About My Low-Carb, High-Fat Lifestyle

In July, 2018, my cardiologist recommended that I get serious about losing some weight. I have been gradually gaining weight over the last 10-15 years despite eating right (low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium) and exercising (regularly running and walking, including running several 5K’s, 10K’s, and 5 half-marathons (13.1 miles). He suggested I attend a free seminar put on by Health Transitions Clinic. HTC runs a medically supervised weight-loss program, primarily for diabetics, so that they can monitor your medications and general health as you lose weight.

Skeptical, I called the office and found out more about the program. I was told that it was basically a low-carbohydrate diet designed for diabetics, those who have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and those whose BMI puts them in the overweight or above category. I’m not diabetic, but my weight classified me as obese (5’6″ and 205+ lbs). I spent some time investigating the science behind low-carb diets and decided they were on the right track. Before even going to the free seminar I went ahead and signed up for the 8-month program.

While waiting for the program to start I was given a book to read; Gary Taube’s book Why We Get Fat. I had come to the conclusion as a result of my experience over the years that weight and cholesterol is determined about 90% by genetics and only 10% by diet and exercise. Maybe even 5% diet and exercise. Taube explains how eating carbohydrates (grains, potatoes, and sugar) causes blood sugar (glucose) to increase, which causes the body to produce insulin. Insulin tells your body to store glucose as fat. If we reduce the amount of carbs in our diet, we reduce the blood sugar, reduce the insulin, and reduce the body’s tendency to create fat.

Cutting carbs isn’t easy. You’re cutting out grains (including bread, anything made with flour, pasta, and corn), potatoes (regular or sweet), and sugar (in all its forms, including naturally occurring sugar in fruit and added sugar everywhere). To help you change your habits, the HTC program begins with 6 weeks of “induction”. In the first two, you replace two meals per day with protein shakes that provide your essential nutrients and make it easier to hit the goal of only 20 grams of net carbs (total carbs less dietary fiber) per day. For the next 4 weeks you replace one meal with a shake and up your carb count to 30-50 grams. By the time you get to the end of the 6 weeks you’ve figured out what you can and can’t eat, you’ve learned how to read when your body is really hungry and when you’re just bored, and you’ve lost a lot of weight.

Over the remaining weeks you learn during group meetings how to expand the variety of vegetables in your diet. The group sessions are mostly cooking demos. Recipes for low-carb dishes are distributed.

After the 8-month program I was down 35 lbs (from 205 to 170) and was still losing weight (another 4 lbs over the next 12 months). My BMI is down from about 33 to under 28. When taking into consideration my age and gender, I’ve gone from a situation where my weight has a moderate probability of causing medical issues to where that probability is now low. And I’m still losing weight (I’d like to drop another 10-12 lbs.)

Here’s what I’ve learned in this adventure. If you understand these facts, it will change your life.

  • If you gain weight on the standard American diet, carbs are your poison. Carbs cause you to get fat. Obesity has been found to be directly responsible for heart disease, diabetes, gout, sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. So it’s not exaggeration to  say that the carbs you eat are killing you.
  • Fat doesn’t make you fat. Eating foods that are high in fat is not what makes you fat. In fact, eating food high in fat satiates your appetite, reduces hunger, and helps you eat less. It’s the carbohydrates in your diet that tell your body to convert the sugar in your blood into fat and store it away.
  • High cholesterol foods don’t give you high cholesterol. Eggs are good for you. Eat more eggs.
  • “You have to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight” is a lie. Calories don’t make you fat; carbs do. Stop counting calories. Start counting carbs.
  • Carbs make you hungry. Why do you think restaurants serve bread before you order? It’s because eating carbs makes you hungry so you’ll order more food, especially an expensive dessert. Fat fills you up.
  • You can eat less and not be hungry. The key is eating the right things. I’ve had days where I drink what you might call a low-carb latte for breakfast, have a small salad (greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and cheese) for lunch, and three scrambled eggs with onions, peppers, ham, and cheese for dinner. No snacks. No hunger.
  • Exercise is important to good health, but will cause you to gain weight. You should still exercise. But not for weight loss. The only demographic that has a chance of losing weight from exercise are men under 30. If you’re not a man under 30, you will gain weight as a result of exercise. You should still exercise. You should control your weight with a proper diet.
  • A “diet” can’t be something that you do for a few months to reach a weight goal, then quit. You should think of low-carb as a lifestyle that will last the rest of your life, not a temporary change that will end once you’ve lost those 50 lbs you need to lose.
  • Just because you failed at Weight Watchers or some other diet doesn’t mean you will fail if you choose a low-carb diet. Those other diets don’t work because they don’t teach you how to eat right. They’re doomed to fail because they don’t address why you’re gaining weight. They try to tell you that you are glutton (you just eat too much) and you’re lazy (you don’t get enough exercise). Instead of telling you how to lose weight, they tell you you’re a bad person. Nice. Just what you need.
  • All of the various diet programs are successful only to the extent that you are accidentally reducing carbohydrates. You don’t lose weight at Weight Watchers because you have reduced calories, you lose weight because you’ve cut your intake of sugar in order to cut calories.  You don’t lose weight on a paleo diet because you’re eating like a caveman, you lose weight because you’re not eating Twinkies and bread.


