So This Is What Happened To Me...

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago for CarbSmart. Thought I should publish it here, too, plus an update, to let you know how this is going:

Well, isn't this interesting.

Background: I have been asked to tape a pilot for a possible low carb cooking show. I am very excited about the whole thing, but like anyone else faced with the prospect of going on television, I'd like to knock off a few pounds between now and then - "then" being early November.(Since writing this, that date has been changed to early December -- the 9th, to be exact. After all, I've never claimed to be a skinny girl, only to be a skinnier girl. For the past year or two, I've been wearing size 10 jeans, which at 5'2" makes me normal-to-mildly-plump.

I had, in the past, tried the much-written-about HCG protocol. I had been willing to try it because it was clear that Dr. Simeons, who developed it, had a deep distrust of carbohydrates. I figured that made him my kind of guy. Indeed, his basic instructions for maintenance are "No starch or sugar for the first several weeks, and be cautious with them for the rest of your life." The Simeons protocol is radical - inject low doses of HCG (human chorionic gonadatropin) once a day, and eat a low everything diet - just 500 calories a day. (I, characteristically, left out the allowed bread stick or Melba toast.)

The Simeons protocol had worked as advertised for me, though it was not a rollicking good time. Still, since then I'd talked to two doctors who did, indeed, feel that HCG was a safe and useful adjunct to weight loss whether you used Dr. Simeons protocol or not. One of those doctors was the fellow who diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome and attention deficit disorder. Quite a lot of his practice revolves around weight loss, and the effects of diet on straightening out hormones, and the effects of hormones on weight. He knows whereof he speaks.

So I thought I'd try the Simeons protocol again. But something unexpected happened. Since my last go at the Simeons protocol, because of my PCOS diagnosis, I'd started taking my fasting blood glucose every morning. I was on a couple of medications for blood sugar, metformin and Victoza.

I discovered that the Simeons protocol made my blood sugar go seriously wonky - up as high as 126 one morning. I started taking my blood sugar after meals, and discovered quite quickly that a supper of chicken breast and cabbage (a very tasty salad) left me with sugar of 147 two hours after dinner. Clearly this was not working out for me. I quit after just two days of the 500 calorie per day phase of the protocol.

(I will insert parenthetically that I know folks for whom the Simeons protocol improved their blood sugar, sometimes substantially. I am not one of them.)

But I had the HCG in the house, and the assurance of two doctors I respect that low-dose HCG is safe, and helpful for weight loss in general. I decided to keep using the HCG and try the Atkins Fat Fast. I'd read about it for years, of course, but never gotten around to trying it. Based on the work of Kekwick and Pawan in the 1950s, and Dr. Frederick Benoit in the 1960s, demonstrating substantially greater weight loss with the same calorie count when most of those calories come from fat, the basic jist of the Fat Fast is quite simple: 1000 calories per day, 90% of them from fat. It's recommended that you have 5 small "feedings" a day, each of about 200 calories.

This is harder than it sounds. No, not because I'm ravenous all the time, I've actually been remarkably comfortable on what is, admittedly, still not a lot of food. I don't have any ketostix on hand, but I suspect I am in quite a deep ketosis, which should suppress appetite. My energy level has been fine, too. No, what's hard is actually getting 90% of my calories from fat. I haven't gotten there yet; generally I've hit the 80-85% mark.

What do I eat for those 1000 calories? For breakfasts I've splurged and had three slices of bacon, with two eggs scrambled in all the grease. I'm Breakfast Girl, so having my biggest "feed" first thing worked well.

After that, I've eaten stuff like:

* 1/2 ounce of pork rinds with 2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese, and a few sweetened jalapeno slices.
* Tofu shirataki noodles turned into Fettuccine Alfredo by melting in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon onion-and-chive whipped cream cheese, plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
* One ounce macadamia nuts - this is 1/4 cup. Yes, I measured.
* One ounce pecan halves, fried in butter.
* Traditional shirataki made into sesame noodles with a sauce of 1 tablespoon each either almond butter or peanut butter, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 tablespoon chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, a touch of garlic, and Sriracha sauce to taste.
* "Chocolates" made of coconut oil and cocoa powder, plus a little liquid Splenda, and shredded coconut meat.

Servings are very small - for instance, just one of those little chocolates, made in a mini-muffin pan, would be it for a few hours. My breakfast holds me for at least 5 hours, and after that, I have just enough of one of these fatty foods to make me not-hungry, but certainly not enough to feel full - just keeping hunger at bay. It's just enough food for that, I find.

Dr. Atkins said not to do the Fat Fast for more than 3-5 days. I stuck with it for six. In the past couple of days I have liberalized, aiming for 1300-1500 calories per day, but staying with the super-high fat percentage.

The results? As I write this, I have lost six pounds in just over a week, and it looks like more, I think. (This may be a result of the HCG. It seems to help the body lose fat where it most needs to lose it.) That makes me very happy.

