I am not a doctor. I didn’t even like science in school. What I am is a sixty-something guy who works in an office and has been highly skeptical of all diets – I think they’re fads – for my entire adult life. Diets all typically have a gimmick, may work for a while, but then leave you right back where you started. To me (and many medical professionals) that’s worse than never losing weight in the first place.
On the other hand, there’s January 1st. A day when people often make resolutions. And for many of us, that involves a healthier lifestyle in general and losing a few pounds in particular.
January 1, 2019 was one of those days for me. I set a goal to drop my weight from 209 to 189 entirely for my health. 20 pounds. (The CDC says normal weight for someone my height is 184 max, but I wanted to start with something aggressive and challenging – but also reachable.)
If I had to change how I ate, I needed something simple, because if the rules were too complex, I knew I wouldn’t stick with it. I also wanted something that didn’t require deprivation because going hungry is a sure recipe for losing discipline, not weight. And, finally, I wanted a healthy regime I could stick with over a long time, quite possibly a lifetime.
Based on a friend’s recommendation, I settled on a “slow carb” diet.
What is it? And, how did it work?
First, the simple: six days a week, all meals consist of a protein, a vegetable, and a legume (beans or lentils, mostly.) One day – cheat day – you as as much as you want of whatever you want.
That’s the whole thing in a nutshell. No calorie counting. No food measuring. No deprivation. You can even have up to two glasses of red wine every evening without affecting weight loss.
The book I read does lay out a set of five pretty easy rules to help:
- Avoid any carbohydrate that is – or can be – white.
- Keep it simple and eat the same meals over and over. (You don’t have to. it just makes shopping and cooking easier.)
- Don’t drink calories. (Red wine is the one exception here.)
- Don’t eat fruit.
- Take one day off every week.
The author goes into voluminous detail about the science behind it all, his and others’ experience, and the specifics (like, what exactly is a white carb?). There are even strategies for eating out.
The simple version of the science (remember me and science?) seems to be that what happens in the body when it processes any sugar, including fructose, or processed carbohydrate increases fat retention. Cheat day science is questionable, but if it helps me stick to my diet in general, that’s all that matters.
As far as deprivation goes, I honestly never feel hungry, and I haven’t missed eating or drinking anything enough to leave me wanting. I’ve got a wicked sweet tooth, so I was especially worried about sugar withdrawal, but any urges were easily deflected by the knowledge that Saturday – my cheat day – was coming up soon.
But is it healthy to eat this way long term? All I can say is that I feel great physically, I look younger, my blood work looks good (a real doctor says so), and the weight? I hit 189 by March, got to a low – so far – of 186 in August, and I’ve stayed right around 190 ever since.
Now, I’m gearing up for 2020 with a goal of 180!
A few side notes…
- Breakfast is the easiest for me. I used to have coffee and a bagel, muffin, or toast with jam. Maybe a banana. Now, every day, I eat a huge bowl of scrambled eggs (2 eggs plus some organic egg whites) with black beans and chopped spinach. Easy to make, delicious, and so satisfying I sometimes don’t even notice when lunchtime rolls around.
- If I’m really feeling motivated, sometimes I mix in a little IF – Intermittent Fasting. That’s a subject for another post.
- Some people aren’t crazy about beans, think they’re boring, or just plain don’t like them. Those are people who haven’t experienced real beans. Try some heirloom beans. You really can’t believe how big a difference there is compared to supermarket beans.
- Canned beans are fine if you don’t like to cook or don’t have time.
- The slow carb approach has been around for a long time, and there are plenty of resources and testimonials on the internet available if you want support or answers to questions. A quick google search opens the door to a very deep rabbit hole. I’ve found the most helpful and objective advice, recipes and ideas here.
- Having reached my goal, I still eat a slow carb diet… mostly. I like it, and it’s easy. I do cheat more often than just cheat day. I don’t worry about holidays or social events. I still weigh myself every morning, and if I start pushing toward 195 I go back to being strict.
So, with January 1 coming right up, now’s the time to do a little thinking, a little investigating, and a little committing yourself to a healthier life in the new year.