Mentally Preparing to Start Your Low-Carb Diet
I recently heard a woman complain that she just couldn’t stick with low-carbing. She does it for a few weeks, loses 15 pounds, quits for a month, gains it all back, and repeats this cycle monthly. She wanted to know what was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she stick with it? Does this sound like you?
I know this will sound strange, but maybe you’re not ready to make a change.
I know that personally, I needed to be “not dieting” for 10 years and have a 70-lb weight gain before I was ready to change my life. In 12-step groups, they call it “bottoming out.” I realize this is probably not what you wanted to hear, but think of it this way:
You’re a piece of clay a potter has just thrown on the wheel. She can only make a beautiful bowl out of it if it’s perfectly centered. If she starts with an off-center lump of clay, as she builds up the walls they will literally spin apart in her hands. The first thing the potter needs to do is to center the clay–perfectly. Only then can she push a hole in the center and begin to draw up the sides.
If you’re a typical American woman, you have been on diets ever since you were old enough to read about them in fashion magazines with skinny models on the cover. American men are taught that low fat and high carbohydrate eating is the perfect way to a lean muscular body. Dieting is neither healthy nor normal. Unnatural food restriction, followed by weight loss, followed by weight gain leaves your body off kilter. How can you know what your “normal” eating is like if you’ve only been on a diet or between diets for the past decade or more? And how can you change your behavior, if you don’t know what your behavior is? Before making any changes, you need a baseline–a point of reference.
Geneen Roth, in her book “Feeding the Hungry Heart” recommends a period of unabashed eating. She recommends walking into your kitchen and eating anything you want, any time you want, and as much as you want. She says you can’t even assess your current situation until you’re in your current situation, and not thinking of food in terms of “bad” and “good.” Once you stop seeing chocolate as “bad” it might lose some of its hold over you. Or you may find out that you really do like salads–when they aren’t the only thing you ever eat.
I began to eat the way that felt right to me about seven years ago.
And I gained a lot of weight. But I also learned what I liked and didn’t like and got very in touch with my body. I also developed a nerve of steel that allowed me to eat a fudge sundae in front of others and not care what they were thinking. It was from this point of strength that I was able to embark on a low-carb way of eating. Trust me, it takes a bit of nerve to weigh 216 lbs. and eat steak and eggs for breakfast every day for a week. Or (my most decadent snack) to spread a thin layer of butter on a thick slice ofof sharp Swiss cheese and eat it for a bedtime snack. But that I did, and in the process learned to listen to my body in a whole new way. Since the messages it was sending me weren’t constantly scrambled by fluctuating blood sugar and surging insulin, I found out that I was hungry a lot less often than I thought I’d be, and that it would take a lot less food to fill me up than it used to.
If you are having trouble sticking to this way of eating, then maybe it’s time for a time-out. Like Roth says, it may cost you a weight gain, but what you’ll get in return is a clearer understanding of where you’re at and where you want to go. And low-carbing isn’t going anywhere–it will be here waiting for you when you’re ready. You can lose the weight and regain it over and over for the next six months, or you can take six months off and start when you feel good and ready.
Do it because you’re ready to change your life
But when you do start, do it because you’re ready to change your life, not because you’re anxious to lose the weight you gained the last time you went off, or because you have a high school reunion coming up, or some other transient goal. Nobody ever says they want to shave 100 points off their total cholesterol in time for their best friend’s wedding… Such a major undertaking as the complete rethinking of the way you eat–and therefore the way you live–should not be taken lightly.
To return to the potter analogy, think of yourself as the potter now. Take all the time you need to center your lump of clay before you start to work with it. It will make all the difference in the world.
Cecilia Savela is a low-carber with a 50 lb weight loss. She’s a mother of 2 and co-manages an Atkins support group for women in the Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) or Maintenance stages of Atkins’ diet.
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