While usually when someone is willing to share their success stories with us, I send them a questionnaire to fill out. Occasionally I get a letter, that is so well written, that it bears printing as is. This is one of those cases. Here is a letter I got from Candi:
I’m Candi. I am 37 years old, and I live in San Diego, California. I’ve been reading the articles by Brian Pierce in CarbSmart Magazine and loving them!! I also have read the bulletin board at the Atkins Center Website for some time, but only recently joined the AtkinsFanClub email list on Yahoo groups, that Brian is know to pop in on occasionally with all his usual outrageousness.
I started the Atkins Diet in mid-July 2001 weighing 319 pounds. As of this past Friday, December 28th, I have lost 50 pounds!! For the first time in my entire life, I am losing weight, and I couldn’t be happier.
I was born fat from 2 long lines of fat people. I was almost 9 pounds, 18 inches long at birth. I was a baldheaded bowling ball!! One month to the day after I was born, my parents dumped me on my paternal grandparents in West Virginia and went their separate ways.
I was already well over 200 pounds when I started my first day of school, and the rest was a downhill nightmare. I won’t bore you with all the gory details of being put on every diet and medication in the world, when your biggest problem should be trying to master multiplication tables and cursive writing, and while being raised with your hillbilly grandparents on a steady diet of biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, beans, corn bread, all those wonderful fresh-baked fruit pies, and everything else you can think of made from nothing but one kind of starch after another. (Believe me, I could go on and on….)
No diet (or fast) ever helped me lose a single pound. Not one! I just kept right on gaining. (Again, I won’t bore you with the details of my childhood and how my grandmother was manic, depressed, abusive (physically, verbally, and emotionally), and used food as both a punishment and reward system.
I was sick all the time from the age of two – from allergies and asthma as a toddler to ulcers and high blood pressure by the time I was 10. I missed 50-60 days of school a year due to illness, but luckily I was very bright. I held a 4.0 average and kept my lessons caught up while home in bed, so I always passed. Looking back on my childhood, being sick was my happiest time. (Sad, but true.) School was hellish; I was constantly being picked on and called horrible names Being HUGE, smart, and not having ‘real parents’ was a triple-whammy. And when I was sick, my grandmother was nice to me. REALLY nice to me. She didn’t yell at me, or beat me. She doted on me, and she stuffed me with all my favorite foods to make me ‘feel better.’
When I was 15, I ran away from home. Luckily, I was very mature and very intelligent (at least as mature and intelligent as a 15 year old can be). I got an apartment and a job and worked until I was able to get my GED and go to college. It’s amazing I maintained my sanity, as those emotional scars ran pretty deep, but somehow I survived. And, miraculously, my stomach and blood-pressure problems ‘vanished.’ Imagine that.
By age 20, I hit my top weight of 317 pounds. For some reason over the years since, I have been able to eat anything I want in any quantity and never gain an ounce. The only time my weight fluctuated was during my monthly cycle. (That’s why I was 319 when I started the diet.) But, no amount of pills, diet, exercise, fads, drinks, or organized ‘programs’ could make me lose an ounce!! And believe me, I tried them all – over and over and over – with no success.
I was told I looked quite ‘intimidating’ because of my size and the ‘proud’ way in which I carried myself (good posture and light footsteps), coupled with my intelligence, made for a very ‘scary’ me, apparently. Once when applying for a job in a bank in Miami that I was quite overqualified for, the manager told me, and I quote, “Your appearance does not put forth the image that we would like our bank to exhibit.” Ouch! At least he was honest with me, and gave me none of that ‘We’ll call you when we make our decision’ garbage.
When I was 26 and coming out of my second failed marriage, I gave up dieting. Completely. And I have to say, it was the best thing I ever did for myself. I stopped stressing about my weight, what I looked like, and all the things about me that I didn’t like and started focusing on the things that I did like. For the first time in my life I accepted me for me, and made up my mind that if others couldn’t accept me it was their problem, not mine. And I busted loose!! I started doing things for myself that I never thought I was worthy of before. (No details, please!!)
