Sunday, September 12, 2010
Contributed by my daughter.
I am a convert to a new way of eating—high fat, moderate protein and controlled carbohydrates—the new Atkins diet. And with this plan has come a weight loss of more than 16 lbs. in less than three months. That may not sound like an astonishing amount, but in that time period I strayed from my new way of eating for two separate weeks while on vacation and regained a total of five pounds, so my total is actually 21 lbs.
I had long been suspect of the Atkins diet—I had heard it was all meat, and hard on your kidneys. I’ve dieted on and off as long as I can remember, losing and gaining the same 20-25 lbs. time and again. During this time I’ve subscribed to the prevailing health wisdom: you should eat lean protein, low-fat dairy products, plenty of fruits and vegetables and lots of grains. I’ve read countless books and magazines on diets and health. I cut calories and fat and exercised like crazy. This used to work when I was younger, but the weight always returned.
Two years ago, just prior to turning 40, I was determined to take the weight off--again. And I did, through near starvation. I cut my fat grams and kept my calories to 1200 per day or less. I exercised. And the weight came off—30 lbs in total. But I remember frequently waking up at 1:00 AM so hungry I could barely go back to sleep.
I got a stressful job, and two years later I found the weight was back. I was determined to lose those stubborn pounds again, and started with exercise. I signed up for boot camp. I gardened 2-4 hours a day, pulling nine wheel barrows worth of weeds and laying down four yards of mulch. I firmed up quickly, improved my cardiovascular endurance, but I actually gained weight. I was up two pounds, and beyond frustrated, as I had no progress on the scale or in my clothes to show for my efforts. So I went back to my starvation plan: cut the fat/calories, go to bed hungry every night. I lost the first 4 lbs. the hard way, and it took six weeks.
Then I read my mother’s blog and was astounded by her results. She’d been telling me for weeks she was losing weight on the Atkins diet, but until I saw her progress in black and white (and in color photos), it didn’t quite register. And she said, she was never hungry. I was still skeptical.
I started to taper off the carbs, but still had a couple spoonfuls of ice cream every afternoon. (I don’t recommend this, as I would continue to get sugar cravings.) But, it was how I transitioned from my high-carb diet.
What at first seemed so different, has now become habit. I eat eggs nearly every morning for breakfast—sometimes with sautéed mushrooms, other days with salsa and cheese. For lunch I make big salads with shrimp or ham, avocado, tomato and full fat, low sugar dressing—I like blue cheese. For dinner I have a serving of protein—grilled chicken, pork chops—and low starch vegetables with butter and Asiago cheese, and a salad. I enjoy snacks: full-fat cheese, deli meat or guacamole with veggies. I keep almonds and pistachios in my car, in case I can’t find something suitable to eat. I drink lots of water. Most importantly, I never feel hungry or deprived.
For exercise, I’ve backed away from the strenuous activity, replacing it with walking, bicycling with my kids, or splashing in the pool or lake. I go to Zumba and Jazzercise because I love to dance and found that my body has adjusted to the lack of carbs. I no longer tire quickly when I work out.
I’ve been reading labels carefully and paying attention to carbohydrate counts. I don’t eat anything with high fructose corn syrup, trans fat (hydrogenated oils) or added sugar. I try to eat whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. I stay away from bread, pasta and starchy veggies, including potatoes and corn. (Atkins has a plan for you to add these back in once you’ve achieved your goal weight.)
I really started to lose when I began to track my carb grams online. I use MyFitnessPal.com.com and have customized the results to 10 percent carbs, 25 percent protein and 65 percent fat. (Go to FAQ on the site to find how to do this.) Initially I tried to keep my carbs under 40 grams per day and lost on average 1-2 lbs a week.
I came back from my second vacation this summer, after eating willy-nilly, and was frustrated that I had put back a couple pounds. I did the Atkin’s ‘induction’ phase, keeping my net carb count below 20 grams, and voila, I dropped 5 lbs in eight days.
Since then I typically keep my carbs under 40 net grams per day and am still losing 1-2 lbs a week. Based on my tracking, initially I was eating around 1200 calories a day (never hungry), but found that on days I increased my calories, in the 1400-1500 range, I actually lost more the next day. Go figure.
Now that I know the program, I don’t track as often. I eat a serving or two of fruit each day (cantaloupe, honeydew or berries are the lowest carb choices), but always accompanied by some protein and fat. Berries with heavy cream are a great treat. I have a glass of wine once or twice a week. I might even have a square of dark chocolate every now and then. I no longer put sugar in my coffee. (I know a lot of people use artificial sweetener, but I don’t like the after-taste.) Adding half-and-half to my java, instead of skim milk, has more than made up for it.
Since I’ve cut the sugar and starches from my diet I no longer have food cravings or energy swings. Most of the time, I look at a dessert and it holds no appeal. If I’m really curious, I’ll have a bite just to know what it tastes like, but that’s usually more than enough.
I feel better and more energized than I have in years. My friends have said my skin glows, and the eczema on my hands has gone away.
I would highly recommend reading The New Atkins book: http://www.atkins.com/AtkinsBook.aspx to get more background on the science behind the eating plan. There are many studies that support this way of eating. And there are plans to choose from for everyone—even vegetarians. The book will teach you about maintaining your weight loss as well. You can also learn a great deal from the web site: http://www.atkins.com/Homepage.aspx.
I’m beginning to be able to wear my old wardrobe (size 8) again! I’ve got three more pounds before I reach my goal weight. I’ll let you know when I’m there.
PS – My mother came to visit over Labor Day. In that week, we hosted a barbecue, a ladies night at our home, and ate out for lunch three times. By the end of her visit, my weight had dropped another 2 lbs. This is miraculous. In the past, a one-week visit would typically result in a 3-4 lbs. gain, as I figured she was on vacation, I was too. I am so pleased with my new way of eating.