Friday, December 22, 2006

Changes Ahead

For the past few months, I have worked full-time, had some vague semblance of a life, and managed three blogs. It's all gotten a bit much!

As of Jan. 2, I will be combining two of my blogs. My New Orleans blog will remain as-is, but I will be combining The Low-Carb Lab with this blog, at this address. This blog will expand beyond my own diet experiences to include some commentary on research, dining and other food issues. Or at least that's the plan!

Stay tuned, and check back on January 2!

M.D. Lite

Went to my doctor today--I call her M.D. Lite--and was all prepared to be praised for losing 41 pounds since my last visit in July.


She didn't even catch it. I finally couldn't stand it any longer and pointed it out to her. But then again, she did refer me for a baseline bone-density scan following my abnormal heel density reading recently, which indicated I'm at risk for osteoporosis. So she gets points for that.

And she did introduce herself when she came in--very polite, since I've only been seeing her for 16 months since my real doctor fled town for Hurricane Katrina and never came back. Oh well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fat Jeans

Over a year ago, while wandering through the mall, I found jeans on sale and bought a pair without trying them on.

Big mistake. I couldn't even pull them up over my big fat butt, so they went into the bottom of the wardrobe to be returned later. Then, of course, I never did that, either.
And THEN, to add insult to injury, I gained 40 pounds or so and they gathered dust and were forgotten.

Till yesterday, when I was cleaning out the wardrobe in search of a long-lost Christmas sweater and there they were, tags still on.

Not only do they fit but I don't even have to lie in a prone position, knees bent, to get them buttoned and zipped. You know, the fat girl pants routine.

Yee-hah. Wonder what else is in that wardrobe? I see a holiday project coming on.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holiday Strategies

On the LC Train since Aug 6, 2006
Lost to date 46 lbs

I'm stocking up on some favorite low-carb snacks to take with me on my upcoming holiday trip to Hot'Lanta and Alabama, figuring that having an alternative to high-carb snacks will at least keep me from going overboard.

Here's the assortment:
--Just the Cheese Popped Cheese, butter flavor. I can't possibly overeat these because they are ridiculously salty and since I've been low-carbing I seem very sensitive to too much salt. They have a nice crunch and flavor, though.

--Oh Yeah! Protein Wafers, peanut butter/chocolate flavor. These are great Twix-like snack bars that are high in protein (15g per serving), low in carbs (3g per serving) and NO SUGAR ALCOHOLS. Thank you, thank you.

--Big Train Brownies, from the mix. These aren't really LOW carb at 8g per tiny square, but they're a heckuva lot lower than regular sugar brownies. And, again, no sugar alcohols.

--ChocoPerfection Bars. I try to keep these around at all times. The chocolate tastes great, they're high fiber and extremely filling, and...can you see the pattern sugar alcohols.

--Last, but not least, the gross-sounding-but-heavenly-tasting Cinnamunch Pork Puffs, made by the Flax-Z-Snax folks whose Sweet Nut'ns I cannot have in my house because I can't stop eating them. But the Pork Puffs are terrific, sweetened with Splenda, and only 5g carbs for the whole bag. I buy 'em by the case.

So, there you have it. My holiday strategy. My goal isn't to be "perfect" but to be "reasonable."

The Awesome Blossom

For any of you familiar with the restaurant chain, Chili's, you know the Awesome Blossom. In other restaurants it's called a "Blooming Onion" or an "Onion Blossom." Big, fried, and greasy, with a dipping sauce to dip your grease in.

So here I am on Sunday. It's 1 p.m., breakfast was at 6:45, and I'm hungry and on the road. So I head to Chili's, where I figure I can find something relatively harmless for lunch. Not in the mood for a bunless burger, so I hone in on the "Guiltless Grill" selections. Hey! They list carb counts! Let's see....95g, 80g, and here's a bland slab of salmon for 31g. Yuck.

