Low Carb Love Affair

A few weeks ago I shared the story of my lifetime of dieting, and I promised to write about the healthy changes I’ve made.  Since this morning I visited the wellness nurse and can now report I have lost 45 lbs. since taking charge of my health at the end of March, it seems like a good time to fulfill that promise!
After years of looking askance at the claims of low-carb enthusiasts, and being absolutely sure that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, I am now a convert.  I won’t bore you with the latest science because you can google as well as I can.  Let’s just say it makes sense to me, and that the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the lack thereof.
Like I wrote before, I am a diet expert, and this is the easiest diet I have ever been on.  If you want to get healthy, and lose weight, and feel good, and never be hungry, this is the diet for you.
I had to make a couple of major changes that were very difficult for me.  The first one was giving up cereal.  I loved cereal, and I not only ate it for breakfast every morning, I also had a bowl right before bed every night.  When I first decided to make healthy changes, but before I met with the wellness nurse, I went out and bought a lot of very healthy whole grain cereals, only to find out at my first appointment that pretty much all cereal is too high in carbohydrates for it to work in a low carb diet.  I was EXTREMELY attached to that evening bowl of cereal and it was hard to get past that but I did.
The other super hard thing was coffee.  Coffee is fine on a low carb diet, but not when it’s full of sugar.  So I started by cutting the number of cups per day rather than cutting the sugar!  Slowly (one week at a time) I cut the sugar by .5 tsp until I could drink it with nothing but cream.  This was huge!
I now cook exclusively with butter, olive oil, and coconut oil.  Remember when coconut oil was bad and canola oil was good?  Well, forget that.  I don’t even use Pam (or the generic equivalent) anymore.
Giving up bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice is not hard in the sense that I crave and want those things and feel sad about them but rather in the sense that they are ubiquitous and seem almost necessary!  So I have a few substitutes:  low carb bread that you can get at Kroger for an occasional sandwich (about twice a week); low carb wraps (also from Kroger) that can be used in lieu of hot dog buns, or to make burritos; low carb sandwich thins for hamburgers or black bean burgers; and mashed cauliflower with cheese instead of mashed potatoes.  I’ve heard of some pasta and rice substitutes that I haven’t tried yet, but mostly I just have given those up for now.
Someone asked me the other day if I still go out to eat and the answer is yes, absolutely!  Eating out is easy on this diet.  At American restaurants order steak, chicken, or fish and substitute broccoli for the customary baked potato and take the complimentary bread home to your kids.  At Asian restaurants get meat and veggies and just eat a couple of bites of the rice.  If you must go to Italian restaurants, get a non-pasta entree.  At Panera Bread or the like, get salad and soup instead of the sandwich.
It can be a little daunting to remember what is low carb and what is not, but if you have an iPhone you are in luck!  Yes, Siri can count your carbs for you.  And of course before long you will more or less know, just like you know how many calories or points or fat grams are in things after awhile when you follow those kinds of diets.
On a typical day I eat two scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast.  I have hummus with vegetables, or apple slices with peanut butter, or handfuls of nuts for snacks most of the time.  And you are encouraged to have two or three snacks (and lots of water) each day, to keep your metabolism moving.  For lunch I try to go heavy on vegetables.  For supper I focus more on the meat.  I am eating all the things I have avoided my entire dieting life, and it turns out that these are the things that make you feel full and satisfied.  I AM NEVER HUNGRY.
Now that I basically know how many carbs most things have in them, I don’t really count them.  Supposedly I’m allowed to have about 40 a day, but my philosophy is just to try to avoid them as much as possible so that if I need to go over ever (this happens sometimes when we are eating out at a church function or some other place where the menu is not under my control) it will sort of even itself out.  So unlike other diets, there is nothing to count or write down (although that might be useful if you are having problems staying on track) and no meal plans to follow.  THIS IS EASY.
Will I eat this way forever?  Not exactly, but probably in a modified way.  For example, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that whole grains and beans are bad.  So when all my numbers are below where they should be, and I have lost all the weight I want to, I will likely reintroduce these items occasionally.  I do still eat small amounts of beans and brown rice even now.
Below are some examples of easy, delicious, and lower carb meals I have been enjoying.
Tuna salad made with actual mayonnaise, pickles, onions, cucumbers, celery, and tomato:
Food Tuna Salad
Tomatoes, black olives, olive oil, and brown rice:
Food brown rice olives feta
Tomato, fresh basil, and mozzarella:
food tomato basil mozzarella salad
Salad with artisan lettuce mix, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and Green Goddess dressing:
salad
Have you ever tried low carb eating?  Any other life-change success stories to share with us in the comments?

