About Atkins, Keto and Me

Some time in January of 2010, my husband rushed me to the E.R.  I was having a difficult time breathing and it felt like an allergic reaction to something.  It turns out the dinner my husband made (no, I’m not blaming him) was the culprit: the best bacon-wrapped scallops I had ever eaten!  That was just the beginning of my medical issues.

First, my stats:

  • I’m over 40 years old
  • Have been heavy most of my life (had been up to 260 pounds without being pregnant)
  • I am 5’7″ tall
  • I smoke about a pack of cigarettes a day
  • February 2011 physical exam: No high blood pressure, no high cholesterol, no plaque in arteries

Throughout 2010, I discovered I am allergic to all fish/seafood (I can’t even be near aquariums) and I’m also allergic to figs (not the sap from fig trees but figs themselves).  I cannot be around any strong perfumes, whether those perfumes are on humans or in cleaners.  I also suffered from massive yeast infections.  I initially thought it was due to dyes or perfumes in just about all soaps/shampoos.  It turns out I was wrong.

In February of 2011, I went to the doctor for my first complete physical exam.  My doctor did everything!  He performed a test to determine the plaque build-up in my arteries, fecal and urine tests, blood tests, plus all the standard tests.  It turns out I have Type 2 Diabetes and extremely low levels of Vitamin D.  He prescribed 15,000 IU of Vitamin D/week, 1000 mg Metformin twice daily, and Glipizide ER 10 mg once/day.

At this time, my diet was awful!  I lived off sugar all day long (either coffee, sweet tea, or soda).  We ate a lot of pasta (our favorite was cheese tortellini with alfredo sauce), meat and some vegetables.  Our treats were occasionally (a couple times per month) pizza, Taco Bell, Mc Donald’s,  Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Chinese food (pork chow mein and Mongolian beef).

I had heard of the Atkins way of eating (I had even toyed with the idea of following it) but I just never embraced it.  With my Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, I took another look.  The first thing I did was switch all beverages to diet.  I replaced all added sugar with Splenda and Stevia (not Truvia, but the actual plant).  Then, I started the Atkins nutritional approach that is being taught now.  I read the book, ate the bars, drank the shakes, and followed the current nutritional approach.  In two months, I was able to stop taking the Metformin AND the Glipizide!  Now, my blood sugars are consistently within normal ranges (as of September 12, 2011).  That’s great, right?  I also lost inches all over my body (6 inches total from my waist alone).  So, why am I doing this blog?

It started when I heard the powers that be who run Atkins are now marketing their bars and shakes as meal replacements.  Meal replacements?  I thought Dr. Atkins embraced whole, real food!  So, I began looking, searching, and reading.  I found a copy of Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution published in 1992.  I wanted to read what Dr. Atkins actually wrote.  Aside from the new push for meal replacement bars and shakes, his teachings were pretty consistent with those who are currently running Atkins.  Then, thanks to Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low Carb‘s blood sugar tests of numerous “low carb” replacement foods (like pasta and bread), I began questioning the “net carb” notion.  What a net carb is, you take the total carbohydrates of a food, subtract the amount of fiber, and that is the only number of carbohydrates you count toward your total carbohydrates you eat each day.  Then I heard that originally, Dr. Atkins did not use “net carbs”.  Food had carbohydrates … period.  He also did not limit the amount of artificial sweeteners a person could use each day (current teaching is 3 packets of artificial sweeteners are the limit per day, with each of those counting as one carbohydrate).  I’ve also heard conflicting information regarding caffeine consumption.  It’s widely taught (at least on the Atkins forums) that caffeine is forbidden.  Then, some say it is allowed, but only in limited quantities.  I can’t stand conflicting information, especially from “experts”!  I needed to know exactly what was and wasn’t allowed and what exactly were the differences between the original Atkins plan and the one being taught today.

So, I was on a mission!  I went to 6 local thrift stores and there it was!  I saw Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution (written in 1972) and it felt like the clouds parted!  FINALLY!  So, I rushed home and tore into the book.  What a huge difference between his original and the book written in 1992!  Why the changes?  Dr. Atkins states, in the 1992 book, that many of the changes he made were due to scientific studies conducted within the 30 years since he originally conceived of this way of eating.  Well, now that I have read the 1972 Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, I am not convinced.  Why, after 30 years of working, dramatically change the basic concepts of this way of eating?  While it did bring a fresher look and feel to this way of eating, it changed the basic premise that this way of eating relied on: The key to success is starting with little to no carbohydrates so your body immediately becomes a fat burning machine!

UPDATE – January 2014:

So, after 8 months on strict Atkins, my husband began having major intestinal issues.  My blood sugars were stable (and I had still only lost a consistent 10 pounds) so I began adding carbohydrates back to our diets.  His health issues continued to get worse, so I dropped my low carb way of eating altogether.

By July of 2013, I had gained no weight and hubby’s health issues subsided.  So, I got lazy, and added cereal back to my diet (this is my gateway carb).  Two months later (at my yearly physical) my blood sugars were almost 300.  Thankfully, my doctor didn’t immediately want me on meds, so back came Atkins.  This time, my blood sugars weren’t reacting the way they did the first time.  They were still swinging wildly, without more than 30 grams of carbohydrates per day (until I started using MyFitnessPal, I had no idea just how many carbs I was eating without realizing it. So, I have another reason to love the internet).

I began pouring through research.  I thought that maybe I should start a real exercise program so I started making one that wouldn’t burn me out (I am an all or nothing kind of person).  That led me to Ketogenic diets.  It was mentioned in a weight lifting video description, so I Googled it (just so I could figure out what the heck they were talking about).

It changed my life!  I had no idea that when you are on a low carbohydrate diet that over half the excess protein you eat is converted to glucose!  So, even though I had managed to get down to around 20 grams of carbs per day, I was eating too much protein!

It took me about two months of playing around with the numbers (amounts of fats vs proteins) to finally get “within normal range” (you know, normal people, not diabetics) blood glucose readings on a consistent basis.  It was frustrating and infuriating (especially when something like red bell peppers would spike my blood sugar).

Now, I monitor everything (calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates).  This is especially important now that I have a regular training routine that includes aerobics AND weight training (I track those on Fitocracy).

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