I'm now in my fourth week on the Atkins diet. I had planned to write about it at the start and maybe once each week, but I've been so busy... dieting.

The biggest aspect of this that I didn't expect was how much time I would spend deciding, preparing, and eating my meals. Even going out to a restaurant requires me to scour their web site beforehand to calculate how much I can eat. Kelly likes meat entrees already (I'm learning to like them), so we have eaten a lot of meals together lately. After the cooking and the eating and the watching an hour-long show and going for a walk afterwards, my "night" finally starts around 9pm. I'm not complaining; it could be late nights at work (I have a few of those too) or needy kids or other obligations rather than taking care of my health and spending time with the woman I love. I'm just saying that it's been quite an adjustment, this loss of "me time."

Mentioning to people that I'm on Atkins often results in people telling me that they did it too, or their friends or their family did it. I'm a decade behind every trend, so this is to be expected. (I think it's just about time for me to read The Da Vinci Code.) I expect comments on this post hearing about other people who did it. It's encouraging to hear! Most people don't seem to me to have lost much weight -- 15 pounds here, 30 pounds there -- but I remind myself that my weight problem is much more severe than most people's and that IS a lot of weight for them. I just have hundreds of pounds to lose instead of a mere pot belly.

The meat is ok. Kelly is converting me into a steak and pot roast fan. I eat a lot of scrambled eggs and sausage, and pre-packaged salads from the grocery. Snacks are tough; I nibble sometimes on pepperoni but have yet to find something really convenient for that. Bubba burgers are manna.

I've discovered something about my lifelong weight problem that seems obvious in retrospect: It wasn't pastas that I was addicted to, despite countless meals gorging on enormous bowls of noodles. It was sweets and sugars that had me hooked. I haven't missed breads or pastas or rice at all, or even potatoes. I see them in a photograph now and think of what a waste those empty calories are and want nothing to do with them. But sweets? I drank diet soda all day every day, and chewed on breath mints relentlessly at work as if my job depended on fresh breath. Getting rid of those was even harder than I expected. I get powerful cravings for sweets around 10pm, a time when I used to nibble on cookies or ice cream. I tried Mio for a few days, but I kept adding way too much to my water and had to make myself stop. Now, I just try to put it out of my mind and the cravings go away; the only sweet taste I get is from brushing my teeth. When I transition to the second phase of Atkins, I'll finally get to eat some fruit, but I'm staying on the first phase for as long as I can stand it because this body needs to slim down.

And that's really what it comes down to: I had to do this. My options were Atkins, surgery, or death, and the second option was only slightly less appealing to me than the third. My calves would turn into tree trunks by the end of the night. My arms would have a purplish hue until I lifted them over my head, at which point the warm blood would rush back into my chest and make me dizzy. I could go on, but needless to say, the side effects of severe obesity were starting to get scary instead of merely annoying. I feared dropping dead of a heart attack -- not by the time I'm forty, but now. Every time I felt faint for a moment, which happens often because I have arrhythmia, I'd think, Is this it? Am I about to have a heart attack? Can I die here, in my car / at my desk / visiting with friends / just putting my pants on in the morning? Living with that kind of morbid thought process every hour of every day was unbearable.

After three weeks, Atkins is helping. I'm down 10-15 pounds according to my belt notches, and just bought a proper heavy-duty scale for real measurements. The extreme side effects of obesity that I mentioned above are gone, and the mental fog in the afternoon is gone too; I'm sharp and productive from morning until night. But I'm hungry all the time, despite Robert Atkins's admonishment to eat more as the solution to that problem. I can eat huge portions, even an entire 12-piece bucket of KFC grilled chicken, and still feel hunger pangs in my belly minutes later. I fear caving in because of the hunger or the desire for something different or just plain self-destructive impulses rooted in depression and guilt. Atkins is not a diet where you can sneak a bite of forbidden food once in a while; it requires absolute adherence or the fat-burning stops.

I hope I can keep up the first phase for a long time and successfully transition into phase two before I reach a breaking point. I need this to work. I really need this to work.


