Why yes, it is another diet question!
June 21, 2012 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Like every other person on earth, I'm intrigued by the idea of a low-carb diet for weight loss and generally feeling better on a daily basis. I've read lots of almost miraculous success stories, and since I need to lose ~20-25lbs and my standard low-calorie, fruits/vegetables/whole grains thing doesn't seem to work any more, of course I'm thinking I should at least try it. The problem is, most of those success stories include extreme euphoria over the opportunity to consume all that yummy fat and protein, but I mostly really dislike fat and and don't particularly love protein either.

I love almost all fruits and vegetables. I love breads and pastas and baked goods and chocolate and candy, though I can totally live with limiting those to rare occasions. (Except maybe the chocolate, but I could switch to small amounts of very dark chocolate.) I like brown rice and other "healthy" grains. I like turkey and chicken and eggs and fish a lot, but I don't like to eat them that often. A few times a week is more than enough. I don't really like beef or lamb - I'll eat them if they're served to me, but I'd never willingly cook them. I like skim milk in my coffee and fat-free Greek yogurt. I love cheese, but only with crackers or bread. I can't eat cheese by itself or just with fruit or vegetables. (Though oddly I do like it scrambled in eggs.) I can't stand full fat yogurt, I've tried. I can do full milk or cream but only in very strong or bitter-tasting coffee, like Starbucks. In my normal, weaker coffee, I find anything but skim kind of nasty. I love olive oil, but butter and cream are foul. (They're fine in baking where their flavor is obscured by other ingredients, but obviously brownies and scones would be out.) Basically anything that tastes obviously rich or fatty is so disgusting that I almost can't eat it. I could eat a tub of frozen yogurt, but usually don't like more than a few bites of ice cream.

Additional dietary weirdnesses:

-I'm allergic to nuts, seeds, and legumes. (Just assume all of them.)
-I don't eat pork, shellfish, or anything with dairy and meat in the same dish/meal.
-I LOVE salty things - I could happily eat just olives for dinner - but I avoid them as much as possible because even small amounts of salt make me retain water like crazy. I'm talking my rings don't fit and my eyes look like I've been up all night drinking the day after I have a couple handfuls of blue corn chips. And even things that are not salted but just naturally contain salt like any animal protein seem very salty to me. (Tasty, but, not so good for my shoes fitting.)
-I rarely get truly hungry, and I rarely feel truly full, so I like calorie-counting because I know I'm not getting too much or too little. I have no psychological "fear of fat" or anything, aside from not liking the taste, but the thought of not counting calories is scary because in the past whenever I don't do it I get fatter, and quick.
-Except for rare moments of "Wheee, what the hell, bring me ALL the crackers!" I prefer eating small amounts of food at a time, and feel better grazing/snacking instead of having large meals at societally-dictated times.

I do go through brief phases where I try to eat a lot less brown rice and chocolate and fruit, and a lot more poultry, eggs, and big salads, and I force myself to shove 2% yogurt (ok, with berries) into my face. And I don't mind it at first but after a few days I start to feel like I'm physically coated with grease. Also really salty and puffy. And so I go back to bananas and unsalted brown rice cakes and cucumbers, and I feel cleaner and not gross, but I stay just as fat.

So the question is, could I even do a diet like this with all those caveats and without consuming full fat dairy, steak, bacon, rich creamy sauces, etc.? If you were like me and you tried this, did the salt=puffy thing go away? Did you stop feeling like you were covered inside and out with a film of Crisco?

