Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lowering Cholesterol Through Better Choices

This is the kind of meal I have vowed to start eating more of

It's confession time here at the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog. While I never keep any secrets from you about what I write in this forum and pretty much live my life as an open book, there is one thing I feel the need to be completely forthcoming about that I am ashamed to say I have fallen short of the high standards I have set for myself.

In light of my recent rise in cholesterol that has my doctor so alarmed he wants to put me on a statin drug again, I have taken a good hard look at my life 2 1/2 years after going on the Atkins diet to see if perhaps there is something I am doing or not doing that would cause them to happen.

What I found isn't a pretty picture.

I'm here to admit that I probably haven't been livin' la vida low-carb as well as I should have been for the sake of my health. While my weight has remained relatively steady within about 10-15 pounds of my lowest point, I am ashamed to say that I have been "coasting" in my low-carb lifestyle.

What do I mean by that?

Well, for starters, I have neglected to eat as many leafy green vegetables as I used to eat when I was losing weight. I don't know why I stopped eating these fiber-rich, nutrient-dense foods, but I did. I have now vowed to eat at least one large serving of green leafy vegetables every single day.

My supper tonight featured a bed of fresh turnip greens

The meal you see above which was what I made when I got home from work was very easy to prepare. I cooked the chicken breast with extra virgin olive oil in a skillet, sliced it into bite-sized chunks, sprinkled a little curry powder and ginger on it, and placed the chicken on top of a bed of fresh turnip greens with fresh rosemary, cheese, and Bacon Ranch dressing.

What a delicious and nutritious way to eat my greens and benefit from the healthy properties they provide me and my body! That's one step forward in the race to get my rising cholesterol under control.

Dessert can be sweet with the all-natural goodness of berries

Again, I have been lax in my consumption of the low-carb fruits such as strawberries and blueberries (which believe it or not have actually been found to lower cholesterol). These antioxidant-loaded fruits are an essential part of ridding the body of harmful free radicals that are likely one of the culprits in my rising cholesterol. Just like I promised to eat green leafy vegetables everyday, so too am I promising to have at least one serving of berries on a daily basis. It's something I MUST to do fight this rising cholesterol.

Other healthy additions to my diet that I am making a concerted effort to eat more of include flax seeds, nuts, and coconut oil. Of course, I still don't eat sugar, white flour, or starchy foods, but my food choices can be better than they have been.

In addition to my diet, I have taken a closer look at the supplements I am taking to make sure they are not causing harm to my health. As one of my readers pointed out to me, I have very likely been consuming rancid cod liver oil supplements since my burps have been fishy-tasting. The fish oil supplements I am taking now do not cause the fishy burps and will be discarded if I ever do taste that in my mouth. Also, I am keeping them refrigerated in an attempt to keep them fresher longer.

Another area of my supplementation that I am looking at are all these natural remedies for lowering my cholesterol my doctor recommended that I try since I refused to take a statin drug. He said to go on a plant stenol, take garlic tablets, load up on red yeast rice, and don't forget about that baby aspirin daily. In the one month that I was on these "remedies" for my cholesterol problem, my LDL shot up by 50 points! Argh! Stupid remedies!

That's why I have stopped taking all of those things and went back to the basic supplements I mentioned in my book that I took during my weight loss: a multivitamin, calcium supplements, fiber tablets, and the fish oil capsules. Additionally, I recently added Co-Q-10 to my supplementation as well on the advice of a trusted doctor friend. That's all I'm taking for my supplements now because my lipid profile was improved during my weight loss while taking these supplements.

With that said, I have struggled about what to do regarding the three prescription drugs my doctor wanted me to take: Zetia, Niaspan, and Wellchol. If you haven't already noticed, I'm not a big fan of taking medicines that can have various side effects that may be worse for you than the condition they are supposedly trying to treat. My wife Christine swears by the drugs her doctor prescribes her, but I'm not so convinced.

