Monthly Archives: June 2017

Low Carb, No Carb, Sugar, and More

My mother used to follow a low-carb diet, right up until, as she put it, “that woman killed her diet doctor.” She was referring to Jean Harris’s murder of Herman Tarnower in the early ’80s. Tarnower advocated for a relatively low-carbohydrate diet for rapid weight loss (called the Scarsdale Diet, should you want to do more research on this). I couldn’t tell, in all honesty, that the diet did my mother much good. Of course, my mother also hid chocolate bars around the house so that she could find them when she wanted them in the middle of the night (I inherited her insomniac proclivities, but I don’t eat chocolate at night).

As anyone who’s been paying attention to this blog for a while knows, I’ve been working on slowly, steadily, painfully losing weight for the last almost-five years. I’ve been maintaining a sixty-pound weight loss for about a year and half now (after losing for three and a half years), but I dream of losing another ten or so pounds. Maybe fifteen. But… I’ve been steady for a year and a half, which is not nothing.

I eat very carefully these days. I rarely eat sugar. I don’t drink much alcohol, maybe once or twice a month. My preferred beverages are seltzer, tea (hot or iced, no sugar), water. I eat very little bread. Some potatoes, some brown rice. I even eat quinoa. I eat lots of fruit. I eat nuts. Green vegetables. Avocado. I eat meat. I use olive oil and butter to cook with. I ask myself if I’m hungry or thirsty before I eat. Mostly I avoid fried foods and mostly we cook at home, whole foods that aren’t processed at all. I try not to eat unless I’m actually hungry. This seems to work to maintain my weight. There’s that word: “maintain.”

Can you tell I’m a little frustrated to be stuck at this weight? Just a little.

I’ve been reading up on metabolic biochemistry. A friend recommended  Nina Teicholz’s The Big Fat Surpriseas a study of the food industry’s influence on so-called scientific research on nutrition and health over the period since World War II. Some of it I knew because I was a biochemistry major (undergraduate) and Professor Gene Brown (of MIT) was a stickler for facts. I was advised, back in the early 1970s, that eating trans fats in the form of margarine and other hydrogenated oils were going to be a serious health problem. Prof. Brown was an advocate of liquid oils like olive oil and also for butter. His drawings of the membrane transport disruptions caused by trans fats have stuck in my brain ever since. (Of course, I went off to find illustrations, but could not.)

Teicholz covers trans fats. She covers the low fat high carbohydrate diet recommendations for the US government in detail. And she covers the reasons why low fat diets don’t work and are bad for you too. Very persuasively.

I went on from Teicholz to Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat, which also covers real science, very persuasively.

Both Teicholz and Taubes make convincing cases against sugar and refined carbs and in favor of a meat-and-fat-based diet with some greens thrown in for micro-nutrients. Taubes suggests that everyone’s tolerance for carbohydrates is different and that some people can eat lots and maintain a healthy weight, and others cannot. While I realize that this is a small-scale experiment, that’s exactly what I’ve noticed with Dancer and Rush. Yes, they’re dogs, not people, but dogs co-evolved with humans and pretty much eat what we do. Rush and Dancer get the same meat, the same oils, the same vegetables… and Dancer gets way less carbs than Rush. If I give her more carbs, she puts on weight.

I joke to people that, metabolically, I’m a Prius. I really don’t require a lot of fuel. I honestly would prefer to be a Suburban or a big truck, that burns a lot of fuel, but I’m just not. It appears, from these two books, that I may be better off further reducing my carbs (which means, mostly, less fruit) and increasing the amount of proteins and fats that I eat. It seems like something I can try.

Sleeping, a theory about the senses

I noticed one night a few months ago that if I emulated a behavior both my kids had as babies, I could fall back asleep more easily. Both my kids, as babies, rubbed their blankets between their fingers as they fell asleep. I was pondering that as I lay awake in the middle of the night, trying to quell my monkey brain (which was busy with to do lists at the time), and I decided to try it. I have a new plush throw blanket that I use because Jay sleeps cooler than I do and I need an extra blanket. It’s a very soft plush and feels lovely in your hand or when rubbed on your cheek. I tried rubbing it between my fingers, focusing on the fibers and how they felt–and the next thing I knew, it was morning and I felt refreshed.

I tried it a few more times, and the key seemed to be focusing on the sensations reaching my finger tips, focusing on that single sense of touch.

That got me thinking about the senses on a recent night as I once again tried to quell my monkey brain. Sleeping, to my mind, is about turning off those senses. We wake up from a deep sleep and we remember nothing of the previous hours–not what we smelled or tasted or touched or heard or saw. We close our eyes and disable our vision to sleep. We try for quiet and comfort. So that night, instead of focusing on touch, I focused on hearing. I listened to the regular sound of Jay’s breathing and the breathing of the dogs as well. Again, I went back to sleep easily. I sprayed my pillow with lavender a few nights ago and when I woke up during the night, I focused on that smell and tried to exclude all the other senses. It worked.

I have been thinking about the monkey brain that wakes up when I can’t sleep. Is it wide awake because it doesn’t have anything better to do? No senses to process?


Report from CPE Nationals

It’s taken quite a while to recover from CPE Nationals and the three weekends of trialing that I scheduled immediately afterwards. (This turned out to be a mistake, I should have rested more, but too late now.)

Rush double small for webYou can see from this photo that Rush was in peak condition for Nationals.




Nationals went pretty well. I was disappointed to find that there were only two 24″ dogs competing! Following a friend’s advice, though, I decided that I would compete with myself to challenge myself every run. In the end, Rush was first in 24″ standard and first in 24″ games. We got four Qs (all of them first places) and three near misses (a single bar down in each of the three runs). In Jumpers I completely forgot the course halfway through; Jackpot was just too challenging (only 8 dogs Qd of the 309 competing).

RushD_SatStandard_CPENAT_2017 was our best run; Rush had the third fastest qualifying run of all the dogs in all height classes.

I learned something from the Jumpers run where I forgot the course. The dog who ran ahead of me was distracted by the environment and ended up peeing mid-course, causing a delay. During the delay, I waited impatiently for my run to start–and forgot to review my plan as I entered the ring. I normally enter the ring and do a quick mental review of the course–I got distracted by the dog’s distraction and let it throw me. Later, when I saw it happening again, I started talking to myself, calling out my plan and ignoring the dog. Something like: Stay-lead out-jump-front cross-tunnel-sprint down the line-weaves-blind cross-pull to tunnel…

Videos of all four qualifying runs here: