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What’s the most useful low-carb book you’ve ever read? For me, it is one that I read and reviewed way back in 2000. While I must give credit to Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution for getting me started, it was Life Without Bread that convinced me this was the lifestyle I must embrace and stick to if I wished to be healthy, and it is that conviction that still drives me today. This may be an old book, but it is one worth reading, even today.
Here is a flashback to my review from the Truly Low Carb Newsletter, Summer 2000.
Life Without Bread: How A Low Carbohydrate Diet Can Save Your Life by Christian B Allan, Ph.D. and Wolfgang Lutz, M.D.
This book absolutely floored me. I wish I had read it sooner – and I wish I could force feed its contents to every anti-low carb naysayer I’ve ever met! 😛
I don’t necessarily consider this book to be a “weight loss” book per se, as there is just one chapter in it regarding weight loss. What this book mostly is, is a ringing endorsement of low-carb eating which is backed up by more than 4 decades of clinical experience on more than 10,000 of Dr. Lutz’ own patients in Austria and Germany, as well as a larger and more impressive compilation of clinical study results than any other I have found. The authors explain the biological processes of normal cells, bacteria, viruses, enzymes, hormones, and cancer cells very well, and they draw a clear and detailed picture of the connection between our typical high carb Western diet, and the many modern diseases of man, particularly, but certainly not limited to, cancer.
Originally published some years ago in German, I am very happy that this groundbreaking compilation of research has been updated and made available in English. I bought a new set of highlighters and a set of those little marking flags specifically for this one book, because I know that I will be quoting from it for the rest of my life.
Life Without Bread does not simply regurgitate or reword the low-carb principles which Dr. Atkins made popular. It draws its own conclusions, and in a very powerful and convincing way. When the authors are presenting evidence, they make that clear. And when they are at all venturing away from the evidence and into the realm of speculation, they make that very clear, too.
This book says a few surprising things – like the fact that saturated fat is actually very good for you! That your heart cannot even beat without it. And that high cholesterol levels in the blood have never been proven to correlate with death rates. To the contrary, they say most patients who die of severe heart disease have relatively normal cholesterol levels… Would you be as shocked as I was to learn that a coroner’s study from 1990 found that in deceased people with the most severe heart disease, the average cholesterol level was just 186! Guidelines for blood cholesterol levels were established based on the same faulty reasoning that led to the current food pyramid. I now view both sets of guidelines with the same level of contempt.
The authors of Life Without Bread tell us that higher levels of LDL cholesterol are NOT unhealthy – high homocysteine levels in the blood are what make LDL protein adhere to arterial walls and become unhealthy. And that high homocysteine levels occur because of a deficiency in three vitamins: B6, B12, and folic acid, all of which can be found in abundant quantity in … Drum roll, please … saturated fat, animal foods, and leafy veggies – the backbone of low carb eating.
Their plan for staying healthy for life is summed up in just two sentences, which I will quote directly: “Restrict all carbohydrates to 72 utilizable grams per day. Eat as much of any other foods as you wish.”
They do say in the chapter on weight loss that further carb restriction may be necessary to achieve weight loss, and that some people, particularly women, simply cannot lose weight on a low carb diet, for as yet unknown reasons, but they are adamant about the universal need for such a diet and they talk a lot about which is more important, aesthetic beauty, or good health.
They say that they have brought hundreds of low-carb babies into this world and that pregnant women who stay at the 72 grams of carbs per day level bear children that are much healthier and that keeping those children at the same carb level should ensure that they never need to worry about excess weight gain.
Life Without Bread is very thought provoking, and I encourage everyone to read it.
Used copies are available on Amazon now for less than $3, and new paperbacks are available with Prime shipping for around $15. Half.com is another good place to find older books for a steal. Happy Reading!
If you don’t know about hidden carbs and want to make the most of your low-carb lifestyle, you really MUST learn how to find and avoid common hidden carbs in the foods you thought were “free” . (Not much in this life is *really* free – is it?) I compiled this list originally way back in the year 2000 and still find it useful.
Sometimes a label states 0 carbs per serving when there are actually quite a few carbs in a “real” size serving of the food! As a dedicated low carb eater, make it your business to KNOW whether a label is correct as written, or not. You won’t believe how often the answer is NOT.
Heavy Whipping Cream per the Manufacturer’s Label:
Serving = 1 Tablespoon
6 grams of fat
0 grams of protein
0 gram of carbohydrate
Now, Fat is 9 calories per gram, protein is 4 calories per gram and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram. Therefore your numbers would look like this:
6 x 9 = 54 calories
0 x 4 = 0 calories
0 x 4 = 0 calories
Total: 54 calories
As you can see, there are 6 calories unaccounted for. It’s unknown what they are from, but it’s a good chance those extra calories are from hidden carbs. Therefore the carb count could be up to 1.5 instead of 0. It can really add up when you eat 1 cup of this stuff in a recipe! Actual carb count for 1 cup heavy whipping cream at 38% butterfat is 6.6 carbs, or .41 per Tb. Because it is less than .5 carbs per serving, the manufacturers are allowed to round it down to 0 when it is obviously NOT 0.
So, for ANYTHING that says it has 0 carbs, check the calories and add up the fat and protein. If there are calories left over and there is sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose or any other ose (except for sucralose or cellulose gum) in the ingredients, it is in all likelihood a hidden carb. It is safest to assume that it is a carb, anyway, if you are resistant to loss and must be scrupulous about your every carb, as I must be.
