Diet: end of week two, end of Atkins

When I stood on the scales this morning they said 71.5kg. Two weeks ago I was up at 77kg. The Atkins diet may have lost me 5.5kg (12lbs) in just two weeks, but it has been really difficult. The bread cravings weren’t quite so bad in the second week. The nausea before mealtimes also mostly disappeared, only to be replaced by a complete lack of appetite. And I still got no joy from any of the food I ate.

I said I would stick with Atkins for the two weeks of the “induction” period, and I have, but that’s quite enough. I’ve switched to a low calorie diet now instead. If previous experience is anything to go by, 1500kCal per day should lose me about 0.5kg per week. I don’t expect to lose much this week, as my body will be adjusting to taking in carbohydrates again. If anything, I’ll probably go up a bit.

My goal is to get to 67kg. I’m pleasantly surprised that Atkins has got me half-way there in just two weeks, but that’s just not sustainable. On a low calorie diet I can eat everything I enjoy most (bread, rice, bread) and still lose weight. It may take longer, but I’d always expected to be in this for the long run.

Being able to have bread at lunch today was a joy beyond words. Forget chocolate. Give me a couple of slices of wholemeal, and I’m a happy man.

Atkins after the first week

When I stood on the scales this morning it hit 73kg right on the nose. Before I started the diet last week I was at 77. That’s 4kg in one week. Whatever else you can say about Atkins, the only other times I have lost that much weight that quickly are when I’ve been stuck in bed with Scottish Barfing Syndrome (SBS) and unable to eat anything at all.

But not even that kind of weight loss can make up for the fact that this diet is making me utterly miserable. I’ve learned that for me, the pleasure I derive from food resides in carbohydrates. By cutting out the carbs, I’ve cut out my joy.

After a meal I feel full but never satisfied. Before meal times I don’t feel hungry, I feel nauseous. The thought of having to eat meat turns my stomach. Intellectually I know that’s partly a low blood sugar kind of thing. I know that I’ll feel much better after I’ve forced myself to eat something. But at the time I really do have to force myself to cook, or to sit down to eat. For all the enjoyment I get from a nice chunk of beef or a succulent roast chicken, I might as well be scarfing down those multi-coloured protein cubes you got in 70s science fiction films. They’re just about as appetising.

As I was walking by the bakery section in Safeway on Friday, I almost lost it. I had to suppress a hysterical giggle bubbling up inside of me. I had visions of running over to the fresh bread counter, ripping the crust off a large bloomer and burying my face in the soft, warm expanse of white loaf. Then I’d take my clothes off and rub the crust all over my naked body just to see if I could absorb any more carbohydrates through my pores.

To summarise: Atkins is effective for me, and I’ll keep it up for the second week of the “induction phase” (20g carb/day) on the off-chance that my body is just taking a long time to adjust to the new balance of nutrients, but I really don’t like it. It doesn’t feel like a diet, it feels like punishment. On a calorie-controlled diet (1500kCal/day) I do feel hungry, but the hunger feels virtuous. It doesn’t make me miserable. We’ll see how it goes, but a week from now it may be time to switch.

Day 5 of Atkins

Q: What would you rather eat for dinner this evening: a succulent breast of chicken with scrambled eggs and hot sauce, or a single dry slice of brown bread?

A: Oh, no question. It’s got to be the bread.

Q: What about a totally decadent snack while you’re watching TV later on in the evening? A selection of fine mature cheeses and some roasted hazelnuts, or a single dry slice of brown bread?

A: Gotta be the bread again, mate.

Q: And for breakfast at the weekend? Bacon, eggs, sausage, and fried mushrooms, or ack…get your hands…aagh…off my…ghhg…throat!

A: Stop playing with my mind and just give me the damn bread!


It’s diet time again. We said we would lose weight after Christmas, but it didn’t quite happen. This is after trying to diet in the middle of last year, and failing then, too.

Traditionally, Abi and I have lost weight by eating less. Specifically, when we each lost 7kg back in 1997 (eek–long time ago), we did this by counting calories. We didn’t cut out any foods, we just ate less of them. I was unwilling to give up chocolate and crisps, so I ate a Cadbury’s Finger Of Fudge (120 kCal) and a packet of Hula Hoops (170 kCal) each day. So long as we stuck rigorously to an upper limit of 1500 kCal a day–and we did–we were able to eat anything we liked. It took about four or five months to drop those 7 kilos.