Forty Years of Yo-Yo Dieting

I’ve been promising for awhile that I would write about the way I’ve been eating lately.  I’ve already shared with you the positive effects on my health and my weight.  I haven’t sat down to write before now because it feels important to start at the beginning, and the beginning was a LONG time ago.
I went on my first diet when I was a slightly chubby four-year-old, on the orders of my pediatrician.  So I have spent a lifetime feeling fat (even though there were many periods in my life where I now believe I looked just fine), and have been off and on diets ever since.

Me at age two, before hopping on the diet treadmill
Me at age two, before hopping on the diet treadmill

What that first diet was I don’t remember, and I had plenty of treats as a child.  What I do remember is always having the sense that I wasn’t supposed to be eating them, and feeling guilty when I did.  I remember weighing in at the Diet Workshop every week, and eating things kind of like brownies made with Sweet ‘n’ Low and drinking Alba 77.  As I entered high school there was the Scarsdale Diet and then the Change-Your-Metabolism-Diet.  Some of them worked better than others, but I never lost ALL the weight.  I never weighed the magic number the weight tables told me I should.
That's me in the middle, when I was about ten, and always on a diet
That’s me in the middle, when I was about ten, and always on a diet

After gaining the Freshman 15 in college, I came home for the summer and went on the rice diet.  Only instead of the recommended two weeks I did it all summer long, along with walking several miles each day, swimming laps at the pool, and doing 150 sit-ups and crunches every night after working full-time as a Cracker Barrel waitress (a brutal job).  I went back to school weighing 142, my lowest adult weight, but still unsatisfied because the Met Life table said I should weigh 130. (The rice diet allowed me one piece of fruit for breakfast, and one piece of fruit plus either three rice cakes or a cup of plain rice for lunch and dinner.)
Fall 1986 after the rice diet--please excuse fire-damaged picture
Fall 1986 after the rice diet–please excuse fire-damaged picture

I continued dieting all through college, eating very little a lot of the time but what I now know to be all the wrong things (bagels, giant corn muffins, sandwiches, pizza).  After I graduated and got married I found another diet in an old magazine–I can’t remember what it was called but it was mostly vegetables.  I lost 30 pounds in six months (I was still far from 130 but I look good in pictures from back then!), then got pregnant and gained 70 lbs.  I used that diet again after Emily was born and lost almost all the baby weight, the only time I ever came close to doing that!
Leslie's Graduation
1989 – college graduation

Right around this time the low-fat craze started.  I read a book that said you couldn’t gain weight unless you ate fat.  If you avoided all fat, you could eat anything else you wanted and you couldn’t help but lose.  I fell for this hook, line, and sinker, and ate carbs like crazy, avoiding cheese, meat, and french fries, and gained instead of losing.  At some point I did Jenny Craig.  There were a couple of stints in Weight Watchers, one of which helped me lose 60 lbs. in time for my sister’s wedding, at which point I got pregnant for the fifth time.
When Lorelei was little I stopped dieting.  I told myself when I was ready I would join a gym and do Weight Watchers again, but that what I needed to do was live life without constantly feeling guilty about food and bad about myself.  And I do believe I needed to do that.
Me holding Lorelei in a four generations photo taken in 2006
Me holding Lorelei in a four generations photo taken in 2006

In the meantime, while not avoiding the occasional treat, I ate what I considered to be healthy:  beans and rice, whole grain bread and oatmeal and other whole grain cereals, lots of fruit and vegetables, very little meat or cheese because they were high in fat.  Of course, I had my vices:  coffee with cream and sugar, Mountain Dew Monkey Ice from Weigel’s, a shared dessert while eating out, but although I went through fast food drive-thrus with the big kids almost daily, I rarely indulged.
I didn’t weigh myself for many years, and while I did not balloon when I stopped dieting constantly, I did slowly add pounds.  And I got older.  Finally, my weight began to affect the way I felt.  A friend not much older than I had a close call.  My left leg was swollen and painful, and walking upstairs made me breathless.  I could tell my blood pressure was getting high (after a lifetime of being subnormal!), and I started to get scared.  I decided that in 2014, as soon as I had access to medical care, I would have everything checked and then start a journey to better health.
I’ve been sharing some of this journey with you in my ObamaCare posts, without including a lot of details about how I’ve changed my eating habits . . . but now this post has grown very long so I will make this a two-parter with Low-Carb Love Affair to be published in a day or two!