What foods to you avoid?

  • No grains – so no bread, rice, corn, pasta, etc.
  • No potatoes (regular or sweet).
  • No sugar, whether natural or added. So no pop, no fruit juice, no excessively sweet fruit like oranges, apples, or bananas.

What can you eat?

  • Meat, fish, poultry. Fat is OK. Well-marbled steaks, skin-on chicken, and bacon are all OK. No breaded chicken or fish.
  • Cheese and almost-cheese. The closest I come to milk is whipping cream, sour cream, and whole-milk Greek yogurt. No just-plain milk (neither whole nor skim).
  • Eggs. Don’t be afraid of eggs.
  • Veggies, especially dark greens (spinach and kale), broccoli, carrots (in moderation), cauliflower, radishes, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, tomato (yes, I know it’s a fruit; in moderation), peppers, onions.
  • Limited amounts of fruit. Mostly berries. I like raspberries and blueberries. Johnna likes blackberries. Occasional strawberries. No bananas or other tropical fruits.

What do you typically eat each day?

  • Breakfast is one of the following:
    • Bullet-proof coffee (coffee blended with 1 tbsp MCT oil, 2 tbsp unsweetened butter, 1 tsp dark chocolate cocoa (unsweetened), Stevia equal to 2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tbsp Metamucil (fiber supplement). My LDL cholesterol was up after doing bullet-proof coffee for breakfast for about 2-3 months. I saw a website that suggested dropping it. My doctor said it was no problem to continue using it and that my LDL (though at the upper limit of 100) was fine. Note: The Stevia I use is from SweetLeaf and uses inulin (a non-digestible dietary fiber) as a filler instead of dextrose, which, ironically, is sugar.
    • 3 eggs with cheese and a couple sausage patties. No juice, no toast, no hash browns. Maybe a few raspberries. Definitely some Cholula hot sauce!
  • Lunch:
    • A salad made with dark green leafy veggies like spinach, kale, and arugula; broccoli; cauliflower; maybe carrots; cheese; and either a hard-boiled egg or grilled chicken. Balsamic vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing.
    • Something egg-based, like a veggie omelet with some bacon.
    • A low-carb protein shake: 1 cup unsweetened “original” Almond milk; 1 tbsp MCT oil or olive oil; 1 scoop Quest Salted Caramel protein powder; 1/2 tsp cinnamon; 2 tsp chia seed. Blend on a fairly high speed to chop up the chia seeds.
  • Snacks: I try to avoid snacks but if I get hungry between lunch and dinner I’ll have one of these:
    • Pecans (about 1g net carbs per handful)
    • Pork rinds (chicharrones) . The spicy pork rinds are best; the plain ones taste like licking a pig. 0-1g net carbs per serving.
    • Amana Beef Snack Sticks. They’re like beef jerky but 0g net carbs. (You have to be careful with jerky and other cured meats; they tend to add things that add carbs.)
    • String cheese or other single-serving cheeses.
    • Coffee-flavored Keto Cups. 1g net carbs per cup.
  • Dinner: Varies. In general I try to have about a 6-8 oz serving of protein and two servings of vegetables.
  • Dessert: If I have anything “sweet” at all it will be a dish of about 8-10 raspberries and homemade, no-carb whipped cream. Alternately, sugar-free Jello with raspberries.

How many grams of carbs can/should you have?

The standard American diet is about 350 grams per day. I find I need to be at or below 20 grams in order to have a chance at losing any weight. That’s considered a pretty intense “Keto” diet. Note those are “net carbs” — so total carbs from the label of the food I’m eating less “dietary fiber”. If I get into the 50-70 gram range I will start to put weight back on.

How do you eat at restaurants?