So I pick out the fajitas instead, which I figure I'll eat without the tortilla. Seems a good selection. I check out the appetizers and then I spy it: the Awesome Blossom. How bad can it be, I ask myself rhetorically. After all, onions are a vegetable albeit high in naural sugars. It's not THAT heavily breaded, after all. I could scrape off some breading. And, besides, I'm not eating my tortillas.

So that's what I do. It was so greasy it made me swoon and the salt must have sent my blood pressure into the ozone. Pretty tasty, in other words. And then the fajitas came along and I was stuffed and happy.

Till I got home and went on the amazing website, which has a large selection of brand-name and restaurant nutritional info. First, I look up the fajitas, listed in the calorieking database with or without tortillas. 20 grams of carbs. Not bad, not bad, and I didn't even eat the guacamole, which I think looks and tastes like it must have come out of someone's nose. Gross but true.

Then I looked up the Awesome Blossom, and I learned why they call it awesome, and it has nothing to do with the taste. That would be: 2710 calories, 203 grams ft (36g saturated), 6360 mg sodium, 194 carbs (15g fiber) and 24g protein.

YIKES!!!!!!! And I ate half of the darned thing.

Okay, scratch yesterday. Start over today. Note to self: please check calorieking for your restaurant menu BEFORE you go, not after.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The World's Healthiest Pizza

That would be what I'm supposedly having for lunch today, as my office prepares for an untraditional holiday party. We're giving up the fried turkey and casseroles and mounds of dessert

The World's Healthiest Pizza is a local company here in the world's unhealthiest city, New Orleans, that touts the healtfulness of their pizzas but is less-than-open about how they got that way--no nutritional info is available on their website. But two slices of their large pizza, they say, have almost a day's worth of fiber, so about 9 grams of fiber per slice. The fiber they use, inulin, is "prebiotic," which they claim helps the absorption of the calcium in the cheese on the pizza, and helps boost the immune system. And it's lower in calories--one slice of a large cheese pizza has 188 calories. They use low-fat cheeses and organic toppings--including alligator sausage. How does that work, I wonder?

I work in an office full of tree-huggers, so they're all into the prebiotic, organic, vegetarian stuff. So that's what we're doing for the holiday party.

I'll report back later--should be interesting!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Greed is not Good

Start Date: Aug 6, 2006
Lost to date: 48 lbs

I'm reading Linda Moran's little book, How to Survive Your Diet, and am finding it interesting. At first, I thought her characterization of overeating as being the result of either stress or greed too simplistic. Stress, I get. As I spent my two-month evacuation from Hurricane Katrina glued to the TV watching my city die, I practically mainlined chocolate. But...Greed?

Then a funny thing happened. As I finished my lunch yesterday, I thought about getting "just a little more." But I stopped and thought about why I wanted it. I wasn't still hungry. It's just that I wanted more.

Uh-oh. Greed. And the fact that I like chewing.

Thinking of oneself as a greedy, chomping, overeating slob isn't a very pretty picture, is it? The word "Greed" is loaded. We don't like it. We don't want to be it. Yet, actually, that is a big part of it. I hate to admit it, but I think Linda Moran is right.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


This isn't really about low carb or diet today, so consider yourself warned before you read further. Sometimes a girl just needs to vent, okay?

About a month ago, my church played host to one of those mobile medical labs--you know the ones. You pay a hundred bucks or so, and they do some basic screening tests, mostly with ultrasound, to see if you have blocked carotid arteries, any signs of aortal weakness, or any life-threatening blood clots in your legs. For an extra $20 they throw in a test for osteoporosis.

Now, I should say here that I refer to my regular doctor as "MD Lite." It's not that she's young, but let's just say I think she'd be really good at diagnosing, say, a head cold. So this seemed to me to be a good chance for an overweight, middle-aged woman (jeez, how lovely I sound) to get some tests done that normally wouldn't be possible without overt symptoms. Heart disease runs in my family so I thought this was a wise thing; I threw in the osteoporosis test just for the heck of it even though I know it's thin, willowy, fragile little ladies who have that disease.

