Sunday, June 18, 2017

Type 2 Diabetes, a Dietary Disease #385: My 2nd (and Last) 30-lb Challenge: Half-time Report

This is my 2nd 30-lb Challenge since I started to experiment with full-day fasting after the Super Bowl. This one did not start off well. In the first four weeks, where my goal was to lose 7 pounds, I lost only 1. This period was plagued by a succession of missteps and generally reflected a lack of focus. I just got off to a bad start and never got my head straight. I knew I could do better. So, to jumpstart the 2nd Quarter, I did a 3-day fast. 
Week 5: It was a rough start. We had company Monday night, and I made a delicious dinner…and besides a big drink and 2nds of my roast pork, I had dessert: Gained 2 pounds. FBG Tuesday: 108. That was followed by a 3-consecutive day fast in which I lost 8 pounds. I worked 4 to 6 hours in the garden in scorching heat on all 3 days, drank pickle brine and ice tea to keep hydrated, and felt great. In fact, I mentioned to my wife on the 3rd day that I felt really pumped! Ate 2 meals Friday and gained 2 pounds back (probably water), but all my FBGs this week besides Tuesday were 70s and 80s. My 7-day average was 85mg/dl (4.7mmol/L), and I lost 4 pounds.
Week 6: I started the week still 4 pounds behind plan, and because we have theatre in NYC on Tuesday, I’ll fast (300 kcal/day) just Wednesday-Thursday this week, from Tuesday supper to Friday lunch. That’s a good thing about full-day fasting. You can mix and match, including alternate day or consecutive day. That didn’t occur to me before I started in February, but I discovered it makes no difference when you’re keto-adapted. Result: FBG average 82mg/dl – mostly 70s and 80s with 1 low 90s from a cheat at a pre-theatre restaurant. But, I gained 3 pounds for the week – 4 in the last 2 days. Either my body is resisting its weight loss, or I’m eating too many calories on my “feasting” days. Honestly, I think it’s mostly the latter. So, I resolve to try to eat less.
Week 7: Now, starting the week 9 pounds behind plan and with theatre in NYC 2 times this week, I need to tweak my fasting plan again. Fundamentally, I am never hungry, so when I eat – either too much at supper or to snack before supper – it’s not from hunger. I need to recognize that and act accordingly. That’s my plan. Well…as they say about war, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” On Tuesday I had a 3-course dinner before the theatre. The cheese course, for desert, had more calories and carbs (in accompaniments) than the appetizer and entrĂ©e together. By next morning both my FBG and weight had risen. Thursday’s pre-theatre supper wasn’t much better. But, because I fasted M-W-F this week, I lost 4 pounds and my weight was down to 211. So, I gained 2 on my 9 pound deficit but, 7 weeks in, I am still 7 lbs behind plan. FBG aver. = 91.
Week 8: Halftime is looming and I need a 2nd consecutive week of losses to be in the best position to catch up in the 2nd half and achieve my 2nd 30-pound challenge and reach my teenage weight of 187 pounds. There are few confounding factors this week. I know I can do it. This week I plan to fast M-T-W. Net result: DISASTER! I lost 5 pounds in the 3-consecutive day fast (and accomplished lots in the garden); then, naively ate pasta and 1/3 of my wife’s desert in a restaurant on Thursday, and snacked without discipline at receptions after an art gallery opening and a harpsichord concert on Saturday. Outcome: a shameful and embarrassing gain of 8 pounds in 3 days. FBG aver. = 99. It’s a head shaking setback, but it is what it is. And fasting isn’t the problem.
Conclusion: Halfway into my 2nd 16-week, 30 pound challenge (34 actually, since I started it after a 4-pound gain), I am only 2 pounds (6 actually) down, 13 behind plan. This looks insurmountable BUT, the last 8 is water. So, if I think of it that way, I have only a 5 pound deficit to overcome in the next (final) 8 weeks. That’s doable.
