Jen From Maryland’s Low Carb Success Story

Jen from Maryland is 27 years old. Jen has been following the Atkins program since November 5, 1999, nearly 2 years now. Jen has lost 64.5 pounds dropping from 284 pounds to a current weight of 219.5 pounds, and still losing on her way to her goal of 160 pounds! She has shrunk from a size 26 to an 18! “I don’t have a goal size,” Jen said. “I have a goal weight. When I get there, I will be the right size.”

Jen’s pictures are of a reference jacket she kept. She didn’t have any before pictures. “The jacket is the one that I wore to work at my heaviest weight. It had actually been tight; I was out shopping for size 26 suits and none of them would fit me on top.” As you can clearly see, what a difference!

Jen has had a weight problem her whole life. “My parents tell me that when I was a baby I would cry if they took the bottle away from me. I would eat and eat until I got sick. I don’t think my weight got real severe until I was 10 or 12, though.”

“When I was 13, I lost 30 pounds and then gained back 50 pounds by counting calories. When I was 16, I lost 50 pounds and gained back 90 pounds with the Optifast/Slim Fast plan. I’d hate to see what would have happened if I’d tried to lose 90 pounds!!”

“Both attempts were at my parent’s urging, since I was so young, and both attempts were for about six months each. With both attempts, I was always hungry, to the point that I had trouble doing anything physical. My dad and I did the calorie counting diet together. But I found that if I consumed any more than 800 calories, I had trouble losing. The low calorie diet was just hard all around. Though there were a good number of foods I could eat all I wanted of, like lettuce and celery, it was not like Atkins where the free foods are steak and eggs! It was just too low calorie to work for me at all. I couldn’t live on 800 calories a day, and I couldn’t lose weight on any more than that. ”

“Both my parents were on Optifast. They wouldn’t let someone who was 16 into the program, so my parents bought extra food for me and sort of pushed me through it themselves. We supplemented what we couldn’t get in Optifast supplies with Slim Fast shakes and bars. Nice huh? The Optifast was so low fat that my hair got dry and brittle and my skin was very dry and itchy, especially near my scalp. I was very depressed the entire time, if not from the weight problems or dieting, then because of other factors. I certainly was physically drained. The shake diet was easier because you didn’t have to make any choices, at least not harder than chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry. Even though we got to adding flavorings to the vanilla, I would look at and smell normal food and think, ‘it’s not an option, it’s not real food.’ I got to where I wasn’t even tempted, which was a really good thing. The good part was, of course, I got to feel better about myself because I was losing weight. It was successful, at least for a while.”

“The trouble with Optifast was that it reintroduced real food after a while. I remember it started with 1/2 cup of green beans. You hadn’t eaten solid food in six months and this was what your allowed? No way!! It basically became another 800 calorie diet that wasn’t any easier to stick to than the first one. I am not critical of it, but I wouldn’t suggest it to others. I gained everything back and more. Although I must say, I was slower gaining it back.”

“On the way up from 145 (my chart weight), my body stopped for several months at 160. It was comfortable there, and I stood in front of a mirror and said ‘I wouldn’t mind staying here for a long time.’ This experience, not the chart, is the reason that 160 is my new goal weight. Because I know what feels right. I’m not sure how I would have set my goal without such a comfortable piece of self knowledge.”

“Somewhere in there I attempted a walking/jogging program for nine months, but didn’t lose an ounce. I ran 2.5 miles in 40 minutes. Then my summer vacation rolled around and since I hadn’t seen any progress, I dropped it.”

“My usual argument for eating as much and whatever I wanted throughout college was “I have to eat as much as I eat because if I don’t, I get dizzy and sick, which was absolutely true. However, it didn’t have to be Roy Rogers every day!”

High blood pressure, low blood sugar, the threat of diabetes, and her doctor’s reassurance of support were the reasons Jen gave low carbing a shot. “I think I had learned by then not to have a toxic self image, but I hated clothes and hated how I looked without them even more. but I’m just barely ahead of the curve for diabetes,” Jen said “Three of my grandparents (two deceased) had it. My mother has it, and my brother was recently diagnosed. If I do not lose the weight, the chances are I will develop diabetes also. In fact, every time I fall off the diet and eat carbs, I have diabetic symptoms lurking in the wings. This keeps the fear alive and real for me. It is very motivating!”

“I have not been diagnosed diabetic, but I have been diagnosed with hyperinsulemia, and I definitely have bouts of low blood sugar from time to time. They are worse when I eat carbs. It is as if my cells have lost their insulin resistance due to the low carb diet, but my pancreas didn’t get the message and is still sending out huge amounts of insulin when triggered by excessive carbs. The message is clear: my body likes low carb, and if I drop it, I will have problems before you can say ‘diabetes.’ ”

“It’s also worth mentioning that high blood pressure is a potential problem for me, too. In October of 1999 my doctor said, “If I check your blood pressure one more time and it’s still high, I’m going to put you on medication.” I said to him, “Look, that’s not the answer. The answer is that I need to lose the weight. Help me do that!” He suggested Atkins! I started one month later.”

