Well, I fucked up.
Last year when I was eating low carb, I was doing it all wrong. I think I was scared of all macronutrients except protein, and instead of following a diet plan that was ketogenic – allowing for the production of ketones to provide fuel to the body – I was following some random Atkins-esque plan. I was losing weight (at first) so it seemed like the right thing to do, but when my weight loss stopped and my labs looked terrible and I started feeling tired and bored with my meat-and-vegetable diet I gave up. I now realize that my focus was misguided. I was targeting carbohydrates (keeping them low) when I should have been targeting insulin.
Thanks to my brilliant commenters I now realize that diet was actually fairly insulinogenic, and with all that insulin it’s impossible to use body fat for fuel. I lost 15-20 pounds eating that way, which probably represented a reduction in my previous Peat-inspired insulin level of 27.9 two years ago. I wonder if this is why people stall on low-carb diets…they manage to reduce their insulin level enough with their meat-and-veggies-only diet, but because the meat is actually insulinogenic the weight stops at the point that the insulin stops dropping. So Atkins had it right up to a point…and for some people that’s enough. Their insulin isn’t so chronically high, or their body isn’t so quick to toss insulin all over the place, and just cutting the carbs is enough to drop insulin low enough that their body can release stored fat for fuel. I’m not one of those people.
For years I’ve had to be very careful of what I eat because everything seems to make me desperately hungry. Coffee, rice, gigantic salads containing many ounces of skinless chicken – always with the ravenous hunger 1-2 hours later. 10 years ago I could eat a “low carb diet” of meat, eggs, and veggies and never feel hungry. Now my blood sugar is much less stable than that, probably because insulin resistance has advanced and therefore insulin output has increased. When I was eating meat/eggs/veggies for 6-8 months last year I would have what seemed like a giant breakfast of steak and eggs – seriously, like 800-1000 calories, and I would be hungry 2 hours later. I figured I was just broken and kept eating more and more to make the hunger go away.
When I originally started with Nourish Balance Thrive I met with their diet specialist, Julie, and she recommended a paleo diet that was 60-65% fat. I think for most people that would probably work well. I eliminated all starch and sugar from my diet and figured I was probably in the ballpark as long as I was eating fatty meats. I really should have Cronometered it, because looking back I was probably getting only about 50% of my calories from fat…and that was not enough. So I was putting myself in a state where I had no carbohydrates for quick energy and no ketones due to high insulin. It’s really no wonder I stayed hungry, weight loss stopped, and I got tired. It seems the goal shouldn’t be low blood sugar – it should be low insulin, as discussed by Dr. Fung in Christopher Kelly’s podcast and Woo all over her blog (though, ironically the latter considers the former to be a menace who must be stopped).
So I’ve been learning over the last couple of days about insulin – how to lower it, how to keep it low, and how to fuel the body while doing that. My goals, of course, are to lose body fat and improve metabolic markers (reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure) while not starving and being irritable all the time. I came across the Optimising Nutrition blog discussing an “insulin index” – much more useful to me than a “glycemic index” since my goal is shifting from low blood sugar to low insulin. Contrary to my previous belief, carbohydrate density and insulin demand are not perfectly correlated.
The author states:
“The chart below [see it here] shows the relationship between the glycemic load and insulin index from the testing undertaken in healthy people. Reducing the glycemic load does not guarantee a low insulin response, particularly when it comes to high protein foods.”
This graph, which is based on the data in this thesis: Clinical Application of the Food Insulin Index to Diabetes Mellitus (Kirstine Bell, September 2014 indicates that raisins create about as much insulin as cheddar cheese.
I know, right?
Click here and scroll down for a chart of Least Insulinogenic Foods along with their Food Insulin Index. Suddenly my seemingly-random and incredibly-annoying hunger makes so much sense. I was eating too much meat, and my insulin was too high.
So for the last 3-4 days I’ve been following these charts and eating things that are much less insulinogenic. The steps I’ve taken:
- Eliminated all dense forms of carbohydrate again (rice, sugar in all forms, etc) limiting carbohydrate intake to just vegetables
- Drastically reduced meat intake to probably 4 ounces per day
- Eliminated egg whites
- Added high fat dairy including cream cheese, sour cream and mozzarella cheese (no milk), as well as olives, homemade low-PUFA mayonnaise, and raw macadamia nuts
The results so far: hunger has dropped about 80% and when it’s there it’s not the gnawing painful type. Irritability and fatigue are gone, unless I accidentally eat too much protein. I learned today that egg yolks (not just the whites) contain a certain amount of protein and 3 of them – even without the whites – is really too much. I’m still working out the details, but Cronometer tells me that even a seemingly high ratio of fat to protein+carb is not high enough to avoid the irritability and hunger that suggest too much insulin was generated. For example, this morning breakfast was 3 egg yolks cooked in coconut oil with half of an avocado. Here’s the macronutrient breakdown of this meal:
So this meal had a ratio of about 2.6/1 fat to carb+protein. About 90 minutes later I had that familiar hunger/irritability. So I’ll be looking for more of a 3/1 or 4/1 ratio which translates to about 75-80% of calories from fat. I ate a couple ounces of macadamia nuts and felt much better.
Further experiments to follow.
I feel really happy. My mood has improved 100% since giving up the carbs again, and it happened on day 1. This is probably related to discontinuing the eating of foods that cause endotoxin. I hope I’m on the right track now.
A side note – taking the Metformin is going well. My hot flashes went away a few days after I started taking it. Things are looking up.