Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Low-Carb Success Story in Progress

I've lost 40 pounds since May of last year on a low-carb diet. I don't want to post dramatic before and after photos of myself where I look sad and sloppy in the "before" photo and upbeat and put-together in the "after" photo, because I don't consider my current body an "after" yet and because 40 pounds in seven months isn't some amazing feat. But I did want to talk about how I'm doing it, both for anyone who might read this and for myself in the future.

1) I've found recipes I love and don't mind making often. When I would low-carb in the past, I was living in a tiny New York City studio with zero counter space, no oven, and no freezer. The things I cooked for myself were usually compromises–whatever I could make on a stovetop with as few ingredients as possible–and that's if I even cooked for myself at all. Once I moved into a larger apartment, I began to find easy recipes that really worked for me, things I truly loved eating and that made me feel like I was lucky to be on a low-carb diet, if you want to call it a diet at all. I plan to talk about those recipes in separate posts, but my low-carb Pinterest board is a great place to start if you want to get some ideas.

2) I don't deny myself the things I crave. Right now, I'm at the end of a two-week period in which I've told myself I'm not going to have any cheat meals at all. I've lost about eight pounds in those two weeks. The other night before bed, I tried to think to myself what I might want for a carby cheat meal once the two weeks are up, and I genuinely couldn't think of anything I was craving. I wondered why, when the mere thought of pizza or ice cream has set my heart a-flutter in the past, and I realized it's because I've been eating everything I want to. I've made skillet pizzas when I've wanted pizza, I've made buffalo chicken dip when I've wanted buffalo chicken fingers, I've made so much ice cream in my ice cream maker. Seriously, that thing has changed my life. Ice cream is one of my biggest cravings and probably my favourite food. I can do without a lot of things, but I can't do without ice cream. So now I keep a quart of the homemade, low-carb variety around at all times and find that a small scoop satisfies me like I never would've believed. When I go out to eat now, I usually don't even care about dessert, because I know my favourite thing's already waiting for me at home.

3) I rarely eat more than one carby meal in a day. I've found that I can at least maintain my weight if I stick to eating empty carbs only once per day. So if I know I'm going to want to go on a late-night cookie binge while I'm visiting my family for Christmas, I try to eat low-carb throughout the day. I was in Ohio for a week for Christmas this year and had a couple of days where I had to eat multiple carby meals in one day because other people were feeding me, and I still managed to only gain one pound because I was eating low-carb as often as possible. The idea that I could eat one carby meal every day if I wanted to once I get down to a weight I'm comfortable with is so comforting to me.

4) I go to the gym, sporadically. Even though I know I'll feel relaxed and proud of myself once I get back to the apartment, I dread going to the gym, so it takes a bit of motivation to get me there. Some weeks, I'll go three times and use the elliptical or walk on the treadmill for 30 or 45 minutes. Other weeks, I won't go at all. I don't guilt myself for not going, but I do feel pretty awesome when I do. Walking up stairs later and noticing that it's easier feels like a real reward.

5) I weigh myself. I know there are a lot of reasons not to weigh yourself when you're dieting. I'll admit that it's a real downer for me when I expect I've lost weight and find that the scale tells me I weigh the same thing I did three days ago. But it's also a great way for me to make sure I'm on the right track with the things I'm eating. During this two-week period of eating no cheat meals, I'd lost two pounds when I weighed myself one day, but when I weighed myself three days later, I was the same weight. I'd had low-carb peanut butter fudge made with no-sugar-added peanut butter, and I'd had a cup of coffee with half & half because I was out of heavy cream, and those were the only new things I'd introduced into my diet, so I figured it had to be one of those. I made sure not to drink any half & half the next day and had lost another half-pound when I weighed myself again. Had I not been weighing myself, I wouldn't have known that I could be doing something to mess up my weightloss. Eventually, losing weight won't be the point, and I won't need to keep a close eye on the scale. But for right now, when I'm trying so hard to get back to a weight I'm comfortable with, it's dumb to sabotage what's giving me motivation with something like half & half.

6) I've realized that low-carbing is actually pretty awesome. I know it's not for everyone, and I don't fault anyone for wanting to go a more traditional route like a low-calorie diet. But when I'm eating a scoop of the dreamiest ice cream made with heavy cream, or when I'm chowing down on a cheese and meat plate at a restaurant, or when I'm eating Brussels sprouts with extra bacon and extra sausage, I'm so happy that I've found a diet that lets me eat the richest, most satisfying foods.

Obviously I could've lost more weight by now had I done things differently. Had I not eaten so much ice cream, not eaten as many cheat meals when I was out with friends, gone to the gym more often, I would've lost more than the five pounds per month I averaged. On the other hand, I'm not sure I would've been so happy, and I'm not sure I would've been able to stick to it so easily.

How's low-carbing going for you?