Discovering that I was not unworthy of life’s little pleasures just because I was a fat chick was great for my self-esteem!! I discovered that I am strong and independent, and a beautiful, kind, warm, loving person who does not have to let other people take advantage of me to prove it!! I took a few years for myself. No ‘committed’ relationships, no hangers-on, and no men who were ‘bad’ for me. At the first sign of feeling like I was being used or emotionally bruised, “Out you go, baby!” No second chances. Next!!
The only bad thing during this self-discovery period was finding work. I still faced all those prejudices every time I went for a job interview, so I’ve had to settle for a lot of crummy jobs that were well beneath my capabilities. The uncomfortable, even disgusted looks from male interviewers, and the ‘fear’ of female ones were quite demeaning. And, of course, everyone just knows that fat people stink due to all that sweating and poor hygiene. And let’s not forget how lazy we are!! Of course, that’s why fat people are fat, right? Too lazy to work!! ARGH!!
I was in the middle of dumping another ‘user’ in Seattle when I met what would become my wonderful husband, Scott. (We met online – another long, but interesting story.) He was a native to San Diego, 6 years younger than I, thin, and gorgeous!! When he is freshly shaven and wearing a baseball cap, he looks all of 17, so I frequently get mistaken for his mother. That bothers me, but he just lets it slide right off him, saying that people are stupid and too quick to make assumptions. I don’t think I look older than I am; he just looks so much younger than he is!! The way teenage girls and women drool at him in public is hysterical, but as far as he is concerned, I am the only female on the face of the earth. What a blessing he is.
I had been chatting online for about 6 years at that time I met Scott, but had never considered meeting anyone; I’d heard too many horror stories!! But the moment we ‘met’ online, we clicked. Same sense of humor, same kind giving nature, same everything. (Sound familiar, Brian and Crystal??) It was as if we had always known each other; we’re total soul-mates. In no time at all, he sent me a one-way plane ticket, the money to ship my things, and I was headed South. The rest is history. We have been together just over 4 and a half years now, and every minute is better than the last. I was totally honest with him right from the start about my weight and background. He had no problem with it and loved me even more for being up front with him. He just wanted a real person. Lucky for me.
After a short time together, my handsome husband began showing the effects of my down-home cooking. And, since I have lived all over the country, I had learned other types of cooking as well: Polish in Pittsburgh, Italian from a supreme restaurant that I managed in Miami, Mexican in Chicago, and more. Can you say “HIGH-CARB” boys and girls?
When we began the Atkins diet this past July, he had put on over 60 pounds since we met. He still looked good; men can carry a few more pounds than women and still be ‘acceptable.’ He had quite a belly forming, though. He was quite addicted to my cooking on weekends, and going out most evenings during the week after work. We knew all the best places to get the tastiest high-carb goodies.
At first, being in a new relationship, going out was just more fun because we were having new experiences and spending every second together. Food and finding new restaurants was our main form of entertainment, next to munching in front of the television watching movies or munching while on our side-by-side computers. If it involved sitting and eating, we were there!! Then, we began working opposite shifts, I during the day and he at night, so eating out during the week was more of a time saver/convenience, since dinner was the only time we were able to spend together Monday through Friday. I didn’t want to waste that time working in the kitchen while he dozed in a chair in front of the TV. We fell into a horrible pattern of burgers, Subway, and the like during the first half of the week, sit-down dinners at the end of the work week, and all the sausage gravy and biscuits, pancakes, spaghetti, hoagies. pirogues, and baked goods that I could make on the weekends. (Unless, of course, we rented a bunch of movies and ordered in a couple of large pizzas, which we did frequently.)
Then it happened. Saint Atkins came into our lives.
We have a favorite restaurant that we frequented at least once a week for down home Texas barbecue and other such home style Southern delicacies. The waitress there is an incredible, beautiful woman who has overcome a plethora of indescribable hardships in her life, and being overweight was one of them. She told us one night that she had lost 60 pounds on something called the “Atkins Diet,’ and had kept it off for over three years by remaining on the Atkins way of life after she reached her goal weight!
