My Low-Carb Lifestyle & Five Tips for Living Your Best Low-Carb Life

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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. 

When the Cat’s Away…

Nothing says I love you like your darling dog bringing you a deer leg. I looked out our living room picture window and saw Norbert trotting up from the woods. He was awkwardly carrying a log that was too big for him up the hill. So cute. But then I looked a little closer at the oddly shaped log. I wondered what he could’ve gotten in to in the short time he was outside. It was brisk and there was a dusting of snow on the ground, so I threw on my new Ugg boots to check. When he met me at the bottom of our deck stairs, I screamed. It was a deer leg. A disgusting, bloody, rotting deer leg. Hoof and all. He dropped it at my boots, licked his chops, wagged his tail and looked at me with those big loving brown eyes of his like, “I thought you’d like it mama.” Normally, I would go get Kurtis. That’s what Kurtis is for. I make the dinners, he handles the deer carcasses. You know, each marriage has those unspoken agreements. Here’s the problem, Kurtis wasn’t there. He was working and wasn’t going to be home for a month.

I had a few options. First, leave it. But who wants a rotting deer leg on their patio? What better way to attract the animals from the woods—coyotes, raccoons, mountain lions, tigers and bears. I actually envisioned an eagle swooping down to snag it. No, leaving it there wasn’t an option. I could call someone. My dad would’ve helped or maybe a neighbor? “Hi John, it’s Lauren. I have a deer leg over here. Haha, no not for dinner. Could you come get it for me?”

Kurtis had taken a new job and I was bound and determined to survive without him. I could do this. I was a brave little toaster. So, I went and got Kurtis’s work gloves he kept in the garage. They were a few sizes too big and awkward but I was able to manage. Throwing up in my mouth as I caught the lovely scent of the rotting leg, I picked it up by the hoof—which was hanging on by some sort of…ligament? I’m not a doctor. Maybe it was a tendon. Aren’t those the same? I hope you aren’t eating. Anyway, I picked it up and carefully walked it back down the hill and gave it a huge heave-ho side throw into the woods. Bits of rotting meat flew off the leg into the air. I’m pretty sure some landed in my hair. Norbert started to bolt after it. Sweet, mom wants to play fetch with my new stick. NO! I grabbed him as he was about to charge and back into the house we went. Traumatized.

Isn’t it lovely that happened when Kurtis was gone? What were the chances? Turns out, chances were pretty freaking good because that wasn’t the fist incident. It’s turned into a running joke in our family that while Kurtis is here, nothing happens. When he’s gone, random, weird annoying incident after incident —usually animal related—happens. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but I’m a bit of a city girl. I don’t love getting dirty. I don’t like dead things. Mice, snakes, bugs in general scare me. Sometimes I think it is God playing jokes on me. Like, this is good for you Lauren, here’s a deer leg, a mouse, snakeskin and all sorts of fun things. I’d love to say this was the only time it happened, but alas, it was just the beginning. 

Not long after that, spring thaw hit Dubuque. The ground was soft and you could tell that life was gearing up for a new spring season. I was out front one day walking some trimmings to dump into our woods. I was proud as punch to be doing yard work. I’m not a fan. I would rather clean the inside of my house ten times over than do yard work but darn it, I was going to get this yard whipped into shape. As I was walking down the hill, something caught my eye on the ground. I sidestepped over to it and almost dropped my armful of clippings. It was a pterodactoyl skeleton. At least that’s what I thought it was. This thing was scary as heck, huge and perfectly in tact. Wings, beak, talons. Right there in my front yard. Guess what? Kurtis wasn’t there. What does one do with the remains of a dinosaur? I didn’t want to keep this thing in the front yard because given our past deer leg episode, Norbert would likely bring me a wing or gnaw on the bones. So I put on my big girl panties and went to work.

I went back to the garage and grabbed Kurtis’s handy-dandy gloves again–still stained from the deer leg–and switched from sneakers to my wellies. I also found a shovel and traipsed back outside. I bravely faced the skeleton with my shovel and tried to scoop it up as if sliding my spatula under the most perfectly formed pancake for a flip. Unfortunately, the head fell off, so I had to make two trips to the woods. I often wonder what the neighbors thought. There I was in my boots and oversized gloves screaming “ew, ew, ew,” as I delicately carried a dead eagle carcass out in front of me and flung it into my back woods. 

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It was late summer. The days were getting shorter and there was that crisp whisper of fall in the air. I came home from my Wednesday night tennis drill, parked my Yukon in the garage and went inside to chat with my auntie, who had watched the girls while I played. Dusk turned into evening and auntie went to leave. I opened the door to my garage and there my worst nightmare became a reality. I saw something sliding across my garage floor in the silhouette of an “s.” I slammed my door and went running back into the house. The range of emotions I was experiencing is hard to describe. Tears welled in my eyes while I simultaneously wanted to jump out of my skin. Bear with me on this. Snakes terrify me more than anything in the world. I mean terrify. I’ve been afraid of them my whole life—from teeny tiny ones to big ones that could swallow me whole.

