Apr 16 2009

A Carb Here, a Carb There

photo from flickr.com

photo from flickr.com

Angel wrote a couple good posts on low-carb eating recently, which reminded me that I haven’t talked about my diet in a long time.  There just hasn’t been much to report.  We haven’t tried many new recipes lately, mostly just sticking to meals we’re used to, and I didn’t lose any weight over the winter.

I can’t blame that on the diet, though; it’s my own fault for not sticking to it strictly enough.  It seems like I’m pretty strict, until I actually keep track and add it up.  About once or twice a week, I’ve been eating too many carbs.  Sometimes I go way overboard, like on Easter, when the candy and cheesecake were just too tempting.  Other times it’s not drastic, like eating a pound of peanuts or a few too many crackers, but still too many carbs to stay firmly in ketosis (fat-burning mode).

People with healthy insulin response can switch back and forth more quickly, kicking out a bunch of insulin to store the carbs in the pasta they had for supper, then switching into ketosis while they sleep and burning it back off.  One of the early low-carb diets, called the Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet, was based on that idea.  It allowed one high-carb meal each day, but the other meals had to be very low-carb.  That worked great for some people, because their metabolism handled the carbs from a single meal quickly enough that they spent more hours in fat-burning mode than in fat-storage.

But for the insulin resistant among us, it doesn’t happen that quickly.  Most low-carbers I’ve talked to report that it takes 3-4 days for their bodies to shift into solid ketosis, and that’s been my personal experience.  After about three days of strict low-carbing, I lose some water weight, my clothes suddenly fit differently, acid reflux is completely gone, and hunger even feels different.

So if I cheat on the diet once or twice a week, it’s not surprising I haven’t been losing weight.  Every time I’ve been in ketosis a couple days, a meal with too many carbs knocks me back out, and the metabolic cycle starts over.

On the plus side, I haven’t gained any weight either.  According to the mainstream belief on diet, a winter spent eating all the meat, eggs, cheese, butter, and nuts I want, with almost zero exercise, should have plumped me right up.  But keeping my carbs low most of the time kept my insulin production down most of the time, and it’s almost impossible to store fat without excess insulin.  I’m also still enjoying the benefits of zero acid reflux (which in my high-carb days was bad enough to wake me up at night), more energy, healthy teeth, etc.  It’s easy to focus on the weight loss and get frustrated when that’s not happening, but I have to remind myself that’s not the only reason I’m eating this way.  It’s also about not being miserable and staying healthy.  Easter was a painful reminder of that, when the acid reflux and mental frazzledness hit me that evening.

Now that things are growing in the garden, I’m looking forward to getting serious about my eating again (at every meal) and losing the last 40 pounds.  Fresh vegetables from the garden add a lot of variety, and make it more fun to keep cooking good stuff and trying new concoctions.

Dr. Mike has a great post on the history of obesity that I might as well mention here, especially the graphs he discovered.  There’s a clear upward trend in obesity starting in 1976-1980.  (Not coincidentally, 1977 was the year George McGovern and Congress got into the diet business.)  There’s also a very clear increase in the percentage of calories people get from carbs, from about 1978 to today.  Over the same time, percentage of calories from fat has been decreasing.  Carbs and obesity have been going up together for 30 years while fat eating has been going down—so we blame the fat, right?  The fat hypothesis is so obviously wrong it’d be funny, if so many people weren’t being hurt by it.

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