Monday, September 18

Opportunity Knocks (A four-part Saga)

On September 18 at about 2am, my scale said I weighed 467 pounds.

A reading like that should be followed by some Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reassurance like DON'T PANIC!

Then again, maybe it shouldn't. I'd say that's way past time that panic should have set in.

Twice -- very briefly, once for 3 weeks as a trial, and once for three months then abandoned -- I changed to a "Low Carb" 'lifestyle'. More accurately, to an "adequate protein, adequate water and low carb" eating plan. It worked great, but I didn't stay with it. Reasons vary.

Standing on the scale, I decided it was time to do it for real. For good.

Let's go back just a bit.


Part 1 of the Saga

If someone came up to you and said, "Guess what! There's this way that you can eat a bunch of awesome food, lose weight, and feel so much better!" would you say, "Oh no... Another diet!"?

Some people have metabolism that requires they regulate their carbohydrates. I'm one of them.

Until a few years ago I never knew that anything existed that would deal with my weight. Most the time I've lived on one meal a day. On a purely caloric basis, I should have weighed 1/3 what I did -- if that. I'm otherwise healthy, and usually more able than plenty of folks I see who weigh half what I do. But obviously, something just ain't right.

I've watched my family members, my entire life, battle weight. I've got aunts, for example, who have quite literally been on a diet close to every day for the last 40 years. One thing or another. An addiction to Diet Shasta. And with constant, extreme dieting in one fashion or another -- a zillion variants on what the Magical Medics with the Million Dollar Unhealthcare System say one should do -- they manage to "only" be 40-150 lbs overweight. Every day they are in misery and humiliation and degraded self worth about it. Honestly, it just makes me sick to see it.

When I gained over 200 lbs in less than 2 years in my mid 20's, I realized I had not escaped the genetic charm. When low calorie and aerobics every morning and living on yogurt and salad and popcorn not only didn't make me lose weight, but made me gain it, I realized that I was just following their path. The idea of suffering that neurosis and decades of failed attempts was horrifying. I was a born performing artist who was never going to perform again thanks to my weight, that was bad enough, that abrupt end to my life's plans had already made me a bit suicidal. The idea of following their footsteps was the final straw.

I decided I was going to take it much like losing a limb or getting some disease and just focus on "living despite that" one day at a time. I would not obsess on it and let it overshadow my life. OK, so I was fat. You know, some people are homely, or overtall, or skeletal, and that is just the way we are. I decided I'd just give up on having a love life, give up on songwriting and performing, "take it like a man" -- although I'm a woman -- and find something else more constructive to do with my attention than obsess about what I apparently couldn't change.


Part 2 of the Saga

In mid 2000 I was 35 years old and I went into the hospital. I was healthy 'except' the 'recurring bronchitis' I'd had for over a year turned out to be untreated asthma infections. Since I'd never had any known allergies all my life, it never occurred to me that I could have asthma. Let alone "severe asthma." One night, breathing ceased to be "autonomous" -- and I knew if I went to sleep, I would not wake up.

I hate hospitals. I put off going for hours. Cleaned the house, took a shower first. Packed some things. When I saw the doc in ER, I opened my mouth to tell him that it was probably no big deal, only to hear myself blurt out, "If I say this means nothing ignore me! I'm totally type A and in denial!" I was astounded that issued from me, talk about your subconscious taking over!, and I must have looked it, as the doc and nurse looked at me, each other, and burst out laughing.

Well it turned out my poor lungs had so many coats of infection they'd literally hardened into barely-expandable little objects. They checked me into the hospital on the spot and put me on oxygen and started forcing me to use this heated industrial inhaler machine with this thick vapor that was a steroid, to start to break up all that crap in the lungs so I could cough it out. (And that was a real joy, as you might imagine.)

During my hospital stay, at one point my little girl was visiting, I was all stressed out about work, and a nurse on her third new IV attempt was pouring fluid into my tissues and flatly refusing to accept my insisting the PAIN meant it wasn't in the vein. That triple-stress and anger response to the pain, combined with having just spent 3 days inhaling a high-dose steroid every four hours!, and trying to keep it all in so I didn't shout in front of my kid, tripped my system I guess, and my heart rate apparently jumped to 298.

