For me, low-carb has become a lifestyle—coming to me as naturally as my cup of coffee first thing in the morning. It’s not for everyone, though. Fitness, eating habits, skincare, fashion, makeup—all of them are not a one-size fits all for people. What works for me may not work for you and what works for you may not for me. With that being said, I can say with certainty that low-carb has and continues to work for my lifestyle.
I’ve had three c-sections. After Tia, the weight came off pretty easily. I had started attending fitness classes five days a week and was running at least three times a week up to five miles per run. With just one child and no other job title other than “mama” at the time, I could keep this commitment pretty easily. The weight came off and I was in stellar shape.
I remember lying on the table during my second c-section and feeling that rip. If you haven’t had a c-section you won’t know this, but if you have, you know the rip. It was a painless pressure feel of them ripping apart those abs that I had worked so hard to get back (and I had gotten them back–they were pretty). I think this doctor was feeling especially aggressive that day because I don’t remember a rip like that with Tia. Anyway, the rip, the tug, the pull and instead of thinking, I can’t wait to see this baby, I remember thinking, there go my abs. And my friends, there they went. If anyone sees them let me know, I’ve been looking for them since.
Losing the weight after my second c-section was radically different than my first. It just didn’t come off the same. Those last ten pounds hovered and my body felt…saggier. I mean, let’s be honest. There’s no pretty way to put it. Everything didn’t bounce back into place rubber band style like it did the first time. I was eating healthy and working out. I couldn’t hold the same commitment to fitness as I did with Tia because I was now running a business and raising two babes only 16 months apart with a husband working six to seven days a week (he’d leave at 5:30am and get home around 6:00pm). I walked a ton because that was easy to do with the girls and we had a treadmill and weights and I had a fitness program a trainer had given me. I ate healthy meals and didn’t overindulge. But the weight wasn’t coming off. At this point, I knew I needed something a little more. I knew my body well and was well aware of health, fitness and nutrition from a lifetime of sports and trainers. I looked at a lot of diet options and finally decided to try the Atkins. With Hadley, I went hardcore into this diet. I learned about it, read a ton of articles and religiously followed it for six months. I’m not getting into the nitty gritty of it or saying that’s the diet to follow—there are a lot of articles swearing it will kill you and equally as many saying it’s epic and amazing. I’m not going there. What I’m saying, is Atkins is how I ventured into low-carb. I strictly followed it for a time and then shook it out to fit into my life. It wasn’t about my life fitting into the diet—it was about the diet fitting into my life. Eventually, it wasn’t a diet and was my lifestyle. I knew what I could eat, how much, what things affected me most, where I needed to be for carb intake for my energy and more. I guess it became my own diet because I perfectly curated it to my life.
In 2018—a year and a half after I had Carolyn—we went to Florida. I had been eating (sort of) low-carb after her birth and continuing to be moderately active, with two to three mile walks almost daily. But I wasn’t feeling good. My pants were snug. The weight I had initially lost was creeping back. I saw a picture of myself on the beach and just had that feeling…like, yikes. Now, I carry my weight well. People like to give me grief sometimes and would even say “you look great,” “you don’t need to lose weight,” etc. This isn’t coming from a skewed image of myself. This was coming from a, I know my body better than anyone and I’m telling you, I don’t feel good and I don’t feel healthy and you might not know it because I have an oversized sweater on but I can barely button these pants place. So, I decided to recommit to what I had learned. What worked for me before, worked again. I tweaked only two things—upping my cardio and cracking down on my carb count.
I’m in as good of shape now as I was after Tia. Same size pants. Clothes fit well. All the things. The low-carb lifestyle I had adopted and adapted after Hadley is what best works for my lifestyle and my body. Like I said, it’s not for everyone and there are tons of different low-carb options out there with lots of different terms and names. Each has its own following and merit. My body is a different body after three c-sections and that’s ok, but I know my body well and it’s healthy and happy and looks great in whatever I decide to dress it in thanks to the low-carb lifestyle I follow.
If you too are on a low-carb diet or have decided on this lifestyle, or are maybe thinking of it, here are five of my favorite tips for you to help make it a bit easier. Most importantly, remember this simple equation for counting carbs: Net Carbs = Total Carbohydrates – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols.
