I'm so glad I finally bit the bullet and did this experiment. I did lose some pounds--and that was with eating unholy amounts of cheese, nuts, booze and bacon (like a plate of fancy cheeses & nuts at 9pm most nights). But more importantly, I learned that I do not need carbs to function or feel well. After the first couple of days of headache/foggy brain, I felt perfectly normal. In fact, I felt so normal that I upped the intensity, and starting week 2, cut out all legumes, too. And..still normal.
What I didn't feel was any increased energy or focus, nor was I less hungry than when I eat balanced, carb-containing, whole foods. Sure I didn't get as ravenous as I got when I binged on crackers or cheese puffs, though, and not being able to do that was a plus!
I did have a few "cheats". I ate a piece of homemade toffee a friend brought over, and had carbs at 2 restaurant meals. And I quit early, Saturday instead of Sunday last weekend because everyone else in the family really really wanted pizza for dinner and I didn't want to sit on the side and eat my sad non-pizza meal (pretty much any meal is sad compared to pizza, right?)
So am I swimming in a barrel of sugar and crackers now that the challenge is over? Nope. I grew to love my carb-free breakfasts and lunches, and I have no desire to allow myself to eat chips & crackers again---so all snacks are low carb, other than the one piece of chocolate daily that I love to have after lunch or dinner. I am eating a small, measured serving of carbs with dinner if its part of the meal and something I really love, so that I can partake in our family dinners (this was really the only hard part, and I think the resultant unsatisfied feeling led to the need for cheese later in the evening).
Mondays food, for example:
Breakfast: coffee, 2 eggs scrambled with tomatos, jalepenos, green onions and 2 slices bacon
Lunch: salad (Trader Joe's "8 healthy chopped veggies" mix, plus extra carrots & green bell peppers), with grilled chicken, feta, toasted walnuts & TJ's jalepeno yogurt dip as a dressing), raspberries
Snack (4pm): one string cheese stick
Dinner: 3 homemade Indian curries: chicken tikka masala, spinach with daal, green bean/eggplant/sweet potato/tomato curry in coconut milk, with 1/3 cup basmati rice and one strip of naan (1 X 3 inch)
While I felt fine without carbs, this actually feels better and way more sustainable. I honestly could eat like this forever, which was always the ultimate goal. I never, however, would have gotten here by just trying to "eat less carbs"---the more drastic experiment cut through all my excuses: "I need carbs", "I don't know what I'll eat" and "I'll be too tired/unsatisfied/etc..."
I also learned some interesting things about habit change that are more universally applicable (and that I'm using for the Unplugged challenge)
1) Tiny changes aren't motivating for me
2) But its OK to start smaller and build up (like with the legumes)
3) Slip ups are expected and allowed (this is huge. I could easily have eaten the toffee and then said, fuck it, its over, I can't do this and its stupid anyways. Its tempting, and it comes from perfectionism. Its harder for me to forgive myself and keep going). "planning to fail" is also helpful. I knew I was going to eat carbs at the restaurant, but that I would go back to the plan in the morning. There was no "now what?" moment and that moment is when the whole thing can fall off the wagon!
4) Specific but flexible---I had a list of what I was/wasn't eating, but I could change it based on how I felt)
5) I cannot follow other people's rules (and they make me angry). I have no desire to do a Whole30 (or even follow the rules of the Unplugged30) because I have very specific goals in mind and have thought through how to address my specific problem areas. This is also a Questioner thing. Why would I stop eating fruit when I'm trying to quit crackers? Or give up my morning blog check when its the evening internetting that is interfering with family life and sleep?)
Back with a recap of how the unplugged challenge is going soon!