I've been on this forum for a year and a half, and have yet to post a success story, so here goes.
I'm putting the pictures at the end, because they don't tell you what was going on. They're not dramatic at all.
My strained relationship with food started early. From childhood, I've been a carb and sugar junkie. I grew up with poor, yet hardly abnormal, eating habits. I started struggling with depression in my early teen years, and I self-medicated it with either food or the lack thereof, in cycles. Whether it was junk food or "healthy" carb food, I was never able to moderate. Like many women, I morphed into the typical "professional" dieter - moody, isolated, obsessed
with food, never in particularly good health, and perpetually cold.
My first clue that I had a carb issue was around 1996, at age 23. I began to notice heart palpitations, and soon after that, noticed that they tended to happen after I ate carby foods. Clue number two was measurable hypoglycemia: I knew that everyone has sugar highs and crashes if they eat too much sugar, but I once had a glucometer check (courtesy of a diabetes presentation at the hospital where I worked) two hours after eating a bacon and egg sandwich, and it was 2.9 (about 50 mg/dL).
The nurse said, "wow, are you feeling okay?" I felt no crappier than I usually did. Frankly, I wasn't concerned enough about it to take any action. Life was busy and I ran on caffeine and adrenaline.
In late 2001, I found myself in very sorry shape from taking Depo-Provera. I gained over twenty pounds in only two or three months, my depression was worse than ever, and my acne worsened severely. My hands (and probably the rest of me) were markedly swollen. I had never had intestinal problems or PMS in my life, but both struck me suddenly and seriously, occurring for a full two weeks before TOM. The heart palpitations and hypoglycemic symptoms were happening constantly. To sum it up, my hormones were totally wrecked and so was my body.
I had heard of low carbing through a "Depo disaster" support group. The concept was that Depo can impair your glucose tolerance. I was skeptical, since I considered this a hormone problem, not a diet problem, but I was at my wits end and willing to try anything.
I found this forum in early 2002, and started out by eliminating "the white stuff:" obvious carb sources like flour, sugar, rice and potatoes. I started eating more protein, fat and vegetables. This alone eliminated the heart palpitations. I decided on the Protein Power plan, borrowed the book from the library, and away I went.
Within a few weeks, I felt incredible. I had more energy than I had had since I was a kid! The longer I did it, the better I felt: my moods and acne improved dramatically, and the PMS disappeared within a few cycles. My hair and skin looked healthier, and my nails now *grow*. I'm not perpetually cold anymore, and the food obsession is gone: if anything, I forget to eat sometimes.
My immune system is amazing: the only colds I've had since LCing have been breif and bearable. Colds used to knock me on my butt for at least a week - now, they last only for a few days and I still have energy.
So: that pesky Depo weight is gone. It took a few months. But as you've read, that's not the success story. Success for me has been taking control of my life for the first time, and being healthier than I've ever been while eating *incredible* food!
Maintenance, for the most part, is a breeze. I eat anywhere from 30-80 g of carbs per day. I could probably handle more, but I simply don't bother. I'm happy with the food I eat at that level. My key to maintenance success is settling into a routine with respect to my favorite foods, while still having enough variety that I'm never bored. I'll never stop learning and experimenting. I've since read several other LC books, including Atkins New Diet Revolution, Atkins for Life, and "How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet..." by Dana Carpender. I've also gone from not even knowing how to boil an egg, to being a whiz in the kitchen!
Success didn't happen on one particular day. I technically still haven't hit my ultimate goal weight, since I'm too lazy to work out and really crack the whip on myself. I've fallen off the wagon a couple of times, and had all of those hormonal symptoms come crashing back down on me. But the course of my life took a sharp turn when I started low carbing, and even though I'm sure I'll struggle sometimes, I'm still an evolving success story.
My advice for others:
- Be sure to literally remove all barriers to your success. Get the junk food out of the house and have strategies for dealing with potential temptations. Learn to say no to others.
- Prepare and plan ahead. Cook ahead of time and keep lots of snacks on hand.
