Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hi, my name is Emily, and I'm a sugar addict.

This blog is brought to you by these two, Kent and Emily Stowe. This was taken the day after we met each other. 

I'm kicking the sugar habit, and this time I'm serious.

I am only five days into this low carb thing, but I really believe it is helping me. I told my husband Kent it is like when I learned to drive (fairly late in life- I was 26 when I got my license) I initially had a fear of it, then one day I just decided I was ready and I could do it. It helps when the things it is holding you back from doing outweigh the fear. I feel the same way about this diet. I had tried it in the past, but just didn't have the willpower to overcome the first few days when the sugar cravings overpowered me. I'm not sure what is motivating me this time- pain, fatigue, depression, mental fog, or stress- take your pick! I just decided it was time. Everyone has to do things when they are ready, or it'll never work out. If you do it for someone else, it will be hard to stick to if your heart's not it. If you do it because you truly want it for yourself, it is easier to do. Kent is really happy that I am the one to kick us both into gear. He knows it works from personal experience, having lost 100 pounds himself this way in the past, but he later gained it back and has been discouraged. This is due to the comfort of getting married and the ease of eating out at restaurants and not paying much attention. And of course, having a wife who loves sweets, so they're always in the house. I may have decided it was time to change, but we can't do it unless we both work at it together. I like having the feeling of being on a team. It's not a threat of accountability, it's a positive way to encourage each other and talk about what we are doing and learning without annoying everyone else!

The reason why the low carb diet is perfect for Kent and I is because of our health problems. I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes about four years ago, and I was crushed. I'm extremely needle-phobic, so the thought of daily insulin shots made me cry. Also, I wasn't even 30 yet then, and I instantly felt old, with all of the drugs and medical appointments. It was depressing. So depressing, that I stopped taking my medicine and going to the appointments. Because if I just pretend it isn't happening, it's not, right? Nope! I was in denial and it was dangerous. I sort of half heartedly took my medicine, but not regularly, and rarely checked my blood sugar because I knew I wouldn't like what I saw.

When I met Kent, he told me that used to be very overweight, and had lost 100 pounds by eating a low carb diet and lifting weights. I couldn't believe his before pictures, he looked like a totally different person! We were instantly smitten and joined at the hip. When we first started dating, we did a lot of cooking together, because it is something we both enjoy doing. He is the meat expert- he's into grilling and smoking meats, and I love making salads and side dishes, so we were the dream team. He lived with three other guys, and those roommates never ate so well as when I was there and we would cook our feasts. We started out sticking to the low carb recipes he knew and experimenting with new collaborations, and it was really fun. I managed to get off of my diabetic medicine through changes in my diet alone. It was impressive. But then life happened, and we didn't make it a priority to cook together anymore. We got busy planning our wedding, I changed jobs, and we slowly fell into a rut of work stress and tiredness, which led to eating out a lot to avoid having to do dishes. This cycle of eating less healthy food and being tired continued up until very recently.

Here's us when we got married in 2011. Shout out to Rob Baker, of Photogenic Chicago, our awesome photographer! 
Kent starting having digestive issues that worsened until he was experiencing debilitating stomach pains after eating certain foods. We were pretty sure that the problem was gluten, because his Dad has a diagnosed case of Celiac disease, and his siblings also had issues. Ironically, this disease also runs in my family, but luckily, I haven't experienced any of the symptoms. But I certainly could develop a sensitivity later in life- it happened to my older sister. Kent tried to eliminate gluten from his diet, and it seemed to help. But sometimes he would slip up in hunger desperation and eat something he shouldn't. The problem seemed to get worse, and the better he was in general, the worse it was if he slipped up. His body was mad at him for doing so good then eating something glutenous. He recently decided enough was enough, and he had to stop hurting himself. A hamburger bun just isn't worth it! Not only was it giving him immediate pain and suffering, it was taking a toll on his insides for the long run.

The solutions to Kent avoiding all grains and gluten, and me avoiding raising my already too high blood sugar were one and the same- stop eating sugar and carbs. It is funny, because there are so many diets that all basically say the same thing. The "don't eat anything white" diet, No Flour, No Sugar, Atkins, Southbeach, etc. If you say you're doing low carb or Atkins, then everyone gets all judgey about how that will be so bad for you, all you'll eat is bacon! But if you say you are cutting out sugar, everyone will say, wow, that's so healthy! And they are the same thing! We've been eating a lot of big salads topped with grilled chicken or steak and they are so good. I've been having a string cheese, a meat stick, a pickle and mixed nuts for breakfast. Also coffee with sugar free flavored syrup and real cream! My lunches have been leftover salad, or today I have tortilla wraps with cream cheese, dill, ham and pickles. And pork rinds with chip dip. I found low carb tortillas that are 5 carbs each at Fareway. That is so much better to me than wrapping stuff in lettuce leaves, because it just feels normal and not diet-y.  They also have 4 carb pita bread at Walmart! Kent is still avoiding that stuff due to gluten though. You can really get crazy and make pizza crust out of cheese and almond meal, or from cauliflower. We haven't tried that yet, but we did have mashed cauliflower, and it was just as good as mashed potatoes!

