Karen G. is an American living in Poland. Karen is 5′ 4″ inches tall, and has been following the Atkins program since December 31, 2002. In that time, Karen has dropped from weighing 228 pounds and size 20W to weighing 168 pounds and wearing size 12/14. Karen’s goal is to weigh 140 and (possibly) be a size 8.
“I never had a weight problem as a young person,” Karen began. “I was thin, ate whatever I wanted, and didn’t give my weight a thought. I had friends who dieted, and even though I felt sorry for them, but I felt that it wasn’t my problem. I never gave dieting a personal thought.”
“I got married and began having babies. Suddenly, I was gaining weight. During pregnancy, you will tell yourself the weight gain is OK and will come off afterward. Not true for me! I gained 40 pounds with my first baby when I was 24. I went from 140 pounds up to 180. I never did take off all of that weight. I was a size 10 before I got pregnant, and no smaller than 14 afterward.”
“A few years later, baby number two came along. I will never forget how sick I felt when my weight reached the 200 mark near the end of that pregnancy. I couldn’t imagine myself being that heavy! And after my second child was born, I only able to get down to about 180 pounds.”
“Along came baby number three, and it was same old story. I gained a lot of weight during pregnancy, although I really tried not to. Once again, after the baby was born, I retained a good bit of the weight I gained. Before Atkins, I would say that I had not been under 200 pounds since the birth of my third child.”
“The truth was since I had not had a weight problem when I was younger, I simply did not know how to control my weight and keep it from spiraling higher and higher. I didn’t have a clue about the way blood sugar surges would make me crave more high carbohydrate foods. I could easily eat a whole package of cookies or crackers, just munching one after the other until they were all gone. By the time I was finished, my stomach would be aching because I’d put WAY too much food into it, but my brain would still be saying, “Eat!!”
“My youngest child is 6, and for 5 1/2 years after she was born, I just lived as an obese person. When the children were small, I was more focused on the babies than on myself. It was easy to sort of ignore how much weight I’d gained. Oh, yeah, I needed to buy bigger sizes…but somehow, I didn’t really “see” how big I’d gotten. I just learned to stay off the scale.”
“Before I began Atkins, at my highest weight I tipped the scale at 228 pounds, more than I’d weighed when I was nine months pregnant in ANY of my pregnancies! It wasn’t just the babies anymore … my body was out of control, and I was physically miserable.”
“I really never spent much time dieting. I sort of knew, in my heart, that I could not control my cravings. I thought I had no will power, so I didn’t even try. A few years ago (while we were in the States), I finally decided to do something about my weight. I was about 220 pounds at the time. For one month, I did Slimfast, a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and then just one meal in the evening.”
“I was starving! I was hungry ALL the time, but I gritted my teeth, and decided that was just something I had to live with if I was going to lose weight. I did the diet for one month, and then life circumstances forced me to stop (we were doing a lot of traveling). I tried to be careful with my eating. I’d make low fat choices at least some of the time. I had lost ten pounds during that month, but by the end of the second month, all ten pounds were back. That was all it took to discourage me. I thought, ‘What is the point???’” That is honestly the only real attempt I have ever made at dieting.”
“Years ago, my husband and I tried a wacky ‘cabbage soup’ diet, with extremely restricted food choices. I think it was a ten-day diet, and you were supposed to lose ten pounds. We didn’t even last out the week, and I don’t remember losing any weight.”
“There were no good sides to those diets. I felt deprived and miserable. I was hungry all the time, and thought about food constantly. When I did eat, the food (or shake – yuck!) didn’t satisfy me. Those short term tries at weight loss just made me feel that I didn’t have what it would take to lose a lot of weight.”
“A few months after the Slimfast fiasco, some friends convinced me that exercise was the answer. They were just exercising, and not really dieting seriously. They were losing weight, and getting smaller. I couldn’t stand the thought of exercise but I finally gave in and began exercising daily in April of 2001.
