This is my personal blog, on which I talk about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy. Some topics are serious, others whimsical. I love comments and questions so don't be shy, just courteous, even if you don't agree with me. I have another blog, The Story Template, on which I post writing-related topics on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let's see, a bit about me... I'm married with two children, and spend much time taking care of our family. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research. I am a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. I also have written a nonfiction book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book is a programmed learner-type book that helps you, the writer, develop a complete compelling story (novel or screenplay) from a vague idea.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Low Carb Eating -- An Update

You may remember I wrote about America's growing obesity incidence back in October. Different populations and different ages of people may contribute to the fattening trend, but I wonder if changes in diet and food availability may also contribute.

The USDA's food pyramid for guidance to healthy eating recommends breads, cereals, rice, and pasta to be the main dietary component (6-11 servings per day) but meats and eggs -- proteins -- to only comprise 2-3 servings per day, and fats to be in the same category as sweets, which are to be eaten "sparingly."

Americans have taken this advice to heart. Look around, at vending machines, in restaurants, at supermarkets. Carbohydrate products are everywhere. It's relatively easy to eat "low fat," but "low carb" is tougher.

But is eating low fat and high carb really the healthiest advice? I've been doing some reading on nutrition, and am beginning to wonder if obesity is not a symptom of eating too much, but simply a symptom of a maladaptive insulin response in the body. Let me explain. Insulin is a peptide hormone produced by the pancreas (an organ lying beneath the stomach), and is released in response to rises in blood sugar. The blood sugar rises when carbohydrates are digested and the food elements are released into the bloodstream. Since high blood sugar causes alkylating reactions to tissues that damage them over time, the body needs to lower the blood sugar to stay healthy. Insulin causes cells to take in sugars from the blood, and also causes glycogen (an endogenous sugar source) to be stored in the liver. In some people, especially with a genetic component and as people age, the insulin may cause a too-vigorous response by fat cells so that they remove ALL the blood sugar. This too-vigorous response causes the fat cells to get fatter, and at the same time removes the energy source from the blood so that the body feels it is STARVING. The person will crave more food, and usually carbohydrates, since carbs cause the fastest rise in blood sugar to supply energy. The insulin is released again, and this sets up a vicious cycle.

I don't know; I'm not a nutritionist, simply someone who enjoys reading the literature. But this explanation seems reasonable.

I've been eating low-carb since the beginning of October, with a 3 week glitch around the end of November. Since that time I've lost 15 pounds without exercise, and don't feel hungry. There are no down effects as far as I can tell from how I feel; in fact, I feel more energetic and just... better.

The toughest part about sticking with low-carb is finding things to eat. I like eggs but not often. I'm not a fan of red meat or of seafood (except salmon), although I can eat it if I have to. I find ham and cheese to be too salty to eat much. So, what's a low-carb person to do?

My solution has been to figure out alternatives to the pure meat-and-eggs choices. I found a few low-carb cookbooks and make low carb taste-alike products such as protein bars and cookies. These taste good, I can grab them off the shelf or from the freezer, and they are satisfying for quick meals like breakfast or lunch. I will eat a spoonful of peanut butter or some cottage cheese if I'm hungry. I love vegetables and have platefuls of red pepper and cucumber to crunch on. I make lots of shredded chicken, and occasionally wrap it with mayonnaise and lettuce in a low-carb tortilla for lunch. Very satisfying. I'll mix up tuna salad or egg salad with celery and slivered almonds to eat for dinner. Occasionally I'll make a slushie with crushed ice and vanilla-flavored whey powder. Sometimes I'll eat almonds mixed with sugar-free chocolate chips for breakfast or a snack.

Now that I've worked out these solutions, and freeze or otherwise prepare foods that I can eat quickly, that taste good, I'm doing much better. I'm not tempted to eat carbs; in fact, the idea is even vaguely repellent. Maybe my body is remembering the swinging blood sugar after breads? I don't know, but I have no problems with desiring cakes and sugar.

So, my verdict? Low-carb seems to be a good lifestyle for me. I'm a convert.

I'll be posting a few low-carb recipes for surprising foods next week.


  1. Nice article. I am a convert as well. I am eating way more fruits and veggies now, and it definitely keeps me full. I also have found some very tasteful protein powder which I use as a meal replacement. I can mix all kinds of fruit in it and sugar free flavored syrups. I will actually mix the protein powder with brewed coffee and sf flavoring for a nice latte. Keep up the good work.

  2. Barry, your weight loss odyssey is so encouraging! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I think you are on to something. I had to give up gluten and oddly started gaining weight! Why? Because the pastas and bread are made from rice and corn. Lots of carbs. Now I seldom have gluten free bread or pasta.

  4. Diana, the gluten-free diets are similar to low-carb but, as you say, you can include lots of other carb-type foods in there. I make my quick-bread-type foods now with ground almonds and flaxseed. They're more crumbly and have a heavier texture, but are perfectly acceptable even for picky eaters like my kids.

    Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist, in his book Wheat Belly states that the wheat glutens we eat now are not the same as even 50 years ago. This is due to gene recombination to produce fast-growing wheat. He says the glutens allow among other things easier availability of glucose from the amylopectins that promote higher sugar levels (higher glycemic index), plus greater allergenic potential, that has put our population at risk. I don't know if what he says is true, but it's plausible.

    Good luck!