Of course I was intrigued, but it was just another diet, right? I was happy, truly happy for the first time in my life. Why would I want to mess it up by making myself miserable by going on another diet? She proceeded to tell me all the wonderful things she eats, as well as all of the yummy things she can no longer go near. Hmmm….. It didn’t sound so bad. No rabbit food, no starvation, no drugs. Interesting. But no bread? No pastry? No pasta? Ridiculous!! Absurd!! Impossible!! I could never give those things up and remain someone that others would want to be in the same room with!! My ex-husbands owe their very lives to having the good sense to feed me chocolate and stay out of my way during PMS!! Give it up? NEVER!!
I met another wonderful lady who came to work in my office. She is heavy, to say the least, but what a darling she is. Once I walked into the lunchroom to get something high carb and sugary from the vending machine to get me through the afternoon, and there she was eating a huge chunk of beef roast and a lovely salad with mixed-greens, olives, and sunflower seeds swimming in blue-cheese dressing. Of course my mouth was watering, and I had to comment on what a good cook she must be. I sat down with my cherry pie and coffee, and we started talking.
She told me she was on the Atkins Diet, and had lost over 80 pounds so far. Whoa, Nellie!!
The poor woman had to sit for some time staring at the insides of my mouth filled with half-chewed pastry. My heart nearly stopped! Not only could I not picture this dear lady 80 pounds heavier than she was, but there was that name again….. The Atkins Diet. She was eating this virtual feast, and she was on a diet?? Unreal.
She proceeded to fill me in on the program, and I was truly amazed. Dumbfounded. Speechless. (And for me, that’s saying a lot.) So, here I had the testimonies of two women that I respected who swore by this way of eating, and lived their lives (happily, I might add) with this way of life. Maybe, it’s worth a shot, I thought.
That night, I told my husband about the encounter, and said that I would like to look into it further. Wonderful, supporting man that he is, he jumped right on the bandwagon and pledged his undying aid and support. We went out the following Saturday and bought Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, the revised edition, and took it home. We spent the entire day well and into the night reading it to each other. ‘Fascinating’ is the best word I can come up with to describe it.
We were hooked. Both of us! It honestly sounded like something that just might work, by golly!! It made perfect sense – especially to me, because I had tried everything else, and had ‘failed.’ Dr. Atkins explained that it was not I who had failed, but other doctors, the media, and the FDA who had failed me!! Woo Hoo!! I had an addiction, I had allergies, and my poor body was just reacting normally to the poison I was shoveling into it!! (I was never a binger, but I was hypoglycemic. If I didn’t eat constantly, I got very sick, and of course high carbohydrate foods were a ‘quick fix,’ or so I thought at the time.
I finally felt like someone truly understood what I was going through, and was offering a possible solution. I was so excited I almost had to rush right out and buy a box of Depends. We decided right there and then, that Saturday night, that we were going to do it, and do it we did!
We planned to start the following weekend, so preparations had to me made – and quickly!! First, I went online to check out the Atkins Center website. I proceeded to order a small fortune in supplements, protein bars, shake mixes, baking mixes, breads, and various other food items – express delivery, of course.
As soon as my order arrived, I headed out to the kitchen and began cleaning. Everything! I packed up bags, boxes, and coolers full of food and we took them to a friend’s daughter who is a single mother with two small children. No one needed it more than she did. When I was finished, there was virtually nothing in my cabinets, and you could almost hear crickets chirping in the refrigerator. Practically everything in our kitchen had been a low carb no-no.
After we dropped off the food, we proceeded to Costco (a big food warehouse like Sam’s Club) and stocked up on meats, cheeses, eggs, broccoli, and other ‘legal’ food items. We also bought both, food scales and bathroom scales! It was like Christmas morning to a four-year-old child. We were itching to get started, so we did the very next day.
We discovered quickly that protein bars and shakes are NOT for us. Bless anyone who can stomach them, but we truly believe they would gag a maggot. The pre-made low carb bread was no better, so sandwiches were out. Hmmm….. What the heck are we going to eat? We made it through the day on bacon and eggs, ham and cheese, and for dinner I did a pork and broccoli stir-fry in garlic flavored Slim Oil. Whew, one day down, total carbs way below 20 grams! Success!! Now what the heck are we going to eat tomorrow?
Needless to say, I had to get really creative really fast. Luckily, I can cook, and I was so excited about this diet and so determined to make it work, that I just went nuts in the kitchen. The only problem I had was trying to keep under 20 grams of carbohydrates a day without having eggs at every meal.
