet to influence his beliefs in regards to gluten sensitivity. Crazy. And it was downright scary to think that the author of the article was just as blind, running around parroting the stupid idea that if you remove gluten from your diet and you feel better, and lose weight, it's not because gluten was making you sick. It's because you lowered your carbs in the process!!!

Okay. Whatever. But...what about all of those poor gluten sensitive individuals who are now going to believe these two? What about all of those poor overweight, gluten sensitive individuals who have been going from doctor to doctor trying to get one of them to help them with all of their accumulating autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders? Only to be told they don't know WHY they are ill, with wonky blood glucose levels and non-diabetic neuropathy. And who knows what else.

Having been there myself, I can tell you that it gets pretty discouraging. Especially when you just keep getting sicker and sicker each year.

What about all of the readers who now believe that gluten sensitivity doesn't exist because some opinon piece printed in the New York Times said so? What about all of those readers who have been persuaded that low carb is now the way to go, because if you believe you're gluten sensitive and lower your carbs, it's gonna fix it all. Low Carb Magic.

When those readers pass the torch, and pay it forward, how are they going to do it?

I don't know. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, because 1) gluten sensitivity DOES exist, and 2) it was like the guys believed in low carb so badly that they were unconsciously doing the very thing they were accusing gluten sensitivity believers of doing.

On one side of their mouth, they were saying that those who believe in gluten sensitivity were blaming all of their ills on gluten. But they were blaming all the fatness in the world on carbs. Saying that a gluten free diet helps those who are overweight lose fat due to a reduction in carbs, not because they are no longer eating gluten.

The irony, of course, is that the theory itself doesn't hold water. At least, not in my experience. So I don't know how much all of this matters, if anything. All of those low carb products that most low carbers can't live without, like tortillas and wraps and pasta -- are loaded with wheat gluten. So it's not just about the carbs. Plus gluten free substitutes that most folks going gluten free also gravitate towards, myself included, are NOT low in carbs. Which means going gluten free is not necessarily low in carbs unless you make it so.

So where does that leave us? Right in the middle of some mud hole, is my guess. A lot of B.S. Does the ends justify the means? I don't think so anymore. At least, not when some folks, like those with gluten sensitivity, are being sacrificed on the alter of agenda.

April 08, 2010

Portion Control -- Do Calories Really Matter?

Many Low-Carb Dieters Eat Cheesecake for Breakfast
Do You Eat Cheesecake
for Breakfast?
Portion control is a hot topic that surfaces now and then on the low-carb forums.

Each time someone brings up the topic, it sparks quite a bit of discussion and lots of controversy.

Those who need to watch their portion sizes and count their caloric intake believe in the idea, while those who haven't gotten to that point in their weight-loss journey do not.

It's human nature to struggle to see the world, as well as each other, through something other than our own experience. But when we start clinging to false ideas as if they were low-carb gospel, we do ourselves, and each other, a disservice.

April 05, 2010

Finding the Right Diet Plan -- A New Beginning

Finding the right diet plan isn't always as easy as a lot of people make it seem. The advice that I hear over and over again is to study the various plans carefully, looking for one that fits into your lifestyle and tastes, then pick one and do it like the book.

The problem with that line of reasoning is that it generally comes from someone who is doing the Atkins' diet, and someone who believes that Atkins is the plan you're going to pick. Come back and tell them that you're going to do something different, something more in line with South Beach, something lower in fat, and see what they do.

That's exactly what I've been watching over at Low Carb Friends. (I know...I know...I need to find a different place to hang out at.) Someone picked a diet called "Ideal Protein," and when she shared what was involved in the initial stages of that eating plan (20g carb, 60-75g protein, and 2-3 tbsp of fish oil or olive oil per day) she got confronted by the very folks who normally preach to pick a plan and do it by the book.

Now I wouldn't call 3 tbsp olive oil per day a low fat plan, but that was the term she used, "low fat", and it caused all sorts of folks to come crawling out of the woodwork in a goodwill effort to manipulate her into switching to their plan of choice. THEIR plan of choice.

Gosh. They went from cannibalizing her muscles, to researching the different low carb plans and picking one, to scaring her with heart disease if she didn't eat lots of saturated fats, to sending her to wikipedia to research rabbit starvation, to telling her that low carb is not a low fat plan -- then...pushing Atkins 72.

Knew they'd get around to that one. Which only served to prove the conclusion I've been coming to lately. That researching the various plans and picking one is always dependent upon you choosing to do what they are doing.

No Thanx.

Because I'm coming to realize, and actually beginning to get it through my thick head, that if I keep on doing what I'm doing right now -- bouncing back and forth between a low carb diet and maintenance, researching until I'm blue in the face but not actually getting anything accomplished -- I'm going stay fat. No doubt about it. I have got to make up my mind. Because it time to move forward. It's time for a new beginning.

So how does one go about finding the right diet plan that will allow them to meet their goals?

A lot of us are pretty attached to the idea of demonizing carbs. We've literally bonded ourselves to that idea. That carbs are bad. Even though realistically it isn't the carbs that made us fat. Nor is it the carbs that make us hungry. Association isn't cause. So yeah these things happen, but not for the reasons we've been taught.

