The Low Carb Years
Quick recap: In 2004, my doctor told me to Lose 100 pounds. To do that, he strongly suggested a very low-carb diet and gave me a pamphlet detailing which foods to eat and which ones to avoid. I immediately began eating meats, eggs, low-carb vegetables, nuts, and cheeses, while avoiding breads, cereals, sweets, fruits, potatoes, and, basically, anything else that I had previously considered even slightly tasty.
I had been a total sugar and carb addict my whole life, which meant that I had to endure incredibly tough withdrawal symptoms.
From the time of that first completely traumatizing doctor’s visit, I was a dead-serious low-carber. My diet mostly consisted of rotisserie chicken, egg whites, crouton-less salads, bun-less chicken sandwiches, hot dog weenies, turkey bacon, and green beans. And truckloads of anything with the words “Sugar Free” on it. (My favorite was yellow and orange sugar-free Jello, and I often ate several boxes per day. Yes, several BOXES. I assume that my intestines are still slightly tie-dyed.)
And after one year on a very strict low-carb diet, I lost about 80 pounds. EIGHTY POUNDS. Have you ever bought a really large bag of dog food and struggled to get it into your shopping cart? Well, that’s about 40 pounds. Now imagine that you’ve spent your whole adult life carrying around two of those suckers, and you finally get to set them down. I was giddy! Without all that extra weight, I felt energized and on top of the world!
Not only did I lose weight and gain energy, but I also felt less anxiety without carbs in my diet. I was less emotional and felt far more calm. Like Bob Ross painting trees on PBS calm, actually. I was no longer self-conscious about my size, and I was able to enjoy being around people without the social anxiety that had always plagued me. Also, I no longer had the urge to punch camera-wielding people square in the jaw. It was a win for everyone!
Turning into a Gym Rat
I was thrilled with my progress, but honestly, I wanted to lose even more. Sugar is addictive, but as it turns out, so is weight loss. I found myself incredibly caught up in the idea that thinner was better. I had become obsessed with losing more and more weight, and I based my day’s mood on the number that I saw on the scale each morning. That was my private and shallow definition of a good day: to be smaller than I was the day before.
When my low-carb diet wasn’t getting me thin enough, fast enough, I became a workout FIEND. I was a beast. A gym rat. I took step classes, started running, did yoga, killed it on the elliptical, and…smelled like a sweaty sock. Seven days a week. For four years straight. I ate a low-carb diet and worked my rear off, and that was my life.
During that time, I even became certified to teach group fitness classes and was teaching several kickboxing, yoga, and cardio classes per week. I mean, why pay to workout when you could be getting paid, right?)
And, AHHHhh, it was working!! I was definitely losing more weight. In my first five years on a very low-carb diet, I went from 262 pounds to 140 pounds. (That’s a loss of 122 pounds for the mathematically challenged.)
I was thin for the first time in my life! It was amazing, and I was loving every minute of it!
Well, most every minute.
The truth is, I was still spending a ridiculous amount of time just finding ways to get a sweet taste and satisfy my lingering sweet tooth. I was still jello-binging and drinking several diet sodas per day. I was free from actual sugar and carbs, but I wasn’t free from my addiction to the sweet tastes themselves.
And while following this low-carb, highly rigorous lifestyle, I wasn’t just hungry. I actually felt like I was constantly starving to death. I had to keep myself quite hungry in order to continue losing weight while eating a low-carb diet. I was working SO hard that I often felt like I was hanging on by a thread.
I loved my new waist size, but I couldn’t imagine keeping up this hungry, Splenda-crazed, sweaty, and exhausting life forever.
So yes, a low-carb diet brought me to a great place in regards to my weight, but there was definitely still room for improvement. Low-carb LOOKED good on me, but FELT pretty rough.
And when my weight loss would plateau or slow, I just did harder workouts and ate even less. I was living a life of self-torture. I was vain enough, though, that size 4 pants made it almost worth it. Almost.
But then, one day while I was sitting at my computer, shoving my face full of sugar-free crap and chugging diet Dr. Peppers while smelling like a gym bag, I stumbled across a website called Zeroing in on Health. The site no longer exists, but it completely rocked my world to its sweaty little core. It was a forum for people who eat a high-fat and zero-carb diet. I didn’t even know that that was a thing! Their drop-down menu covered topics like, “Why You Still Crave Sweets,” “Why Exercise Isn’t Working,” and “The Benefits of a Zero-Carb Diet.”
This website would kick off the second part of my weight loss journey and would lead me to be free from my addiction to sweets, my obsession with weight-loss, my insane workout routine, and even the little pamphlet that my doctor had given me five years prior. I had only thought low-carb was the key. I had NO idea just how good life was about to become.