Monday, August 27, 2007

My 'Livin' La Vida Low-Carb' Mailbag Is Overflowing!

The "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" mailbag has been rather full as of late, so I'd like to share with you a few of the most memorable ones that run from brand new readers and listeners wanting my advice about the low-carb lifestyle all the way to a gentleman who was highly critical of my first YouTube video. Yep, I get 'em all folks!

I'll be on the road driving ALL DAY LONG on Tuesday, so these e-mails oughta keep you occupied for a while until I can have access to my laptop again. Let's get started with someone who wrote to me after finding my links about the hit NBC show "The Biggest Loser". He was looking for trainer Bob Harper, but settled for writing to me instead. Here's his e-mail:

Hello. I came across your site when making a search for Bob from The Biggest Loser. I have a need of help, but I do not know where, or if, it is even available for me.

My problem, of course has to do with being overweight. I will not use the next five pages of email to recite my entire history, but let's say this...I am now 36 years old, currently weighing about 300 pounds with a 5 foot 7 inch frame. I have not weighed less than 180 pounds since the seventh grade.

I am semi-active with a past of playing sports. My question is a little off the beaten path. I seem to have a real, not imagined, aversion to most vegetables. I mean, sure I can eat soups with vegetables, sauces, stuff like that where the taste is hidden and the texture and consistency is to my liking. The problem is the only vegetable I seem to be able to eat straight out of the can is French-style cut green beans. Oh, and sometimes spinach is something I can stomach as well.

I am coming to a point in my life where I am really starting to scare myself as far as my weight and eating habits. I am one of those types that wakes up in the morning has one or two glasses of water, and then I will not eat, or a lot of times I am just not hungry it seems, a thing throughout the day until I get home at about 4 in the afternoon. Then I might have a couple sandwiches or something until I eat dinner later that night.

Regardless of this, I can never seem to lose any pounds. Funny, yeah, I know. Everyone tells me that I should be dropping but nothing happens of course. Anyways, back to the food. I tend to keep eating the same stuff and cannot seem to really create a healthy variety of meals since I have such a problem with eating vegetables. When I say I don't like them, let's just say to this day the smell of cabbage alone can cause vomiting. Same goes with other favorites like broccoli, asparagus, peas, corn, carrots, etc.

If I can't figure out how to get past this problem, honestly, I don't see myself living more than another ten years. I understand you are NO doctor or anything, but seeing how Bob Harper pays attention to your site, I was hoping that you might have an idea who or whom I could talk to about changing my life. Thank you so much in advance for any response. Seeing your site just gives me some hope you know.

Man, my heart just aches for this guy! He feels so trapped, isolated, and alone with this problem that he doesn't know where else to go or what else to do. I'm so glad he took the time to write to me because I hopefully imparted some much-needed encouragement on his life with my response:

THANKS for writing and I understand EXACTLY where you are coming from. As a former 410-pound man not that long ago thinking there was no way out of my obesity, it sometimes seems hopeless that you'll ever anything but fat. But let my story encourage and inspire you anew today that YOU CAN DO IT! I know you can and want to see you succeed.

Not being able to stomach veggies is okay for now because your tastes will change as you lose weight. The main thing is to get on a solid nutritional plan and then STICK WITH IT! I did the Atkins diet which allowed me to eat lots of delicious and healthy foods like full-fat meats, cheeses, and eggs, but also green leafy vegetables like spinach (which I used to despise, but now I love), green beans, and more!

If you can, pick up a copy of DR. ATKINS NEW DIET REVOLUTION book so you can understand the way this diet works and then DO IT! After one month on this diet, I lost 30 pounds and another 40 pounds in the second month. By the end of one year, I had shed 180 pounds from my body and now I've kept that weight off for nearly three years.

I'm here for you anytime you have any questions, so don't hesitate to write. Plus, visit my blog and discussion forum for more support in this endeavor. I'm proud of you because you are about to embark on an amazing journey to vastly improved health. Now GO FOR IT!!!

