After 30 weeks on “Starch Solution” having problems and returning to plain old calorie counting – yet again

Previously I had posted here about my first 15 weeks on Dr. John McDougall’s “Starch Solution” and the better results I achieved compared with Dr. David Ludwig’s “Protein Power.”

Unfortunately at week 30 I’ve regained about 1/2 of what I lost those first 15 weeks. I’m still down about 20 lb from when I started 30 weeks ago, but I had been down 40 lb, so I’ve regained half of what I’ve lost.

My blood tests remain good. My blood sugar HbA1c is now in the normal range, and my cholesterol is extremely low. All my blood tests are in the normal range.

But I think my blood sugar will start going up unless I can, yet again, get weight loss under control. I had dropped below 100 kg for a few weeks, and now I’m above it again. For the year I’m down a disappointing 11 lb only. I suppose you could say if my new year’s resolution was to lose weight this year I’ve technically kept that resolution, but still…

And I am still down 46 lb from my high in 2012. So I’ve managed to avoid a complete rebound so far, for the first time ever. So that part is good.

But “Starch Solution” just isn’t working anymore. I need to rethink again.

As I posted in the “Starch Solution” support group on Facebook, I appreciate everyone who gave constructive comments. Different diets work for different people I think. I don’t think there is a universal answer that works for everyone, which is why people everywhere are endlessly debating different kinds of diets.

Multiple people in the Starch Solution support group agree with what I wrote and say they have the same problems I do. So I know it’s not just me.

For now, I think the best way to get back to losing weight is to strictly count and control calories again. Just keep on logging everything in MyFitnessPal, which I’ve been doing for over 1,600 days now, through good and bad days, and really try hard to stick within calorie limits.

I know calorie counting works. And it offers the most variety. However, I also know it’s not sustainable after a couple of years, having done it many times and then rebounded. But to be honest I also feel that while Starch Solution worked at first, it too has turned out, for me, to be yet another diet that isn’t sustainable long term. Some things about that diet are not right, and some things Dr. McDougall, the author of the diet, has said also turned out to be hyperbole at best.

I do recognize that Starch Solution seems to work for some people and am not disputing that. Even low-carb ketogenic and near-ketogenic diets seem to work for some people (though not for me – too high calorie). I imagine even “Protein Power” works for some people, though I gained weight trying that.

The advantage of low calorie diets, where you take into account what you eat, and calories expended in exercise, and log everything, and are very careful to keep calories in balance, is that it always works as long as you can stay on it. And calorie-counting offers the most variety (no particular food is forbidden), and offers a positive, measurable encouragement to do exercise (the more you exercise, the more you can eat and/or the more weight you lose).

The premise with Starch Solution, that the starches would keep you satisfied and control your hunger, only seemed to really work for me for the first 10-15 weeks. And during that time I was also ill for 5 weeks with a bad summer cold and lost my appetite. So I lost an unnatural amount of weight during the illness. Since my first 15 weeks, though, It’s been rough and I just need to try something “different” while trying to figure this out.

So it’s back to “good old” calorie counting for now. And I’m not particularly caring exactly what is in the food I eat as long as it’s low calorie and seems to satisfy me so I don’t overeat. I honestly think everything else – cholesterol, blood sugar, overall health – comes with weight loss. After all, if you are on a low-calorie diet then it’s impossible to eat too much fat, or too much sugar, or really overdo too much of anything unhealthy. Calorie limits create a cap on everything. The fact there might be non-vegan ingredients in food doesn’t, by itself, really matter than much. For example, think of ordinary miso soup. The dashi in miso soup contains some bonito extract. I can’t believe that is going to make the difference between good and bad health.

Calorie counting also makes it easier when on the go, because calories are labeled everywhere, even in many restaurants.

Anyway, here I am going with yet another change of diet. And it’s a diet I’ve been on before too, so while I’m not exactly full-to-the-brim with confidence I am going to try it again.

All I can do is keep trying.

 

Diet – truths and myths

First I’ll start off by saying everybody is different when it comes to diets. The most recent research shows that there really isn’t a “one size fits all” diet which works for all overweight people. See, for example, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/11/a-personalized-diet-better-suited-to-you/.

If you see a diet (particularly a proprietary, paid one) which claims it works for everybody, then be skeptical.

My list of “diet truths and myths” is what I’ve discovered over years of dieting, and does apply to me at least. I know it also applies to some others I’ve spoken with. But I won’t claim it applies universally. I want to be as objective about this as I can.

I’ve successfully lost 100+ pounds and regained it multiple times over many years. As recently as 2012-2014 I lost 100 lb and have slowly, since then, regained half of what I lost, and I’m trying to prevent a complete rebound, and have been trying various methods.

Here is my take on what is true and what are myths about dieting, and the effects of diet on overall health.