Ten Replies to Atkins

Steve West | April 30, 2012
Most (all) of us are rooting for you. I was an overweight teenager and lost a lot of weight back when I could discipline myself and ate only fish, shrimp, and lean hamburger for 6 months. I lost about 70 lbs - went from 230 to 160 lbs - and almost put myself in the hospital but I was downright skinny. i couldn't do the same today but I don't have the incentive that you do. Don't lose sight of that. We selfishly want you here for a long time. Keep us updated.

Steve Dunn | April 30, 2012
GOOD FOR YOU BUD!!!!

I need to get back on the wagon, too. I lost a significant amount of weight a couple years ago but now I'm mostly back to where I was. Brilliant! I was actually thinking of getting back after it starting tomorrow - your post is just the inspiration I need. I'm there!

According to Kelli, Atkins has merit. The biochemistry works, or something. Long term it's not exactly accurate to say you can eat all the sausage you want and be fine, but the benefit of avoiding lots of carbs is absolutely real. I think for you right now, the bottom line is LOSING WEIGHT. Whatever works in regard to that, do it. Do the hell out of it. Once that's done and you're not worried about imminent death, THEN we can have a talk about nutrition and balanced diets.

GO. FOR. IT!!

And for that sweet tooth? There actually are some sugar-free hard candies that are pretty good. They're nice because you can suck on them, keep that flavor rolling for a while, and have as many as you want because they are sugar free. Something to consider.

Scott Hardie | April 30, 2012
Thanks for the support! That's what I need. Steve, you can do it too! :-)

For now, I intend to stay on Atkins for life. It's designed that way. First you lose the weight, then you determine how many carbs you can eat daily without regaining weight, then you eat a balanced and nutritious blend of foods within that limit, for life. Sounds good to me.

Tonight we went out for our first big dinner out in a long time, after being cooped up in the house for days (long story). Red Lobster gives me numerous options and it's so good. I haven't had fresh steamed crab legs since I was little, and it brought back happy memories. But after a huge three-plate meal (and a big bill to go along with it), should I still feel this hungry? It kind of takes the fun out of going to a sit-down restaurant again.

There were a hundred things I left out of the post above because I didn't want to go on all day, but I did forget to say one really important thing: Thank you, Kelly, for supporting me in this. You make a lot of our meals, you keep me walking, and you're great to talk to when all of this gives me stress. I couldn't do this without you.

Chris Lemler | April 30, 2012
Good Job Scott keep going I know you can do it :)

Lori Lancaster | May 4, 2012
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Dave Stoppenhagen | May 31, 2012
Good luck bud.

Scott Hardie | June 1, 2012
Thanks everybody! :-)

I'm still going, but it's getting harder. The food is fine: I cope well enough with the lack of variety, and I haven't cheated at all, not one bite.

What's getting hard is the despair. In the seven weeks since I bought a scale, I'm down just 3.3 pounds. That's it? For many people, 3.3 pounds in seven weeks would be a pretty successful diet, so maybe I should be grateful. But at my size, it's going to take me over a decade of eating nothing but meat to reach my goal if that rate keeps up. Atkins spent the first hundred pages of his book hyping up what a powerful, effective engine of weight loss ketosis can be, and how most of his patients lost many tens of pounds in just a few months. I was expecting progress like that, or progress like my 2010 diet, where I ate 1500 calories a day and had lost 40-50 pounds by this point in the diet.

For the few patients his diet doesn't help, Atkins suggests buying test strips that will confirm if you're in in lipolysis, so you can test after each meal and weed out the foods with hidden sugars and carbs. Well, I did that, and was surprised to find salad as the consistent offender (who would have guessed that salads were keeping me fat?), so now I've eliminated all of the bad foods as far as the testing strips can indicate. No progress. As another measure if necessary, Atkins suggests dietary supplements (carnitine and CoQ10) that force the body to start burning fat in the absence of carbs. I've been taking them daily for a few weeks now, and yet I'm still not losing weight. The only last-resort advice that Atkins has left is to try a super-restrictive diet where I eat 1000 calories a day of almost pure fat, where each meal would be something like one spoonful of sour cream or one tiny handful of macadamia nuts, as another supposedly guaranteed means of forcing my body into ketosis. At this point, I don't know if I trust him enough to go to that extreme, or if I would have the willpower to pull it off.

