|How long are you going to be on your LCHF diet?|
Are you using it for a crash diet . . . or is it YOUR lifestyle?
It's easy to repeat the mantra, "Low carb is not a diet; it's a lifestyle," but is that what you really mean? Very few people who reach out to me are sincerely interested in changing their food habits permanently. Most people want to get the weight off, so they can get back to life -- the same life that resulted in obesity! Is that what you really want? If not, it might be time to clear out the clutter in your mind, body, emotions, and spirit.
Like most low carbers today, my return to the low-carb way of eating over a decade ago came with an agenda: I wanted to get rid of the pain in my feet and right knee.
At the time, I had no clue that I was experiencing neuropathy brought on by a lifetime of undiagnosed celiac deisease. All I knew was that my feet and knee hurt, so badly, that I couldn't walk without high-top tennis shoes.
Plus, it was so easy to blame my weight for the pain.
After having been conditioned by the media, medical profession, and even the food and drug industries to blame obesity for everything that I didn't like about my life, I honestly believed that a low-carb diet was going to fix my problems.
I would easily ditch the weight, the swelling in my knee would disappear, and the pain in my feet and ankles would be history. I'd feel better, have more energy, and look great.
Those rewards were well worth the deprivation. At least, in my own mind. And like everyone else, I walked around chanting the manta like a "good" low carber:
"This isn't a diet. It's a lifestyle."
|Like a wise old owl, I thought I knew what I was|
talking about when I said low carb was a lifestyle.
I had no idea what a lifestyle even was.
I believed in Atkins Magic, so my thoughts were filled with crazy ideas about insulin locking the door to your fat cells and fat mobilizing hormones. I honestly believed that low carb was the only viable option for everyone.
I also believed that if I just stuck with the deprivation required long enough to reach a size 7, then everything would suddenly be right with the world.
This way of thinking wasn't rational, I know.
But it's how a lot of low carbers think because the Atkins books make weight loss, pre-maintenance, and maintenance appear to be simple. Just keep insulin low and the fat will automatically fall right off of you. Start returning carbs to your diet at pre-maintenance, until you reach energy balance.
Easy peasy, except . . .
What the books don't tell you, and especially the ANA, is that those who can do it that way are very, very few.
Most of us have to do drastic things to carve off the pounds, and keep craving off the pounds, which means you can never go back to anything that even remotely resembles the life you had before. Instead, you have to let go of the clutter. Permanently.
Waking up to that self-realization didn't come easy. Hubby had to give me a Gibbs head-slap to get the job done.
My Low-Carb Lifestyle Epiphany
A few years ago, hubby and I shared a home with hubby's brother and his wife. It was in a rural area. My brother-in-law works for the railroad, so they were rarely home. When working, it was out-of-state, so he and his wife lived in a Fifth-Wheel motor home that they moved from job site to job site.
They only came to the house for holidays or when they needed to see a doctor.
One day, hubby and I took a trip up north to pick up a new radiator for his truck. Since we lived in a small country town, the nearest big city was over an hour away. The drive gave us plenty of time to talk.
One of the topics that came up was about clearing out the kitchen of the vast amount of baking pans and other cookware that I really didn't need at the moment. We had a very small kitchen, and since I was doing my own version of Atkins by then, I didn't need all those things cluttering up the kitchen.
Hubby quickly agreed that taking things down to the basement was a good idea. We had dozens of pie plates and bread pans I wasn't using since I was avoiding low-carb baking ingredients. The pans and baking dishes were just getting in my way.
But then, he gave me a Gibbs head-slap:
"How long are you going to be on this diet?" he said.
I totally missed the point, so I started blabbering about my 6-month goal. I wanted to lose all the weight by the first of the year. Anything I wouldn't need before then could just be packed away -- for now.
Hubby wasn't enthusiastic about my projected time frame. He tried to pull me back into his reality. "It might take a bit longer than that," he suggested.
I didn't like how that sounded. I'd given up a lot of things to make this happen -- like making homemade bread, soft-crust pizza, and even low-carb pasta. I'd given up crispy skinned chicken, most dairy products, and had drastically cut back on the fat to get the scales moving at a fast clip.
But then hubby said something that really struck home. It was like a second Gibbs head-slap, the ones where Gibbs says: Snap out of it!