I don’t go to fast food restaurants, but could. They’re just boring when you can’t eat french fries. Typically I’ll order a sandwich of some kind without a bun. Often you can ask for a burger to be served on greens instead of a bun. Today I ate at a place that had chicken salad sandwiches, so I asked for chicken salad on a bed of spinach instead of bread. Instead of fries I get a salad or veggies. Diet soda, water, or unsweet tea. No dessert.

We’ve ordered pizza and eaten just the cheese and toppings. I’ve ordered pasta dishes with just the sauce over grilled chicken.

In the course of learning how to eat on this diet we’ve found restaurants that either intentionally or accidentally have some really good meals that are low-carb. A number of places offer riced or mashed cauliflower in place of potatoes. A few select restaurants make salads with real greens instead of iceberg lettuce. (Always choose non-sweet, high-fat dressings. Get them on the side so you can control how much they put on the salad.)

Does it work?

In the first year and a half I lost about 39 lbs, or just short of 20% of my starting weight. After 2 years I had a medication change due to chronic asthma, which caused me to gain about 5 lbs. They tell me that’s water, not fat.

I’m not hungry. I’m eating a wider variety of food than I used to, and I’m eating food that tastes better. Clothes fit better. I’m running again; I’m up to 20-22 miles per week (I run three days each week; 5-10 miles per day; longer if I’m training for a race) during the summer. I’ve run two half-marathons (13.1 miles) on a cup of bullet-proof coffee for breakfast and water laced with Nuun electrolyte tablets during the race, including one that was my personal best (2 hours 18 minutes).

I’m off one blood pressure medicine (HCTZ). I’ve dialed back my BiPAP (sleep apnea) pressures and am talking to my neurologist about a plan to re-test and potentially get off it entirely.

After a year my HDL (good) cholesterol was up and triglycerides were down. LDL (bad) cholesterol was also up, but that’s normal in a low-carb diet. There are a couple kinds of LDL cholesterol, and LCHF diets tend to cause an increase in the “large, fluffy” LDL that doesn’t clog arteries, not the “small, granular” LDL that causes problems. The test to distinguish between the two is apparently expensive and rarely done.

Where can I learn more?

I usually send people to dietdoctor.com for general information on the low-carb, high-fat lifestyle. They are stronger advocates of intermittent fasting than I am. I don’t believe you need to fast to lose weight. Remember, this is a lifestyle change, not a temporary  project. You shouldn’t do anything that you can’t maintain for the rest of your life.

If you’re local to the Cedar Rapids, IA area, this is the program I’m in: Health Transitions Clinic. Tell them I sent you, and you’ll get a discount. Seriously.

Health Transitions Clinic runs the same program at a lower cost at https://wellnessfromfood.com. You’re monitored by a physician, nurses, and dietitians.

I’ve read a number of good books on the subject. The Taubes book mentioned above is good. Here are a couple more:

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease

The Case Against Sugar

Excluding Myself From the Vibram Settlement

Photo May 26, 2 58 13 PMEarlier this month, Vibram — makers of FiveFingers “toe shoes” — announced a settlement in a lawsuit in which they were accused of misleading their customers about the virtues of their FiveFingers shoes for runners. The claimants were apparently injured during transition to running in the shoes, and argued that Vibram made false claims about the efficacy of their shoes.

I’ve been running in FiveFingers shoes for several years, including at least two half marathons. Based on information on the Vibram website and everything I read about transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running, I made a gradual and purposeful transition, starting with intervals of about a tenth of a mile alternating with walking over a total distance of about a mile. I alternated running with traditional running shoes and FiveFingers. It was a gradual and frustrating process.

Not only did I not get injured, but the very reason I made the switch was that running in traditional shoes had resulted in a knee injury that necessitated arthroscopic surgery to my right knee. My reaction to that injury was not to sue Adidas or Nike, but rather to fix my problem and find a solution.

These days I run 20+ miles per week in my Vibram Bikila EVO’s, which are my fourth pair. I run a combination of trails and sidewalks. I’ve run in several organized races so far this year, including a 5K (3 miles), an 8.5 mile time-prediction race, and a 13.1 mile half marathon. I’ll do a 10K (6 miles) on the Fourth of July and another half marathon on Labor Day weekend.

I could very easily request my $90 settlement from Vibram, but I refuse to be a party to the actions of these idiots and their shyster lawyers. Below is my letter to Vibram’s lawyers, opting out of the class.

June 6, 2014

Vibram FiveFingers Class Action Settlement Administrator
PO Box 449
Philadelphia, PA 19105-0449

RE: Valerie Bezdek v. Vibram USA Inc., et al., Case Number 1:12-cv-10513-DPW (D. Mass.) Exclusion Request

Dear Sir or Madam:

I believe the claimants in this case are both ignorant and deceptive. Ignorant in that they didn’t read or couldn’t understand the massive amount of information available to runners transitioning to minimalist running, including the extensive information on the Vibram website itself, and deceptive in that they have mischaracterized how this product has been represented by Vibram.