I'll let you know if I hear back from him with an update on his progress. Next up is a self-described "new low-carb convert" over the past few months who e-mailed me after finding my blog while looking for information on the low-carb lifestyle. This reader is both obese and a Type 2 diabetic who said a dietitian put her on a low-carb diet. WHOA! This I gotta read:

I came across your web site while frantically scanning the net for low-carb information and ideas. I have enjoyed reading your past blogs and reading about your low-carb journey.

It has been 3 months or so since I started watching my carbs. I am "morbidly obese" (I hate that term) and have Type 2 diabetes. After ignoring my doctor's warnings and having my glucose levels regularly running around 340 (yikes!) my doctor pushed me to see a dietitian.

She gave me an eating plan restricting my carbs. I can have 2 carb choices per meal and 1 carb choice snack per day. For some freaky reason, I have been sticking to this eating plan. I knew for months that things had to change and I needed to get my blood sugars under control.

I am not a hardcore low-carber like many on your blog, but with time, I have gotten better. My eating habits continue to change and improve and I am far more particular and conscientious about what I eat. I don't even want to think about the amount of carbs I used to consume in a day's time.

My blood sugars are down to 80-120. But, I haven't lost as much weight as I was hoping considering how much I have changed my diet. I like counting carbs and not calories because I feel like I can eat and feel full. Like I said, I am going at it slow. There are little victories every day.

Every time I go to a meeting and pass on the doughnuts or bagels or pass off the garlic bread to someone else, I feel so good! The longer I watch my carbs, the better I feel and the better choices I make.

So, I said all that to ask about counting calories. Do low-carbers count calories, too? I feel like counting carbs AND calories would really make me feel resentful. I feel healthy right now. I am getting better. This is becoming a lifestyle change. I am working to change 30+ years of behavior. It is going to take time, but even at this early stage, I am much, much better about the food choices I make.

What is your take on the counting carbs/calories? Thanks for your time and for sharing your journey!

Doesn't it warm your heart to read about those who are taking the baby steps to change their life forever? I LOVE IT and wish more people would jump right into livin' la vida low-carb with both feet because it would quite literally turn their life around. This diabetic is well on the way to getting better than ever thanks to livin' la vida low-carb. Here was my response:

Hey there and THANK YOU so much for writing to me today! I'm always happy to hear from people who are making livin' la vida low-carb their permanent and healthy lifestyle change and I applaud you for the excellent progress you are making in managing your health!

As for counting calories, it's a debatable issue in the low-carb community. But I've addressed my personal experience about this issue previously at my blog. My thinking is this--keep your carbs low and eat moderate amounts of fat and protein to keep your body satisfied and your blood sugars under control.

You can't help but lose weight and stay healthy for the rest of your life. Watch out for hidden sugars and carbs in the foods you eat and you'll be just fine. THANKS again for writing and keep me abreast of your progress!

Something tells me that reader's gonna do just fine on the low-carb nutritional approach! I received an e-mail from a gentleman who wanted to know if it was okay to eat late at night. His e-mail came right before midnight and I just happened to be working late myself that night. Here's what he wrote:

Hi Jimmy! I'm wondering if you have some advice to an eating dilemma that many struggle with. Late night eating! It's late at night, your favorite shows on television, and snacking seems like a must.

I find that water can alleviate this problem to some extent. Now, just say you don't have a snack in the afternoon...Is it okay to now have this snack at ten or eleven while on the couch? Will reserving a snack for the night cause weight gain?

Do you ever get cravings late at night? If so, do you occasionally give in and have a snack of some sort? I bet doing an article on this would be SUPER helpful for all the people that are low-carbing. Keep up the awesome work, man. This low-carb lifestyle is making me feel great!

What an excellent question! While in principle I don't think it's a good idea to eat past 7:00pm or while watching television (the whole "mindless eating" phenomenon that Dr. Brian Wansink talks about), I do think there are some basic guidelines you should put into place to prevent overeating from happening if you do decide to snack. Here's what I recommended to this reader:

Don't take the whole package of whatever you grab to snack on. Just get one serving size and take it with you to watch TV. I love eating cashews, but I could eat the whole can if I brought it with me to the boob tube. Hope this helps!

