Juliana has to learn what a “normal” appetite is

After a lifetime of high-carb eating, which overwhelmed Juliana’s system before she was 3, she doesn’t know what her “normal” appetite is.  We’ve been paying a lot of attention lately to whether she feels hungry; whether she feels full; and whether she feels overfull.  We’re trying to learn how much she has to eat to not be hungry and to maintain her energy level depending on what she’s doing.  If she’s running a lot, playing soccer and then refereeing a soccer game, she might need to eat more than if she has a sedentary day.  But we want her to eat no more than she has to so that her weight will continue to drop.

A well-functioning appetite should make these adjustments automatically.  Juliana’s appetite has been elevated for so long that she has to concentrate to tune in to the new information she is getting from her body.  She also has to get used to the fact that a smaller quantity of food is adequate.  A high carb diet produces extreme hunger in a sensitive individual, and I believe it is truly painful, especially for a child.  She still has a bit of fear of being hungry if she eats a smaller amount of food.

She was very hungry on the Packard program, so that is one of her touch points.  She should not be that hungry, ever.  She should try not to feel stuffed ever either.  She’s started eating her meals a lot more slowly than she used to–I think this development is mostly unconscious, but it helps her to avoid eating more than she needs.  She’s not starving when she sits down to eat, as she was on a high carb eating plan, so it’s more possible and easier to eat slowly.

Juliana’s playing soccer at recess

Among the many transformations in Juliana on the low carb eating plan, one of the most amazing to me is that she is now voluntarily organizing and playing in soccer games at school during recess.  I have been trying to get her to do that for years, because, like most schools these days, she doesn’t have a lot of PE time.  The only way she can get in some movement during the day is to move at recess.

I didn’t push her to start playing soccer during recess.  On the contrary.  A few weeks ago she asked me to buy her a soccer ball to keep in her locker at school so she could play, since the school soccer balls are always getting lost.

As I explain here, she wasn’t getting fat because she was lazy and tired; she was lazy and tired because she was getting fat.  Now that process is reversed.  She’s full of energy because she’s getting thin, and all that stored energy is available to play soccer, every day.

I think of myself as Juliana’s coach

There’s a bit of a fad now about parents who have been successful at forcing their children to lose weight with “strict and punishing” methods.  While the daughter in the article, now 8, is a healthy weight, you have to wonder if the mother’s methods are going to come back to haunt her later.

To me, it makes more sense to think of yourself as a coach.  No child or teen wants to be overweight.  If you provide them a path to a healthy weight that doesn’t require semi-starvation, they will embrace it.  The key is low carb eating–but there are many other things you may need to tweak.  Juliana’s weight loss was abruptly halted by allergy medications.  It took me 6 weeks to figure out that they were a problem.  Another time we decided she needed to drink much more water, and that got her weight loss going again.  In the Calories In/Calories Out model, these sort of hidden obstacles to weight loss do not get much attention.

Before she started eating low carb, I used to worry about everything she ate, and hope she would eat smaller portions.  Now, we think of weight loss as a big puzzle.  We need to continuously work on the the puzzle to get her to a healthy weight.  I keep reading, and make suggestions of new things to try.

The mother in the above article, Dara-Lynn Weiss, reportedly once tried the Atkins eating plan.  I’m willing to bet she didn’t do it correctly, or she would have finally understood what she had gone through with all the different diets she had tried, and what was going on with her daughter’s huge appetite.

Your child isn’t going to become an expert on low carb eating without your help.  As the coach, you need to learn everything you can to help your child work out his or her own weight loss puzzle.

Get a gas grill.

Skewers on the grill: courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.netWe have always liked to grill.  Since starting a low carb eating plan, however, the grill gets used constantly.  It only takes a few minutes to grill 3 pounds of skirt steak, or 6 pork chops, or a tri-tip, and then you have enough for a main meal and leftovers for several days of lunches and breakfasts.  And you haven’t made a mess of your stove top.

We’ve experimented with more complicated grilled items, like dry-rub ribs.  While we enjoy the slow-cooked grilled items, we mostly use it for quick cooking of a lot of food.

I don’t always grill at night, either.  If I’m caught short packing lunches, I might take something out of the freezer and grill it at 6:00 in the morning.

The grill is not just for meat.  Asparagus is a relatively low carb vegetable that is great when par-boiled and finished on the grill with olive oil and salt, but it does not store well, in my opinion–you should eat it right away.  Summer squash, zucchini and mushrooms are low-carb, delicious grilled, and do store well for several days in the fridge.

A charcoal grill will not cut it–waiting 30 minutes for the charcoal to be ready will not make your life easier, especially at 6 in the morning.

What does a weekly meal plan look like?

A friend asked me for a sample weekly meal plan.  Juliana and I are still eating very low carb, keeping net carbohydrate under 30 grams per day, and this meal plan reflects that.  Most of Juliana’s carbohydrates come from what are called “foundation vegetables” in the Atkins plan–very low carb, very high nutrient vegetables such as broccoli, romaine lettuce, green beans, cauliflower.  I eat those as well but get some carbs from almonds and tomatoes, which Juliana does not like.

As Juliana gets closer to her goal weight, we will begin adding back more foods, starting with berries, which are a relatively low carb fruit.

The first thing you’ll see is that breakfast is dinner and dinner is breakfast.  Really any meal can be eaten at any time of day, so the categories “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” are arbitrary.  Juliana likes eggs for breakfast.  Eggs in the morning make me nauseous, but I like eggs for dinner.   We eat hard boiled eggs with salt and pepper or deviled eggs for snacks all day long.  Juliana has eaten cheeseburgers for breakfast, and I regularly eat last night’s leftovers for breakfast and pack them for Juliana in her lunch for school.   We try to eat carbohydrates, fat, and protein at each meal.  Even if you are only eating 30 grams of carbohydrate per day, it is preferable not to eat them all at the same time.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
3-egg omelet filled with leftover roasted cauliflower Pork Chop and mashed cauliflower Pork Chops, broccoli with garlic, mashed cauliflower Deviled Eggs or Hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper
Leftover skirt steak and mashed cauliflower; sliced tomato with salt Cheeseburger with roasted cauliflower Quiche with mashed cauliflower Salami and Cheese Rollups
No-sugar added chicken Italian sausage with mashed cauliflower Salad with romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado, salami, cheese and almonds on the side Beef with broccoli, mashed cauliflower Ounce of Almonds
Salami and eggs filled with cooked broccoli Tuna salad* romaine lettuce “sandwiches” No sugar added pork Italian sausage, green beans with garlic, mashed cauliflower Egg Quiche with sausage, broccoli, and cheese
Leftover tri-tip and mashed cauliflower Egg salad* romaine lettuce “sandwiches” Chicken with green beans, mashed cauliflower Scoop of chicken salad* 
Broccoli, tomato, bacon and egg scramble Taco meat with toppings Pizza chicken with roasted broccoli Turkey and cheese rollups
Grilled chicken breast (no-carb marinade is ok) and grilled asparagus Roasted chicken with roasted cauliflower and roasted broccoli Skirt steak, brussel sprouts with tamari, mashed cauliflower Bacon slices

*Made with no-sweetener-added mayonnaise.