Way back in March of 2003, my husband Paul and I started Atkins. Before we started, we were the worst kind of crap-food eaters. Paul drank almost nothing but Coke. I drank almost nothing, period. The closest I came to eating a green vegetable was green M&Ms. We ate a lot of fast food, packaged food, canned food, junk food, you name it.
Starting Atkins was a BIG shock, a big adjustment to our way of eating and even more so our way of cooking. We’d relied heavily on potatoes, noodles, rice and bread in our cooking, not to mention thickened sauces and a whole lot of sugary stuff. Suddenly eating low carb meant cooking from scratch. Fortunately, both Paul and I are good cooks and enjoy cooking, so we rose to the challenge and started creating.
Other adjustments weren’t so easy. I didn’t like vegetables. Period. I ate my couple little salads grudgingly. Also, I had a lot of trouble with the water. Let’s face it, as Paul says, Indiana tapwater tastes like it’s been filtered through a graveyard. Also, the sensation of liquid sloshing around in my stomach made me so nauseous that I’d literally vomit.
Let me just say straight up that Paul and I never followed the letter of Atkins. Paul never did drink plain water. It was quite some time – well over a year – before I could keep 64 ounces down a day, and I drank flavored waters, not plain water. Paul never gave up coffee even on Induction, and I never gave up tea. I never limited myself to 3 ounces of cheese or two packets of Splenda or whatever. And as I said, I choked down my two little salads reluctantly.
We didn’t do Atkins perfectly, and because I wasn’t on any low-carb lists at the time, thankfully nobody took me to task for it. I say “thankfully” because I’m so intimidated by the slightest hint of conflict that if I’d ever gotten any of the lectures I see sometimes on the lists, I’d have turned tail and run right back to all my carby goodies, believing that I could never be good enough and still have a plan that I could live with 24/7/365.
Things change. Over time, I adapted to drinking more water. I experimented and started liking some vegetables, then more, then more, until I became downright enthusiastic about them. As my sense of taste adjusted, I cut WAY back on the Splenda.
I didn’t back down on the cheese. I’ll never back down on the cheese.<G>
Paul and I have been on Atkins nonstop for over nine years now. We plan occasional off-plan meals for special occasions. We rarely ever use packaged low-carb “fake foods.” I love combing ethnic markets for new vegetables to experiment with. We cook from scratch, experiment, try new things, and still enjoy the heck out of low carbing. Low carbing has gotten easier and more delicious with each passing year, and there’s absolutely no question that we’ll keep it up for the rest of our lives.
Considering that well over 90% of people who embark on a new diet give it up within a year, and considering that Paul and I have been at it for nine years and still going strong, in my opinion we have to be doing something right.
I firmly believe that it’s better to follow the spirit of a low-carb plan and carve out a lifestyle that you can live with indefinitely than it is to hold yourself to perfection and give it up because perfection is unlivable for you. If you can’t stand to drink 64 ounces of water, drink what you comfortably can and try to increase over time. If you don’t like many vegetables, eat what you do like and experiment with new ones. If a shake or a bar is all you have time for when you’re running out the door in the morning, or between meetings at work, then a shake or a bar is a lot better than nothing or eating off plan. If you’re dying for a piece of chocolate and it’s either eat a piece of sugar free candy or a slice of pecan pie, then for goodness’ sake eat the sugar free candy. And, I’m going to go out on a controversial limb and say it’s better to drink flavored water than no water. I firmly believe that forcing yourself to eat or drink things you hate is the surest way to chase you away from this way of life.
This is not license to just eat whatever crap you please. As I said in a previous entry, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. If you eat crap food, you’ll gain wait and be unhealthy. There’s no way around that.
That said, however, changing over to low carb is not a small or easy lifestyle change. Just eliminating sugar, starch and hydrogenated/trans fats, cooking from fresh meat/poultry/fish/seafood and produce is a gigantic positive step. If your life isn’t complete without a serving of sugar free jello after dinner, it’s not a crime. Don’t obsess over the fact that you can’t find or can’t afford organic produce and pastured beef. If the only vegetables you can bring yourself to eat are salads, and there’s no way you can possibly net 12-15 carbs out of that, then eat your salads and start experimenting with other vegetables you might enjoy as well and don’t beat yourself up about it. Please, please, please do not scare yourself off from low carb because of your (or anybody else’s) inflexible expectations of perfection. What’s important is to transition into healthy, real, home cooked low-carb food and build a comfortable, delicious lifestyle you can foresee sticking with for life.
Low carbing should be a pleasure, not a penance.