So What Did I Change?

Via the comments, this inquiry:

John, would you be willing to consolidate all the changes you made to your diet together in one blog post, so that those of us playing the home game might try it ourselves? Thanks.

I will gladly share what I have done, and what I have learned, and since another close friend was just diagnosed with diabetes today (and blamed me for all the diabetes posts for his diagnosis), and I feel better, I will share what I think I know. Mind you, I phrased that the way I meant- I think I am starting to know some things, but I probably really don’t know fully what I am talking about.

When my buddy called me and told me he was taking me up on the offer to come for a visit, then told me about his diagnosis, the very first thing I did was try to break google for a couple days, and basically read everything I could, took notes, cross-referenced different sites, and read a shitload of comments on diabetes forums, which ingrained in me that no matter what I think I am “learning,” there is no one size fits all cure. For Shawn and new diabetics, basically you just have to be a food Nazi and test, re-test, and document everything you eat and when you eat it and what the resulting blood sugar result is. If your sugar spikes, try the meal the next day removing one part that you may think has been problematic, and see if it spikes. Note it, and move on. This is different for everyone, so you just have to be vigilant and learn more about your body and its relationship to food than you probably ever wanted to.

The very next thing I did, concomitant with the research, was sit there in a state of shock multiple times. Like the kind of shock and fear you have when you are ten years old and going to the Principal’s office- just going white and thinking “what the fuck have I done?” I’ve tried to eat healthier in the past, and approached things from a lower carb perspective, but after reading what I have read the past few days, I recognized how problematic our current food supply is.

The next thing I did was basically go through my kitchen and throw a bunch of stuff out. Should have given it to a food kitchen, but I just wanted it the fuck out. I threw out all the white flour because I read that a teaspoon of white flour has the same glycemic load as a teaspoon of sugar and learned all the sick chemical shit we use to process flour these days on top of how we have modified wheat so much that it fucks with our hormones, and kept only the quinoa flour and almond flour. I threw out every form of sweetener other than stevia, Splenda, and black strap molasses for rare occasions. I threw out every grain of rice I could find. I threw out all the potatoes. All the pasta. I went through the cabinets and threw out anything that was a processed food- taco shells, Bush baked beans, etc. There is nothing in my house that has sugar or HFS added. Nothing.

I read a couple studies that a chemical in the lining of canned food, bisphenol-A, has been linked to diabetes and obesity, so I threw out every canned product I had except for peeled whole tomatoes, because I can not think of a workaround in the winter. From now on, only fresh or flash frozen fruits and vegetables. Period. If I want beans, I will soak them and cook them the way they were intended. The science is not wholly conclusive, but I see no reason to add a chemical when it is unnecessary, the fresh and frozen taste better, and the FDA isn’t going to die if I and Shawn keep eating this crap, we are. So I just rolled with it and made a command decision.

I read that the sugars in skim milk were worse than the sugars in whole milk, especially since the whole milk has fats that slow the absorption of sugar. So I threw out the skim milk and bought organic, no hormone milk, and simply reduced the amount I drank. I am a milk lover, so now I am down to one cup a day, when it was nothing for me to drink a quart before.

Got rid of all soft and processed cheeses. Picked up hard cheeses. Got rid of every oil except olive oil and unsalted butter, which sucks, because you can leave salted butter out for a couple weeks, but have to keep the unsalted in the fridge where it is cold and hard to spread. Regardless, the salt just had to fucking go.

Got rid of the mayo and other condiments except for the Heniz ketchup that only has five ingredients, one of which is straight up sugar and not HCF. As a mayo substitute, mash an avocado with a dash of olive oil and a touch of sea salt until it is a creamy spread.

Swore off all fruit juices, which are basically just sugar bombs. If you need a fruit juice, drink it in moderation, and I would recommend the Knudsen organics, which taste great and are real fruit and not just sugar and other crap. Just be ready to taste real fruit and not sugar, because this is not your mother’s cranberry juice.

I will never eat another grape or yellow banana or orange juice. Might as well eat a snickers bar. They are just sugar bombs. Fortunately, I like my bananas very green to the point they are hard to peel and have a more plantain-like taste.

Cut out all red meat. When I am in the grocery, I just pretend the deli does not exist, because as delicious as some cold cuts are, they are all fucking poison. Using only organic and hormone free chicken, turkey, wild-caught fish, and pork loin.

Cut down salt by at least half. I don’t add near as much as I used to while cooking, and no longer brought a salt and pepper shaker to the table for meals.

Started planning. Planning ahead what you are going to make makes it so much easier to buy the right things at the grocery, and gives you time to think about what would be really tasty, rather than looking at the clock, seeing it is 6 pm, and just basically scrambling to throw something together. Use the internet and find recipes you like from the multiple diabetes websites out there, and then, go through every ingredient in the recipe, even though it is diabetic friendly, and check out the glycemic load of each so that you can decide if it seems reasonable or if you want to substitute something (either because it has been a problem for you in the past, or you just find it unnecessary, or whatever). Take notes.

Read a research article one of you all posted that suggested a little mild exercise after a meal could lead to lower blood sugar spikes. After every meal, Shawn walked the dogs and I hit the exercise bike for fifteen mins (cuz I still don’t trust the ice).

Radically, and I mean radically, increased the amount of leafy greens. Been eating kale, spinach, etc., with basically every meal.

Started snacking between meals. I know this sounds crazy for a fat guy, but I would routinely skip meals or just ignore hunger, and then eat a big meal. Basically, the worst thing you can do. Apparently, what you want is to continuously keep your blood sugar (and this is for diabetics and non-diabetics) stable, and skipping meals and binging is just the worst fucking thing you can do. It’s quite amazing how a handful or two of almonds in between meals can solve all hunger issues. Or an apple and a slice of white cheddar. Or an apple and a teaspoon full of organic peanut butter. Or a couple slices of pineapple and a handful of pistachios.

Again, I am no expert, and if there is stuff here that I am screwing up, please tell me. This is just where I am after about ten days of reading about this and trying it out. And while I am still feeling my way around this stuff, I still do not understand the relationship between dietary fibers and carb counts, so that has been hampering my label reading, and I do not understand yet type 1.5 and latent immune disease.

This is a work in progress, and so many of you have emailed me and I have shamefully only responded to a few of you, but this is a lot of work, and I have been reading your emails and comments. I think I might even ask Mistermix if it is possible to set up a wiki for this whole topic that we could help each other out with info. Obviously, there are lots of established sites on the issue, but what I really think is important is that this stuff is different for everyone, so personal anecdotes and work arounds could be a valuable research.

And while this might be TMI, but my bowel movements have been much better. Sorry to, ummmm, drop that on you, but this is a food thread. Also, my skin looks better.

119 replies
  1. 1
    The Dangerman says:

    The next thing I did was basically go through my kitchen and throw a bunch of stuff out.

    Well, there went the mustard.

  2. 2
    Linnaeus says:

    Don’t know if I could do without pasta or rice. Those are both relatively low-cost staples of my diet.

  3. 3
    Linnaeus says:

    That said, I’ve clipped this to my Evernote, because I might try some of these things.

  4. 4
    Ken says:

    I’m bemused by the previous post, which starts “I’m still feeling too much under the weather…”

  5. 5
    John Cole says:

    @Linnaeus: Lentils, quinoa, high fiber beans. There are easy solutions. There is even quinoa flour. I found that in 2 seconds on the google thing.

