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Medicine Closet: From veganism to meat week

Writer Katie Kelberlau sees what it's like to kick it low carb

 by Katie Kelberlau  published on Thursday, April 28, 2005

SPM writer Katie Kelberlau tried a new diet for the past four days. This time it was the Atkins Diet. Similar to her journey as a vegan, Kelberlau didnít last very long. /issues/arts/693135
SPM writer Katie Kelberlau tried a new diet for the past four days. This time it was the Atkins Diet. Similar to her journey as a vegan, Kelberlau didnít last very long.


I have a nasty little confession. I am a cheater.

Not on tests, homework or even exercise plans. But put me on a diet, no matter how lenient it is, and I will find a way to twist the rules.

So, from the day SPM editor Amanda Lee Myers sent me off on "meat week," I was bound to fail. Myers, who happens to be one of the many Americans currently doing the low-carb thing, thought it'd be interesting to see how I would fair on the Atkins diet, especially after the magazine received more than 100 e-mail responses to my attempt at being a vegan for four days.

With every fast-food restaurant selling low-carb renditions of their classic (and already nutrient-rich) meals, I thought it wouldn't be too difficult to find low-carb food.

Unfortunately, my favorite foods are all carb-laden sins, at least by the standards of Dr. Atkins. There is not a bowl of pasta, bagel, potato or carton of ice cream that I do not wish to shove down my gullet.

But at the same time, any diet in which a brick of cheese is in the "good" category sounds like it just might be doable.

So, with sausage stick and cheese log in hand, I set off to try a low-carb eating plan for as long as possible -- a matter of days, or possibly only hours, at least until I can't stand it any longer.

What follows are passages from my meat-week diary.

Day One

Starting my day with an un-sweetened iced coffee, I am not really hungry enough to miss my ritual morning gooey pastry and Frappuccino.

But by lunchtime, however, I am beginning to realize that it is nearly impossible to buy quick, cheap, easy food that is both edible and Atkins-friendly. A Burger King burger sans bun does not really appeal to the senses, so I decide on a Chicken Caeser salad at Einstein's, minus the croutons.

It's a big, filling salad, but merely an hour and a half later, in class, my stomach starts rumbling again. Obviously, big meals with a lot of protein are filling, but there is no place on campus that sells grilled salmon with steamed broccoli.

And if there were, I'm not so sure I would trust it.

Day Two

I thought better of going without breakfast again, instead starting my morning with carton of plain yogurt and a sugar-free vanilla latte.

I have made it through four meals without cheating. But today I have a cold and I can't justify it to myself to abstain from orange juice. So, after a short ethical debate, I spend what seems like my life savings on a carton of Naked juice, chug it quickly so no one will see my transgression and throw it away.

For dinner tonight, my boyfriend and I go to The Melting Pot, a meal we had planned for weeks. The Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant with four-course meals. The first course is cheese fondue with vegetables -- cheat free!

The second is a salad - no croutons, so I am still good. The third is a variety of meats and fish, dipped in a boiling pot of red wine, garlic and green onions. Up to this point, the whole thing is surprisingly Atkins-friendly.

But then comes the dessert course -- a big pot of melted dark chocolate with a platter of berries, pineapple, bananas and various pieces of pastry.

My incredibly limited self-control flounders as I stick my fork in for a chocolate-covered strawberry.

Day Three

Today, I swear to myself I will not cheat. Not once. I have to be able to make it through a day without munching a piece of bread or popping a piece of candy.

So, to resist temptation, I go home for lunch. Searching my fridge, I decide to heat up some frozen peas and toss them with butter and parmesan cheese, and pair them with a Morningstar black bean burger minus the bun. It was surprisingly tasty, filling and satisfying.

For dinner, I eat shrimp cocktail and broccoli, with frozen berries for dessert. Yes, I know berries are not exactly part of the Atkins plan, but at least it's not chocolate cake.

Day Four

I follow the guidelines during breakfast and lunch, but by dinner, I am pretty much over it. That cinnamon raisin bread in my cabinet looks mighty appealing, so I toast up a couple pieces. Figuring this means I am pretty much done with the diet attempt, I heat up some leftover spaghetti and plop down on the couch.

The whole Atkins deal is doable, if I had time to make well-rounded meals every day, cook eggs for breakfast and bring food with me for lunch. But there is no real quick, easy meal I can bring with me to campus that does not contain bread or grains of some kind.

Like so many other diets or, excuse me, "lifestyle plans," cutting carbs means putting out more effort to get those lost nutrients elsewhere.

Pardon me if I simply stick with pastries and Frappuccinos.

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