- Say goodbye to the junk food, even LC junk food - don't try to recreate it. It's expensive, it's a hassle, it maintains the cravings, and it's almost universally disappointing. Instead, embrace the fact that LCing is meant to consist of whole foods wherever possible. I have the occasional Atkins bar or treat, but it's definitely not a habit.
- Get the right attitude. Have patience and a sense of appreciation for the high quality of food you're eating, and the respect you're now showing to your body. This isn't a crash diet, and there's no reason to believe that the weight is just going to slide off. Plateaus, even gains, will happen and it's normal. Get on with life in the meantime. If you're frustrated, perhaps you need to improve the quality of your food and exercise. There's no reason to dislike either of those things. If your food is great and you feel better than you have in years, it shouldn't make any difference to you whether or not the scale stalls for a while.
Here are the pictures:
Before (2001) / after (2013) / recent (2023 - I hate pictures, I just took this to show my brother the T-shirt he bought me)
Happy Belated 20th Atkinsversary to me!
(I never followed the actual Atkins plan, but that makes for a cute pun.)
I wrote this success story almost 20 years ago. That was several committed relationships, several homes in three cities, two jobs, probably 6 desktop computers, 4 cell phones, a cycle of severe depression and a stint in substantial poverty ago. If that initial Depo-Provera disaster would have turned out to be a pregnancy (as I was initially worried), that theoretical baby would be a grown adult now.
My advice from above hasn't really changed. Additional things I've learned in that time:
- Back in the day, it was frowned upon to plan-hop for the wrong reasons, as it should still be. Try something, but give it a chance to work before you decide to jump ship. You should also know yourself and the bull crap you tell yourself because something else sounds more lucrative. Don't combine the fun parts of every plan. "CAD isn't Atkins with a binge meal!" we often said. It's still true. BUT - the point of me mentioning the vastly different stages of my life is to illustrate that it's important to have different tools in your tool box, so to speak. You might have to make compromises as life throws you curve balls.
- The definition of a plan "working" means it has to work for every part of your life - not just "I can drop weight quickly/easily." Obviously, there are unhealthy ways to do that which are not a great idea. Your plan needs to check all of the boxes in terms of:
- Practicality. You might have a tiny kitchen and can barely cook. Your job, other health issues, lifestyle and family situation might restrict you from eating some kind of "ideal" diet, and you have to make compromises. This is okay.
- Effort you're willing to engage in, related to practicallity above. I happen to enjoy cooking, but not all the time. I work a seasonal job. When I'm off work, I love trying cool recipes. While I'm working, though, it's a major grind, and I cook and prepare simple food ahead of time. There's nothing wrong with either strategy or switching back and forth as you see fit, or if you simply hate cooking, sticking to the most simple foods. Guilt is strictly forbidden here.
- Finances. Similar to above. Pick something that will give you the best results without putting yourself into debt. I've had to make compromises that included OMAD because I'm fed at work, and having coffee and a banana in the morning because I had no choice but to cycle 120 km/week to and from work, and that was about all I could afford. Do your best with what you have.
- Other health issues. Weight isn't the be-all/end-all.
- Realistic expectations. Given the above restrictions, which most of us have, don't beat yourself up because some other person in a different life situation than you seems to be fit and skinny and perfectly happy. You can't control the cards you were dealt, but you can choose your reaction and do what you can to make things less bad.
If I could sum it up with one statement, it would be that compliance trumps everything.
Everything. If you hate what you eat, if it's too expensive and your bank account is tanking, if you hate making elaborate recipes but feel obligated to do it... you will fail. Make some compromises.
Another favourite rule of mine that I insist on living by: I eat like a G*dD*amn queen.
I served my sentence in starvation. I'm not convinced that I'll live any longer or better by being a perfectionist about diet; it'll just feel
A year and a bit from now, I will qualify for the TOFs (Over 50)
forum! Sheesh. I am going through menopause, and my current strategy is protein prioritization, avoiding trigger foods, keeping carbs in that same 10-80 range most days (leaving higher-carb foods for dinner time), focusing on real whole foods, homemade wherever possible/practical... but as I mentioned above, there are plenty of tools in my tool box. I do what works for me on a given day. I've learned a lot from many different LC/keto health professionals. Even if I don't adopt their exact strategies, that's a win.