  6. 6
    John Cole says:

    @Ken: I got motivated. I can’t sleep 20 hours of the day.

  7. 7
    WereBear says:

    Good for you and Shawn. Heading off diabetes is even better than handling it properly once you have it.

    A great many type II’s can eat in a way that lets them eliminate meds eventually.

    For me, eating small meals just makes me hungry around the clock. A good-sized low carb meal keeps my blood sugar stable for hours. But I don’t think my pancreas knows how to release a small amount of insulin, so it is an individual thing.

  8. 8
    David in NY says:


  9. 9
    Hawes says:

    Try agave syrup as a sweetener.

  10. 10
    ruemara says:

    hmm, not bad. Can you clarify on the soft cheeses issues? I make a kickass GF apple spice cupcake with blue cheese filling, would hate to give that up.

    holy crap, a whole quart of milk? In a day? whoa. I use flax or almond milk for a pre-workout/post-workout smoothie and that’s just a cup.

  11. 11
    april says:

    Wow. I’m impressed. Really. I have lousy eating habits. I’m a vegetarian but that doesn’t mean I eat vegetables; it just means no meat in a diet of junk food. I know. I feel bad about it. Why eat junk when there is delicious food around, food that is actually pleasing to eat? Well I suppose because I would have to cook the pleasing delicious healthy food. I need to hire a cook.

  12. 12
    Comrade Mary says:

    John, where do you stand on oats? My breakfasts are either a veggie skillet with some egg/egg white and a couple of tablespoons of shredded cheddar, or soaked steel-cut oats.

    That’s about 1/4 cup steel-cut oats, about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1-2 T of seeds (ground flax, chia, hemp and pepitas) and a handful of fresh or frozen berries.I just put it all in a bowl before bed, stir it up, stick it in the fridge, and chew away the next morning. Very filling, even in small quantities.

  13. 13
    angelfoot says:

    When you say you threw out every grain of rice, did that include brown rice? If so, why? Because, fuck.

  14. 14
    Helen says:

    May I make a recommendation? “The Plan” by Lyn-Genet Recitas. The entire book is about inflammation. I am a “professional dieter,” literally someone who has been on a diet for 40 years, I’ve tried everything. The thing that attracted me to her theory is that I have been on 1,500 calorie diets that work and 1,500 calories that do not work. Why? Because it is truly WHAT you eat, not how many calories. And what we are told about “good” foods and “bad” foods is not true. Salmon? bad for me. Oatmeal? bad for me. Red peppers? (LOVE THEM) bad for me. but I can eat cheese and beef and rice. Go figure. I am a 51 year old menopausal woman and I am losing 3 1/2 pounds a week eating 1,700 calories a day.

    The only bad thing about the diet is that you have to weigh yourself every day and you have to be very precise until you figure out what is good and bad for you. Also? Lots of water and no salt! Not easy, but I promise you – it works.

  15. 15
    John Cole says:

    @angelfoot: I had used all my wild rice just a few days before Shawn called. All I had was white rice.

  16. 16
    KG says:

    @ruemara: in my youth, I’d drink close to a half gallon with dinner, and would usually also have a glass as part of breakfast. Don’t drink quite that much anymore, but I can still finish a gallon pretty quickly.

    On the red meat point, I think that’s a YMMV issue. I’ve found that including it in my diet has helped lose weight. Basically, while higher fat, the higher protein makes up for it. And protein, combined with the right exercise (including weight lifting), helps build muscle and increase testosterone, which in turn helps burn fat.

    But, like you said, it’s different for everyone

  17. 17
    Comrade Mary says:

    @angelfoot: I just cooked a whole rice cooker of brown rice :-) :-(

    It’s a little higher in arsenic than white rice, and its GI values are generally not terrific BUT I think a lot of us can eat it in moderate qualities.

    I’ll be using half a cup of cooked rice in my morning skillets this week (along with several cups of shallots, spinach, green pepper, and broccoli, plus eggs/egg whites, salsa and that wee bit of cheese).

  18. 18
    The Dangerman says:

    I saw a comment about pasta; Shirataki Noodles make a fine replacement for spagetti.

  19. 19
    Linnaeus says:

    @John Cole:

    Hm. I’ll bet one of my local hippie markets sells all of that.

  20. 20
    Cassidy says:

    There aren’t many wrong answers to food. You do what works and what you can afford.

    If anyone is interested, I’ve linked a couple of times to Neila Rey (google it). She had a website devoted to body weight exercising; mostly body weight circuits and stuff like that. She’s a comic book nerd and a lot of her workouts have a theme and the instructional graphics include multiple levels of fitness. So lately, my workouts have been lackluster. Between boredom, plateauing, and lack of decent equipment at the stations I’ve just been going through the motions. I also think my injuries are catching up to me. Anyway, I giving her programs a try. I’m doing the 30 day workout to ramp up and alter my routine plus the push-up and plank challenges. Give it a look. You don’t need a gym or any equipment.

  21. 21
    Irony Abounds says:

    @John Cole: “Lentils, quinoa, high fiber beans” In a word, YUCK. I’d rather be dead than have those things be the staple of my diet. Fortunately, even at 58 with bad eating habits my blood pressure is generally around 110/75, my resting heart rate is around 55 and no evidence of diabetes (of course I could drop any minute, so who really knows).

    However, I’m very happy you’re comfortable with it all. I have seem references to studies that indicate that organic stuff isn’t any better for you than non-organic, but perhaps the placebo effect makes a difference.

  22. 22
    WereBear says:

    Feedlot beef is from a different planet than grassfed, which is all I eat. I eat less, but it’s far better quality, and humanely raised.

  23. 23
    epmason says:

    I don’t think you should cut red meat out. In fact if it’s from grass finished cows you should be eating more red meat and butter. Cutting bad carbs is a great start, but your body is going to start panicking when it stops getting the energy it’s used to getting from sugar. In the absence of an alternative energy source you’re going to feel really bad (brain fog, fatigue, even flu-like symptoms in some cases).

    The second part of the low carb equation has to be increased fat intake to give your body a clean, healthy energy source. Don’t fear saturated fat. It’s one of those things people believe is bad because they’ve always been told it’s bad. But it’s where you should be getting the majority of your calories.

    Start here:

  24. 24
    KG says:

    @Comrade Mary: I’ve read that a large percentage of people are somewhat allergic to rice. Which is why sake and American macrobrews give nasty headaches on the hangover. I don’t know how true that is, and I love rice way too much to give it up

  25. 25
    skerry says:

    Give venison a try. Good taste and low fat.
    You’re in WVa. If you don’t hunt, I bet you know someone who does.

  26. 26
    300baud says:

    This sounds a lot like what I’ve been doing for the last 6 months, John. I’m much happier with my life. A bit that especially resonates for me is the snacking making things better. For whatever reasons, I want snacks to crunch, so I always have carrots, celery, and apples around. Then my meals are small.

    For those in the “could never do this” camp, my suggestion is to try a very restricted diet for 1 month. (I used the “Whole 30” plan, but I don’t think it matters a ton.) The first couple of weeks were hard, but I also felt a lot better within a few days: more stable mood, more energetic, fewer aches and pains. After a month, I started adding things back, and also included some cheat days. But making that big change for a month was a) clear and simple, and b) gave me a baseline, so I could tell how foods were affecting me.