“I was concerned, but he promised he would take various blood tests to make sure I didn’t make myself sick on it. I haven’t really followed through with the blood tests, but it wasn’t until this year, after having gone off plan for two and a half months and gaining back 30 pounds, that I had to go on high blood pressure medication. I’ve since recovered from that lapse and halved my dose of HCTZ. (The doctor put me on that instead of a stronger drug because he had confidence that taking off the weight would reduce the blood pressure.)”

Jen has food multiple allergies and intolerances, which, according to one of her doctors, may be the biggest contributing factor to her weight problems. “Her theory is what when I was about ten, I developed these allergies, but was unaware of it at the time. Since they are addictive allergies, she feels my weight problems started then. (Actually, I had an allergy to eggs when I was two. That is when I had my first asthma attack.)”

“It seems that when you ingest something that your body considers to be a toxin, it stores it away in your fat cells. When you lose a lot of weight suddenly, those toxins are released and you can get sick. This is why you have to drink lots and lots and LOTS of water!”

“My body seems to have a long list of ordinary foods and other substances that it thinks are pretty toxic. Corn is on the list, as are the gluten grains like wheat, rye, barley, and oats. I can’t tolerate living in a home with natural gas appliances, and my migraine triggers include aspartame, MSG, nitrates, and sulfates. (Which is too bad, because lunch meats would be a great convenience food!) Both turkey and ham are on my not-worth-it-not-even-a-little list, which make holidays a challenge.”

“I was on an allergy avoidance diet for two years before starting Atkins, and it was very frustrating. When I said, ‘I’m tired of not eating like a normal person,’ and decided that I’d just deal with the tummy problems from my intolerance to wheat, it became an intense, addictive allergy, which caused me to gain ten pounds in one month! That was actually the beginning of my low carb story, because those ten pounds were what pushed me over the line into dangerously high blood pressure that my doctor wanted to treat.”

“Now, I really don’t worry about a little bit of corn starch or gluten grains, because so long as I keep those foods weighing at less that 25 grams of total carbs per day, I think that tiny amount is not enough to hurt me. In reality that means not examining the labels on low carb “substitute foods” so carefully for words like “maltodextrin,” which is corn-derived, and “modified food starch,” which is also often corn.”

“I actually feel less restricted and way more positive about Atkins that I did about the avoidance diet. Seriously, I was frustrated and whining, ‘can’t eat this, can’t eat that, oh, why can’t I be normal?!?'”

“I had the same kinds of problems with eating out with my family and friends as I do now. It’s actually very similar restrictions, except for rice and potatoes. Now, it’s that I choose not to eat this, and I choose not to eat that, for my better health and for my goals, and I’m rewarded consistently for making those choices! It completely turns it around from the very negative feelings to very positive ones. I worry a little about how I’ll deal with it when I get to maintenance levels, but that is still a long way off.”

“This year, my allergenic asthma has not been a problem at all! I’m shocked, because September is usually the worst time for year for me. I’ve sneezed a little bit every day but not other symptoms. I tell you, it used to be intolerable, even with prescription medications I took for it! They do say that losing weight is supposed to help asthma; I suppose it does!”

“I wonder if low carbing means not having to worry about allergies as much, just carb counts. My body really likes this way of life!”

Jen first heard of low carbing as ‘that 70’s protein diet that made a lot of people sick.’ “My doctor is still the same doctor my parents go to. He had suggested it to my mom and she was considering it seriously perhaps six months before I started.”

Jen says the good part of low carbing is how she now feels about herself. “I feel great; I have a lot more energy, my health is great; even my allergies have subsided significantly! I know that I still have 60 pounds to lose and the average person probably would say I’m on the chunky side, but when I look in the mirror, it is the other 60 pounds, the ones that aren’t there, that I see. When I look in the mirror I think it’s awesome! I don’t shout it to the mountaintops, but it does come out in increased confidence and energy. ”

“I am a role model to others, too, which is why I belong to the Atkins Support List on Yahoo groups. They are great for when you are not a role model, also. I read about them here on CarbSmart Success Stories profile, actually, and that is what prompted me to join the group. I feel good about posting words of encouragement and telling them about my success on the list. ”

“I haven’t said a word to my dad about him trying this way of life, but I can see that it is turning over in his mind. He has started asking me questions. Others too, ask me questions and it’s no longer, “Why are you such a picky eater?’ and, ‘Doesn’t’ that hurt your kidneys?’ They now show real interest in how someone can do this long-term successfully. That feels great!”

“The bad thing about low carbing is that it is really hard for me to eat out with groups of people. It’s no different from any other special diet, really; you end up saying ‘I can’t go there because they don’t have anything I can eat.’ You feel like a bit of a drag, especially when the group is large and it just gets hard to find a place everyone likes. There are some standbys, though, like the old double Whopper, hold the bun thing, or chicken out. Occasionally I feel guilty about throwing out the buns and shells, so mainly I cook and eat at home.””