*** THE SUGAR ALCOHOL EXCEPTION – Sugar alcohols are not counted like other carbohydrates. The individual manufacturer’s are permitted under current FDA rulings to determine nutritional information for these sweeteners. Most do NOT have 4 calories per gram, some have only 2. Most low carb diet plans permit you to subtract these carbs from your daily count and manufacturers used to routinely omit them from the labels (that is changing now, thanks to the new label guidelines). A word of warning: In my experience, sugar alcohol carbs seem to cause people the most problems with stalls and gaining – I suggest you use these products with caution during active weight loss and omit them entirely during induction. They are a great occasional treat, and used in moderation, can make maintenance a real pleasure. But they play havoc with the formula above and they can play havoc with weight loss as well!
Some Common Hidden Carbs:
Eggs: 0.6 grams per egg
Spices: for example, onion and garlic powders = 2 carbs PER TEASPOON, according to Lifeform. Label states one serving = .5 tsp, for 0 carbs. According to the USDA, garlic powder has 2.036 carbs per tsp less .277 gms. fiber and onion powder has 1.694 carbs per tsp. less .12 gms. fiber. (Lifeform rounds things off, too, and so counts both of these at 2 carbs.)
Artificial sweeteners: Packets say zero, but they are actually 0.9 grams (almost 1 *each*). This applies to Splenda too, which has 24 carbs per cup of the granular. For a truly net-carb-free sweetener, try my secret weapon,Fiberfit.
Mayonnaise: go for the one that lists sugar as far down the list of ingredients as possible. Better yet, make your own – it’s surprisingly easy.
Flavorings/Extracts: your guess is as good as mine as far as these go since they report them all as zero, but many of them are mostly alcohol, so beware if you use a lot and are stalled.
Coffee: 0.8 grams per 6 ounce cup. Note that an average coffee mug HOLDS 9-12 oz. and I personally thrive with caffeine.
Crystal Light, SF Kool-Aid and SF Tang (dry mixes): 5 calories per 8 ounces equals 1.25 grams of carbohydrates (the label says zero!). 2 quarts = 10 grams! *Pre-mixed Crystal Light is made with acefulsame-K and sucralose, and as far as I know, there are no hidden carbs in it. However, the citric acid may be of concern for other reasons (see above).
Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution: Nature’s Answer to Drugs
by Robert C. Atkins, M.D.
With a title like this, I can’t believe it took me this long to read this book! I really wish I had bought it sooner. And I wish I’d had more time to study it before actually writing this review, because it’s almost 400 pages long and it is just plain jam-packed with useful information.
This isn’t a diet book at all. It is definitely not just another repackaging of Dr. A’s rightly-famous New Diet Revolution – what it actually is, is a complete handbook for obtaining or regaining optimum health through the application of “complementary medicine”.
In the good doctor’s own words…
“I’ve always felt that doctors today should be congratulated for the illnesses they prevent, rather than the ones they cure. The beauty of complementary medicine is that it focuses equally on preventing and curing disease. It works, in essence, by capitalizing on our bodies’ own in-house pharmacy, which is designed to replenish what is depleted and create what is missing. Using vita-nutrients in the proper dosages will bolster our bodies’ pharmacy by helping to obtain optimum results without uncomfortable and unnecessary side effects….
…. in the past two decades, however, we’ve discovered a host of nonessential (by the official definition) nourishing substances that play roles in the body so vital that, for all intents and purposes, we would all suffer without them. They are the nutritional equivalents of the automobile or electricity. We would not die without them, but without them, we cannot regain good health once it is lost. These vita-nutrients are, for the proficient user, indeed the tools of healing….
… Drugs, by their inherent nature, can play no role in health care – only in sickness care….
…I would match a vita-nutrient solution against a combination of pharmaceuticals any day. Take the need to fight water retention, something many women would like to do every month and, more seriously, a major goal when treating high blood pressure or congestive heart failure. My treatment of choice would be taurine, an amino acid that promotes fluid excretion by restoring a natural balance between potassium and sodium, the minerals that govern how much fluid our tissues retain. As a bonus, it contributes to maintaining a regular heart rhythm, and the heart’s ability to contract, among many other physiological functions. In its required therapeutic dosage, taurine has absolutely no undesirable side effects.
By contrast, mainstream medicine’s treatment of choice for fluid retention is the diuretic, a drug that also encourages excretion –not by allowing our cells to function more healthfully, but by impairing the kidneys’ ability to reabsorb and hold onto vitally necessary minerals. In the process, diuretics elevate blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides; disrupt heart rhythm; increase uric acid levels; and drain the body of trace minerals and other nutrients. All things considered, which treatment would you prefer?
To give another example, heart disease, our nation’s number one killer, arises in large part from artherosclerosis, the condition that results when our bodies deposit plaque within the walls of our vital arteries. Conventional medicine identified cholesterol as the enemy and has been waging a public health campaign to reduce the national cholesterol count by all means possible, including the widespread dispensation of cholesterol-lowering drugs. These medications may reduce the proportion of fats in the bloodstream, but should we accept a victory at any price? Drug treatments have proved successful only two times out of eighty trials. Most of these studies have shown that more people die sooner from causes other than heart disease if they take these medications than if they aren’t treated at all.”