At the ripe age of ten, I heard that the best way to beat a fear is to face it. I was so committed to beating my debilitating fear of snakes that I began checking out every book available at the library on snakes. I’d love to say it worked but, quite frankly, that piece of advice was absolute rubbish. I think my fear tripled after reading up on all the different species and looking at picture after picture of their disgusting, devilish faces. I hate them. Straight up.

Previously, I had only encountered them in museums. Today, there was one in my garage. My knight in shining armor, who would totally understand my panic, was gone. So there I was with a snake in the garage and no one to get rid of it. I wouldn’t be able to go into the garage ever again if there was even a millimicron of a chance that the snake was still in there. The only way I would ever be able to step foot in there again was knowing that it was dead. Who could I call though? Not Ghostbusters. Auntie wouldn’t help and on top of that, she loves every stinking animal that walks the earth. My parents were gone, so my only option I could think of was my neighbor. I texted him a desperate 911 asking if he would come help me with the snake. He didn’t hesitate and even brought his son to help.

They came up with a shovel ready to tackle the problem. I had kept the garage door open but after a twenty minute sweep of the area they told me it wasn’t in there anymore. Lies. Snakes are terrible, rotten, sneaky creatures and I knew that little bugger was still in there. Auntie was still around too chanting out every two seconds, “if you catch it don’t you kill it!” So I sent her home. I didn’t need that negativity at the moment. I could tell my neighbor and his son were over the situation. They came, they helped as best they could, they likely thought I was a little crazy because I was freaking out like a sketching addict and it was getting late. I could tell they were going to leave me. They were going to leave me with the sneaky snake that I knew was still in my garage. It would probably get into my house and slither into my boot so that one day I’d put it on and it would be there to terrify my and give me a heart attack. It’s not crazy. I’ve seen stories on that.

Resigned, I thanked them and went to grab my keys out of the car. As I did, the rotten terrible beast of a snake slithered out towards me. Michael Jordan’s vertical had nothing on me that night. Screaming, jumping, running, possibly wetting my pants a little, I went flying from the garage. Luckily, they were only halfway up the driveway. They came back and my neighbors in shining armor smoked it. Yes, I know snakes kill mice. Yes, word on the street is they are good for your yard. No, it wasn’t an endangered species. No, I didn’t tell auntie we killed it.

I’ve mentioned this before and I will say it again. In my book of life, a good snake is a dead snake. I never felt so relieved. While I was sure it was about eight feet long when I initially saw it, turns out is was possibly a foot in length.

Needless to say, after cleaning the blood off the garage floor and dispensing of the guilty party, my heroes left. I’m pretty sure I followed them the whole way home with tears of joy streaming down my face as I thanked them. I called Kurtis to let him know what happened and then proceeded to yell at him for not being here for me in my most desperate time of need. He asked why I left the garage door open.

I would like to say I slept better knowing it was dead, but to add insult to injury, within the next two weeks the girls and I found three sheds in the yard. One was intertwined in the back steps leading up to our deck and I was positive I had a colony living in our stone wall. I imagined them plotting against me and watching me daily. Did I mention I have a wild imagination?

That winter we had a mice. Get off your high horses people I hear you—you shouldn’t have killed the snake. He would’ve helped with the mice. Serves you right for killing the snake. Yea, yea, I get it and you’re probably right. I’m still happy it died.

Have I mentioned yet that we practically live on a farm? We have woods all around the back of our home and a creek running in the back. It’s out a bit from town, so as you can tell from what you’ve read so far, we get critters. The mice moved into our comfy cozy garage for the winter and then the little buggers tried to take it a step further and move into the house.

After a mouse interrupted my homemade peierogie making near Christmas—Kurtis was home thank goodness—he started setting traps for them. Traps are good. Catching mice is good. Dead mice in traps are good when your husband is home. Not as good when he’s gone. My poor dad became my go-to for coming out, disposing of the mice and then re-setting the traps. Here’s how my winter went. I’d be running a business meeting and SNAP. Dead mouse. That lipstick color looks great on you Fern and SNAP. Dead mouse. Sunday dinners with the family? Yes, the buns are homemade and SNAP. Dead mouse. To help with my anxiety of it all I pretended they were Gus Gus and Jacque. Just sweet little friends that meant no harm. I mean, I killed them but the thought helped. At one point when I was yelling at Kurtis on the phone…again…he kindly told me this is farm living and to get used to it. Soon after we moved to Texas.

Let me just say there were incidents in Texas as well, but luckily, Kurtis was always around. A rattlesnake to my left as I went to let one of my consultants in at the front gate sent me flying back to our apartment (in my director suit and heels) screaming for Kurtis. A tarantula we named Tito who visited on the daily. Cockroaches the size of my lipstick that came out to join us for evening cocktails on the porch. A mockingbird that lived outside our window and sang from midnight until four in the morning. But I’ll save those stories for another post.

