When I was planning this post, a thought came to me: what do I know anyway? Who am I to tell anyone what or how to eat. I was already looking for another topic on which to write and then I had my Upper Room devotion this morning. This is what the LORD said to Moses:
But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:16 NIV)
Now, I am not Moses. But I am called for a purpose: to show the power of God and proclaim it on this earth. I love God and my entire weight loss journey has been about renewing my body, my Temple, for His purposes. He gave me a brain and a fair amount of intelligence. He gave me a love for people – men, women, and children of all ages, races, socio-economic status, and religious (or non-religious) affiliations. He gave me a forum to share what I know. So, I kicked the devil and his lies to the curb, and decided to write what I know — the way I’ve succeeded in losing weight. I am going to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked about how I lost the weight and what eating plan I follow.
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Carb cycling — what is it? It’s a way of eating that changed my metabolism. It is, in scientific terms, cyclic ketogenic dieting. Carb cycling involves eating a low carb diet on some days during the week, interspersed with high carb days. The reason carb cycling works is because it helps put (and keeps) your metabolism in a constant state of fluctuation. Your body doesn’t get used to the amount of carbohydrates you consume, so you are less likely to hit a plateau. If you reach a plateau in your weight loss (a place where you consistently stay the same weight for an extended period of time), you have to jump-start your metabolism so your body will signal the cells in your body that it’s time to burn the fat that’s stored in them.
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I first learned about carb cycling when I saw Chris Powell on Dr. Oz. Then I watched him on “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.” (This year they changed the title to “Extreme Weight Loss” and it comes on ABC, Tuesday nights at 8:00 pm.) This is how Chris teaches his client to eat and the results are incredible. So, I bought his book Choose More, Lose More for Life. After four months of eating as outlined in his book, I lost twenty-eight pounds. (There are many book that promote cyclic ketogenic plans, like The 17-Day Diet, but I’ve read them all and like Chris’s book the best.)
There are four ways to carb cycle. I am using the “Turbo Cycle” because it gives you faster results. But during vacation, I used the “Classic Cycle” because we ate out more and you get more high carb days. For the first time in my life, I didn’t gain weight on vacation! (You can also choose from “Easy Cycle” and “Active Cycle.”)
So, how does my “Turbo Cycle” work during the week? On low carb (LC) days, I eat 1200 calories and limit my overall carb intake to 25-30 grams or lower. On high carb (HC) days I eat 1500 calories and my overall carb intake is between 50-75 grams. This is the my week at a glance:
Monday – LC
Tuesday – LC
Wednesday – HC
Thursday – LC
Friday – LC
Saturday – HC
Sundays are special days. Sundays are days that are for a special meal that you would not eat during the week. On Sundays, I eat low carb with the except of eating a special food that is usually a no-no on any other day of the week. For example, if I want to eat Papa John’s pizza, I eat it on Sunday AT ONE MEAL ONLY. If I decide that I’m going to have a big bowl of ice cream, I do it on Sunday afternoon, but I eat ONE BOWL. There are other people who carb cycle that use the whole day to go on an eat-fest. But I can’t do that. I can’t promise that I can rein myself back in after an all-day, eat-whatever-you-want, free-for-all. So I choose one special dessert or meal for Sundays and the rest of the day, I eat low carb.
When do I weigh? I weigh once a week on Saturday morning because that is what Chris Powell recommends — weigh on a the same day each week and on a day AFTER you’ve had a low carb day (or a couple of low carb days on the Turbo Cycle).
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How long do I carb cycle? Carb cycling should be done in three-week increments. On my fourth week, I eat high carb every day for seven days, 50-75 overall carbs per day. I DO NOT WEIGH ON THIS WEEK. Why? Because I will gain 1-2 pounds during this week. You have to do a HC week because it will allow your body to gather energy to burn fat for the next three weeks. If you’re a lifelong dieter, this will be hard for you. It was for me, so that fourth week, I just continued carb cycling. By week six, I had reached my first plateau. I was hard-headed so I just ate low carb the entire seventh week – and I gained three pounds! So, I did the HC week under personal protest. The next week, I returned to carb cycling and I had lost five pounds! NEVER SKIP THE HIGH CARB WEEK!
