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I Suck At Low Carb Dieting: Week 1 – February 26, 2012

Posted Feb 26 2012 10:43am

I must admit, honestly and frankly: I suck at low carb dieting. This might sound odd coming from a guy who has been more or less following a low carb lifestyle since September of 2003 and lost 80 pound doing it, but I can tell you – after all these years, it still ain’t easy to get in the low carb Atkins-style induction.

I know – I’ve been trying since January. It’s February 26 as I write this.

I’ve been chronicling all this, but it’s rather boring. I ate this, I did that – and I’m more or less the same weight. Yawn.

I’ve hit a stall in a very successful run of weight loss last year, where the elimination of alcohol combined with low carb during the day and a controlled amount of any carbs I liked at night led to me pulling off 25-30 pounds. And they’ve stayed off. If I were to announce: my target weight is 204 to 208 – a range just shy of obese, then I’ve made it, baby. Peeled of 60 lbs.! Kept it off! And I see no reason nor evidence that I couldn’t maintain this indefinately.

I’m NOT satisified, though. I want to peel off 20 lbs. more. I had originally wanted to get to a weight of 177, which would put me at a weight defined as ‘normal’ by the BMI, but I realized that this wasn’t realistic. When I lost my weight prior I was looking a little emaciated at that point, and while the BMI is a simple rule of thumb that’s great for gathering stats on large groups of people, its an awful tool for an individual to be beholden to.

There is also the ‘off the rack’ factor. Another 20 lbs will make me a 36 waist. A comfy 36. Not ‘thin’ but not a bad place to be considering where I’ve been. The weight my body has settled on is an awkward spot between 36 and 38. One’s too big, the other a bit snug for comfort.

There’s another factor that I’ve been hesitating to admit, just because it’s a topic that can suck the air out of a room and make this post sound like it needs sad piano music playing as background while your read this: my Dad – or what’s left of him – is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s. His body is being kept alive through medicines that know how to extend life but don’t know how to guarantee it has any quality to it. My Dad has been diabetic for 30 years, and while he did his best to control it, there’s a known link between diabetes and dementia and it’s caught up to him.

Both my older siblings already got diabetes by my age – my lower-carb lifestyle has probably prevented it so far.

I’m beginning to get to that age where AARP starts sending the occasional mailing to see if I’m interested. Fuck you, AARP! I’m not old!

Unfortunately, the calendar and the mirror tell a different story: I might not be ‘old’, but I grew a beard over my vacation and left it. While somewhat controversial with my wife and daughters, a number of people in work have commented that they like it – it makes me look ‘distinguished’. Uh-oh.

OK – so I’m no spring chicken any more. Maybe I’m a summer chicken.

I would like to make some changes now to make sure my remaining 30-40 possible years have quality. I honestly don’t think I am afraid of dying; I’m afraid of ending up like my Dad and my daughters remembering me not like I am now, but like I would be then.

OK – maudlin section of the post is over – it’s safe from now on.

I think that it’s important to know WHY you want what you want – it’s an important anchor when setting goals – something to hold onto when life and your own weak will conspire to thwart your desires.

So I’ve made clear that I see low carb and weight loss not just an aesthetic goal, but a matter of life and death. That’s the way to ‘juice up’ a goal!

And that, I think, is how I was able to eliminate alcohol. I love the stuff, but I can honestly say: I have drunk enough and now it’s time to put it behind me. I can’t drink and maintain my weight. My weight it tied to my health. Maintaining my health as I approach the half-century mark is more important, hence – I don’t drink. Simple equation.

That was last year, however, and now I need something else to get down another 20 pounds – another behavior/lifestyle change as signifigant as the abstention of alcohol to break through this plateau.

Upon reflection – and reading the book  The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable , I am even more convinced than ever that low carb was a great bet I placed almost 9 years ago, and that going even lower in low carb might bring not only the weight loss I’m looking for, but better health.

(Minor digression: this book is written for physicians by physicians. It’s a bit of a slog for the layman, but chock-full of the latest research. It’s also worth your time if you’re a nutrition nerd or an ‘advanced’ low carber interested in the science. Check out Dr Eades’ review if you’re interested.)

