Backstory: In October I realized that if I didn’t lose weight and get my blood sugar under control, I was going to die. I didn’t like that. I decided to try a 13 week experiment: cut out carbs and add a small amount of high intensity exercise and see what happened. This is the continuing story of that experiment. Follow it every week here at PJ Lifestyle — including some sort of embarrassing “before” pictures — and follow my 13 Weeks Facebook page. I’ll report more on results next week, but right now, I’ve lost 21 pounds since 19 October and my blood sugar is down from 157 mg/dL to 119.
I started worrying about my weight — and being teased about it — by the time I was six or seven. At twelve or so I was an experienced dieter, and my experience was pretty much uniformly negative: I’d try dieting and maybe lose a little weight. Then the weight loss would stop. This would be doubly traumatic, as on a “balanced healthy diet”. I felt horrible, I was hungry all the time, and my pediatrician would yell at me that I had to be cheating, no one could not lose weight on that diet.
I could lose weight on the Stillman Quick Weight Loss Diet — nothing but lean meats boiled or broiled, cottage cheese, and poached or boiled eggs — but then I got yelled at by my pediatrician, my gym coach, and random people who happened to hear about it because it wasn’t a balanced diet. Also, after five or six weeks, it got a little boring: I remember breaking into tears one night when presented with another skinless, boiled half-chicken.
So my feelings about “going on a diet” have a lot of baggage. Skipping about 40 years, I read Gary Taubes first New York Times article, “What Really Makes Us Fat“, which said some things I knew from personal experience but had been told real science disputed. Like “all calories are not created equal,” and “what you eat is more important than how much you eat.” I bought Taubes’ books, Good Calories Bad Calories, and Why We Get Fat and read the primary literature, which makes a strong case that the underlying culprit is refined carbs. Sure enough, cutting out refined carbs helped me lose weight. This time around, I’ve lost 21 pounds since the 19th of October, and my blood sugar is also down a good bit.
But what about the boredom?
What I’m eating now is, thankfully, far more interesting than boiled chicken and cottage cheese. I thought today I’d tell you about some of them.
Most mornings, I’m up at 6AM and about to write. I feed the cats, and stumble about waiting for the coffee — the worst part about getting your first cup in the morning is needing to make it before you’ve had it — and I’m not up to doing anything complicated, so I zap bacon in the microwave, take cold boiled eggs out of the refrigerator, and have
Charlie’s “Diet” Breakfast
- 3 boiled eggs, sliced with an egg slicer and drizzled with about a tablespoon of mayonnaise
- 4 strips of bacon
Except some mornings I have 4 eggs and 8 strips of bacon. I slice the hard boiled eggs because otherwise they last about two bites, and I add the mayonnaise because it tastes good.
I usually go out for something because someone who can’t cope with cooking eggs in the morning isn’t going to handle making lunch very well either. There are really lots of options — a diner where I can get bacon or ham or pork chops and eggs, a buffet restaurant where I get salad and roast chicken, or MAD Greens, where I make up a salad with lots of protein:
MAD Greens Salad Example
- baby spinach
- feta cheese
- Oil-marinated tuna
- Red wine vinaigrette
Mad Greens actually has a calorie and nutrient calculator on their web site, which scores this out as 41 grams of protein and 6 grams net carbs (9 grams – 3 grams fiber),
Another thing I’ve done is make a big bowl of tuna salad. One variant is my Mediterranean Tuna Salad, based on something I used to get at a sprouthead restaurant in Durham, NC 20 years ago.
- 1 medium red onion, finely diced
- 4-5 stalks celery, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed, diced, and made into a paste with a little salt
- 3 12-oz cans of water-packed tuna (cheap non-albacore is perfectly fine)
- 1/4 cup olive oil (it pays to use extra virgin, but not super-good extra virgin)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp dried dill weed
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
make a rough vinaigrette by whisking together oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and dill in a large bowl (you need a bigger bowl than you think.) You can add a little dry or grey poupon mustard as well, which will help the vinagrette stay together, but I don’t much like mustard with tuna. Add other ingredients, breaking up the tuna to match with the vegetables. Toss until well combined. It’s good now, even better after a day or two in the refrigerator. By the way, oil-packed tuna would be just fine; around here, though, it’s hard to find and significantly more expensive than the water-packed.
Okay, most nights dinner is rotisserie chicken from the store — the King Soopers “family size” garlic and herb is my favorite but you’d have a hard time making a roast chicken I didn’t like. Fairly often I’ll cook microwave-in-the-bag broccoli and toss it with from-the-jar chili con queso. This is a high-protein high-fat diet, which opens up a lot of choices. Some nights I’ll cook, and in fact last night as I came home from the gym I suddenly decided what I wanted for dinner was the 10 year old’s nightmare: liver with bacon and onions, and roasted brussels sprouts.
Here are the recipes:
- 1 cup fresh sprouts, cut in half.
- 1 Tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
preheat oven to 425. While it preheats, toss the sprouts with the oil and garlic, and add a good teaspoon of salt. (I like sea salt. What can I say, I live in Boulder.) The way I do this: I have a saute pan that goes comfortably in the oven, so I basically put everything in the pan, toss it as if I were sautéing them until everything is nicely coated, and into the oven it goes.
They should roast for about a half-hour; around 15 minutes, take out the pan and toss them thoroughly, put it back in.
liver and bacon and onions
- 2 slices (about 8 oz uncooked) liver
- 4 strips bacon
- about 1 half medium onion, sliced into very thin slices
- 1/4 tsp mexican oregano
- salt and black paper to taste.
In a large frying or saute pan, start with the bacon. I did it as strips this time, next I might cut the bacon into lardons instead. (Isn’t that a great word? “Lardon”. Sounds so sinful.) Cook the bacon until it’s done enough for you and take it out of the pan. Turn the heat up on the pan to medium-high and add the onions, spreading them out to make more or less a single layer. Now walk away for about 5 minutes. The onions will cook in the bacon fat; when you come back, they will have started to caramelize (get brown) and will be pretty transparent. Turn them over and stir them up so the unbrowned side is down and let them cook a little more.
Now for the liver. If you know where to find fresh beef liver in the Denver area, I’d love to know, but I end up buying it frozen at King Soopers. The package has 1 lb of liver in four individually packed, frozen slices. Take two slices out and put them on the counter when you start the sprouts and they’ll have defrosted sufficiently by the time you get to this point. (If you do find it fresh, you need to slice it and devein it. I’ll presume you’re enough of a foodie then to know what to do. The frozen stuff is already prepped.)
Push the onions aside in the pan and turn the heat up to near high. Put the two pieces of liver in the pan and wait for about a minute — the liver will be getting gray around the veins and there’ll be a good bit of steam. The side against the pan will be getting nicely browned and a little crusty; turn the slices over and grab a plate RIGHT NOW. If you wait more than about another 30 seconds, the liver will get overdone, with the result that you have something that looks like a shoe sole but doesn’t taste as good.
Liver on plate. Nicely browned onions on top, and then the bacon. Salt and pepper now — I don’t like to season this stuff first because the salt impedes browning the onions, and I think the pepper tastes a little burned because of the high heat. Take the sprouts out of the oven and add them — they should have some nice golden brown edges on them.
As you can see, I’m not exactly being deprived here — I’m having plenty to eat, and it’s good food. As a “diet”, this one is a winner.