Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dispelling some myths

I am almost always hearing some criticism against low-carb diets and I wanted to at least clarify some things.

First and foremost I hear "Carbs are brain food, you'll get foggy headed and damage your brain if you don't eat carbs".

Some things to bear in mind- while the brain can and does run on glucose it can also run on ketones, which are what your body produces from fat when there are no carbohydrates available. Also- if glucose is actually absolutely neccesary it can be produced by the liver in a process known as gluconeogenisis. So no worries there. After the first few days of my body adjusting (metabolic shift) I was perfectly clear headed and if anything more alert and clear than I was before I cut my carbs. There's even some evidence to suggest that the brain not only operates just fine on ketones, it may operate even BETTER than it does on glucose.

So, that's settled (in my mind at least) what's next? "You need carbs for energy, so if you don't eat carbs you'll be weak and unable to exercise".

In answer to this I'll again point out ketones. These are what your body runs on when there aren't enough carbs to run on them. After the initial metabolic shift I have had plenty of energy, and in fact much more than I had on a carb rich diet. Can cutting carbs make you weak? Yes initially, when that is what you've been running on for a long time there is a short term lethargy that can take place, but it's temporary.

Moving on. "You can't eat any fruits and veggies on a low carb diet, you'll be vitamin and mineral deficient".

Let me just say that I probably eat MORE veggies than I did before I went low carb, and that the most carb dense veggies are also usually the least nutritionally valuable. I eat greens, cruciferous veggies, salad veggies, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, squash and more. I just don't eat starchy or overly sweet veggies like corn, potatoes, carrots (although I'll even eat them in small amounts) peas and so on. I even eat some fruits in small amounts. Berries in particular are some of the healthiest fruits around and not super high in carbs. I had blueberries this morning in fact. I eat less fruit than I used to but it's still in my diet, I'm just more sparing and selective.

There are others, but those are the biggest ones I encounter on a regular basis. It can be frustrating when you know that what you're doing is making you feel better but loved ones and friends are constantly attacking your choice instead of trusting you to make the right decisions for your body. I don't know that eating low carb is best for everyone, at least not as low as I have been doing, but I know it works for me. From what I can tell I have a resistance to insulin*, and one of the best ways to deal with that without a ton of medication is through lowering carbohydrate intake and raising healthy fats.

All I know for sure, 100% is that it works for ME. I feel better. I'm loosing weight. I'm not tired all the time. I'm thinking clearly and feel more alert and balanced without all the spiking and crashing I was doing. My heart palpitations are almost completely gone (I think the ones I get every now and then are iron related, working on that). That's enough for me. I read a lot of conflicting studies and articles about all of this and honestly I believe that anyone can take any study and spin the numbers in a way that is more favorable to the outcome that they already believe is true. So for now, I'm continuing to reduce my carbs and living an active lifestyle and pursuing my goal of being healthier and happier.

* Not 100% sure on this cause I haven't actually been tested for it, but I've had most of the indicators for metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance is one of them. Also, people who are insulin resistant are the ones that tend to do best on a low carb diet. I'm planning a trip to the doctor to get all my lipids and blood pressure checked out and I want to check into this as well.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I'm alive!!! Really!!!

I've been awol but I'm still here. Was discouraged for a little while (I think I get a touch of winter blues really) Gonna try to get back in the swing of things and spruce things up a bit. Focusing a lot on lower carbohydrate eating- it really is the only thing that's ever worked for me long term. Hooping again now that it's nice out, riding my bike to and from work when weather and time permit. Gained and lost 20 pounds all over again, lol!

Biggest difference this time around is that my guys are along for the ride. They need to get healthier too, and it's a LOT easier to cook low carb for a whole household than it is to cook low carb for one person and typical Standard American Diet (SAD, appropriately enoug) for everyone else.

Why do I choose low carb? Bearing in mind that whole books have been written about this dietary choice (I highly recommend Why We Get Fat, And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes, he gets into the nitty gritty and explains it all) for me it's this: It works. I loose weight, I have more energy, I have less anxiety, I don't spend half my day hungry, I don't feel deprived. My blood pressure is normal when it used to always be high. My heart palpitations have mostly gone the way of the buffalo (still get them around a certian time of the month sometimes due to iron deficiency anemia). I've done a lot of reading on the mechanics of what causes the body to store fat (insulin) and what causes excess insulin in the blood (large amounts of carbohydrates) and drawn the conclusion that if insulin causes fat storage and carbs cause insulin then perhaps the carbs have got to go. (Read that book I mentioned up above, it really is fantastic at explaining all of this)

And I've gotta say, establishing a low carb lifestyle has never been easier, there are so many more options than there were 10 or even 5 years ago. Things like almond and coconut flours are more readily available (low carb baking is awesome, who knew you could still have pancakes and waffles while cutting carbs down so low?) there are better and safer sweeteners available- stevia, xylitol, erythritol, sucralose (listed in order of preferrence. I like stevia best because it's a plant, xylitol and erythritol are some of the least intestinally distressing sugar alcohols and sucralose is a last resort because it affects the flora and fauna in your gut potentially making it harder to fight off illnesses) and tons of websites and products geared specifically towards people like me.

I'm enjoying and sticking to it so well this time.

It's late, so I'm going to sleep. I'll try to start posting more again!

Please if you have any questions about any of this ask away. I'm not any kind of expert, I'm a layperson for sure, but I can at least point you in the right direction.