The bold emphasis in the above paragraph is mine. I will continue to try to spread the word that “statin” drugs kill more people than they help, for as long as I live. I believe that *I* would have eventually become just another one of these sad statistics if I had not taken myself off Lipitor and low-fat eating myself, instead of simply adding another killer drug to my already miserable low-fat plus Lipitor regimen, as my then-doctor wished. Thank Goodness I ultimately found and embraced Dr. Atkins’ low carb eating plan instead. I want nothing more in this life than to help spread the important message that most health problems can be cured, or at least improved, through something as simple as what you eat and don’t eat, plus a good supplement regimen. (Thanks for indulging my hop up onto the proverbial soapbox – back to the review at hand, now…)
I marked lots of other passages in the book that I considered sharing here, but I feel that doing so might prove to be a disservice to both the author and you, my reader. There is a reason this book is 400 pages long, and taking bits and pieces of it out of context could cause someone to miss a crucial piece of the puzzle, so I am going to resist the urge to tell you (exactly) why and how the doctor thinks folic acid could single-handedly “stop 10 percent of all heart attacks … and prevent some 75 percent of a common, crippling birth defect.” Or why and which one of the B vitamins is referred to as “Nature’s Sleeping Pills”. Or which form of difficult to obtain (in this country) injectable calcium can really help people with MS. He says it can allow “for real neurological improvements. And it doesn’t just work for a handful of people; it works for a majority.” Neither will I give here the dosages and type of niacin that he recommends for safely and comfortably lowering cholesterol, for the same reasons. If you have any specific health condition you wish to treat, please spend less than $11 for this book and do a thorough research job before embarking on a new supplement regimen.
I am going to excerpt just a little more of the book, from the section on dietary fiber, mostly because lots of low carb dieters are confused about this issue (and, because no one can possibly hurt themselves with this information).
“For decades, I have been urging my patients to restrict carbohydrates (if they are overweight) and to consume more fiber. For many of them, this poses a dilemma and requires a personalized strategy. They need fiber sources that contain small to moderate amounts of carbohydrates, so I recommend green, leafy vegetables, freshly ground flaxmeal, nuts, and seeds. For people who need not restrict carbohydrates whole grains, fruits, and legumes are excellent sources. Just don’t think the benefits of fiber mean that you can eat all the whole-grain, high carbohydrate foods that you want. Even though they are far better for you than refined grains like white flours and pastas, many people are stuck with the fact that too many carbohydrates will make them fat. For those of you facing this dilemma, my strategy for solving it is this: The best way to increase your fiber intake is to use fiber supplements.
Getting fiber in supplement form means that you can avoid the increased intake of carbohydrates and still get all of the nutrient’s benefits. Wheat bran, oat bran, guar gum, apple pectin, and all of the pure fiber supplements contain very little digestible carbohydrates and therefore do not count as calories or toward your total carbohydrate intake.”
Again, the bold emphasis above is mine. This passage begs the question as to what “exactly” he means. One cup of raw oat bran has 62.24 grams of carbohydrate according to the USDA, and only 14.48 grams of dietary fiber. It would be tempting to say, okay, Dr. A said this is a free food, so in all my recipe counts from here on out, I’ll just count it as zero…. but I won’t, of course. I think that would be irresponsible. Now that I am on maintenance and I have this information, however, I will not be quite so sparing with oat bran in future recipes intended for my own consumption.
“Fiber comes in two basic forms: soluble (meaning it dissolves in water) and insoluble (it doesn’t). Foods high in soluble fiber include oats and oat bran, barley, psyllium husks, flaxmeal, beans, peas, carrots, citrus fruits, and apples. This form has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and stabilize blood sugar by slowing the digestion of sugar from the intestinal tract. This makes soluble fiber useful for diabetics, especially since it has been shown to help lower insulin and triglyceride levels. Soluble fiber also has the advantage of being free of the phytates, found in insoluble fibers, which tend to block mineral absorption.
Insoluble fiber is found in such foods as wheat bran, corn bran, celery, and the skins of fruits and root vegetables. its impressive list of benefits include reducing the risk of intestinal cancers, helping prevent constipation and diverticulitis, absorbing toxins from food, and reducing the production of bacterial toxins in the GI tract. Ideally one should balance both soluble and insoluble fiber to get the different benefits they confer.”
This book is literally a treasure trove of information. It goes from A to Z covering all the vitamins, nutrients, minerals, enzymes, and even herbs! Their function, treatment, dosage, levels of potential toxicity and whether it is okay to take them without medical supervision, or not. Whether they interact with other things, when to take them, in what combinations, what to look out for when taking them, etc. I learned a lot in my first go-through, and I know I am going to be referring to this book for years to come. I strongly urge everyone to go through this book once themselves, and anyone with a specific health concern should run, not walk, to the library or bookstore (better yet, just click here) and grab their own copy.
Bravo, once again, Dr. Atkins!
From the bottom of my heart, and I am sure I speak for millions of others, a resounding “thank you for changing my world for the better, through your unending dedication, brilliance, and hard work.”
Gluten-free Chips and Wraps on demand, in minutes?
You bet! Unless you have a problem with dairy, my best workaround for that particular situation is that old stand-by you just may have forgotten about – a personal favorite of mine from Cooking TLC Volume 1 and never far from my own mind ………….CHEESE CRISPS! (always said by me in the same dreamy, drooly tone Homer uses for donuts.)
You can easily form a warm cheese crisp into almost any desired shape.
Cheese crisps make terrific wraps, taco shells, salad bowls, chips for dipping, the list goes on and on!
