My Weight Loss Story – I wasn’t always chubby. Infact, before the age of eight, I was quite a skinny kid because I was always ill with bronchitis and tonsillitis and consequently had trouble working up enough of an appetite to eat. However, as I overcame my childhood illnesses, I became noticeably pudgier and was one of the heavier girls in my gym class. I still remember my embarassment when my gym teacher called me out about my tubbiness at age 1o and used me as an example of someone who needed to watch what they were eating.
I went on my first official diet at age 13 and remember feeling pleased at my lithe looking limbs and flatter tummy. Thereafter, it would be on and off diets for me for the rest of my teens and adult years. No sooner had I lost my extra 15 pounds, I would regain it by digging into all the pies and cakes my mother loved to bake. There was always a cake in our fridge – and always an excuse to indulge.
When I was 18, I suddenly stopped getting my period. It didn’t faze me much because I felt well and thought periods were a big inconvenience anyway. However my mother insisted on taking me from doctor to doctor until finally one diagnosed me with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). This they said was the reason for my weight gain and, more importantly, the reason I’d stopped menstruating. Without an ovarian dissection to remove the cysts that had clustered on my ovaries, I was told that I ran the risk of becoming permanently infertile. I was immediately scheduled for surgery.
After my surgery, life went on as usual. My periods returned immediately and I was declared ‘cured’. Before the surgery, they had told me that my hormone levels were all normal though I wonder about the extent and accuracy of hormonal testing back in the early 1980s. Noone measured my blood glucose or asked me about what other symptoms I was experiencing. The doctor who performed my surgery never gave me any follow-up care and at no point was it explained to me that PCOS was associated with weight gain which could be managed with a low carbohydrate diet. With the immediate threat to my fertility gone, I returned to my life and eating what I had always eaten – carbs and plenty of them.
Upon entering college, I continued to fight my weight, gaining and losing the same 15-20 lbs over and over again. At one point I resorted to eating 500 calories a day in an effort to avoid gaining weight. That was completely unsustainable, and the pounds returned as soon as I started eating ‘regular’ food again. I worked out that to keep my weight stable, I had to starve and could eat only 1200 calories a day. I struggled with sugar cravings, over exercised to keep my weight down – at times attending the gym twice in a day or doing back to back sessions of aerobics. This was the low-fat 80’s and we were all encouraged to eat tons of rice (preferably brown), all the pasta and fruit we wanted and to use tiny amounts of fat to cook our food. I remember measuring out 1/2 tsp of olive oil to saute some vegetables and mix them with brown rice for a ‘healthy’ lunch and feeling virtuous. At the age of 26 I discovered the Atkins low-carb diet and, within a few days of cutting out almost all carbs, I was excited to see my weight start dropping rapidly. Unfortunately, I still didn’t know about the connection between PCOS and carbs and didn’t know that I needed to keep eating the Atkins way to stay slim. I certainly didn’t read the chapter on maintenance. I viewed Atkins as a short term weight loss diet, that was abnormal (all that fat!). So, back came the weight.
By the time I’d reached my mid 40’s I’d lost and gained 100’s of pounds. Though I was never obese, I was always 15-20lbs more than I should be according to the charts and I struggled with binge eating, sugar cravings, moodiness and depression. I was frightened during my pregnancy that I would emerge a blimp and so kept a tight reign on my calories, managing to only gain 25lbs (7lbs baby and the rest fat!).
In 2009, I started reading about the paleo diet and stumbled upon some articles about PCOS and it dawned on me that perhaps my high carb diet was not right for me. I re-read Atkins and went on what was my final low carb weight loss diet. I lost 28lbs within 5 months and found, to my great relief and joy, that by continuuing to keep carbs out of my diet, I could eat more and remain slim – and most importantly, I was never hungry! My cravings disappeared and my mood and constant tiredness improved markedly. Sure, there were a few occasions where I’d fall off the wagon and regain 5lbs, like on vacation or whenever I’d experience some stress at work and I would come home and drown my sorrows in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s or a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. However, as soon as I began to eat low carb again, the weight would come off.
The final death knell for carbs for me came when, upon a brief and guilty foray back into carbs, I decided to do some home blood glucose monitoring. I was horrified at how my blood sugars shot up after I consumed a slice of wheat bread, fruit, or a bowl of oatmeal. Even 3 hours after eating carbs, my blood sugar was not returning to healthy levels. Further, my fasting levels were also not great the next morning. I got scared and wondered how much damage I had done to myself eating a high carb diet all these years and then I got angry that no physician had ever counselled me about my PCOS and insulin resistance.
John and I had always loved to cook and while I was losing weight we immediately revamped all our favorite meals and turned them into LCHF meals. It became a fun challenge to de-carb a recipe and create something super tasty and satisfying that we enjoyed eating without deprivation. I have always been a voracious reader and writer so I read everything I could find about LCHF and perfected the system to suit myself, noting what worked and what didn’t work for me. Along the way, John and I thought it would be fun to take photos and document some of the great meals we were putting together and the basis of our LCHF Nation Cookbook was born! We began to realize how little people knew about cooking and eating LCHF and we wanted to share our great kitchen discoveries. We delighted in inviting people over for dinner and serving them our food to rave reviews. People thought it was amazing that we could cook and eat this way and still stay so slim so we started a blog to share our secrets. In 2014 we decided to write an email course to share everything we’d learnt about eating LCHF. I figured that if someone like me with insulin resistance could lose weight and keep it off at the age of 50, anyone could.