Thursday, April 30, 2009

Insulin Sensitivity

A quick post. I'm researching for a post on growth hormone & strength training, but I thought I'd post a quick thought:

"The number one priority for losing weight then is improving insulin sensitivity." This is from Robert McLeod's Entropy Production blog, specifically a post about Feasting and Fasting, from back in March.

In other words, for me to lose weight, my goal should be insulin control. And I do that by controlling my sugar & starch intake, which is why I'm eating low-carb. Healthy eating (by paleolithic standards) doesn't necessarily mean low-carb, but it does if you have insulin sensitivity issues, eg from being overweight.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Running for Fat People

I'm obese. I don't have a problem saying that, because it's true. I'm fat. I'm a fat ass.

If you don't accept who you are now, then change is difficult. Why is it important to accept who you are? I don't want to be fat. I don't like being fat. Yet I am. Refusing to acknowledge that is goofy. It's like protesting against rain or sun. You are what you are, right now. So first, accept that you are now fat.

I think there's two closely-related concepts, and I want to make sure I communicate what I mean, that you know the point that I'm trying to make. One concept is thinking that being at that weight as acceptable or not (saying it's not is good for building motivation to change). Saying "being fat is unacceptable, I want to lose weight!" is good. Do that. The second concept is thinking "I am not really that fat." When you say "my current weight is unacceptable", use that to motivate yourself to lose weight -- not to hide that fact from yourself or from others (eg by wearing clothes to disguise your weight).

It's important not to conflate the two concepts. This might sound like a word game, but I think the point is important: accept who you are now; that's what the reality is. Acknowledge that you got here somehow. Acknowledge that your old habits, your habits up to now, are what got you here. All of that is past, and although it was under your control, what's done is done and you can't change the past. Your current weight is a fact.

What is under your control is who you will be. Who do you want to be? Are you getting there, or just dreaming about it?

I hit 12 pounds off of peak. For a month ... hmm, I need to figure when I started this, let's call it March 1st, which puts me at two months. For two months, that's decent weight but not a whole lot. Six pounds a month puts me at 72 pounds in a year, and that's real. I need to lose about 70 pounds of fat, so doing that in a year is, I think, great. Some people have lost more; I've lost 15 pounds in a month; etc etc. I think the important thing is measurable progress, and I've definitely had that.

Despite the number of successful, overweight runners out there, I don't really want to be one. I want to be a successful, average-weight runner. As I pointed out in my post about running for weight loss, running is a crappy way to lose weight. It's not very efficient, the exercise will boost your appetite, and running with excess weight will put a lot of stress on your joints and feet.

My first goal is weight loss. My most important goal is weight loss. I want this because: (1) most of my fat is abdominal, which is correlated with disease more so than interstitial fat; (2) I want to look better; (3) exercise of any sort, especially for fun, is much more fun if I weigh less.

So my plan is to lose weight first. Other goals include improving general health, improving cardiovascular fitness, and going snowboarding a bunch next winter. Oh, and getting rich, that'd be nice to. And I want a pony?

The first few are realistic goals. By eating better, I'm burning off more weight and improving my health. Improving fitness makes running easier, but it requires something more than just eating right.

That's my running goal: improving fitness. I want to be able to run further and faster. Running a lot, running long distance, is I think a poor choice for us fatties. So that means short-distance, high-intensity runs. What I've read about training protocols (eg a recent post on intense workouts by Richard Nikoley) suggests that intervals and wind sprints are the way to go. As a bonus, they mean less overall foot and leg stress; less time impacting my joints and feet with all my excess body mass. I improve my running ability in a way that doesn't risk injury the way long-distance running would at this point.

I worked out tonight, including my legs, and I know from past experience that running the next day leads to soreness. Not sure if that's good, body-stress-induce-adaptation soreness or ow-I-hurt-dont-break-me soreness. Bodies are complicated. So I'm not gonna run tomorrow.

Ultimately my running goal is long-distance, but not right now. Sprints and walk/run intervals are my goal. Sprints on Friday!

Monday, April 27, 2009


A weekend post on Dr. Davis' Heart Scan Blog got me thinking about inflammation.

Inflammation is part of the body's response to injury or attack. It's not damage, per se. It's like bleeding. Bleeding isn't good, but bleeding indicates that you got cut, or suffered blunt trauma that induced internal bleeding. Say you stick your hand in a threshing machine and you start bleeding from the bloody remains of your hand. One "solution" is to pump up your blood-clotting factors until the bleeding stops, or even to pump up those factors so high that the next time you stick limbs into a threshing machine, the bleeding isn't so bad. Or, you could completely desanguinate yourself. (One good way to do that is to die and be embalmed.)

Another solution is to stop sticking your hands into threshing machines.