Whenever we have lost weight since then, we have used that same strategy, but never with the same level of success. Yes, we have lost weight, but less of it because we didn’t keep up the sustained effort for as long. Some of this comes from feeling either feeling too unhappy to give up eating, or otherwise too content with life to care about being overweight. Losing weight feels like a hardship, and there’s always a reason not to do it.

But it’s getting to the point where we are both feeling like we really need to do it. In 1993, after three years of living in a vegetarian household at University, I weighed 67kg. That was nice. In 1997 I came down from 76kg to 69kg. Since then, I’ve gone up again as far as 75kg, and have on occasion come reached 70kg again, but usually I hover between 72 and 74. Right now, though, I’m up at 77. Big yikes.

We first heard about the Atkins diet, sorry “Nutritional Approach”, last year. I know it’s been around for ages, but it’s only recently that Britain has picked up on its buzz. For those of you who haven’t come across it before, the Atkins way revolves around carbohydrates, or rather the lack of them.

By preference, the human body burns carbohydrates for fuel. If it doesn’t have any carbohydrates available, it will go over to burning fat instead. The body stores fat; it doesn’t store carbohydrates. So if you cut out enough carbohydrates from your daily intake, your body will exhaust these reserves quickly, and then switch to burning fat from your stores instead.

Something like that.

Dr. Atkins claims that changing your eating habits to in this way is also better for your health. Biologically, this looks plausible because most of our daily carbohydrates come from refined sugars, flour, and grain products. (Think: pasta and bread.) But also lots of other starchy or sugary foods such as potatoes, rice, carrots, bananas, etc. Cut a lot of these out, and you end up with a diet containing lots of meat and green vegetables. This is closer to what our early ancestors ate while they were roaming the savannah and hunting giant chickens into extinction, and further away from the modern Western diet of highly processed, and often sweetened food.

Fair enough. I suspect that the fact you are positively encouraged to eat sausages, bacon and eggs may also have something to do with Atkins’ popularity. This doesn’t sound like much of a hardship, but on the other hand, cutting down to about 20g of carbohydrates a day means giving up my three favourite foods: bread, rice, and, uh, bread.

Yeah, we’re going to give it a try. But after Alex’s birthday party this weekend. Abi’s making her famous chocolate cake. Can’t miss that.

Chicken wings

I cooked some chicken wings this evening. I did a batch in barbeque sauce for Abi and Alex, a batch in the hot sauce I brought back from my Boston trip, and another batch with a variation on a recipe devised by Lisa (of Burnt Toast blog).

My version of the sauce consisted of margerine, tabasco sauce, Encona Hot Sauce, and a splash of vinegar. It tasted pretty good, but lost a lot of heat while it was coating the wings in the oven. Also, it didn’t stick to the wings very well. (I suspect the Xanthan Gum in the bottled stuff may have something to do with its coating qualities.) Overall, the home-made variety was quite promising.

Earlier today, though, I managed to find a source for the “real” Buffalo Wing sauce: the Rosslyn Deli in London imports a variety of American foods, one of which is the Anchor Bar Original Buffalo Wing Sauce, as served at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. One of the reasons for making my own sauce was the scarcity of the bottled product on this side of the Atlantic. But now I know where to get it… Yum.

Hot, hot, hot

I didn’t know that the heat of peppers was actually measured scientifically in “Scoville Units” until Webword pointed me at this page of (extremely funny) reviews for “The Source”. This is a hot sauce, rated at 7.1 million Scoville Units. For comparison, a jalopeno pepper is somewhere in the region of 2,500 to 5000 Scoville Units, and 15 million units is pure capsaicin. The hottest pepper around is the scotch bonnet pepper, which weight in at about 200,000 – 300,000 units.

As one reviewer put it, “When I taste THE SOURCE I went into the epileptic seizure for 6 hours and I cried tears of liquid fire and blood. The sun turned black and the demons from hell came and danced around the dead bodies of my family, laughing and pointing at me. THE SOURCE is an evil demon from hell. It should not be!! It is el infierno manifestado.”