Well, the results are in.
I do not have any carotid artery blockage.
I do not have any vascular blockages.
I do not have any aortal weakness.

See where this is going?

I'm at high risk for bone breakage due to osteopenia--not a disease itself, but often a precursor to osteoporosis.

So here I am, the first fat lady in the history of the world to be heading down the road to broken hip land.

I'll be taking the results to MD Lite next week. I figure her response will be: "That's interesting."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holy Toledo, Batman, It's a New Addiction

Program start: Aug 6, 2006
Lost to date: 46 lbs

Well, actually, it's not a new addiction. It's just an addiction I never realized I had till very recently. Talk about a light bulb going on over your head!

I have had a weight problem since approximately age 7, when in the space of two years I went from looking like a slightly malnourished skinny preschooler to a pleasantly pudgy first grader to an out of control 7-year-old. So after all those decades of struggling with weight, what did I think my food issues were? Well, during the many wasted years of low-fat dieting, I would have told you I couldn't stay away from fats. Turns out I didn't need to, Wilbur.

Then I realized, during a massive Blue Bell Ice Cream binge, that I was addicted to sugar. I would start something sweet -- or bready or both -- and couldn't stop.

So, in August, when I started my Last Diet Ever--because low carb is not really a diet but a changed way of eating, I thought--I started trying to listen to my body, to discern physical hunger from "head hunger."

Then I rediscovered low-carb snacks. There are some really fine ones. And as I calculated which ones I could eat the most of without overdoing it on carbs, the light bulb went off.

I am addicted to overeating--not food, not carbs (though they are the major triggers) but overeating. The sensation of being full.

I realize that, even as I have a ways to go with the weight loss, this is a food issue I absolutely MUST address if I'm to take it off and keep it off. Yes, you can binge on low-carb just as you can binge on high-carb (though, theoretically, it wouldn't be as harmful as all that sugar--ick! Yum! Ick! Yum!

Oh well. All that to say that I've picked up a copy of Linda Moran's book, How to Survive Your Diet and Conquer Your Food Issues Forever. You'll be hearing more about it as I work through the book on this blog. Cognitive therapy techniques, here I come.

I promise not to post anything too Freudian, though!

Talking to Myself

Low Carb "birthdate" Aug 6, 2006
Lost so far: 47 lbs

Okay, so I've started reading Linda Moran's interesting little book, Surviving Your Diet. There's a lot of food for thought there (pun intended). So far, there's a lot of talk about, well, talk. Specifically, self talk. The voice inside your head that screams "Outta My Way--Sugar Ahead" when you approach the food table at a party. The one that whines "Everybody else gets to eat what they want, and why do I have to do without, wah-wah-wah" when everyone else is eating birthday cake and you're sitting there stoically with a cup of diet soda.

Well, okay, now you've heard some of the voices in my head. If I had to boil them down to one emotional stereotype, it would be the petulant child.

"But I WANT it."
"I deserve it--it's been a hard day."
"My home is floating in three feet of water from Hurricane Katrina and I need chocolate."

Well, you get the picture. I'm the spoiled 3-year-old who wants what she wants.

Now, how do I get from there to the adult who can shut down the pity party once it begins, give myself permission to eat, and then eat like a self-controlled adult? Well, heck, if I knew the answer to that I wouldn't be in this shape to begin with.

Baby steps, baby steps. Coming up tomorrow: Chapter two, and maybe some answers.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Stuck on Stupid

Start date: Aug 6, 2006
Lost to date: 48 lbs.

Sometimes, as U.S. Gen. Russell Honore said when he landed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to set things straight and get things in order, we just get "stuck on stupid."

I got stuck on stupid yesterday. I know I can't eat anything with maltitol in it. I know this from hard-won experience. I know that even in small quantities--like in a single cookie--it can result in a bad case of rumble-gut at best or nuclear gastric meltdown at worst.

Yesterday, one cookie, one nuclear maltitol meltdown. Minus 3-1/2 pounds in a day.

