TL;DR Powerpoint version:
- I have been on the LCHF plan for 4 weeks
- LCHF means "Low Carb High Fat"
- So far, lost 3 lbs. per week
- Haven't felt hungry at all
What is LCHF?
LCHF is a version of the low-carb Atkins-like diet that is also being called the Scandinavian diet. Read more about it here or Google it. Rather than repeating what other web sites have said about it, let me just say what I like, and what drew me to it.
- Eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm not
- The food is actually good
- I could actually see myself doing this the rest of my life
How low is low carb?
Before starting this plan, I measured my fat/carb/protein balance for a couple typical days. My percent of calories from fat/carb/protein were: 37/48/14. The first week was kind of mixed, but the last three weeks have been consistently 63/15/21 percent. So I am eating more fat, slightly more protein, and less than one-third of the carbs I used to.
So are you counting calories?
I've also started recording everything I'm eating, so I now have 4 weeks of history to look at. I'm using a great free tool called Lose It! which works on the web or on my phone. I'm not using the counting to restrict myself, but it does modify my behavior a bit. Mostly this is because I have to be aware of quantities, like how much is 2 Tbs of mayo, so I can record it later. So, recording everything has made me more mindful of choices, and more aware of what portion sizes look like. I'm more likely to plan ahead, but I'm still eating when I get hungry.
I don't intend to keep counting calories and grams forever, but right now it's an important part of my strategy of self-examination and being mindful, until I am able to develop some successful habits.
What are you eating and not eating?
Typical breakfast might be: 2 boiled eggs and 2 slices of cheese/half-cup of cottage cheese, or an omelet with 3 eggs, spinach and cheese. Typical lunch is a bunch of veggies from the salad bar, mayo+soy as dressing, and sometimes a meat item from the cafe (hold the rice/potato, get more veggies instead). If nothing looks appealing in the cafe, couple slices of cheese and couple slices of bacon from the sandwich bar are fine too, or I can add feta, eggs, or bacon to my salad.
A typical dinner might be two veggie-burgers with cheese slices, and a fairly large steamed broccoli/cauliflower dressed with mayo and garlic salt. Typical snacks include cheese slices, string cheese, roasted almonds, and black tea with Splenda. Less often, I might have our homemade beef jerky served with some cream cheese, or coffee/chai with real cream (seen in store as "whipping" cream).
What I'm avoiding is: any bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, and all sugar/candy and sugary sodas. I'm also avoiding fruit, at least for now.
Do you get a day off?
Yes, I think it's important to remain flexible enough to splurge once in a while, so the last few Saturdays have been my "day off" from the diet. That's my day to eat stuff from the "avoid" list, if I really want it. Like, sausage mc muffin from McD's, or burger and shake, or sharing some chocolate mousse over dinner. I am sticking to my plan 6 days, and kind of going off in the weeds for 1 day, and still have dropped 3 pounds per week.
What about your gout?
Yes, I also have to be mindful of this… I had a bad experience with the Atkins diet before, and with the Body For Life diet, until I figured out that I don't really *need* all that protein since I am not body-building right now. So while a typical LCHF diet might remove starch and add meats and fats, I am mostly keeping the meats about the same as before and switching out starches for more fat, like cheeses and mayo. So far, no gout attack, which is good!
Anyway, gout is the big reason I've been seeking out the veggie burgers instead of just having more meat. (My favorite so far is "Grillers Prime" which has 18/8/34 grams of fat/carb/protein). I would imagine most people who don't have gout would not need to worry about this. But, it's interesting to note that more protein is not really a requirement–under this plan it's fine to just have more fat instead.
So wait, isn't that too much fat? Isn't fat totally bad for you?
Actually, fat has been around forever, and at least in the US, our "Low Fat" obsession hasn't led to people being healthier. See, most health care practitioners still spout "Fat is bad, eat a low-fat diet" but the actual evidence behind this recommendation seems sketchy. As far as I can tell, the reasoning goes like this: "Fat is dense, calorie-wise, having 9 calories per gram instead of 4g like both protein and carbs. Therefore, if you eat less fat, you can eat more food and have fewer calories."
But, increasingly both doctors and scientists are coming around to declare the dangers of sugar, especially refined sugar. A recent popular link was Sugar: The Bitter Truth by Robert Lustig. I recommend watching the whole thing, all 90 min of it, especially if you feel strongly that fat is worse than sugar.
Doctors and diet-peddlers have also made a big deal about "A Calorie Is A Calorie" but science is now finding that that's not really true either. Sugar triggers insulin, which triggers sugar in your blood to be stored as fat, and prevents fat from being burned as well. It's funny how people will say "A Calorie Is A Calorie" but still shy away from fat calories, as if sugar and starch calories are better than fat calories. If a calorie really is a calorie, why would my doctor care if I eat butter and cheese all day instead of bread? Much of the media still pushes the idea that fat is what makes us fat, and fat is disgusting and gets in your arteries, etc. Anyway, Lustig takes on that myth too–at least for sugar, it has some dire consequences that fat calories don't have.
The case against starch so far doesn't have as much science available, but a new book "Wheat Belly" seems to take this up well. A good summary appears here (thanks to Jim for the link!) Wheat is not new on the world stage either, but the recent "low fat" trend of the last 60 years has definitely caused us to eat more of it, and we haven't become healthier than our grandparents. Our grandparents had bread, but they also had plenty of meat, cheese and eggs.