Packing lunches for work was a real challenge, too, as my husband usually grabbed something at work (he works in a grocery store), and I would grab some of whatever pastries showed up in the office that day. (I always carried plenty of quarters for the vending machine just in case the bagel and doughnut fairies let me down.) Oh, and of course I had plenty of pretzels, crackers, candies, and Little Debbies in my desk drawer for when I wanted a ‘real’ meal. If I packed myself anything at all, it was usually a couple of peanut butter sandwiches on white bread. (I still really miss those.)
So, now here I am packing meats, cheeses, boiled eggs, etc., for the both of us, along with plenty of bottled water to get us through the day since Coke and Mountain Dew are no longer an option. (Little did I know that you could do something with water beyond cleaning!! Actually drinking it?? What a concept this was!!)
Of course, after a couple of weeks on the Induction Diet, we became very bored with the food – but look at the scale!! I had lost weight!! I had lost 7 pounds in the first week alone!! Oh, great balls of fire, I was losing weight!! And look!! My husband had lost weight, too….. 5 pounds!! WOW!! We could hear heavenly choruses humming faintly in the background as we joyously sang the praises of Saint Atkins.
“Oh, but wait!” said the little mind-control demon sitting on my shoulder. “Give it time. Nothing has ever worked for you before, and this probably won’t either. One morning you’ll wake up and stop losing, and start gaining, and be just where you were when you started, with nothing but a fridge full of vitamin-flavored breakfast bars and a maxed-out credit card to show for it.”
I flicked him off my shoulder and smirked, “Yea, well we’ll just see about THAT, buddy!!” He landed on his butt and favored me with an obscene gesture. I stuck my tongue out at him and he disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Anyway, I went online and started checking to see if there might be some low carb recipes to be had floating around in cyberspace, and WOW. Apparently, there are more than just the 4 people that I know personally who are low carbing, after all. I went nuts gathering recipes, reading web pages, discovering all the good things we could eat, reading other people’s success stories, and cooking, cooking, cooking.
It has been five and a half months for us, now. I hit the -50 pound mark last Friday, and so far my husband has lost 36 pounds. I think he is losing slower because he has so much less to lose than I. But he is OK with losing slowly, and actually prefers it, because he only has about 20 more pounds to go before he reaches his goal weight. (He wants to get to about 160.)
When we first started the Atkins way of eating and we were setting down our goals, I (at 319 pounds) said, somewhat dreamily, that if I could just lose 100 pounds I would be happy, because it would be even smaller than I had been in grade school. I honestly did not see it happening, but I felt I had to try. I had to give losing weight ‘one last shot,’ as it were. I felt I had no hope of ever being thin, but thinner would be wonderful.
I have not yet set a final goal weight, because having been heavy all my life, I imagine my increased bone mass and loose skin will always have me weighing more that I should – even after I lose all the fat that I need to. So, I’ll just keep going until I reach a weight that I feel is right for me. I am 5’7,” so maybe around 180 could work. We’ll see when I get there.
Now here I am, 5 months later, and already halfway to that first goal. I still say that losing 100 pounds would be incredible, but I certainly don’t plan to stop when I reach it!! Notice I said WHEN I reach it, not IF I reach it!
Now, I won’t kid you about it being easy. Not every moment has been a picnic. In fact, the first week was pure hell. I went through major sugar withdrawals – everything from sweating, to nausea, headaches, paleness, weakness, and legs so wobbly that I could barely walk sometimes. We also gave up caffeine, and that took some adjustment, too, but after two days the headaches from that seemed to ease.
Everything tasted funny, though, and many things tasted horrible. I had this nasty vitamin taste in my mouth that I couldn’t get rid of, and everything I ate seemed to enhance this disgusting flavor. (I realize now I was probably experiencing ketone-induced dragon breath.) I kept waiting for this major ‘energy-boost’ thing that everyone was talking about to happen, but it never did. I just gradually got over the ‘sickness’ as my system adapted to not being stuffed with carbohydrates several times a day.
