Am I The Last Person on Atkins?

For about a year I’ve been between 180 and 185. Lately, I’ve jumped up to 195. This is a bigger problem than just weight gain – I got rid of all my ‘fat clothes’, which I recommend as it’s an extra motivator to keep the weight off.
And right now my clothes are beginning to get tight – and as I’m not going to buy bigger clothes, it’s either lose the weight or wear garbage bags.

So I decided to go back to the beginning and do the Atkins induction. I went to Vitamin Shoppe to get ketosis strips – I found these to be very helpful as an indicator of how I was doing when I first did induction. When I asked for them the woman looked at me like I was asking for a moon rock.

Ironically, even though evidence keeps piling up that low carb is a sound means of losing weight, less and less are products available for those of us who take the Atkins approach.

As I left the store I said to the woman: “Am I the last person on Atkins?” She laughed.

TIP: If you are looking for ketosis sticks, which I found very helpful when I first lost my weight, go to the pharmacy and ask the pharmacist – they kept them behind the counter at my local Walgreens. Don’t bother with Vitamin Shoppe – for them the only thing you’ll find is overpriced Atkins bars and shakes.

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Kitchen Experiment #3 – Pumpkin with Sour Cream

THE EXPERIMENT: I had gotten a recommendation that canned pumpkin mixed with a little Splenda made a healthy dessert. I tried it, but there was just something missing. Thought that maybe a little sour cream mixed with the pumpkin might improve the taste, so I mixed them 50-50 and added Splenda to taste.

THE VERDICT: Very yummy. The Pumpkin and Splenda cuts ‘sour’ in the sour cream to nothing, and the sour cream gives the pumpkin some creaminess – and the combination has a nice overall flavor. Pumpkin itself is relatively high in sugar, but also high in fiber and nutrients. 1/2 cup of the stuff is only 6 grams of carbs – so maybe not appropriate for Atkins’ induction phase but that’s certainly OK for a low carb lifestyle in general.

My daughter saw me eating it and made a face at the color: “What are you eating?”

“Pumpkin custard – it’s sweet. Want to try some?”

“No.”

“Just a little. You like pumpkin pie…”

She snatched a tiny bit off a spoon and wrinkled her nose. I don’t think she was in the right frame of mind – it was better than that.

I’ll have to try and foist it on her again.

No More Diets – No More Pity Parties

No More Diets

Let’s start off by ditching the word ‘diet’. They don’t work, for the majority of people and if they do, the results are temporary. It is said that over 90% of people who lose weight gain it back within a few years. I know. I lost weight twice before. Each time was a two-year cycle. Year one I struggled to lose the weight, year two it slowly crept back, each time adding a couple of pounds to the highest point I was at before I lost the weight. and year three I was back where I started.

This time it’s different. I’m at year four and I’m close to my ideal weight. What’s different this time? In a word: lifestyle. I devised my own lifestyle, adapted from the book, as well as listening to my own body, and came up with a lifestyle I am comfortable with, that allows me to pretty much eat what I like when I like, in the quantities I like, and even have some of the things I shouldn’t have now and again – enough so I don’t feel like a monk – and I never feel ‘guilty’ – more on guilt in a second.

No More Pity Parties

I frequently used on line forums for support and ideas (I’ll mention the ones I used and which ones I didn’t use) and there was a particular type of posting that would drive me nuts – I called them the ‘pity parties’.

They usually had a title ‘I Cheated!!!!!!!’ and went on to outline the quantities of cookies and ice cream they ate the night before, and the worthlessness and self-loathing they felt today and how they needed ‘support’. Well-meaning forum members would write and essentially say: “oh, you poor dear. It’s OK, you can do it.”

Stop it.

I ate pizza, white rice, an entire quart of Hagen Daz, cookies, candy, cake – all the stuff I’m not supposed to have. But I didn’t add to this a huge bowl of helplessness and self-loathing. I looked at it as what you do as you live your life. I know I can’t do it every day, but I can do it some days, and after my quart of Hagen Daz binge I go back to my normal lifestyle. No burden of guilt to shoulder. Maybe I reached my weight goal maybe a little slower than others, but I didn’t get there deprived and exhausted like I had just climbed Mount Everest – I arrived relaxed and confident.

I also try not to be too sensitive. It’s a waste of energy to care too much about what other people think. A lot of people say dumb things to fat people. The funny part is they are frequently trying to be helpful

There is an old saying: never attribute to maliciousness what can be explained by stupidity. Don’t let ’em get to you. It’s your life and your goals that matter.

How I Began Living Low Carb – One Man’s Story

Remember 2003?

It was the height of ‘The Low Carb Craze’ and I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of. Any idiot could see this was dumb – a nation of fat honkers gulping down plates of bacon thinking that this was going to make them lose weight!?

