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I Suck at Low Carb Dieting – Week 9

Posted Apr 22 2012 4:23pm

Note: This is week 9 of what was supposed to be a 12-week experiment in low carb dieting. It seems to be about everything but. The past chronicles are  here , if this sort of stuff holds any interest for you.

I’m starting my week where at a weight close to what I gravitate around: 206. I’d like to see if I can be less, um, erratic this week and count better.

Sunday, April 15, 2012 – 205.8

I’ve started crunching the numbers I’ve gathered since April Fool’s Day. Right now I’ve got these great inscrutable charts like this:

As reports come in calling me to task on my numbers being wrong, I think I’m going to abandon counting calories.  I’ll continue counting calories along with this as a reference for myself, a translation of sorts, even though it’s a translation to something that isn’t real, it’s such a common way to think about diet that leaving it out at this point would be uncomfortable as well as confusing.

Calories are bogus. They don’t mean what we think they mean. I decided to count grams instead. Unlike calories, grams can’t be faked. You can’t claim something is 30 grams when it really is 20. Anybody with a scale can prove this.

If you sell something that’s 100 calories but it’s really 200, it would be a LOT more complicated to prove. You need a bomb calorimeter to burn the food in a furnace and measure the heat output. Then you have to run a number of calculations on the food to determine how much of the food was bioavailable – a furnace can burn fiber – we can’t. To do this little calculation you have to do a lot of fancy math that ends up looking all scientific and gives you a result to 5 decimal places, but due to the variations in food, you’d be lucky if the number for a given product wasn’t off by +/- 20%, which, if I recall, is how much the US Government allows labels as an error.

Having written the above, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t full of shit so I did a little searching and found this :

Is there a U.S. labeling regulation that establishes the allowable variance for the analyzed value vs. what is printed on the label? If so, what is the specific regulation? (April 2011)

Yes, FDA regulations published at 21CFR101.9(g) specify two classes of nutrients; the allowable variance is different for each. Regardless of the class, the analyzed value is derived from a composite sample of twelve consumer units, with one unit coming from each of twelve different randomly chosen shipper cases.

Class I nutrients are nutrients added to fabricated foods for the purpose of fortification, such as vitamins, minerals, protein and dietary fiber. For this class, the analyzed value must be at least equal to the label value.

Class II nutrients are naturally occurring nutrients. For this class, the analyzed value for the “beneficial nutrients” (vitamin, mineral, protein, total carbohydrate, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat or potassium) must be at least 80% of the label value and the analyzed value for the “nutrients to limit” (calories, sugars, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium) must not be greater than 120% of the label value. These allowable variances are commonly referred to as the “80/120 rule.”

So, as I interpret this…if you count your calories scrupulously and try to eat 2000 calories, you might have eaten as much as 2400 – that 400 calories is just shy of a McDonald’s double-Cheeseburger or running 5 miles per hour for 35 minutes –  and it wouldn’t be considered mislabeling.

Calories as we think of them, these magical food energy units, the star of the stage play ‘Calories In-Calories Out’, don’t exist. They are a series of simplifications, error corrections and inaccuracies that get put into You, a biological being with a great range in the ability to absorb 100s of different nutrients known and unknown due to genetics, lifestyle and frigging time of day.

Food Calories are as real as fairies or hobbits – the unicorns of nutrition.

(Please don’t confuse food calories with the real ‘calorie’, which is a unit of heat defined as  the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 °C. I’m not disputing this is a real, solid fact. I am an idiot, but not that big of an idiot.)

I’m going to count ounces of food I consume – or for my international readers who use a rational system of weights and measures, I’ll count grams.

I think most people have a conception of what an ounce is, or a gram.

If I tell you I ate 12 ounces of nutrients or 340 grams of food on a given day, you’ll have a visceral idea of how much I ate. It’s not perfect, but it feels to me to have a closer relationship to reality than a calorie.

So there.

Breakfast was roast beef and goat cheese. Early afternoon I had 3 fried eggs (kid leftovers). I also had some homemade ice cream – just a few bites. We just bought the machine (the wife wanted one) and I want to see what it tastes like.

Not bad. I might be able to whip up some low carb stuff with this in the future.

