What have I gotten myself into?

I was on the verge of giving up. I was questioning my goals, my reasoning, my sanity.

“What is the point of putting myself through this self-imposed torture?”

“Man, that Oreo looks good.”

“God, give me a sign!”

I’ve been reading about low carbohydrate diets for years.

I’ve thought about trying it out myself.

I’ve even attempted to start on that path. All in the effort to lose the fat that has collected around my middle. My aim is to say,”Sayonara” to my love handles.

I must have consciously started down this low carb path a dozen times over the last few years. Most of those attempts didn’t make it until bedtime. A few lasted as long as 48 hours. I think the longest I stuck to a low carb diet until now has been three days. But that one shouldn’t count as a diet, it was more of a fast.

If I can make it through til tomorrow morning, this attempt will be a full 7 days.

What is low carb?

That is a question I pondered and researched for some time. Eventually I discovered a method to calculate exactly what my macro-nutrient levels needed to be for my weight and activity level. I have no recollection of the complex mathematical formulas that went into the calculation, but I can assure you they were overly complex. The result was that the maximum carb intake for me is less than 44g of net carbs per day.

So for the past week, I’ve been diligently tracking my food intake, and have achieved my goal of eating fewer than 44g of net carbs per day without fail, although I got precipitously close to that limit twice. During this period I have also been measuring my urine for ketones. They, the people who are self-proclaimed experts in the field of low carb eating styles (they would never call it a diet), say that your ketone levels should be between 1.0 and 3.0 mmol/l (whatever that means) – the state of ketosis. Ketones are a marker for your body burning fat instead of glucose from carbohydrates. I’ve been in that range, but I did notice that my higher carb days resulted in lower ketone levels in my urine.

This graphic on how to start a low carb diet is from www.ditchthecarbs.com. But this is only how to start it, not how to stay on it. It’s harder than it looks when your body is accustomed to a higher level of carbohydrates. Headaches, cravings, constipation, diarrhea, and low energy all set in after a few days while your body transitions to burning fat. But all that will go away as your body adjusts.

Yesterday was one of those days when I nearly gave up. My urine strip test showed I was barely still in ketosis. I was hungry. I wanted something sweet. Through sheer will power and that of a Chocolate Fat Bomb or two, I survived to fight on another day.

So there I was sitting down at my computer this morning, contemplating whether I should continue with this quest when I received that sign from God that I pled for the night before. One of the first articles in my daily newsfeed was this one from the New York Times: How a Low-Carb Diet Might Help You Maintain a Healthy Weight. I didn’t need to read the article; the headline itself was a shot of motivation and renewed will power. But I did read the article.

Here is the premise:

“But a large new study published on Wednesday in the journal BMJ challenges the conventional wisdom. It found that overweight adults who cut carbohydrates from their diets and replaced them with fat sharply increased their metabolisms. After five months on the diet, their bodies burned roughly 250 calories more per day than people who ate a high-carb, low-fat diet, suggesting that restricting carb intake could help people maintain their weight loss more easily.”

And here is the part I found a bit concerning:

“He [Dr. Ludwig] said the process of adapting to a low-carb diet can take a month or longer.”

So I’m in for the long haul on this one.

Last night I also received another purpose, one that may be even more motivating than my own selfish reasons – my wife. She expressed an interest in joining me. But first I had to figure this out for myself and then put her on the program. Her rules, not mine.

So now my motivation is more than just me, it’s us.

Want to read more? Here are some of the resources on low carb diets: