How I Ate Potatoes, Bread, Chocolate, and Drank Wine and STILL Lost 22 lbs on a “Modified” Low Carb Diet!
I’ve never been “fat”. I’ve never been “skinny”. I’ve just always been the type that “if I could only lose 15-20 pounds”, I’d look and feel so much better about myself. Oh sure, I’ve dropped 5 lbs here, or 10 lbs there, only to put it back on within 6 months. I’ve tried this diet, that diet, this “new fad” and all kinds of exercise programs, including yoga, Tae Bo, rebounding and interval training. And while most of these efforts made me “feel better”, even if only temporary, none of them were able to help me lose that nagging “excess baggage” that clung to me like a tick on a dog’s back, and keep it off, UNTIL.....
But wait, before I give away my "great weight loss secret", lets talk a little. Lets talk about WHAT brought me to the point where I finally decided to get SERIOUS and FINALLY get rid of that 15+lb “ball and chain” that had “weighed” me down (no pun intended) for so many years!
Self-pity can be a destructive force or a great motivator. In my case, it was just the motivation I needed to do something about losing weight. I won’t go into the details because they are quite personal, but suffice it to say that I reached a “breaking point” where I felt like I was losing control over certain areas of my life, and needed to “be in control” of something!
As I passed by a mirror in my bedroom, and caught a glimpse of my “frumpy figure”, I knew at that point, losing that unsightly fat was something I COULD CONTROL, and help me feel better about myself. Now, at this point, I guess you’re thinking I was feeling “out of control” over certain issues in my life; and you’d be right. But I realize that inwardly, I was really looking for something not only that I could control, but that would give me more self confidence, and make me feel better about myself. Since I had always struggled with a “poor body image”,I knew that if I could take control of my weight, and finally lose those few extra pounds, not only would I LOOK better, I would FEEL better, both physically and emotionally. So right then and there, I stopped in front of the mirror, took a good long, hard look and said, “TODAY, I will take control and find a way to once-and-for-all, lose this weight.” This is something I could do FOR myself, and something that NO ONE ELSE could have control over but ME!
Now, as I said, I’ve been through the whole gamut of weight loss diets, plans, gimmicks and pills. What could I do DIFFERENTLY this time that I hadn’t already tried?
Thinking back to some of my previous weight loss attempts, I remembered a program I went on a few years back where I lost 12 lbs in about 30 days. My husband was taking me a on a romantic cruise and I just HAD to drop some weight before we left! It was a low-sugar, “diabetic-type” diet, consisting of low and no-sugar foods. For a month, I lived on lean meats and green veggies, sugar free bread, low sugar desserts, and diet soda or tea. Much to my delight, I did drop about 12 pounds in 30 days.... but, GAINED IT ALL BACK, within the next 60! Of course, a lot of that gain was from the cruise itself, and then when we got back, I just fell back into my old eating habits again. Its funny, you know, when we lose a little weight, we also lose a little common sense! What makes us think we can go back to eating what we used to eat and not gain back the weight we lost? Why do we THINK such crazy things? Don’t try to tell me YOU haven’t thought the SAME THING! We think because we’ve lost some weight, that our body now “knows how to metabolize food” and will automatically use it for energy instead of it turning to fat. I guess its just wishful thinking, but oh, how WRONG we are!
So, anyway, as I was rethinking this previous “somewhat failed” diet attempt, it got me to thinking about the low carb/Atkins diet, similar to the low sugar diet. In fact, that’s one reason I had decided to go low sugar, instead of low carb. I had tried the Atkins/low carb plan once, but got extremely weak tired and developed terrible headaches and mood swings. I think I do remember losing 5 or so pounds, but I was so “out-of-it” from lack of carbs that I couldn’t stay on it. I had vowed NEVER to go on a low carb diet again, and even went so far as to “bad mouth” it to my family and friends. And after doing much Internet research on it, and learning all the horror stories about people who had actually DIED from being on low carb diets, I REALLY became an opponent. BUT, I also read those stories from people who HAD lost weight (and kept it off) while on Atkins, and read other articles about the “health benefits” of a low carb diet, and knew that there must be a way to get the benefits of a low carb diet, without the all risks and ill side-effects.
