Lowcarbezine! 18 September 2003

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Hey, Gang -

It happened again - I started out a little unclear about what to write, and the issue just grew! Hope you enjoy it, because I'm heading into crunch time - I have a manuscript deadline the end of this month, and another at the end of October. This 'zine is going to get a bit shorter (maybe a whole lot shorter!), and we may do some reprints again. I have to meet my deadlines!

Hope you enjoy it. Read on!


All contents © Copyright 2002 Hold the Toast Press. All commercial reproduction is expressly prohibited. If you think your friends will enjoy Lowcarbezine!, please forward them the WHOLE ISSUE. Please, do not post articles or recipes elsewhere on the internet without permission. My attorney tells me that I'll have to come scold you and tell you to cut it out if you do.

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Menopause, Estrogen, and Body Fat

I recently got a really good question. Pamela Merritt writes:

One question I have that I really haven't found an answer to yet, is that many sources, including Dr. Atkins, mention women having trouble losing weight once they reach menopause, and in fact my mother found her low fat diet/exercise program was crashing and burning at this time (while low carb works. Go Mom!)

However, these same sources emphasize that birth control pills, and estrogen in general, cause weight loss problems.

How, when menopause means you are getting LESS estrogen, do women have trouble with weight gain at menopause?

Excellent question, and I believe I've found a credible answer. However, please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. That being said -

In her book Outsmarting the Midlife Fat Cell, Debra Waterhouse says that the stubbornness of fat in menopausal women does, indeed, have to do with dwindling estrogen levels. You see, it's not just that estrogen creates fat - fat also creates estrogen. You might call it a feedback loop. This ability of fat to create estrogen (and other hormones, as well) is why women who are a little overweight are far less likely to get osteoporosis than women who are underweight. It is also a reason why serious obesity is a risk factor for hormonal disorders.

Because fat is a source of hormones, when estrogen production by the ovaries starts to drop as we approach menopause, the body hoards fat to buffer the decrease in estrogen. Waterhouse claims that women who aren't painfully thin actually have fewer menopausal symptoms than really skinny women, for this very reason.

This means that our bodies are increasingly reluctant to give up their fat cells as we advance through perimenopause, and apparently supplemental estrogen doesn't encourage them to let go - it just increases fat deposition and holds water, just like it does during our menstrual cycles (or, for that matter, in farm animals fed synthetic estrogens to fatten them.)

Waterhouse doesn't have much of a solution for this, you understand; she just encourages women not to worry too much about it, and accept it as part of the aging process. This is probably good advice. That being said, she hasn't much looked at low carb dieting, and I certainly know women who have lost weight during the perimenopausal years by low carbing, even if they haven't become fashionably thin.

Waterhouse does recommend not dieting strenuously, which she says will diminish muscle mass. This is true of low calorie diets, but one of the great benefits of low carb diets is that they're muscle-sparing.

Waterhouse is actually strongly anti-diet, and states that there are no bad foods - I hope you're all clear on how I feel about that! For those of us who are carbohydrate intolerant, carbs, and especially high-impact carbs, are bad foods, on a purely physiological level. They make us ill, and just as importantly, they make us hungry. It's hard to understand how we're supposed to eat "normally" when we're eating food that is, for us, severely physically addictive. However, this book was written before low carb dieting gained much currency; I'm not surprised that Waterhouse was unaware of the problems that carbohydrates present for many of us.

Waterhouse also states that eating large quantities of anything, even dry salad, will trigger the body to store fat - that the physical fullness-to-the-stretching-point of the stomach tells the body that it needs to store fat. This may well be true; certainly there is some research backing the idea of eating frequent, small meals to lose weight. It couldn't hurt to try eating 5 or 6 low carb mini-meals per day, rather than 3 big meals.

Waterhouse also encourages exercise, and I don't know of a single health, fitness, or weight loss authority who would argue with that. Please keep in mind that adding some resistance exercise - most commonly spelled w-e-i-g-h-t-s - to your exercise program will not only help prevent the loss of muscle mass and the subsequent drop in metabolism, but will also help keep your bones strong. I have recently gone back to doing aerobic weightlifting videos from The Firm, and (one slightly achy elbow, and the occasional flare up of my bad leg not withstanding) am in increasingly good shape. There is simply nothing like resistance exercise.