Nurses in blue and tennis shoes came skidding around the corner and into my room, looking astounded that I was sitting up talking. "How do you feel?" asked one of them, looking at me very oddly, and I said, "I feel fine, I just -- oh WOW, I'm so DIZZY suddenly...!"

And that is how I came to "have a cardiologist" even though -- aside from the most minor, often untraceable heart murmur I was born with -- I had no actual health issues. And a "respiratory specialist" even though until not long before I'd never had any kind of respiratory problem, and it seemed rather hard to believe that 'severe asthma' would hit someone in adulthood out of the blue.

Well, I had severe acid reflux, but everyone else I knew did too so I figured that was normal. I was incredibly depleted on energy... but so were others. I responded with allergies (where I never had before) to every potential pollen... but so did others. Little things.

So I went to see my cardiologist once I was home, on oxygen until the little alveoli could grow back in my lungs. He saw that I was reading a Jane Roberts book, and said, "Oh, you're a reader. Great." And he wrote me a prescription.

The prescription said, The Protein Power Life Plan. Author: Eades.

I got the book, but since I don't actually have any heart problems (well, not counting my weight!), and I knew it was some kind of diet book, I avoided it.

When I finally read it, I was inspired, and astounded, and yet... afraid to hope, I guess.

I set up a "three week trial" for myself in January of 2001. I would go off it, I promised myself, using that to ensure that I could at least do it that long. I wanted to see if there was anything to it at all, or if it was just one more of the zillion ways that had never worked for my aunts. (And it is---but they never did it correctly.)

I was working two jobs worth of hours -- actually more -- and a single mom -- I really didn't have time to cook, prep, plan, nothing. I did one shopping trip and bought like every meat, cheese and dairy product I found edible and figured I'd find my way.

On day 10, I realized something:

My acid reflux was gone.
My 'severe asthma' was gone.
My allergies were gone.
My complexion was totally clear for once.
I woke up in the morning awake and alert for the first time in eons.
I had energy.
I could think more clearly.
I was more limber and could move around more easily.

I didn't have a scale to fit me so I didn't know if I lost any weight.

I was utterly baffled. How could a "diet" have what amounted to medical benefits?

I had an existing appointment to keep with my "respiratory specialist." He asked how I was doing with those (expensive) three inhalers I was to be using every day. With shining eyes and enthusiasm, I told him how I'd gone on a lowcarb eating plan and how so many "minor" health issues had totally vanished -- including my "severe asthma". I breathed for him. I thought he'd be really proud of me and glad for me.

He asked if I was still using my inhalers every day. I said "Doc, maybe you didn't understand me. I don't NEED the inhalers anymore. They are not preventative, they are "treatment" for a problem, and I don't have the problem anymore! " He seemed kind of upset. I added, "I think that my asthma was actually a reaction to some food that I'm not eating anymore. Now that I'm not eating it, the so-called asthma is gone!" Now he seemed actually quietly angry. I was so confused. Then he suggested that if I would not obey his prescription requests then I should probably not be his patient anymore. I just stared at him in astonishment.

Damn it, I really liked that guy, I mean really -- he was smart and handsome and charming and witty and I was crazy about him -- up until that moment.

I went to see my cardiologist and thanked him for the book reference and told him of my experience with all these other minor health issues vanishing. He was not surprised at all, of course.

I told him of the respiratory guy's reaction. He wasn't surprised about that, either. I said, but why? Why did he never even once suggest to me that my asthma even "could potentially" be related to the food I ate? He's an expert! How could this never even once come up?!" He just smiled and (politically, I thought) said not a word.

The three week trial ended. I used this as an opportunity to gradually eat other foods for a day, then back to LC, to see what I might react to, to try and find the culprit. After another 10 days or so I was out of ketosis, but I had learned what I set out to learn:

It is apparently wheat gluten, and milk (though dairy otherwise is mostly ok). And gluten is in many things even meats (to help bind the burger) and every form of normal bread, so that meant almost anything fast food, my standard diet at the time, was a problem. I've since found that some researchers estimate 10% of the population is "sensitive" to gluten. Most of us don't know it because it's so ever-present in our lives, we are never full off it long enough to detox and realize the difference in how we feel.

