Wednesday, April 7, 2010

change of directions

Wow! An eight month hiatus. It's high time for an update.

When I left off blogging here several months ago, I was in the midst of my zero-carb experiment. In summary: it was a bust and I won't be doing it again (at least not long-term). I did lose a lot of weight temporarily, but I think much of it was lean muscle mass. After three weeks on ZC, I started to reek of vinegar (acidosis perhaps?), had intense lower back pressure, and became so weak and listless that I could hardly walk down the hall to the bathroom. Finally, my body temperature dipped below 95 degrees F. These are just the discomforts I remember; there were probably more.

At that point my body said to me, in no uncertain terms, "EAT A FRICKING POTATO OR YOU WILL DIE!" Seriously. So I ate the potatoes. (Potatoes in starvation sauce taste awesome!) Was my body exaggerating a wee bit? We will never know. I sure don't care to find out.

So what went wrong? I don't know. Obviously this is not the experience shared by most people who have dabbled in ZC. I suspect the problem relates to the health condition with which I began. I may expand on those suspicions in a later post.

In related news, I'm shifting directions with this blog in a few ways.

Change #1: I will not be restricting carbohydrates. I do not aspire to become a "low-carb" dieter in any way.

The more I read about health and nutrition, the less inclined I am to associate myself with any particular school of nutritional thought at all. I still think it is important to evaluate all claims in context with what we know (or think we know) of our own biology and evolutionary history. In that respect, I am committed to paleo/primal principles. But my personal health comes first. If a certain practice doesn't make me feel great, I will chuck it, experts and gurus be damned.

I no longer believe ZC to be the optimal way of eating, of course. Really, I don't know what I was smoking last year. When I look back on my posts, I'm embarrassed for myself. I guess I just felt so bad, physically, that I was willing to toss my critical thinking skills aside in my eagerness to find a cure. I don't like that at all. It's not what I want for myself and it's certainly not something I want to be propagating.

I think the most important takeaway lesson from GCBC has nothing to do with food--it's that "scientific" evidence can be amassed in support of any conclusion, correct or incorrect. What made the low-fat craze so criminal was the fact that contrary evidence was overlooked, misinterpreted, scorned, ignored, and sometimes even hushed. Such errors can be found in all circles. 

Bottom line: I want to make an effort to keep my eyes open to all reasonable possibilities concerning the optimal diet for myself. I'll be blogging with this objective in mind.

Change #2: Updates will be relatively infrequent.

I've got no need or desire to go back to keeping a daily log of my progress. I imagine it's pretty boring to read, anyhow. The baby is a toddler now and I'm wanting to spend my scant allotment of free time on reading and reflection rather than interaction. For the time being, I feel like I have more to learn than to say. (I'm a hermit and I like it.)

Change #3: This will no longer be a blog about trying to get rid of the symptoms of POTS...

...because I've done it! I'm very pleased to report that I have learned how to keep all my symptoms under control and my method appears to be sustainable long-term. I'm working on a post about how I got to this point, so stay tuned. I know there are a couple readers who have struggled with similar issues and I think this information is definitely worth sharing. The changes I made are cheap, simple, and painless. Waaaaay easier than eating nothing but cow for the rest of your life. 

I'll get to the old comments when I can (i.e. when I feel like it, heh). 

See you around the paleosphere and beyond.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

ZC: Day 20 - Neptune's Revenge

I knew I was going to have seafood today, so last night I had a strange dream about eating live squid babies while vegans descended on my son. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my squid baby breakfast upon awakening. Moving on...

I am not sure how much time I used to spend on meal planning, but I am certain it wasn't a trivial amount. I found new recipes, looked up old favorites, tried to round out the meals with enough vegetation, baked treats (primal or otherwise), strove not to be boring or repetitive, and so on. Meal planning is only one way in which our daily schedules can become littered with thoughts of food. And, of course, it didn't help matters when I'd become sick or lethargic from a simple meal. That was a big time drain, too.

So far, zero carb meals have required little or no planning ahead. It's also less time consuming to cook these meals and (in my kitchen, at least) there is less mess. We know what we can eat and we choose from those limited items. I'm also making some foods in batches, which helps cut down on mess and cooking time even further.

Not having to tend to the kitchen or worry about "balanced" meals, we have more time for fun. I think we've been to the park more times in the past week than we had for the previous month. Part of my mind is still preoccupied to an unhealthy extent with food (or, rather, poisons and non-foods), but it's pleasant to find myself with all sorts of time for various activities for once.

On to today's report.


I had a pretty big appetite today. I got hungry twice, about eight hours apart. I ate beef, pork sausage (no fillers), squid, mussels, shrimp, cheese, butter, egg, mayo, and cream. Total: 3200 calories.