Once you get past menopause you'll probably find weight control much easier. You'll notice that once menopause is well and truly over, the body seems to give up its hold on the fat cells; middle-aged women tend to be plump, but old women tend to be thin. Indeed, you may find, once menopause is over, that you need to keep your weight up; really skinny old ladies are more prone to osteoporosis, among other things, than women who are a little more substantial, although, of course, being seriously obese will always be dangerous.

So there you have it: Eat low carb, don't starve yourself, divide your food up into several mini-meals, never eating enough to feel really stuffed, get some exercise, particularly resistance exercise - and accept the fact that it's just gonna be tough to be really thin for a good decade or so.

15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes Coming Soon!

It's in print! It's in print! I haven't seen it yet, but my editor emailed me yesterday and told me that 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes is in print, in the warehouse, and ready to start shipping - she's already sent me my author copies. Amazon.com should have theirs in a week or so, and the bookstores not long after that!!

As the name strongly suggests, all the recipes in 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes take no more than 15 minutes, prep time included, and many take less. Jalapeno Lime Scallops! Apricot-Bourbon Chicken! Cumin Mushrooms! Orange Lamb Burgers! And much, much more. All with the carb, fiber, usable carb, and protein counts per serving listed, of course!

You can still pre-order from Amazon, of course, and they'll ship it as soon as they get it:


I can't wait to see it! It's funny - I live with those recipes and those words for months, I proofread the galley prints - but it's always different somehow when I see it all turned into a book, right there in my hand.

More About Women and Middle Aged Weight Gain

After that first article you're thinking, "but all those people in Hollywood are still thin and glamorous and beautiful when they reach middle age."

Maybe. And maybe not.

However, keep in mind that these people have access to the best help - top-flight trainers, personal gyms, chefs who count every carb and every calorie. If you'd like to get an idea of what even young stars go through to look the way they do, see if you can catch "Rock Bodies: From Flab to Fab," currently running on VH1. The show tracks four women - definitely less than middle-aged - and the 12-week program of rock-star-like training and diet control they undergo to shape up. It becomes very clear that, even for youthful stars, looking like that is a nearly full-time job, requiring 3 to 4 hours of serious exercise a day, plus someone dispassionate to cook for them and measure every mouthful. Again, most of these aren't even middle-aged people!

Too, let us not forget that the vast majority of people who make it to Hollywood star status started out genetically gifted in the looks department. There is simply no amount of dieting, exercise, or even surgery that will make my waist anything less than painfully short. We all have to work with what we're given.

Still, consider Demi Moore. Looks fabulous, of course - but then, she recently had $25,000 worth of plastic surgery, including liposuction and a tummy tuck - and she certainly is one who started out genetically blessed. If we try to compare our middle-aged selves to Demi and her ilk, we're going to have totally unreasonable expectations.

Bless Jamie Lee Curtis. Known as "the body" in Hollywood in her twenties, Jamie is now in her forties (indeed, she and I will turn 45 just over a month apart this fall.) Last year Jamie Lee decided to come out regarding the work and the deception it takes to make over-forty celebs look skinny, young and glamorous. She openly talked about having "not great" thighs, a "soft little tummy," and "back fat," and revealed that it took 3 hours of professional makeup, hair, and wardrobe people working on her to get her ready for a single photo shoot.

Furthermore, Jamie Lee said that even after all that preliminary work, plus a really good photographer who can make anyone look their best, celebrity photos in magazines and such are airbrushed and retouched to make their subjects look younger, slimmer, and more glamorous.

In an amazingly courageous move, Curtis insisted on having her photo taken in her underwear, with no makeup, foundation garments, manicure, hair stylist, or anything, and being published unretouched. It was her hope, she said, that women would stop looking at the fake images of middle aged women that Hollywood was putting out, and hating themselves for not being a size 2 and buff in their forties and beyond. You can see Jamie Lee Curtis's ground-breaking honest photo here: http://tinyurl.com/nmag

What's the point of this discussion about what it takes to make middle-aged - and even youthful - celebrities look skinny and perfect? Just this: I worry that you (and I, for that matter) will look at these impossible images, and become so unsatisfied with being a normal size and healthy, and give up our nutritional and exercise regimens in disgust - when in reality, by any reasonable standards, we're successful.

I have actually gotten the occasional email from women who have lamented, "Gee, I've lost 30 pounds, and my cholesterol and triglycerides and blood pressure are all better, and I have more energy, but I'm stuck at a size 12, so I guess this diet doesn't really work, and I'll quit." Makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

I guess I just want you to know what success looks like, especially once you're middle-aged - and for most of us, it ain't a size 2 with six-pack abs. Okay?