Now, before I go on, let me give you some additional pertinent information. I owned and operated a ladies work out gym for about 2 yrs. (It was during this time that I lost the 12 pounds on the low sugar diet.) My gym offered interval training, and a lot of my members experienced successful weight loss while on the program. I, myself, was able to “firm up” and develop good muscle tone, but for some reason, the more I exercised, the MORE I ATE. I know why. Its one of those devious, little “tiny voices,” that says, “Go ahead, you can have that hot fudge sundae – you’re working out!” And if I had been working out 2-3 hours a day, lifting 100 lb weights and running 2 mile laps, it wouldn’t have mattered – I WOULD have been able to eat ANYTHING I WANTED and lose weight. Lesson learned? - 30 minutes of “moderate” exercise does NOT make up for a 500-calorie hot fudge sundae! So, although I didn’t GAIN a lot of weight, I didn’t LOSE any, either. In fact, I became so stressed with running the business, I quit working out altogether and put on about 8 lbs before I finally closed my gym. However, I did have one member who had been on the Atkins plan for a couple of years, and had been able to maintain her weight loss. I was intrigued at that point, but didn’t really think much about it til I started reconsidering going back on it myself.
What about the “modified” low carb diet, you’re asking?? Oh, okay, back to that. So, I kept thinking about how I lost weight on the low sugar diet, but how it didn’t control my appetite all that well, and how the low carb diet, because it was mostly protein based, controlled my appetite, but had all those health risks. And since I’m from the South – home of rich foods such as homemade banana pudding, chicken and pastry, and triple fudge brownies, I knew I needed a program that would be able to control my cravings for all those heavy, carb-laden Southern dishes, but still be healthy and allow me to include some of the more restricted foods not allowed on the Atkins plan. In short, I needed a less –restrictive low carb plan that didn’t dictate at which point I was “allowed” to eat certain higher carb foods.
You see the original Atkins diet consists of “phases” to transition you from a virtually “no-carb” lifestyle to a moderate “low-carb” lifestyle, which may work for some people, but not others. I just happened to be one of the “others” who couldn’t tolerate the phases – heck; I couldn’t even GET past the first phase!
That’s where my “modified” low carb plan comes in!
Okay, so here comes the secret you’ve been “weight-ing” for! Lol! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one! :) I learned how to “modify” the original low carb diet plan by substituting healthier alternatives and including some of my favorite foods (such as chocolate!), and still be able to lose weight!
DISCLAIMER: Before I continue, just let me add a little disclaimer: There is no “one diet plan fits all”, anymore than there is a “one size fits all”. This plan worked for me because I LEARNED how to make better choices without giving up some of the foods I loved. It is only to be used as a “guide” to help others see how they can “modify” it to their own personal tastes, while getting the same weight loss benefits.
Now, with that out of the way, here's the basics of my modified low carb diet plan:
For every high carb food, there is usually a suitable, just as tasty, low carb substitute. Now I didn’t say it was going to taste EXACTLY the same, but a lot of low carbing is training your taste buds to like lower carb, healthier alternatives! So, I dug up some old articles on the Atkins/low carb-eating plan and decided I would try it one more time, with a few “modifications”, or substitutions.(Now, at this point, if you’re not familiar with the low carb-eating plan at all, I would suggest you read up on it FIRST, before you try my plan. It will then make a lot more sense!)
Basically, with low carb, you’re regulating the “spikes” in your blood sugar by reducing or eliminating the “bad carbs “ in foods, such as starches, processed sugar and artificial sweeteners. See, bad carbs cause spikes in your insulin level, which sets off a vicious cycle of high carb cravings. By reducing your intake of bad carbs, you moderate your insulin levels, which in turn reduces your appetite and carb cravings. This causes your body to burn stored fat for energy, since it doesn’t have any carbs to burn. That’s the short version. As I said, it would help if you research the whole carb-insulin level connection, so you’ll understand WHY its better to have 3 pieces of bacon for breakfast instead of 3 donuts!
