Barbara from Texas is 36, and has been following the Atkins program since August of 2000, She has also read Protein Power, using it to figure out lean body mass, among other things, and she thinks that both Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution and Protein Power are great programs.
Barbara began low carbing weighing from 211 pounds (she didn’t want me to print that) and now weighs 146 pounds. She is just eight pounds from her goal weight of 138, and has gone from a size 18 to her goal size of 8!
Barbara has had problems with her weight since she was a child. “I remember being 10 years old and knowing I was overweight,” she told me. “In high school, I wasn’t ‘fat,’ per se, but I definitely was not one of the skinny ones, either. I had mono in the 11th grade, and I remember being so excited that after six weeks in bed because I had gone down a dress size.”
In college, Barbara joined the Marching 100 at I. U., and they marched three to five days a week for up to two hours at a time. “Forget the freshman 15 pounds! I never looked better in my life from all that exercise. I was wearing size 8’s at the time and looked and felt great. I worked my weight back up to size 10’s until I married; then it inched up higher. When my baby came along it just got out of control”
Barbara tried low-fat diets more times than she can count
Barbara has tried low-fat diets more times than she can count, on and off for years. “The media, friends, and family all led me to believe that low fat was the only way to lose weight,” she told me. “I felt like I was eating ‘healthy,’ and it’s socially acceptable to tell people when you’re on a low-fat diet. It was always easy to find a support system for low fat, so that made it easy to identify with someone at any given time. It was hard to tell what was low fat and what wasn’t in social settings, though, since so much of it depends upon how the food is prepared. And the weight was really slow coming off; I was very lucky if I lost a pound a week, and more often it was half a pound.”
The bad part was I was constantly hungry. Plain and simple, I was hungry all the time while doing low fat. Low in fat often means food that is higher in carbs, and the whole insulin crash in the afternoon was a killer. Every afternoon I was drawn to the snack machine like a magnet. I was always hungry! And like so many people, I would eat twice as many Snack Wells cookies because they were low fat, only to take in too many calories and too little nutrition while doing it. Did I gain the weight back? Oh gosh yes, all of it – and definitely more! In fact, I gained more than double what I lost so, low fat was defiantly a losing proposition for me.”
And even tried Nutri-System
Barbara tried Nutri-System for about six months. It was very regimented which made it easy for her to follow. “If you eat their food, you’re on plan,” she explained. “If you eat something else, you’re cheating. So it was very black and white, which worked great from the guilt angle. But I really hated all the prepackaged food. First of all, a lot of it just didn’t taste good, and second, the majority of the food was processed, which meant it had a lot of additives. I did lose the desired weight on it, so that made me feel great both physically and emotionally, but long term I couldn’t sustain it. Plus, I lived in a small town at the time and had to drive 30 minutes to the closest store, and when that closed I really was out of options. The very thing that made it easy also is what made it very hard: the pre-packaged food. It was easy in that I always knew what my next meal was, so there was no guesswork, but more than a month or two of that nearly killed me! I would have done anything for a bowl of ice cream just because I knew I couldn’t have it. I didn’t make a good transition from prepackaged food to ‘real’ food. Sure, I lost the weight while I was on the plan, but it came right back on when I tried to switch to eating in the real world.”
This was the beginning of her yo-yo dieting days
Barbara gained all the weight back she had lost. One of the reasons she gained the weight back, she felt, was that her lifestyle became more sedentary, another was that she was confident that she could easily just lose the weight again. This was the beginning of her yo-yo dieting days.
Barbara tried Richard Simmons for “Oh, probably days,” she told me with a smile. “If Richard had come to live in my house, maybe this would have worked, but I didn’t know anyone who had tried it. There was no support system, and I was just way too embarrassed to take those cards with me to a friend’s house or to a restaurant. It just made me feel embarrassed. I think he’s a great motivator, but I also felt a little silly being associated with that program. It seems like he only had morbidly obese women as guests when I watched his program, and I wasn’t part of their ‘club’ simply by because I was only 15 pounds overweight at the time.”
Barbara definitely was not committed to the Simmons program. She liked the idea of losing weight though and looked at it as a quick fix. “I don’t think there is such a thing as a permanent quick fix though,” she said. “I failed to plan, and as a result, I planned to fail. I didn’t lose much on this program, but I definitely gained every ounce back that I lost.”
Weight Watchers didn’t fix her bad habits
Barbara tried Weight Watchers for about two months. “The weekly weigh-in actually worked well for me, but since the meeting, I went to was in the evening, I was always at my heaviest,” she continued. “I never was able to get away from the bad habit of purposefully dehydrating myself the afternoon of the weekly meeting to get my weight as low as possible. I would find the lightest weight clothes in my closet to wear each week. (Oh, come on, we’ve all done this, so I’m going to admit it!) The downside was I really didn’t get that much nutritional information from them. It was mostly about emotional eating, and while that was a big part of the problem, it’s not the whole picture on why people are overweight.”
