Low Carb Nugget 70
Say what you want about strawberry jam, but it’s fat free. The way some people think, that makes it heart healthy. I used to be one of those people.
Low Carb Nugget 70
“Ruminations on a strawberry jam sandwich”
This is Episode 70 of the Low Carb Nugget for Saturday, October 21, 2017. I’m Jim Anderson.
Today marks a new start for the Low Carb Nugget podcast. Or a restart, or at least a significant change. The Nugget is changing from a three-day a week micro-form podcast to a one-day a week slightly longer form podcast. It will still be nugget-sized. But instead of aiming for four minutes an episode, I’ll be aiming for 12 minutes, perhaps 15 minutes. New episodes will be released on Saturday evenings. Of course, you can continue listening on whatever day at whatever time you like.
This seems like a good time to re-introduce myself, and talk more about my history as a low-carb dieter. Where have I been, where am I now, and where am going.
I’m a 65 year-old white male, of northern European extraction [yes, in the audio, I say “distraction”], with sedentary habits and reasonably good health, all things considered. Type-2 diabetes runs in my family, and so does coronary heart disease. Both of my parents experienced those health problems. My father died of heart disease at age 72, and was an insulin-injecting diabetic.
So, I’m a prime candidate for full-blown metabolic syndrome. That wasn’t why I started eating low-carb six and a half years ago, but it is a reason why I continue.
I first started eating low-carb in early 2011, and that’s when I started blogging about my experience at LifeAfterCarbs.com. At the time, I was a writing faculty member at a branch of the University of Michigan. I’ve been a writer and a writing teacher most of my adult life. It was the teaching that paid the bills.
It’s strange to think of it, but the topics that I have written and published the most about in my life are weight loss, dieting, and nutrition. All of that in the past six and a half years. By no means, am I an expert in those topics. I have no formal training nor credentials in medicine or nutrition. Mostly I just have personal experience and observation. And I read a lot.
I have a lot of other interests, but none that I have blogged about for over six years, off and on. And none that I have started a podcast about. And none that I have self-published a book about.
When I first started eating low-carb, I was 58 years old. I turned 59 just a few months later. So, I think my experience is especially relevant to those of you who are getting up there in years. Of course, my new diet might have worked just as well or even better if I had started it at a younger age. I can’t say for sure. I do know that for years I had struggle to follow the Standard American Diet (SAD), which was a very high carb, somewhat fat-phobic diet.
It’s incredible to reflect on how many grams of carbs, usually refined carbs, that I used to eat in a day, or even in a single meal.
Take breakfast. A couple days a week, through early 2011, I would eat a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich for breakfast, along with a tall glass of skimmed milk. Most other days I would eat a bowl of cereal and toast. Once a week I would eat eggs — usually accompanied by a donut or other carby treat. I also drank coffee with breakfast, occasionally with half and half, but usually with a non-dairy creamer.
Lets examine that sandwich breakfast. A slice of commercial wheat bread will set you back 75 calories and 13 net carbs (14 grams total carbs minus a gram of fiber.) So, the two slices of bread in my sandwich totaled 26 net carbs.
Right now, I aiming to eat 25 net carbs for an entire day. In the old days, I ate more than that in just part of breakfast.
OK, the bread was only the beginning. Lets factor in the peanut butter. It was regular, sugar-added peanut butter, not the natural type I eat now — just peanuts with salt. I probably put about two tablespoons of regular peanut butter into the sandwich. That much would contain 190 calories, and 6 grams of net carbs (8 total carbs minus 2 grams of fiber).
So, we’re up to 32 net carbs, and we haven’t got to the obvious source of carbs yet — the strawberry jam. This was not sugar-free strawberry jam, folks. It was often Smuckers brand. The real stuff. According to the Smuckers’ web site, one tablespoon of their regular strawberry jam contains 50 calories and 13 grams of carbs. Most of the carbs come from sugar, 12 grams of sugar per tablespoon of jam. There is no fiber. But there’s also no fat. That’s right, folks. Say what you want about strawberry jam, but it’s fat free. By my old way of thinking, that made it heart healthy. A lot of people still think that way.
I’ll say that I put two tablespoons of jam in the sandwich. It might have been a little more. But lets add 26 carbs to the 32 carbs for the other ingredients, and the sandwich is up to 58 net carbs. It would have about 440 calories.
The calories aren’t that bad. I often eat more calories for breakfast now, when I eat breakfast. But 58 net carbs in a single meal are a problem for me.
