So I’ve been following the Atkins diet for two months. I wrote in a previous post about how I’ve realized how much I rely on carbohydrates for my regular diet, and how it’s clear I need to reduce my intake for a variety of solid health reasons. Despite how much I do adore bread (whole grain, mind you) and sweets (well, there’s no way to make that sound wholesome, sadly…), I found that I haven’t done too badly adhering to the Atkins diet phase 1. I lost about 10 pounds over the course of almost two months and felt pretty good. It’s possible I even avoided catching a cold thanks to my eating habits (my husband and oldest daughter were sick during that time).
I even managed to go on a cross-country trip for a week and stay on the diet. Yay, me!
My best friend, whose own experience with Atkins gave me a push to try it myself, told me that she’s “taken breaks” from it for short periods of time when she’s gone on vacation or had some other need to do so. I figured I could last through to Thanksgiving and maybe even skip all the carbs during that gluttonous feast and last all the way to Christmas on Atkins phase 1. Hey, if I can make it through a trip, I can make it through anything!
Well, shoot. Not so much.
I got back from my trip, during which I was premenstrual but not too crave-y (surprisingly), and then had my period, which is also a tricky time for dieting. I’d weathered it the previous month and knew I wouldn’t see any decrease in weight for a solid week or more. But I gained a little that week and then waited and waited for my weight to drop a few days past that lovely time of the month. And that scale did not budge.
At the same time, life got (or, rather, stayed) hectic. I’ve had a whole lot on my plate this past month activity- and obligation-wise if not table-wise, and careful dieting is work. It’s work for Atkins because I have to carefully count my carbs and track on my iPad app everything I eat. It’s also extra work because I’ve been cooking a lot of different things for myself than I fix for my family. Finally, with all my obligations and responsibilities, with all the work on the diet, with all of everything in my life (including a hormonal 16-year-old with Down syndrome, which is a topic for another post entirely, but a great stressor, let me tell ya), combined with the lack of satisfaction gained by stepping on the scale and seeing a lower number on a regular basis, I cracked.
A few nights ago, I came home from a workout (hoping it would help me relieve some nervous energy) still exhausted and frustrated, and I sat down and burst out crying, my thoughts and frustrations spilling out in waves to my husband, who wisely sat and listened. I went over everything that I have to do, went over in meticulous detail the ways I’ve been so “good” in my dieting. Even during traveling! I mean, that should earn me extra points, shouldn’t it? But my scale didn’t get the message. I was absolutely ready for a short break from the diet.
Here’s where it just shows the state of mind of a busy mom who’s dieting: I spun in circles articulating aloud to my husband all the things I’d been thinking for days. I told him all my emotions (fear being the predominant one: fear of regaining weight, fear of losing control, fear of losing all that I’d worked so hard to win) and logical reasons for and against taking the “break” for a few days from the diet. Logically, it made some sense because it would free me from worrying about details of my eating habits for a few days until I got past a big responsibility I have tomorrow. It also made sense from my own dieting history because I’d seen how upping my caloric intake or something similar and then going back to reducing it or going back to the more limited diet would give my metabolism a little kick. It helps to mix things up a bit and “confuse” my system. I’ve read about that and experienced it myself. The main problem? Thanksgiving. It’s a mere two weeks away. What’s my state of mind going to be for the holiday where we generally consume turkey and tons of carbs? I can’t “take a break” for a few days, go back to Atkins phase 1 for 10 days, and “take a break” again for a couple of days. It just doesn’t make sense. And I didn’t want to “take a break” for a solid 2 1/2 weeks. But it was pretty much down to either of those two options.
After literally two hours (or more) of talking it over out loud with my husband and absolutely agonizing about it, being frozen with fear, I finally decided to go with the latter option. A longer break it will have to be. And it’s relieved the pressure on me considerably, just making one change in my overall busy life. I feel confident I’ll get back to the rigorous diet in two weeks and continue to take care of myself for the long haul. Because that’s what this is about: it’s truly about the long haul, about reducing my cholesterol levels for the rest of my life (!) by eating fewer grains and sweets. Of course, in the short term, I’d like to see “results” in the way of weight loss, and that’s a powerful motivator when you’re eating a fairly strict diet. You want to SEE something HAPPENING. When it does, you’re good. When it doesn’t, you don’t feel so pumped about the restrictions.
I remember checking out the book The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet by Mark Hyman from the library and never getting time before it was due to read much but the first 20 pages or so. But his assertion that it’s just “as easy as” starting his proscribed diet struck me as utter hogwash. He said, in essence, the conventional wisdom is that one must be “psychologically ready” to start a diet, but he doesn’t think that is true at all: what’s true is that since most of us are physiologically addicted to sugar, once we just start his diet and get going, we’ll break that addiction and all be hunky-dory.
Nope. False. Absolutely false. It might be true for some people, but I think for many of us, we really, really, truly do need to have a whole set of variables in place to be able to successfully diet. We do need to be emotionally ready. I could say I was solidly un-hooked from sugar after two months on phase 1 of Atkins, but emotionally, I still had plenty of connections to sugar and foods in general. And those don’t go away too easily like the physiological addiction.
Most of my variables are in place to get back to the strict phase 1 of Atkins in a couple of weeks, and I feel confident that doing it for maybe 6 more months total will probably be a good choice for me, after which I’ll eat a diet that contains fruits and occasional grains to maintain my better health. For today, I’m eating a little bread. And that’s OK.