My decision about what to do about whether I should take these drugs or not came down to one question: Is there ANY other way? In light of the information about the fish oil being rancid and realizing that I probably wasn't eating as well as I could, I decided that I should at least attempt to do these natural things FIRST before jumping so quickly to the drugs. It saddens me that the first word out of my doctor's mouth was STATIN and when I balked he said that I would HAVE to take at least three drugs. I DON'T THINK SO!!!

What about taking a look at what is causing the rise in my LDL cholesterol, doc? Why assume it is hereditary (which is what he did) when you very well could have asked me about my fish oil and explained how it could be the culprit in my rising LDL? But noooooo, you wanted to drug me up with these pills that I'm not so sure about taking. NO THANK YOU! Maybe someday I'll feel the need to go on those drugs, but not now. Let's give these better choices I am making for myself a chance to work before making the leap of faith to line the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies.

There are a few other things I could be doing to help put myself in a better position to get my cholesterol under control: exercise a little more and resist the urge to "take the day off," spend more time relaxing to eliminate unnecessary and unknown stress that might be making my cholesterol go up, backing off on my use of artificial sweeteners and the diet sodas that I admit I have been drinking more than I should. I know, I know...that's why I'm willing to do what I have to do.

You see, despite the fact that I lost 180 pounds and have kept that weight off for well over a year, I still struggle to live a healthy lifestyle. It's not an automatic thing that just naturally kicks in just because your weight is under control. It is and will always be a conscious effort to keep it that way and make improvements here and there so I can live that long, healthy life that I have always dreamed about.

Doesn't this all make you feel so much better knowing a "low-carb success" has a hard time living in the day-by-day? :D Sure, my weight loss was a great accomplishment and I thank God every single day for this miracle He allowed me to be a part of. But I am guilty of just going through the motions of low-carb living rather than embracing this lifestyle for all it is woth and making it work for me as well as it was intended to.

Those days of low-carb laziness are long gone now and I am 100% recommitted and recharged to do what is right. As Emeril would say, "It's time to kick it up another notch!" That's exactly what I'm doing with my low-carb plan! Look out world, here comes "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Man!"

5-31-06 UPDATE: Who better to help me tweak my diet even more than someone who worked with Dr. Robert C. Atkins for thirty years -- Jacqueline Eberstein. She contacted me today after reading about my cholesterol saga and said I am probably eating too many carbohydrates at 100g daily. Also, since my weight has gotten in a rut, it's probably best if I get back to a ketogenic state again by consuming less than 50g carbs per day.

As for supplementation, she said the fish oil is probably not an issue, but I need to be taking 200mg Chromium Picolinate as well as the Vitamin B-5-rich Pantathine (which is what Dr. Atkins recommended in his New Diet Revolution book for people to control their cholesterol). I will begin taking these immediately.

In regards to my food intake, Eberstein reminded me that when you add extra vegetables to your diet that you need to remove something else from your plate that you used to eat in place of it during weight loss. In other words, if I used to have 2 chicken breasts for a meal during weight loss, then I can't have 2 chicken breasts AND a plate of veggies at the same time. Perhaps only 1 chicken breast with the veggies will help make the meal better.

She said it just sounds like my body is reacting to being out of balance and I need to find my proper ACE (maintenance level of carbs). Like I said, this is a work in progress and I am STILL learning. She said to go back to those habits I developed in 2004 and do them again and see if my blood work doesn't come back in line.

Regarding the hereditary business about my cholesterol being high, Eberstein said my LDL would not have been 119 in October 2005 if it was genetics. Based on the patients she and Dr. Atkins saw, she said medications are only a very last resort because there are just too many other options out there naturally to try before jumping to statins or other drugs so quickly. That makes me feel better about my decision to avoid these and other cholesterol-lowering drugs.

