Carbs… we love them, we hate them, but we NEED them! 3 of the scariest words I hear and read are “Low Carb Diets”.
First of all, the word “diet” is terrible! At least in the sense one typically thinks, like, low carb diet and probably a few others I can’t say. We need to move away from diets being a temporary thing. When one thinks “I need to go on a diet to lose weight.” It automatically puts them in the wrong mindset. A temporary mindset that makes them look forward to when the diet is over so all their favorite foods are available again.
You make all these huge, drastic changes to your life that probably can’t be sustained long term. And it probably works, I’ll give ya that. But, once your diet was over, how long till the weight or bad habits came back? Did you at least last longer than last time? Probably. But, now you’re back at square one.
We need to start thinking “Diet” as what it’s meant to be, our normal, everyday foods and drinks. More of a long-term contract; a mortgage for your body. It’s a bit intimidating when you look at your normal diet and you may not know where to begin. At least that’s exactly how I thought. How does someone make healthy changes to their diet that can last for years and years while still enjoying my favorite things? The internet says I’m eating too many calories, let’s start there.
Do I track calories? How many calories do I actually need? Why do I need calories? What the hell even is a calorie? I started researching and asking trusted professionals and realized calories are not the bad guy. Like duh, your body actually needs calories to live and just like all the other good stuff, too much is a bad thing. Ok, cool! Calories are like your much needed best friend, you need them in your life on a daily basis but some days more is better.
I still need to find the bad guy in my diet, which brings me to the even worse term “low-carb”. At least in my opinion, and only because it’s misleading. I started researching carbs because of the whole good carb, bad carb thing. Like most, I didn’t know what a carb actually was, I just pictured a roll. Fresh out of the oven with all the buttery goodness dripping down.
Wrong! Well, I was right but I needed a much more of an in-depth answer than that. It turns out that roll could be a really good source of energy for me. It just depends on if it was made with good carbs or bad carbs. Again, duh Stephanie.
I need to add that low carb diets have been “prescribed” by doctors, in very controlled settings with remarkable results. BUT, those patients had other ailments that warranted this drastic diet. Even doctors don’t know the long term side effects and suggest this “diet” is not for the average person. Which makes sense because your brain alone needs 130ish grams of carbs on a daily basis just to function properly! Hold up… my brain eats carbs?!
First of all, what is a carb or carbohydrate? A carbohydrate is one of the 3 macronutrients your body needs to survive. The other two are protein and fat. They work as a wonderful team making sure your body stays up to date and running efficiently. Each macronutrient has its own job.
Your body’s energy preference is carbs. And when I say energy preference, I don’t necessarily mean energy to run a 5k. I mean energy as in what your body needs to just be alive. It’s the currency our bodies use on a cellular level just to survive and perform basic functions like breathing and thinking. We cannot make our own so we HAVE to eat them. Carbs are the sugars, starches, and fibers that make up our foods. So, as you can imagine, they’re everywhere! Dairy products, fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and all the processed foods.
At first, I was overwhelmed by the thought that they’re everywhere. Then I started realizing that would make my diet very diverse. No one can eat the same thing, day after day, it’s just boring and when humans get bored we get destructive, we turn to the nightly burger and shake from your favorite joint because you’ve been good and deserve a treat. 4 months you’re back or worse than before.
This is circling back to “diet” but hopefully, you’re starting to see that our diets, in the sense I’m trying to make people think… long term contracts, play a HUGE role in everything we do from waking up to deciding your plans for the day to training for that marathon. I think we all know this we just don’t want to accept it.
So, I realized carbs were my bad guy but they are not the kind our body requires. Good carbs have more sugar molecules, which are the what your body is looking to “eat” for its energy. Bad carbs or simple carbs have only one or two molecules so you’re body uses that carb faster than it would a complex carb which then makes you feel hungry faster so you eat more foods, probably more simple carbs. I was starting to feel overwhelmed again. How am I ever going to get to a healthier me that I can fully enjoy life? More research.