(Here's a link to my Images of Beauty Gallery - some of the un-anorexic women that, until quite recently, Hollywood acknowledged for the extraordinary beauties they were and are: http://holdthetoast.com/imagesofbeauty/ )

Reader Review of 500 Low-Carb Recipes

Low-Carb Monotony, Be Gone!

The hardest thing about going low-carb for me was staying excited about eating from the recipes in my plan's book. Then I ordered Dana's book. First, Dana is not a diet doctor, she's real human like the rest of us, and her book is written in a very refreshing, down-to-earth tone. Second, Dana's book has taken the monotony OUT of my low-carb life. Let's talk fabulous stir-fry served over cauliflower "rice"...absolutely amazing waffles ... terrific spicy Thai cucumber salad that was eaten up to the very last bite at my office picnic today ... and of course, desserts. The hardest problem I have with this book is not giving away the recipes to my friends and low-carb associates who try the dishes because, quite frankly, like any author Dana is trying to make a living too so I tell them they just have to buy the book so she'll be encouraged to write another one. I promise you that you will not be disappointed with this book!!! And yes, Dana has pretty much attained goddess status in my life ;-)

amazon.comwoman, from Converse, TX June 5, 2003

Thanks, amazon.comwoman!! Especially for encouraging your friends to buy my book, you know? Oh, and you ought to know - there are a bunch of new recipes using the cauliflower rice in 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes, due out in October.

To read this and other reader reviews of 500 Low-Carb Recipes, visit Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1931412065/lowcarbohysoluti

Much as we love Amazon.com, you need to know that the book is available at bookstores everywhere!

Product Review

So I recently tried Keto Keeters, a low carb soy-corn chip, in the original corn flavor. They look a lot like Fritos, and the bag reads, "Yes, now you CAN enjoy incredibly delicious corn chips without all the carbs!" And indeed, Keto Keeters have 8 grams of carbohydrate per serving (1 ounce), with 5 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 3 grams, plus they have 10 grams of protein. So these would be fine if they were, indeed, "incredibly delicious." If they were a tiny bit delicious. If they were 4% delicious.

But Keto Keeters suck. No, they don't just suck, they really suck. Indeed, they reach truly transcendent levels of suck-itude rarely approached, much less rivaled, in the realms of low carb specialty products. Keeters border upon the utterly inedible. I tried one chip, was incredulous at how bad it was, and tried another, just to see if it really was that bad. It was; in fact, it was even worse than I originally thought.

I took the bag home, and foisted one chip upon my unsuspecting, long-suffering husband. He dutifully chewed it up, his face registering his growing disbelief that I could feed him something so - well, sucky. He did not ask for another Keeter. I suspect if I had tried to get him to eat another, he might have called a divorce lawyer. The only reason I didn't immediately throw the rest of the bag of Keeters in the trash is that I wanted the label information for this article. Having used it, I will now dispose of the rest of the Keeters. I'm tempted to take them to the hazardous waste facility, but will probably just dump them in the trash. I could feed them to my dogs, I suppose, but I like my dogs.

How, specifically, do Keeters suck? Let me count the ways. They're cardboardy. They're soggy-stale-ish. They're un-crisp, and stick in your teeth unbecomingly. They have a really weird, un-cornchip-y flavor, with a bitter overtone of rancidity. And to top it off, they ran me $2.99 for a 2 ounce bag. Don't get me wrong; I'm willing to pay tall tickets for good low carb specialty products; I know that they use expensive ingredients. However, I resent spending this kind of money on something that - what was that word? - oh, yeah, something that sucks.

Keeters come in two other flavors: barbecue, and hot and spicy. I suppose it's just barely possible that these flavors don't suck quite so bad as the Original Corn, but I certainly won't be finding out. I mean, I'm willing to do a lot for you guys, but there are limits. I draw the line at putting even one more Keto Keeter in my mouth. I don't get paid enough for that.

There are other protein chips on the market, all of which (that I have tried) are better than Keeters, but I don't think any of the protein chips are outstanding. If you want something crunchy, I recommend that you try Just the Cheese chips, or smoke-flavored roasted almonds, or a fiber cracker, or pumpkin seeds.

