Wednesday, May 4, 2011

So This is What Happened to Me

I get most traffic to this blog from a certain weight loss website, where I posted my first anniversary update.  In this here post, I am going to cover some material that is both personal and controversial, that I felt is so controversial that it would have been removed from that website, since it counters so much of what the "experts" over there have to say.

Its been quite a year, this year!  The short story is that after a lifetime of struggle, I lost a bunch of weight, and I have spent the rest of the year trying to learn why.  I felt that I finally hit the information motherlode when I heard Jimmy Moore's podcast with Dr. Robert Lustig, of the famous viral sugar youtube vid.
Here's the link to the podcast:

In the interview, Dr. Lustig said that he had proof that reducing insulin causes a reduction in carb-eating and an increase in exercise.  Most of us have been trained by experts who really don't understand the difference between correlation and causation, that eating fewer carbs and exercising more will lead to a reduction in insulin.  Lustig says it is the other way around and he has proof.

They gave really sick kids a drug to knock down their insulin levels.  What happened?  They quit sitting around the TV snacking on junk food.  Without anyone telling them to do it, they changed their diet preferences and wanted to go out to play.  The researchers repeated the study using better statistical methods and the same thing happens.

Hey, this is what happened to me.  Like many others, I was thin and followed a healthy diet plan for much of my life.  I was a vegetarian for over 25 years, part of the time vegan.  When I hit my 40's, I found it more difficult to keep my weight down and even more difficult to follow a vegetarian plan without feeling suboptimal.  When I turned 50, I started to try losing much of the weight.  It was becoming more and more difficult.

When I finished with menopause around this time last year, my weight just shot up.  Almost 15 pounds in one month!  I did the math on that trend, and decided I had to do something.  A relative told me about a weight-loss website so I joined and starting following their weight-loss and exercise plan.

The result?  I lost about 14 pounds quickly and then gained half of it back, and then sat on a plateau for several months.  It wasn't just any plateau.  In addition to losing no weight, I was miserable, hungry, depressed, cranky, sleepless and anxious.  At that time, I was still convinced that if I could just have better will-power, somehow the extra exercise would kick in and I would start to feel better and start to lose weight.  Then, once I felt better, I could go back to a "healthy" vegetarian diet again, full of satiating healthywholegrains.

After a few months, I went to my doctor for another matter.  We started talking about my weight and my lack of sleep.  I am now thinking that what I had was similar to this:

I believe, at least for me, that the diet CAUSED the nighttime eating syndrome.  Menopause certainly had something to do with it, too.  If I had never started the diet, I still would have been fat and happy, but now I was a skinny bitch, and not even skinny.  I was just a fat bitch stuck on a plateau.  When I was eating at night and gaining weight, I slept well.  When I started dieting, I could no longer sleep, and I became miserable and even more fat.

My doctor told me that insomnia was not good at all.  He prescribed a common sleep medication.  When I started taking it, the results were dramatic.  While good sleep didn't return immediately, the weight poured off.  I lost 17 pounds in a month!  Exercise became easy.  I got up every morning, rarin' to go, and out the door for a walk before dawn.  Even before the weight went down, my blood pressure went down, GERD went away, aches and pains went away, cravings went away.  I had to force myself to eat, especially all the carbs that were recommended by the weight loss site.  They told us that it would be unhealthy if we didn't get the minimum amount of carbs and gosh, who wants to be unhealthy?

I found myself dreading lunch.  I used to have a huge bowl of bean soup for lunch, and the thought of eating bean soup just made me sick.  At first, I thought I didn't want any food, but I soon realized that it wasn't just any food.  I was still eating and craving the fattiest foods, things like meat and cheese and peanut butter.  It was the carbs that I didn't want.  I forced myself to use the food tracker, knowing that if I didn't track, I would forget to eat.

After losing 20 pounds in 8 weeks, I decided I would try to find out what was happening to me.  My doctor had no clues, so I went searching on the 'net and found the writings of Dr. Calvin Ezrin.  I felt he provided some of the answers, especially about the connection between serotonin, weight gain and sleep.  Over the next several months, I read most of the low-carb diet doctors and researched many aspects of the low carb diet.  I read the Drs. Eades, Dr. Schwarzbein, Dr. Rosedale, Dr. Mercola, Dr. Harris, Gary Taubes, and followed many Paleo blogs and Jimmy Moore's low carb blog.  I plowed through many clinical studies.

A recent study has shed some light on what probably happened to me.  Here's the link to a press release version:
I believe that the weight loss and exercise method I chose was very wrong for me.  It caused physical exhaustion, unbearable cravings and insomnia, which might have caused insulin resistance, which made the chosen diet work even less well for me.  I DID NOT just wake up one day and say, "Hey, I think I'll follow a low carb diet!"  I went into it pretty much kicking and screaming.  Until I read Dr. Ezrin, I was still convinced that low carb was bad for people and that a vegan diet was the most healthy.  I started eating a low carb diet because the sleep drug changed my hormone levels.

Let's do that again.  I didn't get my weight under control by deciding to do low carb.  I gravitated to lower carb, higher exercise, better insulin, better blood pressure and lower weight when my doctor fixed my sleep.   Eventually, researchers will figure out all the links between weight, carb cravings, adrenal issues, menopause, sleep, exercise, dopamine, insulin resistance, serotonin, cortisol, etc.  One thing I do know, and it is that the nutritional fascists have it all wrong.  Not only do they have cause and effect all wrong, they foist it on people, call them weak-willed liars when it fails, disparage the reputation of researchers and others (those who try to "scam a buck" on the latest diet fad) who attempt to promote a point of view different from theirs, and block voices that challenge them.