    An important component for me was thinking differently about my relationship to food. Instead of thinking that I craved cheese, I thought of it as my body craving cheese. Instead of me wanting that cookie, I thought of it as me experiencing a desire for a cookie. As I gradually stopped identifying with those feelings, it became much easier to wait them out, kind of like you wait out the noise of a fire engine going by.

  27. 27
    pluky says:

    @ruemara: Butterfat, that’s what makes a soft cheese soft (think a nice triple creme St. Andre).

  28. 28
    Original Lee says:

    John, as a new diabetic (Type II, diagnosed a week ago today), I am very grateful for these threads. I started including some fat in every meal and snack, and that really stabilized things a lot for me already.

    I also now try to exercise or walk at least 20 minutes after every meal, and for me, it looks as if the 20 minutes does not have to be continuous – I can exercise in 5-minute bursts as long as my heart rate goes up. Net result: I have managed to keep my blood sugar readings in the neighborhood of 100 most of the time over the last few days. Another anecdotal data point that the mild exercise is useful!

    Thanks also to the “experienced” diabetics who have been sharing their tips on these threads. I really feel so much more hopeful now that I will be able to be diet-only in the not-to-distant future.

  29. 29
    carolannie1949 says:

    Try replacing all dessert and cereal sweetners with cinnamon (canela not cassia cinnamon). Quick stewed apples with a small serving of full fat greek yogurt (Fage or any other without tapioca or other thickeners,just milk and cultures) with a dash of real cinnamon and no sweetner is great. Canela cinnamon also controls blood sugar. You can buy the cinnamon at a health food store or online. Get a SodaStream and drink more water, flavored with a squeeze of lime. Etc

  30. 30
    vlm says:

    Delurking again to welcome you to lower carb Primal eating, John! It, and exercise, have kept my diabetic blood sugar values under control for 7 years. You might enjoy a trip to Mark’s Daily Apple and Robb Wolf’s blogs. And customizing your eating based on *you* and how you react to food is the way to go!

  31. 31
    The Dangerman says:

    Noted Cole’s comments about being under the weather downstairs. Detoxing after eating healthier sucks; a lot like the flu. And sugar withdrawal is the worst.

    Check out a book called the “Inside Out Diet” by Cathy Wong; it’s really not a diet so much as how to have a happy, healthy liver (which leads to detoxing which leads to … well, health, eventually).

  32. 32

    Maybe juicing (greens) to get extra nutrients in?

    Also, tomatoes + can = bad combination because the acid leaches chemicals out of the can. You can find tomatoes in glass jars.

  33. 33
    justdale says:

    As a suggestion: If you’re used to beans as a staple, invest in a pressure cooker. Dried beans bag-to-table in 25 minutes without presoaking (or 10 minutes with soaking). The stove-top ones are fine, or if space is a premium Breville makes an electric that doubles as a slow-cooker. No reason for canned beans when I can whip up a Rancho Gordo heirlooms in less time.

    Plus soups, green veggies, etc…

  34. 34
    goblue72 says:

    @ruemara: I would assume its a carbohydrate per volume issue. Fresh cheeses (like chevre, feta or buffala mozzarella) have more carbohydrates & less proteins (but also less fat) per weight of cheese than soft ripened cheese (Brie, bleu, etc.), which in turn have more carbohydrates & less proteins (but also less fat) per weight of cheese than hard ripened cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, etc)

    Basically, the more water content the cheese, the less fatty it is, but at same time can have more carbs (and thus more carbs than can be converted to sugars). Now, there are fresh cheeses that are low carb (ricotta, cottage), but I think the issue with those is its easy to eat to much of them compared to other cheese. (Think about sitting down to a bowl of cottage cheese. Pretty easy, right? But you wouldn’t do the same for same, chevre)

    As you can see from above though – its a bit complicated, because if calorie control if your main goal, then avoiding high cal / high fat (i.e. hardened) cheese is what you should be doing.

  35. 35
    gsp says:

    Getting it up more too? You know, up.

  36. 36
    Felonius Monk says:

    While waiting in the examining room for my endocrinologist last week, a couple of books sitting on the windowsill caught my eye. I started thumbing thru one by Gary Taubes with the title “Why We Get Fat”. Pretty interesting, so I had to get me a copy. Very interesting, but be warned — it will make your head explode.

  37. 37
    Ed says:

    I may have had some food allergies or something I was unaware of ( I have no issue with gluten)
    And while this might be TMI, but my bowel movements have been much better.

    I truly don’t buy that you don’t have a problem with gluten/wheat. 2 years ago, After reading the wheat belly blog and book, I gave up wheat and in 6 weeks dropped 12 pounds. Now if I “cheat” and have wheat, I get loose stools and gas. I am not “celiac” but I know I have an issue with wheat. Wheat allergy causes inflammation ( knuckles, etc).

    No I try to only eat “Protein and Produce”. I don’t think anyone can have a problem with that.

    Check out the Primal Blueprint – good clean eating plus easy exercise ( 3-5 hours walking per week, some weights ) produces amazing results. Good luck to you.

  38. 38
    Ted and Hellen says:


    Is there no subject under the sun on which you are NOT an expert?

    MASSIVE eye-roll.

  39. 39
    Comrade Mary says:

    @justdale: Welllll … the timing depends on the bean. I find that black beans and chickpeas take ca. 30 minutes under pressure, then about 15-20 minutes for natural release. Still quite fast and tasty, though!

  40. 40
    Ed says:

    and your “under the weather” is usually referred to as the “low carb flu”. You’ll get used to it in a few days. Before I went low-carb I would swing back and forth between sugar and insulin. no more. Good luck with your journey.

  41. 41
    goblue72 says:

    @pluky: That is not actually entirely true. The number one component of the hardness level of cheese is its water content. Soft cheeses, generally speaking, have more water per volume than hard cheese. Through the ripening process, the water content goes down, and the concentration of solid matter increase. Which is why in part, its is the hard, ripened cheeses which are the fattiest cheese per weight – cheeses like Parmesan and aged cheddar.

    In contrast, softer cheese have a lower overall quantity of fat per weight. For example, triple-cream cheeses involve the use of cream with 75%+ butterfat content. Holy cow, that sounds like a lot! BUT, that is just the fat content of the “dry” matter of the cheese. In soft ripened cheeses, around 50% of its volume is water. Thus, if a soft ripened cheese used 75% butterfat cream, the cheese is overall 37% fat.

    Contrast this with a Parmesan, which uses skim milk in its preparation, but since it has a lower water content, its about 28% fat. Less fatty than a super rich triple-creme cheese sure, but not the big difference one might expect.

    Contrast this again in turn with an even softer cheese like chevre which I think is around a 60% water content.

  42. 42
    MattR says:

    God that was depressing to read. I think the list of items that got moved to the forbidden list is an exact match with the list of items in my diet (and the more horrific you think the food is, the higher the percentage of my diet it comprises). Except for the unsalted butter. I use that.

  43. 43
    Yoodow says:


    To keep your unsalted butter fresh and spreadable, try a butter bell.

  44. 44
    p.a. says: is a good resource; not focused on diabetes or any other particular medical issue, just on overall health and nutrition.