(FWIW I did South Beach in my 20s, though probably while eating more fruit than is technically allowed. One of the few
"real diets" I've ever done. I don't think I lost weight, though at the time I only had 5-10 lbs to lose, but I did get a bit more...toned-looking, I guess.)
posted by DestinationUnknown to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Out of curiosity, have you ever brought up the water retention thing to a doctor? I will retain a couple of pounds of water after a salty meal (and if I go full-on paleo I'll lose ten pounds or so of water within a couple weeks) but really serious visible bloating sounds like way more than I experience, and I wonder if it's, you know, a thing.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:52 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe you need to go in the other direction and do a radical vegan plan like the Engine 2 Diet? If having lots of protein and fat make you feel ick, it's unlikely you'd stick to a low carb eating plan.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:12 PM on June 21, 2012

I switched to a paleo/keto style diet about 9 months ago and have dropped 50 lbs without too much effort. I highly recommend you (everyone, actually) read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It's a really fascinating examination of the state of health science and ends up questioning a lot of the "common wisdom" Americans have about diet. A few things:

(1) I found I had a higher tolerance and even desire for fat after I cut carbs mostly out of my diet. I also don't eat a ton of dairy or rich creamy sauces. I do eat eggs, chicken, beef, bacon, avocado, and some cheese, among other sources of fat. I also eat a lot more green vegetables in place of grains than I used to, which I think helps. I actually feel much less "greasy" now than when I was eating a bunch of carbs, even after eating a ribeye or something like that.

(2) Regarding water retention, Taubes suggests in his book that the research shows that carbohydrate consumption actually drives water and salt retention, and that significant reduction of carbohydrate intake will cause you to lose water weight and flush salt. Taubes also suggests that a secondary effect of this is to reduce the risk of hypertension, which sounds like a nice bonus to me.

(3) You can easily do it without eating nuts/seed/legumes. In fact, paleo will encourage you not to eat those things, except maybe some almonds occasionally.

(4) There's no reason to not count calories. If you're comfortable doing it, go right ahead. I didn't count calories initially, because the weight came off more easily at the beginning. Now that things are tapering down, I'm going to need to start paying more attention to that I think. As far as meal time habits go, I try not to graze. In fact, I basically eat two meals in an 8 hour window between noon and 8 pm, and don't otherwise eat. The fat is what will keep you from getting hungry.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:17 PM on June 21, 2012 [13 favorites]

There are different low carb variations, but the ones I'm the most familiar with would be Keto and Paleo. You would probably hate Keto, because you really do need to eat more fat. If you don't like bacon fat, lard, butter and olive oil then I have no idea where that fat is going to come from. Fruit and grains are out too.

Paleo is less restrictive, but there is still an need for fat and protein.

I find Reddit is a great resource for several different low carb diets r/Paleo r/Keto
posted by wrnealis at 6:22 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Starting from a diet very similar to yours, I got good results just from minimising my carbs. I'm not a big fat/protein lover either. I went down a dress size just from dropping my intake of brown rice and wholegrain bread. So it's absolutely worth experimenting with whether lowering your carb intake without changing other things about your diet will change your weight.

However, since your regular diet is so healthy already, I'd be wary of further dietary restrictions. If you're putting away a piled heap of rice at every meal, and eating five bananas a day, your diet would be the best place to look. But is exercise another option for getting off your plateau?

I thought I was immune to getting an eating disorder (I like food so much!) until I went from medium-carb-intake to very-low-carb-intake, and it was the precipitating factor (I think because it felt so extreme, and so clean) in a little trip into anorexia. I know psychological 'fear of fat' isn't your issue, but since you like feeling 'clean' with regards to food, be wary of your brain deciding that only eating leaves makes you virtuous.

Also re fat in particular, I don't agree with the broad principles of the paleo diet at all, but I had a similar experience to monju_bonsatsu's. After I mostly cut carbs out (and then kicked my disordered eating), my former absolute distaste for protein and particularly fat was replaced by slightly liking them. So, that might happen.

Avocadoes are a tasty and not-greasy way to get some vegetable fats.
posted by pickingupsticks at 6:25 PM on June 21, 2012

If you want to go the Paleo route of adding in more fats, this thread looks perfect for you. The OP is looking for ways to incorporate fat into the diet of his (sick) mum who hates fatty-tasting things. Lots of smart suggestions that won't set off your grease-ickiness.
posted by pickingupsticks at 6:30 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since maybe age 30, I bloat if I eat at a restaurant or have a handful of corn chips and don't drink a ton of compensatory water. Are you drinking more water when you change your diet? (Bloating exacerbated by salt is a common side effect of most if not all hormonal contraception, too.)

