Big D little d, what begins with d?

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The next installment of my diet situation. You can go back to the last one [here].

Most of the time when folks are talking about their diet, they’re talking about what I think of Diet with a big D. When I’m complaining about my diet, that’s what most folks offer up as a solution. Those solutions are the sort of thing that, at their core, are centered around reducing calorie intake. There’s low-fat, Keto, Whole 30 (keto/elimination), and things like weight watchers, which I don’t quite understand, but involves removing calorie counts and inserting points. This blog post isn’t about any of those. They’re not my chief issue at the moment. When I set my mind to it, I can lose weight (to a point). This post is about the other sort of diet. This is one I reckon has a little d and involves the foods you routinely eat to not die of starvation.

My long-term problem involves finding the answer to the question: What do I eat that is nourishing, filling, and will lead to better heart health while maintaining a healthy weight? I’d also like the food to taste good, but really, at this point, I think that’s asking just way the hell too much. As I mentioned before, I had a blood test and my doctor had a PA call me and tell me to stop being fat and unhealthy. Maybe the exact phrasing involved losing weight, stop drinking, and engage in a low-fat, low-carb diet. The ideal situation would have been to give me a referral to a nutritionist or something. Instead, I got the Internet. Thanks, US medical system and the $20,000 we pay in every year for absolutely nothing (yes, I paid for that doctor visit too it was like $130, plus the bloodwork).

So, armed with vague guidelines and my numbers, I went to the Internet. What I found was the following:

  • A diet of 1650 calories to lose weight, and 2000 calories to maintain weight (I’ve also found sources suggesting 2200 to maintain a healthy weight – I call BS),
  • Carbohydrates consisting of 20-25% (85g-106g) of daily calorie intake*,
  • Fat at 25%-30% (47g-56g) of daily intake**,
  • Saturated fats at less than 7% of daily calorie intake or about 16g on my plan**,****,
  • Dietary cholesterol of less than 165mg***,
  • Avoid trans-fats,
  • Avoid alcohol,
  • The limited fats that I do choose to consume must to be high in poly/monounsaturated fats, AND
  • Carbohydrates that I do consume need to be high in fiber and low in added sugars.

After all this research, I felt pretty good for a day or two, until I started tracking my foods in a diary. Then reality hit me. This isn’t possible. I’ve been trying for months to figure it out and I can’t even get close. I’ve done everything I can think of. I’ve even spent time looking into high-protein, low-carb vegetarian options. No mix of food-stuffs I can find will allow me to reach these goals. I’ll get into each of the macros and their special problems in later posts. That said, I did manage to find a diet plan, which is designed for heart health first and foremost, with weight-loss being a separate thing. Unfortunately, even that falls short. An illustration of that heart-healthy plan, along with some recipes, can be found [HERE].

After reading this, you might say: Dave, it’s staring you in the face, buddy, this is what you need – just ignore the other stuff you found! Unfortunately, no. Not quite. Recall the thing about my triglycerides? The cookbook in that link recommends carbohydrates should be 45-65% of daily calorie intake. While this is probably a pretty good heart-healthy diet for some, it’s not healthy for me my levels are some eight to ten times higher than what they should be. The key ways to address that are: Reduce Carbs, lose weight, stop drinking. The second two are pretty doable but are only likely to draw these numbers down by like half or so, provided various sources are accurate. So, this would appear to be a non-starter.

At this point, I’d like to offer a conclusion or some sort of recommendation. Hell, I’d even be happy with an optimistic platitude. I’m afraid I haven’t got any of that. I’m confounded and frustrated. There just doesn’t seem to be a healthy path forward for me, not really and it’s almost certainly a genetic problem. To make matters worse, I’m starting to come to suspect that even healthy advice we’ve all come to take for granted might, in fact, simply be marketing gimmicks, and nothing more. After all, most of the advice I see doesn’t seem to match up with dietary guidelines (I’m calling out oatmeal here, because seriously, that shit doesn’t seem to be all that good for you when you look at it and compare to other options) Really, the most likely scenario is that I’m going to spend my life eating foods I don’t like that cause more than a little bit of abdominal discomfort, and don’t fill me up. Then, after all that being unhappy and gassy, I’ll die of a heart attack anyhow.


* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16685042

** Cleveland Clinic (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17583-triglycerides–heart-health/diet)

*** Same as link 2, except I’ve made the assumption that 200mg is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, and scaled it down to fit a 1650 calorie diet

**** https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192

BONUS FOOTNOTE (‘Healthy’ diet recipes): https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/all-publications-and-resources/keep-beat-heart-healthy-recipes

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Now what?

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This post is way over due. I actually wrote most of it, and several subsequent blogs, some months ago, but haven’t devoted the time to actually go over all of it and post. Plus, I wasn’t sure I wanted to post it. After all, when I started this blog, I’d imagined it’d be a place to share mishaps and minor victories with respect to feeding my family. Maybe even toss up a few impressions of booze. Not be a “holy shit I’m unhealthy” blog –if that’d been the case, I certainly wouldn’t have named it after two things that are supposed to be out of bounds for me now. However, this is my new reality, and it absolutely impacts my food-based misadventuring AND I can’t seem to find anyone else really taking this topic on outside of offering up gimmicky diet plans, which I’m not about to do. So, I’m changing course on this blog, at least for a few posts to share my experience and eventually whether or not it worked.

It all started in August right around the time I turned 40 or, as I tend to think of it, reached the top of the hill, planted a little flag and started my way back down. I’d started getting dizzy spells while eating. No amount of internet searching turned up anything helpful. The closest I got was something that happens to very old skinny people with low blood-pressure. Though, some kind of low-level inner-ear infection was also a possibility. Naturally, I scheduled an appointment with the doc, as you do. The doc looked in my ears and eyes and mouth and said I look fine, with directions to come back in a month to see if maybe it’d just go away on its own. A month later rolls around, and the dizzy spells had largely subsided, though not completely. At that point, he sent me in for bloodwork – just the usual old fat-guy bloodwork where you get cholesterol and all that shit checked.

The results came in the very next day while I was explaining to a colleague the dizzy situation. I knew I was going to have to do some work, but had no idea just how bad it’d gotten. My cholesterol and triglycerides were so terrible, it made me realize that I’m now at an age where I’m essentially a life-support system for a paycheck that’s showing signs of wear and very possibly becoming too expensive to maintain long-term.

To be clear, my numbers weren’t just high, they were so bad most websites I’ve been able to find offering information on the topic basically say that I should be on medication. My doc opted not to give me meds, rather directing me to do the following:

  • Lose weight,
  • reduce alcohol consumption,
  • exercise,
  • change to a low carbohydrate and low-fat diet,
  • follow-up in a year.

There were no further instructions, referrals, or information, just bad news and vague hand-waving gestures in the direction of things that might help. A bit. Maybe. Basically, he put me into the position of having to wander off into the digital wilderness for guidance. It’s not going super-great.

Rather than launch into a 25-page ranty-treatise on being old and fat, just this very second, I’ll leave this here. Over the next several weeks, as I try to breathe life into this blog again, I’ll take on this continuing adventure in bite-sized topics. Hopefully, someone will find this useful or at least have someone to commiserate with.