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MY JOURNEY

Size 24 to 14 in eleven months

Karen Rysavy, age 15This is me at age 15… saying “No, I will NOT pose outdoors in this ridiculous outfit, I am WAY TOO FAT!” I didn’t speak to my future sister-in-law for weeks after she snapped that picture. (Thanks, Laura. I am glad to have it – now!) 

Karen Rysavy, Before Low-CarbBut in this next picture, taken in Vegas back in January 2000, less than one month before my 35th birthday… yep, now I am fat. “Morbidly obese”, to be precise.

Since I had always considered 70 years to be an average life span, this particular upcoming birthday had caused me to reflect on lots of things.

Like the fact that my life was more than likely at least half over already, since I knew that my cholesterol had been seriously elevated for several years., and that heart disease runs in my family. 

Attempts to treat my dangerously high cholesterol in the past (triglycerides over 400) with statin medications (Lipitor, now a swear word in my house) had resulted in triglyceride levels of almost 900. I was informed that they couldn’t even measure cholesterol accurately at levels that high, so it was just their best guess. though. And then my previously sane doctor suggested adding another statin  medication, Lopid  (since the first one had worked so well??) Huh??? 

I quit going to that doctor – and I quit taking the medications. I cut calories down to no more than 1000-1200 per day, and exercised regularly, and I shed 25 pounds in five months. Best results ever. But my cholesterol was STILL high,  after all that (though slightly improved) and it was just about then that I realized that my quality of life really SUCKED! I began to have an occasional beer or cake/cookie, and BAM! Not only did I gain back all the pounds I lost, I packed on an additional 20 pounds on top of the originals. (Again. This was just the latest repeat of an all-too-familiar pattern. Sound familiar to you, by any chance?)

Four times losing weight and gaining back MORE is what had landed me in the “morbidly obese” category in the first place. So I determined not to EVER do that to myself again. I mean, Geeeez, my ass barely fit in the seat of the Mind Eraser roller coaster at Six Flags (Elitch’s) as it was!!! I couldn’t afford another “diet”. Not ever. So I gave up on trying to lose weight and lower my cholesterol. But I wasn’t happy about it.

And then I realized that I was about to turn 35. Wait a minute. I am not done living! I am not ready to start the downhill slide into old age and infirmity. I can still out-ski my skinny friends! I still cut quite a swath blazing down the highway in black leather on my big bad motorcycle! I don’t look that bad …. Do I?

I really started looking. And I soon realized that Yes, I looked that bad. And all this soul searching did was depress me. Because the basic facts hadn’t changed. I didn’t think I could live on 1200 calories a day for the rest of my life. Not without ending up divorced and friendless. And what good would that do? 

One day soon after that low point my husband came home and changed my life. Just because he doesn’t like to read ~ and he had decided he wanted to lose some weight. He had run into a friend who had lost 45 pounds on the Atkins diet. “But that’s not supposed to be safe” I protested. “How do you know?” he asked. I thought about it and realized that I really didn’t know enough about it to have an opinion. So I agreed to purchase and read the book on his behalf. After all, I loved to read, and if he was going on a diet, I, as the cook, would have to be briefed.

By the time I finished the first chapter, I was in tears. Dr. Atkins was describing ME. What’s more, he swore there was an easy, healthy way to regain the old me. I finished the book, and I read it again. A few days later, three days before my 35th birthday, I started a low carb diet combining principles from Atkins and Protein Power. 

Eight weeks into this diet I had my cholesterol tested. It was within “norms” already! This is not a diet. This is a life change that this yeast bread baker and worshiper has found incredibly easy to commit to. Once you give up refined carbohydrates, and find a hidden well of energy you NEVER knew existed (even as a child) once you witness your own always-lackluster and weak hair and nails begin to grow out luxuriously strong and healthy, once you begin exercising not out of any sense of obligation or guilt but out of sheer enthusiasm for how good you feel, why, you find that sugar and flour do not tempt you. Not that I will never eat any again. Don’t misunderstand me. It is just that I will never blindly eat either one again. I am now aware of the deadly chain reaction they cause inside my incredibly efficient body. And I am losing weight that I will NEVER gain back. And as God is my witness, I WILL NEVER BE HUNGRY AGAIN. I have never once been hungry since I went lowcarb. Not once. This is nothing like every other time I tried to do the right thing for myself and my body. This is different. It is unthinkable to me to ever go back to the way I was. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I WILL reach a “normal” weight. It may take a while, but it will happen. It is a side effect of my new way of life, you see. An unavoidable, very pleasant side effect!