Discussion: Currently, I think I prefer a 3-day, weekday (Mon-Tue-Wed or Tue-Wed-Thu), 300kcal/day, fast. I think my wife does too. She is spared the trouble of cooking for me, and she can prepare foods that she prefers to eat. One night last week she had a micro-waved baked half of a potato, stuffed with butter, sour cream and shredded cheese. In any case she has accepted my full-day fasting. Perhaps it is because, for all my misadventures, she knows that I am losing weight and my blood sugar regulation and other health markers have improved greatly. Or maybe she just misses baked, stuffed potatoes. Anyway, the challenge continues.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Type 2 Diabetes, a Dietary Disease #384: The Problem with N = 1 (Spoiler: I’m keto-adapted)

Everyone agrees that achieving weight loss is a multi-factorial endeavor. Among the obstacles are cultural issues (e.g., certain staple foods); longstanding habits (e.g., eating 3 meals a day); food preference (e.g., sweet and/or starchy foods and processed foods made to “taste good”); and budget (low-nutrition carbs cost less than high-nutrient foods like protein and fat). But the biggest obstacle to weight loss is a broken metabolism. People who eat the Standard American or Western diet, described below, do it because they are hungry.
Hunger is the primary driver when you eat mostly carbs. But eating mostly carbs is an acquired habit. It’s been abetted by a decades-long campaign of government advocacy, suborned by the influence of Big Agriculture,  advertising and media hype. Should you “eat a big, healthy breakfast to start your day” even if you’re not hungry? Should you eat another meal 4 or 5 hours later, during the “lunch hour,” if you’re still not hungry? The problem is, if you do eat mostly carbs, as above, you will be hungry. In fact, you might even have to sneak in a mid-morning snack because you’re feeling a lack of energy. And the sad truth is: you will be lacking energy!
Why, because you’re eating mostly carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, especially simple sugars, and all fruits, and especially heavily processed carbs in packaged foods like cereals, begin to digest as soon as they are in contact with your mouth. Your blood sugar level peaks within an hour or two and then it crashes. And if you’re just a little insulin resistant, because you’ve been eating VERY high carb for decades, your blood insulin level will be high; thus your body cannot access its own fat for energy and your metabolism slows… until you eat again.
When I advocate to others that they try my Way of Eating (WOE), they frequently say, “I can’t give up (this or that).” I used to reply, “You don’t mean ‘can’t’; you mean ‘won’t’ or ‘aren’t willing to’.” After all, I thought, if they are health-motivated individuals, they would be willing to make the Lifestyle Changes necessary to achieve intentional weight loss. But I don’t think that any more. My thinking has evolved, to wit:
When you say you “can’t,” what you are recognizing (unconsciously) is that your metabolism is driving you to eat because it (your body) has to maintain energy balance to function. If it is denied access to the food (fat reserves) it put away, then it must slow down (reduce your metabolic rate) and TELL YOU TO EAT AGAIN. The question, then, is, how can you break this cycle? Answer: you must change what you eat. Eat in a way that avoids the vicious cycle. Eat in a way that gives your body access to its own fat storesto avoid hunger!
How do I do that? I eat Very Low Carb. Fifteen years ago I started “cold turkey” on strict “Atkins Induction” (20 grams of carbohydrates a day). I lost 60 pounds. Later I switched to Bernstein’s 6-12-12 program (30 grams of carbohydrates a day). I lost another 115. Today, I’m still down 165 pounds. Currently I’m doing full-day fasts to lose another 20+ pounds. I can do this because when I eat Very Low Carb I am KETO-ADAPTED. What’s that?
Keto-adapted means that when you eat very few carbs, both your blood glucose and your blood insulin levels will be low. Insulin is the hormone that the pancreas secretes to transport blood glucose (from carbs) to the cells. So when you eat a lot of carbs, your blood insulin level rises. If you have a touch of Insulin Resistance, you are “pre-diabetic” which means you have a slightly elevated blood sugar and your insulin level stays high.
Insulin is also a signaling hormone. When its level in the blood is low, this tells the brain to break down body fat to maintain energy balance. So, my metabolism continues to runs full tilt. I do not need to snack. I am not hungry because my body has access to another source of “food,” the body fat it put there for the purpose.