I'm no diet expert but it seems like if you're going to cut carbs, you might want to keep some high-protein whole grains, given that you have so few sources of protein, and, for salt-reduction and carb-reduction, cut out everything that's processed. Brown rice rather than brown ricecakes, no crackers or chips and only very carefully chosen bread. Spelt or teff or quinoa casseroles or salads.

I don't think eating things you hate just for the sake of satiety is a sustainable approach to dieting. I suspect a flavorless oil would go down more easily in your fat-free yogurt and your cooking than dairy fats. You're limited in your options by the seed allergy, but rice bran oil should work, since we know you're not allergic to rice bran.
posted by gingerest at 6:37 PM on June 21, 2012

Just picking up on one detail: Try switching to the good quality dark chocolate as your first step and see what that does. I encouraged my chocoholic son to do that. He also began walking a bit more. But better quality chocolate was the only dietary change he made. He lost quite a bit of weight. Eating cheap chocolate was causing him to eat way more calories than he needed in order to get enough actual cocoa into him.
posted by Michele in California at 6:48 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used to hate butter too, but that was likely because what I'd been served as "butter" all my life was solidified corn oil or whatever abominable thing they make margarine out of. Real butter, like Kerrygold, is a beautiful thing. I eat a pat on my steamed veg and meat for dinner most nights. Same with cream. Couldn't stand the stuff until I ditched the carb-heavy diet. Note that a little will go a long way with the fats. You don't need to drink a pint of cream every day. I put about 1/4 a cup in my almond milk-whey powder shakes to give them a smoother texture. This breakfast usually keeps me from being hungry until about 1-2 in the afternoon. And this from my old plan of having high-fiber cereal + skim milk for breakfast, feeling terribly hungry again by 10am and having yoghurt + fruit or a bagel, then still being hungry enough to eat a full lunch by 11:30. If you can tolerate coconut oil (it does impart a coconut-y taste which could be good or bad), it's a great fat to add to your diet. I usually put a tablespoon in my morning protein shake. If you're doing salads be generous with the olive oil. My daily fare is a huge spinach salad with plenty of oil and a few squeezes of lemon. Sometimes I add a bit of feta to that, but not always. A little extra oil can be easy to sneak onto your food in the form of pesto or other fat-based sauces.

On fruit, yeah, you will probably have to scale back dramatically on them. Fruits contain a lot of sugar and really aren't very satiating. In fact, I've recently regained a bit thanks to cherry season. I know that to truly reap the benefits of a low-carb diet, I can't have fruit every day, but the temptation's still there. Also look carefully at yogurts. The can contain a lot of sugar as well. I've recently decided that there's no yogurt low in carbs enough to be safe for me. Also any grains at all bloat me like whoa. Even wheat-derived fiber supplements. I get my fiber in the form of chia seeds.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:01 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, I came back to add these Barleans oils are amazing. They do taste just like smoothie all on their own. You could eat a tablespoon or two by itself, no problem. Also, fish oil capsules. Lots of them. I have about 6 a day. I get the kind that have lemon in them to mask the fishy taste.

I didn't address the issue of feeling "greasy", but I wanted to add that I've never experienced this, so I'm not sure what might be the cause. I do know that my oily, acne-prone skin looks dramatically different when I'm stricter with low-carbing. Like, people randomly stop me to tell me how nice it looks when just a few years ago I was totally miserable and pizza-faced at 32.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:12 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you like spicy foods? A glug of sriracha sauce can cut the flavor of fat like nobody's business.
posted by elizeh at 7:19 PM on June 21, 2012

Read the Atkins book to motivate yourself. And/or any of the other books.

There are two "tricks" in the low carb thing: proteins and fats make you feel satiated for WAY fewer calories. A huge steak only really has 3-400 calories in it, and those are difficult calories for the body to extract. And then there is the ketogenic thing.

I get the greasy thing, but part of that could be the dairy, and the other part goes away after a while. I suspect it is pores unclogging.

As for the salt thing, look into balancing your sodium with your magnesium and potassium. I remember reading somewhere that some people need to take greater care to balance these out, or else they will bloat.

