After my first year of college, I became obsessed with food, nutrition and controlling my weight. On the weekends I’d research articles in library’s computer lab, and visit our local second-hand book store to read as much as I could about nutrition, exercise and anything that would make it easier to maintain my weight without having to “starve” myself, like I had done in high school. Looking back though, I never felt like I had “starved myself” in high school.
In fact, I was not obsessed with food like I was in college, and was actually more in-tune with my body then. I ate when I was hungry and didn’t eat when I wasn’t – it was so simple. That being said, everyone knew that skipping meals was bad, and just not normal. I certainly didn’t want to be labeled as “that girl who doesn’t eat.” And quite honestly, at this point, I couldn’t even skip a meal if I wanted to. My body was so used to having several meals and snacks a day, so it would have been torture to even try!
So every couple of weeks, I’d scour the second-hand bookstore for any and all diet and exercise information I could get my hands on. The Volumetrics Diet Plan seemed great! Basically fill up on low-calorie foods, such as soups, fruits and veggies, so that you’re “not hungry” and not tempted to eat junk. This plan worked well for keeping my weight down, but I still didn’t feel like I had control over my eating. I would eat massive portions, then feel bloated and sick afterwards.
Then one day, I stumbled into the book that I thought would change my life – and old version of the Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution. The book was old and unassuming, but it was written by a doctor and seemed legit. I purchased the book and dove in to see what it was all about. As I read this book, I was in awe of what the good doctor claimed: You could lose weight by eating nothing but meat, cheese, bacon and butter? One of his patients ate 5,000 calories a day and still lost weight? And, it’s virtually impossible to overeat meat and fat? Why hadn’t I known about this before?!
I felt like I had stumbled on to some great secret that had been swept under the rug. For the past year I had been avoiding red meat, real bacon, egg yolks, and oil like the plague, and this guy is saying that’s what I should be eating instead? This was truly the answer to my prayers because I absolutely LOVED meat, cheese, bacon and butter! Of course, I liked fruit and bread too, but I was willing to give them up if it finally meant freedom from dieting and worrying about food.
The only problem was, I was living in the college dorm with a full meal plan, and a group of friends who would have thought me insane if I told them I was going to try an “all meat diet.” Despite that, I decided to give it a shot. For breakfast I ate eggs with spinach, cheese, and bacon. For lunch, I ate a giant chef salad with creamy ranch dressing, or a bunless sandwich or cheeseburger if I felt brave. For dinner, I’d just try my best to eat whatever meat was on the menu that night. When I got hungry in between meals, I would eat boiled eggs or pork rinds for a snack; my poor roommate, she put up with so many weird smells during this time! For the most part though, this plan worked well…for about two weeks.
After the first 2-3 weeks of following the Atkins diet, I found myself craving everyday foods that I once took for granted. At this point, I would have killed for an apple! Plus, I found myself becoming less and less social, simply because I didn’t want people to watch me eat my plate of greasy meat. Although low-carb and keto is common place now, it was not so popular in the late 90s/early 2000s. There was no such thing as “low-carb” or “gluten-free” options back then, especially in the rural college town I lived in. Everyone ate potatoes, rice, beans and tortillas with every meal!
The final straw for the Atkins Diet was when I decided to start cooking my own food in the dorm kitchen so that I could plan my meals out and not have to worry about the sparse selection available in the dining hall. Of course, this meant that I was spending hours on Sunday cooking meat and veggies in the dorm kitchen, and then packing them in Tupperware and stuffing them in the mini-fridge in our room. It also meant that while my friends and roommate went to the dining hall or out to eat after class, I would make my way back to my dorm room, microwave my meal, and sit and eat the most depressing, greasy meal ever.
On top of that, I found that I was still stuffing my face and thinking about food constantly. Although I didn’t gain any weight, (maybe I even lost a few pounds,) I felt worse about myself and food than I had ever felt before. So I decided to ditch the Atkins Diet, and continue my search for the perfect diet plan.
Fortunately, I was very active during my college years. I took swimming and weight-training courses, and ran several miles a day to keep in shape. I also started walking after each meal because I read somewhere that it aided digestion. Sure, I was still eating monster-sized portions, but I was so active that I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted and still keep my weight around 140lbs. In fact, it became almost like a game of, “Let’s see how much Lex is going to eat today?” I had my social life back and could eat with reckless abandon, as long as I continued to lift weights and run laps like a mad man. Sounded like a good, solid plan to me.