Postscript re: cholesterol: I want to be completely honest with you. I have been retesting my lipids regularly and I did go through some variations. But after years of low carb eating, I can confidently say that my ratios are better than ever and the ONLY number that is even borderline is my LDL, which is a little higher than the “ideal”. As I said, however, my RATIOS are very good, and many doctors consider those to be much more important the “just the numbers”.

If you need to lose weight, lower cholesterol, control diabetes, high blood pressure, or acid reflux, quit smoking, rid yourself of migraines, heartburn, or allergies, ease the pain of arthritis or gout, or you just want to feel generally better, then I strongly urge you to investigate the low carb way of eating for yourself!

Read Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution. Read Atkins For Life, IN WHICH **I** AM QUOTED, Read Protein Power. Life Without Bread. Neanderthin, The Schwarzbein Principle, The Hamptons Diet …. or pick another plan – there are plenty out there!

Just look at the difference in me after low fat dieting – compared to while low carb dieting:

Low-fat versus Low-Carb

Mitch Rysavy, before/after

 Yes, you read it right. I weigh the SAME in both pictures. I swear. Oh, and by the way – my husband is doing very well on this way of eating, too. He lost his 60 pounds in a matter of months, and he still weighs less than when he graduated from high school. He has been able to discontinue one of his blood pressure medications entirely. His average blood pressure is much better than it used to be, even with less medication. He has not suffered from gout or heartburn since he went low carb. And just look at him! I mean, I know how he lost the weight, I was the one cooking and advising ~ but how did he end up looking ten years younger, to boot?

Psssssssst – Don’t Forget To Consult a doctor regularly along the way, and to do your research first!

Comments on the video:   I was never interested in the famous part of the phrase “rich and famous”, and like many overweight or even once-overweight people, I tend to avoid cameras like the plague. Nevertheless, I just couldn’t tolerate some of the blatant misinformation that has been blasted over the airwaves recently about low carb eating. In early January 2004 I bit the proverbial bullet and issued a press release which garnered me a fairly big part in a week-long series on low carb diets that aired on KWGN, WB2 Denver, during February Sweeps Week, starting 2/15/04.   Note that I did not exactly lose 100 pounds like they say in the video above, and I am not sure how they got that fact wrong. Nor did I ever quite weigh 300 pounds. I did get close though, at 271 pounds, and I did lose 100 pounds of fat while gaining 35 pounds of beautiful metabolism-boo…sting lean muscle mass. I know this because I did body fat measurements on myself through the weight-loss process. Close enough for me! The most important part of the story was not the number of pounds, anyway, but the dramatic health improvements I made. We taped for a couple hours, and you never know what they will actually use, from the many things you say. I was no nervous that I come across as strident, I am afraid. Overall, I am quite pleased with this segment anyway, but they somehow managed to totally omit the very relevant fact that I lost more than SIX HUNDRED cholesterol points in a matter of months!   As it turned out, the reporter enjoyed his Fajita Salad with Lecture so much, they invited me to come cook live on their morning show…. where I worked it right in! They re-played the success story segment from the night before while we chatted for a minute, then they cut to us, live. I could feel my face stiffen up when the red light went on, and you can see me swallow hard then rather visibly square up my shoulders and try to force myself to smile. Once I started talking, however, I think I did pretty well.. I even talked right over the interviewer, Natalie Tynsdale, once, which wasn’t so good, but darn-it-all, I just was not done talking about my lab tests yet, and I was determined to get that part of my story in! Be sure to check out the look on my face when she asks me if I am using a non-fat oil! (Non-fat oil? In what universe?) I just sort of ignored that part of the question and talked instead about grapeseed oil being ‘ beneficial” (as in the ratio of its omega fats) and having a high smoke-point.   After my segment ended, they caught Natalie on camera several times still eating my salad! The staff there devoured every bite I prepared, between them, even the one I didn’t really finish cooking on-air, and afterwards Natalie sent someone backstage to get the loaf of Vol. II Rustic Pumpernickel bread and Garlic Schmear I had out while I was cooking, and they then talked some more on air about how good everything was. As I was packing up to leave, Natalie made a point of running over to say good-bye and tell me “Thanks! I am making that salad for dinner TONIGHT” which really made my day. So I gave her my very last bottle of “magic sauce” and a printed copy of the recipes, on the spot.