So if you've got inflammation going on, the "cure" isn't to cut down the inflammation, it's to find out what's causing the inflammation and go after that. Just like avoiding threshing machines is a far better solution than kicking up your blood-clotting factors, avoiding the things that cause "inflammation" is much better than reducing the inflammation itself through therapies such as ice or drugs.

If you've got gluten-induced intestinal inflammation, the cure is to stop eating gluten. And probably other grains, such as rice and corn, or other lectin-containing plant matter such as beans and nightshades (e.g. potatoes & tomatoes).

So Vitamin D reduces inflammation. (Specifically, supplementation with Vit D is correlated with reduced markers of inflammation.) This would be a good thing if it increases the body's ability to resist infection and damage, but probably a bad thing if it reduces inflammation by suppressing the body's response to infection and damage. Atherosclerosis is an inflammation process; does Vitamin D reduce the damage that instigates plaque formation, or does it reduce the amount of inflammation in response?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Laziness, Lethargy, and Atkins

and by 'Atkins' I mean a paleolithic, low-carb, high-fat, no-grain diet. Atkins isn't really the term here, but let's move on.

I used to have problems with cleaning up around the house. I'd eat dinner, then I wouldn't want to clean the dishes. I'd take off my clothes but not want to make the trek to the closet to throw them in the hamper. I'd open up my mail but not want to bother throwing away the trash envelopes and junk mail, or file the bills, or pay the bills, ....

Maybe I'm still bad with bills :) but I find the rest easier to do. I think a big part of that is having the energy to do it.

One of the things that Taubes mentions in Good Calories, Bad Calories is that fat people aren't fat because they're lazy, they're lazy because they're fat. That is, it isn't laziness and a lack of moral fiber that causes laziness which then causes obesity. And, really, it's not that obesity causes lethargy. More appropriately, there's a third factor here that causes both: a high-carb diet.

The theory goes, if you eat a high-carb diet, your blood sugar is constantly spiking from those carb-heavy meals, which causes insulin to yoyo, which causes blood sugar to crater, leading to the next snack, high-carb meal, or cheating episode (in my case, an energy drink). Along with this comes a decrease in metabolism, spurred in part by low thyroid function from an iodine-poor diet ("salt is bad!" says the TV) and anti-nutrients that lead to autoimmune thyroiditis. Your metabolism slows down, which means you don't have energy to burn. You feel lethargic. Getting up to take that dish to the sink becomes an expense of energy that is beyond your means.

I just finished cooking dinner, slaving over a hot stove. I happen to like cooking; I find it relaxing. But then, I'm not cooking the Standard American Diet for Four, I just sautéed some onions and garlic, grilled a ribeye, degreased with red wine, simmered with bay and thyme and peppercorns, finished with butter, and served. See? Simple!

Anyway, my point is, I just finished eating dinner, cleaned up my bowl (with all that sauce & butter, I ate with a spoon), rinsed the utensils, left the pan to soak, cleaned the stove, and sat back down to watch the rest of last week's Lost (still catching up). That's the sort of industry that I've always wanted to have, but couldn't bring myself to do because it took so much energy.

I feel it. I feel more alive, more energetic. I feel happier; less cranky. I'm still fat. Heck, I'm still obese. I'm even off my thyroid medication.

I've convinced that obesity is not a product of laziness, but that laziness and obesity are both products of diet.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weighing Yourself

I don't think it's healthy to obsess about one's weight. There's enough fluctuation day-to-day, especially with consumer-grade bathroom scales, that checking every day can be the cause for more trouble than it's worth.

That said, I weigh myself every day. I know it's inaccurate. The key is that I don't obsess over single pounds, nor do I think that a gain or a loss of a pound is due to something I did the day before. I do weigh myself at the same time every day; in the morning, after a shower. Hopefully that helps to minimize the amount of daily fluctuation that's due to stuff other than the reasons I want my weight to change.

There are four main factors influencing what the scale tells me:
1) Body fat. I want to burn this off.
2) Lean mass. I want to add this.
3) Water weight. Drops the most the first few weeks doing low-carb.
4) Digestive mass.
5) Temperature and maybe humidity.

Digestive mass decreases on days that I'm fasting, since I continue to evacuate, without replacing it with any new digestive mass. On days that I break fast, I add mass; so one can see a sizeable jump up in weight after coming off a 36-hour fast. On normal, non-fasting days, this bit is probably fairly consistent, tho I know large meals will skew my weight.

The goal of weight loss is really item #1 up there -- burning body fat. I don't want to lose lean mass. I'm continuing to walk (about twice a week at this point, 6 miles total) and do intensive strength training (I'm shooting for every four days but hitting every 5-6), which will build lean mass. The other major component would be making sure my body isn't catabolizing lean mass, by making sure I've got energy stores available. That means staying away from the carbs, giving my circulatory system a chance to pull fat out of adipose tissue.

