Patrik in his kitchen, four years after switching to low carb
Patrik Rugolo, 44, is the chef and proprietor of an Italian restaurant in northern Sweden. He bakes organic bread every day for his family and guests, so cutting out carbs wasn’t the most natural step for him. But he did it and lost 50 kg (110 lbs), transforming his life in ways he had never imagined.
How long have you been eating low-carb?
Four and a half years. I went from 135 kg to 85 kg (298 to 187 lbs). Actually, I’m not low carbing, I’m no carbing – less than 20 g a day.
Was it a smooth journey?
It was very easy because my body reacted so well from the start. I felt well and the results were immediate. Of course, sometimes you do something stupid. Once I ate a handful of potato chips but the next day I felt so ill, that I realized it wasn’t worth it. That helped me to go on.
How has it changed your life?
I moved from Italy to northern Sweden to start an Italian restaurant with my brother. Bitten Jonsson, the addiction specialist, came to ask if she could hold courses here, which she had done before I took over, and I said yes, of course.
I was a guy who could eat a kilo of spaghetti for lunch and now I was cooking low carb for these people – I thought they were crazy! But then I had a chance to attend one of those courses at our place, Frägsta Hälsingegård, [http://www.fragsta.se/eng/index.html] and all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place – I realized that I am addicted to carbohydrates.
Patrik before he switched to low carb
Back then I suffered from a lot of health problems – headaches, high blood pressure, toothache, plus I was borderline diabetic. Everything cleared up. My blood tests came back perfect. Weight loss was an important consequence because I had been big since childhood and never found a lasting solution, but the main difference I experienced was a new silence in my brain. Before, I was constantly thinking about what food to eat but now there was room for other thoughts. Amazing!
In my mid 40s, I feel healthy as never before. I have so much energy for my family. And I started to run. Now I run every day, as much as possible, and have even signed up for this year’s Gotham half marathon – my first ever.
What has been the biggest challenge?
I love baking bread, for my family and for guests at our restaurant. The biggest challenge for me was to change those food habits. I bake bread every day but I don’t touch it, not even a crumb. It’s still hard, but I have learned to deal with it. I talk to my ‘red dog’ – which is how I see my inner voice of temptation. If I’m tempted to eat some sourdough, for example, I say to the red dog, ‘Ok, we’ll have a piece of bread, but let’s wait five minutes.’ In five minutes, the urge is gone.
What are your top tips?
If you want to live a low-carb life, you need to understand how it works. Take it seriously and try to train your brain to accept that it’s a lifestyle change. If you can’t resist some bread, eat it at home, and use sourdough and organic products. Generally, plan ahead – know what you are going to eat and when.
If you have my problem – carb addiction – try to set up some help from someone who can support you because the red dog is very strong.
If you have a big appetite, weigh food, if necessary, so that you don’t overeat.
Speak to other people who have chosen this lifestyle so you don’t feel alone, maybe join a group or find a forum online.
Bread is my drug. If it’s yours, try to avoid low-carb bread because a true carb addict’s brain won’t recognize the difference and will overeat it. I have tried it and always eat it all in one day, then feel terrible.
What is in your fridge?
Patrik’s family fridge
Cheeses, eggs, bacon, vegetables, yogurt, butter, different marmalades for my wife. Overall, it’s full of food that is compatible with my lifestyle.
What is your favourite recipe?
Aubergine pizza – every Friday our family enjoys pizza for dinner and I make everyone a regular one and this one for myself.
Aubergine, or eggplant ready for the first roast and, right, with toppings
Patrik’s Friday night pizza
On an oven tray, roast half-inch thick slices of aubergine (eggplant) with olive oil and sea salt for 12-15 minutes, at 400°F (200°C). When they are golden brown, take them out and arrange on a smaller tray, square or round. Top with tomato sauce, as you would with a dough pizza. Add bacon, herbs, mozzarella – whatever you like. Bake in the oven again on high heat until the cheese melts. Buon appetito!
How has this lifestyle affected your family and friends?
Everyone always saw me as fat – a big person, since I was very young. I’m half Italian and when a lot of my Italian friends first saw me after losing so much weight they feared I was ill. The only problem is, many people don’t see food addiction as dangerous so they don’t take it seriously. But if I’m going to dinner with friends and they don’t know, I explain that I can’t just eat carbs and generally they respect that. I really appreciate the support I get.
What do you wish you had known when you started out?
I just wish I had known about low carb when I was younger. I would love it if the rest of the world could be open to this lifestyle because it really works.
I took another course with Bitten Jonsson and look forward to one day to be able to mentor people who are addicted to carbs because I understand. I know what it’s like to miss that time in the day when you sit down to eat 10 slices of bread and butter and cheese.
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