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13 Weeks Experiment Midcourse Report

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I’m halfway through this experiment, so I thought it was time to write more about what I’m experiencing this time. As you may recall, my hypothesis this time was that Tim Ferris’ “slow carb” style of dieting would be more effective than the really low-carb diet I’d been following. I had a really good reason for thinking I needed to back away from the really low-carb diet: some periods of low blood sugar that ended up with me fainting at a really inconvenient time, ie, while driving home.

So what has come of it?

First off, I haven’t had trouble with the hypoglycemic episodes; that’s good, as there’s no convenient way for me to avoid driving.

Weight and glucose overall have been, well, interesting.

The chart on the next page is my weight and glucose over the course of the experiment. Just as a reminder, the protocol I follow is to take both weight and glucose first thing in the morning, weighing nude, taking the glucose within half an hour of getting up and usually about 10 minutes after, since that’s how long it takes to feed the cats and start a pot of coffee.

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As I talked about a few weeks ago, I had one period where I gained 10 pounds in 5 days, then I followed that by losing the 10 pounds, and more — I hit a new low weight of 267.6 on July 11. Then I bounced back up to 274 and back now to 270. As always, I’m watching the linear fit line — that is, I have Excel plotting a straight line that best approximates the overall data for this 13 weeks — and it is still going down. Of course, the fact that I’ve hit new lows a couple times in this process also demonstrates that I’m losing weight.

What’s hard to say is how much weight I’ve lost. First day to today, it’s about 5 pounds; first day to recent low is about 9 pounds; if I compare each local minimum, it’s about 4 pounds.

Glucose has been, well, weird. I had three really high days early on, peaking at 141 mg/dL, then a long stretch of low glucose from about June 10 to June 30, and now a stretch of higher glucose. Right now, the overall fit on my glucose is going up a bit, but here’s the weird part: if you fit those two intervals, the June period is nearly flat and averages about 109; the July series is nearly flat, and averages about 121.

I am really at a loss to explain that. Diet has been very much the same, if anything I’ve exercised a little more in July, stress at the day job has cut down in July, and I’ve been on 500 mg/day of Metformin since May.

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In any case, though, the diet with a little more carbs has been a lot more tolerable. I’m still avoiding wheat; when I do eat more wheat than a very small amount (like what might be in a quarter-cup of a sauce) I have more stomach difficulties. What carbs I’ve been getting have been corn in tortillas, in beans, and in rice, all in small amounts at any one time, and I keep the corn and rice down to no more than twice a week. I’m still averaging less than 50 grams a day, even with occasional carb days, and as long as I avoid wheat, carb days don’t seem to have much correlation with weight. But by allowing that many carbs, I can have things like enchiladas at the Mexican restaurants.

This turns out to be important. I really hate being that person who is constantly whining about what they can eat; on the other hand, if you’re trying to stay below 30 g/day of carbs and can’t eat wheat, you have to be. I need to have occasional business lunches with my whole team at the day job; there are popular sandwich and pasta places around here where there is literally nothing on the menu that I could eat on the really low-carb diet.

I will say, though, Korean places are low-carb heaven; Korean barbecue and a variety of kimchees with no rice is no sacrifice at all.

(Mental note: I think for next week I’ll take a picture of every meal and give you all a detailed report on what I’m really eating.) [Editor’s note: Great idea, Charlie!]

I’ve noticed one other thing about this: when I have carbs in the middle of the day, I’m often much less hungry at dinner time.

The intermittent fasting has been intermittent. It’s not hard to do a partial-fast day: when I actually succeed in doing one, I usually end up having one or two boiled eggs in the morning, a salad at lunch, and maybe have sugar-free gelatin at dinner time. On the other hand, it’s really easy to do a partial-fast day tomorrow — that is, remembering to do the fast days can be a little struggle. Some of that is pure habit, as I’ve gotten so I make my usual breakfast more or less on automatic. It’s much tougher to plan a 600 kcal day right after you’ve eaten a 500 kcal breakfast.

So that’s the story. My summary would be that the “slow carb” diet, at least in the mild variation I’m doing, does seem to be leading to some weight loss, and probably more than I was losing on the last month of the really low-carb diet. My glucose I don’t understand at all, except that I’m not fainting any more, and I think that’s a good thing.