Or a nice pork rind. Which brings me to an ancillary matter: I've been asked which were the pork rinds I'd given rave reviews to. There are two brands, and I love them both (and this, when I really don't care much for your average grocery store pork rind) - Gram's Gourmet, which makes Cheddar Crunchies (aka Cheetos for low carbers) and Sweet Cinnamon and Butter Crunchies, and Katiedid's Pork Rinds, who fry their rinds fresh daily, make rafts of great flavors (I adore sour cream and salsa - you'll never miss Doritos again), and ship 'em straight to your door. Gram's Gourmet's pork rinds (and their other great products) are available at retail stores that carry low carb stuff, and through all your favorite low carb etailers. Katiedid's Pork Rinds are only available through her website: http://www.geocities.com/lcporkrinds/

Just don't buy Keto Keeters. Please. I beg you. I hate losing readers.

Reader Review of How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds

The best for evangelizing

I've told my friends I'm low carbing, so if they are staring at my rear end, I know why! If they are curious about my slim body, high energy, and obvious cheerfulness, I always recommend this book. It covers all the different plans, gives reasons why so many people are eating this way, and explains the science beautifully and clearly.

Another reason is because it is a fun read! A funny style and remarkably broad scope makes it a

book that you can read over and over again. I've found better ways to inform people of the benefits of low carb thanks to this book. She's a natural teacher and gets your enthusiasm up all over again.

reneebook from Saranac Lake, NY, August 28, 2003

Thanks, Renee! Y'know, I come from a long line of teachers, and we used to joke about how the teaching gene apparently passed me by. Little did we know I just hadn't found my subject yet!

To see this and other reader reviews of How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds (plus one negative "review" that clearly comes from someone who hasn't even read the book, but just wants to bash low carbing), visit Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1592330401/lowcarbohysoluti

Much as we love Amazon.com, we'd like you to know that you can also buy How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds at any bookstore!

Dana's Blood Work Report

I needed a new prescription for my thyroid meds, and I hadn't had a check up in a couple of years. I didn't have time for the full deal, but my doctor insisted on blood work, which seemed like a good idea to me, so I went to see the nice Vampire Lady, and got blood sucked out and tested. I just thought you all would like to know how it came out, since you're 18,000 of my best friends and all.

After 8 solid years of low carbing, of eating red meat and eggs and cheese and butter with no restraint (and, of course, also eating poultry and some fish, monounsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados, and plenty of low carb veggies), it's official: It will take a silver bullet through the heart to kill me.

Click to enlargeMy total cholesterol is 204. Oooooooooo, comes the cry, that's too high! No, it's not. The 200 cut off point for cholesterol insisted upon by the US medical establishment is arbitrary; indeed, in much of the world cholesterol up to 225 is considered totally normal and healthy. (Oddly enough, I was talking to a friend about this right after I got the blood work back from my doctor, and they told me their cholesterol had also come up a few points over 200 - and their doctor had said, "Don't worry about it; this is considered normal in most of the world.)

(Parenthetically, I'd like to point out here, for those of you who don't know yet, that total cholesterol under about 170 is associated with an increased risk of death. Your risk of heart disease drops, but your risk of other things, most notably cancer and hemorrhagic stroke, goes up - and keeps going up the lower your cholesterol gets. Since cancer is the "family disease," and in light of the recent, tragic death of my governor, Frank O'Bannon, from hemorrhagic stroke, I think I'll keep my cholesterol over 170, thanks.)

But my total cholesterol is really not too high in light of my other numbers: My HDL - "good cholesterol" - is 60, which is superb. And my triglycerides are at 40, which is astonishingly low.

The most important thing is the blood work ratios - the relationship of total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. Let's look at those, shall we? It'll help you to interpret your blood work, when you get it done.

First is total cholesterol divided by HDL, and you want the number to be 4 or below. 204/60 = 3.4, comfortably below 4.

Next comes LDL ("bad" cholesterol) divided by HDL ("good" cholesterol). For men, a ratio of 3.55 gives average risk, anything lower is better; for women, 3.22 is average risk, again, with a lower number being better. My LDL is at 135. 135/60 = 2.25, or well under average risk.

Finally, the ratio many researchers are now considering the most important: triglycerides divided by HDL. This number needs to be 2 or below. Since my triglyceride number is only 2/3 of my HDL number, my ratio is, er, a bit below 2: 40/60 = 0.66666 (repeat forever) - unbelievably good.