So as I see my further progress in some other change, I experimented with different things – upping the beef and reducing the carbs. Reducing the cheese and other dairy, swapping out eggs as they can be insulinogenic . Adding a multivitamin and magnesuim daily. Reducing my coffee, then upping it again, though making it weaker then before. Sometimes I adhered to the new plan I made up – sometimes I didn’t and ate crap.

Nothing really changed – my weight never really went out of my 204 – 208 range. I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

So last Sunday I pulled out the big guns: calorie-counting and exercise. I laid out an ambitious 70-day plan to reach my target of 185 some time in early May. When I started this I was 210.8 – 25.8lbs. from my goal.

During the week, I got myself to the gym and worked out with 4 of the weight machines. I didn’t get all anal about weight and counting – I just wanted to establish a routine. I went for high weights and did reps until I couldn’t.

This left me feeling OK the next day, but real sore for the next few days after that.

I did the treadmill for 20 minutes later in the week, though I don’t see the treadmill as doing much. My entire reasoning for exercise is to build muscle as the building and maintaining of muscle burn calories – even when you are not exercising. Aerobics don’t do that – their ability to burn calories stops when you stop doing them. Aerobics are for people who like aerobics. Not for weight loss.

That’s it for now – if I come to enjoy it, or see other benefits in it moving forward – great – but that’s not what motivated me to the gym this week.

I got to the weights a second time, but my muscles were still sore so I couldn’t do as many reps. Really – right now it’s a major accomplishment to get to the gym.

As to eating, I was all over the place. While I kept it honest during the day, evenings were a crapshoot. Sometimes I did good, other times sucked.

It also became apparent that I was taking in way too many calories.

There’s a difference between a low carb metabolic advantage where you can effectively metabolize your food, and a caloric pig out that might not induce fat storage but will certainly not induce weight loss.

There’s an old saying that states: anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first.

I hope this is true, as doing badly is about what I’d estimate my performance at this last week.

So at the end of week 1 of 7, I have gone from 210.8 to 208.4 – 23.4lbs. from my goal. That leaves me already behind the 8-ball.

Good news is: you can always set another goal. So now my goal is 12 weeks from now. So now my schedule is moved out to May 20, 2012.

For the coming week I’ve decided to try something new that’s old: breakfast – specifically an Atkins Shake first thing in the AM – even before coffee.

I don’t typically eat breakfast until 4 or 5 hours after I get up. Supposedly this is bad. Even I recall writing that I felt breakfast was an important aspect of my original weight loss. I also considered ‘breakfast’ at the time an Atkins shake. So why not give that a try again?

A few reasons might be: I’m trying to avoid processed foods as well as artificial sweeteners. My answer/rationalization for this? I’ll give it a try and see if it works – it is not going to kill me short-term, and if it helps me ease in to the notion of breakfast – and helps with the other side of the coin that might be part of my problem – night eating – it is certainly worth giving it a go. If I establish a habit of breakfast and this helps reduce caloric intake and leads to weight loss, then it’s a big win with a relatively small downside.

I did have one concern: I noticed that the stuff uses sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is frowned upon as being high polyunsaturated oil. It’s not recommended in the latest Atkins book -what up with that? I emailed someone at Atkins that I know about this and she responded (on a Saturday night) that its a high-oleic sunflower oil, which by definition is 80% monounsaturated .

By the way – to all you folks coming to this low carb stuff fresh – Atkins is a great place to start on a low carb diet. They pretty much give away for free what other weight loss sites charge for. They make their money on their low carb foods – which you don’t have to buy. It worked for me – and when I want to take another go at a fresh start, I always end up back at Atkins .

So the coming week will include the shakes in the AM, greater attention to the calorie-counting, continuing the exercise, and trying to avoid the night eating and the night carbs – and hopefully this leads to ketosis and a weight loss of 5 pounds as I drop water weight from too many carbs this week.

Stay tuned.

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