I'm beginning to feel a little nervous about eating according to appetite when my appetite is so large. Funnily, I usually see my biggest losses on the scale the morning after huge meals like this, so I know I've got nothing to fear. It's just that old, dieter mentality. I've seen the numbers fall now and it's sort of addicting. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm in this for my health and my weight will stabilize where it's supposed to be.

The brand of store-bought mayo I used has no carbs but it is made from bad oil and I know it would be best to give it up entirely. I've read about people making butter mayo, which is essentially hollandaise with no lemon. I don't know how long this stage will last, but I am still wanting variety and flavor. I'm willing to drop my seasonings, dairy, and such when it becomes evident that I must do so in order to progress. That moment hasn't arrived for me yet.

Other Stuff

I'm feeling more alert during the day now, even more than I was when the brain fog first lifted. Insomnia is still a problem. I am thinking if I time my evening meal just right, the work of digesting might make me fall asleep earlier. But it might also cause heartburn or bloating, I'm afraid. We'll see.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

ZC: Day 19

Just a quick report, for the sake of keeping up.


Pretty hungry today. I ate beef, chicken, eggs, cheese, and cream. Total: 2700 calories, 75-80% fat. I've read that heavy cream can be the downfall of some ZCers, but I haven't found that it causes cravings so far. Honestly, I don't particularly like it, nor do I find it sweet. It's an easy way to get some extra fat though.

Other Stuff

Nothing interesting or different.

Off to spend some time with the Caveman!

Friday, August 28, 2009

ZC: Day 18 - Trading Old Habits for New

One thing I miss about carbs is eating recreationally with the Caveman. We used to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns after the baby fell asleep and we'd nibble on whatever was around the house, sometimes adding a beer or a glass of wine. Now I am blogging in the living room at night and he is programming, playing Fallout, or falling asleep early.

It's not that we won't find other things to do together. I'm sure we will. And, certainly, food and drink is not required in order to bond with someone or share a relaxing evening. 

It's just a pattern that has to be unraveled and woven again--this time more perfectly.

Oh, it's not that easy though. I shouldn't give the impression that it's so simple. We're both foodies. There's a lot of mourning to be done when you are trading in all your favorite flavorful, creative dishes for meat. (And meat and meat and meat.) We're also junkies. The candy is gone now, too. For me, everything sweet is gone. Getting clean hurts.

It's physically uncomfortable, of course. But more than that, it is disconcerting to restructure one's life in a way that removes an element so familiar and so pervasive. It makes me notice how, in the modern world, half our activities revolve around food: "let's meet for coffee", "bring the kids over and we'll bake cookies", "I made this for your birthday", "if your last name begins with letter A-M then bring a dessert to the potluck..." Furthermore, now there can be no retreating to a plate of something yummy as a reward after a rough day. 

I'm lucky to be in this with the person I love most.


I didn't get very hungry today and ended up eating only 1200 calories (edit: make that 1500--I forgot about cheese). I ate mostly chicken with a little cream and tried to wipe up as much of the fat and oil at the bottom of the pan as I could. I am hungry now, of course, but I am going to wait until morning to eat more because I don't like how my body feels when I eat late.

My fat intake was way too low today. We need to work through the chicken breasts that we already had in the freezer, but they are not fatty enough. That's really too bad, because I can't get enough of the taste of chicken fat. I wonder if someday I will find a butcher who will give me some scraps. I'd love to make schmaltz (without the traditional onions, that is).


I'll stop reporting on POTS stuff until something changes. I am still having the SOB, orthostatic tachycardia, and gray outs. Sometimes I can't stand for more than a couple minutes before I need to sit again (especially if I must hold or carry something), but it comes and goes.

I got a great nap today and am hoping that "sleep breeds sleep" for adults as well as babies.

Energy level was great, aside from times I was extra sleepy or having strong POTS issues. I even went for a run today. That was for the sake of enjoyment, not exercise. My runs are sort of weak and gimpy, given the shortness of breath, but it is a very meditative time for me. 

I'd say I'm pretty much over induction/withdrawal. At this point all of the complaints I have are longstanding issues. Will ZC heal any of this? I don't know. The fact that it has taken away my brain fog has improved my quality of life to a great degree. As I think I've said before, the physical discomforts of POTS are so much more bearable when I can remain calm and be myself, rather than walking around in a confused haze half the time. That's a lot to celebrate!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

ZC: Day 17 - Zero Carbage at McDonald's

I think we're finally getting over the hump.


I didn't get hungry until about 2 pm. Since I was out of the house at the time, I stopped at McDonald's for a McDouble with no ketchup or bun (and gave the pickles and onions to the Caveboy). The boy actually had his own bunless burger as well. To my surprise, he did not complain but only talked about how delicious it was. (Well, he did ask repeatedly for a Diet Coke. Gah. I can't believe I ever willingly gave him that stuff.)

