10 seconds along the Nakagawa at 5:30 pm

I’m still not feeling well, and don’t have my strength back, but I decided I really need to move my body! I can’t let myself get weak by not moving. So when it got a bit cooler I took a bottle of water and forced myself to cycle over to the Nakagawa, just a kilometer away. I didn’t do a full course along the river. Instead I parked my bike by one of the decks and went down by the river and sat for a while. Here’s a 10 second, very quiet video of the river going slowly past. It was peaceful. I stayed until the Katsushika Ward office speakers came on with music telling kids it was time to go home.





5 weeks on John McDougall’s “Starch Solution” – report so far

Well, I finished week 5. This week I lost just a little bit – like 1/2 lb. But since last week’s loss was large I’m ok with that.

After 5 weeks I’ve now lost exactly 6 kg = 13.2 lb.

Also, today was my regular visit to the hospital for blood tests. Some of the results I was very impressed with. Other results less impressed. But I’m not sure how much change I should expect in just 5 weeks.

Also, there was a period “in between” diets and I’m not sure how much the values might have changed during that time frame.

The way the schedule worked was this. I went on Dr. David Ludwig’s “Always Hungry?” low-carb diet starting 2/8/2016. On that date I also had blood tests. I stayed on that diet for exactly 10 weeks and had blood tests at the end, on 4/18/2016. So I know exactly what happened on Ludwig’s diet, and it wasn’t good, including gaining weight and never solving my hunger problems.

Between 4/19/2016 and 5/22/2016 I wasn’t on any particular diet. My weight stayed pretty much the same during this period, but I was definitely not vegan/no-oil and would sometimes overeat and I don’t have any blood test data for those in-between 5 weeks.

On 5/23/2016 – exactly 5 weeks ago – I started Dr. McDougall’s “Starch Solution” diet.

While on the Ludwig low-carb diet I gained weight over 10 weeks and my blood tests were not improved at all. In many ways they got worse.

On Dr. McDougall’s diet I’ve lost a good amount of weight in 5 weeks. The question for me, in addition to that, is what changed and what did not in my blood test results, and how can I interpret the results considering I did not take blood tests at the very start of the diet, like I did with Ludwig’s diet.

I think the answer to that question is I really can’t be sure and I just need to continue on Starch Solution for another 10 weeks and compare the results with today’s results.

In any case, these are the results of the blood values I’m most concerned with:

(1) HbA1c (blood sugar)

2/8 (start of “Always Hungry?”) – 7.9
4/18 (after 10 weeks on “Always Hungry?”) – 8.0
6/27 (after 5 weeks on “Starch Solution”) – 7.9

Given the provisos mentioned above, all I can say is that neither diet seems to have affected my blood sugar for good or bad so far. Lowering carbs did not lower my blood sugar at all. If anything it went up just a tad. And dramatically increasing high glycemic carbs did not increase my blood sugar at all – they went down just a tad. But nothing really statistically significant overall.

I think, from past experience, my HbA1c will come down as I lose more weight. I’ve just lost 13 lb so far. I think after another 10 weeks I should see better results.

(2) Total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol)

These results were dramatic. I was pretty surprised by this because I thought, according to recent research, that the cholesterol you eat doesn’t really directly affect blood cholesterol. Well, that wasn’t true in my case at all as you can see from these numbers:

2/8 (start of “Always Hungry?”) – Total cholesterol 175, LDL 95
4/18 (after 10 weeks on “Always Hungry?”) – Total 177, LDL 101
6/27 (after 5 weeks on “Starch Solution”) – Total 130, LDL 67

Wow. That’s a dramatic drop in total and bad cholesterol in a short amount of time by giving up animal products. So I’m pleased about that.

(3) Triglycerides (TG)

This particularly surprised, and disappointed me because there was no improvement, at least not yet, on Starch Solution. The normal range for this is 30-150 mg/dl.

2/8 (start of “Always Hungry?”) – 113, normal range
4/18 (after 10 weeks on “Always Hungry?”) – 159, way up
6/27 (after 5 weeks on “Starch Solution”) – 164, still a bit up

But, like I said, there were those “5 weeks between diets” so for all I know maybe my triglycerides actually went up even more during that time and have come down over the last 5 weeks. I just don’t know for sure.

Everything else is normal. My blood pressure remains good. Actually great. It was like 105 / 62 with a pulse rate of 66 today!

As for what I’m eating, I’m keeping it simple. Lots of baked potatoes, moistened with a bit of soy milk. Lots of salads topped with garbanzo beans or red kidney beans. Lots of brown rice. Some sweet potatoes. Some frozen veggies (corn, peas, carrot mix or a lower starch broccoli, cauliflower and green bean mix), sometimes some soba, sometimes some udon, sometimes some edamame. My total calorie input has gone down quite a lot compared to “Always Hungry?” because unlike that diet, on “Starch Solution” I really am usually not hungry between meals.

And I’ve increased my exercise a bit so I am cycling along the nearby river most days.

