The Carbs that Bind Me

I've started an eating program today, one that has been successful for me in the past. In fact, it's the only way I've ever lost weight if you don't count depression -induced anorexia. Have I gained weight since I've lost weight? Yes. So, if I've lost weight, and gained it back, does that mean that the methods I used to lose weight don't "really" work? That was the question posed to me today. Wow, where to begin? My response, initially, was to say "Did you really ask a fat bipolar person that question? Think about it, come up with 5 reasons that sound good, and get back to me. I'll let you know if you are right." Obviously, I think the answer is "No, of course not." Whether or not a diet "works" is not all about the diet itself. Obviously something faddish, like only eating cabbage soup, might cause a drastic and unsustainable weight loss, but the fact that I was not able to sustain a method of eating that is by it's nature sustainable has more to say about me and my situation than it does about the diet itself.

The Carbohydrate Addicts Diet was recommended to me many years ago by my chiropractor when I was a single woman struggling with health issues. The idea is that with some people, carbohydrates can cause unhealthy spikes and crashes in blood sugar that cause cravings for more and more carbs. While a "normal" person might be able to eat a portion of brown rice as part of a healthy diet, a person who is a "Carb addict" will find that all normal food desires spiral out of control and will soon find themselves overeating due to the blood sugar swings triggered by eating carbs.

The nice thing about this particular diet is that it doesn't prohibit carbs, it merely limits the consumption of them to one hour a day. Two meals are spent eating balanced, protein rich, low carb meals. The third meal is also balanced, but can include carbs and a dessert, and is limited to one hour from the first bite of food. The time limit is what prevents unhealthy blood sugar spikes that can lead to a host of symptoms including a "crash" and overeating.

What I love about this diet is the lack of deprivation. Knowing that delicious treats like homemade bread and mashed potatoes and chocolate cake are not prohibited, but limited in a way that prevents unnatural cravings, makes it very appealing. I love to cook. I love to bake. I love special desserts. There is no way I could reasonably sustain an eating plan that did not include these things. But I also know that toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch not only doesn't help me lose weight, but leads to a candy bar binge late at night. "Normal" healthy eating and I are not a good match. Carb addicts is a good match for me. I have lost weight doing this first, as a single woman trying to lose the "freshman 15" gained during a depressive episode while attending an out-of-state college with an all you can eat buffet all three meals a day. The second time was as a young mother of three working to lose weight after giving birth to a large baby. Both times the diet was very successful for me.

So, if this diet is so great, why am I fat? Let's look at this more closely.

1. I've had four kids, and I have breast-fed all of them. My first pregnancy, which resulted in my smallest baby, also caused me a 55 lb weight gain. I gained 7 lbs the week of conception, and 20 lbs the first MONTH. My body went absolutely haywire, and it never quite recovered. I remember being on a long car trip with my parents before knowing I was pregnant and INHALING an entire bag of peanut M&Ms.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding can make dieting not just inadvisable but downright impossible. I needed carbs more when I was growing a baby and fully sustaining that child with my milk. Unfortunately for me, while my body needed those carbs, consumption of those carbs led to more and more. Because of my body chemistry, it's difficult to moderate carb consumption. A trickle of carbs all day long just leads to more and more and more. Large and larger portions. More and more sugar. Now that my husband and I have decided not to have more children, and my baby boy is old enough to not be fully sustained by my milk, a diet makes more sense. I can give up carbs without feeling deprived, because my body simply doesn't need the calories to grow a baby or make as much milk.

2. The last three years of my life have been INCREDIBLY stressful. Husband working long hours for little money while going to school, homeschooling 3 kids including one with emotional problems, a tough exhausting surprise pregnancy. I don't drink. I don't toke. I eat. Emotional eating was a huge form of solace for me. And I can recognize that, and deal with it, now that I am on this journey of health. I just couldn't think about it before.

3. Being a member of the lower middle class meant that I simply did not have the grocery money necessary to provide my family with good meals, healthy snacks AND have special food set aside for me. If my kids had cereal, I had cereal. If they had peanut butter, I had peanut butter. Some things have shifted in this regard and I have more resources than before. It's a good time for me to try to change because I am not gripped with fear that we'll run out of food. I can buy a package of salad and a package of chicken breasts and eggs JUST FOR ME alone. It's a luxury that I am extremely grateful for.

4. I'm bipolar. Since my brain is inconsistent, so is my life. Many, many things that other people have the ability to sustain I simply do not. Now that I am in treatment and therapy I am not just enthused about making this change, but getting the tools I need to be consistent with these life-changes. That includes the way I eat.

5. I'm not exactly the only fat person in my family. Part of it is genetic, some of it is learned behavior.

One thing I am devoted to is making this way of eating sustainable. For me, that means including a few low carb snacks throughout the day because I am still nursing. I'm more concerned with my overall health than I am with weight loss. I don't hate my body. I actually have a ridiculous level of self-esteem for an American woman of my size and weight! I do wish it was easier to shop, and I am tired of being sluggish. I primarily want to feel better and more energetic. Weight loss is a bonus.

Another part of my plan is making weekends diet-free. I'm over trying to do things perfectly. If I know that on Saturdays I can make pancakes for everyone and feel free to partake in the carbo-load my family is enjoying, I'll be less likely to indulge during the week. Besides, aren't the weekends made for food comas? :-) Plus, I can devote the weekends to baking the scrumptious desserts I can eat every weeknight, and then I can also lick the bowl! And that way I won't be cheating on my diet when I have a carb-laden communion wafer with grape juice.

A few years ago I met a mom with four kids who had obviously just lost a ton of weight. She looked amazing! And she gave me a piece of advice. "Have all the kids you want, then worry about your body." So, now that the pregnancies and round the clock nursing is over, I can start to think about me again. About thinking about what I eat instead of grabbing things out of the cupboard on the fly while I'm scrambling to deal with four ankle biters.

This is the year of Kate, and it feels good.