16 January 2012

Not a diet, a (permanent) change of diet

Almost 8 months ago now, after reading Gary Taubes's quite detailed explanation of how so-called metabolic syndrome-X and the overconsumption of easily digestible carbohydrates (and especially sugar and refined flours) are the cause of most obesity and overweight, I decided I'd try to change my diet in accordance with the facts he outlined. (The book is Good Calories, Bad Calories, or there's an "airliner" version called Why We Get Fat and What to do about it). 

I had put on a good deal of extra weight by that time, and it had been a factor in a back injury I'd suffered picking up a laundry basket, that caused me to be in physical therapy for six weeks and even to have to walk with a cane for a short time.

What I (and my partner, for the same reasons) did was to change our diet (permanently), not go on a diet. It's simple, although it takes some determination, and you have to be willing to go against some conventional wisdom, that Taubes convinced me was just not true. I won't go into all that; if you're interested, read his book.

For me, the proof is that I've lost more than 45 pounds and it seems to be staying off; I feel better and get around more easily; I have been able to (or had to) cut my blood pressure medication more than in half, including eliminating one of the drugs entirely, and, although there are a few foods I somewhat miss eating, I do not have to starve myself and eat as much as I want every day. Just not of certain foods.

The Good

On a sensible low-carb regime, you can eat bacon, nuts, meat, eggs, cheese (which I'm averse to, but no matter), dairy, butter, cream, (even ice cream if you go to the trouble to make it yourself and use low-glycemic natural sugar alcohols and sweet short fibers to sweeten it rather than sugar). Leafy and fibrous vegetables (but not starchy ones). Much as you want. No restriction. Your body regulates fat quite well as long as there isn't an insulin spike from sugar and starch every time you eat anything. Two important facts, contrary to most actually scientifically unwarranted belief, even in the medical community: dietary cholesterol does not correlate particularly with serum cholesterol, and it has no particular affect on incidence of heart disease and stroke. The research to prove that it does has been, at best, completely inconclusive. My personal story: I eat bacon all the time, and my blood serum cholesterol is unchanged. A little high, but not high enough to prescribe medication. The same as before I made these changes. The cause of most cholesterol "issues" is mostly genetic.

The Acceptable

You have to cut out sugar. This even means restricting sweet fruits, like bananas (I avoid them) and mangoes (ditto), although most berries, grapefruit, tart apples, an occasional orange, are fine. You have to cut out starchy foods. Potatoes (french fries are my greatest regret), pasta, rice, couscous, bread, cookies, crackers, etc. Really eliminate them from your diet (there are some pretty low carb sprouted grain breads and inulin-blocked pasta products which you can use occasionally and in small quantities, if you need to. You can have an occasional tortilla chip or something, but literally, just a couple. There are tortillas made that are mostly dietary fiber that you can use to make "wraps" to substitute for sandwiches. (This is my usual lunch). You have to look at labels and avoid salad dressings that are loaded with High Fructose Corn syrup. You have to avoid sweet beverages, including fruit juices. You can't eat cake, pastry, muffins, biscuits, waffles, pancakes, or anything that's mostly flour (although there are carb-blocked substitutes, if you must; but it's actually easier to just find other things to eat). Even tofu and other soy products are suspect. Obviously, this is not a regime suitable for vegetarians; although many people find that if they stick to whole grains and higher protein foods, they're fine. Some South Beachers avoid even pulses (legumes), but I eat them freely and continuously lost weight for months, having now more or less stabilized at what I consider an acceptable weight. A lot of people use a lot of artificial sweeteners to accomplish the starch and sugar elimination, but I have experimented with the aforementioned natural substitutes, and, mainly, you just learn to avoid starch and sweet foods. You really do get used to it.

The Bad

You have to explain to well intentioned people that no, you won't try their cookies. Cookies are poison. But most people don't insist.

I am a believer, because this has worked for me, and I'm almost never hungry and have no desire to return to eating starch or sugar.

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