Drink You Carbs is the brainchild of Steven Deutsch and Andrea Seebaum. We created Drink Your Carbs because one day we woke up to the realization that we could no longer eat anything we wanted without putting on weight. In our mid-20s, something slowed. It happened to both us over a few short years, in spite of the fact that we had very different eating and exercise habits.
Andrea ate a naturally healthy diet. She was raised by hippies in Boulder, Colorado. The first five years of her life were spent on an actual commune. Her parents insist that this was not one of those cultish, group-sex communes that were all the rage along the California coast. Their commune was focused on growing organic vegetables, cooking whole foods and dedicating themselves to well being of their community.
Like most communes, the utopian dream ultimately morphed into Animal Farm and Andrea’s family fled to the suburbs. But even this failed experiment in Marxism left her with shockingly healthy eating habits. Even when over-hungry and stressed out, Andrea craves huge salads, fresh vegetables and brown rice. All of her time in the suburbs did leave her with a soft spot for things salted and fried, but even with occasional french fries and corn chips, her diet is still far healthier than average.
By contrast, Steven had never heard of kale before Andrea introduced him to it. Steven’s parents insist that they often cooked fresh food at home when he and his sisters were young. He remembers none of that. To hear him tell the story, he ate 25 meals poured from molded Styrofoam containers for every one meal his family cooked at home. Somewhere between these two visions of Steven’s childhood sits the truth. Either way, comfort food to Steven is a big plate of takeout Chinese.
At some point everyone’s metabolism shifts. For some it comes earlier. For us it came around age 25. Suddenly, we were both slowly and steadily putting on weight.
Looking back, it is easy to see why Steven started gaining weight. At home, Andrea cooked healthy food, but most of his calories came from outside the home. In the morning, he would often stop on his way to work for fast food. He went out to lunch at least five days a week and never once skipped the fries or ordered a salad. He snacked nearly constantly between meals on chips and hummus, soft cheese from the local gourmet supermarket and re-heated frozen waffles smeared with peanut butter. While these were healthier snacks than Ragin’ Cajun Cheezy Crunch Bombs and Mountain Dew Xplode, none of them are low calorie. He also refused to work out on the grounds that he was asthmatic and exercise tightened his lungs. When Steve was in college, his metabolism was such that even without exercise he could remain wiry thin while eating anything he wanted in any quantity. As he aged, he never adjusted his habits.
Andrea’s weight gain was more complex. Andrea continued to run two or three times a week. On the surface, her diet seemed textbook healthy. At home she tried to stick to whole-grain breads, organic pastas and lots of fresh vegetables. Being married to Steven, she was not entirely able to hold that line. She ate far more junk than she would have otherwise, because Steven always made a point of keeping chips around the house and ordering fries when they went out. It would be easy to blame those occasional fried food binges, because they certainly didn’t help. But the real cause of Andrea’s weight gain was simply that she was taking in more calories than she was burning. Only in retrospect do we now see her mistake. Butter slathered onto seedy, whole-wheat bread might be healthier than buttered Wonder Bread because it contains more nutrients and fiber, but it does not have appreciably fewer calories. The same is true of whole-wheat pastas and organic potatoes. One of her favorite after-workout drinks was an organic fruit smoothie from the refrigerator section at Whole Foods; if she drank the whole bottle, which she usually did, it contained more calories than a can of Coke.
We were not ready to contemplate real lifestyle changes. There was no way Steve was going to give up orange chicken. Andrea assumed that no dietary changes were necessary because she ate lots of healthy, whole foods. So we went with the most minimal change to our lifestyle we could come up with: Steve started exercising and Andrea started exercising more often. We saw it as a simple trade off, an hour of pain on the roads or in the gym for permission to eat whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. Andrea trained for and ran in a marathon. Steve ran as well, although his longest runs in those days were a wheezy two miles.
The exercise strategy mostly worked. In our mid-20s, the addition of running was enough to keep us from having to buy whole new wardrobes. Looking back, it is pretty clear that we still put on weight; we just did it very slowly.
By age 28, we were living in San Francisco surrounded by amazing food and wine. In 45 minutes we could be in the wine country for a weekend of tasting wines and eating award-winning food. In two minutes—faster if either of us had the guts to ride a skateboard down that hill—we were at a little wine bar with a world-class wine list and one of the best burgers in the city. The wine bar has since changed hands, but its impact on our lives continues. That wine bar marks the beginning of our shift to serious wines and small batch liquors from “whatever’s the cheapest by the case.”
Since neither of us wanted to curtail our trips down the hill for burgers, fries and wine, we opted instead to again increase our exercise and expected to drop weight immediately. Steve ran a half marathon. Andrea ran an unofficial half marathon pretty much every weekend. It was no longer enough. We exercised often and hard enough that we stopped putting on weight, but exercise alone was unable to take it off. Our metabolisms had finally shifted to where if we were going to trim down, we had to address our food.
In our first attempts to diet, we made some rookie mistakes. Instead of focusing on calories, we traded out our favorite foods for seemingly healthier versions of the same. We kept whole-wheat breads and pastas and cut our red meat intake in order to limit our saturated fat. We cut way back on french fries, which were our favorite side dish at the wine bar down the hill, and began baking our own fries in the oven at home.
One of our favorite dinners was to split a New York steak and an entire bag of organic baked french fries. We baked the fries in the oven with garlic and chili peppers. They were truly awesome. Then one day, on a whim, we looked up the calories. It turns out that we would have been better off skipping the baked fries and each having our own steak. For the same calories, we could have skipped the fries, each eaten our own steak and split another bottle of wine. This realization marks our first tiny step toward understanding the power of Drink Your Carbs.
The real change came at age 29 when Andrea went on Weight Watchers and Steven toyed with the low-carb Atkins Diet. Both diets worked in spite of their opposing philosophies. Andrea lost slightly more weight, but that is likely due to the fact that Steven cheated more often on his diet. The fact that such opposing philosophies could produce successful results led to our understanding of the simple fact: if you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight. If you burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight. Both approaches worked because both diets require fundamental changes in foods eaten. For Steven, Atkins forced him off simple starches. For Andrea, Weight Watchers simply shrank her portion sizes. In both cases, we consumed fewer calories each day and, as a result, we lost weight.
Fact: It turns out that food matters.
Throughout our diet phase we never missed desert or bread or even deep-fried potatoes. We sorely missed drinking wine. We had developed a habit of opening a bottle of wine while cooking dinner and finishing it as we ate. Most of our cheating took place when we met friends at a bar for a few drinks or when we simply could not resist pairing a nice bottle of wine with our dinner. Wine is probably the reason we both eventually drifted off our diets. Neither diet has a full prohibition against wine. However, they both limit wine dramatically. Atkins limits wine because it is high in carbs. Weight Watchers limits wine by a assigning it a punitive number of points. In both cases, drinking a glass of wine can mean cutting actual food in order to meet the daily limit of carbs and/or points. This was not a sacrifice we were prepared to make.
For over five years, we have been refining the Drink Your Carbs Diet. We didn’t call it Drink Your Carbs until 2008, but we have long experimented with our diets to find a way that we could keep drinking wine, beer and other alcohol and continue to lose weight. For the record, we are both over 10 pounds lighter and far more fit than when we finished our Atkins and Weight Watchers era. This is not only true for us. It is universal to everyone we know who has embraced Drink Your Carbs. This is why we decided to share it with the world.
Fact: As long as you Drink Your Carbs, you really can drink, feel great and lose weight.