Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mixing It Up

Well, I started this blog in the hopes that I would feel motivated to stick to and write about my low-carb ways, but the way I've been eating lately has done anything but motivate. I guess I can describe it as sort of a hybrid diet -- one in which I've been alternating between eating really low-carb, moderate-carb, and high-carb meals and snacks. I'm feeling occasional (but not out of control) cravings, and I'm only eating until I'm full and not going overboard into that stuffed territory I know all too well. I'm finding that I'm not getting as hungry as I normally do when I allow myself to eat high-carb foods, because I'm not eagerly stuffing myself full of all of the foods I've been missing. It's probably the closest to Intuitive Eating I have come in a long time. I certainly can't say that I've been losing weight or that I feel my absolute best when I'm mixing it up like this, but I'm not gaining any weight, either, and it sure does feel nice to enjoy some of my old favorites without stressing about what I'll be able to find for my next low-carb meal.

Whether or not this will turn out to be a legitimate reason, my main justification for eating this way for right now is that on Saturday I leave for New York City, where I will be visiting my best friend for an entire week. I'm sure I could stick to a low-carb diet while I'm there if I really wanted to, but ummm, yeah. I don't want to. One of the main attractions for me in NYC is the food, so I want to allow myself to enjoy Yankee Stadium concessions, Gray's Papaya hot dogs (bun and all), desserts at Serendipity, burgers and curly fries at Cozy, and whatever other wonders the best friend wants to introduce me to.

So why should next week's planned carb-fest give me license to nibble on concentrated carbs this week? I have two reasons. One is that I am afflicted with the tragic flaw of being a bit of an "all or nothing" kind of person. I can't get excited about sticking faithfully to my low-carb eating plan when I know I'm just going to mess it all up while I'm on vacation, but I'm assuming I'll be incredibly gung-ho to get back onto it hardcore once I'm back. The other (and probably better) reason is that I've learned from experience that when I go from eating very few carbs right into eating lots of them, my body really does not like me for it. I would rather not spend my vacation feeling tired, bloated, and plagued by indigestion and gastrointestinal distress. So I'm sort of experimenting with adding carby foods little by little this week so that my body won't revolt against me on my vacation, and I'll be sure to report back on how well that worked for me.

I still have plenty of low-carb stuff to report on -- like a couple of product reviews and recipe stories -- so look for those to come soon. You can also expect to see a low-carb blogroll emerge on the right side of the screen in the next few days. There are a number of great sites I subscribe to and check daily, and I don't want to keep them all to myself.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Finding a Balance

The way I feel today is precisely why I fare better when I'm able to avoid carby foods. I had a super-indulgent lunch today of breaded chicken tenders, french fries, and non-diet Coke, and even though it was way more food than I usually feel the need to eat all at once, I feel anything but full. There was plenty of fat in my meal to fill me up, but all the sugar and starch have just left me craving more of the same stuff.

When I can stick to low-carb eating, I don't even really think about food until the next meal, but right now, all I can think about is how much I want to go down the hall and buy a candy bar and another Coke. Low-carbing really does prove to me (over and over and over) how sugar and starch really do have additctive qualities. There may be plenty of people who don't experience symptoms of addiction when they eat carby foods, but I am definitely not one of those people.

That said, I really don't regret the lunch I had today. It was delicious, I didn't overeat, and I can overcome the effects of this meal with relatively little discomfort.

As you can tell, I'm not the strictest low-carber in the world -- sort of an on for a couple of weeks, off for a couple of days, then back on eater. I feel like I'm constantly re-evaluating how strictly I want to adhere to any particular way of eating. Only a year into this, I still don't think I've struck a good balance between eating what I want to eat and eating what makes me feel the best. (And the foods that make me feel the best emotionally are usually not the foods that make me feel the best physically.)

When I read books and blogs by folks who have been doing low-carb or sugar-free eating for a long time (like four or five years or more), I'm always struck by how confident and committed they seem to their particular ways of eating. I sometimes wonder if it's because they've just been doing it long enough to have really found what works for them, or if they're just trying so hard to sell others on their "lifestyles" that they end up convincing themselves that they've got it all figured out.

I do not have it all figured out. But I think it's definitely worth it to me to keep trying.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Favorite Thing About Cookouts:


Being able to enjoy KETCHUP on my bunless burgers and hot dogs. Thank you, Heinz, for making a ketchup with only 1 carb (and no high fructose corn syrup) per tablespoon, and thank you, local Wal-Mart for carrying it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Introduction: About Me and About This Blog

I'm a Midwestern jeans and t-shirts girl in my twenties who ventured into a low-carb eating experiment in June of 2007 that has become more than an experiment. Based on the health benefits I've gotten out of this way of eating and what I've learned about the human body since starting to eat this way, I'm hoping to make low-carbing my continued way of eating.

This blog is a way to record this journey for myself, share what I've learned about low-carb eating with others, and to help keep me motivated to continue this way of eating in a world that is anything but low-carb-friendly.