About mid afternoon I got the munchies (no illegal drugs involved – sorry) and grabbed some things I would have rather avoided: a small amount of Whole Foods store-made mac & cheese (which is awesome), a piece of greek toast left over from breakfast (put olive oil, oregano and a bit of salt on your toast instead of butter – a great alternative), along with some roast beef and the goat cheese that needs to get eaten before it goes green. I also had a pickled tomato.

Dinner was some mini hamburgers made with grass-fed beef and about 2 fish sticks my wife made from scratch.

I was OK until then. A little later the situation rapidly deteriorated. toast and butter, cake and a single chocolate ball (what restraint!), washed down with a glass of milk. The remainder of the fish sticks also got consumed.

Note that my percentages are very different from before. I’m not counting calories – I’m counting grams.  The percentages used to provide percentage of calories – but calories don’t exist in my new way of thinking.

Total grams for the day: 518 (18.3oz). Fat: 208g, Net carbs: 170g, Protein: 140g (40/32/27%)

Monday, April 16, 2012 – 208.2

If you look at my totals from yesterday, I can tell you that half of the total was eaten right before bed. I had, in fact, calculated my daily numbers before I did a commando raid on the kitchen. Night eating is a big problem of mine – putting the amount of food aside, it simply isn’t good food. It’s food out of my plan – food that does not help me in testing my hypothesis. And eating breakfast doesn’t change this.

Here’s what I would like to do, an attempt to solve this night eating problem: measure it.

Now I’ve been accused of being a little numbers-happy, but it’s a way to pay attention to things that go unnoticed. I remember first learning this trick when first trying to stop smoking cigarettes. Count them. The act of noticing what you are smoking always brought the number of ciggies down by 25-33% for me.

A comment on my last post from Lee struck home: in all your experimenting, have you tried a low carb diet like the one Atkins wrote about and you went on originally and stay on it for 2 weeks? She didn’t say it like that of course, people who comment on my blog are very nice, like anyone talking to a scary crazy person would, but that’s what I heard.

Jeez – I don’t know if I can do that…that’s why I spend all this effort doing everything but. I’ll try, though – actually, it’s what I have been trying to do all along, but I suck at low carb .

As to eats, a light day. I wasn’t all that hungry. And I tracked the times I ate At 1pm I had a greek yogurt. I readjusted the carbs down from 8 to 4. You can do that with Greek yogurt as the label must say 8 because that’s what the milk the yogurt started from had, but the yogurtizing of the milk creates lactic acid from some of the sugars so only half the sugar is left. At 3pm, a tin of baby clams. At 5pm, 3 oz. of roast beef with some goat cheese, at 7pm an Atkins shake, and 9pm, 2 hot dogs and 2 mini burger patties.

I did exercise though still sore even though I skipped yesterday, and my overall mood was pretty good for a Monday. My mind was popping with interesting ideas all morning – work drained that pond by the afternoon, but I was productive and upbeat. I also walked at lunch, though it was an oppressive dry and hot desert day – I don’t live in a desert, however, and I cut the walking short.

Lee also mentioned I should mix up my exercise.

I know.

I’m stalling.

Total grams for the day: 184 (6.5oz). Total calories: 1,113. Fat: 65g, Net carbs: 9g, Protein: 110g (35/5/60%)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 – 205.4

Woke up and decided I would be consistent. How do you do that?

I figured by bringing the same stuff to work I did the previous day. I did think it might behoove me to eat something green, like a plant, maybe, so I grabbed some middle-aged zucchini from the veggie drawer along with the usual yogurt, 3 oz of roast beef, and 2 oz/2 tablespoons/28 grams of butter. Why does their need to be 3 different frigging measurements for the same thing – 2 based on weight and one volumetric?!? Humanity certainly succeeds in making things unnecessarily complicated and driving themselves crazy.

I think the total amount of food yesterday was a bit low. I actually ate in the evening feeling a bit light-headed. I need to aim higher today – but not overshoot my goal, like I am wont to do.

Total grams for the day: 238.5 (8.4oz). Total calories: 1,512. Fat: 101g, Net carbs: 14.5g, Protein: 123g (42/6/52%)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 – 203.0

More of the same from yesterday, though ‘more’ in general.  Hungry in the AM – no doubt my body wanting more nutrients after 2 low days, I had an Atkins shake going out the door at 7am. A Fage yogurt followed mid morning, and hungry early afternoon I had the roast beef and, butter and a large cucumber with salt before my walk, which was cut short by rain. I felt weird, a kind of indescribable weird that I’m familiar with: going into ketogenesis. It doesn’t impact my mood nor my thought processes insofar as I can see – I was sharp and my mood was OK.

