My Low-Carb Life

I spent the past two days at a conference in honor of one of my most beloved colleagues, surrounded by good conversation, good friends, and lots and lots of--you guessed it--carbs.  It was hard, not in that grim, nail-biting way that counting calories tends to be, but in the sense of having voluntarily to excuse oneself from the party.  "No, thanks," I had to keep saying to myself as I walked past the mounds of muffins and croissants and cookies and M&Ms, "I'm fasting."

And, indeed, I had been worried about this past week, what with the entertaining and traveling I was going to have to do.  I even succumbed on Wednesday and went and bought some Atkins bars.  For which, I have to say, I was very grateful on Friday and Saturday, when I might have been tempted to self-medicate against the anxiety of being among so many colleagues, students, and friends.  But, I am happy to report, I didn't (succumb, that is), and according to the tape measure and my "fat" jeans, the pounds seem still to be slipping away.

In many ways, I have never felt better in my life.  Have I said this before?  I can't remember.  But I do.  Miraculously, I feel...wait for it...NORMAL for possibly the first time ever when it comes to thinking about and enjoying food.  Every day now for over two weeks (I'm not entirely sure when to start counting, but it's been over two weeks since Ash Wednesday and I had started cutting down a day or so before then) I have eaten REAL FOOD for breakfast, lunch, and dinner: ham and eggs, turkey and tomatoes, cheese, steak and salad with oil and vinegar dressing.  Everything is fresh, everything is alive with nutrients and goodness.  Nothing has been--nor could be--sitting indefinitely on a shelf (except the canned tuna).  If not eating the carbs at the conference made me feel a little left out, it is nothing to the feeling of understanding (even, enlightenment!) I now have about why it is that real food is eaten in the ways that it is: meat with spices and sauces (low-carb, of course); salads as an accompaniment to meat; eggs for breakfast because they are easier to digest, steak for dinner because it is so satisfying.  Why did anyone never tell me?!  It now makes so much sense!

And cooking?  Thanks to my blood sugar's stabilizing (at least, I assume it has; I'm just going on experience here), I am no longer frantic to eat when I get home at the end of the day.  Rather (mirabile dictu) I find myself not only willing, but eager to wait until I can cook something proper for dinner.  Me, wait for a meal?  I've never been able to do that in my life without turning into a low-blood sugar monster.  And now?  Now you couldn't get me to eat sugary or starchy junk in lieu of protein and fat and vegetables properly cooked if you paid me.  And once the food is cooked and in front of me, I have no problem whatsoever in eating like a thin person: slowly, enjoying my food, stopping when I feel satisfied and long before I feel uncomfortably full.  As an additional bonus, I now also understand why, in all the old stories, the characters always talk about food as meat--and how they can describe a meal in terms of its meat ("I'm eating an egg" or "There's quail for dinner").  Before, that always seemed ridiculously insufficient ("Just an egg?!").  Now, it makes perfect sense.

Which is not to say that those carbs at the conference (and in the coffee shops on campus and in the bread basket at the restaurant) weren't tempting.  They were.  I was hungry and anxious and all of my introvert alarms were going off as I tried to make conversation with people whom I know mainly (if at all) only through their scholarly work.  But thank goodness for all of the months that I have spent practicing sitting with feelings like that.  How I wanted to drug myself with sugars and starch!  How tempting it was to know that if I just ate that chocolate that came with the dinner that I ending up eating alone (at a conference?!!), the narcotic effect would kick in, and I would stop feeling so much.  Except that it wasn't (that tempting) because not only am I now able to wait to eat, I also don't seem to be as affected by those terrible mood swings that I have tended to have.  Ironically, it seems (or perhaps not that ironically), the fewer carbs I eat, the easier it is not to need them because (hold onto your hat, this is a big one) it seems that it was the carbs all along that were making me such a miserable wreck!  Okay, not so surprising if my theory about carbs as an addiction actually holds, but liberating nevertheless. 

So this is what I say to myself now when I'm tempted: "See that doughnut?  Just imagine it as a beer and remind yourself what it does to you.  You're a carboholic.  One is too many because a thousand is never enough."  And then, if things get really bad, I tell myself to have a nap.


  1. That is probably the best thing about low carb, it is just Real food that is un processed usually!


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