The thing to watch out for is that when you successfully lose the weight, you need to keep it off for a good year before it can even start to be considered permanent. Those fat cells are still there, begging to be filled back up. That's why people yo-yo.
posted by gjc at 7:43 PM on June 21, 2012

you need to keep it off for a good year before it can even start to be considered permanent.

Not to nitpick, but it's actually 5 years of keeping the weight off, not 1.
posted by palomar at 8:22 PM on June 21, 2012

(never mind, I guess the Weight Loss Registry dropped it to a year at some point in the past couple of years. Their requirement used to be five years, so please disregard my earlier comment!)

OP, have you ever talked to a nutritionist about your dietary issues? Since you have a nut/legume allergy issue and you have a hard time with full fat dairy and proteins, maybe your first step needs to be talking to a nutritionist about good sources of fat and protein for you.

And in case no one's said it... quinoa. Have you tried it? I'm not a big fan of the taste, myself, but it's full of protein and it might appeal to you.
posted by palomar at 8:24 PM on June 21, 2012

I'm mostly like you. When I cut out rice, I just added more veggies. Instead of eating broccoli over rice, I ate more broccoli, or ate broccoli over squash. I did this 30 day challenge. You could even consider the diet in this book (warning: annoying title and tone!). I believe it is vegan, with no sugar or wheat, but you could modify it to include fish or chicken occasionally. When I've done similar diets, I come to regard rice as tasteless filler and can't believe I spent so many calories on something with so little nutrition or even flavor. I believe that, when I am on a normal (crazy) diet, rice helps because it is easy to digest, but on this diet, food in general becomes easier to digest.

Also, one note on grease. Things that raise your body temp and metabolism will temporarily make your hair and skin greasy. For me, that goes away after about three days. But some kind of fat intake will make me greasy in an ongoing way. Since it sounds like, like me, fat in general is not that easy for you, maybe just try replacing your grain-based carbs with veggies and see how that goes for awhile.
posted by slidell at 8:53 PM on June 21, 2012

I just read recently that getting chilly a few times per day stimulates your body to burn brown fat.

Lost 45 pounds by doing a walking DVD every day, 30 minutes per day, and eating:

- Greek yogurt with blueberries for breakfast -- I mean a CUP of frozen blueberries, thawed, then mix in plain yogurt with no sugar. You might want to add a little more protein, such as a smoothie packet. I think I put in a bit of wheat germ once in a while;

(Then exercise)

- Sandwich at lunch with some protein and low fat cheese, high fiber bread is best (you would cut out the cheese, of course, and maybe add some sprouts and avocado, which is a GOOD fat), and snack on a little cheese & cracker in the afternoon if you get peaky;

- Dinner: protein, limited carbs, and veg for dinner. Sliced chicken breast, 4 oz., with roasted asparagus, and 1/2 cup carb (or whatever grams my nutritionist told me I could have);

My nutritionist told me to limit my carbs to 35-45 grams tops per meal. Just read the label: two slices of bread is about right, or get the thin-sliced bread and go for high fiber.

I was also on a sodium-restricted diet and still do not use a lot of salt even tho' I've gone off my diet and now gearing up to get back on it because eating too much fat is making me feel like crap! Read labels on everything and get a chart that tells you what the sodium is in say, an egg.

I have also gone the other way and done bacon, steak, and eggs, but I don't end up feeling so hot, as I said. Now it's hot and humid and I feel awful from the bacon and eggs I had last night. In winter, however, I crave the fats and that's my downfall, a little here and there, sure.

I don't see WHY you have to tailor your diet to things you hate to eat! My nutritionist simply told me to eat some form of protein (and they do make lowfat cheese, look at the label, but many cheeses are high in sodium so watch out), so many grams per meal.

I did eat 2 squares of good dark chocolate after dinner. I was onto rice pudding for a while but then I got sick of it (although my cat loved to lick the cup). My husband was into yogurt for dessert, but watch the carbs in flavored yogurt if you eat that.

I feel bloated and off if I do the high fat and salty foods, and too much salt is not good for you. Pour some salted water on a plant and see what happens. Yeah. Not for me.