  45. 45
    Violet says:


    Try agave syrup as a sweetener.

    Agave is not nearly as low-glycemic-friendly as it’s made out to be. It’s sometimes cut with other sweeteners too. Be cautious. Agave is also often hard on the gut and if it upsets your intestines, then that in turn causes a cascade of hormonal events, which kicks off blood sugar spikes. Any food that causes intestinal rumbling is capable of spiking your blood sugar.

    I personally can’t use agave at all. My intestines go all rumbly and I feel terrible. My cutting-edge gastroenterologist advises eliminating agave for that reason and because of the ensuing blood sugar issues from it.

  46. 46
    mclaren says:

    Fer cripes sake, what next? Are you fanbois going to start asking for Cole’s toenail clippings?

    Ye gods. This is getting into shoe fetishist territory. It’s embarrassing.

  47. 47
    Lizzy L says:

    John, you go!! You are doing what you need to do, finding out what foods keep you healthiest. We are all different. Some people can go primal, some not. Some people do just fine with no meat — some of us need some meat, but not a lot. Some of us can eat LOTS of meat. Some of us are wheat sensitive. WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. We will recommend what works for us, but you will find out what works for you.


  48. 48
    Malovich says:

    Welcome to The Zone, John.

    Cherries are actually terribly good. Low GI (you actually expend more energy digesting them than what you get out) and tasty!

    Protein + fats help slow the absorption of carbs, right along with the dietary fiber. Sears recommends a 30%-30%-40% split for protien-fat-carbs calories for a given meal.

    Simply lowering the overall GI of your food does wonders! Glad to hear that you’re getting results!

    And yeah, exercise increases insulin tolerance, offsetting and delaying diabetic decay. Basically, you lose a margin that allows you to go off-target that you have in your youth.

    I was borderline diabetic for a while, used to be skinny as a rail. Mixed Zone diet and now I’ve picked up serious exercise and yeah, it’s done me a lot of good.

  49. 49
    Cassidy says:

    @mclaren: Do you exercise? I can’t imagine it’d be easy to break one off in Megan McArdle if you’re huffing and puffing?

  50. 50
    Birthmarker says:

    I have many diet failings, but at least I can say I just eat very little rice (brown or white), pasta, tortillas, taco shells, chips, crackers, protein bar/breakfast/granola bar type things, etc. Very little nutritional value in these items.

    If I get a chance to eat fresh hot bread I will take it, but rarely eat bread otherwise.

    If I make, say, fajitas, I eat the filling in a bowl with all the fixings, I just eliminate the tortilla. Same way for spaghetti. Meat sauce in a bowl, no pasta. I never understand why anyone would pay 12 dollars for a pasta dish in a restaurant which I could make at home for a dollar or two. Of course if I am a guest in someone’s home, I eat what is offered. I am far from fanatical.

    I never touch fruit juice. I never eat cereal. I limit starchy beans, though I probably eat more beans than the other items listed here.

    I am always a bit surprised if I travel with a friend and they want crackers to snack on in the hotel room. I would just do fruit and cheese and nuts myself. They will usually tell me how low fat the crackers are…(Low fat usually equals high carb/high sugar).

    For lunch most days I have lunch meat (I buy the good chicken and turkey at Publix) , cheese, and something on the side like banana peppers, sundried tomatoes, almonds, pickles or a leftover veg from dinner.

    My mother died of diabetes (what a mean, mean disease), and fortunately I think I have avoided it so far because I eliminate so many of these carby things.

  51. 51
    jl says:

    @mclaren: Given the end of the post, I don’t think toenail clippings are what Cole would be offering.

    I generally would add something I thought interesting about a healthy diet, but in your honor, I am going to gorge on Trader Joe’s chocolate chocolate sandwich cookies and butterfingers for a few days. If it will calm you down.

  52. 52
    John Cole says:

    @mclaren: A lot of the time I appreciate your comments while others do not, but when you write shit like this, I wonder just who touched you and where as a child. I’m trying to figure things out and save my friend’s and my life, sharing what I have read and what I think I know, and trying to help fellow travelers out while also soliciting advice from a big crowd of people who know a lot of stuff I don’t.

    Why does this bother you?

  53. 53
    jl says:

    @jl: And big steaming rich bread pudding soaked in whatever damn double cream and butter whiskey sauce I can find. And cream puffs. I might as well go all out and add cream puffs too.

    Edit: Special ‘health’ bread pudding without those raisins or stupid nuts, too.

  54. 54
    Cassidy says:

    @jl: The raisins make it healthy.

  55. 55
    p.a. says:

    I’ve given up on containerized whole tomatoes whether canned or bottled. I heard Giada say they all have to be treated to keep their shape. Crushed, diced, pureed from now on.
    If you have a food processor there’s no need to buy peanut butter. Dry roast peanuts (read the label, some companies add stuff. Get the ones saying: Ingredients:peanuts.) You can add salt to taste or not, or a tbsp of oil to speed things up or not. Process in batches depending on bowl and motor size.

  56. 56
    The Dangerman says:

    Just noticed the last topic of the post. One word: Kefir.

  57. 57
    waratah says:

    Peanut butter is good. My sister in law grabs a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter and spreads it on whole wheat bread for breakfast if she feels like her sugar has dropped in the morning. It is also good for snacks to keep your energy up.
    I also like to eat a couple of squares of dark chocolate for a treat or nuts.

    I was told to to check the total carbohydrates on all packaged food. This includes all sugars.
    Also fiber count.

    I was put on a 45 gram carbohydrates per meal with three snacks a day including a late night if I need it of 15 grams carbohydrates.
    That means my meal is to have total 45 grams I did not eat that many most of my meals.

    I would google how many carbs were in everything for a while, fruit veggies etc. until now I know how much I can eat.
    My husband loves a baked potato for his meals and I can eat a small one if no other carbs.
    We now eat a lot more baked sweet potatoes.
    Our main meal will be simple grilled salmon, fish, chicken breast baked sweet potato spinach or salad.

  58. 58
    Comrade Mary says:

    @The Dangerman: Kefir is AWESOME.

  59. 59
    SectarianSofa says:

    The steak and shake ad that appeared above this post was a nice touch. (Ice cream and Snickers, even.)

  60. 60
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Cassidy: Cranberries make it even healthier. Of course, you’ll need to coat them in sugar to make it taste good, but what the hell.

  61. 61
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    I avoid wheat and red meat, make a conscious effort to eat more vegetables, especially greens. I eat pasta maybe five or six times a year. But you can have my potatoes when you pry them from MY COLD DEAD HAAAANDS!

  62. 62
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    I’m going to switch to a tire rims and anthrax diet.

  63. 63
    Joshua Norton says:

    I still do not understand the relationship between dietary fibers and carb counts,

    When I was doing Atkins, you subtracted the dietary fiber count and sugar alcohols from the total carb count and that gave you the net carbs that would be counted towards your carb quota for that day. So if a serving had 20 carbs but 15 of them were from fiber you were basically eating 5 net carbs.

    But now I’m reading a new book for diabetics called “What Do I Eat Now?” and it says to only subtract half the value of fiber and sugar alcohols if either amount is over 5 grams and use the result as the available carbs for insulin adjustment purposes.

