Thursday, January 3

The Kid and Low-Carb

In mid-2005 I had a long talk with my Ex. It had been 5 years since I'd made him move out, which means all the way back to Canada, for a long list of unusually good reasons. We hadn't been more than roommates since Jan 1997 anyway. He wanted to come back (as a roommate-only) and this time 'for real' apply for citizenship (finally). No matter that I had no desire to put up with him again, I knew that my kid having her dad locally vs. in another country had to be the priority.

Suddenly inspired, as he likes to cook and garden, I told him that one of the requirements of our agreement, would be that he would cook. Lowcarb, so that I could be healthier without taking all the time myself since I worked, and semi-lowcarb (at the least, "real food") for the kid, who was beginning to get just a little chubby. Given my weight, of course, I was worried for her, and wanted to stop that in its tracks. She was about 4'9-4'10 then, and about 110 lbs.

Like most things that you know are bad ideas, those wrong things that you are doing for the right reasons, it didn't work out anything like I planned.

He still "couldn't get around to" applying for citizenship, turned my entire house into such an ebay warehouse there was no room for a kitchen table or even more than a sideways-path through the living room, all while not providing a dime of his income for rent, food, bills, the kid, etc. After previously having ruined me with an IRS situation I will probably never afford to resolve as long as I live, he promptly settled into the same routine again. But...

Worse, in the end, was the food issue. He had no actual interest in making LC food, so most the time I didn't eat. When he would make something, it was only if it was easy enough to involve LC bread, but since I'm gluten intolerant, then I'd have asthma/allergies, worse apnea problems, lower oxygen level, etc. (Not that he cared, of course!) When I got inspired to do it myself in frustration, he'd promptly make garlic bread or something he knew was my biggest weakness, or the kitchen (now 'his') would be so gross I'd just walk away again with no appetite. So I gradually gained weight, from 414 to 467 over 12 months, which I had to lose (fortunately I lost all that and more from Sep-Dec 06).

When it came to the kid, he had even less concern than I had previously, I guess. She ate dominantly fast food and mac&cheese and spaghetti and so on. After 18 months, the kid had gained well over 50 lbs (weighing 165 at 4'11), serious cellulite, the inability to get into anything sold in walmart that is wearable without fashion suicide, could barely get in the biggest karate gi, and now had a nightmare of taunting and humiliation at school. Since the other problems with him were just as present as ever, that was it, and I gave up and made him leave before he ruined my life twice.

That left the kid's eating habits back in my court.


So then I wanted to put her on lowcarb, but nearly everybody made it clear to me that my eating plan was 'extreme' and that this would be totally inappropriate for a child. Sure, I could avoid McDonald's, but "whole grains!" were "necessary", and apples and bananas and plums and corn and so on, "How could fruit and veggies be unhealthy?"

The leading critic was my stepmother, who thinks the ADA advice is the law. (Her family, under this advice, has died off eyes by feet by heart attacks by cancer for the last 20 years, but this has not changed her views.) We had actual arguments about pasta.

The consensus seemed to be that my denying my kid mac&cheese was some kind of child abuse, because "all things in moderation" was the answer to life, and "pasta is not harmful, and kids love it!". The fact that I didn't want her eating potatoes was treated with an attitude as if I'd said that I was sacrificing her to an alien god. I mean it was crazy how simply avoiding high-carbs, not eating a potato, was seen as such a major thing.

Then age 10, she was a carb addict already, begging constantly for bread-pasta-sugar products, to the degree that she didn't WANT to eat anything else, and would NOT eat anything else if anything with carbs/sugar was an option. It was hard even for me to stay on lowcarb when my house was filled with carby crap I love too of course, and she was constantly begging for fast food or sweets etc.

So about 8 months later, which is around October of '07, she was 5'0 and 160. She'd grown at least an inch in the previous 8 months and yet was around the same on the scale, so at least she wasn't gaining MORE weight. But she had reached the point where her karate gi just wouldn't work, and left the one exercise I was overpaying for her to have, and she had almost no clothes for school since finding stuff to fit her was so difficult in our small town.

She would sometimes spend a couple hours at night just pouring out her grief and misery about being fat, and not being able to wear cute clothes, and how people at school treated her, and more. I wasn't fat in school (though I felt I was), so I didn't have the peer results of that, but her obvious suffering just made me grieve inside for my baby that obviously I was not "protecting" the way I felt a mom should.

Around November 2006, I finally snapped. That was when she could no longer go to karate for lack of fitting a gi. I felt like somehow that was the last straw, "Her certain doom".

And I put her on MY lowcarb plan. I decided everybody else could stuff their opinions. She was 11, 5'0, and weighed 164, that was about 6 weeks ago.

I did make a couple exceptions for her: once or twice a week I give her a little corn & peas nuked with some butter as a treat (those are more carby than I can eat, but I let her). I let her have as much fibrous veggies (the ones I make for both of us, broccoli, asparagus, cauli, peppers, onion, and more for her than me, baby carrots) and berries as she wants. I don't worry about counting her carbs or calories -- I simply make a point that nothing she eats is anything but lowcarb.