“At first, I just did real simple things for about 15 minutes (I weighed 224 pounds). I got some tapes from The Firm, and gradually, very gradually, built up my strength and stamina. From thebeginning of the exercise program, I felt better in a lot of ways. I could tell the difference in my strength, had more energy and just felt better overall. The trouble was, the scale didn’t budge! My friends were losing pounds, but I wasn’t,” Karen sighed.
“Because the exercise made me feel better, I kept it up at it quite vigorously anyway. Finally, I was rewarded with a few pounds lost. In all, with exercise alone, I lost 16 pounds and got down to 208. But it took EIGHT MONTHS to do it! That took me right up to the holidays in 2001.”
“There were lots of goodies around, and I found it hard to get up and exercise every day when it was so dark and cold. I slacked off on the exercise, though I never gave it up completely. I went from working out 5 to 6 times per week, to only 1 to 3 times per week. I didn’t stop eating,of course, and so the pounds came back – along with a few of their friends – until I was 228 by December, 2002.”
“Exercise alone wasn’t enough to make me lose as much weight as I needed to lose, but I didn’t want to deal with another starvation-diet. I just knew myself well enough to know that I couldn’t stick to that kind of a plan.”
“I cannot say enough good things about Atkins and the low carb way of life. This has literally saved my life! I’ve lost 60 pounds in seven months, and I’ve never been hungry once. Well, I get hungry, but if I’m hungry, I CAN JUST EAT something.”
“I began on December 31st, 2002. (I couldn’t wait for the new year!). The first day was the most miserable day you can imagine. I wasn’t hungry, because I ate my fill of legal food, but I CRAVED sweets. I had a massive headache. I was dizzy, lethargic, and generally miserable. I used to think I didn’t have will power, but now I know I DO have it! I’d never have made it through that day, otherwise. The second day was little better, and by the third the cravings were almost gone. I shouldn’t have done it, but I checked my weight after the fourth day, and discovered that I’d lost six pounds. Six pounds in four days! I was elated, and combined with the loss of cravingsand renewed energy, I was totally, completely sold on low carb eating.”
“I’ve never looked back. Losing the cravings and being in control of what I eat is wonderful. When the cravings were raging before, I’d even go out in the cold, rain, or snow for cookies or candy. I don’t ever want to feel that way again!”
“One of my real motivations for losing weight and goals was my kids. They aren’t babies now. They are in a busy, active stage of life. They want to be going and doing things all the time. And here was mom, huffing and puffing, bringing up the rear, barely able to keep up. I wanted to be fit and thin enough to go hiking, ride bikes, and be active with my kids. One of my greatestjoys so far was getting a bike, after I lost fifty pounds, and riding along the river park with my three kids!”
“I think the first time I actually heard about someone doing Atkins was when I was in the States in 2000/2001. My mother told me about a friend who’d lost ‘a lot of weight’ with Atkins. The very description of it, no bread, no potatoes, no sugar (at all!) made me reject it out of hand at the time. I loved those things, and knew that I couldn’t control my desire to eat them.”
“I am a Christian, and I honestly believe that the Lord led me to this lifestyle. My mother’s friend was the first little nudge, which I ignored. Later, some of my friends who encouraged me to exercise tried Atkins, and I remember them eating hamburgers with no buns for lunch. But I didn’t inquire into it too closely. I just didn’t want to diet, period, because I don’t like to fail, and dieting just seemed like a road to failure, as far as I was concerned.”
“Then, before Thanksgiving last year (in 2002), one of my friends started Atkins again. I could NOT believe she was starting a no-sugar diet right before the holidays. How could anyone do that? How could she resist all the holiday goodies? But she said something that I haven’t forgotten. Quite simply, she said that it wasn’t a problem, because with Atkins, she had no hunger and no cravings.”
