After 4 ½ years, I can no longer blame my extra weight on pregnancy, I now have to own it as my own doing (not that pregnancy wasn’t my own doing but psychologically calling it “pregnancy weight” makes a difference). I have lost the motivation I had for weight lost when I was younger when all I had to offer was my hot body (not!) and had become unfamiliarly comfortable with all this extra cuddly cushion. Whatever lied beneath this lack of motivation, the fact remained that 25 extra pounds lived happily within my skin. Until now.
I have been working out with a trainer for a year now – the first 6 months it was mainly psychical therapy to rehabilitate a severe back condition that crippled my daily life (I could not walk for more than 5 minutes without pain, the pain was so severe in the morning I literally had to hobble around the house, every activity in life was ruled by how much pain I can tolerate in order to do it). My condition improved dramatically and with it my training became increasingly intense.
At around the 6 month point, I had gained so much strength that I began working out in earnest, not just easy stuff, my body became capable of things I hadn’t been able to do in almost 7 years. I was jogging a mile on the treadmill before each workout, I was doing squats with heavy weights, I did incline sit-ups with weights and I even was able to wear a 30 lbs weight vest to climb up hills. My body had no choice but to get thinner, even though that was never the goal. Well, nobody ever turned down weight loss. In fact, it is usually followed by greed for more. I mean, there is no better weight loss motivator than going down a size in jeans!!! I suddenly was on a Victoria’s Secret-super model-before-a-runway show mission!! I wanted to buy all new jeans, AGAIN!!! In fact, let’s just throw the current wardrobe away and start over.
But there is only so much working out can do to slim down. My trainer, who is a dear friend and my biggest cheerleader, gave me the brutal honest truth, “Sweetie, 70% of weight loss is diet”. Yeah, I knew but I didn’t want to admit to it. I pride myself in my eating abilities, I plan my day around my 3 meals and my foodie tendencies pretty much control where I go (is there a good restaurant nearby? If not, I don’t really want to go), when I go (will we have time for lunch? Dinner? Snack? Midnight snack?) and who I go with (I don’t travel with vegetarians and I will drive anywhere if it involves good food).
I have been on every diet that has ever been conceived and failed every one. I am a terrible dieter, I have no discipline and a will that wanes quickly. Just the word “diet” puts my body in panic mode and makes me hungry. I have pretty much decided that I will never again go on a diet that makes me hungry. Nor one that restricts me from eating what I want. So that pretty much does away with them all. Until my brother in law told me about this one, “The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman”. More commonly known as the Slow Carb Diet.
You will never be hungry, in fact, you are so full from your last meal, it’s hard to eat the next one. And there is one day a week when you can eat ANYTHING you want, you’re required to!! And here’s the kicker, you are allowed to drink red wine everyday!! But the truly amazing thing is, there is an end in sight. OK, I’m intrigued. I bought the book and read it. Two chapters in, I’m sold and started on it immediately. I was on a quest and this by far is the best diet I have ever heard of.
There are a lot of technical information in the book about the how’s and why’s of the science behind it. But there are only a few chapters you need to read to get the gist of the rules of this diet. And there are only 5 rules: 1) No white carbs, 2) Do not drink calories, 3) No fruit, 4) Eat the same things, 5) Take one day off a week. Although not in the rules, you are to eat beans and legumes with each meal, as well as plenty of protein.
You need to read the book to get the details so I won’t elaborate on the rules, instead I will tell you my experience, which is by far more compelling. In the first week, I lost 8 pounds. The second week, I fell off a bit but still lost 2 pounds, which is incredible considering this is a total of 10 pounds. I have not thrown away my entire wardrobe yet, my goal is 25 lbs, but I am already down one dress size. More importantly, I am in my skinny jeans! I feel ridiculously energetic and look good (I wore leather pants and actually looked good!). And I am never hungry in between meals, I feel completely satisfied and still get to eat the kinds of foods I enjoy. The freebie once a week cheat day didn’t turn out the way I expected though. It’s more of a cruel joke than a free treat.
