Friday, October 24, 2003

Dr. Atkins Wasn't Crazy

My food problems started when my mother, sister and I moved in with my Granddaddy and GrandMa Padgett when I was 7 years old. My mother has pictures of me right just before we took refuge there, sitting on a weathered plywood workbench outside the subsidized housing we lived in, making a “muscle” with my arm. I was a normal weight child! When someone ask, and I’m feeling mentally lazy, I’ll just say I’ve had a weight problem all my life, but that isn’t really true.

We moved in with my mothers parents because she was having a tough time dealing with my father. I’ll get into that story another time, but our move was the culmination of a rather traumatic series of events that left me a hurt, angry little kid. GrandMa tried her best to help me, and one of the ways she found that worked was to feed me lots of sweets. The house was always stocked with lots of pre-packaged sugary treats, like deep fried, glazed cherry pies and powdered doughnuts. I ate, and the more I ate, the more numb I got to my emotions. If you’ve never had a sugar high, you might not understand, but it is real; a real feeling of well-being and euphoria that comes from having too high a blood sugar level. Nobody challenged the quantities of these treats I was eating; sometimes downing 5 or 6 single serving pies between the time I got home from school and when my mother returned from work. I think GrandMa didn’t know it was harming me, she just knew they seemed to calm me down, which she equated with happiness. I started putting on weight quickly.

Fast forward two years. There are pictures of me at my mother wedding to my stepfather that show a round, moon-pie-faced little boy with arms too big for the blue blazer I was wearing. I had gone from a skinny, athletic child who loved to be outside to a bloated, overweight couch potato who would rather just lie on the armchair watching Space Giants on TBS. Something happened in those two years, and now, looking back, I think it was a sugar addiction.

I went on the Atkins diet back in March of 2003, and lost around 40 pounds, and felt great. I noticed I wasn’t hungry between meals, and the tendencies to gorge myself had abated. I was actually eating normal portions, and feeling sated by the end of a meal. Until I went on Atkins, I don’t remember feeling that way, ever, in my life. Sure, I felt physically full, “stuffed” is probably a better word, and I would interpret that as my signal to stop eating. On Atkins, though, I would feel a different feeling, this feeling of being satisfied with what I’d eaten, even though I wasn’t “stuffed” or uncomfortably physically full.

Then, when Dawn and I went to Atlanta back in August for my birthday, I took a break from the diet. That break was supposed to be for a weekend, but it turned into an eight week long sugar binge. The whole time, I never felt that satisfied feeling with what I’d eaten, and, trying to achieve it, I would keep eating. I’ve put back on about 15 pounds.

I’ve been back on Atkins for a week now, and once again, after waiting for ketosis to kick in, I feel that wonderful feeling of being satisfied with my meal. For dinner, I had two four oz. hamburger patties. That’s all, and I feel like I don’t want anything else to eat. While I wasn’t on the Atkins diet, 8 ounces of meat would have just been the appetizer. It’s amazing.

So, what have I learned from all this? Well, remember that svelte little boy I told you about in the beginning, the one with no weight problem at all? My mother likes to tell people that until I was 7 years old, all I wanted to eat was steak; it was my favorite food. It was only after getting addicted to the high I got from sweets that my preferences changed. Now, I realize I’m genetically engineered to prefer protein as a food source. People are different, and if you do better on whole grains and pasta, then God bless you, but I’ve found the truth for me. I run better on steak.

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