“Weight Watchers fits in that ‘socially acceptable’ mode of dieting. It’s real food with a traditionally balanced meal plan, so emotionally there’s no backlash from society for ‘admitting’ you are on Weight Watchers. I still felt hungry most of the time, though, and the idea that I needed to count points for every meal, and then remember to add all them up at the end of the day was too much tracking for me.”
Compared to Atkins, she felt, it was a lot more work on her part. “For instance,” she told me, “since I began low carbing I eat 4-6 smaller meals per day, each roughly the size of a clenched fist. This helps to keep my metabolism on an even keel all day. That’s easy enough when I limit the carbs to two of those meals per day. But if I tried to keep all 6 meals per day 100% balanced to a point system, I would never keep track of any of it.
Personally, I wasn’t comfortable with someone else weighing me. After all, I was overweight and who wants to share that information publicly? I wasn’t motivated to go to the classes because I wasn’t really gaining any valuable information from them. The teacher wore a size 6, so it was hard to imagine she knew where I was coming from. I gained the weight back in an amazingly short period of time due to the stress from my grandmother’s death. That stands out as a big difference between Weight Watchers and Atkins. My maternal grandmother passed away last month, and short term I went up a pound. But I didn’t let a set of circumstances dictate what I was and wasn’t going to eat this time. Because this time I had control.”
Barbara also tried Jenny Craig for about a month. “The good part,” she said, “hmmmmm… well, I got pregnant within a month and had an excuse to stop! The counselor that we saw each week also struggled with her weight, and that made it seem more real, much more so than the skinny size 2 women who called to remind us each week about our appointment. The bad part goes along the lines of Nutri-System. Let’s face it, that black bean soup gets old fast. No matter what they say, they have a finite number of food products to choose from. After a while, it seemed like my husband, who kept on it successfully for over 6 months until he lost all the weight he wanted to, ate the same thing every single week. I just couldn’t wait from meal to meal. There’s not much food on their plan, any way you cut it. Heck, I still eat more food in a day than they had me starting on!”
Emotionally, Barbara felt like a failure
Emotionally, Barbara felt like a failure if she didn’t lose 1.3 to 1.7 pounds per week, she admitted. “Yes, they measure to the 1/10th of a pound. I have a rather elaborate Excel sheet that tracks all sorts of statistics about my weight. Some might see it as obsessive, but for me it’s a huge relief to know there are two specific weeks each month I can expect to lose weight and there are two weeks that it’s just not going to happen, so I don’t stress about it. That’s my world today, but at Jenny Craig, there was this whole ‘rah-rah” thing before getting on the scale to see if it had gone down. The easiest and hardest parts of this are pretty much the same as for Nutri-System since their plans are similar. The only real difference is that Jenny Craig has done a better job marketing themselves. I actually stayed pretty healthy after going off the plan because I got pregnant. In fact, I only gained 8 pounds and delivered a 6-pound baby, so from that perspective, I kept the weight off for quite some time.”
“I had never heard of reducing carbs as a way to control weight until last summer,” Barbara went on to say. “I started within 3 days of hearing of it and it has been unbelievable! There is no doubt in my mind that I am addicted to carbs. One look at my charts at vacation time when I tend to slack off, and it’s readily apparent I could slip back into the danger zone at any moment if I don’t watch myself.”
Barbara had met some friends for the weekend last August, and when they returned home, one of them posted pictures from the get-together. “I was mortified at the picture!” she exclaimed. “I had long since stopped letting anyone take my picture, but they managed to get one anyway. That was on a Wednesday. The next day I happened to run into a coworker at lunch and we sat down together. She told me about this Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet she had just started. Another coworker stopped by who had been on the CAD/CALP for just 3 months, and she looked absolutely phenomenal. As luck would have it, I had an appointment with the OB/GYN that afternoon. The receptionist at his office had lost an incredible 100+ pounds low carbing. That was it; I finally had reached rock bottom and decided it didn’t matter if I had tried to lose the weight ten times for a hundred times, I was going to try it again.”
Barbara picked up Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution Friday evening (She had already forgotten the Heller’s last name, so it was merely chance that she picked up Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution instead.) “I had an appointment with my regular doctor Saturday morning, and asked him about it,” she went on. “His response was that the official recommendation was Weight Watchers, but he was on Atkins himself, so he was personally fine with me giving it a try.”
