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Report: Six Months of Low Carbs
Old 03-01-2010, 10:58 AM   #1
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Report: Six Months of Low Carbs

Summary
After six months of reducing carbs and increasing fats in our diet my weight went down slightly, DWs remained constant. My cholesterol level went up slightly (DWs not measured). Another way of looking at this, is that despite eating a high fat diet, our weight did not increase, and my cholesterol did not rise significantly.
After getting interested in the idea that carbohydrates are not good for you (see this thread), DW and I decided to cut down on carbs.

What we Ate

Prior to Sept, 2010, we ate a diet low in fat and high in complex carbs (e.g. brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, etc.). We baked a loaf of bread every other day, and breakfast (for me) consisted of

  • A slice of whole wheat bread with ICBINBL and homemade jam, and 12-16 oz of nonfat milk or
  • Oatmeal or homemade granola with OJ, or
  • Smoothie with milk, chocolate powder, 1-2 bananas.

After Sept 1, that breakfast might consist of

  • 1 egg and 1-2 strips of bacon, or
  • 1 egg and 1-2 sausages, or
  • Smoothie with 2% milk, protein powder, .5 banana

Pre-low-carb dinners included homemade pizza, chicken with potatoes and salad, fish with brown rice and vegetables, spaghetti with multigrain pasta, steak and couscous, etc. On bike rides, I'd eat high-carb energy bars and often have a sweet drink afterwards. Desserts included homemade cookies, cakes, and pies.

Low carb dinners were usually some form of meat (steak, pork roast, chicken, fish) plus a salad or vegetables.

During the last six months, I haven't had any bread, rice, potatoes, or sweet drinks. I haven't had any normal cookies or cakes. We've had plenty of great low-carb desserts (cheesecake, low-carb peanut butter cookies, etc.). On bike rides I'd eat some peanut m&ms.

We've had spaghetti consisting of a very small amount of al dente whole wheat pasta with large Italian sausages.

Pre-low carb, I tried hard to limit my eating. For the first month of low-carb eating, I made no effort to limit myself. That is, I ate plenty of nuts (including macadamias) and meat. However, since I wasn't seeing any decrease in weight, I went back to keeping portions small, and limiting how many nuts I ate.

I miss the things I've cut out (e.g. toast and jelly), but this is made up for by the things I've added (2% milk or whole milk, steaks, more nuts, low-carb cheesecake). In the past, I allowed myself eggnog and mixed nuts only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now, I can have it any day (eggnog = 1 cup half & half + 1 tsp sugar-free eggnog syrup). I somewhat prefer our old diet.

Surprisingly, eating more meat did not increase our grocery bill:

GroceryExpenses.jpg

The hardest part of the diet is constantly being bombarded by messages that fat is bad, and whole grains are good. From Jay Leno jokes about the new double bacon cheeseburger to public service announcements. Is it possible that Taubes is mistaken? Is believing that fat is OK like believing that vaccinations cause autism?

Cholesterol

Years ago, my total cholesterol was 210. Last August, it was 144 and this February it was 169. My guess is that the increase from 144 to 169 isn't significant. With all the nuts, my good cholesterol probably increased. In any case, my total cholesterol level is still in a healthy range, and it didn't shoot up despite my eating perhaps five times as much meat, eggs, and milkfat (we drink about two gallons of milk per week, and changed from non-fat to 2%).

Waist

My waist size (measured at widest point) decreased slightly, but I'm not sure it's a significant reduction, given prior fluctuations.

WaistSizes.jpg

Hunger

Am I less hungry on the low-carb diet? Maybe a little bit, but it's hard to know for sure. If I get a craving in the afternoon, I'll have some nuts or a piece of salami (!) and it usually goes away.

Weight

Neither of us lost a significant amount of weight (DWs weight remained constant, I lost a pound or two. I currently weight 162 lbs at 5' 11"). It's noteworthy that despite eating a high-fat diet, neither of us gained weight.

Conclusion

I plan to keep carbs low. I'm going to do more research to make sure I'm not just a fad-diet wacko. Just from the standpoint of avoiding diabetes, keeping carbs low makes sense to me.