  64. 64
    jl says:

    Congratulations to Cole for improving his diet.
    I don]t have time to keep up with stuff like whether skim milk sugar bettter/worse than whole milk sugar. I think if milk caused a problem with Cole it is simply he drank a whole ess-load too much of milk every day. And I thought I drank too much milk!

    I just go with a Mediterranean diet and call it day. I love that type of food, so it’s easy.

    I think frequent small meals, and healthy snacks in between makes cutting down on the food much easier. I would makes sure some lean protein in each snack.

    If Cole is like me, when I was 50 pounds heavier, a lot of the problem is just eating too much at meals. I think doing a food diary for a week or two is very useful for cutting down on pointless excess volume of food, if that is the problem.

    Edit: a food diary also helped me spot a few issues that really increased the calories for no good reason. Made it easy to spot just a few substitutions that I could make that would reduce calories, make the food tastier and healthier.

    Edit: and you can find tomatoes and roasted peppers and other veggies in glass. And for next year, look into freezoig as much as you can. Tomatoes freeze well if you just need little chunks for sauce and cooking.

  65. 65
    Helen says:

    @John Cole: Cuz trolling is COOL. And it gives them the attention that they crave. Surely you know that.

    And as an aside. I LOVE the trolls here, including Mclaren. Really they make me laugh. In a good way.

  66. 66
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    FWIW, considering carbs, many suggest that glycemic index, and glycemic load are more important than a just a carb “count.” Some lower GI foods have a surprisingly high GL, but if you try to stick with lower GI levels to keep it simple you won’t go wrong.

  67. 67
    Helen says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader: THIS right here is what I mean about loving trolls. I LOVE YOU FUCKHEAD. That is not irony. I mean it. You make my night.

  68. 68
    The Dangerman says:

    @Comrade Mary:

    Kefir is AWESOME.

    I was shocked how fast kefir took care of some problems best left undescribed. I tested the effect, stopped the kefir, problems came back, started the kefir again, solved right away. Yes, Kefir is awesome.

    I’m doing fairly well on probiotics but I think I need to improve on the prebiotics given the claimed synergism between the two; I’ve heard jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes) are supposed to be phenomenal for the prebiotic needs. Fair warning (TMI upcoming), those things, in some people, are supposed to produce flatulence that will peel paint from walls.

  69. 69
    jl says:

    @The Dangerman: Kefir and yogurt are both awesome. Great for substitutions when you need to reduce fat.

    Low fat dairy snacks great for keeping energy up before, and after exercise. And during, if Cole gets it into his head to get out on those rails to trails things again.

  70. 70
    Wil says:

    @Comrade Mary:

    “Kefir is AWESOME.”

    Are you talking about the yogurt? Also called Lebneh or Labneh…yes, good stuff. Lasts forever in the fridge too, no matter what the ‘date’ says on the package.

  71. 71
    gian says:


    my dad, who served in viet nam said the local beer had formaldehyde and gave hangovers that Charlie sheen himself would cry about.

    (OK he didn’t say Charlie Sheen)

  72. 72
    Mnemosyne says:

    My crazy co-worker who is driving me nuts with her anti-grain jihad has actually come up with a tasty alternative to spaghetti: zucchini noodles. I’ve had them made this way and they’re really good and make a surprisingly good substitute for spaghetti. You could probably also slice them lengthwise and give them the same “sweating” treatment and make lasagna using zucchini slices in place of the pasta.

  73. 73
    different-church-lady says:

    Cole, I commend you to the utmost extent possible for taking care of your buddy the way you did. Diabetes kills in a really slow, ugly way. Lost a good friend to it (there was really nothing he could do, his genetic hand was so bad) and a few relatives (they could have done a lot better for themselves). I’m glad you’re taking it seriously, and evangelizing.

    That being said, I think there’s a trap built in to demonizing certain food. If you’re at risk for diabetes, then managing one’s blood sugar is vital. But if you’re not in that category then it’s all about input AND output — the more you burn, the less that ‘bad’ food is dangerous in moderation. A soft cheese can be delicious. So make it a once-a-month treat instead of treating it like a plague. And the more you burn off, the more often you get to indulge. (Plus pulmonary fitness rocks!)

    We could all probably use a lot less sugar and starch in our western diets. But we shouldn’t deem those foods the enemy, any more than we should deem one beer to be a sign of alcoholism.

  74. 74
    different-church-lady says:

    @John Cole: I also commend your truly insane levels of inexplicable tolerance for… oh, let’s call it “unpopular” points of view.

    I commend it, even though I in no way comprehend it.

  75. 75
    Violet says:

    @The Dangerman: Have you tried using potato starch for prebiotic needs? I mix it into my kefir. I’ve had to start out with only a teaspoon (measured) per day. I tried starting with a tablespoon but that was way too much too fast. Bob’s Red Mill potato starch is the one to use. Don’t mistakenly get potato flour. You can mix it in any liquid or kefir/yogurt. Just don’t heat it up or the prebiotic goodness is destroyed. It changes the consistency of liquids, so I find it more palatable in kefir or yogurt.

  76. 76
    John Cole says:

    @different-church-lady: I am not swearing off things, I’m stripping to the bone to get a baseline and knowledge base. Once I have that, and have an understanding of what foods spike his sugar, I can create a stable diet and we can get him stabilized and then, and only then, will we experiment with soft cheeses, grapes, desserts. Right now, it is all about, as I have mentioned before, zeroing the weapon. Once we are shooting straight, we’ll bring other things into the mix slowly so we can see what each food does.

    Again, I may be talking out my ass, but from what I have read, you just really have to go through every food for everyone, because everyone is different, and by my logic, simply removing foods that cause a lot of trouble for a lot of people is an easier way to get to a baseline without having personal experience. Some foods may not be a problem for Shawn, but if I know they are a problem for a lot of people, why not just remove them, and once we have a recognized pattern and baseline, safely and slowly introduce them one at a time until we know how his body reacts to them? That’s not a condemnation of particular foods, although, I will condemn many, it’s just me trying to figure out the easiest way to problem solve this.

    I hope that makes sense.

  77. 77
    CaseyL says:

    John, you are freaking amazing. Not just the thoroughness of your research, but the amount of love and care that motivated you to do the research, and to change the way you cook. It’s great that as a consequence you feel better, too, and are going to stick with the changes you made.

    I’m what doctors call “pre-diabetic, insulin-resistant” with a family history of Type II. I have some wiggle room because I haven’t fallen over the edge just yet – need to be vigilant, not draconian.

    There’s a saying, “Eat nothing white.” No white bread, no white rice, no potatoes. I mostly do that. Multigrain bread instead of white, brown and wild rice only, and potatoes once in a very long while as a treat. (I don’t like sweet potatoes because they’re frankly too sweet for my taste. Also, I want a potato to taste like a potato, dammit.)

    Leafy greens – I have a huge salad almost every day, but the healthiness is probably offset by the 2-3 tablespoons of bleu cheese dressing I use. I buy Marie’s, which has no sugar added.

    I, too, have found that “grazing” during the day keeps the appetite in check, and also keeps me from craving junk. My snack of choice is wasabi-and-soy flavored smoked almonds: I keep a bag at home and one at work.

    Minimal red meat; lots of chicken (free range when I can get it) and fish.

