On May 17th of this year I began a low carb diet. I had some success with this same diet in 2004, having lost 40 pounds in three months, then gained the weight back over the next year, so I in May I finally resolved to try low carb again.
What prompted me to begin the diet was feeling tired and old all the time. When friends and family came to visit I noticed that the stepped up activity with them left me tired and winded. Somehow I had convinced myself that this was just because I was getting old. But, finally in May, after struggling to bend down and tie my shoes, and after feeling so tired all the time, I resolved to try and rescue myself by trying low carb to see if I would feel better.
For those of you who are not familiar with low carb, the low carb guru, Dr. Atkins, broke down the low carb diet into stages....with Stage1 calling for less than 20 carbs per day. Once your weight goal is reached you are allowed to step up your daily carb count gradually...to the point where you can maintain your desired weight, but not gain back.
As anyone who has tried the Atkins diet knows, the first three day are the hardest. Giving up starches and sugars is tough because they are so addictive. After three days on the diet you begin to shed "ketones" which are indicators that your body is beginning to burn fat to make up for your body's lack of those starchy and sugary energy sources. The great thing about achieving "ketosis" is the rapid weight loss you begin to experience. It is not unusual to see someone drop 20 pounds in the first month. The dramatic weight loss is not surprising since the Atkins diet is pretty severe in restricting carbs. Even our FDA recommends an intake of 200 carbs per day, so when you restrict your diet to only ten percent of those numbers you are seriously kicking your body fat's ass!
When I started Atkins in May I expected to stay at Stage 1 for a month or so, then gradually add carbs to the diet as I went along. Surprisingly, I found that I could, by watching my carb count carefully, maintain Stage 1 for a longer and longer period. I found that, even with a relatively sedentary lifestyle, I continued to lose weight and continued to feel better (and younger!)
So I just kept on trucking!....sticking to those 20 carb daily limitations. In doing so I studied the carb count of thousands of food ingredients and learned eventually to program my diet without having to look up the carb count of a particular food....I had them all down pat.
Did I ever cheat? Yes.....about once a week I would have a hungering for something high carb. But, when I did cheat, I tried to keep it reasonable...maybe eating something that hiked my carb count up to 50 carbs...still 75% below FDA daily recommendations. And, once a month or so, I just say "to hell with it" and go out and have a fast food hamburger and fries. But, I found that when I do cheat I pay for it the next day....I wake up feeling sluggish the next morning and those hunger pains are back again for the next three days before I can get my body back into "ketosis". Still, a little cheating is good in two ways; eating a little junk food proves to be a liberating breakout, allowing me to say to myself that I'm not "locked in" to anything and can always get back on track. Secondly, and quite remarkably, is that I've found cheating one day actually junp starts my metabolism again, with a very pleasing accelerated weight loss in the days after I get back into ketosis. So my turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, complete with dinner rolls and mash potatoes and gravy, and stuffing and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, was an enjoyable luxury that resulted in accelerated weight loss as soon as I resumed my low carb diet.
So, today, exactly six and one half months after beginning my low carb diet, I have lost a nice rounded number of 70 pounds. I don't miss those pounds....I feel better without them. More importantly, I've learned to live low carb as a lifestyle and not a "diet". That's more important than you might think; it changes the way you think about food. You no longer think in terms of the "temporary" and begin to accept it as a lifestyle you can live with.
No more daily white bread, or potatoes, or rice, or donuts for me....instead they have become the rare luxury that are so enjoyable (until you wake up the next morning feeling sluggish). I have learned not to miss any food that infuses my system with sugars and starches. Salads and fresh green veggies (without sauces), and savory beef, chicken and fish dishes now satisfy my hunger, and when I feel like eating a sweet it becomes jello and cream whip or an Atkins candy bar.
I haven't written much about this before for fear I would fail with this diet and look silly after. However, after my 70 pound weight loss, and a tremendous gain in my confidence that this diet is here to stay for me, I thought I'd write and let you know that I don't miss those 70 pounds one bit.
I'm looking to lose twenty more pounds before I step up to Atkins Stage II, which gives me a bit more leniency in counting my carbs and still maintaining my desired weight. I'll let you know when I get there....perhaps I'll celebrate with some mash potatoes and gravy and another slice of pumpkin pie!