I Did A Low Carb Diet for 3 Months and It Worked.
by Rachel Yeoh. |
Time was running out. My wedding was in 3 and a half months and I am nowhere near the size that I need to be. Although I was not the fittest, I was running 5kms two to three times a week and that had to account for something right?
Not very right, I suppose.
You see, although I was trying my best to exercise (I loathe exercising because I feel like my lungs are going to collapse every time I do) I was not shedding significant weight or reaching my ideal size.
Before I go on and on about how much I wanted to lose weight, I need to explain that I was just a little chubby in some areas, particularly my stomach and arms, but not what people would classify as fat or obese. I guess it could be what you call unhealthily wealthy (enough money to indulge in rich food and nothing more). I was also struggling with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)* which does not make losing weight any easier.
To put it simply, I was getting desperate.
With food, it is always a beautiful love affair. Although many have indicated that fitness stems from 80% diet and 20% exercise, I was willing to live in the lie that I still could eat whatever I want and just try to be active to lose that excess weight. I mean, it is a little difficult when you live in Penang and good food is just a stone’s throw away from where you are.
But at the height of my desolation, I decided that I should give this diet thing a try. I knew I should go slow and I knew that I needed something to fall back on so I won’t have withdrawals. I took some time to think about it (about an hour) and the decision was made.
No fuss, not much research - just a leap of faith.
Here are some of the simple rules I set for myself:
No noodles, rice, pasta, and bread.
Ice cream is permissible once a week.
No sugary drinks, water will be the best option.
And just like that, my low carb journey started. But oh, I had no idea then about the ride I just strapped myself to because I struggled and was very surprised I came through with it!
On the second day after I stopped taking refined carbs, the effects started to show itself. After lunch, my energy was depleted. I could not even stay awake at the office. Hence, I proceeded to take a 30-minute nap on my desk. At first, I thought that maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and hence the lethargy. Every time I came back to the office after lunch, there was just enough energy for me to reach my desk, slump my body on the chair and start my power nap.
The sugar slump was apparent. It was difficult for me to concentrate and I was always tired. I was afraid that this would continue but a quick search on Google told me that my body is trying to recalibrate. This went on for the whole week before I regained my energy and was able to function normally again.
Results: I stepped on the weighing scale and voila, I could not believe my eyes! I was down 1.5KGs. My motivation level skyrocketed and has left the earth’s atmosphere.
In the first week, I was focused on myself. It was easy to look at a menu and say no, I’ll skip the rice, or I’ll just order grilled fish at a western food store and just abstain from the fries. But let’s face it, I can’t be going to restaurants every day. It’s inconvenient and expensive to be sustainable. Also, I can’t be a hermit till my wedding and not meet up with family and friends for meals just because I was on a low carb diet.
That was when I learned to be flexible. I’ll head into hawker centres, check the list of offerings filled with carbs (we Asians can’t live without carbs, can we?) and decide to eat the dishes instead of full meals. Char Koay Teow is definitely out of the picture, but I can order steamed chicken and bean sprouts instead of ordering the chicken rice set. Banana leaf rice? Bring it on, but just hold the rice yeah, aneh?
Results: My weight went down a total of 0.8kgs in the second week. I was already feeling less bloated. For the first time in a long time, I felt just a tad bit lighter.
Aside from the great results my weighing scale was reporting to me, I was actually having difficulty keeping up with my carb abstinence. When you are working full time with side hustles and prepping for a wedding that was around the corner, it's a challenge to cook and clean when the easier option would just be to head out and eat.
That was when I started to meal prep. I baked chicken and cooked quinoa on a Sunday, packed them all up for weekday lunches. At this point in my diet, I was not too worried about how the food tasted like anymore. My mantra that was “LIVE TO EAT” had made its way to the door and walked out of my life.
Results: I lost another 2.2KGs in three weeks. That is a total of 4.5KGs. I was excited but afraid - I mean, did I commit on a crash diet? If I were to reintroduce bread and rice I would balloon up again? No time to dwell on that because the wedding is two and a half months away.
I mustered the courage to join fitness classes. It was daunting because I know my stamina is not great and exercise is not exactly my favourite past time. But I figured that if I am doing toe 80%, I might as well start with the 20% that consists of exercise.
I signed up to go for a weekly resistance class and a cardio workout class. I felt my body burning up the excess fat that was stored from carbs and sugars I consumed before this lifestyle change and though I still abhorred workouts, I was loving what I felt after. The lightness and the knowledge that I had full control of my body was nothing less of exhilarating.
Results: Coupling fitness and diet is magic. I lost 1.7KGs from week 5. That is a total of 6.2KGs since I started.
This was the final week before my wedding and I must say that I was almost at my ideal weight. My cravings for rice and noodles have stopped and though I thought it would be really difficult to go through this, that weekly little ice cream cheat did wonders.
For one who loved food a little too much, I was at a place in my life that I felt I had full control of my body. It must be noted that with the access weight off the bag, it is much easier to get into an exercise routine because your body is working together toward a goal and the habits I incorporated are no longer paradoxical to what I want to achieve.
I could not try exercising when I was still pounding on thousands of calories in my daily diet that because of PCOS, find it harder to lose. Plus, checking on the immovable numbers on the weighing scale after a workout is rather disappointing and a source of discouragement.
Results: I lost a total of 9.6KGs throughout the 3 and a half months and I’ve never felt better. I didn’t feel that I was sacrificing too much. I was not counting calories nor was I stressing about what to eat. I just chose what I wanted to omit from my diet and focused on that.
So the 80/20 rule does work!
Although for most of my journey, the struggles with food and mental strength to keep going on began to ease, there was one element that was still a little difficult to overcome and that is discouragement from people. It could be from friends, family or acquaintances but there is always that underlying question in every conversation during a meal:
“Why do you need to suffer like that?”
No ladies and gentlemen, I don’t need that #YOLO speech. Although some people do not mean it, when I get asked exclamation that goes,
“OMG, how can you not eat carbs?”
“It’s so pitiful, why do you put yourself through this?”
“Are you sure you don’t want just a little bit of rice?”
I get discouraged. Come on, it does not help a person that has chosen to be disciplined through this journey. It makes them question if this quest is worth it. Instead, choose to be the supportive friend and cheer your friend on through their milestones instead of swinging bait.
Now that that big day is over, I have reintroduced refined carbs into my diet again, but in small doses and I am glad to say that the weight has maintained, provided that I continue living an active lifestyle of working up a sweat 2-3 times a week. Also, the PCOS symptoms seem to have taken a back seat and a regular menstrual cycle has been naturally introduced again.
Any regrets? None whatsoever.
*PCOS is a condition where the hormones in a woman’s body are not balanced and this causes the eggs in the ovaries to not mature and hence it is not released. Menstrual cycles are very irregular and sometimes, not present in those who are diagnosed with PCOS. Because of this imbalance, it is difficult for the body to use insulin to convert sugar and starch into energy - this, in one way or another, makes it easier for one to gain weight and harder to lose it.
You may find out more about Rachel on her Instagram too.