This meant that I started cooking a LOT more -- 2-4x a day -- so that she would always have "real food" and not be eating stuff from a can or frozen box or fast food, because mom was busy. This was a really big shift in my own time allotment to be honest, and if I hadn't been on lowcarb, I wouldn't have been healthy enough to have the energy/strength to do it. It has meant a substantial shift in my "available time" in a day. But since I started having her help me, it also meant that she and I spent a little more time together.

She used to tell me that she was constantly hungry. That even after she ate she was hungry. That she seemed to have "no off button" and that she would eat until she was sick if she had her way. She certainly did want to nosh 24/7 it seemed. So the rule I had was that I didn't want her to be hungry on lowcarb, EVER, and I would try to make sure there was always something she could eat.

To my surprise, she started quickly asking for more meat. I mean, the girl ate meat like it was going out of style, and hasn't stopped. I thought she would beg for more of whatever had the most carbs, but no. She became a protein fiend. I was a little nervous about this for awhile. I wondered if maybe she was overeating and I should put limits on it. But as I had recently read the Gary Taubes book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and noted all the research with animals (and some humans), I decided if she was craving protein, it was probably that her body actually NEEDED protein.

In the end, I adopted this strategy: I make her wait 30 minutes after our meal. If she still wants more food, I will make her more. That's just to make sure she isn't inhaling dinner and it hasn't yet hit the tummy. She still continues to eat a lot of protein. Not too much for her size, just vastly more than she ever had. She used to only want carbs. The shift has been astounding.

And in just over a month, she went from not fitting in a size 17 jeans, to fitting easily in size 15, and I don't think it'll be that long before she's in a 14.

She has noticed repeatedly and with great delight how much her stomach is smaller, her upper arms are thinner, the extra fat around her neck/chin has disappeared, her thighs, butt and calves are smaller -- even her feet are smaller and no longer "puff out on top" in slipper-style flats.

For the first time in a long time, she now has at least enough clothing to not feel mortified at school. She now can put on clothes and look in the mirror and not cry. She actually "feels cool" and proud of how she looks.

Here's the interesting thing: She weighed 162 the other day -- only 2 lbs less than when we began. And yet, she's lost 2-3 pants sizes, and obvious fat everywhere!

Now my sneaking suspicion is that her body was chronically protein deprived, and used all this meat she's been eating like crazy to build up her lean body mass again, so all the fat she has lost, balanced against muscle rebuilt, comes out to about equal.

Her energy level is much higher. Her attitude and affection are 200% better. Thank god -- the whiny lazy angry girl seems to have greatly changed. Getting her to do chores is vastly easier. Those are side-effects I didn't expect! They rock!

And here's the real kicker: she no longer begs for carbs and sugar. She no longer pleads for Taco Bell because she's so hungry and it's fast and cooking would take awhile. She is so EXCITED by the idea that eating this way has helped her lose bodyfat, that with rare exceptions, she doesn't WANT to eat carbs. There have been times when I was willing to slide on something, and she said, "No!"

She has become a huge supporter in my lowcarb journey -- instead of a problem. She is the one now that encourages me to go to the walking park with her. And given the amount of meat she eats, and how much she loves veggies, it's been super helpful in improving even the way I do lowcarb eating, re-focusing me on those elements.

She's so beautiful. And now, she is so much happier. As well as healthier. And she looks better, honestly, though there is still more extra fat to lose, I trust now that it will come off. She is going back to karate and will be more easily able to do it as well, I am sure. Her legs look longer, and she is just so much happier across the board, that it is clear that her misery at school and with herself because of her weight was affecting her a good deal.

I just wanted to report that. I know that I've had a lot of insecurity as a mother about "what is proper to feed the kid". Isn't it weird that most of our culture will not blink about living at McDonald's and Pizza Hut, and people will argue a kid's "need" to have pasta, yet if you tell them you're making the kid eat mostly meat, dairy, fibrous veggies and berries, they act like it's some bizarre diet-cult that you're inflicting on them?!


As for me, I am down to 370 now. No big deal really, since health is now my priority before fat loss -- low carb is about health-sanity for me, not a diet -- but everything helps as far as my energy level and comfort goes. Since I began at over 500# (and a size 8x on the bottom--tip: they don't make clothes for that size...), that's fairly significant.

My 6x pants, one brand is falling off me, the other brand fits ok but loosely. Today I splurged and ordered 6x and 5x 'cargo pants' from Junonia -- which will be the first 'real' pants (not stretchy soft things) that I've worn since... since... 1991 or so. (And of course, I could wear nothing but homemade skirts for years and years.) I can wear the 5x shirts my parents have bought me for the last few years at Christmas, so that was nice, that I instantly have several new things to wear.

I can do walking I couldn't before, I can fit in seats at the city theatre now, where musicals and ballet and stuff happen (finally, I can take my kid to those!), and on the whole I just feel a lot better.

I have shifted every meal to either protein powder + cream + flax seeds (for me only, and sometimes frozen berries in there), or to MEAT primarily, usually with veggies. We eat a whole lot of simple hamburger patties, pork cutlets, or chicken breasts, with and without sauces or cheeses or dressings, and usually with stir-fried veggies.

