A friend of mine emailed me on Facebook after I posted links to my blogs on there and asked me for some more specifics about what exactly I'm doing. I wound up writing her a long email, and I thought I would put it on my blog in case anyone else is wondering where to start.
First, let me offer this caveat. I think low-carb is a good way to eat, for reasons that I think are explained below. However, what works for me may not work for you. My tweaked version of low-carb may not work for other low-carbers. I know that I can tolerate dairy. Also, I can tolerate corn and rice much better than wheat, so I'm ok with indulging in sushi or corn tortilla chips very occasionally. These are all things I've discovered over the past few years. It's interesting to figure out what works for your body.
That said, first I'll give some background about why I'm doing low-carb. I came to low-carb several years ago when after steadily losing weight for a few years by working out (swimming and strength training) and eating the typical low-fat, whole grain diet, I hit a major plateau and could not lose any more weight. I had cut out sugar and white flour and I had lost 40 pounds, so I knew how to lose weight via the standard dietary advice. I definitely still had weight to lose, but I was stalled. So I started doing some research into other ways of eating and decided to try low-carb.
Initially I tried the South Beach Diet, which is a more low-fat version of low-carb. I even bought the book, which was helpful for having meal ideas and recipes. For the first 2 weeks (Phase 1), you cut out all sugars and grains and fruit and basically eat meat, some low-fat dairy, and vegetables. Pretty quickly, I broke through my plateau and started losing weight again.
So I kept doing research because I figured there must be something to this. My first major resource after South Beach was the Livin' la Vida Low Carb podcast. Jimmy Moore gets great guests, like all of the doctors and researchers who are doing low-carb research (which aren't that many. But if they're researching it, Jimmy Moore has them on his show.)
A real turning point for me was watching the documentary Fat Head after Tom Naughton, the creator, was on the LLLVLC podcast. It's kind of the idiot's guide to biochemistry and explains why fat doesn't make us fat, carbs make us fat. The production value is on the lower end because Tom Naughton basically funded it himself, but the information is good and it's entertaining.
The science made sense to me, but what do I know, I'm a lawyer. So I sat Jason, the scientist, down and made him watch it with me. He confirmed that the science is right on, and ever since has been hugely supportive of my low-carb efforts, and even tries to cut down himself sometimes, though he's not really dedicated. Doesn't matter, since I'm the one that cooks. Most of our joint meals at home consist of protein and vegetables.
Eventually, the Paleo and Primal movements started getting more coverage on the low-carb blogs and podcasts. The theory is that our bodies did the bulk of their evolving when we were hunter/gatherers (during the Paleolithic era). Agriculture is a fairly recent invention, evolutionarily speaking, and our bodies are not evolved to cope with the glut of grains and high amounts of sugar that we throw at them. Especially not over the last 30 years or so where grains have become ubiquitous and processed foods are so plentiful.
Paleo is really focused on whole foods, and the low-carb movement seems to be heading that way. On Atkins and South Beach you can have artificial sweeteners and processed foods, so long as they're low-carb. Paleo is all about unprocessed, whole foods, which I like.
So what am I doing now? For the past 14 days, I've been doing my best to do Phase 1 of South Beach, which is no grains, no sugar, no fruit. I'm not so worried about the fat because all of my research has really taught me not to be so scared of natural fats. I suppose technically today is my last day of Phase 1, but I haven't been hurting from it, so it hasn't really occurred to me that OMG, tomorrow I can eat an apple! Meh. Maybe I'll eat an apple tomorrow, maybe not.
After these 2 weeks, I'm moving into more of a Paleo/Primal mode. All that really means for me is I can have a sweet potato now and again. Since I am trying to lose weight, I keep my carbs low, even carbs that are ok (like sweet potatoes). I like data and I like to keep track of what I'm doing, so I track all of my food on SparkPeople. I shoot for less than 100g of carbs per day. It looks like over the past 14 days I've averaged 70g of carbs per day. If I factor in my average fiber intake of 18g per day, that brings meto an average net carb intake of 52g per day. Considering the average American takes in 300-400g of carbs per day, I think you can call my eating low-carb.
I can't tell you how much better I feel when the junk is out of my system. As I've discussed on here before, I've discovered wheat is a migraine trigger for me. I build up a tolerance to it when I eat wheat regularly, but I do get migraines at least once a week. I haven't had a migraine since December 31st.
Now for some good resources:
Fat Head - Everyone should watch this movie. Seriously. It is enlightening and entertaining. I'm pretty sure it's on Netflix streaming still, or possibly Hulu.
Mark's Daily Apple - Mark Sission teaches a "Primal" plan, which as far as I can tell is Paleo, but with more flexibility regarding dairy and legumes. I've never had a problem with dairy, so I'm happier when I can have a glass of milk now and again. This site has great information, great recipes, and a success story every Friday which I personally find really motivational. I can spend hours on this site.
Robb Wolf - He is a major Paleo guru and has a site, a podcast and books. Although I haven't delved into his info as much as other people, he's got some interesting stuff.
Kalyn's Kitchen - Kalyn is on South Beach so it doesn't fit exactly with my own plan, but she has some awesome, creative recipes, especially vegetable recipes.
Livin La Vida Low Carb - Discussed above
Everyday Paleo - Another good Paleo resource for recipes and information. Sarah Fragoso has a couple of podcasts and has put out some Paleo recipe books.
The point of all of this is to feel better and to be healthy. Try not to beat yourself up if you're not perfect. Mark Sisson and other Paleo people talk a lot about the 80/20 rule. If you're on plan 80% of the time, you can cut yourself some slack on the other 20%. I'm a big believer in that because striving for perfection and beating yourself up if you slip at all is the fast road to obsession and disordered thinking about food.