Regular Guy

When you Google "Atkins" and "constipation" you get 31500 links, so it is not an uncommon side effect. I've never had it before, but I'm guessing the recent superhumid weather dehydrated me enough to trigger a bout.

My remedy is a level teaspoon of ground psyllium husks sprinkled into a glass of "carb counter chocolate drink" and left overnight in the fridge. It isn't really milk, it is more of a viscous cocoa-laced industrial extrusion of dairy byproducts, but it is thick and gets even thicker with the powdered fiber without feeling grainy or even irritable as you sip it.

It's a way to squeeze some value into otherwise empty calories.

Consumer Reports did a feature on all the diets earlier this year, focussing on whether the low-carb snacks that are coming out are really "free calories." Although the Atkins folks do seem to suggest that you can eat all this stuff you want without gaining weight, the article went on to suggest that the "original" diet was conceived before the advent of low-carb Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and that padding your diet with low-carb junk food will slow your weight loss or even stop it.

So I maybe have two or three such treats in a week, "as needed." Come to think of it, if I had the sense to limit my sweets to two or three treats a week for the last 20 years, maybe I would have avoided the need for this diet in the first place.


The St(r)eak

I have gone low-carb, following the Atkins plan. This means no sugar, no fruit, no flour, and no "sweet vegetables." In the "Induction Phase," I limit myself to 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, derived mostly from three cups of green salad or two cups of salad plus one cup of other veggies. I take a vitamin supplement that contains some other fruit solids and a flaxseed/fish oil pill that is designed to send good stuff to my heart.

In the future I'll go into meal details, but right now I'll keep it short: I eat fresh food exclusively, in as large a quantity as I want, three times a day. No counting calories, no counting fat grams, nothing to count but 20 grams of carbs. That's it.

Once my system got over the shock (a few days), staying on the plan has been easy, in the physical sense. It's not like nicotine, where it has been proven your body actually produces a physical craving. No, the problem is in the head: the mental cravings. Sweets after dinner. Little carb "rewards" for good things in the day, or "compensation" to get over bad things. That was harder.

Other than trying to keep my final goal in sight, the way I beat out the impulses to cheat was to imagine myself on a streak. Like a baseball no-hitter, or a winning streak. To keep me going, I would think, I've gone XXX days without cheating, I can't break my streak now. I have no idea how that was a convincing argument with myself, yet there it is: it's been working.


Pants and Pantry

You don't make a big life change and plan to fail. Yet there are things you do to hedge your bets. Right?

Like pants. My old pants are now too big. Toss them? Or squirrel them away? And if I save them, am I completely honest with myself as to why? I'll never gain the weight back. Right. Say it again.

Maybe I just want to save them to be used as props in the future. Like Jared, the Subway sandwich guy.

Then there's the pantry. Over Labor Day weekend we emptied out our pantry and completely reorganized it to my new way of cooking. Pasta off to a corner. Baking supplies out of the way. Oils, vinegars, seasonings front and center. Et cetera.

There are over a dozen cans and packages of food I have no intention now of eating. It is good food I need to give away, like Trader Joe's Chicken Chili (80 grams of carb per can). Frozen pasta. Stuff like that.

I haven't done it yet. The whole transaction is, I don't know... creepy.

"Um, I have a bag of food that I think will shorten your life and which I've forsworn for the next decade. Would you be willing to take the insulin bullet for me?"

And what kind of answer should I be looking for, anyway? "Mmmmmm, Doritos! Thanks!"

Maybe, just maybe, at the deepest root of such transactions, both sides think the other side is an idiot. Just like in real estate.

Weekly Weigh-in

Originally I didn't want to weigh myself. I just wanted to go on the diet, lose the weight, and buy new clothes at the end. For two weeks I did just that. I don't know what my starting weight was.

But then I read some discussion groups and a frequent question appeared to be, "I am at a plateau, what do I do?" or "I'm stuck at my current weight, help!" Now, how would I know if I'm on a plateau if I'm not keeping track?

I was on Weight Watchers in the early 1990s. I recall the whole thing revolving around the weekly weigh-in. I remember wearing lighter clothes, drinking nothing, doing all sorts of Enron tricks to keep the final accounting a week in the future. I didn't want to repeat that gamesmanship.

So two weeks into the diet I stepped on the scales. Jesus. Although I was visibly looking thinner, I still weighed a whole lot more than I ever thought. Another testament to the power of self-denial.

Now, as I melt down, I have a pleasant ambiguity over my starting weight. I can only estimate.

I sometimes feel an odd temptation to embellish my start weight, or the speed of the meltdown, as if it is a function of virtue rather than a mere calculus of calories and metabolism. "Oh yeah? I've been losing four pounds a week for seven months." Nyah.

I started on July 6, 2004. My first weigh-in was July 20.

This week I lost two pounds. In the last seven weeks I've lost twenty pounds. Rah.



I am on a diet. And I realize that there is nothing more boring than to listen to a person evangelize about what they eat and why, or to get lectured on what you should be eating and what you shouldn't be eating and why.

Yet the urge is there. Right up there with the occasional carb craving (I'm on Atkins) is the sanctimonious desire to smack some food out of an obese person's hand and say, "You should not blah blah blah." It can be a struggle.

So I am going to blog my little discoveries and insights and see where it takes me.