Adele’s Low Carb Success Story

Adele from Ohio is 50 years old. She follows a self-designed, low carb program that incorporates both the carbohydrate guidelines and anti-yeasting version of the Atkins program and the paleo style of eating outlined in NeanderThin by Ray Audette. Adele found what combination of low carbohydrate principles work for her “by long trial and error, mostly error!” she says.

Adele started low carbing in September of 1996, but didn’t lose weight until, through trial and error and with online help, she discovered how to tailor a plan that worked for her. She began working on that plan in June of 1998, and fine-tuned her discoveries throughout the summer and fall until she found exactly which adjustments she had to incorporate into “normal” low carbing to make the diet work for her. “I continued with that diet, and adding strength training and aerobic exercise into my regime in May 1999, and lost to goal size (8) by October of 1999. I’ve been maintaining that same diet, exercise, and size since then.”

Adele has had a weight problem since puberty. “I am 5’4” and medium framed. “My weight has fluctuated between 150-180 pounds my whole adult life – until now,” she told me.

“This was my third major attempt at losing weight, although like many folks, I started a diet virtually every day of my life from the age of about 13,” Adele explained. “By major attempt, I mean I stuck with it for more than 2 weeks! Several of those mini-attempts as a teenager back in the mid-60’s were Dr. Atkins low carbohydrate diet as well as Dr. Stillman’s low carb plan, and I remember those worked very well then, but of course it was really difficult for a teenager to follow any diet. Also included in those mini-attempts were a few 2-4 week stints with Weight Watchers, but the weekly fees, meetings, and weigh-ins were not for me.”

Adele’s first successful attempt to lose weight was after her first child was born. She was 28. “I worked out a strict low-cal (and fairly low carb) diet and stuck to it religiously for about 4 months and got down from 158 to 138 (size 12), probably for the first time since I had been 12. I quite literally started regaining that weight the same day I hit that goal, by celebrating with an extra bowl of (FAT FREE!) Cheerios. I regained the weight within a few months. From that experience I learned that whatever diet I chose, I had to be prepared to stay on it the rest of my life.”

Adele’s second serious attempt to lose weight was when she was 38 and beginning to face the thought of turning 40. ” I didn’t want to be forty and fat,” she said. “Again, I went on a strict low calorie (and low-ish carb) diet, but this time I went in with the understanding that I had to stay with this diet forever, no matter what. It was a little more difficult that time. It took about 6 months to lose about 25 pounds (163 had been my high weight then). This time I added daily aerobic exercise to the routine (walking 2 miles), and that seemed to help. I stayed strong and focused (that is, I continually endured the hunger!), and got down to between 135-138 and stayed there for a little over 2 years, until a mini-depression set in because of a combination of relatively minor but unavoidable life changes I had to cope with. (We moved from a house I loved into a new home in a better school district, and my youngest child went off to first grade.) I returned to my old coping strategy of eating comfort foods (sugar and grains) and could never get myself to go back to the constant hunger of low fat once I finally gave into it.”

From these dieting experiences, Adele discovered that although she really was strong and disciplined, she simply could not go hungry forever. “It is only now that I am long-term successful with low carb that I understand why these diets ultimately failed me. It is because no one (well, at least not me!) can remain in a state of continual hunger/craving forever. Sooner or later the resolve weakens, the dam breaks, and that low calorie diet comes back to bite you. As is so typical of most people on low fat diets, with each successive attempt I gained weight. That is, when all was said and done, after the loss and regain cycle was finished, I was actually a little heavier after each weight loss attempt.”

Virtually her “whole adult life” except for these two attempts, Adele’s “diet” consisted of 2-4 days of strict low fat, low calorie eating followed by 1-2 days of bingeing.

When Adele was 46, she was really beginning to see and feel the effects of years of dietary abuse. “I had developed irritable bowel syndrome, slowly worsening joint pains (which I was starting to connect to certain foods) and terrible skin problems – rosacea and psoriasis. My weight was bouncing between 170 and 175. And as I got older, the lowest weight I could get to in my on-again-off-again cycle of ‘dieting’ was slowly rising.”