DW misses the carbs more than I did. Last night she prepared the bread machine so that this morning at 6 AM a loaf of bread was available for her to celebrate the end of six months of low carb. However, she plans to keep carbs somewhat low (e.g. quarter serving of rice with meal).
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Old 03-01-2010, 11:05 AM   #2
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Excellent review, Al. I've also started low-carbing since my pre-diabetes diagnosis, based on the Rob Thompson books. It is very difficult for me since I love bread and used to bake a loaf or two every week. I'm testing recipes for low-carb breads made with soy, flax, almond, etc. and if I find a good one, I'll post it.
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Old 03-01-2010, 11:10 AM   #3
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What about maintaining the low-carb menu but replacing some fat with more protein?
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Old 03-01-2010, 11:27 AM   #4
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Based on your meal descriptions, you're eating a lot more carbs than you think you are.
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Old 03-01-2010, 11:55 AM   #5
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My cholesterol went up last time I ate a strict Atkins diet, but high protein and very low carb is the only diet that doesn't make me want to run out and order a pizza. I'm a fast burner of my food energy and protein does last in your system better than carbs, so this the only diet that works for me on an everyday basis and doesn't make me feel deprived or starving. I actually feel full all the time with high protein, so I plan to stick with eating lots of it.

I did find some decent tasting protein bars (10 carbs/10 grams protein) called Power Crunch that I now buy from vitecost.com (12 bars for around $15 -/+) that are good and satisfy my sweet tooth when I get a craving. All protein bars except for these taste like mattress stuffing to me. This is better for me than running out and buying a double dip ice cream cone...which would be my preference really since they have a fabulous homemade ice cream store here...but I won't.

Thanks for doing this post and I wish you would keep posting about how this is working for you in the future, TA.
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Old 03-01-2010, 12:06 PM   #6
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T-Al, excellent summary.

Agree with Braumeister that you are probably getting mre carbs than you think, but your summary mirrors my own experience- #1- -hopefully you can avoid the subsequent steps...

1. Lost 67 lbs in 10 months in 2001 on a strict low carb diet. Cholesterol dropped 80 points., waist dropped 4-5 inches.

2. Kept the weight off for about three years, then tried to transition to a modified maintenance verson (introduced small amounts of the food I missed, ie bread, chips,, and "normal" desserts) , over the next couple of years waist crept up a couple of inches, cholestrerol bounced back almost to pre-diet levels.

3. in 2006, I went back to the strict low-carb diet, in 6 months results were back to #1.

4. Fell off the wagon in 2008, but have been conciously eating fewer carbs, but not on a strict low-carb regimen like #1. Seem to have reached a new set point that is 25 lbs under where I started in 2000- would like to see that drop another 25...

It is very hard to stay on the low carb diet forever, after a while I would really start craving bread, rice, or worse-- french fries. The Low-carb bread I tried was obscenely expnsive and tasted like rubber, rice is a no-no... fries were just too easy...

Food Suggestions:

1. Dreamfields Pasta- the best low-glycemic Pasta out there, IMHO. No discernible taste or texture difference between this and the real stuff... Penne, lasagna, shells...If they only made a risotto.... Great as a macaroni or pasta salad. Hard to find, here in AZ only Fry's carries it.
2. Classico Florentine Spinach and Cheese Spaghetti Sauce
3. Mission Low-carb White flour Tortillas
4. Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada sauce- lots of menu possibilities with the low-carb tortillas.
5 Ragu Double Cheddar cheese sauce- makes a great batch of macaroni and cheese with Dreamfields pasta and some sharp cheddar.
6. Mashed Cauliflower- cook till soft, whip in the food processor, add a tiny amount of instant mashed potato flakes to firm it up.. great with cheese or butter. Good substitute for mashed potatoes.

Thanks for the summary; this may motivate me to get back on my own low-carb lifestyle...again.
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Old 03-01-2010, 12:14 PM   #7
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I have been on a true low carb diet since spring 1997. I read that it is impossible to stay on a low diet for a long time. Not for me it isn't.

People vary, and I think that women in particular tend to have a harder time as they do love their sweets, speaking generally.

Ha
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Old 03-01-2010, 12:15 PM   #8
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Mr. Tbone, you do nice work.
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Old 03-01-2010, 12:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
Cholesterol

Years ago, my total cholesterol was 210. Last August, it was 144 and this February it was 169. My guess is that the increase from 144 to 169 isn't significant. With all the nuts, my good cholesterol probably increased. In any case, my total cholesterol level is still in a healthy range, and it didn't shoot up despite my eating perhaps five times as much meat, eggs, and milkfat (we drink about two gallons of milk per week, and changed from non-fat to 2%).
The total cholesterol is not what matters so much. What really matters are the sub-components HDL and LDL. If your HDL went up and that caused the total cholesterol to increase, you are probably ahead of the game. Certainly you have significantly improved a key ratio. If your LDL also went down, even better.