Before I started the Atkins diet in 2007, I had never been on a diet in my life. I pretty much ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, which included breakfasts of ice cream or leftover pizza, 3-5 cans of non-diet Pepsi a day, and fast food "value meals" 2-3 times a week or more. Plenty of breaded and deep-fried stuff, and always in large amounts. While other people seemed to be able to sense when they were full and stop eating, I could always keep going - cleaning my plate and going back for seconds or thirds - and I'd inevitably feel really sick soon after the meal. I'd recognize that I had totally overeaten and resolve never to eat that much at once again, only to go back and do it over and over again. That sickeningly heavy full feeling (a feeling as though food is lodged throughout my body, from my stomach up through my chest) eventually became normal to me, making it hard to feel satisfied with anything less.

Although I haven't been a "skinny" girl since age six or seven, I managed to eat this way well into my twenties without gaining a significant amount of weight, hovering just above what's considered "average" for my height. It was about a year or so after I graduated college that I hit the dreaded metabolism change and began to pack on pounds like crazy. It happened so fast, I barely noticed it until I was starting to burst out of my largest clothes, and I noticed that I looked like a complete stranger when I saw pictures of myself. I was feeling more and more strain on my knees when I walked or stood for a while, and I was starting to get some pretty severe heartburn and indigestion after meals.

I had never owned a scale in my life (considering them tools of the devil) but after stepping on one at a friend's house, it finally hit me that I had gained a lot of weight in a really short time. I was faced with rapidly declining health and having to buy a whole new wardrobe, and I have to admit it was a little scary. I mentally resolved to try exercising more and giving up soda and deep-fried breaded foods to improve my health, and when my best friend announced to me that she was going to attempt the Atkins diet, I reluctantly decided I might give it a try along with her.

A year later and forty-five pounds lighter, my heartburn and indigestion are gone, my body doesn't ache like it used to, and I fit into my clothes again. I'm not going to lie and say that I have stuck to this eating plan perfectly for the entire year, and I won't try to convince anyone that eating this way is always easy. I didn't, and it's not. I'll be blogging about some of the challenges involved with low-carb eating, my experiences with deviating from the plan, and how I try to stay on track.

I have to admit that blogging about diet is sort of a fraught act for me, and my ambivalence about it will probably come through pretty often on this site. Because what and how we choose to eat is related to way more than just health and weight. The ways in which we eat are connected to our social identities, our emotional identities, our ethnic identities, our gender identities, our class identities, and even our senses self-love and self-worth. The act of dieting has the potential to be an intensely political act, and I want to be careful about what types of statements I make by choosing to follow a particular eating plan.

Honestly, even though I know I didn't exactly eat healthfully before switching to a mostly low-carb lifestyle, I'm pretty proud that I never dieted as a girl or young adult. I don't feel any shame over that at all, considering that:

1) American culture slowly and continuously poisons women to worship a thin ideal. Living in this world is like being set up with a constant IV-drip of images and ideology that encourage us to equate thinness with beauty, femininity, and value, while the slightest presence of fat on our bodies makes us worthless. Eating is supposed to be an act that sustains us and nourishes our bodies, and yet I have never met a woman (myself included) who does not have food issues with which she constantly struggles. Eating disorders are widespread and a major symptom of a society that sends the wrong messages about food and eating.

2) If I had tried dieting before learning about carbohydrate restriction, I most likely would have done it all wrong. By drastically (and unhealthily) lowering my fat and calorie intake and eating tons more carbs, probably screwing up my body's insulin responses even more than I'm sure I already did. I'm also glad I don't have memories of a childhood of disappointment, self-hate, and hungry deprivation.

3) Diet culture is gross. All of this attention the media spends on covering the OMG-scary "Obesity Epidemic" would be much better directed toward criticism of the overblown and creepy diet industry. The way our culture covers and examines health, nutrition, and weight-loss is in need of a major overhaul.

Throughout my journey into low-carb eating and learning about nutrition, it has been my goal (and it will be a goal of this blog) to NOT emphasize weight-loss in a way that puts value judgments on myself or anyone else for what we weigh or how we eat. I completely agree with the ideology of Fat Acceptance in that eating food is a morally neutral act. What you eat, how you eat, when you eat, or how much you eat is never an indication of how good you are as a person. When I discuss the benefits of low-carb eating on this blog, know that I will NEVER judge individuals for choosing to eat high-carb foods. Most of my criticism will be directed at how our world is set up for high-carb eating and works to keep people ignorant about nutrition, despite evidence of the benefits of low-carb eating. In other words, I plan to try my best to not describe sticking to my eating plan as "being good", and to not refer to eating something carby as "cheating". And feel free to call me out on it if you ever catch me doing it.

Prejudice against fat and size discrimination are very real and damaging things in this world, and this blog will in NO way participate in the judgment or shaming of fat people of any size. Period.