Late afternoon was a can of tuna.

Although sore, I stopped at the gym on the way home and did my weight routine. At home I had 2 burgers with reduced sugar ketchup, and 2 Babybel cheeses wrapped in prosciutto.

I was still hungry, which to me was more a cellular hunger than an emotional response or a carb-triggered hunger – my body wanted more because it needed more. I satisfied it with an Atkins shake, which did the trick.

Total grams for the day: 323.8 (6.5oz). Total calories: 1,937. Fat: 124g, Net carbs: 19g, Protein: 180g (38/6/55%)

Thursday, April 19, 2012 – 202.8

Only trace ketones in the AM, and if you look at my numbers, you see a possible reason – not enough fat. Thinking I need more fat, I decided to up the fat intake with our old friend: butter. I had butter in my coffee when I got up – I hadn’t done this in a while. You know what – I like it, really, really like it. Hungry in the AM I did have a shake (though I was trying to cut back on these). Early afternoon I began my afternoon grazing: yogurt, a cucumber, roast beef with butter, and more coffee with butter.

I skipped exercise because it seemed that every single person decided to converge on the place and there were people standing outside. I like it a little quieter than that.

Yesterday was that weird getting-into-ketosis feeling, on this day that had passed. And in the evening, the butter did what I expected – turned the keto stick a dark red.

Later in the evening the wife came home with this wonderful imported Belgian butter. I didn’t mean to eat 1/2 pound of the stuff – which by itself contained 144 grams of ‘evil’ fat – but it goes remarkably good on pork rinds. At least I didn’t touch the beautiful baguettes she brought home. A good butter on pork rinds is pretty darn good if you ask me.

Total grams for the day: 364 (12.8oz). Total calories: 2,917. Fat: 277g, Net carbs: 17g, Protein: 70g (76/4/19%)

Friday, April 20, 2012 – 203.2

There should have been no doubt that I would be in ketosis in the morning – and I was.

Another observation that comes to light when you cont total grams eaten rather than fantasy calories: you can’t gain more weight than the total weight of the nutrients you ate.

When I give you my total grams for the day, it measures the food without the water content – right? So yesterday I had 12.8 ounces, or a little over 3/4 of a pound of nutrients – food minus water. I ate 12 ounces and gained about 7.

I had run out of lunch and I had a big project that had to be done, so I brought a little extra in the way of food with me in case I had to stay late. There was bacon in the fridge and I weighed out 4 ounces. Four ounces of bacon is a LOT, really.

Didn’t pack anything green – I ran out of the cucumbers.

In work I was munching on my bag of bacon around noon when a coworker came in.

“What are you eating?”


He looked at the size of the bag and made that face: “You really like your bacon.”

“Joe, I ate a half pound of butter last night. Let me be that person in your life that you can say: ‘I might be screwed up, but he’s screwed up way more than me.”

“I don’t think you’re screwed up – I think you’re an enigma.”

This is typical of my conversations with other people on my diet. It’s why I tend not to talk about it anymore, and probably why I maintain this blog: people who eat a low carb diet not only don’t eat what the average person eats, we eat the stuff they’ve been taught should be treated like nuclear waste.

Go ahead – tell someone you ate a half-pound of butter. On your diet. And you’re losing weight. Watch their face. The confusion spreads across it. The brows furrow as, for them, you’ve just proved 2+2=3.

Am I about to have a sudden heart attack because I eat this way? I don’t know. I do know that my last blood work was OK, and that I have been eating like this for a long time. I also know I’m in better shape and feel better than when I started this diet in 2003 – and I know that one of the first symptoms of a heart condition is sudden death.

I suppose it comes down to personal responsibility again: whether we decide to go against the flow, decide to go with the crowd, or make no decision at all, we actually are making decisions. If I were to drop dead, my doctor would feel good that he knows the reason why. If I ate junk like most people, he would be confident that contributed.

If I ate ‘healthy’ as he defined it? It would be a tad bit harder, but unlike my death from eating ‘artery clogging fat’, the death of the low-fat-veggie-eating ‘good patient’ would be the enigma.

Ultimately, it’s my responsibility alone. I tried low carb and chose to stick with it. I’m that experiment of one.

