"You can't," is the general consensus I hear when I talk about dieting.
Reason one: I harbor a long icky history of self-esteem problems, a lot of them stemming from or tied to my self-perception as "fat" when I was younger (and not fat, but the kind of pudgy you'd expect from a sugar-laden diet and not much exercise). I fully admit that people who've known me since childhood who are worried, based on my history, that I could develop an eating disorder aren't just whistling Dixie. I'm truly grateful to be over that part of my life, though, and as far as proving it, well, here's my chance. ;)
Reason two: my greatly improved exercise and eating habits over the last two years. People who've known me longer than that have seen me shed two clothing-sizes and go from acceptably-sized-for-the-midwest to pretty-darn-svelte-especially-for-a-mom. At my whopping five-foot-three (160cm), I'm anything but overweight at 57kg (~127lbs), especially when you consider the amount of muscle I'm carrying around (you can't see them in the nudie pics below — oh yes, that's not a joke, in the subject-line! — but I have swimmer-shoulders and visible biceps in addition to thighs that go all carve-y when I flex 'em).
So why, then, have I been researching diets for the last few months, and why am I doing the shopping today to start Tim Ferriss' "Slow Carbs" diet this week, when even I agree that wearing an American Size 2 in pants is quite few enough pounds to weigh thank you?
Before I answer that, let me add that I also DON'T worship at the altar of zero body-fat, as many health- and exercise-nuts tend to. We'd all like to see our abs more, but I'd never want to give up the robustness of constitution that I have compared to most of the people I know who carry no body-fat at all — THEY miss a few meals and get weak or lose muscle; I don't — and they get sicker, and faster, and recover more slowly than I do; partly because my immune system is awesome, but having some reserve energy to burn is part of what keeps it that way.
So back to the question: Why a low-carb diet then?
It's not, I swear, because I'm back on the body-hating train. (I took the nudie pics — which aren't *really* nudie of course, but certainly count as mad revealing by my standards — because you're supposed to before you start a diet; but also partially to prove that I'm not in self-hating mode…if I were, no way could I post those!)
No, I'm doing this because now that I have so much better a feeling for and relationship with my body, I can feel how wrong my eating is. I'm a carb junkie; I fight my sugar-addition much better than I used to, but have never really kicked it; I know my blood-sugar usually isn't good and I always feel heavy and slow from eating, or weak and empty in-between. I know from research and watching other people that this isn't what a healthy diet looks like…and I'm getting older, darnit; eating well is becoming more important, especially if I want to continue to look and feel awesome (and awesomer) over the next few decades.
And it doesn't show too much (I'm lucky to have a solid frame and a lot of muscle, remember), but my body-fat percentage is about 60% higher than I'd like it to be: All my best calculations put it at about 30-32%. I'm sure less than 15% would be bordering unnatural for me, and like I said, I'm not looking to turn into a bodybuilder here — I rather like my curves for one thing (and so do other people, heh) — but the handful of butt, thigh, stomach and upper-arm I can grab is only going to contribute to saggy skin later on, and it's only there because I live on largely bread and sugar, and don't get enough water, protein and fiber, anyway. Plus, hopefully this isn't TMI, but I also have occasional outbreaks of tinea versicolor; it doesn't bother me (yet, anyway), but it's another indication of off-balance sugar.
SO — Fixing time! If you give two craps about all this, click the "More" link to get the detailed plans (and oh yeah, the nudie pics ;).
Okay, okay, you clicked; here's the payoff:
…So, yeah, now you've seen more than most people, since even while swimming I never wear a two-piece — feel privileged? (You probably shouldn't…that IS my bathroom you just got treated to a view of. ;)
Onto what's going to "probably improve those pictures, but even if they look just the same I'll be fine with that if it improves my diet and how I feel": The rather infamous Slow Carb Diet, from Tim Ferriss' book "The Four-Hour Body", which I read (to be frank) because someone gave me a copy because there's a bit in it on polyphasic sleep. It's not a bad book though, with a lot of good seeds for thought in it…I do have mixed feelings about people taking it as gospel, as I think Tim is largely writing for an audience of explorers like himself and assuming that they'll do a lot of their own thinking and testing; but that's neither here nor there for now, because if that's his audience then it inarguably includes me anyway. Anyhow, I'm not here to critique his book, but rather, to try his diet.
One of the things I like about the Slow Carb diet is that it's based on some simple rules:
- Don't eat white carbs, sugar or fructose
- Eat simple meals composed of healthy fats, proteins and vegetables; eat these until you're full, rather than counting calories
- Drink water, coffee, tea, red wine; but avoid drinking calories and sugar
- Eat a high-protein breakfast within an hour of waking
- Every week, eat whatever you want for a day
So that's simple and, I think, sustainable. I like the day off, both for psychological purposes and because all of my reading supports the idea that taking a regular "metabolic break" from any restrictive diet (especially one that's using ketoacidosis, as any low-carb diet will be) is both beneficial for keeping the benefits, and for reducing any possible side-effects. (Also I like the balance introduced by having a "free day" — if by some fluke I wind up shorting myself something I need, chances are pretty good that I'll crave and eat it on my free day.)
I also like the high-protein breakfast; that's a good idea according to every single source I've checked, but it's really hard for me to do, usually — I'm a putter-around-make-coffee-and-eat-by-noonish type, and having a mandate to eat something solid and energy-providing first thing could be amazing. (Could, in fact, totally be worth it all by itself.)
I also like that I expect this diet will be compatible with my two biggest physical enterprises: Exercise (martial arts and swimming), and polyphasic sleep. Getting so much less carbs *could* impact my energy-levels, but I suspect not, as I think I've been getting too many anyway — and since this diet lets me replace them with as much in the way of healthy alternatives as I want, I'm hopeful that neither hockey nor sleep will suffer. We're about to find out, though!
I made today (Sunday) my Free Day, because a) that way I'll have a full week of adherence before the next one, and b) I got to spend today "clearing out" the old / bad food as well as stocking up on the good stuff — beans, lentils, eggs, and vegetables, for the most part. Tomorrow I'm making scrambled eggs with spinach for breakfast…wish me luck!