But I’m only N = 1. You’ll have to do this to replicate it. Try it for yourself and see how your body works. Human physiology is pretty awesome. It’s been working that way for millennia, til we changed what we ate.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Type 2 Diabetes, a Dietary Disease #383: Fasting on 300kcal a day while keto-adapted

I have been eating Very Low Carb (VLC) for about 15 years. I lost 170 pounds, but inevitably gained some of it back. Losing it the 2nd time proved to be harder, so I decided to try Intermittent Fasting (IF).
I gave up my breakfast of eggs (I wasn’t hungry anyway) but kept a cup of coffee with heavy cream and stevia powder to take with my pills. I sometimes ate a light lunch (all protein and MY good fats) and then a supper of animal protein and one low-carb vegetable, with more fat (olive oil or butter). I did it for about a year, and it was easy. But, I didn’t lose weight! It was satisfying, but still too much food. I needed to try something else.
Then last fall Megan Ramos, director of Jason Fung’s Toronto IDM Program, suggested full-day fasts, i.e. the “other” kind of fasting. I told Megan that during a 2-month period during the winter I would do it, and I did. In 10 weeks I lost 30 pounds. With that success under my belt – why mess with success, right? – I decided to do it again, this time breaking new ground with the goal of reaching a weight I haven’t seen since my early teens.
How do I do it? What is the secret of my success? Full-day “fasting,” MY way. I put “fasting” in quotes because, on days when I fast, “my way” is not a strict water-only fast, although it is a basically a liquid-only fast. For Breakfast I drink a 12-oz coffee with 1½ oz of heavy cream and a smidgen (1g) of powdered stevia. If I feel dehydrated during the day, I will have just iced tea, sweetened with liquid stevia, and a pickle slice or just a little brine. Then, for Supper I drink 6-oz of red wine in a large glass filled with seltzer (with my evening pills ;-).
Macronutrients: Coffee w/cream: Fat: 16g (144kcal), Protein: 1.2g (5kcal), Carbs: 1.2g (5kcal); Total: 154kcal. Spritzer (6oz): Carbs: 4.5g (18kcal), Ethyl alcohol: 18g (126kcal); Total: 144kcal. Fasting day total: 298kcal.
This is a departure from the usual “water-only” fast in three respects: 1) it includes dairy, 2) it includes a sweetener (pure stevia, not artificial), and 3) it includes alcohol. Total carbohydrates: Less than 6 grams/day.
The secret for the success of this “fasting” regimen is that on “feasting” days, I eat VLC. I am not hungry because I am “keto-adapted.” Keto-adapted means that my body is almost continuously in “nutritional ketosis.” On “feasting” days my body lives on what I eat, which is high-fat, moderate protein and Very Low Carb. For energy it burns the carbs first, then the unused glucogenic proteins stored in the liver as amino acids, then the dietary fat. Then, if my body needs more energy to maintain homeostasis, it simply transitions to breaking down body fat. My body fat is accessible because of my low blood insulin. That’s being keto-adapted!
At first, even though I’d read Jason Fung’s book, “The Obesity Code,” and another he wrote with Jimmy Moore, I had trepidations about not eating from one day’s supper to “breakfast” (my coffee) two days later. So, I started off with the idea of alternate day fasting (Tuesday and Thursday) every week. But I was surprised how easy it was (being keto-adapted to begin with), since I was not hungry at any time, day or night. In fact, I was not hungry at “breakfast” on the day after. So, I decided to try 2-consecutive-day and then 3-consecutive-day fasting. Again, easy. Absolutely no hunger. Lots of energy. I was alert, pumped, actually. Almost hyper!
I take Metformin twice a day: 750mg ER (extended release). It never occurred to me to reduce my meds, but then after a full day of fasting my FBG dropped into the mid 60s (3.6-3.7mmol/L). Once my FBG dropped to 60mg/dl (3.3mmol/L), but I felt fine. On a 3-consecutive-day fast, my FBG would be in the mid 60s all three days. I mentioned this to my doctor, and with a brush of his hand, he said, “Don’t worry about it. You can never get hypoglycemic on Metformin.” And I never did. The liver makes glucose, via gluconeogenesis, from both dietary protein (amino acids) and body fat (the glycerol molecule when a triglyceride breaks down). And when the lab report came back, my A1c had dropped a full half of a percentage point from 5.8% to 5.3%.