 

I had lost weight twice before 60 lbs the first time in my 20s and 70 lbs the second time in my 30s and I knew for a fact that the only way to lose weight was through a low fat, semi-vegetarian lifestyle with the only meat being some fish or baked chicken breast with the skin removed. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie – this mantra of the low-fat doctors made perfect sense. And as any nutritional label will tell you, a gram of fat has more calories than a gram of carbohydrates or a gram of protein. It’s obvious to anyone with an understanding of basic addition that you can eat more carbs than you can fat – with the extra added benefit that fat is bad for you – it increases your cholesterol and can lead to heart disease.

 

I had the fake cheese, the fake bologna, used the no-calorie butter-substitute on my half of a baked potato. Ate the dry, skinless baked chicken.

 

The problem was – I knew all this but I was 260 lbs – 90 lbs overweight.

 

How did this happen? Willpower – I just didn’t have it. It was a moral defect on my part. I was undisciplined, a fat slob that couldn’t control my urges. I knew that through rigorous self-discipline I could reach my goal if I wanted to – I just didn’t want it bad enough.

 

My friend, Jim – who also happened to be at that time the president of the company I worked for, introduced me to Atkins. I had noticed that he was losing weight – he kept pulling his pants up all the time. I asked him: “are you losing weight?” At first, he didn’t really answer directly, which I noticed, and I dropped it. Some time later he mentioned to me that he and his wife were doing Atkins.

 

I guess he sensed what was coming next, which was why he didn’t tell me at first – I ripped into him mercilessly about how stupid a diet it was. Even though he was the president of the company, I could talk to him like this and blasted him, going over all the obvious points about good diets and how dangerous it was.

 

There was only one flaw: I was as big as a house, fatter than I ever was, sluggish and puffy, and he was losing weight. The turning point was an offhand comment he tossed me as he left my office: “and the doctor says my blood work is fine.”

 

Something snapped. I got angry. At myself. For me, this usually precedes some action – anger directed can be a powerful force. It was a Friday afternoon. On the way home I stopped at the drugstore and bought the Atkins book.

 

My wife, who I love dearly, in part because she has never catered to the ‘fragile male ego’, gave me the following words of support: “You know this isn’t going to work. You start a diet, then get sick and go off it in a week.”

 

That’s my gal.

 

With those words of encouragement, on Saturday afternoon I sat in a chair in the living room and read the book. It’s 540 pages. There’s 170 pages of recipes and 220 pages of how to continue after you get started and how to keep it off. That left 144 pages of why Atkins believed fat isn’t so bad and why carbs are worse than most people think, the science that exists to back it up, a defense of what his detractors have been saying for 25 years, and finally, a list of foods that you can have.

 

I read the first 144 pages, and skimmed the rest. I was still skeptical. His claims were outrageous: I’m going to eat lots of meat and butter, eat cheese, have some (but not a lot) of vegetables, and not be hungry, have lots of energy and lose weight. I told myself two weeks. This sounds like the unhealthiest diet one can conceive of, but two weeks shouldn’t kill me – at least I don’t think so.

 

There was a problem, however – a big one. I could never follow this diet – there were just some things that he said you couldn’t do that were just not acceptable. I thought I understood the principles behind the book, but there were some things that seemed to fall in grey areas, and Atkins pronounced these just as important as the other stuff.

 

I decided that I would try it – but with my own modifications. Atkins specifically said that it wouldn’t work this way, but I just couldn’t see myself following the plan 100%. So even before I started, I had my own half-baked plan.

Day One

Over that weekend I had stocked up on what I had planned to eat. Loaded for bear, I was ready. The first day I felt ok as I went through my normal routine – all except for the food change. The second day I felt – weird – not necessarily bad, but weird. On the third day I noticed an interesting thing – that feeling around 2:30 in the afternoon where a wave of sudden and intense fatigue would come across me and pack such a wallop that I though I would not be able to keep my eyes open – disappeared. Completely.

 

I’ve never had that since.

 

I still had that weird feeling, but I had committed to two weeks and I was going to see it through, then make my decision.

 

Another interesting side note to this experiment was that the things that I cooked, my slim wife actually liked. She usually hated when I was on a diet and cooked because every dish had some sort of substitute pretending to be the real thing. The egg salad was made from some mysterious powder mixed with tofu – it didn’t taste like any known food on the planet, but it sorta, kinda seemed like egg salad if you thought about egg salad while eating it. The ‘meat’ sauce for pasta was made with meat substitute, which again, if you wished very hard, almost tasted like meat – make sure you put a lot of spices on, though!

 

But now it was different. Egg salad was egg salad. With real creamy delicious mayonnaise. Pasta with meat sauce was with real meat – I made the pasta for her and I ate the meat sauce with ricotta, mozzarella and parmagain cheese like a chili.

 

Around that time she wanted to make her famous potato salad – a thing of beauty, and with a simple substitute for the potatoes, it came out excellent (I’ll share the recipe – it’s good). For the first time in many years, I was on a diet and she ate, and enjoyed, what I cooked.

The way I was eating seemed to be the the path of a fool. I could not imagine that this could be a way to lose weight. I didn’t gorge, but I did eat when I was hungry – I never starved. But it still didn’t make sense – in fact, part of me was doing this almost as a way to show Jim just how stupid Atkins was.

