Here’s a compelling low-carb/paleo adventure from a 180 Member and frequent blog participant (my responses in red):
My low-carb story starts a long time ago. Knowing what I know now from reading the research of McCarrison and Pottenger on multi-generation metabolic decline I know it started at least with my grandmother and potentially before. My grandmother was raised on margarine and jam on white bread, vegetables cooked to a mush and ice cream by the pint. She lived that way all her life and raised my Mom that way. My Mom tried better with me, but there was still a lot of baked goods at home and I was “the fat kid” by age 3.
Good insights. I agree completely. I’ve come across lots of overweight people who seem frustrated that ?grandma ate chocolate, smoked cigarettes, and drank coffee everyday and lived to be 92,? while they are overweight and can’t ?breathe air without gaining weight (Schwarzbein). Grandma could do that because of the fantastic health that prior generations had from their largely unrefined diet that glorified meat, fat, starch, and calories instead of shrieking at the sound of them being annunciated. Times have changed. Granda and mom have broken that chain of tradition and started us on the road to perdition (grandpa and dad have too of course, and their contributions are important also).
Then in the summer or 1999, when I was 20 years old, I read Neanderthin by Ray Audette and how he cleared up so many of his health problems kicking out non-paleo foods. I was determined to not be the fat kid any more and lived off cheese, beef jerky, eggs, nuts and vegetables for quite some time. Immediately my energy levels improved and I started working out. As this was June I acquired a summer job as a YMCA camp counselor and so I hit the YMCA at 5:30 AM each morning to work out for two hours before I had to report in for work. I lost a lot of weight and became really fit. I also got pretty seriously addicted to coffee.
This is a classic case of not only cutting out junk and feeling the better for it, but also getting that good adrenal surge from being on the low-carb side of things. Caffeine and intense exercise made you feel even better, even higher on adrenaline. Schwarzbein is right on when she states that things that feel good do so because they are stimulating. She states that it feels good when you’re breaking down, but people don’t understand that you have to rest and rebuild or you destroy yourself. I agree completely. Caffeine’s sudden appeal to you is some serious foreshadowing of what’s to come.
It all “worked” though and that September I met the girl who years later would agree to marry me. Her first impression of me was that I was a football player. Me! Can you believe it? The former computer geek, D&D nerd and Model United Nations champ (I represented the United States at the Harvard Symposium) could do 20 weighted chin-ups or sprint 100 meters without breathing hard. I was convinced Ray Audette was a prophet of some sort and I preached the gospel.
Of course she agreed to marry you. You sound like the man, but note that football players have a life expectancy of 55. Looks like health on the outside, but much strain and drain on the inside.
After that first most hard-core year though I sort of rested on my laurels and did the “best” paleo I could given the constraints of college cafeteria food. I lost the urge to workout once I cut out drinking a pot of coffee a day and eventually stopped going to the gym. I gained weight slowly throughout college but not too bad.
Mmmm, nothing like the body kicking in and taking some time to rest after years of intense adrenal demand.
Fast forward several years. I’ve graduated, worked at Morgan Stanley, quit and been through law school and now I weigh 225 lbs/36″ waist. I don’t want to know what my body fat % is. I’ve fallen off the paleo wagon several times and half-heartedly gotten back on, but I never again saw the results I saw in the summer of ’99. At best I would yo-yo down to ~200 lbs / 34″ waist and then gain it all back after six months. I never regained the energy to work out at 5:30 AM for two hours of burpees, pushups, chin-ups and sprints. I was losing my faith in paleo/low-carb.
A restricted diet is still a diet and still can have the yo-yo effect, even if it’s comprised of healthy foods.
So that brings us to the Fall of 2008 when my dentist told me I had five cavities after not having any tooth problems since Middle School. I’ve lost my faith in paleo, but I had the inkling from reading Ray’s book (where he talked about paleolithic man having perfect teeth) that there had to be a way to cure my teeth that did not involve more fillings. I still cruised the low-carb/paleo blogs for lack of alternatives (the low-fat, vegan and “standard American Diet” are clearly all losers for well documented reasons, but let me take a moment to say that Drs. Eades and De Vany are awfully arrogant in the Tower of Certainty in which they reside. Pricks) but my search via Google for teeth improvement led me to Whole Health Source and then to Weston A. Price. I had to read his book. It was like lightning to my brain and I’m convinced the “missing vitamins” and Omega-3/6 ratio have been my shortcoming. I get back on the paleo horse with the vigor of three Wyld Stallions but this time with vitamin supplements and a laser focus on proper fat ratios.
Like a Wyld Stallion?! ?Excellent? pop culture reference, complete with proper spelling. A+. The phrase Tower of Certainty will also one day be repeated. Price’s book is still the best of the best. No discussion of health is complete without acknowledgment of that work. Whole Health Source is also outstanding, minus Stephen’s apparent nemesis ? an infatuation with paleo nutrition/Cordain. By the way, those tooth problems are irrefutable evidence of having zigged when ya shoulda zagged. Anyone with dental issues should probably stop whatever it is they are doing immediately and try something else.
We eat fermented brown rice and oatmeal, buy the highest quality milk, eggs and cream we can find, and cook everything at home without additives. Meat is cooked low and slow. We toss all the old vegetable oils and buy coconut oil by the half-gallon through the mail. And something works too. My cavities go away, my mood improves and my wife Wendy’s skin clears up. Wendy had some tooth pain that had been bother her for months disappear within a week. Further, after three years of trying without success, we get pregnant after just one month of eating “the Weston Price way.” Wendy responds even better to the diet than I do, and even though she gains net weight from the pregnancy over the next six months it’s not much weight by “normal” standards and she visibly slims down on her face and extremities. I feel better but don’t lose any weight. Wendy’s digestion is perfect, but it’s been that way her entire life. Mine is average. (Wendy really is just healthier than I at some fundamental level, no doubt caused by the very poor circumstances her parents were raised in before coming to this country – all they could afford in the old country was rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables, fish and eggs. No sugar or vegetable oils.)
