Bad News With Benefits

Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.

–Lao Tzu

Have you been waiting for the other shoe to drop? Well don’t worry: it won’t. This bad news is some of the easiest bad news you’ll ever get.

Eating this way–avoiding grains, sugars, vegetables oils, and excessive amounts of fruit, while embracing real animal fat, meat, and other fresh, real foods–has been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.

It was certainly easier than spending half my life kneading my “healthy” whole wheat bread dough.

It was easier than exercising all the time, demonstrably without effect.

It was easier than knowing that everyone who saw me thought I was an out-of-control face stuffer who wouldn’t move her butt of the couch except to order more pizza–when I knew I was nothing of the sort.

And the benefits were incredible: let’s start with those.

I’ve mentioned the weight loss and shown you pictures, but that’s not actually my favorite benefit. In fact that wasn’t even why I started eating this way in the first place. I’d resigned myself long ago to being a mysteriously fat person: nothing could change the Fundamental Fatness of Me. I figured by changing up my diet like this I was just going to make myself healthier. I didn’t really do it thinking I’d be smaller.

But I’ve talked about weight loss and shown pictures for two (count them, two) reasons. First, that’s the clearest, fastest way to tell that something has happened to me. Second, it’s something a lot of people care about deeply.

The other benefits, though, are numerous and just as tangible.

I have lots more energy. This isn’t a result of weight loss. It’s a result of eating what’s good for my body and happened before any weight loss.

I improved my teeth and gums. Know what causes cavities? It’s not just sugar: it’s also grain. Guess what else grain does? Destroys your enamel. Guess what can’t grow easily in the absence of grain and sugar? Plaque.

I can think better. I can concentrate more easily, and I never knew what a fog glucose was putting me in till I suddenly emerged from it. Accepted wisdom says you have to have grains. This is nonsense. It goes against all the historical evidence from non-agricultural people groups, all the current evidence from the hundreds of thousands of people who have dealt grains out of this hand, all the scientific evidence of the benefits of a very low carb, grain-less diet on epileptics and even those with advanced brain tumors, and shows an appalling ignorance of basic human physiology. I dealt with that particular objection in an earlier post and you can read more here or here.

My skin, hair, and nails are healthier. Yes folks: it’s the fat.

My arthritis cleared up. I have some, from a bad fall years ago. Used to bother me constantly. Now the only time I feel even the slightest twinge is prior to the worst of storms.

It might clear up skin problems. I didn’t have any, but the Roommate has had a lifetime of mysterious eczema that would show up in different places at different times, and a lifetime of doctors who told her it was nothing in particular and there wasn’t much she could do about it. Turns out there’s was a big something she could do about it: eat fat and avoid carbs and no more skin issues.

It cleared up my allergies. I had developed nasty spring allergies and my aforementioned friend had skin reaction allergies to all kinds of things. Neither of us have any of that anymore.

I don’t feel so down all the time. Low fat diets are strongly associated with depression and even suicide. Eating low fat changes the chemical makeup of your brain, and substituting vegetable oils for animal fat changes things up even more. Vegetable oils are extracted with vicious chemicals till they come out a disgusting mess, and are then bleached to render them fit to smell and look at. If you’re anything like me–and so far everyone I know who has tried eating this way–you’ll find that handling life’s stresses just got a whole lot easier.

I don’t feel the same way about food. No more precipitous drops in blood sugar, followed by highs after you eat the granola bar. And if you’ve ever sat down and counted every calorie to save yourself 100 extra so you could have that brownie after dinner…you’ll kick yourself for ever doing stuff like that.

I can go hours without food. Not that you want to all the time, but who hasn’t had a meeting that went long, a loved one in the hospital, a kid with a meltdown, a long car trip, or a just a day you haven’t had time to buy groceries? Instead of feeling hungry two hours after breakfast, daydreaming about lunch at three, starving at four, getting snippy and tired at five and smashing in the glass on the vending machine at seven …you can just stay mellow the whole time, with consistent energy. If you can’t eat, your body does what God designed it to do: it starts burning its own fat reserves for fuel.

I’ve re-shaped, not just lose weight. When I tell people I’ve lost 115 pounds in about seven months, most are thrilled. But a few get panicked.

This just goes to show you. Their math skills are way better than mine.

I have to pull out the calculator to tell you that 115 pounds in seven months is an average of four pounds a week. The old adage is that losing more than a pound or two a week is “dangerous.” Wanna know why?