 

At the end of the first week I got on the scale – I had lost 12 lbs. I checked the scale, then weighted myself again. 12 lbs. One more time – made sure the dial was set to zero, got on: 12 lbs.

 

It didn’t make sense. I lost weight twice before, and twice before dieting consisted of small portions of faux whatever-real-food-I-really-wanted or small portions of something I wanted a lot more of. When I was finished, I would look at the clock and go: “ugh – four hours till the next meal.” I once told someone the secret to losing weight when I did it the low calorie / low fat route: get used to being hungry.

 

I was encouraged, but I still had to wonder if this wasn’t a trick. I had read that people on Atkins lose water-weight – maybe that’s what it was. If so, I was retaining a lot of water. Still possible, though. I had another week to go. So I continued.

 

I began to notice I seemed to have a lot more energy. I also noticed that my use of Tums, which had become for me almost a snack food I used them so much, began to diminish a bit. I found myself not having to carry them around with me all the time, which again didn’t make sense because it had always seemed in the past that it was greasy food that caused the heartburn I perpetually had. I continued having burgers and cheese and cream and butter and all the other things that Atkins says is ok while the rest of the world cringes in horror.

 

At the end of week two I weighed myself again. I had lost 20 lbs.

 

Now I had to make my decision – would I continue or stop. I thought about it a long time, and concluded that despite the weight loss, Atkins just wasn’t for me – I was a semi-vegetarian before I went on Atkins, and I still felt weird – again, not bad or sick – as I said, I seemed to have more energy and was in better spirits, my GERD lessened and my belt didn’t pinch my waist anymore, but it just didn’t feel right, eating all this fat and grease. I told my wife I was going off the diet and went back to my old ways that Monday.

 

By the end of the day I felt terrible. I realized that weird was nothing compared to terrible.

 

The next day I went back on Atkins. It’s four years later and I lost the remaining 60 lbs. I stalled for about a year at 195 but with no change in my routine the last 15 lbs just seemed to come off by themselves. I’m a size 34 pant – I was a size 42 (sometimes 44). I wore XXL t-shirts, now I wear mediums. People I haven’t seen in a few years don’t recognize me.

 

Oh yeah – my blood pressure is now 135/80 after years of the lower number never going below 90 – even with medication, and I had my blood work last done 7/14/06. My total cholesterol was 186, my HDL 57, my LDL 119 and my triglycerides 51 – and I’m a guy who regularly puts butter on low-carb toast so thick it’s more like a slice of cheese and throws berries and Splenda in sour cream for a dessert.

 

I couldn’t have done it without Robert C. Atkins and his book, but I also couldn’t have done it without making some changes to Atkins and carving my own path by standing on the good man’s shoulders.

 

When people ask me, I tell them I’m on Atkins.

Kitchen Experiment #2 – Spinach Salad

THE EXPERIMENT: I had heard that fresh spinach, ricotta cheese and parmigana cheese make a nice mixture. So I took a nice fresh bunch of spinach and with a big butcher knife I sliced the entire bunch into strips maybe 1/4″ wide. I threw away 2″ of stems. I cut across the bunch, but it still seemed a bit large so I then cross-cut them, which left me with fairly small pieces.

I then mixed this with probably 3 heaping tablespoons of whole milk ricotta cheese. It’s not all that easy to mix so I used my hands, which was an awful mess, but worked nicely. I then added the parm cheese and tasted it. A bit bland. I added some more. It still seemed to be lacking something, so I tried a little apple cider vinegar.

I’m glad I only tried a little. The apple cider vinegar was the wrong note for this mixture. A future experiment might include some balsamic vinegar instead. I then tried what any bad cook reaches for when trying to save a recipe about to go to hell – salt and pepper.

THE VERDICT: The salt and pepper saved the day. It actually had a good flavor, and I enjoyed it. I gave some to my wife and she ate it without comment, which usually means she’d eat it rather than starve – which she’d rather do with some of my other experiments so I take that as a small victory. My child was spared (so far) from being a participant in the tasting, and I did notice that some was missing later, which could have been my in-laws – but no one’s admitting to anything.

I will definitely try this again.

Kitchen Experiment #1 – Turnip Fries

THE EXPERIMENT: I read somewhere that turnips can be a decent substitute for fries. So, having a nice large turnip available just waiting to be experimented on, I proceeded to:

  • Peel the turnip
  • Cut into fry-shaped sticks
  • Put in a bowl and mix with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I then put the sticks on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 1/2 hour. When I checked them I found that the tops were still white and the bottoms were browned, so I took them out, turned them over, and let them cook for another 10 minutes.

THE VERDICT: They were soggy as a substitute for a french fry. I foisted some on my daughter and she said: “They don’t look like french fries.”

I told her: “They’re made from red potatoes. You never had fries from red potatoes before.”

“Oh.” She said, and tried one.

She didn’t like it.

I ate them with low carb ketchup and they were OK – if I really wanted fries, I might do this again, but I would not attempt to feed this to regular people. The turnip might be better mashed up as a potato might – or maybe even baking it in foil like a baked potato and serve with butter and chives – two future kitchen experiments perhaps.