My first week was really really easy, I was fueled by promise and besides, I hadn’t missed my regular eating habits yet. Breakfast was actually really easy, I had Huevos Rancheros everyday, minus the tortilla – 2 eggs, beans, ranchero sauce and lots of salsa. Lunch was even better, I got to eat at my favorite Persian restaurant – chicken koobidah skewers with a salad and I substituted lentils for rice (no pita!). Dinner was either fish or roast chicken and I always made a soup, either lentil soup or chicken vegetable soup with navy beans. I am a cook and I go to the farmers market weekly so I loved coming up with creative recipes to fit this diet. But if you don’t cook, the book has very practical ways to stay on track without ever entering your kitchen (Chipotle is favorite for slow carb dieters and I have jumped on that bandwagon as well, it is SOOOO good!!!). When eating out, it is easy to substitute the starch for extra vegetables. I was able to eat out with no problems at all.
If I had a craving for something, I took note of it on my “Cheat Day List”, which sounds like a flimsy mind trick but it actually works. Two glasses of red wine is allowed every day, so I tried my hardest to include those with every dinner (the exuberance lasted only a few days but it’s nice to be able to enjoy a glass of wine with friends when I’m out).
All week I looked forward to my big cheat day. My Cheat Day List consisted of French fries, Reece’s Peanut Butter cups, chocolate soufflé, chocolate ice cream and good old rice (with anything!). I ate all of the above and even added some rice crispy treats for good measure. For lunch I ordered 3 orders of fries and was so happy to sit down and indulge in what I fantasized to be the most decadent treat ever. Halfway through the first order, I felt sick. My body was not liking it. That didn’t deter me, I plowed on through determined to finish as least one order, I mean, how many times have I eaten an entire order of fries only to crave for another? Nope, I couldn’t do it. I sat there staring at the fries as if it were a pile of gross cigarette butts in an old ashtray. After that I really didn’t feel like eating for the rest of the day but I was not going to waste my one day of freedom. The only thing I wanted was water, I was super thirsty all day, my body was retaining water in order to process all the crap I’ve thrown at it. But before I went to bed, I did manage to force down a scoop of chocolate ice cream, not enjoying any part of it.
The next day I woke up feeling awful. Sluggish, lethargic, had a migraine and of course, stomach ache. I was to at point of dysfunction. I had to lay down in the afternoon and when I woke up from a much needed nap, bad things happened. I won’t go into specifics but it involved the bathroom and you can guess the rest.
The second week started off back on track because I was so not going to do that to my body again. I was happy to eat the good stuff and stay away from the bad. I didn’t crave fries or desserts but I started to veer in little ways; milk is not allowed but I started putting it in my coffee again because black coffee is undrinkable to me (Tim, the writer, suggests adding cinnamon in coffee which was repulsive to me), I included quinoa for dinner even though it is no-no and I stopped eating beans with EVERY meal. These were tiny cheats but they were what I needed to get me through each day.
The second week’s Cheat Day was a little more restrained. It wasn’t just from fear of the previous week’s day of reckoning, I just didn’t crave junk, I wanted regular carbs (not fried ones). But the next day, I felt sick again. And bad things happened in the bathroom, again. The reasoning for this Cheat Day is to reset your body so it doesn’t go into starvation mode by dialing down your metabolism. It is to jump start your body so the weight loss can continue. And the reason you don’t gain weight from this one day of debauchery is, your body can’t actually handle 10,000 calories all of a sudden. It all comes back out. And those who have been doing the slow carb diet over an extended period of time have all noticed that the craving just isn’t there on cheat day. You almost have to force yourself to cheat.
The best part of this diet is, it is easy to make it a way of life. And it works! Your body gets used to this way of eating, first by force then by evolution. And there is no craving. And if and when you do have a craving, you’re allowed to give into it, and then feel sick and then get over it. Once you hit your goal, you only need to follow the rules for breakfast to maintain the weight. I have never heard of an easier “out” for a diet, usually it is a life sentence. Once you lose the initial bulk of weight and start falling off the wagon, you can opt for 2 cheat days (usually the weekends) but maintain a slow carb high protein breakfast to start those days. And when you are finally ready to get rid of the last 5 pounds, tighten up again and your body will be ready to shed the stubborn final 5.
You will help me stay on track because I am going to update my progress regularly until I reach my goal. Nothing like shame as an incentive!
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Tim Ferriss is available on Amazon for $16.47 and I would recommend buying a physical copy rather than the Kindle version because you need to reference between chapters and it’s easier to flip back and forth on a real paper book.