The ketogenic low carb is the most hard core version of normal low carb diets, (allowing for fewer carbs per day) so it really kicks the fat burning into gear, but you don't have to do it forever. It will help break the sugar cravings faster, then later if you just avoid most breads and obviously sugary things, you should be able to maintain whatever you lost. As for fruit, berries are the lowest carb fruit, so we can still eat strawberries and raspberries! We got whipped cream in a can, and it is only one carb, even the chocolate kind. I've been using it on my sugar free jello cups. There are a lot of low carb dessert recipes out there, especially cheesecakes and puddings/mousse using cream cheese, whipped cream, eggs, sour cream, etc, just sweetened with splenda. Crusts can be made with nuts. So it doesn't seem too restrictive at all.

Carbs are pretty much any bread product, rice, pasta or starchy vegetables like potatoes, or anything sugary. The rule of thumb with dairy is that the higher the fat, the lower the carbs, so it can be a little hard to wrap your mind around the fact that heavy cream is healthier than skim milk, but it really is. You actually want to consume as much fat as possible, which is why this diet isn't too hard to stick to. You can eat broccoli smothered in cheese! You're never hungry, and everything seems decadent. When you check labels on foods, look at the total number of carbs, and subtract the grams of fiber to find out the net carbs. (Fiber and carbs cancel each other out.)

Here's a good guide to how it works: The Keto Diet in a Nutshell. This site tells all the details much better than I can, so why bother trying? I'd rather just share this link than reinvent the wheel. The other best site for comprehensive information is this one: 10 Benefits of Low Carb Ketogenic Diets. It really dispels a lot of common misconceptions about low carb diets and their perceived dangers.

There are some warnings of people getting headaches when they first eliminate sugar from their diet, but so far, I haven't had any problems, other than just longing for donuts. It is super important to drink lots of water, which is always good for you anyway! Cheat days are possible, as long as they don't turn into cheat weeks and months. We plan on still letting ourselves eat sushi once in awhile, and maybe have a few goodies at holidays. We both want to lose a lot of weight- probably 100 pounds each, so that is why we are focused on the Ketogenic level of low carb dieting. We do not intend to be this strict forever, it is just the most effective way to lose the weight. Hopefully, the weight loss will increase our energy, and make future carbs easier to burn off. 

Luckily, I haven't had too many temptations so far, and I did manage to avoid them, but the stuff I've been eating has been really good, so that is helpful. I feel like I definitely have more energy already, am sleeping better, and my arthritic ankle hurts less. I think it might be reducing inflammation or something. My blood sugar was 137 this morning (I should be between 100-120) so that is pretty good considering the fact that I ran out of my medicine a couple of weeks ago, so I'm sure it was getting higher. It has to keep going down because I'm not eating anything that will raise it!

I also feel like I'm thinking more clearly. I was so frustrated on Friday because I just could not understand this project I was working at my job on and felt terrible like I was letting my boss down, because I thought he needed it by the end of the day since he is on vacation all this week. I know I looked distressed when I went in to tell him I couldn't get it done by 5:00, because I was having a lot of trouble. He was like, oh, it's fine, we can finish it when I'm back and I was so relieved. (I'm still used to my last boss being disorganized until the last second then the burden falling on me to scramble to save the day.) Anyway, I worked on it again today and it all made sense, so I think the sugar was making me stupid! It really does feel like a fog has been lifted from my brain. That's a relief to not be dumb, I was getting worried that I was losing it.

So, long story short, I really think there is something to this- I've lost 2.5 pounds since Sunday, and I am looking forward to seeing that number go down steadily. I'm not going to disclose how much I weigh now, but I'll be happy to in the before and after pictures once I'm 100 pounds lighter! The only thing that I will miss is my awesome wardrobe. I'm a bit of a fashionista, and love to take daily outfit photos to post on Instagram. I have perfectly good self esteem now, and although it will be awesome to be thinner, I am mostly hoping to change how I feel. And I know that those things can go hand in hand. But, as my friend said, you already buy clothes all the time now, so you might as well buy them in smaller sizes! Truth.

If you are interested in reading up further on this diet, I recommend it.  It is prescribed to treat kids with epilepsy, and it also helps fight cancer (sugar feeds cancer cells) and Alzheimer's, in addition to the weight loss and reversing diabetes stuff. It seems pretty magical, really. That is why it is so hard for people to believe that it can possibly be healthy- it seems to good to be true. But, it is isn't as easy as it sounds- sugar is like a drug, and it is hard to beat addiction. That's why those cheat days will be few and far between, because it will require extra willpower to get back on track. The whole point is to get most of your calories from fat, then protein, then just a few carbs. But don't worry, it isn't just plates of bacon, we are eating a lot of veggies! And, like I mentioned earlier I even found low carb pita bread and tortillas, so it is not a total bread free existence!
So, this is the start of the journey for me, and a return to healthy eating for Kent. I am grateful that he has so much experience to guide me, and I think he is grateful that I have so much enthusiasm about starting this to keep him motivated too. I look forward not only seeing results in how we feel and look, but also to sharing the awesome food that we make with you on this blog. It truly is a decadent diet, and with our collective gourmet tastes and kitchen skills, it is going to be a delicious trip!  Let's do this thing.

We are ready to get cookin'!


  1. Hi!

    I am just starting out on a similar journey (4 or so days in).

    Hope you guys can serve as some inspiration :)

  2. Hi Lisa,
    I hope so too! Good luck! I know it is hard, but it is totally worth it. I'm so looking forward to someday seeing pictures of me now as the "before" me! (And more importantly, reversing my diabetes and feeling awesome all the time too!)



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