I was a junkie going through detox, and I had no idea! Only in the last couple of weeks have I noticed that I feel a bit more energetic. When I walk around the parking lot at work on my breaks, I’ve noticed that I am walking a little faster, with a bit more spring in my step. I seem to be in a consistently much better mood most of the time, more patient, even during PMS. I don’t seem to need as much sleep at night, and find myself waking up ready to start the day after only 4 – 6 hours sleep, whereas before 8 -10 hours left me feeling groggy in the morning and in need of an afternoon nap. (I would sometimes literally sleep away my weekends!!)
I take all of my Atkins supplements, just as I am supposed to, and I find that cravings are a thing of the past – except during PMS. Sometimes those PMS cravings can be unbearable, and darned near uncontrollable. Sure, I have my low carb chocolates, pastas, pastries, and ice creams to help me through. They quite sufficiently satisfy my taste buds – for a minute – until suddenly I can literally taste French fries, or doughnuts, or something breaded and deep fried from our favorite Chinese restaurant. Then it gets rough!
That is when my little ‘mind-control demon’ shows his ugly face again, whispering soothing, sweet nothings things like, “Oh, go on! One small order of McDonald’s French fries won’t hurt you, so salty and crispy and good. Just one doughnut isn’t that bad, is it? Or maybe you’d prefer a peanut butter sandwich – mmm mmm good!” And I have to admit, that what ‘he’ says starts to sound pretty convincing sometimes, but so far I have been able to fight off temptation – even making it through Thanksgiving with not a morsel of anything illegal passing between my teeth….. until last month.
December’s PMS was particularly bad, and the cravings were horrific. So, one Friday night, I started rationalizing. I won’t even blame it on the little devil on my shoulder. I started thinking that, well, my husband’s weight has stalled, so maybe he needs to have a ‘planned cheat’ day to break his plateau. It would be good for him. Even Dr. Atkins says so. (Now, I know that what Dr. Atkins recommends is to up your carb intake using ‘legal’ foods, not jelly doughnuts, but this is my PMS talking here.) So, I mentioned it to my husband. Bless his heart, he loves me so much he’ll do anything I want without much question and no rebellion – which didn’t help in this situation.
Needless to say, I didn’t have to work hard at convincing him that a ‘planned cheat’ was in order. We went to the restaurant where our friend the waitress who is on Atkins works. We still go there once a week, but always order Atkins-friendly foods. (Other than this place weekly and the Outback Steak House about once a month, we just don’t eat out any more at all.) We explained to her what we were doing, taking a night off the diet. (I guess subconsciously I was hoping she would give us a dirty look or something that would guilt us into changing our minds.)
She didn’t try to talk us out of it!! What kind of a friend is she, anyway?? She said she thought it was a good idea, and that every now and then she would treat herself to a baked potato or one pancake or some other illegal goody. This just made us feel better about cheating, because here was our mentor admitting to her weakness. So, we did it. We ordered the barbecued beef sandwiches that are to die for (this place has the best barbecue in the world, folks), along with fries and onion rings. I only ate half the sandwich meat and left the bun – as if that made any difference at that point. Then I had some snake-egg cookies and a large glass of milk – real honest-to-goodness which I had also been missing terribly, for dessert. (Calm down, that’s just what they’re called because of the way they look. They are actually very similar to a snickerdoodle.)
But, you know what? It didn’t taste good. None of it. After all this time of restriction, I fully expected to be moaning in ecstasy as each little morsel of carb-laden yumminess danced across my tongue. I was sadly disappointed. We rented some movies and hit the doughnut shop on the way home…..
Saturday morning, we got up and had doughnuts with our decaf for breakfast. I have to say that these tasted pretty good, but not nearly as good as I remember them tasting just a few months ago. There were still no fireworks going off in my mouth. We spent the day on the couch watching movies until dinner time rolled around. We figured we’d already blown off the diet for the day with the doughnuts, so might as well order a pizza, right? So, we did. Large – from our favorite pizza shop. I even made garlic butter to dip the crusts in just like I used to. We were so excited. Pizza!! Not homemade low carb pizza, but real delivery pizza!! Yippee!!
