April's CR Diary

A diary of a 30 year old woman following CRON, or Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition, for health and life extension.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Very Skinny Asparagus Scare

The moral of this story is: Don't freak out about water weight loss.

It goes like this:

Anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile knows that I absolutely adore skinny little asparagi (that's the Latin plural of asparagus, I've decided) and that if I run across them at the store, especially out of season like now, I will buy and eat them immediately. So on Friday night, I decided at the last minute to have dinner CR friendly dinner company, and I ran out to the nearest decent grocery store. Aha! This store must have some sort of connection, because they always have the skinny green ones, even when all the other stores are selling only the icky tough ones. So I bought a bunch, and added them to my delicious-if-I-do say-so-myself dinner, which included:

romaine salad with scallions and grape tomatoes
bean salad of kidney beans and corn, marinated in pureed tomatillos with a touch of green chile sauce
asparagus, lightly steamed (5- 7 minutes?) served drizzled with that Williams Sonoma lemon herb olive oil, the juice of one fresh lemon, and some lemon pepper, all mixed together.

It was fabulous! It made me feel better about this whole olive oil thing too because I loved the asparagus with the olive oil drizzle I had created, and I even put it on my salad. It was the lemon that did it. I find that in my lowfat vegan days, I relied so heavily on strong tastes like vinegar and wine in cooking that I find oil makes things bland. I know this seems totally freakish for people who love French cooking, but I'm getting used to it, okay?

So we ate dinner, and when I was clearing the plates, I discovered about a third of the asparagi bunch sitting still in the steamer pot. (I mean still sitting in the steamer pot... no one thought the asparagus would be dancing in the steamer pot, as opposed to sitting still. I simply adored the "misplaced modifiers" unit in grammar class. For example: "Putting her luggage in the overhead compartment, the train pulled away from the station."I didn't feel like finding a container for the remaining asparagi, and they just looked so lonely sitting there, so I ate them. In total, I ate two thirds of a bunch of asparagus. The entire day had been right about at calorie target, just a touch under protein target, and thanks to the olive oil drizzle and the olives I put in my salad, right on fat target.

The next morning, I got up, and as usual now that I have been scared to death about losing weight too fast, I weighed myself.

I had lost three pounds overnight.

I was totally freaked out.

Now, let's be calm and rational about this. No one loses three pounds of real weight over night. It's obviously water weight. Asparagus is a well known diuretic. So the asparagus, in addition to a somewhat lower salt day than usual, caused kinda the opposite of what Kenton was talking about in his recent post to the list about using soy sauce and nuts to "plump up" for a social event. I just lost a lot of water weight overnight.

But when I discovered this it was 6 am, I didn't think of that. It seemed too silly to email the entire list for confirmation that losing three pounds over night is water weight, not dead rat syndrome in the making. Too early to call ten friends who know nothing about CR but are likely to be supportive no matter what. Too early to do anything other than panic.

So at this point the rational thing would have been to decide to just up my calories a little, maybe throw a bit of olive oil into my whey shake (I am kidding about that, you know. I'm not that nutty... yet!) and go back to regular salt intake, eschewing asparagi, no matter how skinny, for a day.

But did I do the rational thing? NO. In complete and utter panic, and also kinda wondering what it might taste like, I went to Dunkin Donuts and got a bagel with cream cheese!

You know, it wasn't even that good. For one thing, they didn't toast it, even though I asked them to. For another, they gave me plain cream cheese instead of veggie. It took me about an hour and a half to eat the whole thing. It was about 500 calories. That, combined with the heat and the fact that I was feeling a touch under the weather, conspired to make me not hungry again until nearly dinner time. I think my body went into bagel shock at 7 am and didn't really recover.

I walked four miles, however, drank a ton of water (it's in the nineties here, and even with my CR inspired heat tolerance, it's too much) and did a whole lot of packing of the house for the move. That required me to make numerous trips outside to the trash and recycling carrying very heavy things, and by the end of the day I was feeling hot, exhausted, and a little sick. But I had made dinner plans to go to my favorite resturant in Philly, so I went.

My favorite restaurant in Philly is called Audrey Claire, and it's at 20th and Spruce. It is so good, and it is friendly to those who eat little because it doesn't classify things as appetizers and entrees, only as "small dishes" and "bigger dishes." It has tons of great little appetizers and salads on the menu, and it's byo so it's not that expensive, even if you like to have wine with dinner. I only go in summer because while it's delightful to sit outside at the sidewalk cafe tables, the inside is crowded, loud and stuffy. So this was probably my last Audrey Claire visit of this year.

I was really hungry by this time, so I ate a piece of the homemade bread with olive oil that they brought out first. I hadn't had this much bread in one day since pre CR! Then I ordered my favorite dishes: flatbread with toasted walnuts, bosc pears, and gorgonzola, and a pita and dip tray with this spicy fig dip thing, spicy hummus, and white bean and tarragon dip. My dinner companion who is also a very light eater though not explicitly CR (yet... it's contagious! She's about to become one of us! You will be assimilated.) ordered a goat cheese salad with mixed greens. We intended to share, and got the dips first.