So do you have the LDL and HDL numbers available for the 144 and 169 total numbers?

Audrey

P.S. I don't see the benefit of increasing the dairy fat in your diet. Maybe better to just add some olive oil to your skim milk! Some folks feel it is still important to limit the highly saturated dairy fats - better to eat more nuts instead.
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Old 03-01-2010, 12:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidflower View Post
very low carb is the only diet that doesn't make me want to run out and order a pizza.
Believe me, I can relate to that! I haven't ordered one in a decade but I do love pizza. Occasionally I have bought the Healthy Choice or other low calorie one serving frozen pizza to soften the pizza urges. In fact, I had some last night.

If I was on a very low carb diet, pizza might not be a problem but you have to understand - - that would be dangerous too, because I live just down the street from Krispy Kreme.
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Old 03-01-2010, 12:33 PM   #11
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for bread, Oroweat makes a double-fiber bread which nets out to 10gm carbs per large slice - so I often times have that as a piece of toast with bacon/sausage and eggs in the morning.

I've been doing low-carb based on the Protein Power plan for about 5 years. Lost about 100 pounds, and maintained about 80/90 pounds of that loss. I feel a lot better on low-carb. Don't really have much craving for foods like potatoes, cookies, etc. I do buy low-carb chocolate bars from Trader Joes and we slow-roast our own mix of nuts to keep in the refrigerator. I have family history of diabetes, so I'm working to keep it away. I have fasting glucose levels that range between 89 and 99 over the past few years. I think it would be higher without doing low-carb, but I don't have pre-low-carb measurements.

Here's the recipe for the nuts we make:

Peking Pecans

Turn on oven to 300º

6 TBs butter (3/4 stick)

Put butter in sided baking sheet and then in the pre-heating oven to melt. After butter is melted, fill the pan with nuts. Usually it's about 2 pounds of assorted raw nuts(pecans, walnuts, almonds, and especially macadamias are our favorite). Toss nuts with the butter with a spatula.

You can use more nuts if you want; sometimes we make up to 4 or 5 pounds at a time. Just increase the seasoning to taste, and increase the cooking time a bit if you do a lot of nuts.

Bake 30 minutes, turning the nuts every 10 minutes.

Pour into a large metal bowl.

Measure out 3 TBS tamari or soysauce, 3 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and sprinkle all three over the nuts. Toss with a big spoon or spatula until well mixed. Let cool and put them into a zip-lock bag or jar in the refrigerator.
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Old 03-01-2010, 12:58 PM   #12
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T-Al, do you see a link good or bad to what look like recent changes in your glucose readings, as a result of the low carb?
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Old 03-01-2010, 01:55 PM   #13
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DW and I did Atkins for a few months before we were married to shed a few last pounds. After a few weeks it was challenging, but no doubt it worked at slimming us down. I lost the 5 lbs I was looking for but more importantly it took away any slight bloat my body had and made me feel tighter. That made us both look and feel great even though neither of us really needed to drop much weight, if any.

Based on that experience I think the hardest part with an intense low-carb diet like Atkins is that if you slip up once or have more carbs than you realize it can quickly net-out any benefit or even make things much worse.

If I remember correctly the diet puts and keeps your metabolism in ketosis, which makes your body burn fat as it's primary source of energy instead of carbs. Only problem is that carbs burn so much easier than fat so if there are too many of them introduced again it can reverse back and out of ketosis easily.

On the honeymoon and since then have moved back to a balanced diet and find it easier to maintain along with regular exercise.
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Old 03-01-2010, 02:09 PM   #14
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Personally for me, I found the Atkins diet to be a bit too extreme and went with the Protein Power diet instead. They're similar but the PP diet allows more carbs particularly in early stages, and when you're low-carb anyways, a few more carbs are very useful and make it easier to be satisfied with the diet. Plus it allows more low-carb veggies and fruits right from the beginning, which I think I healthier and a good diet for the longer term.
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Old 03-01-2010, 02:11 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
Based on your meal descriptions, you're eating a lot more carbs than you think you are.
Yes. I've generally followed the Rob Thompson kind of diet. Once in a while I'd go for a few days with almost no carbs, but that was a bit more difficult. I even went two days with no beer or milk but I didn't like that!