"Isn't this a lifestyle change?"
Hubby paused for a moment, allowing that question to sink into my thick brain, and then continued with:
"If this IS a lifestyle change, then you aren't going to need most of that stuff even then."
Step #1: Accept Reality
The biggest myth that most LCHF dieters need to unlearn is that once you have lost the weight you want to lose, you will be able to go back to eating the same way that other people do. At goal weight, some magical force will automatically fix your metabolism, so you can eat normal again.
And that simply isn't true.
You might be able to return a few more carbs to your diet than what you're eating right now.
Maybe . . .
But the amount of food you can eat will be quite small compared to what you were eating before you went low carb. There won't be a whole lot of room for what you consider normal food. Not after you get in the adequate protein, salads, vegetables, and healthy fats you will still need to eat.
That's what hit me so hard that day.
|At maintenance, protein and vegetable needs|
remain the same, leaving little room for other things.
Most expectations are an outgrowth of a false image you're carrying around in your head. In this case, the image is about what you think life will be like once you reach goal weight.
If you're stuck in the diet mindset, you don't see carb restriction as a way of living. You'll see it as a crash diet, a way to get you to where you'd rather be -- where you ought to be -- instead of where you are right now.
You'll see Atkins as a tool to make yourself more acceptable to other people, but not something that you really want to do for the rest of your life.
And that begs the question:
Why are most of us so hell-bent on returning to the way of eating that got us fat in the first place?
Most people see low carbing as an inconvenience. Something they're willing to put up with, temporarily, provided it gives them what they want. They'll endure the deprivation IF it helps them avoid the painful circumstances that may arise when others don't approve of how they look. But if the scale gets stuck?
The truth is -- insulin resistance doesn't go away just because you become thin. Being at goal weight doesn't heal what's wrong.
You can encourage your body to go into remission. You can change how you eat and find new ways of living that will allow you to look like others who can eat anything they want to without gaining an ounce.
But you can never BE them.
Even at goal weight.
Their reality can never, Never, NEVER be your reality. A dieted-down body will never respond to food, stress, and its environment in the exact same way that an always-have-been-thin body does. You can teach your body to burn fat more easily, sure, but you'll always have to eat fewer calories than others do.
And that means that a lot of the head-work that goes along with dieting, the mental constructions and emotional slavery that keep you feeling vulnerable and inadequate, needs to be completed now . . .
BEFORE . . .
You reach the pre-maintenance and maintenance phases of the Atkins Diet.
If you don't do it now, you won't have the strength and self-discipline you need to avoid the temptations and desires that the lower mind will use against you at goal. When you least expect it, the lower mind will attempt to get you to return to what you have always considered normal eating patterns.
It's time to face the truth:
The way you ate before was not normal. If it was normal, you wouldn't have gotten fat.
Normal eating is an illusion because the odds are high that you have no idea what normal eating actually is. Face that reality, accept it, admit it, and embrace it. If you can do that, you'll be more likely to win this game.
Step #2: Straighten Out Your PrioritiesPriorities rule your life. What you value most is what everything in your environment filters through. People talk about motivation and being inspired, but those motivations and nudges must align with what you find most valuable in life, or you won't bother.
For a great many individuals, the true motivation and intent behind why they do what they do is hidden. They might think that they are dieting to get more healthy, for instance, but they are expecting health to give them what they really want.
Once you have accepted your true condition, straightening out your priorities can help you construct a realistic aim, or direction, to go in.
When you're always chasing after some imaginary ideal, you're at the mercy of your whims and emotions, both of which tend to be pretty hard taskmasters. By gaining a clear vision of what you want, and restructuring your priorities to reflect that desire, you are then FREE to reject anything that doesn't fit into your current purpose.
There will be fewer detours and fewer struggles because inner conflict only occurs when you have two desires that conflict with one another. For example, you might want to use a LCHF diet to reach a particular weight, but at the same time, you also want to eat those darn Twinkies. These are conflicting desires, and if you are unaware of both them, you're going to struggle with feelings of deprivation.
The real question is -- which desire is more valuable in helping you reach your goal?
You obviously can't have both. Maybe, other people can, but that's not your reality. Your reality is that you have to choose one or the other.
