Monday, May 16, 2011

Lord of the Diet: The Fellowship of the Carb-free

Today I began my low-carb diet.

As I've expressed previously, I am skeptical of low-carb diets, or really any diet that isn't purely focused on limiting my caloric intake.  The research I've seen thus far isn't enough to convince me, but I'm continuing to read Good Calories, Bad Calories and I am investigating sources elsewhere to come to a conclusion for myself.  My current hypothesis from the limited data I've collected thus far is that low-carb diets are not inherently bad for you and that the thing which is causing the success in the diet is that carb-rich foods tend to be higher in calories. I'm not discounting the possibility that the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis is correct.  As I continue on this diet I'll continue my investigations and refine my thoughts on the matter, while also documenting my experiences as completely as I can.

To start everything off today, I went to my school's on-campus clinic and had blood drawn to check cholesterol (including LDL and HDL).  I go in a week from tuesday to find my results, which I will post.  At the beginning of next semester I plan to have my blood drawn and tested again and we will see what difference, if any, this diet had on me.  I tried to weigh myself, but the scale in our bathroom only goes to 300.  When I weighed myself on it it passed the 300 mark by 20, but I know from my last measurement a week ago (330) that there's no way I can weigh 320 lbs.  I tried utilizing the Wii Fit but the pad only goes to 330, and when I stepped on it confirmed that I was, in fact, over the 330 mark.  My current guess is roughly 330 lbs, but I plan on going to the gym tomorrow to get a better measurement.  I'll mark that weight as my "starting weight," as I suspect a day of being on the diet will not drastically impact my weight, and even if it does that impact should continue to be seen throughout this experience.

A little background about myself for those who don't know:  I have always been overweight.  My mother also has suffered weight problems, and was highly criticized by her mother about her weight.  She didn't want me to go through a similar childhood, so she was fairly lax about dieting.  She kept me active, however, and while I was overweight I was never morbidly so.  I never went on a diet, nor did I ever count calories growing up.  I also had exercise-induced asthma and allergies to just about everything outside, so physical activity was always something of a trial for me.

My adult life involved a lot of call-center work, which lends itself to a sedentary lifestyle.  Now that I'm in college I try to go out and be more active, but still have issues maintaining.  Up until this point, I still have never dieted.  Over six months ago, I cut out soda entirely from my diet.  Now I still drink soda once in a while, but it's usually diet cola and even then I limit it heavily.  I drink caffeine during the school year, but mostly avoid it save when I desperately need it.

Here are the plans for the diet (thank you to Isaac, my roommate, for helping me clarify my plans):

1. I will restrict completely all breads, potato chips, french fries, pastas, sweets, and other foods of that nature for the first two weeks.
2. I will not restrict my caloric intake or limit myself in terms of fat consumption, nor consumption of meat or dairy.
3. I will make certain I have one meal per day that includes lots of vegetables.
4. I will try to fix the majority of meals myself, though I will give myself a pass on sundays to eat out with friends.
5. I will slowly introduce moderate amounts of carbohydrates after the second week, though I will still keep the levels of carbohydrate consumption low.
6. I will track all of my meals, including caloric content, to verify that I am getting all of my necessary nutrients as well as to keep myself honest.

Here are the goals for the diet:

1. To investigate the efficacy of the diet as a weight-loss plan for myself.  The bottom line: do I lose weight?
2. To investigate the claims that this weight-loss plan does not increase cholesterol levels significantly.  Yes, I am aware that there are also arguments from data that say cholesterol levels do not lead to higher risk of heart disease.  As I investigate, I may find more information about this as well.
3. To investigate the sustainability of this diet.  Is this a diet I could live with for the rest of my life?  No diet is effective if you eventually go "off" of the diet, and a big part of any diet should be a lifestyle change and not a temporary change before going back to old, bad habits.  If this diet helps me lose weight but is too restrictive for me to sustain it comfortably, I will consider it a failure for myself (though not for everyone).

Note that actually losing weight is not a goal here.  If I do lose weight, fantastic, but I'm more interested in how well this diet works than the actual loss of weight.  I could stand to lose the weight and get in better shape, but I'm quite happy with myself and accepting of who I am.  I am not a failure in life if I never drop below 300 lbs again.

If anyone has further advice for how I should modify this diet, please let me know.  I'm not doing this alone: My roommate is going to be doing the diet with me and helping me make good choices while I adjust.  He is allowed a few concessions that I am not allowing myself, since he's done low carb diets before and doesn't want to go to the same extremes.

I'll post the starting data when I have it, and will also try to document mood and general feeling as I go along.


  1. I think the way you're going about this is really great. I'm always so impressed with your openmindedness. I guess my only advice would be to always remember that every food place in the country has a chicken salad of some kind, just in case you forget to pack lunch or something.

    Good luck with your experiment!

  2. Be careful. There is a reason that carb cutting works. Sending your kidneys into ketoacidosis just to lose weight is dangerous. You want to be healthy, not skinny. Losing weight is healthy, killing your internal organs to be skinny isn't.