I know you said you prefer to graze, but grazing is what gets you into trouble. I had to force myself to do the routine every day. 8:00 breakfast, 11:30-12:00 lunch, some small snack in between meals is okay, but look at grapes, say, they have tons of carbs. I would really recommend a good nutritionist to make sure you are getting all of your dietary needs met. My husband has done the Atkins type diets and it's just not something to stick with forever (not for me anyway).

I do like my steak but limit my red meat. If I really want bacon, my dr. said go ahead and eat it, just don't go overboard. I had tofu (which you said you can't have anyway, but legumes don't fill me up, sorry, animal protein does, and it doesn't have to be a lot or be red meat!) with green beans, Chinese takeout, and a little rice and a small eggroll for dinner, and a few hours later, I was craving carbs. So chicken would have been a better choice for me.

Olive oil is supposed to be better for you anyway (maybe a Mediterranean diet might suit you better?). I eat a little butter here and there and I bake with it, but use olive oil on a regular basis, and cooking spray when I am really being good (they make a good high temp one for say, frying chicken breasts).

Go to your doctor or a nutritionist and tell them you are thinking about this diet and they will look at you with horror. Because it's NOT healthy to consume huge quantities of animal fat (our ancestors had to chase it down, remember, and they didn't get it all the time).
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:50 PM on June 21, 2012

Oh and celery and/or dandelion tea for bloating. I can't take most dieuretics for BP, but if you can tolerate them, check with your doctor, because not being able to remove your rings from eating a few olives is, like someone up there said, a THING. I did feel better on a prescription dieuretic but after a while I was developing rashes, or constant sinus infections, so it just wasn't worth it to me (and it was for BP, which was the cause of my bloating, and I don't have it now, no pills either).

If you're going to take herbs on a regular basis (i.e. dandelion tea), check with an herbalist, as long term usage of some things may not be your best friend. But if it were me and I was bloated and couldn't get to a doctor right away, I'd drink some dandelion tea or eat some celery. And drink a ton of water. Dandelion has potassium in it so supposedly better than a regular dieuretic.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:12 AM on June 22, 2012

Most of these diets are scientific nonsense. Instead of radically changing your diet (you SHOULD do yor regular thing, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) you just need to BURN more calories as you get older.
posted by spitbull at 3:20 AM on June 22, 2012

For what it's worth, and I am not a nutritionist, I would advise you to stop looking for that 'diet' right now. It probably doesn't exist, and it probably won't work even if it does. It's much easier to stick to healthy eating if you follow just a few key principles and don't beat yourself up about every calorie.

Here's my take on it:

> Avoid sugar -- it is beyond evil -- and especially sugary drinks
> Avoid processed carbs -- white bread, white pasta, white rice, potatoes
> Avoid saturated fats
> Don't eat a lot of red meat

> High protein is good, but don't stress about the carbs as long as they are wholegrains
> Fats are fine as long as they are mainly poly- and monounsaturates
> Never skip breakfast
> Try not to snack
> Try to stick to a steady, reasonable calorie intake

Ready meals are not your friend in this; it is much easier to stick to these principles if you prepare your own meals from the raw ingredients.

And of course, some regular, gentle exercise is going to make it all the more rewarding. Good luck.
posted by londonmark at 3:57 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone! This is great, and a lot to think about. To answer questions:

Out of curiosity, have you ever brought up the water retention thing to a doctor?

No, it's always just been the way I am (since college, that I can remember) so it never occurred to me. But I will the next time I go to a Dr. because it is very annoying.

Are you drinking more water when you change your diet? (Bloating exacerbated by salt is a common side effect of most if not all hormonal contraception, too.)

I drink 3 litres a day, occasionally up to 4. I do try to drink more water when I eat more salt, but I don't always succeed at that. I'm not currently on hormonal BC but have not noticed that it has any effect either way re: salt and bloating when I have been on it.

OP, have you ever talked to a nutritionist about your dietary issues?

Have been to several nutritionists (and Dr's) over the years, they just say "eat less" or "eat more" or "stop eating [food-that-I've-never-touched]" and are generally un-hepful.