The more I started reading, the more mad about it I got.  I became more vocal, and started blogging about what I had discovered.  Then I created this blog so that my writings could escape being removed.  I can't even tell you about this on the weight loss website.  They would take it down.  I can't have a different opinion, or it is seen as a threat, and that threat will have to be removed.  Either my posts or my presence on the site.

OK, I am a bit embarrased by all of this.  I was a long-time vegetarian, and much of my persona is tied up in the vegetarian lifestyle.  My bookshelf is (or used to be) filled with books by Ornish, Gary Null, Pritikin, MacDougall and the macrobiotic experts.  I've been to dinner with Casey Kasem, Dr. Neal Barnard and Howard Lyman.  I read and believed the literature written by vegetarian activists.  Even though I regularly used some of the bad data from Tom Robbins' book in my classes (as an example of what not to do), it didn't occur to me to look at ALL of the studies, and to look at them at the level of critical detail that I do in my career.  Like others, I guess I always assumed that some really smart people, with better statistical fire-power than I, were reviewing the papers and that if the studies were a pile of crap, they would do something.  Well, I was really wrong about that!

I am beginning to personally understand the dirty little secrets about vegan activism.  I was a vegetarian first for non-violent reasons, but now I see the movement as creating violence all around, and they engage in deceptive practices and personal attacks and frankly, I am sick of the activists balancing the burden of their bad diet on the backs and stomachs of a bunch of fat menopausal women!  Same for the cardiologists, too!  The hearthealthy diet might save a handful of men, but it has been a disaster for fat old women like me.

Some are probably wondering by now, hey, why am I still on a weight loss website that has trolling posters and designated "experts" regularly telling me that eating 20 grams of carb is way too extreme, that low carb diet doctors are always trying to "scam a buck" from me, that I'll die if I don't eat carbs for my brain, that years and years of gold-standard clinical studies can't be wrong and I'll be kicked off the site if I tell you they are; that my success is only fleeting, and I will be a failure when I regain the weight on my unhealthy "fad" diet, and that my comments about the state of diabetes research and my diet of choice are "dangerous" and need to be deleted.  I have friends and family who want me to stay, that's the short answer.

For a time, I also stayed because I was mad.  Mad at the advice that is given to type 2 diabetics, carb cravers, PCOS ladies, and others with the signs of metabolic syndrome.  Mad that trolling vegetarian and low-fat activists are routinely trying to scare people into following their plan.  Mad that I wasn't allowed to tell my story.  I joined even more teams and made even more friends.  When they told me to shut up, I started talking about it even more, like a weed that grows stronger and higher after someone tries to pull it out.

It was Jesus who said that we should worry more about what comes out of our mouth than what goes in.  Well, I certainly have had trouble shutting my mouth over the years, in both directions.  I am still not convinced that going low carb is the answer, or even a best answer, but I will continue to try to learn more about it and speak.  I'm just not sure I'll have a second anniversary.
[Here's the original anniversary post, written along with this one.  I have moved it over to this site since almost being expelled over at [redacted]people.  Here.]


  1. Thanks for sharing your story! I hope you stick around on the "site which shall not be named"... as you bring much needed wisdom and sanity to it, with a great attitude too.

    Congrats on all of your success!

  2. Birdy- you go girl! Loving your input on "the site that won't be named". Keep it coming please...Molliemac

  3. very interesting - and as the site which shall not be named has allowed pro-ana blogs I don't see why they should stop you sharing your personal experience *sigh*

  4. Love your passion. You've been a big help to me. Keep the faith, Birdy.

  5. Just curious, what sleep drug did your doctor prescribe?

  6. Hi Adriana! Trazodone, but I only took 1/2 the recommended amount, only 12.5 grams.

  7. Interesting that Trazodone is an anti-depressant and use of it for sleep issues is "off label"...

  8. From the internet:

    "You can get the very same effect if you go out and buy Phenergan (Promethazine) 25mg Tablets and (take 2x at night)
    similar chemical structure, more or less... to the sedative drug in Trazadone."

  9. My doc says traz is the most widely prescribed medicine for sleep in the US. Who knew? I was prescribed promethazine once for nausea.

  10. Hooray! Love your story about getting dragged kicking & screaming into low-carb. There are a good many of us out there (of a certain age) I think. I was a vegetarian for 16 years (still longer than I've been low carb, which is at around 13 years now--and I use the term "low carb" only in a relative sense). I don't think low-carb holds all the truths there are to know about being healthy, but--like you--it sure ticked me off to find out how much BS there was out there.

  11. hi FYF! I don't think low carb is the answer to everything either. They still have to figure out why, as Dr. Eades says, it works for weightloss for 85 percent who try it.

  12. What a read, so glad I came here.
    I can tell I will enjoy this part of my journey even more.
    Thanks so much!

  13. So perhaps I'll pick up that bottle o' Traz & start halving those tablets... (a full tablet leaves me w/a groggy "hungover" type feeling the next day)
    Great blog! I'll soon be back to read more - thanks!