When you go on a conventional low-fat, low-calorie weight loss regime, you lose a lot of muscle. But when you go on a low-carb, high-fat diet, you don’t. You actually lose fat, and the only muscle you lose much of is the extra you needed to lug all that fat around. Other places actually build muscle, especially if you were avoiding protein before because it so often comes packed in fat.

Now let’s go on to the bad that’s not really bad. I’ll sum it up for you here:

Anytime you drastically change your diet, in any way, you’re going to take some time to adapt. Also, people are different.

There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Seriously, the Roommate has been throwing posting ideas at me for a while and she keeps coming back to this one. So here goes.

1. You’re going to feel sick for the first two days to two weeks. In some circles, this is known as the “carb flu.” It’s perfectly normal. Imagine your body as a classic car. In its current condition, it’s pretty beat up. When you try to shift gears you get all this grinding and clunking. But you can see the future: once you get that puppy oiled and tuned it’ll sound like music when you take it out on the highway.

Your body is clunking over from sugar-burning gear to fat-burning gear. Once you finally get it tuned up, it’ll run better than it has in years. But you have to give it a little time, and you can’t keep sabotaging it every three days by cheating and expect anything good to happen. You also can’t come back to me after 2 weeks of playing at being a low-carber, except for all the brownies and the big bucket of popcorn, and tell me “I tried it” and it “doesn’t work.” Tell me you didn’t like it and I’m fine with that. Tell me it didn’t work when you really tried it, and I’m fine with that, too. People are different. But tell me it doesn’t work when you didn’t really do it and we’ll have to have a conversation.

2. You’re going to crave carbs like mad for a while. How badly you crave them depends on your personality and how addicted to them you are. Just remember that you’re teaching your unruly body to re-learn an old skill: burn its own fat for fuel instead of depending on constant glucose intake. You wouldn’t cave to your toddler (at least I hope you wouldn’t) if he started screaming for candy in the grocery aisle. Your body is demanding cheap, easy glucose: don’t give it any.

3. You’ve got to eat salt. This is almost the low carb mistake. We’ve all had the low-salt mantra drummed into us for so long that we avoid it now like it was little granules of plague. But salt is not what’s causing your high blood pressure: carbs are. Check out here, here, and here. So eat plenty. If you don’t, you’ll have headaches, feel tired, and maybe even get heart palpitations.

4. You shouldn’t eat too much protein. It’s a high fat diet with moderate protein. This is not an all-meat diet, despite all the people who hear only “meat” when I try to describe it. Too much protein is turned to glucose in your liver, driving up insulin levels and making you hungry. Check here for a chart from Dr. Phinney’s book with recommended dosages of protein based on decades of in-clinic experience.

5. You might not be able to eat dairy or nuts. If anything in the world is going to hang you up, these are the most likely culprits. This is a very individual thing, which is sad for some folks. Some people can eat dairy all day with no problems; others can get bloated and put on weight with just 1/2 ounce of cheese. I personally love dairy and eat it a lot, but others can’t. If you really love dairy, do try some raw dairy before you forswear it entirely. You might find an amazing difference.

6. You still might not be getting enough vitamin D. This is one thing you can’t get easily from your diet unless you have access to pastured pig skin, and farmers seem to get tense when you sneak onto their farms and start skinning the pigs. Since many farmers have shotguns, I’d avoid this if I were you. But if you, like me, spend most of your time indoors, then I’d get some vitamin D supplement. You might be surprised at how much better you feel after doing so.

7. It won’t make you get younger. I’m throwing that out as a general warning. When I started doing this, I saw a huge increase in energy. It was like someone had handed me Eternal Youth Formula (strawberry flavor) and I’d actually de-aged. I started wanting to take walks. Then runs. Then I started running up flights of stairs. Then I spent three days with a cane while my knees recovered from running up flights of stairs.

The reality was that though I felt 10 years younger and 150 pounds lighter, I was still 36 and still needed to lose weight. My joints were more than happy to remind me of that. So, just ease into it, will ya?

8. You might not lose much weight.

“WHAT?” they shrieked in horror, as they pondered what a waste of time all this had been.

Just give me a minute. There are some things that the best diet in the world can’t overcome. Things like thyroid issues, serious hormonal imbalances, all kinds of medications. So if you’ve tried this and are feeling great but not dropping weight, don’t despair. Do consider seeing a doctor, or see when you can get off those steroids.

Also, don’t forget that muscle weighs more than fat. If you’re putting on muscle while losing fat, you’ll see this in the way your shape changes and your clothes fit: not in what the scale says. If you come crying to me that you’re the same weight you were four weeks ago, but then tell me you’re fitting into clothes you couldn’t wear when you were 10 pounds lighter…guess what?

Plato says he’s hungry

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