“Those words just stuck in my head and rattled around for weeks. ‘No hunger, no cravings… No hunger, no CRAVINGS…’ I thought, if that were true… IF it were really true… then I might be able to do this diet. I began doing research on the web, and read everything I could find from the Atkins site to the personal web pages of successful low carbers. All those success storiesreally boosted my confidence. What those people were saying sounded just like me. They were slaves to the food cravings, their weight was out of control, and ATKINS made a difference!”
“One evening in December I told my husband that I was going to start the Atkins diet after Christmas. He was a little concerned at first, thinking it was a fad diet, but when I explained the science of fat burning and lipolysis, it made perfect sense to him. I enjoyed a big carb fest with my Christmas goodies, and went out to my favorite Chinese restaurant. Then I started Induction….”
“The great parts of low carbing for me are that the hunger and cravings have disappeared. I’m losing weight. I’m never hungry. I love the foods I can eat without guilt – cheese, cream, bacon, pork. I FEEL better, and I believe that I can control my weight now, for the rest of my life. I never quite knew what to do about my weight before, but now I have the knowledge and tools to lose weight and keep it off. That’s very empowering!”
“There are a few downsides for me to eating this way. At first I missed some of my favorite foods. I always had granola for breakfast. I was a regular customer at a little bakery near my house. They knew my favorite kinds of pastry. Baked goods are very inexpensive here in Poland.Their bread and pastries are delicious, cheap, and conveniently available fresh practically next door… so why not have some every day?” Karen laughed.
“I got over missing those things, and now my ham-and-egg or bacon-and-egg breakfast is as much a habit as the granola used to be. (I’m a creature of habits, and don’t mind eating the same foods all the time.) I found a wonderful low carb muffin recipe that uses flaxseed, and I enjoy healthy low carb muffins (with cream cheese spread on them – guilt-free!) instead of the pastries I used to eat. The only other bad thing is having to refuse food offered by others because of the diet.”
“I think low carb eating has worked for me because it really addresses the root problem. It controls the insulin surges so my body can burn fat efficiently, and the cravings to “eat, eat, eat” are gone. If I had been hungry, as I was with my previous diet attempts, I would never have survived seven months. Controlling the hunger and appetite are absolutely key. In fact, I have to be sure I eat enough calories every day, because my appetite is so diminished!”
“Some days are hard, but the general plan is easy to follow. Meat and vegetables… how hard is that? I do believe I will be able to stick with it as a lifetime eating plan once I reach my goal weight. I never believed I could reach my goals before starting low carb. I was afraid to even set goals. I mentioned that I don’t like to fail. Atkins low carb diet has changed that for me, and I am truly, truly grateful.”
I enjoyed increased health as well as weight loss. I used to get hives nearly every single day. They spread across my back, legs, and upper arms and were miserably itchy. A couple of months ago, I realized that I hadn’t had hives for so long, I couldn’t remember the last time I had them! This must be due to the diet, and I suspect I may have a wheat allergy that I had never identified.”
“I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from family and friends! My husband’s parents visited from the States a few months ago. My mother-in-law has always been staunchly low fat in her eating, cooking, and thinking. I was really nervous about her reaction to my rather higher fat diet. I had lost 35+ pounds at that point, and she noticed it immediately when they got off the plane, tired as they were. It was very gratifying. She was extremely interested in what I’d been doing to lose weight, and very supportive. She even read part of my Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution book while she was visiting!”
“I mentioned the little bakery where I used to be a ‘regular.’ Two ladies in their fifties work there. When I suddenly stopped buying my daily pastries, they were surprised. My husband told them I was dieting. They were just supportive and interested, because they were dieting, too. (Remember, I started right around the New Year!) Well, as the months went by, and my weight dropped dramatically, they got very interested and began asking detailed questions about what I was eating and why. It was a challenge explaining metabolism and ketosis in Polish, but I did my best. Fortunately, Dr. Atkins’ books have been translated into Polish, and I can point folks to them so they can read and learn for themselves.”
