By Whitney Provost

I love carbs. If my last meal on earth is warm bread with olive oil and a glass of wine, I'll die happy. But I love to be fit and lean too. So I know that if I want rock-hard buns, I'll occasionally have to skip the cinnamon buns. I don't live without carbs, but I do make better choices so I can still fit in my jeans. Here's how I do it.

Carbohydrates are essential for good health. They fuel the muscles and cells so our bodies can function. Without them, we'd be as active as three-toed sloths. And while low-carb diets can be great for jump-starting weight loss, they're not for everyone. When I go low-carb, I feel murderous within a week. So what works for me?
  1. I eat plenty of "good" carbs. First, I make sure that the majority of my carb intake consists of the so-called good carbs—oats, brown rice, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and beans are some of my favorites. I also eat plenty of vegetables, and even fruit (OMG!). These foods contain tons of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein, so I get lots of energy-boosting nutrition and I stay full longer.

    I'll be the first to admit that I'm not immune to the lure of cookies and candy, but I've learned through a lot of trial and error that these things don't make me feel very good once the initial sugar rush wears off. Since I'd rather be alert than snoozing at my desk in the afternoon, I just can't eat like that too often. Besides, too many treats and I don't fit into my pants. Not a bonus.
  2. I try to eat most of my carbs earlier in the day and around workouts. When I start my day with some satisfying carbs and protein, I just feel better. Oatmeal with a little protein powder added at the end, or Shakeology® with peanut butter and a banana, and I'm off to a pretty good start. I also like to eat some carbs around my workouts. If I'm hungry, I'll eat a piece of fruit or some berries with fat-free Greek yogurt about an hour before I train. Afterward I'll have a whey protein shake with fruit, or P90X® Results and Recovery Formula® if it's a particularly brutal workout. Dinnertime usually means chicken and a large salad, although I do love pasta with marinara sauce, or even cheese, crackers, and fruit. So whatever choice I make, I just eat it and enjoy it. The next day, I'll probably eat more vegetables and protein to balance things out a bit.
  3. If I really want it, I eat it. Sometimes a hot-fudge sundae is the only thing that'll cure my craving. So I eat one.

    I'm serious—when I decide I simply must have ice cream, I eat enough to be satisfied and then I move on. The difference is that I usually substitute that treat for whatever healthy meal I'd eat around the same time. So if the only suitable dinner choice is a hot-fudge sundae, so be it. (For obvious reasons, this cannot be a frequent occurrence. Besides, it tastes soooo much better when you really want it.)
  4. Can you lose weight eating like this? Simply put, yes. As long as you're eating fewer calories than you're burning, you will lose weight on a higher-carb diet. When I need to lose weight (after a few too many pizza dinners, for example) I eat the same as always, but I cut down my portion sizes. I still get all the flavors and textures I love without feeling deprived. And I bump up my workout intensity so I'm burning more calories each time.

    If you're like me, you love to eat all kinds of carbs. But I know that in order to be as lean as I want, I need to make good choices most of the time and keep up with my workouts (I'm on a TurboFire® kick right now). As much as I'd love to eat bread and butter all day long, I wouldn't look or feel very good. I often stop and ask myself what's more important, this bowl of pasta or fitting into my skinny jeans again? One decadent meal will not derail a week's worth of healthy eating. It may slow down my progress, that's true, but I'll get where I want to be eventually. And even better, I'll be healthy, happy, and sane!
What does a carb lover's weight loss diet look like?

As I get older, I can't get away with eating as much as I used to. So when I've overindulged a few too many times, here's what a typical day of back-to-basics eating might look like:

Breakfast: Shakeology® with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter and one small banana.

Midmorning: Protein pancake. (Grind 1/2 cup of oatmeal in a food processor, then whisk it together in a bowl with 5 egg whites, 2 packets of stevia, a small handful of raisins, and cinnamon to taste. Lightly coat a small 8-inch nonstick pan with cooking spray, preheat over medium heat, pour in batter, and cook until pancake is brown on one side. Flip and cook until the other side is brown.) I make several of these on the weekend, wrap them individually in aluminum foil, and store in the fridge. Before work I just grab one and go.

Lunch: Large salad with kidney beans, cucumbers, bell peppers, and salsa.

Afternoon (if I'm hungry): Fat-free Greek yogurt with berries and cinnamon.

Dinner: Grilled chicken with steamed vegetables or salad. Or whole-grain pasta with marinara sauce, chicken sausage, and vegetables.