This one is chicken salad with fresh cut lettuce and cherry tomatoes added.
Oh, yeah – CCBLT! Mmmmmm. DO NOT feed one of these to your non-low-carbing friends or they’ll never leave you alone (to eat) again. Just let them go on thinking you’re a poor, deprived dieter. WE KNOW BETTER! 🙂
Don’t just ride the same old wave if you are not losing weight. BUT… don’t cut yourself short, either. To determine if you actually are losing, compare your average weekly weights: Add up your weights for seven days, and then divide that number by seven. That is your average weight for that week. Compare that number to your average weight for the previous week. If you are a woman and like most women, don’t even bother with your weight during the ten days surrounding your menstrual cycle!
Now, if you aren’t losing and aren’t gaining, You absolutely MUST keep in mind that you could be building muscle tissue at the same rate you are losing fat…. Many of us are so protein deficient when we start eating LC, our bodies seize all the suddenly available protein and use it to build new muscle at a ferocious rate. That’s a good thing, because muscle burns calories by virtue of its very existence, insuring future losses, PLUS, muscle may weigh more than fat, but it takes up a whole lot less space and looks a lot better “on”! I’ve lost many inches when the scale wasn’t moving at all. I weigh MUCH more at my current size than I did at the same size when eating low fat, and that’s okay too, because I am so much stronger and look so much better at the same weight.
Look at what you are doing. Anything that might be a problem, you can weed out for a full week or better yet, two weeks, and decide if it could be stalling you. Try lowering your carbs, raising your carbs, upping your fat, upping your fiber, cutting out bars, cutting out artificial sweeteners, cutting out caffeine, dairy, whatever. But don’t try it for just a day. Try each thing for a full week. If you’re a woman in your “childbearing years” your cycle will dictate when you can trust the scale enough to even conduct these experiments (what a bitch that is, huh? Only two and half weeks out of each month when you can feel fairly certain that any sudden change might not just be “bloat”.) Make sure you are taking your measurements and checking your body fat calculations. If you are exercising, or even if you’re not (you should be!) remember that you could be building muscle tissue at the same rate you are losing fat. If you don’t know how to figure your body fat calculations, try one of these sites, as tracking this will help you to determine if you really ARE building muscle tissue, or not:
Here’s one online calculator: You will need your weight and waist measurement: Calculator You should note that there are TONS of calculators out there and they all seem to come up with a different measurement. I myself figure my BF% using the formula in Protein Power, and I find that works pretty well for most people.
CHECKLIST FOR STALLS
RATIOS: Track your percentages of fat, carbs, and protein. If you’re not losing, go back to 20 carbs per day maximum for a couple weeks. And track it, don’t just “think” you are below 20, even if you are pretty sure. You will be shocked when you see how fast those carbs add up in a program like Lifeform, which adds up all the hidden ones. A salad & a serving of veggies often adds up to 20 carbs alone. And that is before cheese, cream, etc. Make sure your fat percentage is high. Make sure your protein is not too high. Up to 52% of protein ingested CAN be converted to glucose (and fat!), so you don’t want to eat more than you need. But you must eat sufficient quantities, to protect your muscle mass, which is what you need to burn fat. Protein Power includes a good formula to compute your protein needs. Mine happens to be 120 grams per day for my 140 pounds of lean mass. Based on my lean mass, I came up with a goal weight of 185 pounds, much higher than my wedding weight of 160. (And I ultimately got into my first size 14 when I still weighed 210 pounds! and so decided THAT was actually my goal weight.) Muscle weighs more — but looks much better! If you are within 20 pounds of your goal and can’t seem to lose, maybe you don’t need to lose any more…
FRUIT: I ate fruit very rarely until I reached maintenance. Even though it was the one thing from “the old days” that could always make my mouth water. Definitely give it up if you are in a stall!
ARTIFICAL SWEETENERS: I treat myself to a Diet Rite with sucralose about once a week at this point but some people cannot tolerate ANY artificial sweeteners at all, since just the taste of sweet can cause an insulin spike in very sensitive people. I do okay with sucralose, myself, and I like it the best by far, which is why I sell Fiberfit.
STAY AWAY FROM ASPARTAME – the more I learn, the more I think it is VERY VERY BAD stuff. (Hey, I found the best new way to drink pop – with an Isi soda siphon and DaVinci syrups! And while you look at it, check out the Isi whip cream maker too.)
CITRIC ACID: Dr. Pepper is one of the few diet pops on the market that contains none. Citric acid is present in many, many foods. Be aware, because it is reported to stall some people – and in most American products where it is added, it is derived from corn, not oranges!
GUM: I almost never chew gum. It reportedly can cause an insulin spike just because of the sweet taste. When I do indulge, it is in a single piece of Dentyne’s “Ice” or “Eclipse” gum, which has only 1 carb per piece. Wrigley’s Extra is a good substitute with 2 carbs.
SUGAR? One time I ate ONE Sara Lee Cheesecake bite with only 4 carbs in it and I gained 2 pounds that day – and my total carbs – not net carbs but total carbs – counting that little treat were under 20 for that day. Another time I used 5 carbs worth of evaporated milk in my coffee because I was out of cream and that one cost me three pounds. If you are indulging in ANYTHING with the real stuff in it, and you are stalled, give it up.
NUTS: Nuts are a good snack, and I eat a lot of pecans, macadamias, almonds, walnuts, and sunflower and pumpkin kernels, but do try to take it easy on them, no more than 1/4 to 1/2 cup per day is a good rule of thumb, due to their high calories and/or sodium content. Stay away from peanuts and cashews entirely, which are not really even nuts, but legumes.
