To the naïve optimists, vindictive sadists and genetically gifted specimens that suggested that I would Bounce Right Back after hauling around an eight-pound human being inside a space that normally accommodated maybe a salad and a half a cup of tuna: Kiss my fat ass.
But I digress. After the birth of my daughter, I was determined to get back into shape. I had eaten well and exercised throughout my pregnancy, hopeful that I would quickly return to a shape I recognized as human. I was so committed to my comeback that I even took to running a few miles on my two-week post-due non-arrival date. Perhaps you have seen my video, Wombs of Steel? Eventually, when squatting out my daughter on the street no longer seemed viable, I conceded to have her evicted at knifepoint. Unfortunately, as far as I could see, the only bounce back was from a protruding pouch of external afterbirth hanging around my waist like a front-facing fanny pack. Horrified, I promptly joined a popular weight loss program and subjected myself to the humiliation of public weigh-ins --with my shoes on!
Unfortunately, after two weeks of counting points and measuring portions, I watched my weight go up five pounds while bingeing on ten-calorie rice cakes and simultaneously, starving to death.
My mother passed along a hot diet tip.
Lest you question her expertise, I assure you, my mother is the undisputed champ in this arena, the unequivocal Diva of Diets. My mother’s meticulous measurement of meals has been as regular as a religious ritual. The woman can convert from grams to tablespoons to cups without a calculator and recite, on demand, the calorie, fat and sugar content of any edible substance. I have witnessed her testing the Cabbage Soup Diet, GM Diet, Grapefruit Diet, Deal-A-Meal, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Slim Fast, Diet Center and Jenny Craig. I have seen her whip unruly cottage cheese curds into a dreamy, creamy confection faster than you can say “Eew”. My mama wiped her palate clean of red meat, white meat, and fish from the wrong side of the ocean. She’s shunned sugar, freed herself from fat, separated from seeds and divorced dairy.
My mother invented The Big Salad.
But nothing could ever prepare me for the day I saw The Queen of the Greens herself, dwarfed behind a two-pound mound of turkey breast without so much as a leafy garnish anywhere. I, who as a kid had been involuntarily converted to vegetarian on a “family vacation”/Gary Null health retreat, couldn’t believe my protein deprived eyes.
“What the…” I stammered as I prepared for Hell to freeze over.
“I’m on protein,” she said, “Dr. Atkins’s.” Then a draft from the air conditioning vent lifted her up and carried her now size two body over to a monstrous wheel of cheese on the counter.
“Atkin’s?” I repeated in a whisper, “Is that okay?”
She explained how she’d been to see the guru himself and was confident that the diet was healthy because she felt good. And Lord knows, she looked good.
“No limits on quantity and whenever you want!” she exclaimed like a kid who had just discovered a coin-free vending machine next to her bed. She then proceeded to fill me in on the details. “You just have to limit your vegetables and fruits”.
Right. Surrender salads, banish bananas.
I believe I blacked out for a minute, but when I came to she was saying something like “…protein with butter, protein with mayo, protein with oil, protein with sour cream…”
Protein with Satan…
“The only things you can’t have are sugar and starch. “ It occurred to me that this eliminated everything I currently ate. “But it’s really not that hard. I’ve lost 15 pounds since like yesterday.”
This is the Devil’s work. And I will labor for the cause because I also want to be a size two.
A size six, even.
I was pretty excited about this radical change in my diet. And as with every other exciting plan I’ve ever had, I began with a little shopping, running out to the market to buy some foods I hadn’t eaten in thirty years and some I’d only dreamed about.
Check out my cart:
Sugar free Jell-O
Fried pork rinds
For me, buying fried pork rinds was more embarrassing than buying condoms, Tampax or thong underwear from a cute male cashier. Buying fried pork rinds signaled to the world that I was mentally unstable and that Child Protective Services should make a home visit ASAP. And bacon? Well, I actually turned the package over hoping that the Nosy Nancy behind me would think it was just a turkey substitute. Of course, what with the quart of heavy cream, pound of butter and bucket of Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise set amidst ten packages of sugar-free Jell-O, she likely concluded that I'd had a psychotic break from reality and that nitrates were the least of my problems.
I must tell you how quickly I gave up my long held dietary convictions when faced with the possibility of weight loss. Over the years you might have heard me uttering mantras such as, “I can’t eat red meat anymore. I can’t digest it” and “I’m not kosher, but I wouldn’t go so far as to eat bacon”. And yet, by the end of the first night, I had devoured two pounds of shrimp with melted butter, a bacon, egg and cheese omelet, a cheeseburger (no bun) and a skirt steak. Strangely enough, I had no more trouble devouring and digesting that juicy, rare side of beef than say, cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer.
And let me also say that the diet worked. In two weeks time, I had lost eight pounds, despite the constipation of my meat-impacted intestines (for which I mentally deducted an extra two pounds). For that kind of success, I would readily suffer grocery line humiliation and irregularity.
My “health-conscious” friends were appalled by my dietary habits. I could tell them that I was intolerant to wheat, nuts, dairy, humans and oxygen and they’d never blink, but mention Atkins and a high protein/low carb diet and they became irate enough to march on Washington. For a Tyrannosaurus Rex like me, this was problematic because I could not eat in public or shop before 11 pm without fear of being attacked by carniphobic militants from the Fat-Free Society. My transition to openly carnivorous was so emotionally and physically challenging that I decided to keep a journal.
