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I Suck At Low Carb Dieting – Week 4 – Alien Hand Syndrome

Posted Mar 18 2012 6:28am

Reflecting back at the previous week, I made some decent progress. I shed 8 lbs., which isn’t shabby, though I’m not too impressed as most of the weight was most likely water retention from a blowout the prior week. A major event was getting my ass to the gym every day last week and the experience not sucking and me actually looking forward to it and planning my day to accommodate it. Another notable event is the appearance of muscle tone in my arms and shoulders – not something I ever had much of.

I think I’m going to stop eating avocados as it seems they make me hungry. Though low carb and good for you, they might be one of those foods that I have an idiosyncratic response to.

I got the blood work back from the endocrinologist. Nothing worrisome enough to treat. Testosterone 614. A1C ‘slightly elevated’ at 5.9, fasting blood glucose 110. No mention of thyroid at all, so I suppose that nothing is wrong there either – I’m expecting the actual results in the mail this week and will review it for more detail.

Getting into ketosis was another big milestone – only took me 3 months…I do indeed suck at low carb – it’s just that I am persistent.

For the coming week I’d like to focus on:

  • Continuing the exercise thing. Don’t get any more ambitious than I currently am. If I do this week exactly what I did last week, I’ve hit a home run. It’s not how many reps, on what machine, and at what weight that matters – it’s instilling a habit that becomes an unconscious part of my life that’s most important.
  • Stay in ketosis. This can be tricky because the keto sticks don’t always measure ketones accurately, and sometimes too much protein can allow your body to produce enough glucose to thwart ketosis. Really, the focus is not on measurement as much as following a course of healthy low carb eating.
  • Continue the calorie-counting. As much as I loathe calorie-counting and believe that it is part of a diabolical plan to make us eat processed food ( explained in this post ), I still feel that it a great guide to monitoring intake for a short period of time to allow one to get a better feel of what portion control looks like. Once you internalize what adequate portions are, you can drop the calorie-counting like a hot potato.
  • Once again, bring my focus back to what ‘healthy eating’ is. The Atkins shakes have helped me as they do indeed satisfy my appetite and keep me feeling full and content way beyond the calories contained in them. I just don’t want to live my life dependent on processed foods. Being pragmatic, however, I don’t need to adhere to all-or-nothing thinking, and keeping these to one-a-day isn’t a big deal in the larger scheme of things if it helps me get to my target weight of 185.

Sunday, March 11, 2012 – 203.4

After my morning infusion of coffee, I had an Atkins shake at about 9:30, followed by a few leftover pepperoni from the pizza the other day. I had some kimchi, the Korean pickled vegetables about mid afternoon. I worked around the house, and exercised, and had a yogurt. I also had some roast beef wrapped in babybel cheese and then pork rinds with salsa.  I also drank a lot of water. Whenever I have this unusual thirst, I know the scale will be unkind. Something was amiss. I was a bit hyper, energetic – almost manic. Not in a bad way – just not my usual self, though.

About 5pm the bell rang and our neighbor’s son had sent over a tray of home-baked cupcakes for my daughter (they’re both 5).

I had one without thinking (Diet? What diet?) – and it was off to the races. I recall some Lindt chocolate, a slice of bread with butter and lots of port rinds with salsa.

As is usual when I do this now – I felt sick afterward. Not guilt or some emotional thing – just sick like I wanted to puke. I went to bed early. Oh boy, what’s the scale going to say tomorrow?

Total calories for the day (rough estimate): 2327. Fat: 165g, Net carbs: 92g, Protein: 117g (63/17/20%)

Monday, March 12, 2012 – 205.6

Progress! Last week’s blowout made me gain 7 pounds – this one only 2.2. Really, in the total scheme of things, one day out of the past 7, with calories still relatively low, this transgression isn’t all that much. Scale’s not happy, but I’ll recover. In general, I’m still going in the right direction. Weekends are always tough.

I awoke with numbness in my right arm this morning – notable only because this used to be a daily occurrence for me when I was fat – now it happens so rarely that it strikes me as worth noting here. Did the carbs last night have something to do with it? I have no clue.