SKIPPING BREAKFAST?: It is an absolute necessity that I eat breakfast within one hour of rising or I WILL NOT lose weight that day. Period. Doesn’t matter what else I do or don’t do. Perhaps you are the same. *Exception — if I have a little something (like coffee with cream) then work out hard and don’t eat for an hour after the workout ends, I do just as well. I heard that this helps facilitate fat burning, and it seems to be true. But if I don’t eat a little something and go about a normal day without some major sweat involved early, I am sunk.
RESTRICTING CALORIES?: Fuggetaboutit! At least at the beginning. Count your carbs more strictly instead. Strive for HIGH high fat and LOW low carbs. The exception to this is in the case of someone who already has verified that their carbs are low and their fat high and who still isn’t losing weight OR inches – you could be overdoing it. Try limiting your calories for a few days and see what happens. The closer you are to goal weight, the more you may actually need to count those calories. And if you have been keeping them low for a while and it’s not working – you might not be eating enough! I myself go directly into starvation mode (read that STALL) if I lower calories consistently. Our bodies tend to adjust to the things we throw at it – be sure to keep yours on its toes by changing things up occasionally.
SALT?: Be aware the eating very salty foods may cause a temporary and sudden gain of several pounds. Try not to freak out about it, because it will likely pass just as suddenly.
ATTITUDE IS IMPORTANT: so pick a good one! Some of us just have to work harder, and sacrifice more, and still accomplish our loss at a much slower rate than many others. It’s not fair, but hey – real life seldom is. Fortunately, when I feel as good as I do on low carb, I find that an acceptable trade off. (Most days.) If you are as resistant to loss as I was, I hope you do, too.
NOT TAKING SUPPLEMENTS? Some people need them more than others. Try it!
EXERCISE: Not doing any? I always thought it was a dirty word. I love to do sports but I hate to “just exercise”. If there’s a ball I want to catch, I will run. Getting me fired up about walking or running for its own sake is pretty tough, though. But it is necessary to succeed with your weight loss program. Yes, you can lose 50 or 100 or 200 pounds without exercising. But if you want to look GOOD when you are done losing, you had better make an effort to tone what you’ve got left! Your skin is much more likely to shrink back into shape when you lose weight in combination with exercise. So just DO IT. I mean, let’s be brutally honest here – those of us with lots of weight to lose most likely have addictive personalities anyway. Why not put that trait to work FOR us, this time. Exercise is as addicting as anything else, and much more rewarding! I myself walked my ass off – literally. This diet would NOT have worked for me without exercise, that is painfully obvious. Some people do fine with none. And some people, like myself, do not! Luckily, I have come to enjoy my walking so much that it is no longer just “exercise” but has become “me time”. It is something I get to do, all by myself, three times a week, and I don’t feel guilty for doing it (taking the time for myself). I feel better after doing it (because a happy Mommy is much a better Mommy … and wife!) After the first couple months, I added wrist weights, and some light lifting for my triceps, biceps, and pecs (darn gravity anyway!) and I even did a few crunches yesterday after the 3 miles w/ weights and the lifting. *grimacing*
07-04-00 2 weeks after that – today I did 150 crunches! And I now workout on my metal monster Nordic track instead of walking, which wears me totally out. I couldn’t even use this thing, before walking myself into some kind of shape over the last few months.
07-20-00 It is two weeks later than that and today I did 20 minutes on the NordicTrack followed by 150 crunches (half of them in the advanced position!) followed by 150 arm lifts with dumbbells, followed by a 2 mile powerwalk with wrist weights. Whew!
11-11-00 I now do FOUR HUNDRED crunches at a time and a full weight lifting routine. *And thank God! because I BROKE my BACK on January 5, 2002 and can only imagine how much rougher the whole thing would have been if I hadn’t been in shape when it happened. I am happy to report that I was able to maintain MY FULL LOSS even after such a severe injury, which left me bedridden for six full months (not to mention permanently impaired… but everything does work again, even if it hurts, and I am grateful.)
February 2001: Sold the metal monster and now I power-walk on a new treadmill and do ab crunches. I still enjoy my workouts but I more often settle for 250 crunches and 40 minutes on the treadmill with light hand weights… I am more likely to do this workout regularly when I don’t overdo, and I think consistency is key.
Find SOME kind of exercise that YOU enjoy – then do it. And keep doing it!
Advance food preparation is the one thing that can practically ensure low-carb success.
Regular, advance food preparation is the single most important thing low-carbers must do in order to succeed. It’s really not difficult, even if you don’t know how to cook, except for being time consuming. A lot like exercise, as far as that goes, but I assure you that both activities are worth your effort! I can’t stress this enough — this can’t be just another “diet”. If you want to feel good, have more energy, better health, and/or lose weight (and most importantly, keep the weight off), then you will need to make lifelong, not just temporary, changes.
Fortunately, hunger is one thing you will NOT need to grow accustomed to when living a low-carb lifestyle. It is imperative that you make good choices at all times, however, and you will only do so when you have plenty of wholesome low-carb food available. Most people will need to dedicate one day per week to food preparation. If you work five days per week, spending an entire day in the kitchen can seem like a burden, but it’s worth it because it can make the rest of your week go so much better. After a while it will become second nature to you to plan ahead and you’ll find you can spread the tasks out over the week, but while you are trying to establish good low-carb eating habits, I recommend a regular, once-weekly shopping and prep session.
