Before You Begin A Low Carb Plan
A Peek Into My Kitchen
Other Miscellaneous Tidbits of Advice
Before You Begin
1. RTFM!!! Read the book! No matter which plan you choose, there's no substitute for reading the book. You can't just go to the Atkins website and grab the list of induction foods and rules. A list of do's and don'ts doesn't cut it. That would be like trying to write a final exam for a course you didn't take, using just a cheat sheet. Even if you pass, you didn't learn anything. You need at least a layman's understanding of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. (No, corn and peas are not vegetables.) You need to know a bit about how diet REALLY affects your blood chemistry. You need to know a bit about insulin and its role in the body. Don't worry, you don't have to be a biochemist to understand it. The books are well written for we lay folk. But you MUST do the learning. Otherwise, you'll get frustrated or worse, you could do yourself some harm. Then you'll be telling everyone how you tried that Atkins diet and it made you sick and made your hair fall out; all because you didn't read the book and do it properly. We low carbers already get more than our fair share of negative press!
By the way, it's better to buy the book than to borrow it. I refer back to my copies of Protein Power and Atkin's NDR regularly.
2. Don't tweak or make up your own version: follow the book to the letter. If there was a better, faster way, the author would have written it that way. Follow the book precisely until you're a 'seasoned veteran' and you know enough about low-carb concepts to experiment a little.
3. Get people on your side. You don't have to tell the whole world what you're
doing, but be sure to get rid of any 'roadblocks' to your success. You know yourself best. Anticipate issues that might
cause problems and try to solve the problems before they start. Clear your house of junk food. Demand co-operation from roommies, spouses, children, etc. Do NOT rely on your own willpower - it's bound to break.
I know I'm getting off topic here, but please resist the martyr-like attitude of "I need to keep junk food around for my children!" If you think they 'need' or 'deserve' it, please go back and read "My Story" again. Now imagine your child, at age 23, sitting in front of the television one night, suddenly siezed with panic when she feels like her chest is collapsing. Imagine her, barely getting her fingers to her corotid artery in time to feel half a heartbeat, then several weak flutters too close together. This is the consequence of growing up with constant junk food, folks. Don't get me wrong; I don't blame my parents. They didn't know any better. But if you DO know better, then you should pass that standard onto your kids before nearly irreversible patterns take hold. I beg you as a young adult struggling with health problems that could have been avoided: get your kids off sugar. Okay, I'll get off the soapbox now. Back to your regularly scheduled advice:
4. PLAN! 'If you fail to plan, plan to fail.' Quite true. Particularly because of the lack of convenience foods on a low-carb WOE (way of eating), you're going to have to plan ahead. Cook and prepare snacks ahead of time. Be prepared for parties and social gatherings. Gather recipes and read labels. When you shop, shop way ahead. Don't be left with nothing in the house but the kids' cereal!
Mental Adjustment - The Paradigm Shifts That Must Take Hold
These will not happen at once, but keep moving toward them on your low-carb journey.
1. This is the absolute most important change that must occur in your mind, and it applies to any type of weight loss plan; low fat, low carb, whatever. It is this: If you want to lose the weight and keep it off, you can NOT continue to eat the way you have in the past. Period. Repeat that to yourself until you accept it. If eating a certain way made you fat, then you will get fat again as soon as you go back to it. You must change your life permanantly. There is no way around this. There is no magic pill. There is no weight loss plan that will let you eat "whatever you want, and you'll still lose weight." If that were so, you wouldn't be fat, because you've *already* been eating whatever you want. Forget the idea of being in a hurry to lose the weight so that you can "get off this diet."
Now that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy a treat occasionally, or that you shouldn't enjoy your meals. Everyone can and should enjoy their food. But 'occasional' treat doesn't mean 'every day.' There has to be a permanant change of habits, and there's no going back. Now, the good news is that most people feel so good that going back isn't even an option. Low carb IS a sustainable eating plan. Low fat, in my not-so-humble opinion, is not! (Why do you think there are so many dropouts?!)
2. You have to change your definition of "normal." Everyone has a certain concept of "normal" eating. The "normal eating" of the typical Westerner has deteriorated into something very poor. You must accept that this "normal" hasn't served you well, and that from now on, "normal" is going to be something different. Accept that "normal" is about to change.
3. You have to accept that smaller portions are going to satisfy you. This is
a tough one. A high-carb, low-fat diet has serving sizes way larger than those of a low carb diet. You will be full on a small
plate of food. It's important to learn to listen to your body and not rely on your eyes to tell you if and when you're full. It can
be a strange adjustment to go from eating a whole box of Kraft Dinner to eating just a small plate of zucchini with cheese
sauce, but believe your body when it tells you that "that's enough." This is the minor "miracle" of nutrient dense foods. Don't eat more just out of habit.
Corollary: you will not be snacking mindlessly all day anymore. If you have emotional eating issues, you are going to have to deal with them. You are going to have to find a better way to deal with being sad, bored, lonely or angry. Now don't think for a minute that I'm suggesting that it's easy. I've been there; I know what a big step it is. But it CAN be done, and once you've acquired those emotional tools, you have them forever. You can do it!!
4. You must learn to give up your reliance on convenience foods. If you try to low-carb with protein bars from 7-11, it is NOT going to work. You must eat real food. Thanks to a food industry that can't resist adding flour and sugar to practically everything, this means you'll have to prepare food yourself. You probably think you're too busy to cook, but you aren't. Trust me. You'll learn to maximize your kitchen time. I usually cook several things at once, cook extra portions for leftovers, and keep snacks on hand ahead of time.
