I’ve always known there was history of diabetes in my family, both type 1 and type 2. And I always thought it’d really suck if I got it eventually, because I have such a horrible sweet tooth. And so about two years ago, when I started hearing about low carbohydrate diets, I bought a book by Dr. Robert Atkins. And I read through it. And what he said made a lot of sense. And I probably should stop starting sentences with “and,” but I can’t be bothered.
So I tried out this low carb thing for a while. I did this for about two months, and then I came to Australia for a visit, and since I knew I’d be coming home with Tim Tams, I went off it a week or so before I left. And I decided that once I got home again, I’d go back on it. But it was right before Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t pass up the stuffing & mashed potatoes & pumpkin pie, so I put off my re-entry date till after Thanksgiving. Plus, at the time, I was tired of eating eggs for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and whatever low carb odds & ends I could find in the fridge to pack in my “lunch” to eat at work in the evening. And then it was the Christmas season, with chocolates and candy canes and Christmas cookies and my all-time favorite Christmas treat, the chocolate oatmeal cookies my brother and I dubbed “poop cookies” because, well, YOU look at one and tell me what you see.
So anyway. Then I decided that Christmas was a really stupid time to start a new way of eating. On to New Year’s. But Darrin was visiting, and we were going out to eat a lot, and it just wasn’t worth the bother to change my whole way of life at that time. And then I moved home with my parents for the four months before I came here on my work visa, and was only here for four months, then back with my parents again for another three before the wedding. But at some point during that three-month stay back home, I decided I wanted go back to low carb again, partly because I’d seen how many more low carb specialty foods were on the market, and partly because I’d gained some more weight that I didn’t want (and thus was very close to outgrowing my jeans again), and partly because, sheesh, I don’t want to end up a diabetic!
After we got back to Australia after the wedding, I started planning for the changeover. I gradually stopped buying things like white flour, sugar, and potatoes. I did research online to see if I could find some interesting recipes to make the switch easier. I did. I found a great site with dozens of recipes – all using normal sounding ingredients (which is the problem I had with the recipes in the Atkins book – I’d never heard of gruyere cheese before then, and I’ve only seen it in a store once since then). And I found an Australian low carb message board, which I read for a lot of good tips on various aspects of the whole issue.
And so on May 1 of this year, I went low carb. I felt like crap for the first three days while I was crashing from my lifetime sugar high. But after those three days, I felt a lot better. I’ve been plagued with headaches all my life – like my mom and her siblings and her mother and probably going back a few more generations. When I was really young these headaches would get so bad that I’d throw up a couple times. As I got older, the severity of the headaches lessened (whether because I was old enough to know when I needed some Tylenol or just with age, I don’t know; I suspect the former), but they were still there. And I thought it was just something I’d have to cope with the rest of my life; being out of commission for the rest of the day whenever I got a headache that wouldn’t leave me.
But you know what? Since going low carb, I don’t get as many headaches. And I have a very strong suspicion that most of my headaches in the past were the result of drastic blood sugar drops from carb withdrawal. And the only thing that would really cure these kinds of headaches was a good night’s sleep. And this never clicked with me till just recently. But now that it has, I’m kicking myself for not noticing it before.
Oh yeah, and I’ve also lost 8 kilograms (about 17 pounds) since changing my eating habits. And Darrin’s lost 11, and he’s not even following it religiously, just eating what I give him one meal a day (more on weekends). (You’re right, this isn’t fair, but men lose weight easier than women.)
Bottom line: we’re now both convinced, from our general improvement in weight and health, and from numerous articles & studies we’ve read online, that low carb is the way to go. Our bodies simply were not meant to be digesting refined carbohydrates like flour & sugar.
And now for the questions/rebuttals/etc.
“But won’t I get fat if I eat all that fat?” All that fat? Just how much fat would you expect to eat on a regime like this? Eggs? Meat? Mayonnaise? Butter? Yes, they’re major parts of the menu. But so are low carb veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin, green beans, onions, tomato, lettuce, zucchini, olives, and fruits like berries, canteloupe, and honeydew. A good salad is something everyone agrees on, whatever their nutritional dogma: it’s good for you. Period. And no, you won’t get fat by eating “all that fat.” Fat is a much more efficient fuel source than carbohydrate for many reasons. One, it’s slower (MUCH slower) to affect your blood sugar. Two, if you eat excess carbohydrate, that extra carbohydrate gets turned into fat. Three, fat makes you feel fuller sooner. Try eating 500 grams (about 1 pound) of meat versus 500 grams of chocolate. You won’t get through the meat, but the chocolate will still have you begging for more at the end.
“If you eat too much protein you’ll get kidney disease.” Oh really? And where did you hear that? Would you like to show me a study that proves this? I dare you. There isn’t one out there. High protein has been shown to be safe for just about everyone; only certain cases, like people who ALREADY HAVE a kidney problem, should limit their protein.
“Red meat is bad for you.” Is it now? Then don’t eat red meat. Stick to chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, and other seafoods. No skin off my nose. (Personally I don’t believe all the negative press about red meat, but you can still eat low carb without it. And you can even do it being a vegetarian, if you eat lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of nuts.)
“But aren’t whole grains healthier than meat?” Haven’t you been listening to me? No, they’re not. There are dozens of nutrients found in meat – like the B vitamins – that are simply lacking (or altogether absent) in whole grains.
“But I’m diabetic already. It’s too late for me.” Not so. Grab the latest Atkins book about diabetes, which tells stories of people who were able to lower – or eliminate – their medication by eating low carb, and how you can do the same. But don’t do it without consulting your doctor. (And if he/she tells you to eat lots of whole grains and avoid red meat & eggs, find another doctor.)
“Okay, what about cholesterol? Meat is full of it.” Yeah, it is. So what? Your body only produces excess cholesterol when a) you’re not eating enough of it in the first place, or b) there’s something else going on that your body doesn’t like – it is the symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. And you’d be surprised to find out that a lot of low-carbers actually have IMPROVEMENTS in their cholesterol, trigliceride, and blood pressure readings after eating this way.
“Aren’t most of the low carb specialty products made with soy? I don’t like soy.” I don’t blame you. I can’t stand the stuff either. Not only does it taste horrible, it’s been linked to dozens of health problems – thyroid disease, breast cancer, and the estrogen can cause birth defects in baby boys, feminization of grown men, and premature menopause in women. Soy is also one of the most common and dangerous allergies. Not good. Unfortunately the food associations still think it’s a great health food, so you’re going to find soy protein in a lot of pre-packaged foods, including those low carb. But nobody said you had to use the specialty products. I don’t.
“Fine, whatever, but you’ll gain back all the weight once you go off the diet.” Uh, yeah. That’s the problem. Too many people think of a diet as something that you’re on for a while, then stop when you get to your goal weight. But to keep yourself healthy PERMANENTLY, you need to change the way you eat PERMANENTLY. (edit: and the deal about being low carb is that you get to eat enjoyable, tasty food – not the fake crap Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig try to shove down your throat – so it’s much easier to stick to it in the long run.)
I will get off my soapbox for the moment, but I really hope you’ve learned something today. And I hope that you look into it and decide for yourself. There’s no shortage of information out there.
By the way, I highly, HIGHLY recommend Dana Carpender’s book How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds, for anyone who’s thinking about going this route.