I hereby proclaim myself Queen of losing weight on Atkins while eating out. My husband helped me by bringing home whatever food I asked for, whether groceries or restaurant take-out, and by taking me out to eat darn near every day. Hey, those eating-out places are not full of temptations from my point of view. They are full of whole foods that I can't necessarily stock at home in the variety my allergic body needs.
My husband is not low-carb--in fact, he eats high carb and low fat--and at buffets we have both been able to get what we needed to eat. Not one time did I see something at the restaurant that I knew was off-plan, grab it and eat it. MANY times I educated wait staff about what was and was not workable on Atkins. And quite a few restaurant managers, too.
I cook at home now more than I did, because these days in maintenance I might want a pound of sliced, unbreaded okra with my dinner meat and fat, or something else no restaurant will be able to serve me.
I know there are people who, if a food is there and other people are eating it, feel "deprived" if they don't eat it, too. That's a good time to ask yourself some private questions. Just what are you being deprived of? Making yourself sick now and in the future? Making your own intelligent choices for your own life? Being a grown up? Eating the food that would nourish your body?
As Adele pointed out, in my overweight days I would not have taken kindly to someone telling me what I should or should not eat. Heck, even now as a skinny person I will see people giving my meat-laden plate the evil eye. Poop on them. Who cares what they think, if they have nothing more important to think about than what is on the plate of someone else whose health or overall eating plan they could not possibly know? There are some people in this world who, if they approve of you, there is something wrong with YOU!
I was involved with Overeaters Anonymous for 10 months at the end of losing my weight, and I recommend that to anyone. You will find sanity there. One thing they teach is that managing an addiction is not about you getting strong or you being a big success or you stopping a behavior. It's about you admitting that you are powerless over the problem, and surrendering to a higher power who will handle it for you.
12-step programs such as OA and Alcoholics Anonymous that Overeaters Anonymous is patterned on do not believe in "will power," nor did Dr. Atkins. Read that 2002 version of Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution book again and note what he says about that. Read the AA Big Book, for what they say. Read the 12 steps and 12 traditions AA book to find out how a remarkable program and a remarkable organization works.
Like so many people, I lost weight twice with sheer "will power," the second time 100 pounds. Both times it came back, and more. What I learned in OA and from Dr. Atkins' book is that I actually am not an addicted eater emotionally. My body was trapped in an eating pattern. I needed the right information and to surrender, to have faith to just do it, in order to get free of that trap.
So that's why I'm not in OA anymore. To be a sponsor and work the program, I would need to be a compulsive overeater. It's one compulsive overeater (or alcoholic) helping another. That is how it works. I don't meet that qualification. But many people stay in it indefinitely, as people do in AA, and it provides exactly what they need. It was not at all what I thought it was. Forget about Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or a spa or a personal trainer or other motivational programs if you are a compulsive overeater--Overeaters Anonymous has them all beat, and it's...brace yourself...free. It's a free gift from one compulsive overeater to another. It's not for sale.
On my weight loss journey, I fed my mind and heart with all the positive reading I could get my hands on, including a great deal of material about 12-step programs. You mentioned an alcoholic not being able to go into a bar. Guess what. A recovering alcoholic in AA will go into a bar, especially to help another alcoholic. The founders of AA learned that an essential part of their own on-going recovery is to help other alcoholics. They don't go out and badger people, but rather they go where hurting people are--such as dying alcoholics in hospitals--and offer their support. In helping others, they keep their own sobriety.
If you read Dr. Atkins' book carefully, you will find that 12-step word: abstinence. We each find out for ourselves in an attentive low-carb eating journey what foods for us need to be included in abstinence. As Dr. Atkins also wrote, each person will have to customize the plan to their own body. When I very carefully pay attention to what another low-carber is eating, I can tell how their body is doing the math. I eat some things they do not eat, and they eat some things I do not eat, almost always. But the sum total is very, very close to the same. I'm not talking about carb numbers, but something else...hard to put into words. But the body knows. And you get a feel for it, if you keep paying attention long enough. It has to do with the exercise, the calories, the quality of the carbs, the protein, the fat, the non-nutritive or downright damaging foods, and more. The body is keeping track, believe me. Give it the right stuff, and you suddenly realize you have hit the "sweet spot." Then your goal is to keep it there!