5. Don't be in a hurry. I know Dr Atkins promises big time weight loss on induction, but don't be fooled - this is not a miracle crash diet. How much weight you lose initially depends on how bad your diet is now, your metabolism, your age, how much weight you have to lose, medications you might be on... there are too many factors to list.
Being in a hurry to lose the weight means you consider this to be a temporary thing, and I already mentioned that that's not a good thing. Are you anticipating the time where you reach your goal and then "go off this diet?" That ain't good. This needs to be a permanant change. Remember, too, that if you've already "yo-yo dieted your metabolism to sh*t" (to paraphrase a fellow forum member), you've got a strike or two against you and you'll need to be patient.
Take it slow and steady. If the weight peels off quickly, great - if it doesn't, relax and just stick with the program. You didn't gain the weight in a matter of weeks, and it isn't going to come off that quickly, either; especially if you only have 10-20 lbs to lose. Patience is an absolute must. Isn't it more important for this be *pleasant* than fast? Don't you have a life, in the meantime?
Don't weigh yourself more than once a week. Even that is excessive. Daily and even weekly fluctuations are normal, and will drive you nuts if you obsess over them.
6. Have realistic expectations! Better yet, have NO expectations, except to feel better. Your metabolism functions on its own schedule, and you're only setting yourself up for disappointment by demanding x amount of weight loss in x amount of time. And forget using low-carbing to starve your way from "normal" to "size zero Barbie doll." Sorry, it won't happen. You need an eating disorder to accomplish that, and low-carbing, with its adequate protein and calorie levels, spares your muscles and your sanity.
7. Relax and enjoy life. Don't put off your happiness until someday when you're thin. What if you die tomorrow? Get out there and have fun no matter what size you are now. If you're putting things off until you're thin, you're going to end up frustrated, unhappy and more likely to give up. There is NOTHING that you'll deserve as a thin person that you don't already deserve now. Enjoy the process, and you'll be much more likely to stick with it.
Fear not thy kitchen. ;-) If I can learn to cook, anyone can! When I started out, I didn't even know how to boil eggs!
Multi-task. If you're cooking anyway, cook extra portions for leftovers or even to freeze. If you're already in the kitchen, put on a pot of hard boiled eggs or prepare something for the next meal.
Buy ready-to-go products to save yourself time. I buy already-washed bagged salad, sometimes celery sticks, and deli meats for when I'm in a hurry.
Save time by cutting and slicing whole packages of cheese, meat, and veggies. If you're going to have one piece, you may as well slice it all up. I slice cheese into one-ounce pieces, give or take a tad. Ditto with vegetables: cut them up ahead of time where possible. I keep baggies of chopped onions and green peppers in the freezer. I use a lot of sandwich baggies and tupperware!
For non-perishables, shop way ahead of what you think you'll use, and replace them as you go along. It'll be important to you to have plenty of selection.
Think 'outside the box' when it comes to meals: there's no reason why you can't have chicken for breakfast, if that's what you want, or eggs for dinner. If it tastes good and you enjoy it, don't worry about how strange it sounds! If you like eating peanut butter right out of the jar, go for it. If you like cheese dipped in mayonnaise, knock yourself out.
Don't let yourself get bored. Keep searching online for new ideas, and keep trying new foods and new recipes. Keep your copy of your low carb book handy, too!
Budget TipsIt really surprises me when people complain about how expensive low carbing is. Yes, pasta and potatoes are dirt cheap, but so are roach-infested apartments and broken down Yugos. "Cheap" isn't better! Have you seen the price of the statin drugs, diabetes medications and other medical care you'll need from eating those foods?
A Peek Into My Kitchen
In the fridge: bagged salad, mushrooms, green pepper, celery, berries, cream, butter, homemade chicken broth, coffee (whole beans), meat, natural peanut butter, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, dry grated parmesan cheese, diet soda, the Brita pitcher (water), two dozen eggs (from the farmers market, usually), mustard, Tabasco sauce, salad dressing, beer :-) (Okay, it's not low carb, but I'm a homebrewer! )
...there's Heinz ketchup in there, too. Don't tell anyone. ;-) It's one of my few carby indulgences.
Also in the fridge: other veggies depending on price and season - green beans, wax beans, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, zucchini. Other cheeses such as Swiss or Colby. Heavy whipping cream once in a while. Deli meats. Sugar-free Jell-o when I'm not too lazy to make it.
In the freezer: meat, frozen broccoli and cauliflower, frozen berries, baggies of frozen chopped onion and green pepper for when I'm in a hurry
In the cupboard: cans of: tuna, salmon, tomatoes, tomato paste, mushrooms (I like mushrooms :-) , Del Monte italian style zucchini, beans, green peas, chicken broth. Also in my cupboard is TVP - textured vegetable protein. Good replacement for ground meat when desperate. It's cheap and keeps practically forever.
Also in and around the kitchen: onions, fresh tomatoes, many spices, olive oil, pork rinds, Splenda, sugar-free Jell-o, LC chocolate protein shake mix, tea bags (herbal and decaffeinated green tea), Crystal Light, dishwasher detergent and Jet Dry! :-) I go through a lot of dishes!
Other Miscellaneous Tidbits of Advice
fitday.com is a really useful tool to help you keep track of your food intake. It can be tedious on a slower machine, but you don't have to use it forever. It'll get you off on the right foot.
Find a support forum and use it. There are many out there now!
Keep learning. Read other books, check out other websites, learn new recipes. Read about and discuss low carbing in the media.
Be active. I hate the word 'exercise', but do SOMETHING. Walking, yoga, bowling, home calisthenics, tai chi, stretching, whatever you *enjoy*. It's good for your body AND your mind.
Don't give up! Your health is worth it!