At that time Dr. Atkins’ low carbohydrate diet was “reemerging as a viable plan due to his best selling rewrite of his first low carb diet book,” Adele told me. “At that point, with my two failed weight loss attempts behind me, I remembered how well I had done as a teenager when I had tried low carb, and thought that it might be a way to address the one problem which kept me from being able to manage my weight successfully – the never-ending hunger of low fat, low calorie dieting. I acknowledged that there was no way would or could I reattempt the low fat way of eating, since it ultimately led only to weight gain. Low carb seemed like a last hope. I was positive that without the hunger, I could indeed stick to that way – any way – of eating forever.”

“I started ‘trying’ to do Atkins in June of 1996. But for 3 months I kept up my same cycle of 2-4 days on and 1-2 days off, falling off the wagon when it became too difficult to follow such a ‘restrictive’ program. ‘By the end of the summer, Adele had gotten nowhere. “Then my job as an office manager of a small private preschool started up, and as is our ‘ritual’ each fall, we had a picture taken of the whole staff on the first day of school. I was absolutely horrified at how I looked in that picture after a ‘summer of dieting.’

“Meanwhile,” Adele continued, “on the first day back at work I learned that a coworker had started Atkins about 2 weeks before and it was working for her. Those two events combined to become what I needed to get and stay on Atkins. Although I don’t remember the exact date I climbed back on the wagon and stayed there, I now claim September 1996 as my ‘starting’ date.”

“That friend also told me about on-line message boards and the support they offer for low carbers. Although I can now see that online ‘support’ is a very mixed blessing for most of us, eventually I was able to carefully and selectively use it to figure out how to achieve my own success. I don’t think there’s any way I ever could have done it without that input.”

Adele has know about low carbing since she was a teenager, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution was in vogue. “Of course, I also lived through the public bashing of that plan,” she told me “I went to a dietitian in 1974, and she convinced me that low carbing was about the most dangerous thing you could do to your body.”

I asked Adele if she felt she was addicted to carbs,’ and she replied, “Not at all. If that were true, I would not be able to stop myself from eating, say, onions because onions have carbs. Never in my life have I overeaten plain onions, or even onions saut�ed in oil. But most certainly I have overeaten – to the point of illness – breaded onion rings. After years of reading, self-evaluation, and the observations of others, I am convinced that most of us are only addicted to certain carbs from certain foods sources. See the difference?”

“Once I figured this out,” she continued, “it has been amusing and amazing to watch the lengths that people will go to in order to keep their addictive carbs in their life. In my opinion, this physical addiction slowly morphs itself into an incredibly cunning and powerful physical/psychological addiction, which I fondly refer to as ‘the dragon.’ And the battles we must continue to do with that inner dragon are the major reason most low carb (and even low fat) dieters never get to their goal weight or can’t manage to stay there when they do.”

Adele has had a 180-degree change in both her lifestyle and outlook. “Just like any big life change,” she said, “it took time, thought, trial and error, determination, and hardheaded, single-minded tenacity to accomplish. There were many days, especially as I first became successful in November 1998, that it took just about everything I had. Now, I honestly don’t know whether to call that good or bad; it just is. But slowly… slowly… slowly… over my first ‘unsuccessful’ 21 months on low carb, I watched others, listened and learned, tried and failed, thought, wrestled with myself, and eventually hammered out my own answers. And that part is good!”

Low carbing didn’t work well for Adele at all at first. “Only if you call not gaining any weight for 21 months a success was I successful,” she smiled. “Although it did not work for me for weight loss, though, it did vastly improve my other health symptoms – the irritable bowel problems ceased, and my skin and joint pains improved by about 75%. Those improvements, plus my resolve that I was going to stick with this forever, were enough to keep me going for a long time with no other results.”