Speaking of late night eating, Christine and I are on our way to Denny's now. WOO HOO!

Yep, went to Denny's and got the Sausage Sampler at midnight! As always, I substituted veggies for the hashbrowns and a side salad for the pancakes. LOVE IT!

I'm constantly hearing from people who only recently found my podcast show on iTunes or my new YouTube video series and they respond by excitedly sharing what it means to them. Here was an enthusiastic e-mail that came in from a new fan:


Saw your YouTube videos and loved them. You are doing a wonderful thing helping, educating, and motivating people. I cannot speak for the others but you have enriched my life.

I had tried so many ways to lose weight and as you say, "dance with the one that brung ya." Although I knew of low-carb for many years, I had no idea there was so much hatred (outright hatred!) towards the low-carb lifestyle. What is worse is this hatred is based on ignorance.

I am not saying the opponents of it should embrace the lifestyle. But to go around saying we just eat beef or chicken is absolutely wrong. Like you, I too have eaten a greater variety since low-carbing. I have come up with over 36 variations for zucchini chips (dehydrated zucchini slices) with a variety of toppings and dozen of stuffed mushrooms recipes.

Heck, I gave up ice cream and now enjoy snow cones flavored with sugar-free Jello. My kitchen is no longer a place to merely grab a plate and unpack the food container [clam shell, box, bag, bucket, etc.]. Getting creative in the kitchen actually has been fun and it is important that I prepare my own meals and know exactly what is in it.

Taking control of the food starts at home. I had no idea how this lifestyle (not a diet) would change every aspect of my life...for the better.

You have taught me much in the last 2 weeks. I have listened to ALL your podcasts (I work from home which makes it easier) and now all your videos on YouTube--you and your wife are so cute together in the videos.

Thank you for everything and if you need a volunteer to help spread the message please let me know.

Another life radically altered for the better! Sounds like he needs to get his own low-carb blog and start sharing with others about how livin' la vida low-carb can change their life just like it has his. Another inspired new listener of my podcast show also told me about the changes happening in his life through low-carb living after previously succeeding and gaining it all back again by going off the diet:

Hi Jimmy,

I just found your podcast. I wanted to write and tell you that I successful did the low-carb diet last summer. I'm 5'7", male, 30 years old. I started at around 175 lbs on April 15th, and by mid-August I was down to 145 lbs, having never felt better in my life.

At the time I was unemployed so I devoted the entire summer to low-carbing, power walking, and biking. Because of my success I found a girlfriend, a new job, etc. Unfortunately, success made me lazy, and with nothing (in my mind) to shoot for anymore, I went back to eating fast food, drinking regular soda, and more.

I don't know what it is, but once I started working, getting out in the real world, I found it harder and harder to stay on low-carb. Unfortunately, it spiraled out of control and a month ago I was back up to 176 lbs. Bread, fast food, fries, and regular soda pack the weight right on me, that much I'm now positively sure of.

For the past month I've been trying to stay hardcore on low-carb--I've cut out all regular soda, drink my coffee without sugar, and eat mainly steak, eggs, hamburger, and salad. I have also added blueberries and strawberries to my diet. My first goal is to get back under 170. Right now I am 171.8.

I'll continue to listen to your sure for inspiration so I can get back into the right frame of mind.

This is the perfect example of why livin' la vida low-carb is not just a diet, but a complete lifestyle change. Unless you start eating this way from the very beginning with the thought that this is how you will eat for the rest of your life, then permanent weight control and health improvements will not happen for you. Here was my response:

THANKS for writing! I wish you well as you get back to livin' la vida low-carb again. You know it works, so why would you ever want to eat any other way? :)

Check out my blog often for even more education, encouragement, and inspiration for this journey. YOU CAN DO IT! Contact me anytime you need help in this journey.

I'm VERY proud of you for starting over and doing it right this time. NEVER GIVE UP!

