In January I read about a book called “Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells & Lose Weight Permanently”. The book was written by a Harvard medical doctor, David Ludwig, MD, PhD. I was intrigued by the premise so I ordered the book. At the same time I told my friend Frances about it.
The book arrived and I read a few chapters to get the basic idea. The diet is three phases. Phase 1 is designed to rid you of the cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. This peaked my interest as I’m definitely a carb addict and love sugary sweets like chocolate. Another thing that interested me was that this diet throws out the window the concept of high carb, low fat and embraces fat as a means to satisfaction. Given my relatively recently discovered love for avocados, I could get behind a diet that allowed me to eat avocados regularly!
Phase 1 is pretty strict and basically eliminates sugar and most carbs (all the processed kind that I loved so much like bread and pasta). When I told my mom about the diet, she told me not to start before we went to NYC for my birthday trip in March! Then I thought it might be hard to complete the last few weeks of training for my next set of races – the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge at Walt Disney World in April – so I delayed starting further. I was all set to start the first Monday in May when I read in the book that during Phase 1 (which is only two weeks), I was supposed to reduce exercise. I had the Sporting Life 10K on May 8, so decided to start on Monday, May 9.
In Phase 1, meals are supposed to be 50% Fat, 25% Carbs and 25% Protein. Yes, you read that right, 50% Fat! Meat not fat enough? Add fat! My first trip to the grocery store preparing for Week 1 had my bag full of cheese – full fat cheese, not that low fat crap! The program encourages cream and the, as it turns out, elusive whole milk Greek yogurt!
Phase 2 increases carbs (and gives more choices in that category) and decreases fat proportions. Phase 2 is the phase that varies in length depending on the person. Phase 2 is designed to retrain your fat cells so that your weight decreases progressively until it lands on a new, lower set point. Phase 3 is the phase where you test out whether or not you’re sensitive to processed carbohydrates and figure out what works for you. Protein gets decreased to 20% in Phase 3.
Back to Phase 1…I struggled the first few days with getting the ratios right. This is mainly because I am not bringing my lunch to work or following the recipes in the book exactly. The last few days of the week I was much better and got close to perfect ratios (I’m using My Fitness Pal to track my food for the sole purpose of figuring out ratios – no counting calories on this plan).
I weighed myself almost daily this past week (which I know you’re not supposed to do) and was surprised to see weight steadily coming off and not just 0.2 pounds per day.
Friday was the first real challenge for me. We had a team celebration planned at work and I was prepared for there to be treats. What I was not prepared for was news that one of our team members had died suddenly the day before. The whole team was shocked by this news and our celebration was postponed but the treats that my boss brought in were right there – boxes of croissants (chocolate and plain) and danishes. Cue Emotional Eater Tara. I went out for coffee with a couple of co-workers and grabbed a cheese and crackers bistro box from Starbucks. I put the crackers aside for another Phase and picked the forbidden sweetened dried cranberries from the almonds and ate the nuts, cheese and apple. The fact that I was able to resist chocolate croissants, in fact, didn’t even crave them, was a miracle to me.
On Sunday, I had a power shake for breakfast and then went grocery shopping for things I didn’t know existed before like chickpea flour. By the time I got home it was almost 3 pm and I wasn’t hungry. I hadn’t eaten lunch and I wasn’t hungry. I had two tablespoons of cashews and made an early dinner of Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Topping (did I mention no white potatoes allowed?) I figured with no lunch and an early dinner, I’d be wanting strawberries and dark chocolate sauce. Did I mention that I’m allowed dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher) every day? I thought for sure with no sugar otherwise, I’d be having chocolate every day but I haven’t. Most days I’m too full after dinner to think of dessert.
The program encourages a number of activities unrelated to eating, like getting enough sleep and reducing stress. So far my favourite is the passeggiata which is Italian and refers to a walk that is purely for pleasure. Dr. Ludwig encourages one after dinner every night and I’ve managed to do one every night even when most nights while training for half marathons I have opted to stay on the couch!
So that brings me to this morning, my weigh in after Week 1. I’m down 6.4 pounds! I know this isn’t going to be the result every week but I’m very encouraged.
Today was another challenge. After my co-workers funeral, my colleagues and I went out for lunch. I managed to order something that worked with the plan – a hamburger without a bun and a side caesar salad with no croutons and candied bacon. On my way home, I stopped at the Lindt store and bought a single 85% cocoa dark chocolate square as a tribute to my late colleague who loved to bake and never used anything but Lindt. By the time I got home, I wasn’t even hungry for dinner but I made a variation on the power shake to get my carbs and protein up.
I really thought Phase 1 was going to be harder. I am really looking forward to Phase 2 only because I struggle to get my carb ratio up to the goal because the foods I’m allowed are actually relatively low in carbs. The high carb foods I’m allowed are beans and vegetables. It’s really hard to add beans to everything!