Feelings of deprivation surface when you don't know what you really want, haven't made a firm decision, or don't have a clear vision of where you're going. Personal experimentation is fine, but if that's what you want to do, be honest with yourself, and follow the boundaries for the experiment you set up.
If we don't have the skills in place to maintain your weight loss, where will those skills suddenly come from after you reach maintenance?
Are you expecting self-discipline to magically appear just because you are thin?
Step #3: Make a Firm Choice
|Are you paralyzed to act? Maybe you have two|
Seeing your hidden motivations for what they really are and rearranging your priorities must then be followed by a firm choice.
I was very surprised to feel a twinge of rebellion at my husband's suggestion that I wouldn't be able to cook and bake in the same manner that I was used to, even after losing the weight. I absolutely loved to cook and bake. It was a passion of mine, one I would severely miss if I wasn't able to do that anymore.
But I had to make a choice.
I couldn't just reorganize my priorities and then live my life in a haphazard way, being a slave to my whims and emotions and giving into my cravings for bready foods and sweets, now and then. If I did it that way, I'd never be a size 7. I had to make a FIRM decision.
What did I want to do?
I couldn't do both. I couldn't be a size 7 and enjoy low-carb baked goods. I had already learned that lesson from the way my body reacted when I experimented with high-gluten low-carb recipes. I went into a huge stall.
It was a high protein, lower fat, small vegetable intake that allowed me to carve off the pounds quickly. The higher calories and carbs in those low-carb baked goods wasn't compatible with my desire to be a size 7.
But then, isn't that what low carbing is all about? A radical lifestyle change?
You don't just cut back on calories and starve yourself thin. The LCHF lifestyle requires you to completely leave your problem foods like sugar, starch, and white flour behind to begin a new love affair with whichever foods will keep your body slim and healthy.
At this point in my development, I chose low carb over baking, which resulted in me going on to eventually lose over 100 pounds.
However, I could just as easily have made a different choice and turned to a different method for ditching the body fat. I didn't have to submit to a low-calorie low-carb plan because there is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing.
I could have given up the whole idea of being a size 7 and settled for being a larger size, something eaiser to maintain, something which would have allowed me to keep those low-carb baked goods, tortillas, and pastas in our diet. (Up until we went gluten free, that is.)
What you choose depends on what you want and what you're willing to sacrifice to get it. However, making a firm choice isn't always permanent. It's the permanency of choice that scares a lot of people and paralyzes them to act.
Don't do that to yourself.
You need to put some emotion and strong feelings into your decision. You need to make a strong commitment. But you are not stuck with your decision for the rest of your life. If new information surfaces or if it doesn't work out, you can always make a different decision later on.
This is what I did. As the truth behind my health complaints began to surface, and as I learned a few more things about what it costs to be a size 7, I made a different choice. A conscious choice.
But at this point in my life, a size 7 is what I chose over baking.
Incidentally, as things turned out -- I went to work as a cook for a boys home in our area, shortly after making this decision, so I didn't end up having to sacrifice my love for cooking and baking after all.
I just couldn't eat what I made.
Step #4: Take Charge of Your Thought-Habits
Insulin resistance and diabetes aren't going to magically go away just because you lose the weight.
On low carb, your insulin sensitivity improves, but those insulin problems will always be standing close by to give you a hard time if you allow your thought process to return to your old patterns of thinking and looking at food.
This is exactly what I had been doing.
I allowed, "skip it for now," which was spoken so freely and so often within the Ask Kimmer thread at Low-Carb Friends, to seduce me into believing that ideal was true.
It isn't, really. If you tell your self that you are only skipping the cakes and cookies for now, you won't be prepared to go without them once you are thin. You'll be expecting to be able to add them back in at whatever size it is you think will make you happy.
Overweight is a physical imbalance, but it's also a disturbance or misconception in the way that you think. You need to re-examine your beliefs to see which ones are to your advantage to keep, and which ones need to be trashed.
Diabetics don't return to sugar after they get their blood glucose levels under control. Alcoholics don't return to social drinking, once they become sober for a few weeks. And a drug addict doesn't treat their good behavior with their drug of choice.
So why was I expecting to be able to return to the life I had before, after I got thin?
