New Year’s Resolutions and Low Carb Dieting

by karlb on January 1, 2008

My post about sweeteners and low carb baking is coming later this week. But to celebrate New Year’s Day 2008, I’d like to offer a few words of support for low carb newbies who have made dieting one of their New Year’s resolutions.

First, let me share a bit about myself and my low carb experience. I started my low carb diet in June 1998. I followed the plan from the book Protein Power, by Drs. Micheal R. and Mary Dan Eades. At that time I was commuting about 2 hours to work in New Jersey and listened to Howard Stern to stay awake. Stern’s co-host Robin Quivers was on the Protein Power diet and talked about the weight she was losing.

Not that I’m a big fan of Stern, but hearing about Robin’s progress every day made me curious about the diet. So I picked up the book on my way home from work one afternoon at the end of April.

I also started exercising at this time, following Bill Phillips’ Body for Life book. I only used the excercise program, not the diet recommendations.

As for Protein Power, buying the book was about all I did. It sat at home for two weeks, untouched, until my wife Kris picked it up and began reading it. She would read passages of the book to me at mealtime, impressed by the science behind their program.

I thought the program sounded reasonable, but I was now several weeks into the Body for Life exercise program and feeling good. I had already lost about 5 pounds and had more energy. So, I was growing a little resistant to trying Protein Power for my diet. Hey, the exercise was working; why mess with a new diet?

Well, Kris had other ideas. At the end of May she told me that she wanted to start the Protein Power diet. And, since I did all the cooking, I needed to go on the diet with her.

To remove temptation, Kris cleaned out the cupboards. All forbidden foods were gathered into shopping bags and given to family and neighbors. Gone was the candy, pasta, rice, cake mix, pancake mix and syrup, even our flour and sugar. Our fridge and freezer were laid nearly bare–no bread, milk, ice cream, even high-sugar fruits. Kris was serious!

We stocked up on meats, approved vegetables (green veggies like broccoli, spinach, etc.) and sugar-free protein shake mix.

We then entered phase one of the diet (also called “induction” by Atkins).

I continued my Body for Life exercise program, but noticed that my energy and performance were declining each day. Kris also reported flagging energy. By the end of our second week of Protein Power, Kris had crashed, spending most of day 13 lounging in bed because she was too fatigued to get up. We knew the energy loss was considered normal for phase one, and might last up to 21 days. The next day she felt energized, like a switch had been flipped.

For me, I was getting frustrated. My daily exercise was getting harder, not easier. I had no energy. Two weeks had passed and I was not seeing the promised energy boost that signaled my body’s transition from a carb-based to a protein-based metabolism.

I remember the moment when I seriously considered giving up the low carb diet.

Kris and I were at a business function, browsing the buffet. Kris had already hit her low energy point from phase one and was feeling much better. I was still in decline.

As we browsed the buffet, I was angry at the poor selection of low-carb foods. The only items we could eat were raw broccoli, cauliflower, green pepper strips, lunchmeat, and sliced cheese. The hot dish was baked ziti, one of my former favorites, now untouchable.

I told Kris that the diet wasn’t working for me. I was happy with the way my Body for Life exercise had been going; that maybe low carb wasn’t for me. Kris reminded me that it took three weeks for some people to adjust, and to please hold out another 5 days (to day 21).

Reluctantly, I gave in.

Sure enough, on day 21, I crashed. Then I began gaining energy. My exercise routine grew easier and the pounds really began falling off me.

Over the next 3 months I shed 40 pounds, going from 238 to 198. Eventually, I hit my target weight of 175. Kris went from 225 to 141.

How did we stay faithful to our diet? Here’s the key for us–and my recommendation if you are considering a diet (especially low carb):

Make your diet your religion until you grow into your new eating lifestyle.

That means no exceptions to your diet while in your first 6 months (Kris and I stayed “faithful” to low carb for a full year). Be proud that you are dieting and don’t be afraid to congratulate yourself when you successfully avoid temptation.

Also, if you can diet with a spouse, friend, or family member, do it! Mutual support can make all the difference in sticking to your diet.

And always keep in mind the reasons why you are dieting. No one diets because it’s fun. You need to constantly remind yourself of the benefits of successful dieting:

  • You’re more attractive to other people
  • You have more energy
  • You have fewer health problems (heartburn often disappears when you lose weight)
  • You develop more confidence. Losing weight is a major accomplishment. Feel proud!
  • You may sleep better (snoring may diminish and you will breathe easier while sleeping)
  • You might avoid the onset of Type II diabetes or reduce it’s severity

Those are just a few benefits that Kris and I experienced. And they were more than enough to keep us low carb.

If you are considering a new diet (whether low carb or not), take the time to write down all the positive changes a diet will bring to your life and the lives of those people close to you. When you start your diet, look at that list every morning and especially when you are tempted to stray.

For those of you thinking about starting a low carb diet–I say plunge right in! You have far more low carb food choices today, and research on low glycemic foods has broadened the range of foods that can be eaten on a low carb diet.

Do your homework and become a student of low carb and low glycemic eating. I still feel that Protein Power is a great diet and recommend that you read the book before attempting a low carb diet. The Drs. Eades have been recommending a low carb diet to patients in their practice for more than 20 years. They have the experience of seeing the short and long term benefits of low carbing.

Of course, since I need to cover by butt legally, always consult with your family physician before embarking on any diet or exercise regimen.

Have a happy and healthy New Year!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob L March 23, 2008 at 1:04 am

When you’re trying to lose body fat you can’t really go “on” a diet – you need to change your eating habits. If you follow a diet of 5 or 6 daily meals with small food portion sizes you’ll be more likely to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.

karlb March 23, 2008 at 2:34 am

That’s one advantage of a low carb diet. When you have a metabolism that’s conditioned to burn protein, not carbs, you tend to maintain more even energy levels.

Arthur January 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Thank you for the insight. My wife and I tried the Atkins diet but felt like we burned out really fast. Also, I felt like I allowed myself to eat too much high fat foods to compensate for the high carb foods that are restricted. We have now shifted to a similar diet, but something between Atkins and South Beach. Basically, we are trying to follow the restrictions on high carb foods but at the same time focus on low fat and low calorie foods as well. On the diet since Thanksgiving, and so far so good. I am always looking for new reading material as we shape the diet to what works best for us, so thanks for the blog entry and book suggestion.

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