Hey, I think I've found a new diet aid! Forget Milk of Magnesia! Forget eating loads of fiber! Just eat a cookie!


Note to self: You cannot eat the "Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie" from Nutritious Creations. Don't ever order it again.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

An Ounce of Cure

Starting date: Aug. 6, 2006
Lost to date: 45 pounds

How much is enough? One of the lures of the low-carb WOL is the promise of life without portion control. No calorie counting. Keep the carbs low and you can't help but lose. Of course, even the esteemed Dr. A recognized that there are limits, and that calories count. But the much-touted "metabolic advantage" meant they don't count quite as much as they would seem to on the surface.

The real metabolic advantage, of course, is that you aren't as hungry on LC, and it's easier to feel satisfied. But there are some of us, and I, unfortunately, am one of them, who just can't lose on 1,500 calories or more a day--regardless of our weight, and regardless of how low our carb count. Might it come off eventually? The mathematics of the situation would say yes. But so slowly that few of us--or at least me--would have the patience to stick with it.

So I cut back. I try to listen to body cues--eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm not. It's not an easy thing to do after years of binge eating.

I realized as I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep that it wasn't insomnia keeping me awake--it was hunger. I ate very little yesterday because I wasn't hungry; at 2 a.m., I'm suddenly starving.

I think I've got the signal thing down; now, I need to work on my timing.

Monday, December 4, 2006

A Pound of Pleasure

Start date: Aug. 6, 2006
Lost to date: 43 lbs

It was a perfect meal, and I refuse to feel guilty about it. Saturday brunch at Commander's Palace, a jazz combo strolling through the dining room, providing the soundtrack of "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," "Bye, Bye Blackbird," and other tunes. The bustle of black-clad waiters and the clink of fine china. Even a photographer from Southern Living magazine wending his way through the tables, taking shots for an upcoming feature to run around Mardi Gras time.

First course was the soup-sampler trio, a triad of white china cups filled with today's selection--corn and crab bisque; turtle soup with a generous dollop of sherry; and the piece de resistance, a sublime duck and oyster stew. The main course: tournedos of beef lying atop a bed of seasoned mashed potatoes and covered with caramelized onions, drizzed with sherry. And the finale of all finales, piping hot bread pudding souffle topped with a delicately rich whiskey sauce.

Carbs be damned for one day--it doesn't get much better than this.

Speaking of carbs, how did I do? Well, I ate no-carb breakfast and dinner, and I only ate half of the potatoes. I still figure I had about 2,000 calories and 162 carbs for the day. Then it was right back to low carb business as usual.

Happy birthday, mom.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Head Hunger

Start Date: Aug 6, 2006 Lost to date: 43 lbs.

One of the hardest things about any weight-loss program, even a low-carb program, is figuring out how to cope with what I call head hunger.

Physically, I am not hungry. But my head is STARVING. It wants salty, crunchy, sweet, sour. It wants to chew mindlessly. It wants to--dare I say it--BINGE.

Here's how the ever-helpful Wikipedia defines Compulsive Eating:

"Compulsive overeating is characterised by an addiction to food. An individual suffering from compulsive overeating disorder engages in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or binging, during which they may feel frenzied or out of control. They will eat much more quickly than is normal, and continue to eat even past the point of being uncomfortably full. Binging in this way is generally followed by a period of intense guilt feelings and depression. Unlike individuals with bulimia, compulsive overeaters do not attempt to compensate for their binging with purging behaviours such as fasting, laxative use or vomiting. Compulsive overeaters will typically eat when they are not hungry, spend excessive amounts of time and thought devoted to food, and secretly plan or fantasize about eating alone. Compulsive overeating almost always leads to weight gain and obesity, but not everyone who is obese is also a compulsive overeater."

Yep, that's the problem. Unlike a drug addict, a food addict can't quit cold turkey. We gotta keep eating.

This Head Hunger, which I guess is just the manifestation of a food addiction, is not like a craving really. I don't crave pizza or chips or bread or anything in particular. I crave quantity. How do you get past that?