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.

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.

‘The Kitchen Experiments’

No one would accuse me of being able to cook, but living the low carb lifestyle has required me to venture into the kitchen and attempt to whip up meals that are low carb and taste good too.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe that one of my reasons for success in living low carb has been the courage to try different approaches, and in the area of food, this has meant experimenting with strange new foods, unusual combinations of ingredients, and using my hapless wife and daughter as guinea pigs to determine if a given recipe that I think is OK is considered edible by people not on low carb.

My family are honest assessors – they don’t pull punches when it comes to honest criticism. My daughter is more diplomatic, but my wife will tell me straight out: “It looks like dog food and I’m not going to eat it.”

Having set your expectations low, I have actually managed to create a number of things that have proven to be tasty, and some have even won the wife and child seal of approval. As I enjoy experimenting, I thought I would document some of these experiments – for better or worse.

My successes or failures might provide ideas that might prove helpful to some – and for myself, I’ll have documentation of what doesn’t work so I don’t make the same mistakes again.

Stay tuned.

I lost over 10 lbs. in 2 days?

When I wrote ‘Houston – we have a problem‘, I had weighed myself and was maybe 197 – I say maybe because my scale varies and I weigh myself a few times and don’t get hung up on the exact number. Today, I weighed myself on the same scale and I was 184 – more or less.

Thirteen lbs seems a little much but as a person who’s lived low carb for a number of years, I think I have a supernatural ability to gain water weight. Low carb living is a natural diuretic – it prevents you from storing water. What I had heard was that carbohydrates bind to water in your body – remove the carbs and the water has to leave.

I *did* make a pig of myself the day before I climbed back on the horse of low carb so I personally think the loss was mostly water. All I know is that my pants seem a little looser – I threw all my old ‘fat clothes’ away or donated them, so there’s no going back for me.

And they were getting pretty tight.

As to what I ate and how I felt – I tend to graze during the day – macadamia nuts and slices of cheese. I don’t do a lot of precise counting – life’s too short for that in my estimation – but I’d say that during those days I would have a handful of mac nuts and maybe 4 slices of American cheese. In the evening I had a small bowl of Brussels sprouts that were cooked with bacon, a few bites of cauliflower drenched in olive oil, and some low carb bread and more cheese. I also finished up some bologna I had – I have a fondness for bologna but am trying to wean myself off of it.

Yes – it’s an odd mixture, but my point is that my success was due to relentless experimenting in finding what worked for me and not adhering to any conventional notion of what to eat or when to eat. Most of my caloric intake is at night, which is supposed to be the worst time – but if I lost 80 lbs doing it – is it bad?

Another aspect of this is appetite. After the first two days, I find my appetite becomes controllable. I have had carb binges where a slight indulgence has set off a chain of events leading to multiple stops at fast food joints. Carbs can make me ravenous.

Now the hard work begins. I have found that a loss like that makes me very susceptible to putting it right back on. I have to be particularly vigilant the next few days and expect the scale to remain rock solid at 184. It’s as if my body has to re-stabilize at this new weight before more weight loss can occur.

I weigh myself every day – another thing they say you shouldn’t do until someone did a recent study and found that it did help in weight loss. It helps you to be in tune with your body’s rhythms – as long as you don’t get hung up on the number for any given day. I could get on the scale tomorrow and find I gained 3 lbs even if I eat like a beggar today – no worries – it like the stock market – there’s short-term ups and downs that make little sense – it’s the long-term – the big picture that counts.

Never Give Up

There’s an aspect to losing weight – or achieving *anything* for that matter – that has to do with mindset. We all have the potential for greatness, but so many of us fall short of our potential.

Why is that?

I think it starts with personal responsibility. Yep – you’d like to lose the weight but you have a lot of problems, ya know? You’re busy, don’t have time to cook low carb, there’s too many cakes and cookies in the house, you can’t resist the bagels in the lunch room at work, etc, etc, etc.

Excuses. These are my excuses, by the way. I lost the weight, and yet I’m no superhuman. You might share the same excuses, or have your own, but they are excuses.

OK. The first inclination that most people turn to is beating themselves up – ‘I’m weak, I have no willpower, I’m helpless, it’s hopeless, etc.’ Great. Your fat and miserable, and then you tell yourself a bunch of garbage that does nothing but weaken you further. If you had another person in your life talk to you like this, you’d probably get a restraining order against them, but you tell yourself this dreck over and over and over.

The first thing to realize is that your thoughts are not *you*. What the hell does that mean? It means that that internal chatter in your head are almost like recordings that pop up – it’s like a radio station that is being changed from channel to channel randomly. Some people refer to them as ‘brain farts’. They are usually junk that people told you as a child that your brain recorded, and your brain ‘helpfully’ pulls them out when you’re down to make you feel even worse.

Just knowing this fact is the beginning of you taking control of your own mind. And once you can control your mind, you can effect change in your life and lose the weight – and do just about anything you put your mind to.

Here’s another way to understand this: ask yourself ‘I wonder what will be the next thought I have?’ There was a moment in time before that thought occurred – that quiet in your head – that’s who you are.

Now that you know that your thoughts are not you, you can watch your thoughts as they bubble up from the swamp of your subconscious. It can become fun, really, to watch what your brain pulls out of the depths. You’re driving along, 45-years old, and your brain replays for you (in full-color, wide-screen Dolby audio) an embarrassing episode from when you were 9-years old and you go ‘where the hell did THAT come from?’

You still have these thoughts, but you don’t consider them all that important anymore. You have to think to get through the day, of course, you’ve just awoken to the fact that much of what you think is just junk and let it pass.

How do you know it’s junk? It’s not helpful. It makes you angry or sad. It saps you of energy. It leads you to the false conclusion that things are hopeless. It’s the same thought over and over and over and over. It’s real old – an insult or embarrassment from the dead past that has nothing to do with your present life.

With your new knowledge, you can catch yourself and snap out of it quicker. This doesn’t mean that these thoughts go away – it means that you ‘bounce back’ quicker.

To apply this to losing weight, you set a goal. Then you work toward it. When you fail, you just try again. when you fail again you just try yet another time, set another goal, try another approach. When the chatter tells you you’ll never do it, you realize it’s just a brain fart and try again.

Before going on my low carb diet in 2003 I probably tried 5o times to lose weight and failed. In fact, when I started the low carb diet, my wife said: “Why bother – you’ll just make yourself sick and go off it in a week.” This was the truth – it was the pattern I had gone through for 7 years.

I tried again anyway – and I lost the weight.

There’s a story about Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II. He was asked to give a graduation speech and was scheduled to talk for an hour. As the story goes, he stepped up to the podium and gave the following speech:

“Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”

Then he stepped down. The next day reporters asked him why he did this when he was scheduled to speak for an hour. and he told them that this was all the graduates needed to know.