While it's true that the past is dead to us today, the future doesn't exist except in your imagination. The only thing that's real is right now. Today. What you're thinking and doing this very minute. And not even 10 minutes from now. Just now.
What this means is that to reach your weight-loss goals, to be able to manage your weight and maintain a lower weight, you need to face your self. You have to see your thoughts and how those thoughts have been working against you.
Thoughts are like little software programs that are running in your head. Most of them are triggered by associations to something in the past. They are not real. They are false beliefs you accepted as real or bits of fantasy you made up when you didn't know something, but either way, they are not helpful.
It's time to take charge of them.
And you do that by not giving them your attention.
If you decided in Step 3, with strong emotion, that a low-carb lifestyle was what you wanted, then ignore every thought that doesn't fit into that purpose. Don't listen to them. Put your focus on something more constructive, something that will help you BE low carb.
Step #5: Seek for Understanding
|Egg Scrambles and other tasty low-carb dishes|
continue to be the center of attraction on our
maintenance breakfast table.
Hubby's words helped me see that my cooking desires needed to take a sharp left turn because I finally understood that maintenance wasn't going to be much different than how I was eating right then.
In fact, as time went by, I began to understand that even more sacrifices and changes were going to be necessary to make a size 7 come into manifest reality.
The promises that the Atkins Diet made were not true.
There was not going to be room in my diet at maintenance to add anything back. Already, I had cut out fats, and cut back on dairy, and I knew that to reach a size 7, I'd have to lower my calories even more.
This was a shock for me.
Most websites and blogs avoid the ugly truth about weight management. No one wants to talk about what it's really like to live out your weight-loss dream, let alone actually get to goal. These types of real-world discussions would scare people away from choosing a low-carb lifestyle, so you really aren't going to find many of them on the web.
But it's this avoidance of truth that also harms those who have already entered the path and have no idea what's coming their way. This is what I ran into.
While the fantasies about calories and fat and ketones might be good for business, and help a low-carb blog grow a following, those false ideals don't prepare you for what you need to understand to be successful at managing your weight.
Understanding the cost of being thin is a very big part of your success. And it's the cost that no one wants to talk about. The ignorance of cost limits your success and prevents you from making the adjustments that need to be made to see your weight-loss journey through to completion.
Theory is fine.
I'm not against theory, but theory isn't real.
Theory won't help you reach your goals. Theory and hypothesis muddy the water and just make people angry when those theories turn out to be false. For me, it felt like I had been kicked in the stomach, like I had wasted two years of my life chasing after something that wasn't real.
So seek for understanding. Now. Take the time to get to know yourself.
Don't put so much effort into Atkins Induction that you fail to learn what the cost of being thin is going to be for you. Reaching goal weight fast is fine. Keeping carbs ultra low is fine too. But the realities of weight management, once you get to goal, have to be practical. They have to be something you can live with.
For me, they weren't.
But that doesn't mean that the choice is between ultra low-carb and ultra high-carb living. Those are simply the two extremes. Find out where you fit on that continuum and then readjust your choice to fit reality.
Living the Low Carb Dream
|What will it take to make your low-carb dream come true?|
Are you willing to do what it takes?
A lifestyle isn't a temporary fix. It's what and how you are most of the time. It's what you think, feel, and dream every single day. So, living the low-carb dream requires you to make permanent changes to your:
- conflicting desires
- emotional state
- mental attitude
- eating habits
- thought patterns
And what you're willing to pay to get to goal weight and stay there.
The Atkins Nutritional Approach to life isn't just another diet that you will go off of once you have hit your target weight. More likely, you'll end up coasting into your goal, and then just continue with whatever you're already doing.
The lifestyle you had before going LCHF resulted in overweight or obesity, so it's really not an option anymore. This fact doesn't mean that everything you ate before is out of bounds, but you will have to make sacrifices to get what you want -- either in terms of calories, fats, or carbs.
Are you willing to pay the price?
That's the real question here.
Because if you're not . . . then it's better to make that adjustment to your plans right now, rather than later on, when you are more in danger of going rogue.
Living the low-carb dream is possible to achieve, but to get there, you'll have to be practical, accept reality, and do what's required to make it happen. You'll have to put forth the effort required to understand what you need to do, and then have the self-discipline to get the job done.