With this new plan of action in place, I think my doctor will be pleased (HE BETTER BE!) with the improvements I will make in my lipid profile when I have it rechecked in August. THANKS again to everyone who contributed to this very important discussion.

6-3-06 UPDATE: A regular reader and first-time e-mailer sent me some encouragement regarding my cholesterol numbers today that I thought you would like to read.

Here's what he said:

Jimmy: I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and it’s great. Keep up the good work. You had one article a few months back about your high total cholesterol number. You’ve probably heard from a number of people about this but I’ll give you my experience anyway. Total cholesterol doesn’t matter.

What really matters is LDL III a and b and LDL IVb and HDL2b. HDL2b is what my doctor calls the Roto Rooter component because it cleans out the arteries. It binds with LDL’s that are in your bloodstream and carries them back to the liver to be recycled. The small diameter LDL’s, the III’s and IV’s, are the ones that stick to your artery walls and eventually cause inflammation and disease. HDL2b’s can dislodge them and carry them away.

The low carb diet can dramatically reduce the LDL III’s and IV’s even if your total cholesterol remains high. Mine stays in the 300-330 range but my LDL 3’s and 4’s are very low on my low carb diet and my exercise program raises my HDL2b’s. The result is that I have been achieving a steady regression in my coronary artery deposits as measured by EBT calcium scans. I lose about 10 to 20% per year of that stuff while the “average” US adult gains about 50-100% per year.

Have your doctor send your blood to the Berkeley Heart Lab to get the profiles done and you’ll see the details that matter for you. Their web site has good information about this, too.

Actually, the Berkeley Heart Lab test is what he wanted to have me do instead of LipoScience or VAP. I told him that we'll see when I go get my cholesterol checked again in August. THANKS for sharing your experience with me and my readers!


Blogger Newbirth said...

Veggies are the staple of Atkins. Never neglect lots of them.

I envy you eating berries, though. Even strawberries are normally too high for my and blueberries are almost double that, so I just stick with lots of veggies.

5/31/2006 12:33 AM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...


What were you eating, if your weren't having these things ?

5/31/2006 7:48 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Hey Dave,

It wasn't so much that I wasn't eating greens and berries before. I just didn't make it a priority to do it ALL THE TIME. That's the key in not growing complacent with my low-carb lifestyle. A conscious attempt to do the things you know are healthy for you every single day of every single week of every single year, year after year. I'm still learning this.

5/31/2006 9:08 AM  
Blogger Viking Dan said...

Jimmy, you might want to poke around this site.

Also, see if some of the low carb foods you've been buying have a lot of trans fats in them.

5/31/2006 10:18 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

Jimmy, it sounds like you have listened to many and weighed the differing takes carefully. Congratulations! From my own experience, I think your conclusions are all excellent. You have the next step in your plan and you are going forward with it.

By the way, I have also listened to you. I was following the Zone diet, but the loss of pounds was reduced to a trickle, hardly satisfying considering I was being so careful to maintain the diet. So I reduced my carbs, essentially moving from Zone to Atkins, and the pounds are again falling off. I don't doubt that Dr. Sears, author of the Zone diet, is on to some important science as he reveals how our diet and fish oil affects eicosanoids (hormones) and metabolism, but I do think that each of us has a unique genetic and physiological makeup in which one diet may work for one and not for another. And some of us have to push carb intake down more than Dr. Sears might consider healthful to create optimal conditions for weight loss. Perhaps I can revert to a Zone ratio (40-30-30) for my diet later for maintenance. But for now, it's low-carb.

5/31/2006 10:41 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS, Dan! I've been on that site before and it does have some excellent information.

And Gary, you are exactly right. This is a process of trial and error and I'M STILL LEARNING, too! We'll get there and I have a plan to do it.

CONGRATS on making your choice as well. Best wishes to you and please let me know if I can assist you anytime. Take care!