I believe this suit to be little more than a way for a small number of amoral lawyers to collect nearly a million dollars while setting aside only $2500 for each of their clients. The claim is false; the claimants are lying; and their lawyers are some of the worst excuses for human beings to ever walk the planet.

On principle, then, I must request to be excluded from the Class – not as a way to preserve my right to sue, but as a way to object in the strongest possible terms to the very idea that anything the claimants have said has any merit.

I do not save receipts for products I have no intention of ever returning, so I cannot file an objection to the settlement, which was my first inclination. Suffice to say I believe it is very gracious of Vibram to agree to this settlement given that the claims are so fallacious.

I am the proud owner of four pairs of FiveFingers Bikila running shoes for which I am requesting exclusion. I followed the instructions on the website and in all the literature related to transitioning to minimalist running, and had none of the experiences described by the claimants and their lawyers, who are woefully stupid and disgustingly disingenuous.


Craig Rairdin

How NOT to Stream Live Video from your iPhone

Today I thought it would be cool to stream video of my run to the Internet. I was sure there was an app out there that would do it, and sure enough there is: UStream.

I installed the app and went through the process to set up an account. At the end of entering my data, it said there was already an account for my email address. That was weird; I had never downloaded this app before. I suppose it’s possible I’ve tried installing this program in the past, so I figured I’d ask it to send my password to me and I’d log in to this mysterious, already-existing account.

When I clicked the “forgot my password” link, it asked for my account ID, not my email address. I entered the most likely account ID I may have used in the past, and it told me there was no account for that ID. So I entered a second account ID I sometimes use and sure enough, it said it was sending password reset instructions to me by email.

I waited and waited for an email but it never arrived. So somewhere out there, the person with the account ID “craigr” got a mysterious email asking him to reset his password.

In the meantime I decided to log in with a different email address and was able to set up a new account. I proceeded to the next step, which was to connect my account to Facebook so it could notify my friends when I was broadcasting live video. I got the familiar “connect to Facebook” dialog and entered my Facebook login credentials. Facebook asked for my permission to share all my personal data with UStream, and I agreed. This led to a screen that said, simply, “Success”. There was one and only one button for me to push. It said “Cancel”. I waited and waited but nothing happened. I finally decided to push the Cancel button, and sure enough, it canceled my login.

After trying a couple more times I decided to do an end-run around this stupid process. I went to my iPad and logged into their website using my newly established account. Going into my settings page on the website, I enabled the option to connect to Facebook. Facebook seemed to remember I had given it permission to interact with UStream, so that all went well.

Returning to the iPhone, I exited the application and re-launched it. I tried connecting to Facebook but with no luck. The program simply doesn’t work.

I still think it would be cool to broadcast live during my run and somehow interact with people. UStream is definitely NOT the way to do it.

Why I Run

I’ve never been one for sports or exercise, adopting as my life verse “bodily exercise profiteth little” (1 Tim 4:8a).

A while back someone asked my dad why I started running. My dad had an interesting answer. “I think he got a new phone that had a running program on it that let him track his location with GPS and keep track of his time, distance, heart rate and a bunch of other stuff. I think he started running so he could play with all that stuff.”

That’s not too far from the truth. About seven or eight years ago I started working out when my doctor put me on cholesterol and blood pressure medication. I was doing 30-45 minutes on an elliptical machine three days a week. About three years ago I was heading down to my dark basement on a beautiful spring day to work out when I thought, “why not run instead?” So I headed out the front door to see how far I could run. I ran until I got dizzy and my stomach got upset, then walked home. I got in my car and drove the same route and found I had run about three quarters of a mile.

Two days later I headed out again, this time with a program on my iPhone (RunKeeper, www.RunKeeper.com) that tracked my distance and time. I made it a mile before I couldn’t go farther.

I read online that it helps to run short intervals then walk for a minute or two. I started running quarter mile intervals with 2 minute walks in between and found I could cover 2-3 miles without wearing myself out.

A knee injury took me out the rest of that year (2009). I started up again the following spring and got my running intervals up to a mile and a half by the end of the summer, with total distances around 4.5 to 6 miles of running.