So why weigh myself every day? I do it to enforce good habits. If I lose a pound, I know it's not because I ate good yesterday; it could be because of fasting, or water weight, or temperature fluctuations. Howevery, I tell myself that it's because I ate good. I tell myself that it's because of good habits. My point isn't to lie to myself about my weight, but to help reinforce those good habits. I want a positive association with staying on-diet, avoiding carbs, exercising, etc.

I think there's a definite line between believing something that you know isn't true, and building an emotional connection. I've given my brain enough evidence to believe that I shouldn't be touching wheat, but my heart (um... my emotional center) remembers that I love pasta. What I need to do is change my heart. In this way, I'm using my brain to drive my emotions to where I want them, rather than letting emotions win over my eating habits.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cheating and Carb Cravings

I had a full-sugar (aka non-Diet) energy drink on Tuesday morning, and by lunch my blood sugar had crashed. I was starving. It was much easier to see the effect that carbs have on me once I had them mostly removed from my diet. 52g of sugar is now more than I eat all day, so having it in one big shot in the morning was noticeable.

But after lunch (two burger patties, cheese, pickles, grilled onions), those cravings were gone. I haven't had another one since.

I think that I have been chugging energy drinks two years now. I thought of them as an afternoon pick-me-up, something to consume when I felt really drowsy in the afternoon. Now, tho, I look back and see it also as carb cravings. I needed carbs two hours after lunch, and caffeine was an excuse to get those carbs. I felt better after drinking them; heck, while drinking them. They worked. I thought it was the caffeine but now I see that it was the carbs.

But on Tuesday... it didn't taste good. I didn't really want to drink it; it felt more like habit than craving.

It was hard for me to get off carbs when I was cheating. Pasta here, an energy drink there, maybe a sandwhich for lunch. I threw away the bun with today's burger lunch and it wasn't even an issue. I didn't want it, I didn't feel like having it.

Cheating produces cheating. I've seen a good number of people report that they started into paleo foodways by doing Atkins, and the Atkins induction is a good way to do it: it's one of those harsh 2-week diets where you hate life the whole time because you're body is adapting. I think it's the best way to get over that hump.

I had a hard time stopping my cheating because every time I cheated produced incentive to cheat again. Then a couple days would pass, I'd read a new blog post, and think, "omg, this stuff is evil. I shouldn't be consuming fructose. I don't want liver disease!" And then I'd be good for a couple days -- til I had pasta with lunch, and then I wanted my energy drink again...

I'm not completely over the hump. I guess it's like any addiction; you don't really get cured. You just put the symptoms into remission, the cravings into slumber, and go one day at a time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Placeholder post for information and summary of lectin thoughts.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Big Meanies - Summary

The 'Big Meanies' are dietary evils. They are the foods that I try to avoid. The four main ones are Flour, Beans, Fructose, and PUFAs.


I avoid flour because of Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA), gliadin, phytates, and wheat lectins. Phytates (present in all sorts of food plants) reduce the bioavailability of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. Gliadin is one of the two major types of Gluten proteins; it is incompletely digested, and its absorption into the lining of the small intestine leads to an immune response, which causes inflammation of the lining and can cause auto-immune disorders through molecular mimicry. This is a basic idea in the problems with many of these foods: they disrupt the digestive system, possibly allowing foreign proteins to get into the blood stream, where the immune system decides to get rid of them, which then causes a cross-reaction to normal tissue somewhere else in the body. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins; many of them (such as ricin) are horribly toxic.


Beans contain a wide range of lectins (see above). They also contain a lot of carbs, although those carbs are not generally digestible. That means the carbs make it to the colon, where various bacteria ferment it, producing gas, bloating, general unpleasantness, and possibly dysfunction. The primary 'advantage' to beans is that they're a source of protein that isn't animal based. Since I have no trouble eating animal foods, I don't need another source. Given the risks, I see no reason to eat them. I avoid all beans.


Unlike glucose, which can be used for energy by every cell in the body, fructose has to be processed by the liver. In this way it's like alchohol, and your liver reacts the same way to a high dose of fructose as it does to a high dose of alcohol: by producing fatty accumulation (steatosis) in the liver. As fat accumulates within liver cells, it can cause those cells to burst and die. The scar tissue that eventually forms is the characteristic sign of cirrhosis.

Morphologically, there is no distinction between alchoholic steatosis and non-alchoholic (eg fructose-induced) steatosis. Drinking fruit juice isn't healthy; you're just over-dosing on fructose, possibly leading to liver dysfunction.