Next is an e-mail from someone who asked about my brother Kevin and his weight loss progress since I recently announced he is getting serious about losing weight...FINALLY! She also wanted to express a comment about this blog post where I called for personal responsibility about weight and health rather than relying on a medicinal cure. Here was her e-mail to me:

Hi Jimmy,

How is your brother doing with his low-carb way of life? I did go to Barnes & Noble about a month ago to find your book and of course it wasn't there but I'm glad to hear it will be in the future. comment is "I COULD JUST HUG YOU!" Thank you for saying that being overweight is NOT a disease!!! I've been saying that forever and it hasn't been well-received.

I watch people on Oprah and on talk shows talk about their weight problem and the grief their disease has caused them and I get outraged. If your unhappy then DO something about it!

I have a best friend with M.S. and that has altered her life for real. So don't align being overweight with real diseases. You people who follow Oprah and other gurus need to face reality.

Thank you Jimmy, thank you, thank you, thank you for having the courage for calling it what it is. The Bible says, "Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite." I bet no one on TV would want to hear that one!!!!

Keep up the great work you're doing and I can't wait to get your book because I am at a 5 month "stand-still" and want to know why. Perhaps too much cheese and peanuts (mold products)?

Chatty, ain't she? Gotta love hearing from people like this with such passion and zeal for what they do. Here's how I responded to her e-mail:

THANK YOU for writing and I appreciate your comments. I have always stood for personal responsibility when it comes to your decisions and weight management (or mismanagement) is one area where people dismiss their role in the process. I've received my fair share of boo-birds about it, but this is a no-brainer. Change your habits and you'll change your life. My success proves that is true.

As for Kevin, THANKS for asking about him. He's doing pretty well right now and is down to 335 pounds. It's still touch and go and his long-term commit to it is still a question in my mind. We shall see. Keep praying for him to stick to it and DO THIS!

I appreciate your note this morning and am grateful for your support of what I am doing educating, encouraging, and inspiring. God bless you!

And finally, I have been pleased with the overwhelmingly positive feedback to the new YouTube videos that Christine and I have been doing over the past week (see the promo video as well as Episode 1 of "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb On YouTube"). But there was one lone exception among my regular readers who had a rather blunt reaction to them so far. Tell me what you think about these criticisms he had for us:

Hey Jimmy,

I don't know, no offense but if I didn't know you already, then your video would not inspire me to view the next installment. Not even close.

I don't want to insult you but I found it rather embarrassing and would be very reluctant to recommend it to folks. There are going to be lots of very highly educated folks attacking you from all fronts.

They will be using elegant and convincing language, not "light and conversational" banter. You don't want to be the "low- carb clown" on YouTube.

It is important that you reach new folks, not just entertain your fans. Unscripted is also a scary term. Plus, you should show a little less teeth and mugging for the camera would be a start.

Sorry to be so blunt.

WOW, I don't know if my own momma would have been that honest about how she felt. But I can certainly appreciate the perspective that was shared, even if I do tend to disagree with it for the most part. Even still, I responded with gratitude for the reader being willing to help me improve future videos. Here's what I wrote:

I appreciate your feedback! I suppose my point with these YouTube videos is to show that low-carbers don't have to be stuffy, stoic, and snore you to death with statistics and a lecture-like atmosphere in order to be informative and educating.

I can certainly appreciate the approach you have suggested for those who feel that is necessary. But I think a more inviting strategy is to simply share from experience, be real with people about what livin' la vida low-carb is all about, and to make it conversational. That's why Christine is appearing with me in the videos and lightening the mood a bit.

We'll see how well the video series is being received and evaluate as we go along. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive--but I am thankful for your honest feedback and will take it under advisement. THANK YOU! I REALLY appreciate it. :)

I've got another new video to share soon, so we'll see if that new episode is better than the first. I'm sure with time and experience, these videos will improve greatly. Subscribe now and never miss a single YouTube video we make!

That's all from my mailbag for now. Share your response to any of the e-mails and let us know what you think. Throw some happy thoughts towards me and Christine as we'll be driving 12 hours to our destination! As always, I'm happy to hear from you anytime at

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