Decide what you like to eat best from among your allowable food list, and then shop accordingly. Go to your favorite grocery store or member’s warehouse, and stock up.
I suggest choosing somegreen leafy veggies first from the produce section (romaine or leaf lettuce, endive, radicchio, escarole, spinach, kale, etc.) Next, select what you like from the following: asparagus, avocadoes, berries, broccoli, cauliflower, cantaloupe melon, celery, eggplant, daikon radish, hot and/or bell peppers, mushrooms, radishes, tomatoes, green beans, green onions, regular onions, and chayote, spaghetti, zucchini, or yellow crookneck squash. Avoid all root vegetables and fruits not previously mentioned, as well as any mentioned that might not fit into your particular eating plan.
Next, visit the meat section and select some meats you like to eat – perhaps some good cuts of beef, bacon and sausage, some chicken, some ground beef, some pork, and some fish. If you want some more “convenience” type meats, get some cans of tuna and chicken, some deli meats (ask them for nutritional info if it is not posted, since some deli meats are full of fillers and even sugars) or even hot dogs (Hebrew National™ and International Glatt™ brands don’t add any sugar and are both kosher, if that matters to you) or bratwurst. A favorite of mine for low-carb convenience is pre-cooked bacon. It is packaged in layers and you can grab a few pieces anytime to just heat in the microwave — though not as good as what you cook yourself, and not something you should overdo, because of all the nasty nitrates, when speed is imperative, pre-cooked bacon can’t be beat. Rotisserie chicken is usually acceptable, but it may be worth asking to see the ingredient list of any marinade they inject into the chicken before roasting it. Prepared buffalo wings are usually okay, too – just be sure to read every label, and don’t be afraid to interrogate the employees at the deli counter (or anywhere else) for nutritional information.
Get some good oils for cooking (grapeseed, macadamia, and olive are the healthy oils that I use for cooking) and for things like salad dressings. Walnut and sesame oil are both great for salads, but should never be heated.
Get some salad dressings with full fat but no added sugar (check all labels) or better yet, whip up some home-made dressings. Blue Cheese, Ranch, Caesar, and Italian are usually good choices, as are vinaigrettes. Other allowable condiments include real mayonnaise, seasoned vinegars, mustards without added sugars, hot sauces, and Worcestershire sauce (which has a trace of sugars but in the amount typically used, does not present a problem for most people).
If you can eatnuts, get some macadamias, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, and/or walnuts – but pass up peanuts, pistachios and cashews. Get some spicy pork rinds (trust me on this; they make a great substitute for bread crumbs in lots of recipes, even if you don’t care to eat them as a snack). Wasa Fiber Rye™ crackers and LaTortilla™ low carb tortillas are available in most grocery stores now and have a high fiber content, making them good choices.
Be sure to go to the frozen foods section and get some bagged legal veggies for busy nights when the fresh ones are just too much work. Buy canned black soy beans if you can find them. Canned vegetables such as tomatoes, green beans, asparagus, etc., are always good to have on hand in a pinch. Buy some frozen entrees like chicken tenders, pre-pressed burgers and fish fillets — these can all go on a contact grill frozen and still be ready to eat in minutes! TIP: After cooking on a contact grill, simply unplug it, put a wet paper towel on the still-warm surface, and close it again. By the time you’re finished eating, you’ll be able to wipe the grill surface clean easily so it will be ready for your next quick and easy meal.
Don’t leave without a visit to the Dairy section for some sour cream, cream cheese, cream, real butter, buttermilk if you like it, eggs, and cheese.
I’m going to describe one of my own weekly prep sessions – you will need to vary this according to your own tastes, but most low-carbers will need plenty of clean salad greens.
If you’re like me, and dislike the sour taste of pre-washed salad greens, you will want to wash your own. I fill a clean sink with a mixture of water and produce cleanser and let the greens soak for a while. I mix three heads of romaine or red leaf lettuce with one bunch of spinach and one small head of iceberg, for a nice mix of healthy, leafy, and crunchy. Then I wash, peel, and chop the other low carb vegetables we like in our salads and place them all in vacuum seal containers. Well dried lettuce can last for weeks without turning brown when vacuum sealed. It will last up to a week when layered in clean toweling and then sealed in regular plastic bags, because the paper or cloth will absorb extra moisture. TIP: Don’t chop greens with anything metal ahead of time, because it will cause the edges to turn brown prematurely.
While my greens for the week are soaking, I hard-boil a dozen eggs. TIP: For easy peeling, use older eggs and prick a small hole in the end of each one with a pin or thumbtack. Always start them in cold water with a splash of vinegar and a spoonful of salt added. Once they come to a boil, shut them off, put on the lid, and allow them to set in the hot water for twenty minutes. Pour off the hot water and replace it with ice water until the eggs are completely cool, then drain and refrigerate. The shells should slip right off when the time comes.
Poaching chicken or other meat is best done at a very low simmer. Boiling toughens meat proteins and causes that ugly scum to appear on top. I always save the liquid for use in soups or other meals, and either strip up the cooked meat for use in chef salads, or else chop it and add mayonnaise, along with lots of chopped celery and a little bit of red onion, salt, pepper, celery salt, and a teaspoon or so of lemon juice. Delicious chicken salad, ready at a moment’s notice — I’ve been known to eat it for breakfast! Some weeks I make egg or tuna salad instead of, or in addition to, the chicken salad.