I have read Taubes (I read Why We Get Fat, b/c I think I'd just skim the more technical parts of G.C.B.C.) and a bunch of other sites and articles about this. Fish oil, quinoa, and magnesium/potassium are all things I've been meaning to try or have more regularly, so thanks for those reminders. I have lost weight before and kept it off for over 10 years, until the great Yaz disaster. So I think I could handle the maintenance if I could just get the weight off.

I look forward to more answers if anyone has any!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:47 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been doing the Dukan Diet for about four months now, and lost 35 lbs pretty easily and quickly in the first two months, and since then have been on something of a plateau (my fault.) It's high-protein, low-fat, low-carb, low sodium. I don't think it's terribly different from Paleo or Atkins or whatever, but just another one to look at.

I will say that I chose this diet because I had a serious sugar addiction (not to mention all other carbs, but my sweet tooth was out of control) and I knew the only way I'd be able to lose weight would be to kick the habit. Cutting carbs out was a revelation. I don't think it's anything magic or wierd or faddish, but the fact is, I don't have crazy, insane cravings anymore for empty-calorie foods, so I end up eating less overall.

I love that I don't have to count calories or journal what I'm eating, but that's just me.
posted by pyjammy at 9:10 AM on June 22, 2012

I was a vegetarian before I switched on to paleo. It was mostly for ethical reason but I still felt slight repulsion into going back to eating meat and that my taste buds were not used to it. It was however bearable because the diet was very normal diet sans grains. I did not have to add crazy fats or protein here and there.

For example: for breakfast, instead of eggs and toast, I have eggs on top of sauteed spinach. If I use bacon, I sometimes use the bacon fat to cook the egg or spinach. But olive oil or coconut oil will do for the fat source.

For lunch, instead of burger and fries, I'd have 15% fat burger on top of salad. No additional fat except for maybe half an avocado or a handful of nuts (which I realize you can't have unfortunately).

So being a low carb doesn't mean you'll have to stuf yourself with rich sauces and steaks all day long. My diet by volume consists mostly of greens.

Another thing - your taste buds are trainable. What seems unpalatable before can change. Can you conceive of eating salad without any dressing whatsoever? Neither did I. But now I can do it without any problem.

As for grazing - there are two possible reasons why you do it. Either you're hungry or it's a habit. If it is a habit, you can train yourself to stop (i.e. throw away stuff in your pantry that doesn't belong). If you're hungry, that is most likely caused by your blood sugar crashing. Something that low carb diet will hopefully fix.
posted by 7life at 10:59 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another thing - low carb diet will necessarily mean that it is high fat. There is an upper limit to how much protein human liver can process. Look up rabbit starvation. Unless you only need ~800 - 1200 calories a day (the upper limit of ~200-300 g of protein humans can consume), you WILL be malnourished no matter how much lean protein you consume if there are no other calorie sources.
posted by 7life at 11:08 AM on June 22, 2012

Have you tried COCONUT OIL? I find it much lighter than olive oil or butter and I find it tastes better, too.) . I'm weird, though, and when I find that incorporating coconut oil into a meal would taste bad, I just take a tablespoon straight. It doesn't taste bad and is a very essential part of the meal. The times I forget it are the times I end up feeling hungry later.
posted by eq21 at 8:22 PM on June 23, 2012

As for grazing - there are two possible reasons why you do it. Either you're hungry or it's a habit.

There's a third! I do it b/c I don't like eating a lot of food - what most people seem to think of as a full meal - at once. It makes me tired and stuffed. I do always count calories though, I'm not grazing mindlessly. I'll write down the calories in those three apple slices or whatever. And I do try to stick closer to the 800 end of the range, though my average is probably closer to 1100 in reality.

I'm going to try switching to real dark chocolate and cutting out (or at least way down) rice and other grains and replacing them with more vegetables and the mostly lean proteins I do like, and see what happens. If it doesn't make any difference, I'll go back to considering attempting higher fat and/or protein options. Thanks again.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:07 AM on June 25, 2012

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