Quote:
What about maintaining the low-carb menu but replacing some fat with more protein?
Yes, I might do that.

Quote:
T-Al, do you see a link good or bad to what look like recent changes in your glucose readings, as a result of the low carb?
I've concluded that that one high fasting glucose reading wasn't indicative of my normal range (based on my own testing with a few different meters). I can't make any conclusions on how this diet affected that.

Quote:
So do you have the LDL and HDL numbers available for the 144 and 169 total numbers?
I don't have it for the 169.

In 2005, total was 210 and HDL was 40.
In Aug, 2009, total was 144 and HDL was 47.

Quote:
P.S. I don't see the benefit of increasing the dairy fat in your diet.
I know what you mean, but the three things are:

1. If one gets more calories from the fat in the milk, one is likely to eat less carbohydrate calories (i.e. be less hungry).

2. It tastes delicious.

3. If Taubes is right, that fat isn't bad. It is almost impossible to look at, for example, a strip of fatty bacon, and think that it is OK to eat. The idea that bacon is bad is deeply ingrained in us. But why do we think that? According to Taubes, it's because of some very bad science. In part, that science is based on the notion that since we don't want fat on our bodies or cholesterol in our blood, we shouldn't eat fat or cholesterol. But it's just not that simple.

People think "Oh, there are many studies proving that saturated fat is bad for you." but that's not the case, and Taubes does a good job of backing that up.

An analogous situation relates to polyunsaturated fats. The government and health authorities used to advise against all fats. But that has changed, and now polyunsaturated fats are recommended. Maybe in 20 years, health authorities will tell us "Well, we made a mistake, and it turns out that fatty bacon is good for you."

Still, one might want to hedge one's bets. That's why I didn't switch to full-fat milk.
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Old 03-01-2010, 02:36 PM   #16
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I was on Atkins for 17 years. Two things you have to be careful for:

1. Limited roughage can produce constipation for hell unless you supplement with a bit of prune juice and metamucil EVERYDAY.

2. Because of the high protein and the necessity of your body needing acid to digest it in your stomach, you may put yourself at risk for acid reflux.

I'm back on it, but I take about 30 mg of zantax every other morning to keep things in check.
If you are still hungry then you carb level is too high. It takes about 48 hours to get into Ketosis(burning fat.) And if you are doing endurance exercise, you will not able to do the diet since your muscles will run out of energy too quickly. When I'm doing heavy hiking in the mountains for days at a time, I have to switch back to a 100% carb diet to have enough energy levels. Burning fat and protein will not work. Also you must consume a lot of fluid since fat and protein burning produces a lot of by products that need to be flushed.
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Old 03-01-2010, 02:37 PM   #17
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Actually - in my diet I make a total distinction between saturated fat from meat - such as bacon, and saturated fat from dairy. I don't worry about the former too much in moderate amounts, but I avoid the latter (if I'm being "good").

My diet is more influenced by the South Beach and Mediterranean approaches to low/moderate carb.

Audrey
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Old 03-01-2010, 02:44 PM   #18
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People ate high fat diets until the early 1900's. In the heyday of medical anatomy in the 19th century there was almost no signs of atheriosclerosis. When you add sugar to your died of high fats, you get the problems. But since the sugar companies own everything, no one mentions that you can eat all the fat you want without sugar and you will be fine. Sugar became a stable in diets in the early 1900"s. In every society where sugar was introduced, heart disease immediate shot up like a rocket.
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Old 03-01-2010, 03:15 PM   #19
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Since my low-carb regime is due to pre-diabetes, I choose full-fat dairy because it has lower carbs and doesn't impact my blood glucose level as much as low-fat dairy. These days I'm all about the meter.

ETA: Since I started this about a month ago, I find that food really tastes better to me...especially fruit. It seems so much sweeter now. I never crave any sweets but sometimes I'd love about a half a loaf of fresh french bread.
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Old 03-01-2010, 03:27 PM   #20
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I noticed the same thing Sarah. Fruit became amazingly sweet and delicious to me when I stopped eating sugar and other carbs so much. Very satisfying compared to how I remember fruit tasting.
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