Plan breakfasts: make a batch of muffins or crustless mini quiche in muffin tins. Pre-cook breakfast meats to save both time and mess. I like to bake both pre-formed sausage patties and bacon slices in the oven. If you can find a stacking cooling rack, it’s perfect for this use and will really simplify the whole process. I even line the drip pan with disposable foil to save time when cleaning up.
I make some sort of casserole each week like my Volume 1 TacoSagna or Mockaroni & Cheese and freeze it in individual portions, so I can have a hot lunch anytime. Meatloaf is another good make-ahead meal — just replace the bread crumbs with low carb ones or substitute Parmesan cheese, wheat bran, or textured vegetable protein.
Don’t forget to attend to your sweet tooth and make some kind of artificially sweetened treat, unless you are one of the rare ones who can totally forego that occasional pleasure. I am not; I would never have lost ten dress sizes in one year and made it for the long haul without an occasional ‘sweet treat’. And the long haul is what it is all about. Feeling deprived is what always led me to stop low fat diets. I simply did not allow that to happen with low carb – and neither should you! But do remember that most people lose more weight when indulging in homemade treats and staying away from packaged low-carb convenience foods, especially those with high concentrations of sugar alcohols such as maltitol (common in most pre-made sugar free desserts.)
Finally, enjoy! Now that you have stocked your low-carb kitchen, just think of all the great meals you can whip up.
For breakfast, you can choose from any sort of egg dish – hard-boiled eggs, omelets, crustless quiche , or my favorite — scrambled or fried eggs served with steak, ham, sausage or bacon, along with a thin wedge of cantaloupe melon. You can choose to eat cheese, or any other meat, fish, or even vegetables. Leftovers of all kinds make great breakfasts. What about a protein shake along with a handful of fresh berries and some nuts on the side? (DaVinci sugar free syrups can make ANY shake mix taste good!!!) Even a low-carb protein bar is better than no breakfast at all, although this should not become an everyday thing by any means. Fiber crackers spread with cream cheese and low carb fruit spread or smoked salmon on top make for a nice change occasionally. Breakfast burritos are easy to fashion ahead of time out of taco meat or spicy sausage paired with things like onions, peppers, black soy beans, scrambled eggs and cheese inside of a low carb tortilla or homemade egg crepes. Wrap these individually and freeze, then wrap in a damp towel to reheat in the microwave.
For lunch, choose from any protein source paired with a healthy vegetable. I usually try to have an ‘entree salad’ such as steak sautéed with onions and peppers and cheese, served over a bed of greens in place of bread. Enjoy previously forbidden salad ingredients like real bacon and hard boiled eggs and chunks of blue cheese! Enjoy fancy salads with ingredients such as warm goat cheese and pecans. My all-time favorite lunch is my Fajita Salad. You could also roll up sliced deli meat and cheese around celery sticks, pickles, or green onions. Pile fiber crackers high with egg, chicken or tuna salad, any of which could be stuffed into celery sticks or hollowed-out tomatoes or peppers, as well. Wrap up sandwich fillings in a low-carb la tortilla or a large lettuce or Napa cabbage leaf.
For snacks, you can eat cream cheese in celery sticks, hard-boiled eggs, doctored-up unsweetened yogurt (homemade is best!), berries, Heavenly Mousse (yummmmm!), melon, nuts, olives, cheese crisps, raw veggies with ranch dip, and pork rind or vegetable nachos with taco meat, black beans, TLC picante, guacamole or sour cream.
For dinner, the possibilities are truly endless. You can make a low carb version of almost any meal you already like. Craving fried chicken? No problem: bread it with egg & pork rinds, wheat bran, parmesan cheese, or almond flour and then fry it as normal. Cream of mushroom or broccoli soup made with real butter and heavy cream is both heavenly and fast. Sauté chicken in butter and olive oil, pour in a little whipping cream and some Parmesan cheese, and you’ll have delicious Chicken Alfredo with no effort. Eat it over steamed or stir-fried shredded cabbage or zucchini “noodles”, broccoli and cauliflower, or my favorite: fresh steamed green beans. Craving pizza? No problem: get some pepperoni, sauté some mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers and combine them with some no-sugar-added tomato sauce (like Hunts™) and mozzarella cheese over the top of a cheese crisp or low-carb tortilla. Craving Mexican food? No problem: make fajitas with low-carb tortillas or tacos on cheese crisp shells, and you can enjoy real sour cream, guacamole, and cheese on top! Make red chili with black soy beans or green chili with pork or poultry. Enjoy filet mignon or grilled salmon and steamed asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower with cheese or Hollandaise sauce over the top. Enjoy stir fry (without the starch) of beef and broccoli. Enjoy grilled chicken topped with bacon, melted cheese and mushrooms.
The key word here is ‘enjoy’. If you’ll just concentrate on all the wonderful food combinations you can eat, you will find yourself thinking less and less about those few things you are no longer choosing to eat. Low-carb eating is far more versatile than low-fat eating, but it does require a change in mind-set. Become a label reader! When I started this Way of Eating, I literally spent hours in the grocery store going down the aisles and reading labels. I found some surprises, and learned a lot. Eating low-carb is easy, and it should never be repetitive or boring, not when your menu choices are so varied and abundant.
YOU CAN DO THIS! JUST PLAN AND PREPARE TO SUCCEED.