There is not a written low carb plan that worked for Adele. “I have observed that low carb works only occasionally all the way to goal for many of the people who follow it,” she explained. “For many people, it is only partially successful for a ‘layer’ or two of weight loss, although granted, there are some exceptions. But with the right help and the right understanding and motivation, I was able to fit together elements of several low carb plans that finally did work perfectly, albeit slowly, for me.”

This way of life has been both easy and hard for Adele. “The hard part was first, and there are some days, some situations, when it is still hard. But because I found what worked, and what worked turned out to be about as simple as simple can be – in that sense it is easy.”

As for being a way of life Adele will be able to stick with, she replied, “I suppose that remains to be seen, but I’ve been sticking with low carb for four and a half years, and sticking with the ‘more restrictive but successful for me’ version of low carb for the last two years and four months. It is certainly not the daily battle it was for me to stay on low fat, but I still must acknowledge that I stayed on that for a long time, so I don’t feel like I can claim absolute victory – and probably won’t until the day I die. Let’s just say, like a politician would, that I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Adele continues to refine her way of eating and her exercise needs and goals, still trying things to see what works and what doesn’t work. “I really expect this to be a lifetime endeavor – not a struggle, but an integral part of my daily life. I will never be ‘done’ in that sense.”

“I eat differently than most people on this planet (including other low carbers),” Adele told me, “and I don’t cheat – ever. That makes me different and, since I eat several times every day, it affects my life every day. It’s made me stronger, and it’s made me learn to accept being different, and accept the responsibility for taking total care of my differences and special needs. I expect this to continue to be challenging at times, but over time and with patience and practice, it continues to get easier and easier and more a part of who I am.”

When asked about health benefits/problems resulting from this lifestyle change, Adele replied. “Oh my, yes! All my health problems are g-o-n-e. I’m healthier now at 50 than I was at 30 and 40.Even my sugar-addicted doctor, who has watched me slowly but dramatically improve, tried Atkins for two weeks this winter simply because of me and my amazing triglycerides.”

Adele answered both yes and no to the importance of having a good support system while following a low carbohydrate style of eating. “I’ve come to see that my best support system ultimately is me, and what I’ve developed internally as a result of all this learning and growing and changing. I have developed several very close online friends who have been absolutely essential in my endeavors and are a treasured new piece of my life as well. I also have an unusual husband who long ago learned to just stand back and let me be who I am with my ‘crazy’ diet ideas. (I see that as a mixed blessing.)”

“I do sense that some people – in my real life and in my cyberlife – are at the same time in awe, yet totally overwhelmed by me and how I eat,” Adele continued. “It has undeniably changed me and my relationships with other people and family members. That has also been a mixed blessing, one that I’m still learning how to handle.”

Adele feels the emotional benefits of this way of life are, once again, mixed. “There absolutely have been emotional effects! In fact, I’d say that my success has pulled the rug right out from under me emotionally. It’s rattled my whole emotional foundation. But I would also add that until I got to a normal weight and stayed there a long time, there were almost no emotional effects to low carbing except relief and perhaps an underlying concern that I this time I would be able to keep the weight off. I absolutely had to address the physical problems my eating and addictions caused me before I could even begin to feel and start dealing with the emotional effects.”

“I also have come to see that my past weight loss ‘failures’ had a big emotional component cost,” Adele said. “I see now that in puberty I slowly but subtly started using food as a drug to keep from feeling and dealing in a more mature, more healthy way with some normal but ‘frightening-to-the- young-teenage-me’ feelings mixed with some dysfunctional family issues. This was like a little piece of pea gravel that got stuck and festered in my gut.” After my low carb weight loss, the same puzzling memories and longings came bubbling up out of my gut and into my mind. These feelings had surfaced again after I lost weight on low fat, low calorie diets, but I did not (could not?) make the unmistakable connection until it happened the third time.”