The wife had made brisket the night before, and we also had some leftover zucchini with ham cooked in butter. I brought that for lunch and guesstimated the nutrition info. I had the shake at noon and the leftovers mid afternoon, and that left me satisfied for the day. Stopped to exercise on the way home, and cooked in the evening with the wife and kid. Hungry, I picked on stuff while they cooked – a bit of pork rinds with salsa, some kimchi, some of the sausage from the leftover soup, a can of tuna with mayo.

The wife and kid ate trout and zucchini – I was at my caloric max by then.

Total calories for the day: 1617.  Fat: 123g, Net carbs: 9g, Protein: 110g (69/4/28%)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 – 204.0

Had a mean case of the hungries and the grumpies today. Had 2 shakes for breakfast – the first one didn’t seem to do anything. I even thought of stopping for a deli sandwich on the way in to work – I haven’t thought that in a while.

I resisted, though I did have a yogurt and 4 ounces of beef and half a stick of butter by 1pm. I had such a grump on I walked around the office building three times. I find myself looking to exercise (the pathetic amount I do) as medicine now. It helped a bit, but I still had work itself to get me all ornery again.

Came home, stopped to exercise, and it seemed tougher than yesterday. When I got home I wasn’t necessarily hungry as much as thirsty, so I grabbed a bottle of water – but before I did I tested for ketones and weighed myself. The keto stick was dark red and the weight was 202.2.

It was a perfect night for an Atkins shake and bed, as I was in no mood for anything – but my daughter felt sick, and I went to the kitchen to get her something…and all Hell broke loose. It was unconscious eating – 1/2 McDonald’s Hamburger, a leftover bit of bagel with cream cheese, then a pile of cream cheese on a piece of bread. Not satisfied – or a case of WTF setting in, I had maybe 6 lindt chocolates, 2 kit kats, and maybe 1/2 dozen of these thin almond cookies.

Now, as the LoseIt! app scans bar codes, it makes it easy to quantify this blowout.

Total calories for the day: 2450.  Fat: 158g, Net carbs: 120g, Protein: 100g (60/23/17%)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 – 202.6

I’ve seen this happen before. Curious, isn’t it? The ‘eat candy and lose weight’ diet. While I’m happy the scale went down, I’m not trying to perfect the candy diet and I don’t believe candy is all that healthy for you – I just still can’t reckon having a relatively high-calorie, high-carb day (including candy) – and losing weight. Perhaps everyone is wrong about what brings about weight loss? Or maybe just a little statistical ‘blip’ that mean nothing. Tough to quantify when you’re an experiment of one – and a bad subject to boot.

The day actually didn’t turn out bad, I returned to my regular grumpy self (as opposed to extra-grumpy) at work, wasn’t really hungry, continued the daily exercise streak and it almost seemed I was going to go to bed with only 500 calories or so in me – 2 shakes and a can of tuna don’t add up to much. I thought that a bit low for health, even though I wasn’t hungry and had 2 hot dogs on lettuce, some pork rinds and butter and salsa, ans some asparagus.

I had mentioned ‘when hungry eat, when tired sleep’ as a goal last week – and broke it because I thought eating too little might be harmful…but is it? I’m trying to get thin – not get sick, but I have so little faith in the accurate interpretation of science surrounding nutrition and health that I wonder if it would have been totally harmless not to eat.

Total calories for the day: 1253.  Fat: 88g, Net carbs: 9g, Protein: 94g (64/5/30%)

Thursday, March 15, 2012 – 202.2

If I recall, the Ides of March wasn’t all that great a day for Caesar, either…

If you don’t mind, we’re going to have to put this day down as my 12-week plan version of a ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’. It was a very stressful day at work and while I brought healthy stuff, I needed a reward, so at lunch I went out and bought mortadella and american cheese. I feel sorry for people on strict low-calorie diets – what do they do – have an extra rice cake?

Problem was – I ate a bit much, and it made me awfully thirsty, so I had a diet soda – the first I can remember since last year. No biggie, but the appetite was not under control. I also forgot my keys in the car, which I never do – I think it reflects just how distracted and stresses I was. I’m also coming down with a cold. I exercised, but it was the hardest it’s been since the beginning. I had to drag myself there, and my self-talk that tried to talk me out of it had a hard time convincing me I couldn’t do 10 freakin’ minutes.