“I am acquainted with a few other Americans here in Poland. Two of them have started Atkins, too, in part because they’ve seen my success. So far I haven’t encountered any negative feedback at all – and that’s been really nice.”
I asked Karen what she would say if she were speaking to a group of new and seasoned low carbers and veterans about the following subjects. Here are her tips and words of wisdom:
“Don’t cheat! I’m not sure I have much more to say than that. Just don’t cheat! I literally never cheat, and find that being in ketosis make it pretty easy to resist the things that used to enslave me.”
“Stalls… I remember my first stall. I lost weight really quickly at the beginning – 20 pounds in the first month, and then 8 more the second month. That brought me right down to 200, and I stalled. I stalled! Just when I most wanted to break through that 200 barrier! It wasn’t really a stall, according to Dr. Atkins, but it was the first time I went one week… then two… and didn’t lose pounds. I was terribly discouraged, but fortunately, had lots of support and encouragement from an online bulletin board. They really helped keep my spirits up. Since then, I’ve had so many two-week stalls, they don’t even worry me any more. Very rarely have I gone into a 3rd week without losing at least one more pound. I’ve been fairly lucky, in that I can eat many things that can cause stalls – aspartame, nuts, cheese, cream, and bacon, for example. If I ever get into a real stall, and don’t lose for a month, I have a whole host of things I can give up to try to break through it. It takes determination to see your way through to goal. A few months longer to reach the goal isn’t going to make that much of a difference. Quitting – and maybe never losing the weight, or regaining what you’ve lost – will certainly not make you feel better. Time is on your side… IF you stick with the program.”
Most Important Points to Remember?
“The key word is ‘consistency.’Once you know what to do, just keep doing it. The results will come, sooner or later, and you will be the winner. Kind of like that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ cliché. In this case, it’s true. We aren’t racing anyone else. Weight loss is very personal – it’s your race, win or lose. Don’t quit!”
“I think several things have contributed to my overall success,” Karen continued. “When I started low carbing, I recommitted to exercise 5 to 6 times per week. I have kept that up faithfully – dusted off my Firm videos, plus a few others, and I workout for about 30 minutes per day. I’m a ‘moderate’ exerciser – I don’t love to sweat – but it’s enough to make a difference! I also committed to drinking the required allotment of water every day. I was not a water drinker – I hated drinking water! – but I made myself do it. Many nights, I still had to choke down 2 more glasses at bedtime. Gradually, it became easier to drink the water, and now I drink at least 12 glasses per day, and sometimes more. Exercise, water, and NO CHEATS! Those are the three legs that my low carb life rests upon.
Because I live overseas, I don’t have access to many things that are considered low carb staples of life – Splenda, pork-rinds, and sugar free gelatin, to say nothing of those divine-sounding Da Vinci syrups! I don’t even have Keto-Stix. Low carb specialty items like tortillas, cereal, and bread are unheard-of here. I’ve had to do this diet with basically natural, everyday food. I think that might be part of the reason it has worked so well for me. I couldn’t just plug in a low carb substitute for a high carb item – I had to change my entire way of eating.”
“They call it a way of life, and that has become very true for me. I rarely even think about eating bread, potatoes, or sugary sweets. I don’t really feel like I’m on a ‘diet’ anymore, even though I am still in the ongoing weight loss phase of Atkins, and keep my carbs at 30 or less per day. This is a comfortable, manageable way to eat, and I’m so pleased to have found it.! When I was first researching Atkins, the most encouraging thing for me was reading the success stories of others. I’d read, and dream, and finally I just decided – I’m going to be a success story, too! Even though I haven’t made it to my ultimate goal, I already feel like a success. If my experience is the least bit encouraging to someone else feeling miserable and helpless, as I was, I will be so glad!” Karen concluded.
NEWS FLASH: Karen recently discovered she is PREGANT! She has agreed to do an update for us after the baby is born and give us her low carb pregnancy story, also! CONGRATULATIONS to Karen and her family!