    When I stick to all that, I not only feel better, I stay pretty slim. This past week or so I’ve been bad – oy, have I been bad – and have the belly to show for it. Thanks again for this post; it has inspired me to get back to my regular regimen!

  78. 78
    jl says:

    @Mnemosyne: Thanks. I love zucchini and will try noodling them. They are are fantastic with tomato sauce, except if you just through on top of just cooked zucchini, it gets too thin. Noodling them sounds like a great idea.

  79. 79
    Violet says:

    @Mnemosyne: Spaghetti squash is an easy way to get squash noodles too. It’s already in the right shape, so no fancy cutting techniques are needed.

  80. 80
    different-church-lady says:

    @John Cole: Makes absolute perfect sense. In fact it’s what worked well for me when I finally got fit for the first time in my life — over-corrected, and once I got down to a healthy weight let off the restrictions a bit.

  81. 81
    kc says:

    Sounds like a lot of edible food got chucked. I hope some freegan reads this and raids your trash can.

  82. 82
    Comrade Mary says:

    @Wil: Labneh is strained yogurt, which is “Greek” yogurt without the high price or the pretense. I’m making some right now from my tub of Astro Balkan (6% MF).

    Kefir is milk plus all the usual happy bacteria you find in yogurt, plus some even more happy bacteria, plus some friendly yeast. It’s pretty liquid and quite tangy, even “goat-y”, but I love it. Works beautifully in smoothies or as the soak in soaked oats.

  83. 83
    StringOnAStick says:

    Yeah, John, I’ve been pushing this approach for you every time you’ve mentioned all the joint pain in the last year; glad to see it is working for you. Once you’ve cut the carbs, your taste buds will adjust and anything sweeter than a piece of fruit will just seem like too much; it takes a little while but you’ll get there. I feel like it was a good 6 months before I had a handle on how to cook this way and a nice variety of go-to recipes.

    And NO agave! That stuff is 90% fructose, which is metabolized by the liver pretty much directly into fat (fat in the liver, and in muscles). Fructose in a piece of fruit has the fruit’s fiber to slow down digestion, but agave syrup could very easily be worse than plain old table sugar from what I’ve read. They do a great job of selling it as natural and a better sweetener, but it definitely is not.

    For dairy, always go full fat. I won’t go into why; you’re obviously Google competent so you can find out. Watch the beans too – can be too high carb. I’m a short and slight post-meno woman and I don’t need the extra carbs. Whoever wrote here that the key is to just eat protein and produce had it right. Add in “not processed” and you are golden. All this will help your liver recover from the years when you were a bit, ah, hard on the poor thing.

  84. 84
    Fair Economist says:

    @ruemara: *As a rule* soft cheeses have more calories and less flavor than hard cheese. You can eat them more easily too. So you eat more, and way more calories. It’s a rule of thumb, not an absolute. However, I’m sorry to say that blue cheese-based recipes are a common source of “Oh my god it has HOW MANY CALORIES?”

  85. 85
    ninerdave says:

    One tip for those short on time or lazy. The Ziploc Zip’nSteam bags are nothing short of awesome. Throw in fresh veggies some seasoning if you want (I actually like mine plain) zap them for 4-5 minutes and eat. I usually do this while I’m dipping up whatever I made in the crockpot over weekend for a side.

    Or get fancy throw in chicken, veggies, herbs, etc and make a whole meal in them. Though the chicken does come out a bit pale and sad looking. Still tastes ok.

  86. 86
    Joel says:

    Generally speaking, the best diet advice I could ever give is cook your own food, as much as possible. When you have to work to put it together, you get a much better sense of what you’re eating. At that point, it’s almost natural to watch what you eat. It just happens without thinking.

  87. 87
    Kitty says:

    I keep 2 loaves of Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 Original (orange bag) bread 36GI and the Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin (purple bag) bread 43GI in my freezer for bread cravings. It’s sprouted wheat and when toasted, very delicious.

  88. 88
    Violet says:

    Started snacking between meals. I know this sounds crazy for a fat guy, but I would routinely skip meals or just ignore hunger, and then eat a big meal. Basically, the worst thing you can do. Apparently, what you want is to continuously keep your blood sugar (and this is for diabetics and non-diabetics) stable, and skipping meals and binging is just the worst fucking thing you can do

    At this point in your diet change, you’re probably right. However, once you get accustomed to the new way of eating you might want to look into Intermittent Fasting. It allows you to burn stored fat, which helps you lose weight and makes you healthier. It’s not like you fast forever–somewhere in the 12-16 hour range is good and the hours while you are sleeping count. It also allows autophagy to take place, which is a process that cleans out the crap from your cells and helps prevent various diseases. Here are some references:
    Intermittent Fasting

    There’s tons more out there if you use the Google machine. I find I feel remarkably..lighter, I guess, for lack of a better word, after a fast. I usually don’t get hungry and the following day I have a ton more energy.

    This is probably not the right approach for your diabetic friend Shawn because he needs to concentrate on keeping his blood sugar stable. And like I said above, at this point you want to work on one thing for yourself at a time. Just thought I’d mention it so you can read up on it if you want.

  89. 89
    Fair Economist says:


    There’s a saying, “Eat nothing white.” No white bread, no white rice, no potatoes. I mostly do that. Multigrain bread instead of white, brown and wild rice only, and potatoes once in a very long while as a treat. (I don’t like sweet potatoes because they’re frankly too sweet for my taste. Also, I want a potato to taste like a potato, dammit.)

    It’s surprising how well you do with “eat only colorful foods and only meals with varied colors”. It sounds stupid, but in effect it forces you to eat mostly vegetables, and a wide variety and knocks out most of the calorie-rich nutrient-poor foods like pasta, rice, bread, sugar, cream, etc.

    I have the misfortune of an extremely stubborn husband who believes a healthy meal consists of meat and rice. Unsurprisingly he has high cholesterol. He insists that if you don’t eat lots of meat you don’t get enough protein (you have to admire the skill of the marketing folks in the beef industry, evil as they are.) I actually did calorie restriction for a few years, so I know that vegetables have a perfectly acceptable protein/calories ratio if you avoid grain and starchy roots, but he’s made up his mind – don’t confuse him with facts.

    In terms of the nutritional value of meat, it’s actually easier to design a healthy low-calorie daily meal set with a tiny bit of meat than with none. About 3 ounces per day is what you need. It’s not useful for protein, which is easy to come by, but for zinc, selenium, and B-12. But even 6 ounces per day is “too much” in the sense that the calorie count goes up for a properly balanced diet.

  90. 90
    The Other Chuck says:


    There’s a saying, “Eat nothing white.”

    Oh for fucks sake. Yogurt. Cauliflower. Cannelini beans. Just off the top of my head.

    JFC, I am so sick of everyone’s theories about food. Gluten is of course the latest one. I was never so healthy as when I was eating seitan several times a week.

  91. 91
    Jane2 says:

    @The Other Chuck: This. “Fear of Food: a History of Why we Worry About What we Eat ” by Harvey Levenstein should be required reading by every quinoa flour purchaser.

  92. 92
    Aleta says:

    Canned beans in BPA-free cans are sold by Eden Foods. They switched to using their own plant-based lining for all their canned foods >10 years ago. (Their tomatoes are in glass jars.)

    Eden Foods is in some stores and also does mail order. Has many kinds of beans, and a lot of other things. A good company (since the 60’s) that buys from local farms, non-GMO, etc. Their website explains where they buy from.