Please don’t try to succeed on a low carb Way of Eating without buying and reading at least one (1) low carb book, in its entirety, so that you will understand the metabolic process you are trying to achieve. Without a basic understanding of ketosis, you will have a much harder time making this work ~ and hey, MAKING IT WORK THIS TIME is the whole point, right? RIGHT!
My personal recommendations for low carb books include: Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution, Atkins for Life – I had better include this one, since I was honored by being quoted in this book by the legendary Dr. Atkins himself! look for me in the index!, Protein Power, Life Without Bread: How a Low Carbohydrate Diet Can Save Your Life, and The Schwarzbein Principle.
The Corinne T. Netzer’s Complete Book of Food Counts or something similar is a great reference to have, too (on ANY diet). Yes, you can look things up online, but a printed reference is a heck of a lot more convenient than running to the computer (or squinting into your phone) every time you want to eat something! Online carb counters are listed here on my main Links page.
FORGET THE KETOSTIX
The idea of using ketostix to make sure you are in ketosis sounds good – until you realize that all they really measure is the burning of fat. Any fat. Whether you are burning adipose tissue (existing stored body fat) OR you are burning dietary fat, you will produce ketones, which will register on the ketostix. And if you are on a low carb diet, you will burn some kind of fat, so whether you register on the stix or not doesn’t necessarily correlate to actual weight loss!
Then there’s this, excerpted from GO Diet: There are two main ketone bodies produced. One is called “acetoacetic acid” and the other is named “beta-hydroxybutyric acid (HBA). Acetoacetic acid can spontaneously break down to form acetone and this is the compound which gives people on this diet a faint, but distinct smell on their breath. Other low carbohydrate diets advocate the use of ketosticks to detect these ketones in the urine, as a sign that you are really burning fats. However, these sticks, which are expensive, only detect the acetoacetic acid and acetone, which are less than one fifth of the ketones produced. The HBA goes totally undetected by this test. Many people never produce enough acetoacetic acid to cause these sticks to turn color, yet testing their blood for HBA shows plenty of ketones.”
Now for some good news: I never really noticed the so-called keto-breath, or the body odors that the books talk about. (Neither did/do my friends or family, who would not HESITATE to tell me – trust me!)
Now, the color of the stix, in my opinion, has a lot to do with how much water you drink. The more concentrated your urine is, the more concentrated the ketones will be. A high ketone reading in the absence of weight loss could be due to a lot of things, but mostly it is due to high fat ingestion, which is what a lowcarb diet really is. It just isn’t politically correct to call it that. Your body doesn’t dump the ketones consistently, either, so it is difficult to know whether an absence of ketones might simply be your own lousy timing. Timing, after all, is everything! And if you don’t drink enough water, excess ketones will necessarily have to be excreted somehow other than through your urine. And my guess is that when they get excreted through your skin and respiration, they stink to high heaven. So, for many, many reasons, drink all the water that your plan recommends. Then drink some more. And don’t put too much stake in the readings of ketostix.
The best indicators of how you are doing on low carb – far better than than the color some expensive little strip of treated paper turns when you (you know) will be:
— how you feel (once you get past the inevitable week 1 slump)
— how you look – I am serious. When I put those two pictures together that you see on the My Story page, I was totally shocked – and so gratified, too – to see how much better I could look at the same weight. Do not let the scale alone, or even your measurements alone, be your indicator of success.
— how your clothes fit – Do yourself a favor and take those painful-to-face measurements right at the beginning, so you really know where you are. The first time I took mine I cried, but I wish I had done it earlier because in the next month after I did take them, I lost four inches just from my waist alone while the scale never moved. Is it a stall if the scale doesn’t change for a month? Doubtful, if you are being true to the plan you are on. Is it possible that you have stalled? You bet! What to do?
If you are having trouble, get a software program that calculates your exact nutritional intake and analyze what is going on. The one that I used first is called Lifeform. Now defunct. In 2004, I switched to DietPro and I still use this one regularly.
If you use a mac, there is one out there called Dietsleuth. Do a search and hunt it down. There are free places to keep track online, too, like FitDay.
During induction, I recommend that you:
Stick to meat, dairy, and veggies only. Try to not use any artificial sweeteners, fruit, or grain based products, high fiber or not. Get the full 20 carbs each day from lettuce, salad vegetables, low carb veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans. I also ate small amounts of tomatoes and bell peppers on my salads – even during induction. If you really really have to have something sweet, you can eat sugar free gelatin. Try to find Jolly rancher brand, which is sweetened without aspartame.
By the time you eat 1 large or two small salads per day, with a 2/3 cup serving of other vegetables, that will usually add up to almost 20 carbs (with cheese, cream, and salad dressing included, they add up much faster than you would expect.) After two weeks of this, you will find that you have to remind yourself to eat, that you no longer really *want* the bready things or the sweet things as much. I did not add the low carb versions of these things back in until I had been eating induction-style for about 6 weeks. I think this gave me the ability to keep these food items in perspective. I still don’t crave them, I crave fruit and veggies and dairy products, if anything. When I start thinking about fake sweets too often, I force myself to go several days without any at all, and then I am back in balance. It is a constant balancing act, and I must remain vigilant to insure that my sweet-tooth/bread cravings do not take over. I expect I will have to be like this forever.
ONE MORE TIME: Eat your veggies, they go a long way towards filling you up with something less calorically dense than meat, and trust me – you NEED the fiber (and nutrients) that they contain.