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The West is Burning

I had a bad feeling about this fire season when we had our first wildfire back in March, but this is just literally terrifying. Not just the one in Colorado getting all the press at the moment, but ALL OVER the West. Please, if you are a praying person, take a moment and pray for rain, for less wind and heat, for the protection of those brave souls out there on the front lines, for all the displaced people, everywhere, and for the MANY Good Samaritans who have shown up at these sites, restoring my faith in the overall goodness of our species. Amen.

(Sorry to digress from the site theme, but this IS now a blog, and this is overwhelming me right now.)

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My Journey – ’06 Update

June 3rd, 2006, our daughter’s wedding
June 2006
Low-Carb hasn’t managed to kill us, STILL, imagine that?! 

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My Journey – ’03 Update

August 2002

UPDATE POSTED IN 2003, upon Publication of Volume 2

This is a picture of us on vacation in 2002, and it’s a fair representation of our weights to this day. I am proud to be able to say that we have each maintained a 65 pound loss with ease. I never did lose as many total pounds as I expected to (my thighs are the body part I am least happy with, and in truth, I rarely wear shorts like these since I feel much thinner in pants or skirts). These days I can also be found wearing my more comfortable 16s more often than the snug 14s I can still wear with pride, but I figure – hey, this is the weight and size I can maintain with ease, and this is obviously where my body is comfortable – so get used to it, and just let go of any unrealistic ‘swimsuit model’ goal image!

One thing I have finally learned, and accepted, after more than three years of effort, is that numbers are just that – numbers, and nothing more.
August 2002Healthy and happy is the ultimate goal, and YES! I am there
What helped me get there?
Well, in January 2002 I went sledding with my then 10 year old son and my husband, and my life changed… instantly and forever…

On my fifth ride down the hill, I bounced off the inner-tube and landed on the hard ground instead, causing a compression fracture of my L3 vertebrae that would confine me to my bed or a horrible brace for months afterwards. My spine actually continued to collapse for the first few months, but thanks to lots of care, rest, and good nutrition, and the fact that I was in pretty good shape when the accident occurred, I’ve made a good recovery. I still have an 11% curvature of the spine, and I don’t enjoy sitting much, but by May 2002 I was riding my motorcycle again (gingerly of course) and by December of 2002, I was downhill skiing again. I did sell my dirt bike, I won’t ever snowmobile again, and I can’t ski the bumps, but these are things I can happily live with, considering the alternative. Because I was already working at home when this happened, I was more fortunate than most people in the same situation – I ended up with a very sophisticated wireless network that I thoroughly appreciate to this day, and I was able to carry on in my chosen career.

Once I got my spine stabliized, I had to deal with the very large kidney stones that had announced their presence on numerous xrays taken after my accident. The very size of these stones was proof enough to my urologist and myself that these were old stones that had started to form long, long before I started low carb. (I feel the need to point this out because of that old tired myth about low carb eating causing kidney damage. In my case, it was years of low fat and yoyo dieting that preceded the kidney damage.) I had several debilitating lithotripsy procedures to pass those monsters, and then once I got over that, I promptly had a partial hysterectomy. Through all of this, low carb has been the constant, the rock, upon which I have drawn strength. No matter how out of control the rest of my life can be, I am ALWAYS in complete and total control of one thing – what does and does not go into my mouth. Maintenance has been a joy for me, and I will control my carbs, and thus my weight, for life. I still have not eaten any real sugar or fresh corn or white potatoes, and perhaps I never will – they seem like a very small price to pay in return for never again worrying about whether my butt will fit in the restaurant or airplane seat to which I am assigned. I do enjoy a wide range of fruit and vegetables as well as my own wholesome bread and bagels, and I can easily find acceptable ice cream, whole wheat pastas and crackers, etc. in stores across the nation.

I wrote my first cookbook in 2000 while actively losing weight, and all the recipes in that cookbook are indeed “truly low” in carbs. I published my second low carb cookbook in November 2003. Volume II features a wide range of recipes suitable from induction through lifetime maintenance, so that everyone can enjoy bread, bagels, pizza, margaritas, etc. – while still maintaining their health and weight.

“BECAUSE EVERYONE COULD USE A LITTLE TLC”
October 2003