As many of you know, I've been out of action for awhile now. Haven't been posting, or even reading, anywhere on the web for the past 6 months or so. That's because I fell into the ditch of a few low carb myths and assumptions, and got myself into some serious health troubles as a result. Which I'm only now beginning to pull myself back up out of.
So with a new year already nudging at me to turn the page, I thought I'd take a few moments and do a bit of reflection in regards to this past year first.
Weight loss can be such a fickle thing. You know? Especially if you don't have the strength and endurance and much needed support to go all the way to goal the very first time you try low carb.
The body fights you. Your psycho-somatic illnesses fight you. And even the low-carb community fights you.
Partly because of ignorance. Partly because our carnal nature and vanities wants us to be right. And partly because we tend to feel better about ourselves when others believe and/or are doing exactly what we, ourselves, are doing.
The problem is...as individuals, that type of thinking and behavoir isn't always in our own best interest. In fact, there are times when listening to, and obeying what someone else tells us to do, rather than listening to our hearts, and doing what we believe is best for us to do, can be downright deadly. Especially when it isn't backed up with any solid, biological science.
Which is basically the ditch I fell into this past year. My weight loss had stalled out, so general low carb was no longer working for me. I was having lots of trouble with allergies, reacting to things I'd never reacted to before. I was trying to get a handle on my gluten intolerance, with it's very deep learning curve, which meant I was on the verge of also going dairy free for awhile.
And I just sort of fell into the assumption that if low carb was good, nutritionally speaking, that even lower carb (as in almost zero) would be better.
But it wasn't.
The first couple of weeks I felt really good though. I had lots more energy. My arthritis-like problems with my hands improved greatly. The pain I was beginning to have in my gums and teeth cleared up. And even though I was having a lot of trouble digesting the amount of fat required to keep my calories up, I kept plugging along because the advice being given among zero-carb circles at that time was to eat protein and fat to appetite for a good, solid 6 months before evaluating.
Now, at the time, I could partly understand that viewpoint, since I knew from Celiac circles that one can't judge "continuing" symptoms, issues, and even new allergies to mean that a gluten-free diet isn't working. That it isn't healing. But when my Neuropathy resurrected itself, my heart palpitations returned, I was pretty sure that the diet was throwing my blood sugar levels out of whack again. Because that's what I had experienced the last time I'd had troubles with my blood sugar levels.
What disturbed me at the time, wasn't necessarily a community's disregard for biology and science, since a lot of folks in the low-carb community do that too. Disregard scientific knowledge and/or literature when it doesn't fit into their preconceived ideas and beliefs. Most low carbers WANT to believe the low carb myths and inaccuracies they were brought up on.
But what disturbed me the most was the dramatization being played out as a community at large, this psycho-somatic NEED to be right -- at the expense of someone else's physical ailments and health. There appeared to be a type of apathy when one was physically being pushed towards diabetes and real physical body damage by following their advice.
Which to me was a little bit scary since I was coming to the table with a lot of malnutrition and malabsorption issues that I, let alone them, didn't understand.
At first, I rode out the storm, hoping that what they were telling me was true. Because I believed (and still do believe) that a zero carb diet is a necessary option for some. But as the days turned into weeks, and my physical reaction to the diet continued to worsen, my blood sugars pushing their way up into the pre-diabetic level, I started to doubt that zero carb was the answer that I was seeking.
So I started doing my own investigation of the issues. Rather than sitting back and listening to everybody else tell me what to do or believe. And what I found out didn't match up very well with what the zero carb community (or the low carb one either, for that matter) were preaching.
For instance, in one of the articles in the Diabetic series on Barry Groves website, I read where "excess" protein can cause insulin levels to literally TRIPLE. Now that's a lot. Especially when the whole idea behind restricting carbs, and turning to meat and fat as the mainstay of our diet is to lower insulin levels, not raise them.
So next I took a look at what I was eating. And how much protein I was actually getting. Six to eight ounces of beef per meal. Hmmm. Pretty typical protein intake for a low carber. Not anything near what I would call excessive. Plus most low carbers also snack on even more protein between meals. Like hard boiled eggs, cheese, chicken legs, etc.
I noticed during this time that low carb products are loaded with protein (from wheat gluten) as well. Take the low carb bread Jimmy Moore was eating back then. When I looked it up, it dialed in at 12 to 17 grams of protein PER SLICE. And he never eats just one. So it's no wonder that many low carbers find themselves in a good stall, if all of that protein is raising their insulin levels the way Barry Groves claimed.
However, at 1 to 1-1/4 lbs of meat per day, I was getting waaaay less protein than the average low carber was getting. And yet my body was converting the protein I was eating into glucose. Or, at least that's what it appeared to be doing. Running on protein for energy and depositing the fat into my fat cells. Which means my weight and fat storage was going UP, and not down. Even though by this time I wasn't eating any carbs.
