What I learned from (mostly) following the slow-carb diet for two years

When I bought Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Body, there was only one thing I was looking for inside, and that was the slow-carb diet.

I had quit smoking several months earlier, recently returned from a glorious three-week Mediterranean vacation, (where I dressed almost exclusively in skirts with elastic waistbands) and discovered that NONE of my pants fit me anymore.

I hadn’t been on a scale in three years, and the last I knew I weighed about 130 pounds, which is roughly what I’ve weighted for my entire adult life, regardless of what I ate or drank, excepting the period during which I was pregnant with my son.

My weight has been so consistent, in fact, that when the first pair of pants I tried on post-vacation didn’t fit, my first assumption was that they shrunk.

Annoyed, I put a second pair on. They didn’t fit either.

When I got on the scale, it registered 151 pounds.

Holy crap.

I had been warned by my parents that once I hit a certain age, I wouldn’t be able to eat the same anymore. Naturally, I didn’t pay much attention when I heard this, because it didn’t apply to me at that moment.

Yet there I was, at age 39, and this thing had happened. And I literally had to buy new clothes, since I couldn’t exactly go back to work in the elastic-waistband skirts and swimsuit tops that I had been wearing for the past three weeks on a beach vacation.

So I resolved to go on a diet.

What is the slow carb diet?

The slow-carb diet has very basic rules:

  • Avoid white carbohydrates: rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, etc.
  • Eat the same few meals over and over again (lean meat, legumes, vegetables)
  • Don’t drink calories (drink water, unsweetened tea, minimal diet soda or red wine)
  • Take one day off per week

Following these rules was a challenge at first, because it was a big change.

I was accustomed to eating whatever I wanted with no impact. I also felt concerned that my husband and son wouldn’t like to eat how I was eating, and so this diet would create complexity in our mealtimes as I would be making & eating different things from them.

I was further worried that it might set the wrong example for my 3-year-old son. (I had been committed to having him eat what the rest of the family was eating, rather than making him special food if he didn’t like what we were having. Now I was about to set the opposite example.)

Ultimately, I decided to try it and see what would happen.

Breakfast makes a big difference

Ferriss wrote in his book that even if all you change is breakfast, eating 30+ grams of protein within 30-60 minutes of waking, you will lose weight.

Breakfast gives you energy, protein helps you feel full so that you can easily resist the office donuts. I’m sure there are other physiological things that happen as a result of a protein-rich breakfast, and you can learn more about all of that by consulting the book.

As beneficial as I knew breakfast (and morning protein) to be, it was mentally and physically hard to start. My whole being was revolted by the idea of eating four eggs at 5AM.*

All I wanted was a cup of coffee!

I wasn’t hungry and it was physically difficult to choke down those first few breakfasts.

Yet I told myself that I’d do it for at least four weeks, just to see if it was true that I could lose twenty pounds in a month by following this diet.**

Making lunches simplifies life and saves money

Prior to starting this diet there were many days where I wouldn’t eat lunch at all, choosing instead to exist on a succession of Cliff bars or other snacks.

Adhering to the slow carb diet meant I had to eat meat, vegetables and legumes, which gave me the options of salad, Chipotle (with no rice or tortilla) or bringing my own mix of something or other from home.

After a few months I settled on making great pots of chili, lentil soup or bean soup on Sundays, and packing them up for bring-from-home lunches every day of the week.

You can get used to pretty much anything over time

After two years of making this diet my default, I can attest to the fact that a person can get used to it. Eating the same breakfast and lunch (and a small handful of regular dinners) has taken a lot of complexity out of my life, which in turn has brought me great satisfaction.

I love how simple grocery shopping is now – it’s so easy when you buy the same things every week!

And, while there ARE times that I get tired of bean soup and chili, the more frequent feeling I have with my soups is comfort. I’ve grown to enjoy legumes much more than I had prior to embarking on the slow carb diet.

Honestly the hardest part about this diet has been deciding what to do once I hit my goal weight. (Which took two months from starting the diet, by the way.)

I didn’t want to just go back to how I was eating before, as that clearly wasn’t working for me anymore.

So over the last two years, I’ve been experimenting with adding in some carbohydrates on Fridays and Sundays, and also moderating the “cheat” level on Saturdays. This has led to small amounts of weight fluctuation, which is fine because I enjoy experimenting, and have complete security that an upward blip is swiftly corrected through a week or two of strictly following the rules.


*Now I eat 3/4 of a cup of egg whites with one whole egg mixed in. Much better.

**I lost seventeen pounds in the first month.

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