I'm not giving up yet. I know for sure that if I go off of the Atkins diet, I won't ever get back on, so I don't want to quit unless I'm 100% certain that it just can't work for my extreme metabolism. I have way too much riding on this. I'm good for a few more weeks at least. If I do give up on it, I'm going to switch immediately to my old 1500-calorie diet while my determination to lose weight is still high.

I have said before that diet plans are highly personal; what's effective for one person or many people might not be effective for you, and you have to do what works for you. I'm finding out the hard way how true that is.

Scott Hardie | June 6, 2012
I'm calling it. The last few days have been especially hard, as my testing strips indicate that I'm not even in ketosis at all. I eat nothing but water, chicken, fish, steak, and cheeseburgers without the bun, and I take pills that are supposed to force my body into ketosis to burn away my stored fat. Still, nothing. This diet works for lots of people, but obviously my body is resistant. I can't keep putting myself through this for nothing.

This weekend, I'm switching back to the low-calorie diet that worked so well for me in 2010. I need to take it farther, much farther than I did before, and I need to transition into something low-carb and reasonable afterwards. I look forward to that, but right now, I just want to make some progress for a change, to actually accomplish something.

On Atkins, I lost 10-15 pounds in the first couple of weeks, which was water weight according to the book. In the two months since then, the grand total that I've lost in fat weight is 5.1 pounds. Woo! For two months of reading and researching and planning, then two months of eating food I don't like and denying myself, and easily an extra $1000 on food than I would have spent otherwise, plus another $100 on supplies, the grand result that I have to show for it is 5 whopping pounds. This diet has not been a success.

However, it has been the first diet that has failed me, instead of me failing it. I never cheated in two months, and I went way beyond the core diet into the advanced steps that Atkins spelled out. I can at least be proud of myself for really going for it.

The diet did have other benefits too: I now drink water instead of diet soda, I no longer want breath mints (which I used to suck on all day long), and craziest of all to people who know me, I no longer want any pasta or rice. They are very unappetizing to me now. That has to be a good thing.

Thanks for the words of support. They meant a lot! I look forward to greater success in the next diet.

Erik Bates | June 6, 2012
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Chris Lemler | June 6, 2012
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Logical Operator

The creator of Funeratic, Scott Hardie, blogs about running this site, losing weight, and other passions including his wife Kelly, his friends, movies, gaming, and Florida. Read more »

Bad Housekeeping

If you're lazy like me, there's not a right time to put away the clean dishes. Who cares if you use them one-by-one out of the dishwasher? But there *is* a right time to discover that they're still dirty, and that's long before you're putting away the last couple of items after eating out of the dishwasher for days. Go »

Modern Music

Sadness is not when one of your favorite bands (Smashing Pumpkins) puts out their final album in MP3 format only and you miss it because you don't want to get into file-sharing. Sadness is five years later, when you happily stumble across a website with the entire thing available for download and you finally learn how heinous and unpublishable the album was all along. Go »

R.I.P. Pat

Kelly's mother passed away last week. The event had been anticipated for decades: Pat was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, suffered kidney failure in 1995 and survived on her brother's donated kidney, and had five strokes and five heart attacks and countless operations, including emergency brain surgery in 2007 that changed her personality. She obviously possessed quite an inner resiliency even if she seemed petite and frail on the outside, but it was inevitable that she would someday lose the fight with her own body. Go »

Stepson

She hasn't come out and told me yet, but it seems pretty clear that my mom is engaged, or at least planning to get married to her boyfriend. I wish them both happiness, especially my mom after eleven solitary years as a widow. This is great news for both of them! Go »

The Ten Best Films of 2010 That I Saw

10) The Other Guys - An offbeat and frequently hilarious comedy seemingly performed by the seats of the actors' pants. Its randomness may turn off some, but the jokes clicked for me. How nice to have a movie so reminiscent of The Naked Gun in the year of Leslie Nielsen's passing. Go »

Meow Mix

Thanks Evgeni: Cat Music. Go »

Happy anniversary!

Chris Lemler joined Funeratic 11 years ago today.