In short, at this point my chances of actually dying of a heart attack are roughly the same as my chances of winning the Powerball, or being invited to the White House, struck by lightening, and abducted by aliens in the same day. Egg, meat, and cheese been very, very good to me.

For the record, they also tested my blood sugar and my kidney function. They didn't actually send me the numbers, just checked off the place on the form that said "normal". I'm assuming that this means that I still don't have that kidney damage that everyone tells me this diet will cause.

Anyway, since I hold myself up regularly as a low carb success story, I thought you ought to know: It's official. I'm healthy.

What Ingredients Do I Use?

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions I get:

1) What brand of soy milk powder do you use, and where can I get it?

I use Fearn brand soy milk powder, aka soy powder. I buy it at my health food store, Bloomingfoods, where they carry it in bulk. However, Fearn is a nationally distributed brand, and they do sell the soy powder in a box, as well as in bulk. Any good health food store should be able to order it for you.

2) What brand of vanilla whey protein powder do you use?

I have used two brands of vanilla whey protein powder in baking, and both have worked equally well - "Show Me The Whey" brand (ain't it adorable?), which is packaged as the "house brand" for various health food stores, including the afore-mentioned Bloomingfoods (and also Henry's, a west coast chain, as I happen to know, because I have family in San Diego), and Designer Whey French Vanilla, which is available in GNC stores coast-to-coast.

3) Where do you get sugar free chocolate chips?

Actually, I don't. As described in 500 Low-Carb Recipes, I generally chop up sugar free dark chocolate bars in my food processor to make my own chips. I like Pure De-Lite brand chocolate bars best. However, sugar free chocolate chips are becoming more widely available - I believe I saw them at Sahara Mart here in Bloomington the last time I was there. Furthermore, a quick Google search on "sugar free chocolate chips" (include the quotation marks) turns up legions of low carb etailers just dying to send you sugar free chocolate chips. So if you have a US shipping address, you can get sugar free chocolate chips.

4) I'm allergic to nuts. What can I use in place of almond or hazelnut meal?

I confess I haven't tried it, but I would try ground sunflower seeds first - just take raw, hulled sunflower seeds and grind them to a cornmeal consistency in your food processor. I don't know exactly how this will work out, but have a hard time believing it would bomb entirely.

If, as one reader was, you are also allergic to sunflower seeds, I'd try pumpkin seeds. Beyond that, I'm afraid I'm stumped.

5) I'm gluten intolerant. What can I substitute in your bread recipes?

I'm sorry, but I know of no substitute for gluten in bread; it's what makes the dough stretchy, so it holds in the gas from the yeast. Furthermore, those darned bread recipes have turned out to be problematic for so many people that I'm reluctant to suggest anything!

6) Can I use psyllium powder instead of psyllium husks in your bread recipes?

I don't know why not, but keep in mind that being far finer in texture than the whole hulls, the powder will measure quite differently, since it packs tighter in the measuring cup, so I don't have a clue as to how much to tell you to use. I'm afraid experimenting is the only solution, and it can get pricey. I will tell you that if your bread comes out in weird lumps, stuck together, with stringy bits between - a look I call "alien dung" - you're using too much psyllium! The voice of experience. I fed a few batches of alien dung to my dogs.

Cooking Low Carb!

With all those end-of-summer tomatoes coming in, I thought I'd give you a great salad to help use them up. This one is easy, delicious, refreshing, and looks really beautiful, to boot.

Cucumber-Tomato Salad

1 medium cucumber

2 smallish or 1 really large ripe tomato

1/2 medium red onion

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and pepper

Cut your cucumber in quarters, lengthwise, then cut those quarters into 1/2" chunks, and dump 'em in a good-sized bowl. Cut your tomatoes in pieces roughly 1/2" square - I cut smallish tomatoes in 16ths - and add them to the bowl. Cut your half an onion in two, giving you two quarter-onions, then slice those paper thin, and throw those in as well, along with your cup of chopped parsley. Then just add everything else, salting and peppering to taste, and toss it a bit, to coat. That's it!

This should serve 6 to 8. Assuming 8 servings, each will have 4 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber, for a usable carb count of 3 grams. 1 gram of protein.

That's it for this issue! See you next issue!


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To request a full-text version of this issue by e-mail, just send a message to: htt030918@holdthetoast.com (Message and subject can be blank.)