Due to years of eating the Standard American Diet, I'm starting to develop Metabolic Syndrome. I avoid carbs for that reason, and fructose specifically because it's a carb and because it stresses the liver.

I don't think that low doses are fructose are problematic (as with many things, the dose makes the poison). However, since I'm trying to lose weight, I'm avoiding carbs to induce my body to burn off all this stored fat I'm carrying around. So no low doses of fructose!


PUFA = Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acid. Because unsaturated acids have double-bonds that can be split to adopt nearby radicals (that means that one of the 'missing' hydrogens in the long fat chain gets replaced by oxygen). Fire is oxidation. I'm sure you've heard that 'free radicals' are bad. 'Free radicals' really means free (unbound) oxygen. One of the things that oxygen likes binding to, that makes it bad, is unsaturated fatty acids. Just say no to oxidized fatty acids. (Rancid food is oxidized food; rancid butter is when the unsaturated fat in butter gets oxidized. No animal fat is 100% saturated; in fact, generally not so. Beef fat tends to have the most saturated fat, but it's still not 100%.)

I've read a bunch that suggests that the oxidation of PUFAs leads to arterial damage that leads to plaque build-up that leads to a big plaque chunk dislodging that leads to artery blockage that leads to a heart attack.


IGNORE THE REST -- I'm going to copy and paste this elsewhere

Sugars are basically carbon rings with a few methyls or hydroxyls hanging off here and there. If there's only one ring in a sugar, it's a monosaccharide. Two rings connected to each other make disaccharides. Many make for polysaccharides, also called starches. Humans aren't well adapted to digesting starches; we can digest some, but not others.

Anyway, fructose is one of the major monosaccharides in the human diet, along with glucose and galactose. Sucrose (table sugar) is one molecule of fructose combined with a molecule of glucose. Our bodies will split sucrose into fructose and glucose. Fructose is sweeter than glucose, which is one reason why high-fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener.


PUFA is Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acid. A fatty acid is a long-chain carboxylic acid, which means it's got a couple oxygen atoms at one end (the head) then a long chain of carbon atoms. Carbs like to bond in groups of four, so that means each carbon in the chain is bound to the carbon ahead of it, the carbon behind it, then two other atoms -- generally hydrogen. A fatty acid is considered saturated if all of the carbons in this chain are bound to two hydrogens. Sometimes ...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Carb Cravings and Paleo

Up until a few years ago, I was eating the Standard American Diet, but probably a bit more red meat and much less soy. Lots of bread, pasta, and soda. I used to get cravings for pizza, or for a Chipotle burrito stuffed with rice, or for a coke, or pasta. I felt like I was really in tune with my body for noticing this stuff.

A few years ago (2005) I started eating low carb and dropped 80 pounds, but I always felt hungry. I felt like I was missing something, but it wasn't carb cravings like I felt when I was yoyoing on the S.A.D., and it was fairly easy to ignore. I had a lot more energy, my mood was better, and losing weight was great.

I then fell off the wagon, for whatever reason. Doesn't really matter now. I thought I was eating decent, but really I was cheating a lot. That's something that I mentioned in my previous blog postings. I started this blog in December when I decided to do LC. When I hurt my ankle in January, I kinda just ... drifted ... back into my old eating habits.

I got serious about not cheating a couple weeks ago. I also stopped eating wheat and fructose. I consider what I eat now to be paleo, not LC.

I haven't had carb cravings in the past two weeks.

I didn't go into carb withdrawal because I think I was gradually reducing carbs. I used to get carb cravings, and then I'd go satisfy them, usually with a HFCS beverage. In my old, pre-paleo, Low Carb lifestyle, I'd often eat bacon and drink a coke for breakfast. I'd justify the coke cuz I knew my glycogen stores were low it the morning; it was a crutch for holding on to my old habits.

Except for Monday. I was just getting back from the gym when I really really felt like running over to the coke machine and buying a bottle. I've never bought a coke from that machine before, and I don't keep sugary beverages in the house, so that's things that keep me from cheating when I'm at home. It was interesting to me because I noticed that I was craving carbs. But I just reminded myself that, although I'm an animal, and my physiology is telling me to eat, that I also have a rational brain, and that in this case I'd have to ignore what my body was saying!

I was thinking of eating Low Carb (hence the blog name), but now I'm going paleo. I expect that I will be eating low carb, but that alone doesn't capture my diet choices. Reading about the Kitavans suggests that carbs aren't evil -- but at least, right now, I should stay away from them. My clearest path to health is low-carb, but I'm going to have to make a lot of other changes, too. No gluten, no lectins, cook my veggies, eat grass-fed meat, avoid pasteurized dairy, etc.

My recent weight peak was 259.4 pounds. I've got a few photos, at some point I'll post them to mark my progress. I'm down 8 pounds since that peak. Here's to health!