Low carb

For slightly over a month, I’ve been experimenting with a reduced carbohydrate intake.

While I’ve never been a noticeably fat person, I’ve ranged from 15 to 35 pounds overweight for most of my adult life, ever since going off to college and gaining the “freshman fifteen”. And, at times, I’d been running a total of thirty or forty miles per week, but this never yielded anything but very, very gradual results.

It helps to keep an eye on weight, but you still need methods to affect it.

I don’t do well at mere calorie restriction — because you’re always hungry, and as a result, you can only do it with strict measurement and logging. And this becomes somewhat difficult — not everything comes in a package with “Nutrition Facts”, nor are you eating something in clearly defined units if you get something to eat at a non-chain restaurant. Also, it encourages me to be a perfectionist about it, which is so difficult that I give up in frustration within a day or so.

In the past 3 months, as I began to put more mileage in on the bicycle, I did begin to slowly lose weight, however, even with a somewhat smaller lunch and far less junkfood, the rate was relatively slow — a pound or two a month.

At the beginning of August, I was feeling that it was time to take this endeavor to a new level. I’d had a conversation over dinner the night before with a friend of ours about low-carbohydrate diets. Since then, I’ve composed my diet of “anything but grains, starchy vegetables, and sugars, with the exception of bike rides and cheat meals.” I’ve been eating plenty of protein and fat. I have enough of a knowledge of food to do this fairly sensibly and easily — though it has had me preparing lunch instead of getting some random carry-out food with coworkers, and it has also required me to take a much more active role in preparing dinner, but I’m happy with that.

I’ve had quite nice results from the scale. In that first month, my weight has gone down about 5 pounds, my bodyfat has gone down about 1.25% (though that is a via a notoriously inaccurate method.) The other thing that is interesting, physically, is that it seems to have reduced a lot of common inflammatory responses. For example, my nasal allergy symptoms seem to be greatly reduced. Also, my somewhat acne-prone skin is much better.

There was an initial period of crankiness while I adapted to the low blood sugar levels, as commonly experienced by people who start low-carb diets. But, I got over that. I also found athletic activities (biking and weight lifting) initially more difficult, but as my approach has been to eat some carbohydrates right before, during, and after such activities, it’s actually been fairly easy. As time goes on, though, I find I can do more and more with depleted carbohydrate reserves — it seems like there is an adaptation process going on.

And on the good side, fat and protein make you feel full, even when you’re eating less than a maintenance level of calorie intake.

About a week after starting this, my quest for information led me to a nice piece of science journalism, Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It’s an interesting book about two things: the accepted hypothesis of the past half-century for the cause (dietary fat) of heart disease and related diseases, and the evidence that many of these diseases (among others) may actually be caused by excess consumption of refined carbohydrates. I highly recommend this book.

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