“It’s great!” she exclaimed “I can eat out and no one ever notices that I’m on a specific eating plan. We can go out for barbecue, and I will just ask them to leave the sauce off. I’m never at a loss at any of the chain restaurants…. TGI Fridays, Chili’s, etc. Even at Italian restaurants, I can always find a chicken breast and vegetables with no problem. The only one I have ever had difficulty with is Chinese food, But I’ve only eaten there once and certainly one meal ‘off-plan’ isn’t the end of the world. I loved every bit of General Tso’s chicken, and just reminded myself moderation is the key to success.”
“In simplest terms, I like the food better,” she said, “Critics say it works because you eat less and I just want to say ‘Well, duh!’ Yes, there’s an amazing new scientific discovery: protein-rich foods fill you up sooner than carbs and keep you satisfied longer. Hey, it works!”
“Low carbing is extremely easy for me, effortless really. I didn’t change the way I eat, I really just deleted certain things from my everyday meal plan. When people ask me to explain it simply to them, I say take 5 things out of your diet: potatoes, rice, pasta, candy and soft drinks.”
“I haven’t been back to the doctor since I started, and I’m almost looking for an excuse to go so he can see the metamorphosis,” Barbara chuckled “In February, a friend talked me into walking with her at lunch. I started at 3 miles per hour for 30 minutes. Three months later, I’m running at 6 miles per hour, I’m lifting weights, and I have lowered my body fat percentage by a third!”
“I’m on a couple of Yahoo email groups, although I lurk too much and don’t contribute as I should,” Barbara told me. “My mom has been really supportive and my doctor is behind me 100%, which is especially nice since so many people in the medical field don’t support this way of eating.”
Barbara’s self-esteem has just gone ‘through the roof.’ “I still can’t quite believe I’m in size 8’s. This morning is a perfect example. I ran into a coworker that I hadn’t seen for probably a year. She just practically screamed down the hall ‘Barbara! Oh my gosh is, that YOU?? Too cool!’ And the best part was, I always thought of Joan as “the skinny one.” And I realized she was wearing the same size clothing as I was, even though she is the same weight she’s always been.”
Someone suggested to Barbara that she do two things when she started low carbing, and both have really made a difference. First, take pictures of your front and back once a month. For her, that was easy, as she just remembered the last Saturday of each month. “We go out in the back yard so I can’t blame poor lighting. I’ve always taken pictures in just whatever I would normally wear. The funny thing is to look back and see how I never used to tuck a shirt in or wear a belt, or anything fitted. The type of clothes I buy has changed drastically.”
Secondly, Barbara routinely takes her measurements. For women, she says, this means your neck, biceps, rib cage, waist, hips, each thigh, and each calf. “Why so many?” she said. “You never know where you’re going to lose weight any particular month, and that half-inch in your calf just might be the inspiration you need this month to keep you going! Seriously, I lost twenty inches in my waist too, and no that is not a typo! The few times it seemed my weight wasn’t moving, all it took was a quick update with the tape measure to get me pumped up again.”
One other thing Barbara would personally suggest is getting a complete physical workup. “Your doctor can do this, or if you might be lucky like me. We have a wellness center where I work, and they will tell me my HDL and LDL cholesterol readings, blood pressure, glucose levels, body fat percentage, and much more. I give blood every 8 weeks, so I know every couple of months what my cholesterol levels are. By the way, my total cholesterol was 172 when I started, and it was 135 last month!”
Keep water & plenty of legal snacks on hand
“And I can’t recommend strongly enough that you need to get enough water in,” Barbara added. “I keep these 20-ounce bottles in my office and I fill up eight, yes, eight, every morning. You may be in the restroom nonstop for the first 3-4 days, but after that, your body adjusts. The old story about the more water you drink the less you retain really is true! My skin looks great, and drinking water is also helpful in keeping the munchies at bay. In fact, when I do feel like having a cookie, I eat one with no guilt and then wash it down with at least a bottle of water to get the taste out of my mouth so I don’t feel tempted to eat the whole box. It’s hard to eat too many cookies if you have to drink 20 ounces of water after every single cookie!”
Barbara also recommends keeping plenty of legal snacks on hand. “Actually, I try to eat 4-6 small meals per day,” she told me.
In conclusion, Barbara pointed out the importance of exercise. “When I hit my original goal, I realized that while I may have hit my goal weight, some of my weight was still in places where I didn’t want it, like my stomach and hips. I originally started walking at lunch and with a coworker. That progressed to getting on the treadmill and picking up the pace. The next thing I knew, I was jogging for a few minutes at a time. I now run for 30+ minute stretches at 5-6 mph, and lift weights 4 times a week. Not because I have to, but because for the first time that I can! Remember, I actually enjoy exercising now. I still would like to lose another inch or two off my hips, but the exercise has really made a difference in how I look in a bathing suit, just in time for summer!”
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