For example, it isn't the state of Ketosis that keeps our hunger at bay. It's the release of CCK from eating higher protein and fat. That means that if you structure a higher carb diet to include what we've learned from doing low carb, making sure you get more than adequate protein and "good" fats in your diet so that you'll be releasing plenty of CCK to keep you satisfied, you can most definitely make a higher carb plan work -- without being hungry all the time.

I'm seriously leaning towards the idea of doing exactly that. Raising my carbs enough to keep my blood glucose level happy, my body from feeling sick, but taking into the structure of South Beach all of the lessons and principles and research I've learned from and accumulated all of the years I've been married to low carb.

Pretty much, my intent is to do my own thing. Because with the leaky gut, I don't tolerate olive oil very well, and canola oil sends my inflammation issues soaring. Which means I'll be eating more saturated fat than South Beach advises, but less total fat than what the Atkins' folks like to push.

So I don't think I can honestly place myself firmly within either camp. But then I don't feel the need to be. I just feel the need for a little forward movement right now. The need to make a new beginning.

April 03, 2010

South Beach Diet Thoughts and Reflections

I try to balance my weekly reading by visiting several different types of forums, and sections within forums. One of the topics I've been particularly interested in lately is the South Beach Diet. I really like the way in which it is structured. And regardless of the glycemic index controversy within the low carb community, you can't deny that for a lot of folks The South Beach Diet works rather well.

What I find a bit disheartening is the tunnel vision that seems to be quite prevalent among low carb dieters. That their way is the only way. For example, over at Low Carb Friends the other day, someone raised the question as to whether low carb diets ever stop working. Since they were someone who suffers from lots of water retention, a yo-yo low carb dieter who was attempting this way of life for the upteenth time, she sincerely wanted to know the truth.

But the truth is not what she got. Sadly, the greater majority of comments and advice were myth, false perceptions about low carb itself, lots of fantasy (what people wish was true), and possibly a little bit of projection.

The most disturbing thing about that thread was why low carbers continue to believe in, and preach to others, all of the inaccuracies about low carb that keep people fat and unhealthy. How many years does one have to keep doing whatever isn't working, before they are allowed to look for success elsewhere? How many times do we have to continue listening to the often parroted consensus that if low carb has stopped working for us, it's our fault. Or its our thyroid.

Honestly, I'm sick and tired of all of this outdated garbage advice. Especially since no one has anything other than private opinion to back any of it up.

Which is why I've been focusing on, and investigating, The South Beach Diet lately. It's why I've been looking at individuals who are doing a more moderate carb diet, and wondering...

Can our bodies actually reach a point where they don't want to take the starvation pathway any more?

Could it be, that for those who don't make a straight path to the finish line the first time around, that the body becomes too efficient at creating and using ketones for our own good? Could it be that for some, our bodies grow tired of having to neutralize all of the excess cortisol created from the stress placed upon it when we try to follow a low carb diet for too long?

Granted, these types of issues aren't applicable to everyone. Lots of folks enter into a low carb lifestyle, struggle to their goal weight, then happily maintain it healthily for the rest of their lives. But the fact that they are applicable for some, means low carb itself isn't the overall, magical, one-size-fits-all answer that so many within the low carb community claim.

And yet -- those who tend to stop living the definition of insanity, those who look in a different direction are looked down upon and ridiculed, and even shamed. Warned that they are are going to be hungry if they eat carbs. Warned that they're going to destroy their health if they don't tow the party line.

Why can't we, as a community, be more supportive of those who seek to find health another way than ourselves?

It really disturbs me that those who follow, and are having lots of success on The South Beach Diet are met with opposition from those who should be the most supportive of their attempt to find something that works for them. And it really disturbs me that so many within the low carb community who could be helped to reach their goals by following a plan a little less strict than what most define low carb to be, are not receiving that help due to the errors of belief that keep getting thrown at those for whom low carb has stopped working.

In an attempt to reach out to some of those people, I recently wrote an article for Suite 101 about how to modify a South Beach meal plan to make it gluten free. I also plan on starting a new blog this coming week about a more moderate carb lifestyle. I've been meaning to do that, as well as start one on gluten free living, for awhile now; but just hadn't gotten around to doing that.

But something Jimmy Moore said to me in the comment section of my journal blog the other day when I was really in a depressive funk, and upset about all of the low carb gurus who haven't been able to make low carb work for them, really struck home.

Life is about growing. And growing is about gaining strength to stand up and be who and what we are. It isn't about becoming a follower and doing whatever everyone else we are hanging out with is doing. It's about choosing to do for ourselves what needs to be done to succeed, regardless of what anyone else thinks about it, or does.

So if high-fat, low carb is working for you -- GREAT. Keep on doing what you're doing. But if low carb isn't working for you, then it's OKAY to find a different path that will.

"This is YOUR life and you do what's best for YOU." 

April 02, 2010

Do We Burn Ketones for Energy?

Brain Uses Ketones for Energy
What are Ketones Used For?
When you say that:

“I am in ketosis,”

What does that mean?

Do your muscles use ketones to move?
Does your metabolism use ketones to keep your unconscious systems, such as physical digestion or your need to breath, running smoothly?

Are you burning ketones to fuel your everyday physical activities, such as getting out of bed, making breakfast, and going to work?

Most low-carb dieters would say:

“Yes. We burn ketones for energy.”

However, that statement is misleading.

Here's why: