Food Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. In browsing older posts I realized there might be some confusion to new readers as to what exactly I eat. Thus I would like to clarify (don’t worry, I know the world doesn’t hinge on what I eat, but I don’t want to confuse anyone).

Years ago I was a strict vegan. I truly believed this was the healthiest way for a human to eat. I made this decision based on books like Eat to Live, The China Study, and the various vegan websites out there like vegsource (I have no idea if they’re still around). Eating a whole food vegan diet, claimed these books, led to perfect health and slim waistlines.

I have always been thin but I was trying to improve my health- after my 4th child was born I began experiencing recurring and debilitating fevers. Based on testimonials of vegan converts I switched to a completely vegan diet.

It took a while but my health did improve. I didn’t eat only health foods- I loved vegan cookies and desserts, but I did eat mostly health foods, and I completely eliminated sugar from my diet 4 years ago.

Then I got pregnant with my youngest child and despite being low weight, gaining virtually no weight, and eating a “healthy vegan diet” I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was 190 mg/dL on the glucose tolerance test. I obtained a glucose meter and began testing my postprandial (post meal) blood sugar. I was horrified to find all those “healthy” whole grains and beans were spiking my blood sugar astronomically.

Then I remembered… in the back of my head… a documentary I watched ages ago. I thought it was funny back then but, as a strict vegan, believed none of it. That documentary was Tom Naughton’s Fat Head, where he eats both a moderately low carb/ high fat diet, and later a nearly zero carb/ high fat diet, and not only does he lose weight but his blood work improves significantly.

Against medical advice I immediately began eating low carb. I was concerned about going too low, given I was pregnant [note: I would no longer have this concern today], so I hovered around 50 net carbs a day. A typical day for me eating was as follows: I would skip breakfast then eat a huge lunch. I ate a tremendous amount of lamb and chicken thighs, and of course did not remove any of the fat. I would have a small amount of dried fruit for dessert (dried fruit and some veggies were my only source of carbs). For dinner I would have the same.

My blood sugar immediately normalized below 100 mg/dL no matter how much I ate, and my son was born 6 pounds just shy of 36 weeks. He did not require any NICU.

Well, when they gave me the glucose tolerance test a few months after his birth my numbers were even worse. I was 300 mg/dL! I was now officially diabetic, although it remains unclear if I am type 2 or LADA- adult onset type 1- since I am so thin it may likely be LADA. My well meaning but clueless internist advised me to “eat brown rice and potatoes.” I kept my mouth shut but knew some of my worst postprandial numbers resulted from precisely those foods.

I have been a low carber ever since, even going down to zero carbs for long periods, eating nothing but meat and fat. That’s right, I am still alive despite eating no fiber and eschewing all plant foods. My blood work is perfect. A1C is normal. I’m thinner than ever- not necessarily a good thing, but for those of you who need to lose weight, if it works at my low weight it would certainly work for you. When I was diagnosed with diabetes I was 135 lbs (at 5’9″). After a few months eating very low carb I went down to 120- slightly underweight for my height- and have maintained and even dipped below without trying.

I truly believe eating low carb has saved my life, and quite possibly saved my son’s life. So would I recommend low carbing to any dieters out there? HELL YES! The emphasis on fruits, whole grains and veggies in nutritional circles is ridiculously overblown. I’m not saying they’re bad for non-diabetics, but they are indeed terribly dangerous for diabetics and are not the golden key to weight loss the FDA would have you believe.

I’ve been able to maintain a normal A1C without meds, insulin, or exercise (I like to walk but don’t consider it “exercise.”) My blood sugar rarely cracks 100 mg/dL. So I would plead- yes PLEAD- with any diabetics out there to consider a low carb/ zero carb diet. There are countless resources online and just as many books. Atkins is a great place to start. I eat only foods from the induction phase, plus nuts.

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Hard to Live on Eat to Live 2

Since I last blogged about Eat to Live I’ve gone through a transformation of sorts. I accomplished a six week partial fast which I never thought myself capable of doing. I completely swore of desserts and sugar of any kind, which I especially never thought I’d be capable of doing. While my lipoma did shrink about 50% it’s still sitting on my back like an alien spawn– it’s only noticeable without clothes, and even then you have to kind of search for it, but it still bothers me. I’m unwilling to go below BMI 18.5 and I’m at 19 now. I’m not looking to lose weight, but I have been following¬†Eat to Live¬†for health purposes since I ended the fast, or at least I’ve been trying to.

For those of you unfamiliar with Eat to Live, allow me to recap it for you. You are allowed unlimited amounts of raw fruit (no fruit juice or dried fruit), greens (ideally half raw, half cooked without added calories or fat), non-starchy vegetables (like onions and mushrooms) and beans (again, prepared without added fat or calories). You are allowed limited (1 serving each) amounts of starchy foods (whole wheat grains, or potatoes for example) and nuts. If you’re not trying to lose weight, you can have the occasional serving of dairy, lean meat, or egg white. I don’t think anyone would argue that this isn’t a nutrient-rich way to eat, since everything you’ll be consuming is nutrient rich. But it sure is a bland, boring, repetitive way to eat, and I think totally unrealistic for your average american, if even I, a nutrition fanatic, can barely stand it.

Before the fast I could manage 50/50 Eat to Live vs. normal food (like pizza, fruit juice, dessert). Since the fast I can manage about 75/25 in favor of Eat to Live. I can do the four servings of fruit no problem. The pound of greens, the one cup or more of beans. But by the fourth piece of fruit, or the second serving of beans, the thought of more fruit, beans, or greens is a miserable prospect, and I start fantasizing about bagels and jugs of orange juice, both forbidden foods on the Eat to Live plan.

So I don’t know. Sometimes I think the emphasis on quality over quantity of food is overrated. After all, people have lost weight and improved their health on twinkie diets, and that Fat Head guy had great cholesterol levels after a month of bad food from McDonald’s (he didn’t eat the salads). But the common factor in both experiments was that their food intake was strictly limited, and they exercised lightly but regularly– usually just walking.

I’ve thought of doing similar experiments on myself, in fact the partial fast was an experiment of sorts to see if I would indeed suffer ill effects by eating less than the sanctioned 1200 calories a day. I’ve thought of going on a carb-only diet to prove you can lose weight with carbs, but since I’m five pounds from underweight that may not be a good idea.