Low Carbing - I Lost The Weight, Now What?
I'm standing in front of my opened refrigerator. It's lunchtime. I know this because it's afternoon and I'm vaguely hungry. I'm not hungry enough, however, to spend the time chopping, dicing and mixing up a salad. I want something that will get me fed and quickly back to work. But I also want something different.
Truth to tell, I'm kind of over salads. I probably could have made one in the time I have spent trying to figure out what that something else to eat will be.
Of course, there's always the old fallback position, the ever-easy ham and cheese rollup. You can't see it but I'm wincing at the thought. Bleeck.
In my pre low-carb days this was not a problem. Without hesitation I could have grabbed a couple slices of bread, smeared them with peanut butter, dipped my hand deeply, maybe twice, into the chip bag and poured myself a tall glass of milk. Shazam! Lunch made and devoured in five minutes while still standing looking out the window over the sink.
Post low-carb maintenance takes a bit more thought and self-discipline, unfortunately. It helps to make sure the old easy foods are unavailable, of course. The first rule of low-carbing for life is to stock your pantry and fridge with fresh foods found primarily in the outer perimeter of the grocery store. It's those evil inner aisles, after all, that are largely devoted to the easy, pre-packaged processed foods laden with hidden sugars and carbs.
When you embark on a low-carb diet to lose weight, because it is fairly painless, you think, in the beginning, there is no question that you'll never have any reason to go back to your old way of eating. There are so many wonderful options in low-carbing that are forbidden to low-calorie or low-fat diets, that you float in a self-induced euphoric bubble for many weeks. Butter? Cream? Eggs? Juicy, marbled steak? Don't pinch me, I must be dreaming, you'll say.
However, depending on what your weight loss goal is, it is not unusual to be in the weight loss phase for upward to a year. For one thing, low-carbing is not a quick weight loss diet, which is good because none but diet scam artists think it's advisable or healthy to lose a lot of weight rapidly. But at some point, down the road, you might find yourself staring at a thick grilled pork chop and steamed buttered broccoli and wishing it were a big fat stuffed baked potato or plate of pasta. Bacon and eggs, believe it or not, lost their appeal for me early on in my weight loss phase.
No question, you have to get creative, especially for breakfast. The good news is that the same ingredients can easily be rearranged to make variety in your diet. After all, as good as a donut is, it's still just flour, grease and sugar. So, why not change scrambled eggs and ham into Stuffed Eggs, or put your eggs and bacon into a quick Bacon Quiche. You say you want a sweet for breakfast? How about disguising those protein rich eggs in a creamy Lemon Chess Custard topped with strawberries?
Once you finally reach your goal and ease cautiously into your maintenance phase, you are supposed to be testing how many carbs per day you can reasonably add back in without regaining those pesky pounds you worked so hard to lose. This is where low-carbing gets personal, experimental and somewhat tenuous. Everyone is different and will not end up with the same maintenance number. For one thing, even this number isn't static and depends on a host of variables including time of year and energy expended (translated as exercise).
The question is where do you begin? What do you start with? Don't even think about a Snickers Bar. I am given to understand that even thinking about a Snickers Bar induces insulin production. Everyone must take this fork in the low-carb road with prudence and foresight but a good rule of thumb is to stay focused on two things: complex carbs and whole foods.
A complex carb is not refined. You will find complex carbs primarily in fruit and fresh veggies. A complex carb also has other nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, unlike a refined carb which has pretty much been stripped down and reduced to it's base starch content which is easily converted to glucose and no longer has even a trace of it's original taste. An example of this is white table sugar. Once it was beets or sugar cane that at least had valuable fiber in it.
The goal, then, is to add other nutrients along with the carbs to your total daily limit. White flour is so refined that years ago bread companies began adding vitamins back in to make parents feel better about feeding it to their kids. It still is low on fiber.