5/31/2006 11:09 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

And don't forget to reflect on your success at least once a day, every day, Jimmy. You have beaten tremendous odds to get to where you are. Your LDL values may present a concern for now, but just think of how much healthier you are (understatement) and how you have succeeded where others your formal size are, sadly, stuck.

5/31/2006 11:40 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

p.s. That's former, not formal. But then you knew that.

5/31/2006 12:04 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I FORMALLY declare I'll never go back to my FORMER self again, Gary! :D

5/31/2006 12:31 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

I want to offer you a gentle reminder of my own history. I'm a five-time recividist. I'm not saying you will follow this pattern, Jimmy. I hope you don't, and I believe you won't. I recite a bit of my history here not so much to draw attention to myself, but I think I'm a good example from others to learn from - or whose mistakes should not be repeated!

I have embarked on major weight loss campaigns (30lbs. and over) four times in my life, and now I'm 56 and this is the fifth time. First at 15, then 22, 31,43, now 56. (Gee that's once for every decade since I was a teenager.) Now you can look at this history and say, geez, this guy is nuts, but all I can tell you is that I have a food addiction, particularly when I'm eating lots of carbs, and many of those years were spent in periods of some overweight, but not obesity, and finally, notwithstanding yo-yoing weight is not good for you, I'm a whole lot better than if I had never reduced weight in the first place. Indeed for all the times I knocked my weight down, I imagine that had I not, I'd weigh about 500 now. Also, luckily for me, notwithstanding all of this up-and-down, I have great genes (except for the ones that make me such a good-calorie storage organism!). Even at my highest weight (about 262, my lowest being 149; 155-170 is optimal depending on how muscular I am; I'm a broad-built 5'6"), my blood lipids remain within normal range (go figure!).

For those who don't know this word recividist, it means that I've lost a lot of weight and gained it back four times and now I'm losing it for the fifth. This is unfortunately the story of many weight losers, and it gets harder to lose the weight each successive time. The first reason is because you are older, and the older you are, the slower your basal metabolism is, especially after the mid-40s (I'm 56). The second reason is psychological, and it's so much harder to get motivated. You just can't face the fact that you have undone all the hard work you did.

And how you let yourself gain back all those pounds is also hard to understand. Many weight-loss counselors advise people to handle the gains while they're still manageable. So if you get down to your optimal weight and you go out to a party one night and go out to eat the next (each time eating things that you know will make you put on fat), and you put on two or three pounds, that is the very time to get back on weight loss (vs. maintenance) and get back to optimal weight.

For me, getting back into weight loss this time was the hardest ever. I had had about two years' worth of false starts. Finally, just over two months ago, one day I flipped the switch and was back on track. And once I was back into it, my temptations to go back to the old ways faded. I'm not sure what made the difference this time, but I can tell you that I think of myself as a sort of long-distance runner. And I don't give up.

And once the carbs are under control, the appetite subsides and the weight falls off.

5/31/2006 3:31 PM  
Blogger Invisible Blogger said...

jimmy, why are you fretting so much over your LDL numbers? according to,, etc. etc. there is no rational reason to believe elevated LDL causes heart disease. I low carb and had kinda high LDL (close to 200) last time a checked (couple of years ago!), and I'm not a bit worried.

5/31/2006 4:08 PM  
Blogger Darleen said...

ya know, even thin people have diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And sometimes it's from just eating the wrong food. Thin and unhealthy - it happens. Eating 1000 calories a day of junk would cause you to lose weight AND your health.
I am really happy to see you getting back to basics. Can't wait for the next blood test to see how great it turns out!!
I really did cringe the day you did the review on the low carb mashed potatoes and said you ate two portions for dinner. Yikes!

5/31/2006 6:37 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

p.s. I want to make sure you all understand that the reason I put up my history was not to show how we are all doomed to being recividists, but rather to show that the road can be up and down, but if we make up our mind, we can prevail. Having said that, 'nuff said.

5/31/2006 7:05 PM  

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