What do I eat? I eat real food. I eat no processed foods. I eat low glycemic index foods because they don’t spike my blood sugar (and spikes in blood sugar can cause cravings). I eat fruits, vegetables, and grilled/baked/broiled meats. I watch my intake of starchy vegetables (like corn and potatoes) and limit my intake of bread. When I do eat bread, I love Ezekiel 4:9 breads and English muffins. These breads are made from sprouted grains and are on the low glycemic index. The Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin bread is my absolute favorite.
Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. ( Ezekiel 4:9a, NIV)
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How do I know what’s good for me? I read. I research things on the internet. I talk to people who have been doing this longer than I have. I exchange information with friends. I never put any food in my body whose ingredients I cannot pronounce. I get enough good fats. You have to consume fat to burn fat! I stick to whole foods because I know what’s in them. If you are a vegan or have a special needs diet, then carb cycling can be adapted. (Chris addresses this in his book.)
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Sounds complicated and time-consuming! At first, it was. But then I remembered that fast and easy was how I gained 75 pounds. Not caring about the food I put into my body brought me to the point of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pre-diabetes. So, it takes a little planning. At first, I almost became overwhelmed, but at the end of my first three weeks of carb cycling, it was almost second nature.
If you have questions, please leave them in the comment section. I will answer them. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find the answer. Carb cycling changed my life. It may sound cliche, but it IS a lifestyle change. Below is a sample menu from a LC day. If you see an asterisk (*) beside an item, then there’s a corresponding recipe coming in tomorrow’s post. I do not share recipes that I have not personally made. (Let’s be honest – some low carb recipes are a waste of your food resources and time! They taste B.A.D.) I am pretty creative in the kitchen so a lot of these will be my own recipes. If I’ve adapted them from a source, I’ll tell you so you check out the original. All recipes have been approved by my family — I figure if THEY won’t eat it, neither will anyone else!
This sample menu is made up of foods that I actually have eaten on a LC day:
Basic Breakfast Scramble*
1/2 cup Confetti Veggie Hash*
1 cup green tea sweetened with stevia
I cup red seedless grapes
15-20 raw almonds
Bunless Burger Salad*
2 wedges Laughing Cow Herb & Garlic Spreadable Cheese
Unlimited celery sticks
Grilled Spicy Cod Fillet*
1/2 cup Confetti Veggie Hash*
2 (or more) cups of tossed salad
1-2 Tablespoons Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing or Lite Vinaigrette Dressing
What about a snack at night? I don’t eat after 8:00 pm. But if you like a snack at night, choose raw almonds or walnuts, a tablespoon of nut butter (peanut or almond) on celery sticks, or an Extend snack. (Extend snacks are made by the Extend Company and are made for diabetics, so they adhere to the low glycemic index and will not cause a spike in blood sugar, which could really derail you at bedtime.
Beverage Consumption? I drink water. That’s pretty much it. I don’t drink carbonate beverages — even diet sodas. My daughter and I gave soda up for Lent three years ago and we’ve just never picked it back up. Divide your body weight by half and that’s a good estimate of how many ounces of water you should have a day. I do drink green tea or coffee in the morning, but I am caffeine sensitive, so only at breakfast. I do love de-caffeinated ice tea with stevia, though.
Do I fall off the plan? At least once a week. But I get right back on track. That’s the only way to get where I’m headed: get up and just keep going. Carb cycling never leaves me hungry. It’s a huge amount of food to eat in one day. It’s the way I’ve chosen to eat for the rest of my life because I don’t feel deprived.
I hope this helpful. Just writing it made me appreciate how carb cycling has changed my body and how grateful I am to God that I found this way of eating.