1.) Hold the starch, extra veggie. Why even tempt yourself? When you go out to eat is likely your biggest set-up to fail. When you’re home, you’re in control. When you’re out, you usually get a big ‘ol side of starch. What I like to do is remove the temptation completly. Anytime I’m out with friends or for date night I order my protein (typically a filet or salmon) and ask for extra veggies instead of the starch. They are usually happy to accomodate. The good news is, your veggie option is usually broccoli, asparagus or green beans. If it’s carrots, run and ask for something else. Consider carrot a starch. Usually it’s one of those green veggies though and then you’re in business. I like them steamed and put lots of lemon or even some shredded parmesan on them if they have it available.
2.) Cauliflower is your new bestie. Your new bestie also smells like garbage, but you’ll get past that. I missed bedding my meals on rice. It wasn’t the rice I missed though, it was just that extra something with my stir-fry or that saucy casserole I had made. I missed my homemade spaghetti but it was the sauce I missed, not the pasta. Cauliflower can replace all of that. Tuna casserole? Use cauliflower rice instead of noodles. Beef Stroganoff? Use garlic mashed cauliflower (see recipe below–it’s one of my favorites) instead of mashed potatoes. Spaghetti? Cauliflower rice instead of noodles. You can replace just about anything with cauliflower something. Yes, it smells, but it is incredibly healthy, keeps things moving (if you get what I mean) and is a perfect filler for those things you think you miss.
3.) Don’t be fooled by whole wheat, bean, vegetable or whatever pasta. Pasta is pasta. I check labels. Pasta companies are getting smart. Low-carb is huge–almost as big as gluten–and they are trying to offer variations to their pasta so that it’s healthier and we’re tricked into thinking since it isn’t that regular pasta it must have less carbs. Is whole wheat pasta healthier? Yes. But it usually has more carbs than regular pasta. Is bean pasta healthier? Yes. It has less carbs than regular but it’s still loaded with carbs. Just because it’s healthier doesn’t mean it fits into the lifestyle you’ve chosen. It’s best to steer clear in general and opt for Zoodles, Spaghetti squash or cauliflower.
4.) Water is life. I’ll keep this part short. When you cut carbs, you can get bunged up like a gopher (as my husband would say). You should be drinking about a half gallon of water every day as it is, but when you go low-carb–especially early on–you need to hit that and then some. Water is a vital part to any low-carb lifestyle and it’s essential that you drink it by the buckets or else you’re going to find yourself in major struggle town. Water, water, water.
5.) Find an app you like to track your food, exercise and carb intake. Tracking is important with anything in life–if you set a goal for yourself and you want to achieve it, you have to track it. The same goes for your carb goals. Writing in a journal is fine, but there are apps out there now that have the actuals for you and take a lot of the guesswork out of it. Whatever your target net carb for the day–50, 100, etc.–you want to be tracking throughout the day to see that you do or don’t hit that. You’ll be surprised at how much you eat and how many carbs are in a lot of foods you initially thought were good for this lifestyle. My favorite app to use is MyFitnessPal.
People always ask what I miss most living low-carb and I get a kick out of it. I can eat carbs. I still do eat carbs and of course I cheat here and there. I don’t really miss anything, though in all honesty, because you can find a low-carb version of just about anything. Anything you can’t find in low-carb, there are fabulous substitutes to trick your mind and satisfy your craving. Parmesan crisps, Alyssa’s cookies, sugar-free Jello, Stevia, cheese cubes, and turkey sticks are some of my favorite snacks. I drink wine, use creamer in my coffee, splurge on pizza, you name it. But I’m disciplined, too, and took the time to find out my best version of “low-carb” that best fits my life and my body. If I have one more piece of advice for you, it’s this: don’t be afraid of trial and error and straying from your plan to find what’s best for your life. Again, if you are trying to fit your life into a diet, you’re likely to eventually fail. It’s not supposed to go that way. It’s about a plan that best fits into your life.
Lauren’s Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
1 Head Fresh Cauliflower, cut into florets. You can also sub with a couple of packages of frozen cauliflower florets (get the steamable bag).
Minced Garlic (equivalent to one clove)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2-3 Tablespoons Cream Cheese (room temp is best for blending)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Splash of red wine
1.) Steam Fresh or Frozen Cauliflower and drain
2.) Slowly add Cauliflower to food processor or blender and blend. Add in remaining ingredients and blend to preferred consistency. Serve.