Digression aside and back to eats, 4 ounces of bacon is quite filling, and it powered me through my walk and kept me going through the afternoon. Late in the day I had 2 organic hot dogs and as I was particularly parched after the salty bacon and the walk, I splurged and had a diet Coke.  I also had a can of smoked oysters.

I exercised on the way home, then came back and had another shake and, as the family was out, read a bit. When they came home I had a dozen olives, 1 leftover hamburger with some reduced sugar ketchup and a few strawberries.

Total grams for the day: 269 (9.5oz). Total calories: 1,735. Fat: 118g, Net carbs: 22g, Protein: 129g (43/8/48%)

Saturday, April 21, 2012 – 203.0

Back at that place. The low-end of my range. I have been keeping carbs under 25 grams since Monday. In ketosis since at least Thursday. I’m 5 days in.

And I was about to ruin it.

Out early for a dentist appointment, I stopped at the local supermarket for a few necessities I can’t get at the other 2 stores I frequent. I was shopping hungry (always a bad idea) and passing the deli, I decided to get my favorite bad deli meat – the Shop Rite ‘wide’ bologna. This I mentioned before. I had written Shoprite for the nutrition info and they never responded. I asked the miserable deli guy if I could see the label and instead he read it off to me – as if I’d remember. This time I had a more helpful deli girl hold it up for me to take a pic of the label, so now I had the goods.

Short of it is 5 grams of carbs per 2 ounces. High, but not so high as to ruin anything if I was careful.

I ruined it.

I picked on it on the way home, then weighed the package. Jeez – is my scale broke?!? I ate 10 ounces?

Well, that’s 25 grams of carbs – I’m still OK, I thought.

But I ruined it some more.

Unfortunately, this most wondrous specimen of cheap deli meat set off my appetite for most of the afternoon. What ingredient does this? I dunno, but my consumption continued: coffee with cream, bacon, hot dogs, some American cheese, some Greek dip, some supermarket roast chicken breast. Mostly low carb. Not too bad – at least in the carb department.

But then I ruined it even more.

My wife and I made an impromptu dinner date / play date with some friends. I figured that there would be food, and I would eat and enjoy myself, but sometimes in the balance between dieting and the pleasure of food leans toward the latter perhaps a bit more than a fellow on a mission to lose a few pounds would like.

It was also made more difficult because – stupid me – had ALREADY eaten more than a day’s share of food before we even left for the dinner date. Great planning, me.

While I abstained from alcohol and most of the chips and other complete and utter crap, I did indulge in the homemade lasagna, the mango cheesecake, and some tiramisu.

We came home late, and the appetite set off by the carbs I had earlier – maybe even that bologna this morning – I consciously and deliberately took the approach: WTF – I’ll eat what I want and assess the damage tomorrow. This led to some small baked potatoes with butter left over from the afternoon and the remainder of the bologna on a fresh potato roll.

While a failure for the scale, it was a great day, really. I had fun, I laughed, I ate well. That counts for something…though in a post about trying to lose weight it might seem out-of-place.

I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that this sort of thing – a pleasurable, guilt-free overindulgence in food – is precisely what IS needed in a blog about losing weight. It’s needed occasonally to avoid us becoming joyless, of hating food, of hating the beautiful sensual experience that food is, and us becoming thin and grim and living a life that will, in its ultimate ending that none of us can avoid,  only leave us good-looking corpses, who, when living, gave up many of life’s pleasures to look good in the coffin.

A poet named Thomas Jordan, who died in 1685, wrote a poem that, in reflection, I have stolen from in that last paragraph. While I’m not a poetry buff, this poem is worth reading in its entirety . For those not so inclined, here’s the last stanza from that poem. (For those of us who don’t know latin, the phrase ‘nulla voluptas’ is translated as meaning ‘no delight/enjoyment/pleasure’):

Then why should we turmoil in cares and in fears,
Turn all our tranquill’ty to sighs and to tears?
Let ‘s eat, drink, and play till the worms do corrupt us,
‘Tis certain, Post mortem
Nulla voluptas.
For health, wealth and beauty, wit, learning and sense,
Must all come to nothing a hundred years hence.

Total grams for the day: 750 (26.5oz). Total calories: 5,018. Fat: 377g, Net carbs: 180g, Protein: 193g (50/25/25%)

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