Many people on effective low-carb eating plans who have achieved goal weight do the same thing AA members do, whether in OA or not, whether formally or not. They find that by staying involved with other people trying to do low carb and helping where they can, they keep their own weight controlled. If that were not true, hanging around low carb boards would be just as dangerous as you are imagining a bar would be to an alcoholic. All these people with all these excuses, whew. All these blow-by-blow accounts of the "delicious" food the person ate on a binge. All these friggin' "low carb" recipes, and the latest thing at a restaurant (a pox on TGI Fridays and all those other places who call a manufactured product "low-carb" and lure all the people who have not done their homework into going off plan!). This stuff is not good to be listening to.
I'm not saying I read in gory detail every foolish thing posted to a board. At certain stages of my weight loss, I skipped posts about topics or by people I knew were off track and about things I didn't need to be thinking about at that point. For example, I would quickly turn the page in a magazine if there was a recipe, picture, or ad for a dessert that would formerly have tempted me. I put my attention on other things, until my habits were so strong that I just really didn't notice that junk.
This is not a victory on my part. It is a work in progress that is being done in me by my own higher power, God. Though I've been at goal weight for over two years after losing more than 1/2 of my starting body weight in 21 months, this work will always be in progress and will never be finished. If I went off Atkins I would gain it all back and more, and probably not live long. I would wish I were dead, too, because I would quickly be so very ill. The stakes are high for me. But I have seen person after person who was a lot sicker than me just go right back to the food. Why? I don't know. They don't know why they did it, either. I just know that the only way this works is if I do not give myself the credit for it. I did not do it. I proved to myself abundantly that I was not capable of getting that weight off. It took divine intervention. If I did this weight loss myself, I would be living in fear that I was going to blow it, because people do that. God doesn't do that, though. He didn't bring me this far to let me down.
AA and OA teach that you can think of your higher power as whatever you need to, including thinking of it as the group itself. I was already a Christian when I went there, so that was a non-issue for me. In fact, going on Atkins in the first place was an answer to prayer. Or whatever you call a prayer that includes intense and prolonged begging for about 25 years! The answer I was given was this plan. I said, simply, "yes."
I meant it, so I just put my foot on the path and kept going, one step at a time. When I got stalled, I asked God to show me what to do. When he showed me, I did it, whether it was giving up a particular food or adding exercise or whatever. Some of the things I gave up, later I was able to add back. This daily weighing and constant adjustment will have to continue for the rest of my life. That's okay. It's a much lighter burden than that extra 181 pounds was. Note, too, that Dr. Atkins' book specifically says we will have to make adjustments for the rest of our lives.
I think another reason I was ready to lose is that I had accepted myself as I looked and as I was. I did not hate myself for being fat. I did not consider myself worthless or unlovable. If God loved me, who was I or anyone else to say I was unlovable? I am determined not to think less of ANYONE for being overweight, ever. I'll warn you, though, I might think less of you if you behave hatefully toward fat people, and that includes yourself if you think of yourself as fat! It's wrong to do that. So don't do it around me! Self-hatred will seriously get in the way of losing the weight, too.
My motto on Atkins has been "Just do it." No excuses--and also no grand plan to do it better than anyone on the face of the earth has ever done it before. No trying to eat less than anyone else or exercise more than anyone else or otherwise be a "better dieter" or make an extreme out of doing Atkins. Just do it. OVERdoing it isn't doing it. Doing it short-term isn't doing it--Atkins must be for life. Doing it intermixed with cheat days or vacations or going off plan because your brother-in-law's cousin's piano teacher's hamster died on this date last year isn't doing it, either. Just...do...it. No excuses, no fancy footwork, nothing else between you and the simple low-carb everyday plain and simple eating life.
---Minus 181 pounds on Atkins in 21 months, now at goal weight since 10/24/2003. I'm in the middle of a miracle. Thank you, God.