It seemed to take forever to get that knock at the door signaling that dinner was served, but alas, it finally did come. And so did another bout of disappointment. It didn’t taste right. It wasn’t bad, mind you; it just wasn’t right. I didn’t experience the oral ecstasy that I expected would come from a piping hot, savory mouthful of our favorite pizza. I was highly let down. Darn it, here I am blowing my diet, and not even enjoying it!! What’s the point??!!
When I got up the next morning, I found that I had gained two pounds from my little ‘break.’ So, with half a pizza in the fridge and some doughnuts still in the box on the countertop, I started frying hamburger patties. A little salt, a little pepper, and two slices of cheese melted on top. These tasted good. When my husband got up, I gave him the option of finishing the leftovers from our carbohydrate binge or starting Induction with me again right then. He chose to finish the pizza and doughnuts ‘Rather than wasting them by throwing them out,’ he rationalized.
I just gave him the look, but didn’t say anything, even though I admit I was worried that this little ‘break’ might make it hard for him to return to the low carb lifestyle. And that scared me mostly because if he couldn’t do it, my doing it alone would be nearly impossible.
My husband and I are so close, total soul mates. We do everything together, and spend every moment together that we possibly can. Having two separate eating structures going on would be a nightmare. But Monday morning came to find all remnants of our little pig-fest gone, save for the empty pizza and doughnut boxes by the trash can, and my husband was ready once again to enter Induction. Whew!! Tuesday morning came to find me six pounds lighter. I had lost the two pounds that I gained while cheating, as well as four more, in two days!! So, I guess something good came from this, after all.
However, Scott, however, still did not break his plateau. His body seems determined to hold onto that last 20 pounds, but he is OK with that for now.)
For the first time in my entire life, I feel that losing weight is possible – and I owe it all to Dr. Atkins. The man is a god. And, I also owe eternal gratitude to my waitress friend and my coworker for introducing me to the Atkins way of life. I just get more and more excited about this plan every single day, and find myself constantly heralding the benefits to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen to me.
I have always found former smokers and former fat people to be obnoxious, because they give you the ‘if I can do it, anyone can’ speech at the drop of a hat. I have actually been accosted in public places by perfect strangers who ‘just want to help me’ by informing me that I am fat and should do something about it before my weight kills me. (Duh! As if I didn’t know that.) What am I supposed to do at that point – fall to my knees and tearfully kiss the feet of these saints in gratitude? Express heartfelt thanks and bestow a thousand blessings upon them for pointing out something I have known every single minute of every single day of my entire existence? I know these people probably mean well, in their own rude, uninformed way. But is this really any better than just looking at me with disgust, shaking their head, and throwing a quiet little ‘tsk tsk’ in my direction? At least I am not expected to respond to that, right?
But lately I find myself having a hard time not becoming one of those ‘helper’ types! I am a very caring, empathic person, with an overly developed ‘mother instinct.’ I naturally want to help people and animals all the time. So, now that I have finally found a way of eating that really works, I want to shout it from the rooftops, sing it in the streets, run naked across a football field shouting, “ATKINS FOR PRESIDENT!!”
So, when I am out at the mall and see a heavy person carrying two trays of various carb-laden poison to a tiny booth that he won’t be able to fit into, or watching an obese woman with three small children huffing, puffing, and sweating to unload the Cheerios, potatoes, Cokes, and Ding-Dongs (to be followed by a box of Special-K and a half-gallon of skim milk) from her shopping cart, I find it hard to restrain myself from offering some of that well-meaning advice. I really do want to help people as I have finally been helped, but as yet have not found the way to go about it.
Until I do, I promise to keep my pie-hole shut in public. Low carb works. I am living proof. Somebody stuff some cheese in my mouth before I start preaching, will ya??!!
Well, this has turned out to be much longer than I thought it would be when I sat down to write it. I hope I haven’t bored anyone too much, and would like to think that maybe some good will come of my ‘confessions.’ It’s good to know that you wonderful people are out there should I ever need some good advice or a swift cyber-kick in the pants. Please feel free to write and tell me your honest feelings about what I have written, or tell me to go get stuffed, whichever you prefer. Bear in mind though, I will only stuff myself with low carb goodies.
Your fellow soldier in low carb warfare,
The AtkinsFanClub email list can be found at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/atkinsfanclub/
You can find Brian Pierce’s article at: lowcarcrusco.html