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Success story: Low carbing for life

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Low carb lifestyle

When the O'Neils adopted the low carb lifestyle six years ago, their cholesterol levels were dangerously high, and their quest for good health and weight loss had sent them on diet after diet with no satisfactory result. Today, they're thin, happy -- and very healthy! The O'Neils' success story is as much about losing weight as it is about improved, lifelong well-being.

Low carb diet saved our lives

In Gerard's words: "My wife and I were heart attacks waiting to happen, and we were plenty worried about it. In 1998, I was 205 pounds with a big gut; my cholesterol was very high and my triglycerides near 500. My blood pressure was soaring. Making this even scarier, both my parents had serious heart problems.

My wife had many of the same problems. From time to time, we would go on the low-fat diet that mainstream medicine recommends. We did everything we could to cut out the fat, going months without meat, eggs and fat. We read labels religiously. Fat was bad, and we wanted none (or almost none) of it. We were certain this was going to normalize our lipid levels. By and large, however, our lipid levels stayed the same or went up. This went on for a decade or more. It fell into a pattern.

"Then, late in 1998, I bought the Atkins book. What it said about eating lots of carbs made so much sense: Eat a carb-y meal and blood glucose goes up, releasing insulin so the glucose can be used by the body. This drives the glucose down (sometimes too far), stimulating appetite, creating a vicious cycle.'

Of the Atkins diet, O'Neil says, "It did everything it promised, even lowering our blood pressure. Now, low carbing is our way of eating -- forever."

Staying on the wagon

Now that the couple has gone beyond the "diet" mentality, Gerard says he and his wife rarely cheat anymore. "Shortly after we reached our goal, [we'd occasionally] eat out and completely go off-plan, eating things like pasta, potatoes and desserts with high sugar content. These cheats were always limited to one meal. This almost never happens now." Favorite indulgences include refreshments with a few minor adjustments: "I drink a lot of tea, but I use Splenda instead of sugar. Both of us drink alcoholic beverages sometimes; I'll drink vodka with diet soda."

Low carb words of wisdom

Gerard advises fellow low carbers: "The most important thing is committing to stick to this way of eating. You're going to cheat; we all do. You're going to have stalls; we all do. But when this happens, just re-start the plan. And be careful with fats. There is nothing wrong with fats and, as low carbers, we are going to eat lots of them ... but we should eat the right ones. Avoid trans fats like the plague. They're in most processed foods like cookies, crackers, some breads, snack foods and almost all frozen convenience foods."

He also advises people to be label-readers. If a list of ingredients includes partially hydrogenated oils, hydrogenated oil or shortening, the food contains trans fats. "Be totally unafraid of saturated fats, such as in beef, chicken, butter, cream and cheese," he says. "The mainstream medical community thinks saturated fats are poison and raise the risk of heart problems, but a growing number of authorities are beginning to think this just isn't so."

Gerard points out that humans have been consuming -- and thriving on -- saturated fats for centuries, and that heart problems were rare until early last century when trans fats were developed. In Dr Atkins' New Diet Revolution, Dr Robert Atkins confirmed that coronary disease was extremely insignificant in the 1800s and early 1900s, when most diets consisted largely of saturated fats.

The power of two
"Doing this diet as a couple has worked out well for both of us," Gerard says. "We support and encourage each other, and it greatly simplifies food preparation and grocery shopping. Doing Atkins is a lot more fun when done together. We both cook, and both of us like to experiment with new and exciting low carb recipes. She experiments with new desserts, and I do main dishes," he says. "It's hard for us to believe that we have been eating this way for over five years, but we are both thrilled with the results. We both lost a considerable amount of weight and kept it off. But, probably more important, both of us have dramatically improved our blood lipid levels, all by diet alone. I am convinced this will greatly lessen the chance that we fall prey to America's number one killer -- heart disease."

Lose the pounds ... love the health
While we low carbers are liking our new looks, we also need to congratulate ourselves for taking charge of our overall well-being. Like the O'Neils, we are choosing years of good health. We are choosing life!

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