 

Vegan diets and control of high cholesterol.

Premise: If you have high cholesterol and go vegan (e.g. the Ornish Spectrum heart-disease reversal program) your high blood cholesterol will drop to normal since only animal products contain cholesterol and you would be eating a completely cholesterol free diet.

True or Myth: MYTH.

I started out with very high bad cholesterol (LDL) in 2012 and went on a strict vegan + no oil + no nuts diets, as recommended by the Ornish program, and also by others such as Caldwell Esselstyn. After several months my cholesterol did not change, even as I lost a lot of weight. It was only after my doctor prescribed a daily statin that my cholesterol came down to excellent, normal range values.

Most recently, new U.S. research has shown there is no real cause and effect between the cholesterol you eat and your blood cholesterol, which is produced by your body. In fact, after I went off vegan and began consuming animal products, including eggs, my cholesterol did not go up again, and I continue to take a daily statin.


High blood sugar and high glycemic foods.

Premise: If you have high blood sugar, and you eat high glycemic foods like refined rice and bananas and you will have trouble reducing your blood sugar.

True or Myth: MYTH.

As somebody who needs to be careful about high blood sugar, as measured with HbA1c, I have found it makes absolutely no difference what I eat as long as I keep my weight under control. As I lose weight, my blood sugar comes down to a normal range without additional medication. This is true even if I eat lots of fruits, including bananas, and processed grains such as white rice. If I gain weight, my HbA1c goes up again and blood sugar medication is required.


 

Low carb diets and weight loss.

Premise: If you eat very low-carb (e.g. Atkins, Protein Power, Gary Taubes) then your body reduces insulin output so food can’t be easily absorbed and stored as fat. Thus you can ignore calories because your body has no means of storing the food you eat as fat. In addition your blood pressure will naturally drop.

True or Myth: MYTH.

This one can’t be further from the truth. If people lose weight it is because low-carb foods are simply more likely to curb hunger, so for some people it reduces appetite so they lose weight. It by no means works for everybody. I’ve tried multiple versions of this diet over the years, including Atkins, and most recently Protein Power. In my most recent test I stuck strictly within the carb limit and over 12 days I gained 4 lb. In addition, my blood pressure, which had been a perfectly fine 116/69 went up to 132/70. This diet never has and never will make any sense. Ask yourself this: you are hungry, so which makes most sense as a snack? The choices are (1) a salad made from cucumber, tomato and mushroom with a non-oil dressing – but a total of 10.5 net carbs, or  (2) a couple of pork chops, with zero carbs. This diet would say the pork chops are a better choice. No wonder I gained weight!

 


 

Vegan, no oils and no nuts diets and weight loss.

Premise: If you eat vegan, with no added oils , and no nuts, and no added sugars (e.g. Ornish, Esselstyn), you don’t have to count calories to lose weight.

True or Myth: MYTH.

It’s just as easy to eat too many calories on a vegan, no added fat diet as it is on a low-carb diet. Rice has tons of calories. So do most grains. And it doesn’t matter if they are whole grain or refined. If you start eating them you very often just want more. If you eat too much you will gain weight.

Low calorie eating and weight loss.

Premise: If you eat fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight then you will lose weight.

True or Myth: TRUE.

This is the only way I’ve ever been able to lose weight. If you can manage to eat less than your body needs to maintain its current weight – which depends on age, sex, level of activity, and your personal metabolism – you will lose weight. The problem, unfortunately, is keeping it off long term. I myself find that I can keep lost weight off for about two years before a rebound starts creeping in. I understand 80% of overweight people have the same problem. And nobody knows the solution. The solution, however, is not one of the fad diets mentioned above.

Exercise and weight loss.

Premise: If you do cardio exercise, then it is possible to eat more and still lose weight.

True or Myth: TRUE.

Exercise burns calories. The more you burn, the more you can eat and still continue to lose weight – or maintain your current weight if that’s what you want. Exercise is also good for your overall health. It keeps the blood flowing, it keeps up your strength and is generally good for you. Despite what some of the low-carb people say, cardio exercise does not simply cause you to get hungry so you eat more. If anything, it has the opposite effect. Resistance training is also good for weight loss because increasing muscle mass increases your personal metabolism. Exercise is good for you.


 

Diet versus “Lifestyle change.”

Premise: Many weight-loss programs claim they are not a “diet” but a “lifestyle.”

True or MYTH: FALSE.

Any regimen which has rules about what you eat, or don’t eat, or how much you eat is a diet. Saying it’s not a diet but a “lifestyle” is just advertising mumbo jumbo.

 

So what’s the solution to losing weight and permanently keeping it off?

Answer: For losing weight, the answer is to eat less calories. To keep it off? I don’t know. Nobody seems to know.