Editor’s Note: It is with pride that I introduce Down Home Low Carbin’, our new column by April Walker. I hope you enjoy it!
Those words dangled from my medical chart like a scarlet letter. How could the doctor have used those words to describe me? Surely, the doctor made a mistake, or maybe my eyes were mistaken. Perhaps it was someone else’s chart. Cautiously, I looked at the chart and read the name: April Bradford. I was only 25 years old at the time. I was mortified and shocked, but I could not deny those words staring back at me from my own chart. The walls seemed to close in around me. How did I arrive at this place? How did this happen to me?
I was born in Louisville, Kentucky and raised mostly in Crawford, Alabama. I was not an obese child. I was just slightly above normal weight. I grew up eating the standard southern diet. Macaroni & cheese, cornbread, biscuits, cornbread dressing, rice, potatoes, corn on the cob, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, sweet potato pie, homemade red velvet cake, and pecan pie were all customary fare. Most of the meat was served with a massive gob of flour-based gravy and a generous helping of buttery mashed potatoes. Eating was an occasion to be treasured.
During my preteen years, I wanted to rid myself of baby fat, so I began my love affair with aerobics. I was able to go from slightly chubby to lean and trim in no time. I was still, however, eating and cooking standard southern fare. My high school years brought more concern for my long-term health. As with most southerners, especially black Americans, my family medical history contained a litany of chronic illnesses; heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney disease. My father, grandfather, and both great grandparents had diabetes and high blood pressure. I wanted to beat the odds and run from my tragic DNA. In an effort to avoid all of these illnesses, I researched nutrition and healthy living with reckless abandon. Eventually, I was convinced that I had to cut the fat and sugar in order to stay healthy. So, cut it I did. Exercise and low fat living helped to contain my weight to normal levels for several years until. . .
I became pregnant with my first child. I gained a whopping 62 pounds with that pregnancy and lingered in the 190s even after I gave birth. Shortly after I gave birth, I turned to my trusty tools, low fat diet and strenuous exercise, in order to bring my weight back down to a healthy level. I was eating nearly no fat, cutting down on calories, and exercising religiously, however the scale was less than generous: It refused to budge. I remember the trainer at the gym being stunned when she recorded my weight. “I have no idea why you are not losing considering how hard you are working out!” she said. I was heartbroken and at a standstill. I became vegan. Still no weight was lost. I exercised even more and restricted my food even more, but the weight loss never came. In fact, I began to gain weight. Frustrated and in shock, I continued to gain weight with each pregnancy and childbirth. My highest weight topped 262 lbs. I was unhealthy, exhausted, and miserable.
Just when I seemed near the end of my rope, a family trip back to Louisville, Kentucky changed my life forever. I stepped into my father’s house and noticed that he was remarkably smaller, happier, and more energetic than I had seen him since my childhood. Of course, I begged him to tell me how he did it. He then began to extol the virtues of the Atkins diet to me. At that time, all I knew about Atkins, I heard from the Donahue show when I was a teen. On that show, they claimed that Atkins was about eating all the bacon, butter, and steak you wanted. This plan sounded completely contrary to my low fat “healthy” diet, which had served me well, so I disregarded Atkins as some crazy plan. Now, my ears were wide open and accommodating to all that my father had to say about Atkins. I read some of his book and talked to my sister, who had also lost lots of weight on the plan. After arriving back home in Georgia, I bought the book and went through it with a pen marking and highlighting areas of great concern. I knew I had a long journey ahead of me, but I did not care. I was in it to save my life and improve the quality of life for my family.
I started Atkins in 2003, but I became pregnant so my weight loss efforts were hampered a bit. However, I was unfazed. I ate maintenance levels of Atkins while pregnant so that I could still be healthy but not lose any weight. As soon as I gave birth to Malcolm, I was back on the Atkins weight loss road. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in February 2005. Although I was saddened by this new development, the diabetic diagnosis made me even more determined to lose the weight and stick with Atkins for life. It took me 6 long years of dedication, tweaking, exercising, and loving myself to reach an amazing milestone: In July 2010, I reached 100 pounds of weight lost.
I am a southern girl who grew up eating grits and gravy just like most southerners, but I still managed to be successful on a low carb plan. I was able to lose weight, become healthier, and still stay true to my heritage. I share this story with you not to brag about my accomplishments. I am sharing my experience because I am a southern gal on a mission.
My mission is to inspire others to achieve health and wellness through a low carb lifestyle while I live my low carb journey. I plan to use this column as a platform for assistance with low carb plans as well as to spread information about chronic illnesses that can be helped with a low carb eating plan. Whether you are looking for help with losing a few pounds, losing several pounds or just want to find out about how a low carb plan can help your chronic illness, I am here to help. I look forward to helping you all on your low carb journey.
© 2010 by April Bradford Walker. Used by kind permission of the author. What do you think? Please send April your comments or questions to April.