So, I started the VERY NEXT DAY with a high protein breakfast of an egg and cheese wrap in a low carb, whole-wheat pita shell. I had already done my low-carb diet homework, and mentally prepared myself to think “low carb” all day long. I made a list of the low-carb “allowed” foods, which included nuts, low fat cheeses, dark veggies, lean meats and whole-wheat grains and breads. I went to the grocery store and stocked up on bacon, chicken, turkey, ground beef, almonds, low carb pita shells, sharp cheddar cheese and frozen veggies such as green beans, asparagus and spinach. Using these and other common food items, I was able to design my own modified low carb-eating plan.
Listed below are a few of the modifications I made to the eliminate the “phases” of the original low carb diet:
Modification #1 -Eat Sweet Potatoes!
Now, in the initial phases of the Atkins diet, most veggies are prohibited – especially potatoes. What? NO POTATOES??? Are you crazy? Did you forget I’m from the South – we LIVE on potatoes – potato salad, French fries, mashed potatoes and gravy and the “Grand-Poobah” potato of them all – the revered and all-holy “SWEET TATER”!!!! Give up potatoes – NEVER!
Aha, but wait, what’s that I see? A glycemic index? – the “bible” of low-carbers everywhere! The glycemic index of foods is the ranking of foods by how they affect your blood glucose levels. The lower the glycemic level, the less the rise in your blood sugar levels. The higher the glycemic level, the better tasting the food! Ha! Ha! (Nah, I’m just kidding – seriously, lower glycemic level foods are naturally low in carbs, but they can also be tasty!) Anyway, according to our trusty low carb “bible”, the sweet potato actually has a very low glycemic index rating, because it is digested so slowly, causing only a gradual rise in our blood sugar levels! Saved! Bring on the sweet potatoes, and sweet potato casserole and sweet potato pie (made with Splenda, of course!), and fried sweet potatoes and sweet potatoes au gratin...etc! Long live the sweet potato!
Modification # 3 - Low Carb Pita Shells – the new “Bread”
Bread and pasta is a BIG “NO ,NO” on most low carb plans. NO BREAD? Forget that! I grew up in a family where bread was served at every meal! For instance, at breakfast, we’d have French toast, with a side order of toast and jelly! And just let my moma forget the biscuits with the evening meal and my daddy was grumpy for 3 days afterwards! Yes sirr-ee, got to have bread! But, according to our “glycemic bible”, isn’t bread high in carbs, and thus, won’t we be committing sin against one of the “low carb commandments” if we eat bread?? Well, remember this modified version of low carb is all about healthy substitutions without losing too much taste. So, what do you substitute for that soft, tasty “Wonder Bread fresh” slice of bread?
Try whole wheat, low carb pita shells! (Now make sure you get the low carb kind – not the kind they use in the Mexican restaurants!)
Its not going to be the same as “real bread”, but you can slice it in half (I use a pizza cutter to do this) and toast it, or just use it straight from the package to make any kind of “sandwich” or wrap you want! I also slice them in quarters, spray with Pam and sprinkle on Splenda & cinnamon, and bake for about 15 minutes! Wow, they’re just like the cinnamon crispers from Taco Bell!
And while we’re on the subject of bread, I will sometimes allow myself 1-2 slices of sugar free whole wheat bread a day, for times when a pita shell just won’t cut it! Consider bread a luxury and save it for special times, such as a warm, yeasty slice of Italian bread at your favorite Italian restaurant! (Yes – you CAN eat pasta on my plan – more about that, later!)
Modification #4 – Get Fruity!
Most fruits are pretty much no-no’s on the low carb plan. But fruit is supposed to be healthy, right? That’s what I thought, too! Remember all that bread I ate as a kid? Well guess what was sandwiched between it? You got it - bananas! It’s a wonder my brothers and I didn’t swing from the trees, as many bananas as we ate. (Well, I’m pretty sure THEY did, but not me! :P)
Well, here is where your glycemic bible will really come in handy! Just shoot for the fruits with a glycemic index of 55 and under! Some of these include cherries, oranges, peaches, pears, strawberries and yes, even the banana, as long as it’s not overripe or too big. And just remember, a little fruit can go a long way – throw a few in your salad, in a smoothie, or as a side with your low carb breakfast pita! Most fruits are high in fiber, as well, which will add to your RDA of this valuable nutrient! Worth mentioning here – fiber is an essential part of ANY low carb plan, because most low carb diets focus on high-protein foods, which can be constipating. Yes, I know, it's a delicate subject, but I’d rather eat a large banana with a few extra “good carbs”, than have to take 2 Ex-Lax and be on a first name basis with “John” all day!