Whole food can also include whole grains, which are high in fiber, like bran, whole wheat, oatmeal, lentils and fresh corn. Let us remember that carbohydrates are not evil and, in fact, are vital to daily nutrition. The issue is not, and has never been, about vilifying carbohydrates but rather the excessive consumption beyond human need and in particular the simple, non-nutritious carbs. It's that old too-much-of-a-good-thing-syndrome; we have overdone it and now we are paying the price.
It really all comes down to one question, what does your body need to keep from bringing back the weight? Most can answer by saying all bodies need a good balance of protein, healthy fats, and yes, complex carbohydrates. The more complete answer is that each body properly processes carbohydrates differently so that there is no fat storage; some can handle more, others need less.
So, back to the original question, what to add back in? Adding 10 carbs per day for two weeks at a time should give you a safe starting point. Five bran crackers with Turkey Salad adds about 9 carbs to lunch. Not bad but sure is a treat. Ten carbs could be one-half of a medium apple or two slices of Nature's Own Low-Carbohydrate Bread made into a grilled cheese sandwich. Oh, what a treat that is. I mean, you can eat cheese but resourceful as I am I have never been able to make a grilled cheese sandwich without the bread.
Add 2 Tblsp of Masa (fine corn meal) to Chicken Tortilla Soup to add that irreplaceable corn flavor. The added veggies that end up in a single serving of this wonderful hearty fare won't add up to ten carbs so you'll have a couple to add to another meal like a low-carb tortilla filled with that Turkey Salad for lunch perhaps?
Perhaps you were not aware that two tablespoons of peanut butter only has four net carbs. If you put one tablespoon of peanut butter on one slice of low-carb bread, you have seven net carbs that also has protein, good fat and whole grain nutrition.
Okay, now that's what I'm talking! I like peanut butter on celery too. You might have noticed that a little goes a long way. European and gourmet cooks have always known that the essence of a food is as good as a heaping plateful. I suspect the abundance of Western culture introduced the concept of more is better. Low-Carbers must wrap their brains around the abandonment of the whole Super-Sized idea unless we're talking about eating an entire roast turkey, minus the dressing. But, miraculously, it isn't necessary for a well-balanced meal to be more of the same piled higher and deeper.
The real secret of low-carb success is the taking control of the cravings and blood-sugar dips that come from over consumption of carbohydrates and that trigger hunger. Simply put, you will no longer desire quantity because the quality will not only be more satisfying it will be higher in real food value which will be better for you in the long run. If you do it right, that is.
The misconceptions about low-carb dieting would fill a large book. Low-carb is not NO-carb. Once you reach maintenance you can enjoy many wonderful, good-for-you foods again, in moderation, so long as you stay within your personal daily maintenance level. The key is taking the trouble to find that level. There are many people who are seriously carbohydrate sensitive and some new interpretation low-carb camps are even raising red flags about flagrantly ignoring dense calorie counts in some food even while still carefully measuring carbs.
As in everything else there are always exceptions and I cannot stress enough that every single person must understand and heed his/her own personal nutritional needs, fitness and lifestyle. Personally, I never consider calories but then, I am not an overeater either. A single slice of low-carb bread with one tablespoon of peanut butter is quite satisfying to me. I have no idea how many calories it has, nor do I wish to know. You must determine what works for you based on your general health and metabolism.
Ultimately, low-carbing is nothing if not a personal WOE (way of eating) based on individual requirements. For me, the exquisite joy of low-carbing has been the, heretofore sanctioned, disregard of counting the calories. But, perhaps that's another article.
So, I'm still standing here, waiting for something wonderful to leap out of my refrigerator. I find it sometimes helps to close the door and wait a few minutes to clear my mind and then casually open it again so that thing I missed the first go round might suddenly stand out.
Oh, what is this, in the back, hiding behind the industrial sized jar of mayo? Ah, the rest of the Turkey Salad. Though I'm fresh out of the low-carb tortillas I can spoon it into a lettuce cup (no chopping necessary). Then I'll add a half an apple and a tall glass of iced lemon tea. Hey, I can even top it off with a Sugarfree Peanut Butter Cookie. I might even take the time to sit down for this one. Oh yeah…the low-carb life is good.