Diet Update

This post was migrated from my Lifeblog.

I’m losing weight! It’s painfully slow, but it’s visible: My face has definitely slimmed. It might seem like a small victory, but when nothing else seems to be moving much, it’s something. As for my waist, I’ve lost something like 2 inches, though I’m always nervous stating progress by the tape measure – it’s so easy to “gain” or “lose” a half inch by shifting every so slightly. My clothes don’t fit much differently though, so no exultations there. :(

I know. Perhaps I should just buy a scale. But it seems like one more thing that I have to find a home for in our tiny studio apartment. And it might be yet another reminder of my slow progress. I’m naturally impatient to be dropping faster. It seems like everyone else on a low-carb diet is losing ten pounds a month. It hardly seems fair! :) However, I have to remind myself that I gained all this weight at about 6 pounds a year — that’s only a half pound a month — so I suppose it’s only natural that I lose it slowly too.

Also, my body probably has a lot of internal strife to settle before it can tackle the external things. My health has been pretty out of whack for many years, so it’s got its work cut out for it. I must say, it’s doing marvelously. I’m actually starting to feel normal now, which is not something I could boast for most of a decade. For one, my thirst is behaving normally now. Where before I would get serious headaches if I wasn’t constantly sipping water, now I simply drink a big glass two or three times a day and don’t think about it the rest of the time — just like regular people! :) That means I have much more stamina and besides, it’s just plain convenient not to have to carry gallons of fluid with me everywhere I go. This happy development is probably the result of thinner blood, which I noticed last menstrual cycle. That’s actually a known effect of low-carbing. Hyperinsulinemia thickens the blood, eventually producing clots and arteriosclerosis and all that nasty stuff; low-carbing reverses the effect. I’m quite grateful: Thick blood runs on my father’s side, and my uncle died of it in his forties. I may have been saved from an untimely death — well, by that cause anyway.

Isn’t it cool to experience the natural benefits of low-carb living? I’m thrilled to be part of the norm. I’ve identified with the abnormal 0.1% on health issues for so long, it seems absurd to me that I’m now one of the crowd. It’s great!

One big new thing: About a month ago, I changed my low-carb approach to the Paleo Diet. I’m reluctant to say I’ve gone off of Protein Power because I love the Eades and their books, but that’s sort of the truth of it. The carb counting was getting too high maintenance. Plus I wasn’t dropping weight very fast, the reason for which I encountered in Protein Power Lifeplan: I was consuming too many calories. According to the Eades, people of small stature often have this problem, the main culprits being cream, nut butters, and cheese. Well I was getting sick of all the excess dairy I’d been consuming anyway, so after some thought and perusal of Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet, I switched over.

What is the Paleo Diet? It ends up being a low-carb diet, but sort of indirectly. The idea is to eat only what a Paleolithic person would have eaten. Of course it’s strictly impossible, but we can approximate. The rules are simple: You can have all the meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, and fruit you want. You cannot have dairy, grains, beans, or starchy vegetables (think potatoes, plantains, cassava, etc.). And it’s as simple as that. No calorie or carb counting. Just do’s and dont’s.

Of course, what’s a starchy vegetable? Some are obvious like the ones I’ve listed above, but veggies follow a gradient and, as far as I know, there’s not a strict cut-off point. So I still do some carb look-ups. Another good heuristic is to ask the question, “Could it be consumed raw?” the motivation being that our Paleo ancestors didn’t cook their food (could be wrong about that; I’m not a huge anthropology buff). Did you know that raw potatoes contain toxins and can make you quite sick? Beans too, which is another reason they’re ruled out besides being quite starchy. By the way, I want to clarify that you don’t have to eat your food raw, you just have to check that it can be eaten raw.

Anyway, the simplicity of the diet works well for me. It also effectively keeps my calories low. Since I’ve gone on it, the weight’s been coming off faster (which is to say that now I can actually tell I’m losing — not bad, eh?). I probably consume more carbs now, but mostly in the form of fruits and vegetables that have a low glycemic index and therefore stimulate less insulin release (the mother of all evil!). I say mostly because I’m actually not following this diet strictly. I still eat whey protein powder, the occasional slice of low-carb bread, and once in a very long while a stick of cheese. Still, I stay pretty much on target.

(I feel obliged to mention that I’ve not actually read The Paleo Diet, only skimmed it in the bookstore, so this information by no means represents the diet in full — merely the concept. I’m definitely not following it to the T. For one, Cordain prohibits the use of salt and vinegar; I still enjoy these quite liberally.)

One more new thing in my life that pertains somewhat to low-carbing (boy a lot happens in two months, eh?). My husband and I are trying for a baby! No positive news yet, but it could come any minute. Which is why I spent a feverish week looking for information about low-carbing during pregnancy. I started out with only a few scraps of information. The Eades advise you to shift to maintenance ASAP if you find out you’re pregnant but don’t explain why. I was also vaguely aware that many doctors will glare daggers at you if you attempt to low-carb through pregnancy; but then again, I don’t trust traditional doctors anymore. See where they got me?

Anyway, I couldn’t find any miracle articles that exhaustively explained things, but I did turn up one or two helpful resources. First, a low-carb pregnancy success story from a woman named Dawn — very encouraging. The other is a Yahoo group, PregnantAtkids, which I joined. (Yes, that’s spelled right: Atkids.) It’s a support group for low-carb pregnancy. You have to be trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding; women only. There are a lot of recipes and articles there, and a lot of women with tips and stories to share. One thing I learned there is that low-carbing increases your fertility! Interesting huh? Granted it’s only anecdotal, but more than one woman on that site has PCOS, yet has several children. Evidently this is considered something of a miracle.

At this point, I’m set on low-carbing throughout pregnancy. I never really doubted it. My diet feels rich and full — not at all a “diet” in the usual sense or “unbalanced” as many nutritionists would call it. I also feel wonderful; I can’t imagine feeling so healthy if low-carb were as drastically bad for you as modern nutrition would have you think. So when I decide to low-carb throughout pregnancy, I don’t make that decision grimly on principle but with immense joy and relief.

Well, that’s all folks. I’ll update you when there’s something to report. Really, I’m going to try to be better about writing more often. :)