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How I lost five pounds in ten days in Cabo San Lucas

Variations of this diet have been around since at least the 1800s, and it has been known by many names: Keto, low-carb, Paleo, Atkins, Sugar-Busters, etc.  Even the Cabbage Soup diet is in this category.  The basic premise is that if you don’t consume carbohydrates, your body will burn fat.  When you eat or drink, your body burns things for fuel in order, and sugar is always first.  And while your body is burning off sugar, it is not burning fat.

It’s weird to me because I’ve always heard that fat is bad, and how can you lose weight if you’re eating fat?  But it really does work.  Your body and brain need fat.  Don’t ask me about the science – all of the low-carb diet books and websites can explain it far better than I can.

All diets work, if you follow them and keep to the plan.  Low-calorie, low-fat, and low-carb diets all restrict calories in some way, and if you eat fewer calories than you consume, you will lose weight.  The secret is finding a plan that works for you.  I lost all of the pregnancy weight after my first two babies with a low-fat diet.  But that was 27 years ago, and what worked for me then doesn’t work for me now.

By “works for you” I mean one you can stick to long enough to reach your goal.  I’ve tried them all over the past two decades, and none of them were getting me where I wanted to be.  So even though I had it in my brain that eating fat makes you fat, I decided to give this a try.

I was having some success on Weight-Watchers, which is a low-calorie diet, but it was taking too long and costing too much.  I was tired of counting points, calories, and steps.  And I was so very tired of poultry breast.  I wanted to have a steak and a glass of wine at the same time, but one glass is a third of a day’s points, and a small steak is a whole day’s worth!  I also decided to try this because I do love steak.  And dark meat with the skin, and ribs, and bacon, and mayonnaise.  Hold the guilt.

It’s not like I gorge myself on these things; every day is not a carnival.  Of course, the first week was like heaven, but I soon got tired of the novelty and my diet naturally balanced itself out.  This happened because on this diet very little food satisfies and will keep you full for hours.  It’s like a miracle, because I was always hungry!!!  I also love fruit, and vegetables if I can have butter and mayonnaise on them, and I like to keep regular.

Okay, here it is: You can eat all the meat you want – yay!!!  You may also have all of the vegetables you want, but they have to grow above-ground and be low in sugar.  Sugar-snap peas and peas are out.  So is corn, which is actually a grain.  No grain!!!!!  Also no starches – no bread, wheat, rice (even brown), oats, and legumes, which are very starchy.  No potatoes.  No noodles or pasta, not even pasta made with rice or chickpeas.

You can have all of the low-sugar fruit you want, which is mainly berries and melons.  No oranges, apples, bananas, peaches, etc. – they are too high in sugar/carbohydrates.

As long as something has zero or very few grams of carbohydrates, you can eat it, and you can have as much as you want.

Eating fat is encouraged, in order to keep you satisfied until the next meal.  Eggs, cheese, full-fat dairy, cream, sour cream, mayonnaise, and oil are all allowed.  Stay away from canola and other inflammatory oils such as soybean, corn, and sunflower, and use mayonnaise made with avocado or olive oil.  It’s a little more expensive, but worth it.

This is also believed to be an anti-inflammatory diet.  Sugar causes inflammation, among a myriad of other health problems. Lots of people use this diet to ease the pain of arthritis.  Wheat and other starches turn to sugar and are stored by the body as bad fat if it isn’t burned off by exercise right away, and I can’t think of anyone except professional athletes who could burn off what a typical person consumes in muffins, pancakes, burger buns, cereal, bread, pasta, and pastries every day. 

That’s about it, except because this diet is lower in fiber than others, you must drink a lot of water in order to flush out the residue and keep regular.  Diet soda, sparkling water, coffee, and tea are all allowed.

The first week you will lose a lot of weight, at least 3-6 pounds, because your body will release all of the water it was storing in order to process all of the grains and starches you were eating.  This is not fat loss, but it’s weight loss just the same and very encouraging for beginners.  After that you will lose weight at the same rate as other sensible plans – 1- 3 pounds a week.

You will also get tired of eating a lot of meat all of the time and naturally balance your diet out to include fruits and vegetables.  You will not stuff yourself because you will feel full and – this is important – satisfied as well.  I love that there’s no after dinner bloat or fatigue, but energy to get things done in the evening!

A typical breakfast for me is eggs, fruit, and sausage or bacon or cheese.  Lunch is a sandwich with lettuce leaves or sliced cheese instead of bread.  Dinner is a huge salad with meat and mayo or homemade ranch dressing and lots of veggies, or a burger or steak or chicken or pork chop and a ton of steamed vegetables like broccoli or brussels sprouts, and baked squash with butter.  Dessert is berries with real cream.  Not the fake stuff that has bad oil in it, but real cream, either whipped or just poured over.  You can add some stevia if you want.

If you are worried about cholesterol, go easy on the cheese and red meat.  I use ground turkey breast in a lot of recipes that call for hamburger.