“My favorite standby is the local Mongolian Grill, where they recognize me when I hit the door. Being half Chinese, I really miss Chinese food, but I can’t have the corn starch in all the sauces or the MSG. When my mom is along, she’ll order special. They make it without the sauce because she asks for it Mandarin. Otherwise, I just don’t want to deal with it and go somewhere else, though Mongolian Grill fills that spot for me sometimes.”

“My skin is not dry anymore, my hair is not falling out. I’m not falling down, I’m not even hungry. I’m eating really delicious food and I’m losing weight! I’m feeling better physically, not worse like on other plans. It’s hard, I’m not denying that. There are times that you really want to chuck it all. However, I know since I’ve been on this for two years, and since I’m halfway to goal, and since I’ve kind of refined my methods over the years, I’m certain I can stick with it for a lifetime.”

“It’s funny, but some people have regularity problems on this way of life, but for me they have gone away. Without my gallbladder and having irritable bowel syndrome to begin with, somehow the tendency of this way of life to constipate seems to perfectly even out with my system and even THAT is better than it has been in years!”

“My friends and even coworkers are great, the mailing list is great, and the fact that my doctor recommended this was obviously a huge factor in getting started.”

“Family is, well, family. They are encouraging but can also make you want to tear your hair out. More than other friends, they know what your temptations are. Scrumptious treats ‘just like Mom used to make’ but that you can’t have anymore are around every corner, with a face behind it that would be so dejected if you refuse ‘just one bite,’ especially at holidays. Certainly after seeing this level of success, they’ve become immensely supportive, but it took some time to get to that point (and a lot of turning down food). On the other hand, when they do give you their support, it means so much more.”

“I don’t think anyone would choose to be fat if they really believed that a solution like this exists. I mean BELIEVED it, with no doubt that it would work and no doubt that they could stick to it. That is why I speak up like I do. I am one more voice to tell the people who are just thinking about it that it DOES work, and that you CAN stick to it.” I think I was working on my self image before losing weight, I’d like to think so anyway. This is not just a radical change of image, it’s also an unmitigated success. That breeds confidence even if your still sitting at 60 pounds over goal! And feeling less tired helps too!”

“I have a lot of ‘You look great!’ feedback from everyone. You can’t lose 22% of your body weight and have people who don’t notice.”

“I changed jobs last year, so the coworkers from my current job didn’t see me at my heaviest. I’m not sure whether I like that or not. I don’t get nearly the shock value as I do with people who knew me when I was REALLY heavy. But, I am not the only low crabber in this office, so I was immediately accepted as a low crabber on day one.”

“When I first went out to eat with this group, I nervously expressed my special diet needs. I love that this way of life is so popular now that you can have instant acceptance like that. I haven’t complained about the ‘engineering bagel and donut Fridays’ at the office, either. (When they are egg and sausage Fridays, I’ll come in for them!) One day, though, someone brought in some salmon and specifically invited me. I was so touched!”

“One coworker who is diabetic was a bit freaked that I wanted my ketostix to turn purple, but I looked it up in Dr. Atkins’ book and explained that the difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis is that the blood sugar is very high in ketoacidosis, and he relaxed some.”

“And, finally, I have to get on my soapbox: EAT REAL FOOD. Eating shakes and fake foods, substitute this and substitute that does not change your eating habits permanently as does eating a healthy, wonderful diet of yummy meats and vegetables! It is very important to change your habits, and to enjoy what you eat. Take the time to cook, or eat out, or whatever, OK? You’re going to hate this diet if all you eat is that “diet food.” This is not a diet of ‘diet food,’ this is a yummy steak, pork chops, bacon, chicken, lamb,
seafood, burgers, cheese, real cream, real butter, salads, and vegetables diet! Don’t lose sight of that, don’t let yourself go down the path of self-deprivation and strawberry-flavored nonsense. That’s a path to dissatisfaction and eventual failure. I do understand the occasional need for a treat like an Atkins muffin or pancake, or a convenient grab-a-can-from-the-fridge-and-drink-in-car-on-way-to-work, and gosh-what’ll-I-pack-when-I-can’t-refrigerate, but just keep it in its place.

Eat real food. Lots of it. And enjoy it. The weight will still come off, even if you’re not suffering.”


Jen’s low carb support group, the Atkins Support List, can be found at:

Check Also

Karen Rysavy from Colorado Low Carb Success Story

Karen Rysavy from Colorado is 38 years old and 5'11 inches tall. Karen started low carbing in 2000 doing a combination of Atkins and Protein Power but since that time has studied most of the popular low carb plans out there and implemented parts of each (the parts that worked for her) into her own personal Way of Eating. She began at 271 pounds and wearing size 24/26 and is now 210 and wearing 14/18. Karen revised her goal of a size 12 and 185 pounds to "happy and healthy". A very important goal for Karen, one which she has REACHED!

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