Aside from a tiny taste of an egg dish, I think all I ate today was ground beef, tallow, cheese, mustard, and cream. Calories totalled 2300, about 75% from fat.

Signs of hunger seem regulated again. I am back to using the steak test rather than feeling my stomach growl. The nausea has been much better today.

Other Stuff

Still lots of shortness of breath, especially on exertion. My mom suggested this may be exacerbated by the insomnia. I have no clue how I'm going to fix that, but with a little more time maybe it will fix itself. I had a couple instances of vision loss and I can tell I'm still tachycardic on standing but it is not uncomfortable anymore.

Otherwise I felt very good today. My head was clear and my energy level was high.

I'm just so sleepy. Maybe tonight will be the night I can turn in early and catch up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ZC: Day 16 - Beware the Food Additives

The chicken wings I ate yesterday contained modified food starch--probably a light dusting to prevent the meat from dripping when defrosted, according to wikipedia. I knew about this before I ate them, but I wrote it off, thinking the amount would be too tiny to have any impact on how I feel.

As it turns out, even this small amount of starch may have been enough to mess with my feelings of hunger and satiety. This morning I felt those old, gnawing, grumbly hunger pangs. I didn't have any POTS symptoms, but I was pretty sluggish. 

I also felt inexplicably depressed. I'm not sure if this is due to the food starch. I've been bolstering my mood with sweets and other carby things for most of my life. Now that I've cut it out, I am sure my brain chemistry has some catching up to do. Running around the park with Caveboy helped.

I don't think I can afford to be wasting food, so we finished off the wings for lunch today. I will be careful not to make this mistake again though. Fresh meat tastes better anyhow.


Well, I can't feel true hunger today. All I really feel is the urge to stuff all kinds of carbs down my throat. I'm glad for the accountability that blogging gives me because today it was a real challenge not to give up.

I didn't eat past lunch because I am afraid I will overeat. Trying to eat to hunger after getting carbed is like trying to sail on a cloudy night without a compass. Besides the chicken today, I had some cheese, mayo, and a tiny bit of cream. I am over my queasiness and I want beef tomorow. Today's total: about 1700 calories. 


I haven't had heartburn for a couple days now, so I think that part of induction might be over. Here's hoping the insomnia is next to go!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ZC: Day 15 - Weighing In, Feeling Great

It turns out I lost an astonishing seven pounds this week. That makes a total of 11.8 pounds (5.4 kg) in the space of 14 days. I have never heard of such a quick drop in weight in someone who is not overweight or obese. (Not by silly, modern standards, anyhow. I bet I'd make a chubby cavewoman.) I'm living evidence of the "carbohydrates drive insulin drives fat accumulation" hypothesis. Without carbs, it's as if my body is saying, "Whoa! We're fat! Let's jettison this extra junk. Now!"

I suppose nausea prodded the weight loss along a bit, too, but I never did lose my lunch, so whatever calories I ate stayed with me.

My average daily caloric intake for this week: 1900

Last week: 2350

Since starting ZC: 2125

I'm bracing myself for the weight loss to slow down dramatically, but that's what I said last week and it didn't happen. Maybe I just shouldn't try to predict it.

On to today's report.


Super hungry today. I ate about 3/4 of a roast chicken all by myself again. Later on I had some chicken wings and tasted a dish that the Caveman made (beef and cheese). I'm still a little queasy at the thought of very greasy foods or fatty beef. Cheese and eggs also look gross. Fat has only been 50-60 percent of my diet for the past few days, whereas it was around 70-80 percent at first. I'm not doing this on purpose--just following what my stomach says. Total consumed: around 2450 calories

Cravings are strong but not compelling. Visions of sugarplums may be dancing through my head, but I am kicking them in the pants. No sweet thing is worth the price I'd have to pay for indulging. Not going to feed the bottomless pit.

All That Other Stuff

I felt awesome this morning! The Caveman commented that I looked like I felt better than I've felt for over a year. He was right. I can't even recall when I last felt this kind of vitality. 

I ended up overdoing it, of course. I got ambitious and took the kids out on several errands in a row, ran like crazy with them, etc. When I arrived home I was having a hard time breathing properly. By 4 pm I would have gone to bed if I could have. 

After I ate, I felt even more sleepy and fatigued, as well as a bit dull. Following my hunger cues, I want large meals and long periods between meals, but it seems like this is hard on my body in some way. I'm going to watch this trend and see what happens over the next week before I decide what to do about it.

But, again, I am incredibly encouraged by how I felt earlier today.