Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Last week's no-wheat experiment went pretty well. It wasn't too hard not to eat wheat (I ended up eating a fair bit of corn tortillas and tortilla chips) and it seemed to cut my hunger a bit. I lost a pound a day for about 4 days in a row and then gained one or two back after that, so that was kind of exciting.

This week I've been reading The Primal Blueprint, and I'm experimenting with completely not eating grains or legumes and keeping my carbohydrate amount between 50 and 100 grams a day, which is the level at which the author of that book claims effortless weight loss will occur.

I'm still eating dark chocolate, having coffee if I want to, and I'm not avoiding things like soybean oil, largely because it's much easier for me to have salad at the school cafeteria if I can have ranch dressing rather than the nutritionally superior olive oil and vinegar type of thing. So I'm still basically eating sugar (which is a grain) and some legumes. Other than that, I haven't (to my knowledge) had anything - no wheat, no rice, no oats, no beans, etc.

It's a sort of radical thing to do, obviously. But it wasn't a huge transition since I'd already been eating no wheat and keeping my carbs low for a week. I haven't noticed any untoward effects this week, while last week I did have some serious crankiness and headaches.

What I have noticed is that I have absolutely no perceptible blood sugar changes. I sort of still get hungry - at least, there is a kind of feeling that grows over time that tells me I should eat something. It's kind of a gaunt or empty feeling. But it no longer seems to carry with it much urgency. (For instance, I had no breakfast today, a small lunch at 10:15, and I was fine not having dinner until 6:30.) And I never have blood sugar crashes, which I frequently did before. That's kind of a big deal.

My weight has been dropping pretty seriously - like about 2.5 pounds since Monday. I'm not recording these new weights yet, since they may settle back down. I'm still tracking everything I eat, and I'm pretty easily creating calorie deficits of 700-900 calories a day basically without trying. (I'm not really trying to limit my food intake.) So that's kind of amazing.

It could be that some of the "this is so easy!" aspects of doing this are basically just me being excited about doing something new. I could get really tired of this and find it just as hard as anything else. It's certainly extreme to not be able to eat virtually anything that normal people eat (sandwiches, pizza, tacos, muffins, fried rice,...). But I'm finding I can eat something at most places I ever go, and that's working for me just fine for now.

If this does prove to be a way to maintain a much lower weight without the extreme effort of resisting eating all the time, I think I would have to choose many extra years of healthy life over the ability to eat these common and delicious foods. So basically if this keeps up, I'd like to keep doing it. We'll see, of course, whether I feel that way in a week or a month or whatever.

It's probable that the weight loss comes more from the effects of low-carb than from avoiding grains and legumes per se. When you don't eat carbs you don't set up part of the insulin cycle that makes you hungry again a few hours later, which is a particular issue for people who are blood-sugar-challenged, like me.

But the advantage of eschewing grains and legumes while doing low-carb is that you don't end up prioritizing a muffin over the day's vegetables. I'm eating tons of vegetables most days, and some fruit as well, plus dark chocolate, plain yogurt, nuts, and other carb-bearing foods. If I were just trying to keep carbs down I think I'd trade some of that for, say, white rice, and that would be less healthy, in general.

Anyway, I'm kind of excited, and I hope this keeps up.


Sally said...

It sounds to me like this is a kind of pure version of one of the later stages of the Atkins diet (a version that does not let you eat grains through "net carb" calculations and does not let you put your X g of carbs per day toward a doughnut while skipping veg). It's pretty easy to lose weight on this kind of diet, I think, but the ability to sustain the diet that is so radically different from the typical diet and what one is used to is an issue. But it's not like you cook so much that you have a habitual cooking style, and I think meat, veg, no starch works well in a cafeteria buffet environment.

Tam said...

I have the huge advantage that whenever I eat with other people, it's at a restaurant or a cafeteria. I share a home-cooked meal with another person approximately 4 times a year. Since most restaurants are all right for this style of eating, it works out OK.