By now I was hooked. I enjoyed the challenge of running. Being able to track my progress on RunKeeper’s website was highly motivating. Running itself is hard and at times, boring. But it’s like the guy who was pounding his head against the wall. When asked why he did it, he replied, “Because it feels so good when I stop.” when I’m done, there’s a feeling of accomplishment.

This summer a friend told me she does the same kind of interval running, but runs 5 minutes then walks 1 minute. I switched to that method and increased my distance to about 7.3 miles.

A change in my work schedule made it more convenient for me to run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I added a Saturday morning run to my schedule. Three weeks ago I had a crazy idea and turned left when I should’ve gone straight and my usual 7-mile route became a 10-mile route. 10 miles wasn’t bad.

I told my friend about my weekend run and she said, “If you can run 10 you can do a half marathon (13.1 miles). So the next weekend I made another left turn and my 10-mile route became a 13.1 mile route.

The problem with running farther than you’ve ever run before is that you first have to run as far as you’ve ever run before, then you have to keep running after that. At about 11 miles I was re-thinking my decision but then I hit 12 and it seemed like a waste not to go all the way. I made it 13.1 miles in just under two and a half hours.

The following Monday, my sadistic friend said I should look for a “real” half-marathon to run. I went online and discovered the local running club was sponsoring a half-marathon the very next weekend. $36 later I was registered for my first official half-marathon, which I completed in about two hours and 23 minutes, beating the personal record I set the week before.

I told you all that so I could talk about technology. The core of the technology I carry with me is RunKeeper running on my iPhone. To that I add a pulse rate monitor from Wahoo Fitness (Www.wahoofitness.com). This provides real-time heart rate data to RunKeeper.

So that RunKeeper can calculate calories burned, it needs to know my weight. So I have a Withings WiFi-connected scale (www.Withings.com) that automatically uploads my weight and body mass index (BMI) to a website where RunKeeper can access it. This has the further benefit of tracking my weight loss without me having to create a spreadsheet and update it manually.

That’s the computing technology that keeps me running. But there are some other products that are essential. First, A Speed 2 hydration belt from Nathan Sports (Www.nathansports.com) lets me carry 20 oz of water or Gatorade along with a pouch full of “energy gel” packets for replenishing electrolytes (they’re what plants need) in long runs. (For runs that are ten miles or more I need more liquid so I have to plan my run to pass a water supply).

Absolutely essential are NipGuards (www.nipguards.com). Running longer than an hour or so causes a lot of nipple abrasion. Running without a shirt is not an option for me (I run past a school, and the sight of me shirtless frightens small children and some animals), so affixing a pair of NipGuards protects me from embarrassing blood-streaked shirts.

I’m currently running in Mizuno Wave Rider 14 shoes. These lightweight shoes give me a medium amount of support and cushioning without getting in the way of the normal flexing of my feet. The provide less structure than the Asics I was running in before, but are lighter and more flexible.

Other than my winter running gear, I’ve been able to find good shorts and shirts at Target. You need something that wicks moisture away and lets it evaporate, as opposed to a traditional cotton that will just hold sweat.

So yes, a lot of why I run is all the cool toys. But I can’t dismiss the feeling of accomplishment watching my times improve and distances get longer.

Fact: Verizon iPhone GPS is Grossly Inaccurate

Verizon and Apple deny there are any problems with the GPS in the Verizon iPhone. I can demonstrate this is not the case.

Today I ran a route that MapMyRun.com says is 5.06 miles.

Here is the route as recorded by RunKeeper on my AT&T iPhone 3GS: AT&T iPhone says 4.93 miles.

Here is the route as recorded by RunKeeper on my Verizon iPhone 4: Verizon iPhone says 6.3 miles.

The Verizon iPhone does a better job if you turn off its cellular data connection and WiFi. However, with cellular data turned off, I can’t use RunKeeper’s feature of reporting my position live on their website as I run, nor can I send or receive text messages. The AT&T iPhone does equally well regardless of whether its data connection and/or WiFi is turned on.

I’ve talked to the people at RunMeter and RunKeeper and had them analyze the data. It appears that Verizon favors using location data gleaned from cell towers and private WiFi access points. What you’ll notice with the Verizon map is that it appears that I run up to every cell phone tower and building that has a WiFi access point, when in fact I’m running straight down the street or trail.

Verizon denies there is a problem. I’ve talked to their tech support on at least three occasions and they have escalated the problem, but nobody has ever called back. Apple asked for supporting data but never replied after I sent it.

The proof is in: Your Verizon iPhone does not know where you are. It ignores location data from 24 geosynchronous, military-grade, high-tech satellites and favors rough triangulation based on your drunken neighbor’s badly configured wireless access point.