Here are the entries from my first week:
Today is the fourth day of the Sugar Hostage Crisis. I could not write on Day 1, 2 or 3 as not a single waking minute has passed in which I did not have some sort of sacrificed livestock in my hands or mouth. Having consumed everything on Old MacDonald’s farm in just the last 72 hours, I am not the least bit hungry. But the stress of heaving a whole bag of Swedish Fish into the trash without swiping even one has given me a wicked headache. I assume this must be how it is when you’re trying to get off crack. I want to go lie down and sleep until I’m thin.
My carbohydrate withdrawal has apparently made me delusional as I have taken to imagining a troop of little energy soldiers storming my fat reserves, feasting to their heart’s content. I am getting leaner and meaner by the second (Just ask anyone about the latter). I am peeing like a fountain –weeeee, see me pee out the fat! For added intrigue and entertainment, I routinely plunge a ketone indicator strip into my liquid fat urine and root for a winning color (purple). Today I have decided to go all out and Weigh In. One sec…4 pounds! Feast on, my little fat fighting friends. There’s more where that came from.
Having a bit of a Setback. To my horror, the scale is reporting that all of my lost weight has been found after just 24 hours. You can’t even report a person gone if it’s been less than 24 hours, much less a fat ass. I tried shifting my feet on the scale to get a more accurate (lower) reading, but unfortunately, the scale is sticking to its original evaluation. Defective piece of garbage. Oh, I want to speak to the manager. But then, I guess that would be me.
The brutal thing is, I really didn't cheat. I worked out. I stayed in the steam room an extra five minutes. And I did not have a single cookie from that heaping plate of pleasure that the Devil Incarnate brought to my house. Not even the crumbs that fell off the babka onto the table. I HAVE NOT HAD CHOCOLATE FOR 108—no, 109 HOURS, and this is my thanks? This is my reward? This is an outrage.
This is the day of reckoning. I have come to the conclusion that the return of my unwanted weight is just more crap than I can handle right now. And I do mean that literally. By my calculations, I have consumed an entire cow, a brick of cheese, a coupe of chickens and all their eggs, and all I’m dropping are rabbit pellets. A Serious Situation is developing and Serious Situations call for Serious Solutions. It’s Tea Time.
This was no delicate English breakfast tea served up with scones. This was an ancient Chinese, all-natural remedy given to me by the Diet Diva herself, who will not be toyed with when it comes to weight loss. I'm not gonna lie; I was nervous. It was rumored that this stuff could thrash your colon around so violently that it ended up around your neck. But the whistle on the kettle was screaming and you know when, um, duty calls, you have to go.
I sat for a minute and waited for a reaction. Nothing.
I wrote for a while. Nothing.
I straightened up the house a little. Nothing.
I ate a half-pound of roast beef, a slice of Swiss cheese and a handful of fried pork rinds. Nothing.
I downed another bottle of water and then, well now, wait, maybe something. Hmm…a discernable murmur. Oh, a gurgling--no, more like a growling. And yes, yes, those are definitely the rumblings of gut wrenching cramps, nausea and atomic gas pains. Now that’s Something.
After the eruption, well, you know just what I did. Four pounds! And as with every other exciting plan I ever had that worked, I went out shopping for my new slender self, thus ending another day in the life of this thinning, carb-free carnivore. Bring on Day 7!
**Note: I continued on the Atkins plan for the full two-week induction period and lost a total of eight pounds. Gradually, as the diet proposes, I added back in certain fruits and vegetables but still continued to lose weight, finally leveling off at my goal and have been quite comfortable adhering to a high protein/low carbohydrate diet ever since. Since 1994, when I first wrote this piece, I have seen many diet trends come and go, but on July 7, 2002, the next best thing since Jennifer Lopez made the big tush a big deal happened. The New York Times published an article in the Sunday magazine section: What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? by Gary Taubs, vindicating Dr. Atkins and his recommendations. Basically, it said:
Hey, Doc, you were right after all. Sorry we stigmatized you for thirty years, but it seems we made a bit of an error in the food pyramid. Turns out, we were holding the picture UPSIDE DOWN.
The article was controversial and downright inflammatory for anyone who “believed in” a low calorie, low fat diet. I still remember sitting down at the table that Sunday morning with my cheese omelet and real bacon, while some members of my own family became hostile and utterly incensed by the heresy I was gleefully reading aloud.
And now, twelve years later, science still seems to be on the side of low carbs as was again noted by Anahad O'Connor in The New York Times on September 1, 2014: A Call for a Low-Carb Diet That Embraces Fat. I’ve been eating a low carb/high protein diet for twenty years, trading in the diabolical tea for increased water consumption, and have found it to be a simple, satiating way to maintain a relatively lean, strong body and healthy heart. I am no scientist or nutritionist, but I know what has worked for me. To find out more about low carb diets, below are links to the 2002 and 2014 articles.
What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?
A Call for a Low-Carb Diet That Embraces Fat
Stay tuned for some new Fit Fuel Low Carb recipes coming soon!