During my three week trial, I searched for lowcarb recipes online. Everybody kept talking about all this junk I didn't have. From appliances to artificial sweeteners to what seemed a bizarre collection of offbeat baking materials, everybody else knew what they were doing and I was the big dork totally clueless. I couldn't make much of anything. If the ingredient wasn't available at my super walmart, then it was not do-able. I would get so frustrated about it.

Back then, there was only one lowcarb tortilla and I didn't like it; there were no wraps, there was no lowcarb bread. It sucked. I was living mostly on nuking cheese and pepperoni, on string cheese, scrambled eggs, and jalapeno jack grilled burgers. I branched out to crockpot chicken, and salads with chicken. Still. I knew I'd need a wider range of food if it was going to work for me.

I determined that "in the future, someday hopefully soon, I will go back on low-carb eating." I didn't have time to plan/cook/etc.; I didn't even have time to sleep, my work was crazy. I also determined that "until then, whenever I have some extra money, I am going to buy stuff that would make staying on this plan workable."

So over time, I bought appliances, I bought specialty items, I worked on gradually creating an 'inventory' that would be everything I needed. For "someday."


Part 3 of the Saga

Around Spring of 2005 I decided to do lowcarb again. I went for it. And it worked GREAT. I lost 70 pounds in 3 months. I felt fabulous!

In June, my estranged-for-5-years husband moved in. And he didn't want to eat lowcarb. And since I was working and he wasn't, he agreed to "handle the food" for the household, and since I did nothing but work and sleep then thanks to work, it seemed a lifesaver. Except once he found one small thing he could make, like say a lowcarb piece of toast with a spread, he seemed to think I should eat that for every meal from then on as it wasn't much trouble, which of course sent me foraging for other stuff, which had to be quick.

I started getting and eating the quick frankenfood "lowcarb bars," which seemed to really increase my cravings. We went out to eat a lot and I tried to order right and pick around stuff, but eating out should be an 'occasional' thing -- when you do it a whole lot, the 'extra carbs' creep up. The cravings hit me so hard, it was just horrible!

One night I fell, taking several Outback Steakhouse pumpernickel bread loaves, blooming onion pieces, and a Sidney's Sinful Sunday with me.

I didn't get back on the wagon.


Part 4 of the Saga

As 2006 wore on, I got more and more sedentary. It got harder to do stuff you need to be able to do, like... stand up! My back would hurt within 30 seconds just from standing. Let's not even start on walking (with a spine misaligned by adiposity, and thighs that were in each other's way).

I was trying to find time for a little meditation in my busy schedule, so I started having my husband (aka "DH") go in and shop while I would sit in the car. Eventually, I had ceased to do much of anything. And it got harder to do anything. And in September, I turned 41.

A few days after my birthday I dug out the scale (the one I had to shell out a ton of money for, to find one that went high enough...). And I weighed myself, and saw that while I had gone from 482 to 411 over a year prior, I had gained back up to 467.

It was about 2am, but I decided, that's it. I can hardly move, can't hardly stand, can't hardly walk, am SO exhausted all the time, my body's getting older, and I think I am going to DIE if I don't do something. I am going back on the plan.

Third time's a charm, so they say.


This blog is for me: to make notes about my progress, my feelings, etc. Sometimes I might copy something from another blog of mine in here if it applies.

I am positive, you see. I believe that eventually I will have lost so much weight, peoples' mouths will hang in awe.

And when I reach that point, I'd like to be able to point to a documented history of it. So maybe other people in the situation I'm in now, hoping that there is hope for them, can find it and know there is.


It's not a hobby, not an occasional tool. It's a lifetime eating plan.

It's not a diet. It's an opportunity. So... opportunity knocks. Now's my chance. And that rocks! I choose to live.

Welcome to my probably-astoundingly-dull blog about low carb.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

your blogs are in no way boring. you are a great writer and able to transalte your thouhgts, feelings, actions into interesting prose. I am really enjoying reading these and following your low carb journey. I too am eating low carb, my story is a bit different than yours, but I really enjoy your writing and look forward to reading your entries and trying your recipes. Thanks!