Anyway, I see lots of reasons to continue on Starch Solution and see what happens over the next 10 weeks, and no reasons to modify anything yet. I’m still psychologically “in diet mode” and happy about that.

Caloric density and weight loss – Starch Solution first week results

I finished week 1 on Starch Solution and am pleased to report a 7.5 lb weight loss – with no feelings of hunger between meals. On to week 2! Of course I am realistic and don’t expect this rate of loss every week. I realize that the first week on any diet is usually the best.

Some people were asking what I have been eating. I’m not really much of a cook, so I’m eating simple. For example, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, microwave packages of brown rice, frozen mixed veggies (corn, peas, carrots), salads (cucumber, tomatoes), some legumes mixed in the salad (50 g packages of garbanzo beans or red kidney beans), sometimes non-starchy frozen mixed vegetables, a bit of soy milk to moisten the potatoes, sometimes some salsa on the potatoes. Yesterday I needed to be out during lunch so I got some soba noodles and edamame at the nearby 7/11. Things like that that.

It’s practically what can be called a “comfort food” diet in that sense. You definitely don’t feel deprived. Not only that, it’s incredibly inexpensive eating this way.

What I also wanted to talk about is an interesting article and chart about “calorie densities” here – http://www.forksoverknives.com/the-calorie-density-approach-to-nutrition-and-lifelong-weight-management/

I’m used to calorie counts, of course, but the new information for me was:

  1. Apparently there is a lot of research which has shown that on a day-to-day basis, people generally eat a similar amount of food, by weight (rather than by volume – which surprised me). Therefore, choosing foods with a lower calorie density allows us to consume our usual amount of food (or more) while reducing our caloric intake.
  2. On the calorie density scale (calories/lb), fruits and vegetables are the lowest (60-195) , followed by the starches, which I’ve been eating a lot of, including potatoes, yams and rice (320-630) and legumes (310-780). Pasta fits in here as well, but I haven’t eaten any yet, unless you count the soba I had yesterday. Breads are higher up on the scale (920-1,360) because they are less dense (more air, less water), so this is one reason why it’s easy to eat too many calories of those. Even higher up are things which are mostly air, such as popcorn (1,480-1,760). One serving of air-popped popcorn is not a huge number of calories. But it’s also not very filling, which is why you keep going back for more. Nuts and seeds are way higher up (2,400-3,200). Oils and other pure fats are at the top (4,000). The chart was for vegans, but I checked other sources and see that for seafood, lean poultry and lean red meat the calorie densities are higher than potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes and corn, but in generally the same range as legumes (400-870).

You can see the chart on the link above.

As the article says, it appears that people can eat freely of foods that are 300 calories per pound or less and not gain weight. People can consume relatively large portions of foods that are between 300 and 800 calories per pound and still lose or maintain their weight, depending on their individual activity levels and metabolism.

This probably accounts for why I was able to lose so much this first week.

Anyway, this starch-centric vegan approach has really been a revelation to me. It’s really a diet combination/approach I had not tried before, and seems to fill in some missing pieces for me in the ways I’ve always thought about calories, satiety, hunger control and weight loss. If you aren’t vegan, I think you can still fit in an approach which is conscious of caloric density. But this approach seems easiest for me.

Trying another diet – the Starch Solution

It’s worth looking at Dr. John McDougall’s “Starch Solution.” You can find groups on Facebook, and also his book on Amazon.

It’s completely the opposite of Dr. David Ludwig’s “Always Hungry?” in that (1) It’s starch-centric and (2) it actually does seem to work – at least so far.

By that I mean even though I just started it this week it completely controls my hunger. And even though I’m just in my 5th day so far I’ve already lost 3.0 kg (6.6 lb). That is certainly a motivation to continue.

It’s quite interesting. A vegan + non-oil approach I never tried before. After all this time it’s hard finding a diet approach I never tried before!

I realize everybody is different, and low-carb may work for some people. I also realize, living in Japan, that the diet here has been rice-centric for thousands of years and the obesity rate is just a small fraction of what it is in the U.S. How can I ignore that?

So I’m going to try this for a while. It might be worth looking at if you are not succeeding in losing weight with “Always Hungry?” or other low-carb or strict calorie-counting solutions. There are also interesting chapters in the book on the benefits of such a diet not only for obesity and heart disease, but also for all manner of health problems, including immune disorders.

The diet is quite simple to follow. I’ve been concentrating on starches like sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, starchy vegetables (corn, peas, carrots) and some other non-starchy vegetables, like tomato and cucumber salads, with some legumes sometimes thrown in. It’s not a “strict” diet, in that he is very reasonable about such things as white rice (brown rice is better, white rice is ok if that’s what you have) and even sugars. In other words, it’s easy to prepare meals – especially for somebody like me who is not “handy” in the kitchen. He even likes Sizzler’s!

There is a very friendly support group (not run by me) here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/StarchSolution/.

Dr. McDougall himself is quite approachable, and answers email quickly.

Anyway, another day another diet. I hope this one works out and turns into a permanent solution. It’s certainly a good start. And frankly, I feel better being back to vegan. Not just for me and my health, but also for environmental reasons.