We were still able to make super yummy holiday treats (peanut butter cookies, almond joys), and now and then when we want something sweet, I'll make some kind of bowl muffin (egg, cream cheese, flax seed, flavor extracts, sweetzfree, and sometimes cocoa)... or LC cheesecake. Not often, but on occasion when she is feeling like she wants something sweet.

She's happy, I'm happy, we're both losing fat and gaining energy, and life is going well. 2008 will be great! I feel sure of it. :-)



OhYeahBabe said...

PJ, I am so impressed! You are doing your dd a tremendous favor. Your weight loss is incredible, too!
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orodemniades said...

Wow, what a fantastic story. I plan on raising the kid mostly lc (2 mos to go before he's born, so, y'know), but it's great to hear how well it works.

Oo, I can't wait to move back home!

Sue said...

What an inspiring story. You are doing marvellously and so is your daughter. Can't wait for more updates. Is the ex still living with you?

PJ said...

Naw, I made him leave, and despite all the extra time he suckered out of me, he was gone by end of Feb 07. I fed the kid a mostly "balanced" diet "by modern standards" for the next 8 months and she ceased her rapid weight gain, but she didn't really lose much either. I switched her to lowcarb and she likes the food, she eats as much as she wants and is never hungry, and the fat is just falling off her. It's awesome.

OhYeahBabe said...

PJ, that's really fast weight gain, especially for a young girl. Do you think she might have PCOS?

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PJ said...

Naw. I gained 200lbs in less than 2 years when I was 22-24 -- I was athletic until then, and morbidly obese after, quite a shock. I ate a strenuous "lowfat/lowcal/highcarb" diet and gained instead of lost, and gave up. Took 15 years before I found lowcarb and realized there was hope. I think her weight gain is mostly because she was fed massive carbs + massive fats the whole time he was here allegedly in great part to improve her eating. She may be genetically disposed to something related to insulin, given my own bodily reaction and rapid gain. (I had a cousin who more than once gained nearly 50lbs in a single month, I kid you not. Cocaine solved this problem for her. Unfortunately prison caused new ones.) It probably wasn't PCOS in my case given that I had no trouble conceiving her and as far as I know, aside from fat and gluten intolerance, I have no health issues. Given how well the weight is coming off her now that she's eating lowcarb and sufficient protein, I don't think she does either. Fortunately!

Marshmallow said...

PJ, how proud am I of you for going with your gut; how awesome it must be to see your girl feeling happier about herself! :-D I can totally see the resistance you would've come up against - I too have had arguments with my Mum about low carb, though your daughter (and you) are fantastic examples of how low carb is a great, healthy lifestyle. You rock!

Sherrie said...

Great stuff PJ, you should be very proud!

ItsTheWooo said...

What an amazing story! This is great!

I only wish my mother were a low carber... things would have been so different for me.

You are doing the absolute best thing for your daughter. Carb fatness isn't self limiting, if you're at all predisposed to it, it's only limited by time and carb consumption. It's fantastic you have prevented her from having to be morbidly obese, because there is like a point of no return ... at the very least its true of the skin...
Having to pay 13000 dollars to have excess skin removed = not fun. All of my savings. Years of work. I have no sensation on my stomach. I experience burning pain and swelling time to time (bad swelling day to day). So many scars. And the most infuriating thing? I still have a ton of excess skin and my body doesn't look normal.
Thank god your daughter will never know this fate.

Meanwhile my cousin is turning 14 and growing fatter every day. Poor child falls asleep after eating like an old man with diabetes... and before eating he is shaking and hysterical, such a familiar sight (like myself when I was 9). All of my pleading with his mother and grandmother fall on deaf ears. The must frustrating thing is they KNOW the truth about carbs and weight but for some reason they just don't... care.

Verlin said...


As someone who watched a parent struggle with her weight and is now struggling with his own obesity as well, I think that helping your daughter develop healthy eating habits and deal with her weight issues early in life will go a long way towards her future happiness. It took me a long time to realize that the comfort foods of my childhood were killing me. Hopefully, your daughter won't have to go through that. Best of luck to you, and congratulations on kicking that Canuck freeloader to the curb! ;-)


Tracy said...

PJ, I'm so happy for both of you! You're making life much, much better for her :)

Cindy Moore said...

Excellent post PJ!! I can only imagine what you went thru with friends and family! My dd was very thin and I was always lectured on how to feed her....even tho she ate more than most!

Good for you for putting your foot down! I bet your daughter is happy you did!

PJ said...

An update. As of Feb, the kid can wear size 13s. We didn't eat well through most of Feb, but we're restarting better eating in March.

I try to fill her up on meatballs or hamburger patties with one-carb ketchup or cheese, or chicken. She loves sour cream so I let her have this on stuff. She is irked at me that we did poorly in Feb and is insisting we do much better from now on. ;-)

The biggest deal is increasing the protein and fats I think, because it greatly drops the hunger/ appetite problems, and stops the blood sugar issues. She buys crappy lunch at school but as of next year that's changing, she'll be taking Bento boxes with decent stuff.