“When I started low carbing I had permanently stopped eating those foods which I would use to help numb the uncomfortable feelings, so this time, instead of trying to smash them down again, I decided to let go – just surrender to the feelings and see where they led. Because my primary low carb mentor had been smart, giving and articulate enough to recognize these kinds of issues in herself and others, and frankly, because I was simply stunned to find myself once again back where I was emotionally 30 years ago, I just decided to let them come on up and out. I know it all sounds mysterious and new-agey, and for privacy reasons I’m not willing to disclose more details than that, but it was a physical, emotionally draining experience that has made me come to see myself and my life choices in a whole new light. I have even started doing some 12-step kind of work as a result of these self-revelations.”

“I am by no means done with this part of the journey. It has led me to see that I am not exactly who I thought I was, but I have come to a better understanding of the experiences and forces that brought me to where I am today. Now I see my challenge as continuing to explore and deal with this new self understanding and how it might impact my life from this point forward. I expect that to take a long time.”

I asked Adele about the positive and negative feedback she has gotten from family/friends coworkers since starting her low carb life.

“Ha ha,” she chuckled. “For the first 21 months, when I low carbed but was not successful with weight loss, I suspect I was pretty much the laughing stock of the people who knew I was doing it (mostly my coworkers). I low carbed side-by-side with my coworker, who proceeded to lose 50 pounds. (She then regained most of that weight and has been battling it back down, on and off low carb ever since.)”

“Me, I lost 3 pounds my first week then stalled cold,” Adele continued. “It was very discouraging. I felt good – terrific in fact – and my waist shrunk several inches, but beyond that, nothing, even though I kept my carbs at less than 20 grams a day and I ‘cheated’ no more than 2-3 times a year at that time. I never fell off of low carb in a cheat, I merely ate too many carbs – like 40 or 50.”

“Since November of 1998, when it all started to fall into place for me, the feedback has been a mixture of awe and consternation. ‘I admire you so much, but I don’t think I could EVER do what you do.’ ”

“But neither did I, until I did it.”

“I imagine that you would like to know what did work for me.” Adele said. “I had to essentially take apart my diet and put it back together, one piece at a time. It was often two steps forward, one step back, but I finally figured it all out. I did that with online help and inspiration from Kathleen L., who evolved as my online low carb mentor and a few others on the Texas LowCarb List, including Patricia W.”

“I would be remiss,” she continued, “if I didn’t add that I started carefully and critically looking at the differences between what I considered successful long term low carbers and unsuccessful ones. There are very few long term successful low carbers, and if you watch long and closely enough, as I finally figured out I had to do, you will eventually notice some differences between the two – some little, some huge.”

“I eat a combination of a paleo low carb anti-yeast diet which I had to further modify to exclude beef,” Adele explained. “I eat unprocessed meat, fish, eggs, paleo-correct vegetables, fats, and water. The only non-paleo food I regularly consume is one or two cups of half decaf/half regular black coffee per day, and my journey included 8 months without that before I added the coffee back in.”

“And that is all I eat. Yes, even in maintenance,” Adele chuckled. “I continue occasionally to experiment to see if anything has changed. So far, very little has.”

“Restrictive as it sounds,” Adele concluded. “I have come to love the food that loves me back – it is not the sacrifice that it looks like from the outside looking in. It is a joy. It still seems like a miracle that I can eat all I want of the foods I can eat; I don’t count calories, fat grams or carbs. I eat when I’m hungry; I don’t eat – can’t eat – when I’m not. Once I got the intolerance/addictive carbs totally out of my system, everything else slowly fell almost magically into place for me.”

“And it has been oh so worth it.”

Adele started out on the St. John’s LowCarb List, but left that after she found the Texas LowCarb List, which is, as she puts it “by far the best list for serious low carbers.”

You can access the Texas LowCarb List’s home page through this link: Click here: Texas LowCarb Community Pages To subscribe to the Texas LowCarb List, send an email to [email protected] with the following in the subject line: SUBSCRIBE

You can subscribe to the St. John’s LowCarb List by sending an email to [email protected] with the following in the subject line: SUBSCRIBE

NeanderThin, by Ray Audette, is available through CarbSmart.

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Karen Rysavy from Colorado Low Carb Success Story

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