Modification #5 – EAT BEANS!!!!
Beans, beans, good for your heart; the more you eat, the more you.... wish you hadn’t! Okay, so we all know how THAT one really goes!
For a long time, I thought I couldn’t eat beans -even on my modified low carb plan. I mean, just look at the label on a can of pinto beans – a whopping 42 gms! Whew! That’s more carbs than Atkins allows in TWO DAYS! What about good ole Southern chili & beans on a cold winter day? Or what about that 3-bean salad Aunt Martha makes that is so good? Give up beans? Never! Besides, beans make the best farts, right? (That’s for the men reading this – and us Southern G.R.I.T.S. who can out-fart them!) Most beans have a high dietary fiber content, which when deducted from the total carbs, gives you a very respectable net carb, leaving them a very “carb friendly” food!
(To figure net carbs, subtract fiber from the total carbs!) And again, try to eat those beans that are under 55gms of carbs, and you should be fine. And because beans are so fiber-rich, you’ll feel fuller longer and your blood sugar will stay stabilized for hours! As for the “side effects” of beans, well, may the best “old fart” win!
Modification #6 – Please Pass the Pasta!
I’m not Italian, but I think I must have been in a former life. That’s because I LOVE PASTA!!! Pizza, linguine, macaroni, and ziti – it doesn’t matter – I LOVE PASTA!! My husband and I frequent the Olive Garden at least twice a month, and you better believe I eat pasta! But pasta is the “5-letter- four letter” word in most low carb eating plans – except MINE!!! Yes, you CAN eat pasta and still lose weight!! Italians will tell you, its not about the noodle, its about the sauce! So why waste precious carbs on white, starchy noodles, when you can eat the whole wheat noodle and savor the tangy Italian sauces that make it so good!? When we go out to eat pasta, I always order whole-wheat linguine as my base pasta, and then a tomato-based sauce of mostly Italian seasoned veggies. Whole-wheat pasta will compliment most any sauce, and you’ll also be getting not only the low glycemic benefit of whole wheat, but the fiber benefit as well! To make your own low carb pizza, take a whole-wheat pita shell, layer with low-sugar tomato sauce, and your favorite pizza toppings, and then bake for about 20 minutes! The crust will be thin and crispy and you won’t fill up on all that thick, bready high-carb crust!
Modification #7 – Go NUTS!!!
Snacking is an all-American past time, but unfortunately, most snack foods are high in sugar, carbs, and loads of artificial “gunk”. And, eating all those “empty calories” (and carbs!) can really send your blood sugar levels into a tailspin! A 3 Musketeers might be the “perfect” mid-afternoon pick-me-up, but believe me, you’ll fall back down around 5:00! But snacks aren’t off-limits in my modified low carb plan!
I remember as a kid, at Christmas, we’d get a big shoebox full of assorted nuts and fruit. I’m glad “Santa” did that, because I grew up crunching on almonds, pecans, peanuts and brazil nuts! You can enjoy those same great crunchy snacks on my modified low carb plan! And for an extra zest – drizzle melted butter over a pan of pecans, sprinkle lightly with Splenda and cinnamon and bake for about 15 minutes. You’ll forget all about those dull, bland potato chips, and gorge on a healthier, FIBER-laden, low carb snack! And now with all the “designer nuts” they have out now (sea salted, cinnamon flavored, honey roasted), you can keep nuts in your purse, the car and your desk for an instant pick-me-upper snack that won’t let you down at 5:00!
Modification #8 – Eat a Little Dark Chocolate
"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." - Charles M. Schulz