We ate all the dips and we were both stuffed. The waiter looked confused but was understanding when we ate about three bites of our "entrees" and asked for them to be wrapped to take home. We said, "We love the food, we just don't eat very much." He was very cool and said, "It's okay, I don't eat much either." We left a huge tip: $12 on a $27 meal. The key to eating in nice restaurants (this place is way cheap but is one of the nice restaurants in Philly... if you are in Philly in summer, you must go there.) is to order the little tiny amounts of food you want, but to tip as though you ate more. If you go to the same places over and over again, the waiters will start to give you things for free. I get free stuff all the time.

By this time I was exhausted, it being past my bedtime, so I went home and crashed. This morning, my three pounds were magically back! I felt so relieved. It may seem odd to the non-CR folks out there to be relieved about *not* losing weight, but for CR to work, you can't lose weight too fast.

One thing that is so wonderful about being a woman (and there are so many wonderful things about being a woman, aren't there? But I don't want to risk quoting Shania Twain.) is that I have so little lean body mass that I easily adapt to lower calorie counts, without feeling much hunger. I remember before I discovered CR, I was jealous of those lean, muscular people who worked out all the time and ate a ton. Now, I'm grateful for my slower metabolism! For me, with little lean body mass, CR isn't exactly easy, but it's not that much of a tradeoff.

This is also good news for the women out there who have tended to be overweight. If you do serious CR, you can outlive your irksome skinny Jane Fonda workout friends.

Today will be a more planned food day. I need to hit my protein target, and I'll be spending most of the day avoiding the heat. I woke up still feeling under the weather, though I think it's the heat and exhaustion more than anything. I'll be so glad when this move is over! No more sitting in traffic for two hours a day... an apartment with a balcony, pool, and fitness center... who could ask for more?


  • At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i’m writing a rather long comment because (1) you made me laugh and (2) after this comment I have to get straight to work, argh~avoid pain for as long as possible!

    "asparagi" ~ lol. i think usually the latin words go the opposite where changing the us to an i makes it plural. nonetheless: two thumbs up for humor ;-D

    btw, i'd never feel guilty about chomping down an extra 2/3 bunch of nutrition dense, low energy green thingies like that! you did fine as the fiber is higher & calorie-content lower than even broccoli. i'm sure you made a lot of lonely asparagi very happy, and the nutrition was more than worth the calorie hit (more like a light "tap") on your body. as you opine in this and the hotel buffet contexts, those fresh veggies are just too "premium" to waste (or even to store).

    btw, that ~4g sodium i took to plump up worked so well. It tacked on another 1+ lb to my body weight… the efficacy is amazing. accordingly, i’ve decided to up my daily sodium intake by 1/4 gram so that I now consume a total of, drumroll please, .85g/day which is still rather low but better than the prior .6g/day.

    nice save with the bagel!! i’d’ve done the same thing, as painful as it must’ve been ;-) (-: now I see how committed you are to controlling your rate of weight loss, young grasshopper!

    with the extra efforts for the move, that 3 lb loss may have been a combination of water loss and burning of tissue (e.g., ketosis). however, a pound of tissue will yield ~3500cal of energy & I doubt you worked THAT hard ;-) i think it's perfectly reasonable to scarf that bagel just to be sure, and used to do similar "corrections" on occasion. when i indulged in grains i, too, tended to be totally underwhelmed -- they just taste so bland and the portions tend to be so small (at least compared to a herd of looking-for-love asparagi who really WANT to be eaten). now, i pretty much keep track of the water loss by noticing how much volume (proportional to weight, of course) i urinate and haven't implemented a “pig-out” correction episode in about half a year. btw, did you sweat a lot the day before the weight loss, or perhaps have a mother-of-all-voids the morning before you jumped on the scale? my weight varies by about + or - 3lbs per day and, apparently, i've learned to account for the variances. keep in mind that i presently live kind of a dean-meal life (it's a "dean's world") with a pretty consistent daily eating schedule, which makes the accounting easier. with this controlled environment, it now appears my body has a tendency to build up waste material for about three days (even while i'm appearing “regular”) and then fully open the bomb doors on every 3rd or 4th day.

    last topic, and then (sigh) it’s off to work. who's the new recruit ~was the dinner mate VLC?


  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger Mary Robinson said…

    Your tipping trick is ours too! We eat 1/2 of what a normal family would, but always tip over 20%, often much more. The less I eat, the more I tip.

    Since we eat at the same healthy restaurants over and over again, the waitpersons love to see us. You'd think we were long lost friends. The Thai restaurant people ask us where we've been if we haven't come for a couple of weeks. Everyone knows what we order and some of them even ask if we want a menu!

  • At 4:38 AM, Blogger Willie said…

    April, I only can say you make me laugh a lot, and this is good! Don't worry so much: you are doing a fine work. In spite of I don't remember it to you every second, I can sure I read your every post.

    To vary a lot (+/- 3 pounds a day) of daily weight is not a worrying thing if your weekly average weight remains the same eventually. Take in mind that for every gram of sugar you store as glycogen, it takes between 4 and 7 grams of water, so if you burn 100 grams of glycogen's glucose, that is, 400 kcal, you could lose between one to one and a half pounds of weight. As far as you can store up to one pound of glucose as glycogen, you can vary a lot of weight without actually losing fat nor protein at all.

    As a matter of fact, I actually test the FAT I have using a calliper and measuring my skinfolds. That's the real weight you would want to lose and will start to get rid of the fear of starvation!


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