It was an eye opener for me, that cutting down so drastically on carbs could not only birth a dangerous situation, Diabetes and nerve damage, but it could also result in the opposite of what I was trying to do. Heal my physical health issues and reap fat loss at the same time.
By this time, my sugars were just crossing over into diabetic levels. Not over 200, but they were quite often in the 160s to 180s for hours after eating. High enough to cause lots of nerve damage and heart palpitations. Plus never returning back to normal levels...ever. My Neuropathy was soooo bad I was on Ibuprofen and Pamprin every day for the pain. Just so I could walk. And the numbness was SPREADING up my legs.
Needless to say, I was afraid that if I kept on following the zero-carb community's advice to keep doing what I was doing for at least 6 months before evaluating, that I'd do serious, irreparable damage to myself. So even though I'd only been doing zero carb for a couple of months, I went back to Induction, lowered my protein intake to 84, and held my breath -- hoping things would return to normal.
But they didn't.
I continued to have erratic blood sugars. Continued to suffer with Neuropathy. Continued to put on weight.
So I had to go back to the drawing board. Had to rethink things out. In a despite hope that I'd be able to fix what had gone soooo wrong for me, before the damage became permanent.
At which time I reasoned...
that if the body was confused into using protein for energy, rather than fat, that maybe I needed to eat fat for breakfast in an attempt to correct the situation. Maybe I needed to stop eating protein for breakfast in an attempt to force my body to use something else for energy.
Which is when I started drinking homemade hot cocoa, heavy on the cream for breakfast. And eating nothing else until 2 or 3 pm, after getting home from work. Kind of like Intermittent Fasting, I guess you'd say. Which helped to drive my blood sugars back down into pre-diabetic range. And stopped the weight gain. But it did nothing to correct anything. While it did stop the progression of what was happening to me.
Good...but not good enough.
At which time, I went off low-carb completely, and tightened up the gluten contamination in my life. I stopped cooking and baking with flour at work. I stopped cooking pasta. And I taught the kids how to cover their Top Ramen that they were cooking in the evening in the Microwave. How to keep the contamination in the kitchen waaaay, waaaay down.
Today, I weighed in at 185 lbs. My blood sugar was 79 at 1pm, after a breakfast of Polish Sausage and fried eggs, at 9:30am, and a snack of 1oz of Cheetos at noon. I still suffer with the resurrected Neuropathy though, and I've gained about 7 lbs since the middle of December. Partly because of the higher carb intake, and partly because my intestines are finally healing.
So even though my weight loss journey was basically a bust for 2009, I have made some real progress in learning about myself.
That my vertigo is either tied to, or severely agitated by, gluten ingestion. That I have problems absorbing/digesting fat (which I already knew), and protein. That I "used" to have problems absorbing/digesting carbs, which is why I was able to eat more carbs than the average low-carber, on maintenance. Which is now changing. That I need extra Folic Acid (which is extremely low in meat, by the way), Vitamin D3, and Calcium. In addition to a "good" multivitamin, and fish oil.
I have also learned that I react to gluten, even in minuscule amounts. That I don't have to eat it to have an adverse reaction to it. Which I'm seeing as a GOOD thing -- because I'm NEVER tempted to cheat. NEVER tempted to rationalize. NEVER tempted to give up my gluten-free diet. While that also means I have yet to be able to go out to eat without getting extremely sick afterwards, intestinal inflammation, pain, and even hives, the benefits I have experienced by going gluten free this past year have tremendously changed by life for the better.
The inflammation and pain I used to experience daily in my upper intestines is gone. My energy is higher, and I have more endurance. So I'm pretty confident that when I'm ready to return to my low carb diet in a couple of months, the rest of my health issues will clear up as well.
Now in all fairness to a zero carb diet...
I am NOT saying that a zero carb diet is dangerous for "most" individuals who choose, or want to choose to live that lifestyle. So I don't want anyone to walk away from this post with the wrong message. I'm sure that for some, there is no other way to achieve their weight loss goals. Plus at this point in time I have no way of knowing if gluten contamination was part, or even all of the problem, since gluten does tend to mess with my blood sugars as well.
What I AM saying -- is that it might be dangerous to ignore physical symptoms that are trying to warn us that something is seriously wrong. It might be dangerous to entertain the idea that one should eat nothing but beef and water for 6 months (with NO nutritional supplementation), BEFORE EVALUATING. Because in my case, if I'd waited that long, I "might" have done irreparable damage to myself.
As it was, it has taken me nearly 6 months to correct and fix what went so wrong for me. So gluten being the issue, or not, I have NO INTEREST in trying again. That isn't to say that a zero carb diet might be the best choice for someone else.