    Tomatoes: A couple of years ago I learned you can freeze tomatoes whole, right off the vine, no prep needed, and now I do that in the late summer when they are cheapest at the farmer’s market. At first, I freeze them (not touching each other) on a glass pie plate placed inside a ziplock bag. (I don’t let the plastic touch them while they are freezing.)

    Once frozen, they become gorgeous red balls, like dense glass. Then I keep them loose in ziploc bags (without the pie plate), and take some out all winter long for cooking. The skins separate out when you cook them or put them in hot water, and some people remove the skins.)

    It could be that something still leaches out from the plastic bag into the frozen tomato, so I want to figure out something different for in the freezer.

  93. 93
    jl says:

    @Aleta: Easy to freeze in glass jars. You just need to keep a little room at the top for the ice to expand. Just use some plastic freezer bags and rubber bands for lids until you get the hang of how much room to leave.

    I’ve never frozen tomatoes whole, but if they are like soft persimmons, you don’t need to wrap them at all for awhile, since the skin will protect the innards.

  94. 94
    Aleta says:

    And thank you John for the writing on cooking with your friend. I kept thinking: Now THIS is Health Care. All the comments were amazing. For the last year, I’ve been trying to figure this out, hoping to help out my brain/body. This has helped me a lot. Thank you.

  95. 95
    Aleta says:

    @jl: Cool. Thanks.

  96. 96
    Thymezone says:

    my bowel movements have been much better

    I just won a $100 bet.

  97. 97
    LauraPDX says:

    @Aleta: Ditto on freezing your own tomatoes. I haven’t tried freezing them whole, but we core them, give them a quick dip in boiling water and then in ice water so the skin slips off, and bag them in ziploc bags for freezing – the bags will lay flat for freezing (if you don’t want to use plastic, pyrex or other glassware would also work). I don’t mind tomato peels, but others sometimes do, so that’s why I peel them before freezing. YMMV.

    Once you have used your own frozen tomatoes you won’t ever go back to canned – the flavor is unbelievable.

  98. 98
    ruemara says:

    @Fair Economist: hah, not a decent blue cheese. plus, these are cupcakes, not daily food.

  99. 99
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Losing weight is hard work. 8kgs so far, and just under 100kg for the first time in fifteen years. Hopefully another ten over next eight weeks then surgery on lower spine and a continuing loss of weight, about 70kgs.going to be hard. No use in having major surgery if unlikely to have long term benefit.
    I wish everybody success in their endeavour to change the way they eat for what ever reason. And praise TFSM that we have the opportunity and abundance to make these changes. Debx

  100. 100
    Gretchen says:

    Wholly Guacamole makes 100-calorie packs of guac and suggests using them instead of mayo on sandwiches, tuna salad, etc. And it’s organic.

  101. 101
    Wil says:

    @Comrade Mary:

    Labneh is strained yogurt, which is “Greek” yogurt without the high price or the pretense. I’m making some right now from my tub of Astro Balkan (6% MF).

    Kefir is milk plus all the usual happy bacteria you find in yogurt, plus some even more happy bacteria, plus some friendly yeast. It’s pretty liquid and quite tangy, even “goat-y”, but I love it. Works beautifully in smoothies or as the soak in soaked oats.

    Thanks Mary,

    Kefir here looks the same as the lebneh, so perhaps it’s just a brand name on a particular product at the store I go to, and not kefir in general.

    The lebneh is at least twice as thick as greek yogurt, though. It’s nearly the consistency of peanut butter, though without the stick.

  102. 102
    Michael J. says:

    My wife is an occasional blogger focused on food issues — she’s gluten-free and pretty low-sugar. Lots of recipes. Bunch of raw food stuff.

    One really great pasta substitute, believe it or not, is spiralized zucchini noodles. You buy this plastic spiralizer machine (cheap) and run an uncooked zucchini through it. The noodles are crunchy and delicious.

  103. 103
    Comrade Mary says:

    @Wil: Oh yeah, you can definitely strain yogurt long enough to get a very thick lebneh. I sometimes use mine as a sandwich spread with dill weed and black pepper — amazing!

  104. 104
    WereBear says:

    @Michael J.: I have bookmarked that site… the very first recipe intrigued me greatly!

    And about fat… the science that it was bad for us was never there. Really, it’s shocking (and if you want to know how it all happened, the first third of Death by Food Pyramid is all about that sordid history.)

    Healthy FAT has no effect on insulin, helps us not be hungry, is vital for nutrient absorption, needed for cell repair, and the key to staving off dementia.

    So don’t regret that heaping spoonful of dressing on your salad. It’s doing you good!

  105. 105
    wil says:

    @Comrade Mary: Yeah, I love it. If you are a person who likes sour tastes, lebneh is great. And the fact that it just seems to last and last in the refrigerator makes it even better.

    I cleaned out my refrigerator awhile back and found a half-full container that I’d forgotten about at the back of the fridge. The date said June 2013, so it was over six months past the date and still looked just fine. I ate a few spoonfuls and it tasted fine too, just that much extra sour.

  106. 106
    Bighorn Ordovician Dolomite says:

    On the good news/bad news front, my approach roughly parallels yours, Mr. Cole, but my problem is food allergies and not diabetes. Almond milk tried and very nearly succeeded in killing me. I’ll skip the details but it was Cole worthy–it involved nudity, profuse sweating, fire/rescue EMTs and IV drugs (benadryl). And some other unpleasantness.

    I’m in my 40s, and back on allergy shots, and haven’t had to go the ER for close to a year (knock on wood), but it turns out that there are a lot of “cross reactive foods” which you may not be truly allergic to, but can nevertheless give you horrific belly aches. Sadly for me my cross-reactivites basically include all raw fruits and vegetables, I’m hoping that contiuning with the shots will mute that, but as of now I steam all of my vegetables and bake all of my fruit with just a bit of water to keep things from scorching–no added fat or sweetener.

    It’s been a difficult few months, but close monitoring and a ton of trial and error and I seem to be able to go a week at a stretch without a bellyache and have even returned to weight loss.

    With cheeses I seem to have to just try ’em and see what happens. I think it is related to what was used to culture the cheese. Cheddar is out, as is cottage cheese, but swiss and cream cheese are okay in moderation. But would you f’ing believe VEL-FREAKING-VEETA never causes me trouble?!?!? All of the delicious cheeses in the world, and I get velveeta on the safe to eat list.

    Oh, and not to be a jerk, but if anybody reading this chooses to let me know that velveeta isn’t real cheese, go ahead and fuck off. I’m aware, but I am absolutley at the end of my rope with motherfucking bellyaches, it doesn’t cause them, so I am now a fan.

  107. 107
    bluefoot says:

    re BPA, the EU doesn’t use it to line cans anymore, so if you’re looking for canned tomatoes, go for the Italian brands. I haven’t yet found a good source of canned beans without BPA that aren’t loaded with salt.

    I also want to double down on John’s point about there is no one size fits all. What works for him might not work for everyone. So yeah, test and re-test. For instance, rice has no effect on my sister’s blood sugar, but wheat does. On the other hand, my best friend can eat wheat (in moderation) no problem, but even just a little rice will send her blood sugar through the roof. Genetic variation, y’all.