What I discovered and started applying to mine and my family’s diets because we eat the same things, was the “ADDED SUGARS” line on the nutrition panel was our ultimate bad guy. We started limiting all added sugar intake, which is ridiculously hard but so worth it! Most kids get their daily allotment of added sugars with breakfast. Then go to school and eats who knows what during the course of the day and by the time they come home their bodies are just in chaos. After school snacks are probably quick, processed snack items. What’s for dinner? Cereal because mom and dad are too tired.
It’s just become the American way to eat fast and not really care or learn about what we’re putting in our bodies. I’m just as guilty! That nightly burger and shake thing, yup, totally did it for a while.
I slowly stopped buying the foods we ate the most that were the worst. They’re not in the house, we can’t eat them. We found replacement snacks and foods that fit our family’s food preferences. This granola bar for that one. This yogurt for that one. This loaf of bread over the others. I use to spend hours doing one grocery trip because I started reading the nutrition facts. If I didn’t know what something was in the ingredient list, I just used the google that’s constantly attached to me and did a quick search, while standing right there, jamming out to tunes.
And you don’t have to do every food every trip, at least in the beginning. Look through your cupboards at your regular, everyday foods. Look at the added sugar line and pay attention to how many servings you actually consume! Also, look at all the other brands and similar products next time you’re grocery shopping. Maybe there’s a healthier alternative. Slowly start trading out your regular bad foods for healthier options. Start cooking more at home then you can totally control what goes into your body.
Once you get comfortable with a few regular ingredients that you’ve switched out for healthier versions, do another look through the pantry. If you feel like you have good control of the added sugars then start bringing complex carbs into the mix. Switch the bad, enriched noodles for whole grain. When I make bread, I use half whole wheat flour and half regular, bad flour. I, as in my brain and taste buds, HATE whole grain bread, it’s just gross, so my body and I compromised.
Another big issue I have with low carb is the restriction on fruits. Fruits are just as important as all our other requirements. I tell people to use fruit as their pick me up. Bananas are one of my most favorite things ever! Fruits are made up of simple sugars and a bunch of other antioxidants your body needs. Simple sugars like this provide your body with the quick-acting shorter carb chains to give you that boost you’re looking for. So instead of a mid-day latte from a coffee shop, go to your supermarket produce section and get one of those prepackaged containers of fruit. It’s probably cheaper anyway. That’s my go to lunch when I’m out and about. Get the groceries for the week, stop by the deli and grab a wrap, that’s usually basic, which means not much added bad stuff, and little thing of mixed fruit.
Simply put, fruits are ok in moderation with the simple sugars because they also fulfill other requirements for your body to live. Simple sugars from quick, processed foods are usually stripped of all the good stuff. You know, empty calories.
Record what you eat for a few days. Start making healthier swaps that you can sustain long term. Start researching and learning about the nutritional panel. What do the carbs, proteins, and fats do for your body? What about everything else? Read and learn about how many calories YOU actually need and keep in mind, it’s probably more than 1200. It’s such a dumb number. It’s unhealthy to live long term on 1200 calories and the majority of people need more than that to live healthily, but that’s for another day.
One last point, don’t totally give up your favorites. My favorite meal is a cheeseburger and I don’t skimp when we eat burgers. I go all out with whatever I want on it. But the next day we probably eat a healthier stir fry. It’s all about balance and finding your own balance point. I also love ice cream! If I crave it, I eat it, and as much as I want. This freedom of my favorites is one of the main things that keep my diet on track. I know if I eat too much, I’ll feel ill, but at the same time the longer I deprive myself of my favorites, I’ll end up binging out later and really regretting it.
Maybe keeping a mental or even physical list of your favorites will help you. Give yourself the freedom of the favorites. And when you have them you’ll truly enjoy them and you probably won’t consume them as much.
Everything about you plays an important role in your individualized diet. Health issues like high blood pressure or diabetes, how healthy you already are, your health goals, and so much more. Hopefully, you’re in communication with your doctor and other trusted health professionals and discuss anything you may want to apply to your life. I’m not nutritionally certified in anything, so do your own research and talk to your doctor, after all, you are the master of your own body.