How one foodie broke up with carbs and fell in love with food again

It’s easy to forget how good real food — Spaghetti Squash Primavera With Cheese, served with shrimp —tastes when you’re hooked on carbs that are unhealthy.
It’s easy to forget how good real food — Spaghetti Squash Primavera With Cheese, served with shrimp —tastes when you’re hooked on carbs that are unhealthy.
Published Feb. 16, 2015

I often trumpet the fact that I don't have a sweet tooth, bragging that candy trays, dessert menus and office doughnuts don't tempt me. Then I admit my true love: potatoes, pastas and breads — the kings of comforting carbohydrates.

But my relationship with carbs was overindulgent at times, and about six months ago, I decided something needed to change. The reason? My wedding.

I got married in September, and while I liked how I looked in my wedding dress, I wanted to feel great. In the weeks leading up to the big day, I broke off all relations with my favorite carbs. I needed a dietary lifestyle change, and making a clean break from this unhealthy relationship was the clear choice.

Instead of a strict diet, I followed an unofficial plan that worked for me — no potatoes, no bread, no crackers, no rice, no pasta, no fried foods — and have since turned my high-carb, late-night snacking passions into a fulfilling protein and veggie plan.

Months later, I've seen change so positive that I've continued on my low-carb journey, becoming much more conscious of my relationship with food along the way. Here's how I did it.

Taking the first step

Ditching the potato chip was hard. As I embarked on my low-carb regimen, it became clear that starchy, fried and refined foods are like an addiction for me. For the first three days of what I dubbed the Goodbye French Fries Period, I went through palpable withdrawal. I was light-headed, irritable and hyper aware of those around me relishing their deli sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.

Then there was the Goldfish Cracker Incident. Right around 24 hours into my low-carb affair, I was sitting in my living room with my then-fiance after a day of work and wedding planning. On the table sat a bag of cheddar Goldfish crackers, the smiling cartoon fish staring at me. The thought of the salty flavor perked my taste buds.

Five minutes passed, my fiance left the room, and instantly, a voice inside my head told me to eat some, told me I deserved it. I grabbed the bag, shook a few orange fish into my palm, tossed them in my mouth and started chewing. NO!, bellowed another voice, one that I wasn't nearly as familiar with yet.

Luckily, I listened, walked to the kitchen, stood over the trash can and spit out the orange crackers. For the first time, I felt in control of my dietary whims.

Finding fulfillment

I left the Goodbye French Fries Period a stronger foodie. By Day 4, I could say no to chips and sandwiches. If I needed to snack, cucumbers and hummus satisfied me. I kept berries, watermelon and string cheese around for quick treats. My then-fiance and I stopped eating out as much, which was nice on the waist and the wallet.

We started making more dinners at home, which brought us together at the end of busy days. He loved that meat was now a big part of dinner recipes. When we did eat out, I ordered things like burgers with no bun and decided not to feel bad if cheese and bacon came on it. I got burritos unwrapped over lettuce. Choosing menu items became a more engaging experience.

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The best result was how my appetite reacted. Devouring less sugary carbs has led to a sustained fullness at the end of my meals. When I ate a carb-heavy diet, I was always daydreaming about the next meal. I was never truly full.

The main reason I've been able to stick with my low-carb ways is because I immediately felt better after the Goodbye French Fries Period. I was no longer bloated. I had more energy. I ended up losing something like 10 pounds, though it was never about a number on the scale, just how I felt in my clothes. And, yes, I felt flawless in my wedding dress.

More than anything, the new lifestyle made me aware of what I eat and where it comes from. I am now cooking more than ever. (One great culinary discovery has been the spaghetti squash, an exquisite pasta substitute I knew nothing about before this journey.) I stopped fearing other fats and calories. And I was able to nurture my relationship with food past mere indulgence into something more meaningful. Counting carbs has helped me fall in love with food in a whole new way.

Contact Amber McDonald at Follow @Amber__McDonald.