I was well aware that moving back to my farm meant I would likely encounter some more fun-filled events. Kurtis was again working a hitch two on and two off, but I was hoping this time my luck would change. I mean, he spent almost four months home before he started his new gig and nothing. Absolutely nothing. We power washed the exterior and no snakes came flying out of the stone wall I dreaded. No sheds. No mice. The only incident was when a snake apparently crawled across our patio on a sunny afternoon when the girls and their nanny were out back. They named him Fred. I pretended it didn’t happen. Denial is a beautiful thing. In the meantime, we also got three little kitties. These garage/outdoor cats, contrary to what my girls say, were brought into the family solely to kill mice. I was feeling pretty good about it all.

Naturally, the week before Kurtis left, karma reared its ugly head. Kurtis killed two mice with his flip flop (not even kidding, he’s a beast). First, one was running around down behind our bar. WACK. Second, Hadley came running out of her room screaming. WACK. The kitties mutilated one in the garage and left it for us and then literally the day before he left, double SNAP, SNAP. The Mary Poppins in me thought, perfect, they all were handled before he left, so now we won’t have problems. Dad was onboard to help with any caught in traps again, too.  

About a week after Kurtis left, I had put the girls to bed, shut off Hadley’s light and was walking into the hall when I heard a sound no mother alone in her house with her babies wants to hear. It was a strange, scratching, something alive kind of sound that alerts you to the fact that you are not alone like you thought. The fight or flight adrenaline hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in the back corner of our basement with two babes in rooms to my right, precious cargo upstairs sleeping and a presumed intruder between me and the staircase to her.

I stood paralyzed in the hallway. The sound was coming from the family room in front of me. I had nothing to grab at the moment but thought about using a lamp. My phone was upstairs to call for help. Suck it up Lauren and face it was my last thought before forcing myself to move. I took a few cautious steps toward the sound, fully prepared to see a hooded man standing in the living room. As I turned the corner…nothing. Then the sound again, but this time behind me. It was the creepiest sound. A scratching, tapping, fluttering sound. But it was impossible to place. It was right out of Hill House but I knew it wasn’t a ghost. A thought occurred to me…a raccoon had gotten in the house. Some crazy sized critter had gotten into the house and was stuck.

By now the girls were on to me because I was pacing the hallway. I told them to get upstairs fast. I wasn’t prepared to take on a raccoon so I was right up behind them. Memories of the time a chipmunk got into my parents’ house and the time a bat fell from a tree onto my shoulder suddenly flooded my memory (no, I’m serious).

Once I was upstairs I grabbed my phone and called Kurtis. He didn’t believe me and basically told me I was crazy. Maybe I was? I stood at the top of my staircase listening. Nope. Not crazy. It was still down there. I was fully prepared for a raccoon to come walking down the hallway. Do you know how mean they are? Likely rabid, too. I called my mom and dad. I mean, what else do you do? I will say this. At thirty five, I still call my mom and dad an awful lot for help. Anyway, they were next on my people to call after Kurtis, who was worthless in this situation and, quite frankly, ticking me off. I asked both mom and dad to come–dad for brute force and mom for brains. So, at around 9:30pm, when they were likely settled in for Chicago Fire, they came rolling out.

I waited at the top of the stairs and continued to hear the strange, very much alive, sound. When mom and dad showed up I couldn’t help by laugh. Apparently, I may have eggagerated the situation. My dad was in long pants and boots wielding an axe, butcher knife, a lob wedge, two putters and a big can of Raid bug spray. Mom came in her jammies. The sound had stopped (of course) but after a few walk-throughs we picked it up again. Mom and I and the girls stayed upstairs while my dad went room by room with his putter and bug spray. Door slowly opening. Door closed. Opening. Closed.

At one point he came up as confused as I was. He had heard it and he too thought it was moving around but then it would be gone. We started knocking on walls and low and behold, after much trial and error decided that it was, you guessed it, a mouse…in the wall. Can I just say something? My house is pretty nice. It was just recently gutted top to bottom. How a mouse was now living in my wall was beyond me and beyond annoying.

Dad started talking about cutting a hole in the wall and setting a trap to get it but I was over there like, oh hell no. We just got the place put back together after the reno and the last thing I wanted to do was start punching holes in it again. My animal loving daughters and mother came downstairs and were horrified at this poor darling mouse stuck in the wall. The girls named it, tapped the wall for it and then told it good night and went to bed happy as can be about the whole adventure and their new friend. I wanted it dead. After chatting with Kurtis, we decided to let it go for the night. As cruel as it sounds, it would eventually wear itself out and die. I was worried about the smell of rotting mouse but we figured we’d deal with that if and when it happened. The next day, nothing–no sound, no movement. Quite honestly, nothing ever since. To this day it’s a mystery. Did Squeaks get out? Is Squeaks lying there rotting? Not too sure. 

There are more. I’m sure there will be more, too. But just when you think I’m out here with it all together living life on a perfectly staged farm, remember these disasters and know that you couldn’t be more wrong. When I introduced this blog I told you about my gong show dumpster fire moments and my friends, these are just the tip of the iceberg.