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.