The Missing Chapter of This Story: I gained weight.
I owe every reader of this blog an apology.
I have tried to share my story in a very open and honest way, but I admit that I purposefully left out one chapter. It was the chapter in which I switched from a low-carb diet to a NO carb diet and started GAINING weight. (And not just a few pounds, either.)
After losing about 130 pounds by following a very low carb diet for five years, I found that I had to restrict calories (basically causing me to be hungry ALL day long), exercise for two hours each day, and continuously deal with horrible carb-cravings. All of that was to just maintain my weight loss. I was hungry, foggy-headed, and exhausted. I was also QUITE skinny and unhealthy looking.
At that point, my husband and I decided to start a family, but I wasn’t able to get pregnant (go figure!). And in the Fall of 2009, I started taking infertility drugs (including Clomid), which are known to cause weight gain in women. I didn’t get pregnant, but I definitely did get a little “fluffy.” So, then I was childless AND felt fat, despite the fact that I had only actually gained about 10 pounds at that point. (Obsessed much?)
All of that happened in fall of 2009, which is also when I started reading about a “zero carb diet”. I found an online forum of people who had removed all carbs from their diet and reported that they no longer had carb-cravings, no longer had to workout out to lose weight, and no longer had to starve or count calories. They simply ate from the animal kingdom and removed all “sweet” from their diets. So, I decided to try it their way.
I stopped going to the gym and started eating as much high-fat meat as I wanted. And boy, oh boy, DID I EVER EAT!!! I had gone hungry for so long that I was STARVING. Meat (and especially fat) tasted delicious and I just couldn’t get enough! Looking back, I was probably eating about 4,000 calories per day. NO LIMITS. Just as much high-fat meat as I wanted to eat.
I felt amazing! I no longer had “brain fog” and finally felt very clear-headed and alert. My moods were even and happy. I felt so…Zen! Giddy even!
After a few days of this bliss, I stepped on the scales.
What??? I thought these people said I was supposed to LOSE weight!
I was angry. I was just sure that I was doing something wrong. SO, I became an active participant on their forum and began asking a LOT of questions about why this was happening to me and how I could fix it.
Their answer angered me even more. They said to just keep eating meat, let my body adjust, and to be patient.
Clearly, they didn’t understand just how traumatic this was! I mean, my most favorite jeans no longer fit! Panic ensued.
Learning to trust what my body said it needs…
Charles Washington, creator and moderator of the Zero Carb Forum, kept reminding me that I would not “get fat” by eating meat. He, along with other zero-carbers repeatedly encouraged me to be patient and to continue eating until satisfied. He seemed confident that my body would eventually respond with good health and would end up being the size that it should be.
Meanwhile, the scale continued to go up.
The zero carb community reminded me that my health was most important. And that my “size”, shape, cravings, energy, and moods were all more meaningful than a number on a scale. They even encouraged me to stop weighing every day. (I ignored allof this advice, of course, and continued obsessing about my weight. Old habits die hard.)
As I watched the scale’s numbers rise, I wanted to revert back to my former calorie-restricting, low-carb, gym-inhabiting ways! And yet….meat tasted so good and I felt SO amazing that I continued on.
And, though my weight wasn’t what I wanted it to be, there were so many other benefits! My cravings for carbs were gone! I had NO more sweet tooth. NONE. I had great energy and just felt GOOD. My former low-carb plagues (leg cramps, acne, gaunt look, cravings) were completely eradicated. Plus, It was quite nice to not smelling like a gym sock every day.
For SIX MONTHS, I couldn’t get enough to eat. And for SIX MONTHS, I slowly gained weight. (Go ahead and let that sink in. I ate NOTHING but high-fat meat and drank NOTHING but water for SIX MONTHS and still gained weight.) According to my scales, I gained about 20 pounds.
I almost quit.
I almost quit SEVERAL times, actually.
And then, the magic happened.
My out-of-control, raging appetite finally reduced. It was like my body felt “fed,” took a sigh of relief, and then relaxed. Ahhhh…
I continued eating meat and drinking water until I was full, but suddenly I no longer needed 4,000 calories to feel full. I only needed about half as much. I still felt full and had great energy, but didn’t feel like I was starving.
And within about 2-3 months, the weight I had gained was completely gone!!!
But this time, I lost the weight without working out or starving myself. I was quickly back to my original (pre-zero carb) weight, but didn’t look sickly or skinny any more. I looked healthy, rested, and fit.
Instead of spending my time counting carbs, counting calories, counting minutes on an elliptical machine, I could JUST EAT. Peacefully, naturally, happily EAT. No carbs, no cravings, no craziness. Just food being used as fuel.
So, if you are coming to a low/no carb diet after a lifetime of restricting calories or over-exercising, yes, it is possible that your body will initially react by gaining weight. In every case that I’ve seen over the years, this is a very temporary gain and is fixed only by continuing to eat meat until full.
I do ask that you forgive me for leaving this chapter out originally. I had good reasons: For one, I honestly don’t know if I gained weight because of the infertility drugs or because of the zero-carb diet. I also know that I was under-weight to start with and probably NEEDED to gain some weight. And I truly didn’t want to scare people away from this type of diet, because MOST people (by far) immediately start losing weight when they reduce their carbohydrate intake. It just didn’t happen for me…at first.
Those are all good reasons to not want to share my initial struggles, but being completely honest should out-weigh them all. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”
Here’s hoping he was right.