I had certainly eaten my fill by the time I had gotten home, hung with the kids and wife, and I went to bed, but hunger was gnawing at me, so I raided the fridge: pizza, baguette with butter, some home-made apple pie. A Lindt chocolate or 2. I also downed a liter of seltzer, which with all the carbs I ate, will slosh around in me for a few days.

When I’ve had blowouts before, when I tallied the calories, it really wasn’t all that bad. Regardless, I had too many itsy-bitsies, so I’m sure my tally is off a bit.

Summary: I fucked up – now to get over it and try again tomorrow.

One small ray of hope: my wife, who really has no need for a diet from a weight perspective, is going on the Ultramind Solution Diet to feel better – and this restricts sugar, dairy and wheat. Not a perfect overlap, but it might reduce the number of goodies I can find about the house when in the vacuum-cleaner mode.

Total calories for the day: 2,879.  Fat: 205, Net carbs: 104g, Protein: 141g (64/16/20%)

Friday, March 16, 2012 – 205.6 

The shake on the way to work, then some roast beef and butter. Early afternoon I found myself, seemingly helpless, going  to Dunkin Donuts for an extra-large coffee with cream. The thing is huge, and assuming 180 calories for the cream might be too low – and it’s not like the crack team at Dunkin Donuts uses a graduated cylinder to measure the stuff out. I also found my self – again, seemingly helpless, eating an emergency Atkins bar stowed away in the car.

My stomach not feeling at all well in the afternoon, I had another Atkins shake on the way home while wondering if anyone attempted to make a low carb White Russian with one of these by adding vodka. A passing idle thought, since I don’t drink at present.

At home I stopped to exercise and went through my routine rather quickly, though a bit sore. I ran through 2 rounds of the 3 machines rather quick – maybe too quick, as I found myself dizzy and winded for a brief spell, then finished up after a rest. I did calculate that the 70 pounds on each of the 3 machines at 10 repetitions is me hauling a little more than 1 ton each time – so I’m moving 3 tons of metal each workout.

When I got home, the wife wanted to get out of the house – she worked from home and was restless. We ended up walking the neighborhood, then took a ride for coffee for her and a walk in our nearby downtown.

At least 3 days this past week I’ve walked for at least 20-30 minutes, just because I felt like it. I think exercise leads to exercise naturally, which is perhaps why I am so conflicted about it: some people think it a moral imperative to exercise – I like to look at things I do in life in a joyful fashion. It’s all play – everything – when you approach it in the right way, and it’s a helluva less miserable and sanctimonious way to go through life.

Despite the fact I didn’t get home and settled in until after 9pm, I still went on a tear in the kitchen and had a mortadella and cheese sandwich – yes, with 2 slices bread, some pasta (it was sitting on the counter, just asking for it), some asparagus, and a huge portion – maybe 8-10 ounces – of skirt steak leftover from earlier in the week. I topped that off with the remains of the Lindt chocolate candy that I ate on my wife the other day – she can’t have it on her diet – so it’s like I was doing her a favor…right?

Total calories for the day: 2,966.  Fat: 198g, Net carbs: 85g, Protein: 175g (61/15/24%)

Saturday, March 10, 2012 – 204.0

Strange week, for a number of reasons. I started at 203.4, and ended at 204.0 – a 0.6 pound difference is insignificant. I also ate a lot, ate a little, was in ketosis – and wasn’t – and my weight stayed within a 3-pound range. If all this was simple calories in-calories out, I’d gain weight when I eat a lot of calories, and lose when I ate a few. Instead, the week shows that I ate more than I planned and lost weight – and ate less and lost weight.

When you look at it, really, it seems that nothing I do short-term at least – matters. I can eat double the amount of calories from one day to the next and maintain my weight just fine.

Right at this moment I am wondering if I should try to go low-calorie next week or high calorie. Maybe I should try the ‘fat fast’ notion and get the fat up and eat near 3000 calories – just to see what happens. I’m toying with the idea.

As it’s the weekend after a very stressful week, it might be a good idea to tackle the ‘eating quality food’ issue, as I don’t think I really covered that this past week. Some of what I ate was OK, but I don’t consider Atkins shakes or pork rinds ‘health food’. I think they’re OK – a shake a day for convenience and the pork rinds as an occasional snack are fine – the rest should be real food.