But wait, we’re not done with that carby breakfast yet. There’s still the milk to consider. It was fat-free, but not sugar free. Oh, no. One cup of typical fat-free milk contains about 80 calories and 12 grams of carbs. There’s a good amount of protein, too, close to 9 grams. The milk and the peanut butter would make this a decent breakfast in terms of protein, and there would also be some in the bread, also. I probably drank 16 ounces of cold skim milk for this breakfast — and yes, I would dunk my sandwich into it, one half at a time. So, add another 24 net carbs, bringing the total to 82 net carbs to start the day. And 600 total calories, which again isn’t bad.
Note that my peanut butter and jam sandwich with a tall glass of skim milk, as described, was not a low fat meal. The bread has only 2 grams of fat, and the milk none, but the peanut butter has 16 grams for two tablespoons. So, there were times that I would restrict the peanut butter to one tablespoon. That would cut the breakfast’s fat content almost in half, from 18 grams to 10 grams (with less than three grams of saturated fat). However, cutting the peanut butter down to one tablespoon would only eliminate 3 net carbs. The lower fat version would still have 79 net carbs.
I think my other main meals would’ve been just as carby if not carbier, and I’d have at least a couple snacks a day, often something like corn chips or potato chips. The thing is, when I ate a high carb diet, I was always hungry. And if I went too long without eating, I’d get hangry — a combination of hungry and angry due to a blood sugar crash. My wife would recognize the symptoms, and tell me to eat something. But usually I avoided hangriness by eating all the time.
When I started eating low-carb, high-fat, I eliminated the hangriness. I could go longer without eating if I wanted to. I could eat fewer calories a day without feeling as if I were starving. So, I not only cut out hundreds of grams of carbohydrate from my diet each day, but also hundreds of calories. I found myself eating 2,000 calories a day or fewer, often 400 or 500 calories fewer, without feeling hungry or hangry at all. In fact, since my body was adapted to burn its own fat stores, I had no reason to feel hungry. I was getting all the calories I needed.
Of course, the result was weight loss. I don’t know for sure how much I lost in the first couple months because I kept no detailed records. I didn’t even weigh in at the start of my LCHF diet. Really, I didn’t have that much confidence that this diet would work for me. Intellectually, I was convinced, but not emotionally. I probably weighed 255 pounds when I started, give or take five pounds. I was wearing waist-sized 46 pants with elastic panels in the waistband.
After a couple months, I had dropped around 20 pounds, and was shopping for new pants. Friends started to notice I was slimming down. That’s when I got excited, and started keeping records and blogging about my experience.
A year later, I weighed 207 pounds and wore waist-size 38 pants.
Naturally, I got complacent. I stopped keeping records, and stopped blogging for a while. I still ate a mostly low-carb diet. No peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches, or sandwiches of any kind. But some additional net carbs crept into my diet, and I slowly gained back weight. By early 2015, I’d regained about 25 pounds. My waist circumference had expanded above 40 inches. Alarmed, I geared up my diet, my record-keeping, and my blog. By late 2015, I had lost — or more accurately, re-lost — over 20 pounds.
And then I got complacent again, and history repeated itself, only not quite as bad. I woke up a little sooner. My weight has been stable for the last year or so, but at a level that is too high for my own good. To be more precise, my waist circumference is the problem. It’s a little over 40 inches, and more than half my height. I need to get down to a waist size of 36, ten full sizes from where I started in 2011. I’m more than half way there, but still have four or five inches to lose around the middle.
So, I have started what I call my Keto Diet Reboot. I’ve reduced my net carbs to 25 a day, and I am keeping dietary records again. In three and half weeks, I’ve lost five pounds. It’s not a rapid rate of loss, but it may be a sustainable rate. And I have a few strategies left to try. At the least, I’ll keep eating very low carb, and recording and reporting on my diet, until Christmas Day 2017. Then we’ll see.
But even after that, I am going to weigh in at least once a week every week for as long as I am able to step on the scale. The big mistake I made in the past was in not monitoring my weight. So, I had to gain back 15 or 20 pounds before I realized I had a problem. Then, I’d still resist weighing myself out of fear of what I’d discover. I was in that river in Egypt. You know, denial.
Well, no more. I won’t go swimming with the crocs anymore. I may not always record my every bite, but I will keep track of my weight and waist size on a weekly basis.
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