What makes me even more happy is what this super-high-fat diet has done to my blood sugar: It is normal. Normal, normal, normal. I have stopped taking my metformin and Victoza, and my morning blood glucose is consistently in the 80-95 range. This thrills me to the core.

I don't know whether the very high fat percentage is responsible for this, or if it's the caloric restriction, or both. My best guess is that it's the fact that I'm eating considerably less protein than I formerly have - apparently my body is really good at converting protein into sugar. (It should also be noted that I am not drinking alcohol these days, again, in the interests of looking as good as possible for the television taping. I do not know what effect this has.)

I think I have found my new "normal" low carb diet - super high fat, super low carb, moderate protein. I also think I will do perhaps three days of the Fat Fast at least a couple of times a month; clearly my body approves. I've been toying with the idea of doing the Fat Fast Monday through Wednesday, then liberalizing from Thursday through Sunday. This sounds very liveable to me.

We frequently hear low carbohydrate diets referred to as "high protein diets." I have known for a long time that this was not so, and try to remind people that properly done a low carb diet is a moderate protein/high fat diet. Still, many people panic at the idea of eating "all that fat", and still have a sneaking suspicion that they should choose mostly lean meat and vegetables.

Clearly, for my body at least, this is not so. Not that I've been choosing all lean meats; I'm a rib eye and pork shoulder steak kind of girl. But from here on out, I'm likely to eat 6 ounces of good fatty meat, not 12 - and to melt some butter or coconut oil over them. I will be aiming for my minimum protein requirement for the day (about 70 grams), rather than eating the 125 or so grams of protein that has been my usual intake. And I will be searching for new and creative things to do with super-fatty foods.

My blood sugar is normal! Without medication! HOORAY!


Since I wrote this, I have changed my approach a bit: I am Fat Fasting every other day, while on the days in between I am eating ad lib, as much as I like, but still focusing on staying quite low carb and getting enough fat. I have not been losing more weight, though I have been maintaining with ease. However, my blood sugar is still stone normal. Was 92 when I got up this morning. It appears that so long as I eat this way, I don't have any blood sugar trouble at all.

This both thrills and annoys me. The "thrills" part is obvious. The "annoys" part is because I did not realize when I started this experiment that I was signing on for a lifetime of limiting myself to 1000 calories, mostly of fat, every other day. If you hadn't figured it out from the career of writing cookbooks, I like food. I like cooking, I like trying new stuff, I like eating interesting and varied meals. I'm not crazy about being borderline hungry all day every other day. I also miss being able to have a little wine on those evenings. And I have yet to figure out how to work in my gelatin on Fat Fast days, since it would increase my protein, something I don't want to do on those days.

However, I am very, very happy to be running normal blood sugars. Every time I got up in the morning and my blood glucose was over 100, I would think in dismay, "I'm rotting!" Elevated blood sugar, even modestly elevated blood sugar, speeds aging, causing irreversible damage. It is, officially, A Very Bad Thing.

So I will persist, because as irritating as it is, it works, at least for me. I may well do another 5-6 day stretch of the Fat Fast before I shoot the television pilot.

Being me, I have been coming up with new things to eat within the parameters of the diet -- can't resist the recipes. I've been planning to try Fat Fast Chocolate Truffles, made of cream cheese, baking chocolate, and liquid sucralose. Also think I'll try sour cream with a little liquid sucralose and vanilla, the way I would sweeten yogurt, with 1 or 2 strawberries cut up in it. I also have quit the bacon and eggs on most Fat Fast days -- turned out they were using up more of my 1000 calorie allotment than I thought. The exception is when I wind up doing my Slow Burn weight training on Fat Fast days -- my guru Fred Hahn insists that I have a good whack of protein after lifting.

Complicating matters is the fact that Fair Winds Press just sent me a contract for another cookbook, this one of paleo recipes. I'm generating ideas at full speed, but can only try them on myself every other day, which hamstrings me considerably. On my Fat Fast days, That Nice Boy I Married is the official recipe taster, but of course that means that I can't test recipes with ingredients he dislikes on those days.

Still, the bottom line, the most important factor in the equation, is that I have found a way of eating which -- at least for now -- has completely normalized my blood sugar. I don't know if it will do the same for you, but if you're eating low carb and are still medicated for blood sugar problems, it's worth a shot, I'd say.

Standard Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. This information is just that: Information. While I did this without doctor's supervision, I am a daredevil hotshot, and also took my blood sugar a lot in the process. Depending on your medication, it is possible that you could have a hypoglycemic episode by doing this, though I did not. Be cautious, especially as regards motor vehicles and heavy equipment, and any other circumstance that might make getting light-headed or woozy more dangerous than it otherwise might be. Consulting your doctor is a fine idea, unless your doctor is a total anti-low-carb dork, at which point I recommend you consult a different doctor. Permanently.