Anyone paying attention to this? I hope so.
But then some time this spring Matt I see a comment from you at Whole Health Source and start reading your blog. I become a member and read your e-books. Simultaneously I found my way to Heart Scan Blog where Dr. William Davis is talking up the benefits of desiccated thyroid as well. I hit research mode and read up on McCarrison, Barnes and Page. Good stuff. I take my temperature orally for two weeks to get the average numbers – 96.6 at 5:30 AM and 97.3 in the afternoon. Resting pulse is 85~89. Five months of Weston Price eating haven’t fixed that. So I give your recommendations a shot, go for the High Everything Diet (minus sugar and vegetable oils) and screw the calorie counts. I start treating butter like a condiment and add baked sweet potatoes back into the diet, but this time with obscene amounts of sour cream and bacon topping.
Not healed entirely, but those five months have put you on the right track. McCarrison, Barnes, and Page: good stuff indeed.
I have to say, your HED did not sit with my digestion at first. I got seriously backed up, but I guess it was a transitional issue since it cleared up after a couple weeks and later became better than I had ever been before. I’d been a once every 2-3 days man before that, but became 1-2 times per day on HED once through those first several weeks. Energy levels are off the charts and I start working out not because I feel I “ought” to but simply because I am over-flowing with the urge to use muscles. I start sprinting around the house while doing laundry and the dog is chasing me. I start going to the gym 2-3 times per week for short intense workouts. Sort of a beginner’s CrossFit, with weightlifting tips from Mark Rippetoe. I never work out to exhaustion though, just work up a good sweat and work off my excess energy so I can concentrate at work.
Predictable results ? softer more frequent stools and a stomach that can handle more complex meals and greater quantity of food, and the excess energy is seeking outlets other than fat tissue. I will say that high-calorie eating with anaerobic exercise is the ultimate fattener for me ? perhaps because of cortisol. It’s much harder to gain with mild, light physical activity, and the time period from gaining to the plateau to the drop in weight seems to be shorter.
I start gaining weight though and my body temp does not improve. I go from 230 to 237 in one month and I’m still an even 96.6 in the morning and 97.3 in the afternoon. I don’t get the shivers any more (like I did for the last four years) and feel warmer overall, but objectively there is no improvement. I start taking Nutri-Meds, 2-a-day at the start and 5-a-day by the end of the bottles I’d ordered. No temperature change and I weigh in at 242. Only two pairs of 38″ pants still fit, and barely.
I certainly don’t want anyone thinking that increasing calories on an unrestricted diet results in some kind of instant weight loss. No way. Weight often increases ? both fat and muscle, just as human experiments on force-feeding have shown. The weight gain is just temporary though, just like the weight lost on a low-calorie diet is temporary. To focus on short-term weight gain and not feeling and looking better is to miss the big picture ? healing can take many months ? a year perhaps. It’s a tough thing for an overweight person to face, it takes courage, it takes patience, but I believe it is the path to recovery.
So, with regret Matt, I drop off of HED and just go straight high-fat-ketogenic. No carbs at all. That was four weeks ago and I’m down to 236~8 (depending on the morning) and my last two pairs of pants fit better even if none of the 36″-ers do. I gain weight if I eat even a little oatmeal or sweet potato now. I’ve been to a local doctor about getting prescription strength desiccated Thyroid and got blood taken for lipids and TSH/T4/T3 last Saturday. I don’t have the results in yet. The doc is sort of conventional though and I’m just hoping I can twist his arm into going with Naturethroid or Westthroid rather than a T4 synthetic (and apparently Forest Labs reformulated Armor Thyroid this Spring and hypothyroid sufferers are reporting a resurgence of symptoms on the new formula, to watch out for that). If I can’t convince him I’ll dump his ass and find someone else, but that means weeks or months more of waiting. It’s very frustrating.
That’s my story so far.
Ketogenic? Oh boy. Don’t let the six pounds you’ve lost in the last 4 weeks neuter your attempts at really getting to the root of the problem. You have a chance to overcome lifetimes of dietary and lifestyle fouls that have culminated within you. Eating the Weston A. Price way was a big leap forward for you. Your teeth healed. You took a giant leap in the right direction. I believe that focusing in on the metabolism is another key that can open the next door, but don’t get desperate. Your weight cycles have spanned years. What happens in a few months is inconsequential over the long haul. I think it’s probably way too early to pound thyroid, especially considering that you were showing multiple signs of steady progress in the digestion and energy category.
My ideas for you would be to cut the exercise down to stretching and walking, lightly ? while continuing to eat as much nutritious food as you can get in you until you complete the process. Completing the process involves going full-throttle until weight gain ceases, hunger starts to subside, and muscle starts replacing body fat spontaneously. Be persistent. Also keep in mind that just taking thyroid, even if it brings your temps up, will not necessarily cure you of your weight issue.
For now, step one would be to fix the carbohydrate sensitivity that ketosis has given you by eating a diet that is very high in carbohydrates by percentage. That means displacing some fat and protein with carbohydrate calories for up to a few weeks before getting more balanced again.
Your story has many parallels to my own adventures with a reduced-carbohydrate diet, which I will post in a future Carb Wars episode. Thanks again for your story, and best of luck. We’ll all be anxiously awaiting to hear what your future dietary escapades entail.
If YOU have a low-carb story to share, with great or tragic results or both, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get it up on the blog!