Weight control has been a problem for me from as far back as I can remember, and I'm no stranger to diets - you name them, I've tried them over the years! The only diet that has proved successful for me has been low carbohydrate. I first tried this in the 1980s, with significant success. However, there was much less evidence then to demonstrate its safety, and there were certainly no support organisations or websites to provide motivation and practical advice to low carbers.
These factors caused me to return to low calorie/low fat dieting, with disastrous results. I was the classic yo-yo dieter, losing a few pounds by restricting myself to 700 to 1000 calories a day, then putting the weight back on with 'interest' when inevitably I was unable to sustain such a meagre existence for more than a few months at a time.
Twenty years later and considerably heavier despite constantly being on a diet, I decided it was time to find out how things had moved on in the world of medical and nutritional research. I was happy to find that many of the alleged dangers of low carb diets had been shown to be scientifically groundless. And I was even happier when I discovered that low carbing was now being hailed as more healthy than the low calorie/low fat/high carbohydrate diet currently in vogue. It seems that a significant proportion of the general population, perhaps the majority even, may be metabolically unable to handle carbohydrate foods in the form and quantity which make up our diet today. In fact, researchers and clinicians at the forefront of research into carbohydrate metabolism have gathered enough evidence over the last decades to give them the confidence to claim that, rather than fat, carbohydrate is the real villain - not only in obesity, but in diabetes and heart disease too.
This discovery coincided with the publication of an updated version of the low carbohydrate diet I had followed in the 1980s, the Atkins Diet. The intervening years of research and improved understanding of the subject had resulted in a diet that was more 'do-able', and this, together with the more credible scientific evidence of its safety, was enough for me. I bought the book and started the diet in January 2000. Much of the excess weight was already gone by the summer of 2000, and family and friends who knew how much I'd struggled with my weight problem for so many years simply couldn't believe it. By the end of the year, I had shed my surplus weight of three-and-a-half stone (49 pounds). And this was despite the fact that my daily calorie consumption had substantially increased.
Going low carb transformed my life. Quite apart from the spectacular weight loss, I lost the carbohydrate cravings I was always fighting against, the constant hunger pangs and the lack of energy. Better still, my confidence and self-esteem rocketed. Being able to demonstrate that losing weight is not a simple matter of reducing calories or eating less made me feel I'd got my own back at last on all those in the past who doomed me to failure by serving me up with this advice and then blamed my inability to fit the theory on lack of willpower and/or 'emotional eating'.
I didn't feel deprived any longer, either, because there are so many really satisfying, delicious, and even downright sinful foods you can have on low carb. It didn't bother me as it once did to have to say no to puddings, cakes and chocolates because not only could I have low carb versions of them, but there were also plenty of other foods I could have instead which would have been forbidden when counting calories. One surprise was losing my sweet tooth. I now found 'normal' chocolate, cakes and desserts disagreeably sweet. If anyone had told me pre-2000 that I would lose my taste for ordinary chocolate, I would never have believed them!
One other thing that resulted from my switch to a low carb way of eating was that I started baking again. Years ago I counted it amongst my hobbies but I gave it up when I realised that I was just making things harder for myself by having newly baked biscuits and cakes around to tempt me. But having discovered that low carb substitutes existed for many ingredients, I became an avid experimenter in the kitchen. Not for me a life consisting solely of plain-cooked meat, fish, cheese or eggs, green vegetables, and salad - my new way of eating had to have enough interest in it to keep me on it for life!
So I discovered how to make low carb sauces, pies, quiches, pizza, risotto, bread, cakes, biscuits, desserts, ice cream, yoghurt and so on. Family and friends who sampled my efforts were pleasantly surprised at how good they tasted compared to the 'normal' versions. However it quickly became apparent that I would need to organise the many scraps of paper on which I had scribbled my trial recipes and the inevitable carbohydrate calculations. I also realised that my accumulated knowledge might be useful to others. New or potential low carbers are often discouraged by what they mistakenly believe is a very plain and uninteresting diet, and by the need to change to a different way of thinking in the kitchen. So it was that the Low Carb is Easy website and the The Low Carb is Easy Cookbook came into being.
The only challenge is that eating away from home is still difficult, because most food manufacturers and catering establishments, if indeed they provide 'healthy eating' options, focus on low calorie/low fat. Unfortunately these usually equate to 'fat content removed and replaced by sugar or other refined carbs', so I avoid these automatically.
Some years later - an update
Well, all was well for a number of years, until I started to gain weight again. I thought maybe it was 'carb creep', but checking my carb intake confirmed this was not the case. I checked my calorie intake as well, to see if that could be the answer. But too many calories certainly wasn't the problem. So back to my books and papers I went.
It was then that I started to truly appreciate just how many more factors besides carb or calorie intake are involved when you are trying to lose weight. It seemed that there were a number of possible reasons why I had started gaining weight again. Depressed metabolic rate, low thyroid and adrenal dysfunction were top of the list of suspects, together with food allergies, candida, toxic load and nutrient deficiencies. From my research, I began to piece together how these problems all relate to one another. I also began to understand why tackling just one or two in isolation would not get my body back into the healthy balance that is needed before weight loss can occur.
My hypothyroidism proved particularly difficult to tackle. I had been diagnosed a year before (finally, after probably having been mildly hypothyroid for all my adult life) but despite medication I was still suffering from hypothyroid symptoms such as poor digestion, lack of energy and difficulty in losing weight. Eventually I came across medical papers explaining that some people need more and possibly different hormone replacement from the usual thyroxine ('T4') before they become free of symptoms. This seemed to be part of the problem for me, and my weight started to move downwards again once my thyroid specialist had added a different thyroid hormone (liothyronine or 'T3') to my prescription. I say 'part of the problem', because I discovered that my adrenal glands were very likely to be involved in my weight problems too. The adrenals and the thyroid work in tandem and they each act as a stressor on the other. If your adrenals are not functioning very well, thyroid medication simply stresses them more. The chronic stress I was having in my personal life over this time was doubtless also contributing to my adrenal problems. And trying to get your body to lose weight also stresses your adrenals.
Unfortunately, resolving my thyroid and adrenal problems didn't turn out to be as straightforward as I had hoped. Here we are talking about processes in the body that are still not well understood, and I cannot pretend to have all the answers. Other factors have also emerged that might contribute to weight loss problems such as the gut microbiome - the army of microbes that live in your gut. The importance of having healthy gut bugs is only now becoming understood, and we will have to wait for research to discover just how they affect our weight and indeed every other aspect of our health.
One thing I could do, however, was to bring together the knowledge I had gathered so far for the benefit of other people for whom diets (even low carb ones) were not working. I knew that such information was not readily available, because I had searched the Internet for it exhaustively. Sure, there were many books and articles on specific factors affecting weight loss, many of which were in my growing library. But there was nothing that covered all the factors in a comprehensive way and attempted to make scientific sense of a seemingly disparate collection of theories and clinical experiences. As with the recipes I had developed earlier, I realized that others could benefit from the knowledge I had gathered. So I embarked upon the mammoth task of transforming my notes and papers into a book which would explain all these factors that can prevent you from losing weight. "Why Can't I Lose Weight - The Real Reasons Diets Fail And What To Do About It" was the result of my work and is now available from a new sister site to Low Carb is Easy.com called Diet Plateau.com.
Low Carb is Easy.com and Good Diet Good Health.com