To this end I’ve lined up the ingredients from this ‘ Mexican kale recipe ‘ but will substitute spinach and make a bunch – see if I can subsist on this for a number of meals this week. I’m also going to try a cauliflower pizza crust recipe one commenter suggested.

If I succeeded anywhere this week, it was in continuing the exercise habit, or the ‘practice’ of exercise. I keep relating it to meditation, and approach it in the same way – a practice, not focused on the quality, or counting, or really going anywhere with it at present. I do the same brief workout every day – and that’s it. I don’t bother to count the exercise in my calorie counter because I don’t believe that exercise helps you lose weight – and I’m not doing this: “I exercised X and burned X calories, and now I can eat the equivalent in Snackwells cookies.”

I’m not exercising to lose weight. I’m exercising to exercise. Might it help with weight loss? Might I get some muscle definition? Might it improve my metabolic rate? Might it lead to better health?

Maybe – maybe not. It’s not why I’m exercising. If I was doing it for any of these reasons and they didn’t appear on some expected schedule, I might stop exercising. It’s exactly how one should approach meditation. Does meditation help with focus, concentration, calmness? Maybe  - but that’s not why you meditate. You meditate to meditate. It’s the end in itself.

I am less happy with the goal of calorie-counting. Not because I didn’t do it, but because I did. Calorie-counting sucks, and the only reason I am doing it is as a feedback mechanism. It’s an interesting data point, and I am hoping that it will reveal info I can use. Right now it’s told me that when ‘I eat a lot’ – some times it’s not a lot. A quick look on the Internet says an average guy should eat around 2500 calories a day. My average this week – if I didn’t screw up the average – was 2,250. I also seem to eat about 60% fat without trying. As to carbs, even on a day with me eating chocolates, my carb level – 120 – is still lower than what my doctor considered a ‘low carb diet’ – 150. The average was 65 grams.

As to eating this day, as is usual for the day after a lot of carbs, I was hungry early and had an Atkins shake. I also had 1 fried egg – a leftover from the eggs I cooked my younger daughter. With the wife at the dentist, the kids and I headed to the store to get the ingredients for ‘Bangers and Mash’ – the English pub meal of sausages, mashed potatoes, onions and brown gravy that is awesomely good – but none for Daddy (hopefully) – this is for the wife and kids. I’ll stick to my concoctions.

Around noon I had some kimchi, and a bit after that I went to make a hot dog for my younger daughter, went to the kitchen and found my older daughter had left most of a hot dog before leaving with my wife for the afternoon. I offered it to my younger daughter, but her 5-year-old palate isn’t sophisticated enough for mustard yet – she’s a ketchup-on-hot-dog kind of gal.

Before I knew what happened – I ate it. WTF?!? Then it happened again. A piece of old cheesecake – gone, just like that. Then half a tub of Hagen Daz Blueberry Crumble Ice Cream my daughter picked out at our earlier shopping trip. I dutifully recorded it in my LoseIt! iPhone application. Ok…it isn’t going to be a low carb day by any stretch, but I might be able to keep the calories to a reasonable amount…

I then did some research to figure out what was going on – it seemed that I had lost control or something. A quick search turned up the answer: Alien Hand Syndrome . From the article:

Alien hand syndrome (AHS) is a rare neurological disorder that causes hand movement without the person being aware of what is happening or having control over the action. The afflicted person may sometimes reach for objects and manipulate them without wanting to do so, even to the point of having to use the healthy hand to restrain the alien hand.

I told my daughter this when I explained that I ate half her ice cream. She didn’t buy it and told me it was: “because I had no backbone.”

“That hurts.” I told her.

Seriously, though, what I found strange was that after the ice cream, I was satisfied for hours. Usually, carbs set me off for an uncontrollable hunger. This didn’t. All I had the remainder of the day was some weak coffee and half-and half, then I did have a bit of the ‘bangers & mas’h I made for the family – mostly the sausage, some of the fried onion, and maybe a tablespoon or 2 of the potatoes.

Total calories for the day: 1,743.  Fat: 118g, Net carbs: 64g, Protein: 79g (63/18/19%)

To be continued…

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