It’s pretty easy to adjust to family or restaurant meals.  If we have pizza, I just eat the toppings and cheese but not the crust and get a salad.  If we have burgers, I get cheese but use lettuce as a bun.  If we have spaghetti, I just have sauce with cheese.  I make really meaty sauce, rich and thick with lots of garlic, so it’s like stew.  And so on.  Swap another veggie for potatoes or rice at a restaurant, and order salad without croutons.  If you order Chinese, get the broccoli beef or cashew chicken but no rice.

Most salad dressings contain a lot of chemicals as well as canola and other inflammatory oils, so I just use olive oil, the good mayonnaise mentioned above, or make packet ranch using whole milk and good mayo. 

Stay away from most processed foods – they contain a lot of things that aren’t good for you like sugar and bad oils.

I don’t buy a lot of so-called “Keto-friendly” or “low-carb” foods because they’re not really.  They subtract the fiber grams from the carb grams to get “net carbs,” but they’re still high in starch and sugar.  The more starch and sugar you eat the more you want and they never really fill you up, so just don’t start.  The few times I said “screw it,” and had myself a carb-fest of bread or potato chips or cake I was sorry the next day – I woke up all bloated and feeling like I was hung-over.  Yuk.

Stay far, far away from fast food.  It also has tons of sugar added to it, to make us want more and more.  Sugar is an addictive substance, and as the portions get bigger and breadier (deep-fried in inflammatory oils), so do our cravings.  That’s why we feel stuffed but never full.

Exercise: You don’t have to exercise on this diet, but you will have so much energy that you will want to do something!!!

Alcohol: I love my wine and so I found a few low-carb options that work for me, such as low-alcohol wine and spiked seltzers.  Another weird thing on this diet is that a little alcohol goes a long way – just one or two glasses gets me to that sweet spot without going overboard, and it’s easy to stop when I’ve had enough.  I joined a Keto Facebook group and it’s not just me – those of us who indulge are all drinking less than on other eating plans.

I also love my chips and just need something munchy-crunchy every once in a while, but even air-popped popcorn is out.  So, gross as it sounds, fried pork rinds are allowed.  They’re so rich just a few do the trick.  I like them with the Parmesan-Artichoke dip from Costco.  I also snack on nuts, mostly almonds, which also have a lot of fiber.

All foods except animal products contain carbohydrates, so you are going to consume some – and that’s okay.  The goal is to keep the total grams between 20-50/day.  If you want to lose weight more slowly or just can’t live without your favorite food, that’s okay.  You need to play around and find out what works for you.  We didn’t get fat eating carrots and apples, so a few of these a week are probably okay.  Some people can have one slice of bread a day without craving more, but I’m not one of them.  When I’m closer to my goal I’m going add oatmeal and sweet potatoes back in once in a while.

There are a lot of good books and websites and support groups for this diet, so there are a lot of great tips and tricks out there.  Here’s one of my favorites when I just have to have bread or a pancake:

3 tablespoons almond flour, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon good oil or mayo, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon water

Whisk thoroughly small bowl or large mug and microwave for 90 seconds.  Use as a muffin or bread or top with butter and sugar-free syrup for a pancake.  It sounds weird, but it really does work.

Downsides to this diet:  Some people report a phenomenon called “Keto-flu” 3-5 days into it that lasts a few days, but I did not experience this.  It’s your body adjusting to the new plan, and you might feel like you have the flu and/or have no energy.  It wasn’t such a radical change for me as it is for others who are hooked on fast food – I mostly just had to cut out starches, high-sugar fruit, and low-fat milk.  Keep going, and it will pass.

“Keto-breath” and body odor.  I do sometimes have a bad taste in my mouth, so I brush my teeth more often and carry sugar-free mints.  I haven’t noticed a body odor, and I’m sure someone in my family would have mentioned it, but some people do report this.  If so, I would eat less cured meat and more veggies.

That’s about it – good luck and have fun!!!

And oh, yes, the Cabo San Lucas part?  Sometimes a change in venue or routine can kick-start better choices.  I had been on a very long plateau/not trying very hard when my mom invited me to spend ten days with her at a luxury resort in Mexico.  I decided to treat the time as if I were at a health spa.  It was great – I swam for an hour every morning in the pool or ocean and made good choices at the daily buffets, which were fabulous.  Omelets, salads, tons of seafood, fine meats of every description, wonderful local cheeses, and fresh fruits were always available, as well as the excellent Mexican coffee and heavy cream.  I even had a Margarita each afternoon, and a glass of wine with dinner, and the weight still came off.  It was a wonderful trip and I’m thrilled to be back on track!  I don’t expect to always lose that quickly, as I was really pushing it, but I’m really grateful for that time in such a gorgeous place!

Mazatlán-style Shrimp Ceviche: Chopped shrimp, tomatoes, onions, green chili, cucumbers, lime juice and avocado – so good!