  108. 108
    Scratch says:

    I’m late to this post’s party, but in case anyone else stops by and reads through it, I finished my first reading of Daniel Lieberman’s The Story of the Human Body as part of books I’ve been reading concerning running and its evolutionary history in our species. The book’s a bit dry, but has lots of good information about human origins and evolution, and there is a fair bit of time spent concerning a hypotheses of mismatch diseases now affecting us today, and how our bodies are not adapted to the calorie-rich environment that we’ve created. Basically, Lieberman argues that type 2 diabetes is quite strongly a mismatch disease.

    Our bodies developed in a environment that didn’t have such easy access to large amounts of carbohydrates and calories, and for those carbs and calories that were available, we had to work a fair bit at them, by walking to food sources, and when we became persistence hunters, by a combination of endurance running and walking to chase down prey until the prey collapsed from heat exhaustion. The carbs we did get required lots of chewing and large quantities (the lots of chewing aspect perhaps explains the problems of wisdom teeth today, as because we don’t have to chew so hard and so much now, our jaws don’t develop to the size they could develop). The fruits of then were not nearly so sweet and the only time a paleo hunter-gatherer ever got to splurge on some sweetness would have been when they raided a beehive for honey.

    Then just think about our environment today. Calories are easily available, and of course the manufacturers of processed food try to load up their products with things that we crave — easy sweet carbs. Hunger and cravings are so basic it’s very hard for us to make a conscious decision to override those urges. Some can do it consciously, but just how much is willpower is there in us when our deep-seated instincts tell us to consume those easy calories?

    So it seems to me that the lesson to draw from this is that it is important to drastically cut down on the processed foods. Eat vegetables, especially the leafy green ones that are lower in carbs. Have some meat and fat. And exercise. At least walk. A simple way to keep yourself accountable about covering some ground is to invest in a pedometer and try to get at least 10,000 steps every day. Run some if you can. Be active and eat smart, try to make your diet more like something resembling what our paleolithic ancestors ate.

    It’s okay to splurge sometimes, but don’t make it too often.

  109. 109
    keestadoll says:

    John, I am so pleased to read how vigilant you are with all of this. Have you tried taking cinnamon after meals? Not to pile on, but I know many who swear by this as a method to control blood sugar. Keep up the good work!

  110. 110

    @The Other Chuck: I have to agree. Either something is a miracle food or else it is evil. The zeal of the food fanatics puts religious fundies to shame. As do the holier-than-thou organic, fair trade, free range etc. etc. advocating folks.

  111. 111
    LongHairedWeirdo says:

    I will note that salt, in a healthy person without major blood pressure issues, is not a big deal. But it’s still good to cut salt that’s hidden, just because it mucks with your tastes.

    You probably won’t have french fries for a bit – but the salt you put on them, even if you like ’em salty, isn’t what kills you. That’s on the surface, and it doesn’t take that much. But the salt in most canned foods is amazingly high. And that primes your expectations.

    Most people don’t need to worry about blood sugar spikes. Diabetes is *weird* shit. People can handle huge amounts of sugar, no problem, and it just turns to fat. And mostly, it turns to subcutaneous fat, which is metabolically neutral. Something has to go incredibly wonky with the system your body has set up before this changes. Well, in diabetes (type II) it does. No one is entirely sure; I’ve heard it said that “insulin resistance” is shorthand for “what the hell else could it be?” especially since a large number of diabetics produce *more* insulin than folks whose sugars are normal. But it isn’t exactly a mechanism, it’s a description.

    Where was I? Oh, right. So, exercising is good for you, but you probably don’t need to cut off sugar spikes. Okay, but if you have a family history of diabetes? Yeah, get in the habit now.

    One other thing: diabetes has a *huge* genetic component. If you get it, it’s not your fault. You didn’t make it happen. Now, you might have done some serious, shitty damage to your body before you *realized* it had happened, and that might mean a long time of getting back to a stable situation. But the idea that “you got fat, so you made yourself diabetic” isn’t well supported. Correlation is *not* causation, and the first sign of diabetes is usually weight gain.

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    Sasha says:

    Food Rules by Michael Pollan is a must read. (You may want to pick up his other books as well if you want to know why America’s diet is so … unique).

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    Gretchen says:
    This blog has a lot of good ideas for healthy eating for busy people. I’ve been using the salad in a jar idea with great success. She suggests making a week’s worth of salads in mason jars: quart jars for a meal salad or a family, smaller for individual dinner salds. Put the dressing in the bottom of the jar, then something that would do well sitting in dressing for several days (I like quinoa), then other vegetables. On top, things that you don’t want to get soggy, and lettuce on the very top. It doesn’t take much longer to make 5 salads than one. You dump it in a bowl, and the lettuce is on the bottom, dressing on top. I used to buy salad stuff with good intentintions, and throw it out after it rotted because I didn’t want to take the time for prep. Now it’s all done, and all I have to do is dump it in a bowl. She also details how she makes healthy snacks on the weekend, so during the week they’re there ready to grab, as quick as potato chips.

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    Comrade Mary says:

    @Gretchen: I just do a chopped salad (shredded and chopped veggies, plus homemade dressing) and plop it into jars, no layering needed.

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    ninja3000 says:

    I’m no doctor, but I used to do PR work for a professional association of allergists. The head guy told me that his job was basically “detective work” — trying everything, noting everything down, evaluating the results, and acting accordingly. I think this is one of those problems where you try everything, note everything down, and evaluate the results.

    It’s not as cool as True Detective, but it’s truly detective work nonetheless…

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    David Fud says:

    @John Cole: Canned tomatoes are literally the worst offenders for BPA because of their acid content. Use tomatoes from glass jars if you value not ingesting a massive amount of an estrogen replicating hydrocarbon.

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    1st gen girl says:


    Try stevia for a natural sweetener. Sold under the brand name Truvia. Get rid of the Splenda. Too many chemicals. I found tortillas made from teff – a type of grain from Ethopia that has no gluten. Made in Canada. Those tortillas do not seem to cause a spike in my blood sugar. I double them up to use as pizza crust with a layer of sauce to hold them together. Makes a decent thin crust.

    Suggest using ground turkey (97% lean) in lieu of ground beef. That’s been an easy change to make.

    Take it easy on the salmon. The farm-raised salmon is heavy on the mercury content, plus food dye, and wild salmon from the Pacific NW can be contaminiated with Fukushima residue.

    Thanks for all the great tips!

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    Emmy Lou says:

    For spreadable unsalted butter, get a French butter crock. They’re often at TJ Maxx type places, I’m sure Target has them, etc. butter goes in the top part, water in the bottom, and the top inverts so the water seals the butter from air. Sits on the counter, ready to spread. They’re awesome.

  119. 119
    Emmy Lou says:

    For spreadable unsalted butter, get a French butter crock. They’re often at TJ Maxx type places, I’m sure Target has them, etc. butter goes in the top part, water in the bottom, and the top inverts so the water seals the butter from air. Sits on the counter, ready to spread. They’re awesome.

  120. 120
    Emmy Lou says:

    For spreadable unsalted butter, get a French butter crock. They’re often at TJ Maxx type places, I’m sure Target has them, etc. butter goes in the top part, water in the bottom, and the top inverts so the water seals the butter from air. Sits on the counter, ready to spread. They’re awesome.

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