Tuesday, June 17

What's so hard about low-carb?

Today I was looking at a sample diabetes association daily menu.

I was aghast. I know enough about my body to know that if I were trying to eat that, I would be starving, cold, miserable, obsessed with food, and probably either binging every few days or eventually just giving up altogether.

Lowcarb could save their life. It isn't recommended because apparently the authorities think lowcarb is just so totally impossible nobody could eat like that.

I think the most complicating factor is that there are 1.7 billion items in the grocery store that will kill you, and 200 that won't, 3/4 of which people have never eaten in their life. The situation's worse in restaurants. But that has nothing to do with the eating plan. That's environment. The environment in the home, people can manage.


When I first started lowcarb, I joked that it was "like trying to be Amish in New York City." It was HARD. I was constantly faced with the seeming impossibility of getting food together and dealing with eating out somewhere and cooking all-the-freakin-time and so on. I did it, I lost weight, but it was a major pain in the ass.

Now lately, I've been doing fine on LC, imperfect but acceptable, losing weight, as has my kid. And I'm realizing: why was this hard?

What was so complicated about it previously, that it seemed hard?


I think some was a mental issue. That is, having grown up where endless varieties of crap were all expected to be put in your body for the fun of it, I had a fundamental misunderstanding of one key thing, which is this:

Food = Meat.
Veggies and fruits are nice treats, except if your meat variety is limited (you don't eat organs, 9 kinds of meat, etc.) they are necessary to add in.

Once I got my head around that, and "animal-based protein" became my priority and vastly dominant food source, a whole lot of everything straightened out on its own.

This doesn't mean that I can't make coconut popovers or flax cocoa muffins or almond cookies or lowcarb pizza or whatever. It just means that everything which is not the primary bodily need is something 'extra'. It isn't really in the category of 'food' except maybe by some percentage of it.


I think some was a physical issue.

It is stunning how radically my desire to eat--and WHAT I desire to eat--changes depending on my food intake.

If I eat sufficient protein, veg/fruit and supplements, I pretty much lose most of my cravings for anything else. I don't even think about food except when it's time to eat. And I eat until I'm full and that's fine. And it's a miracle if I can even get as MANY carbs and calories as I'm trying for in my day. I can stand right next to chocolate, cheesecake, pasta, and literally not care. I don't have any desire to eat them.

When I find myself "kinda wanting" things that aren't my basic foods, I know that I haven't had enough protein or fresh foods or supplements or something.


I think some was a habit issue.

I buy decent quantities of chicken and ground beef or roast and I cook it all at once in the crockpot or oven usually. On occasion I'll chunk up chicken and bake it with a sauce, or throw the chunks in my wok, or coat 'em with parmesan-herbs and bake, but usually I just cook it all at once. Then I drop it in the freezer or fridge. I can nuke it when I want food, I can mix it in with other foods, whatever. Now that I've started having some decent amounts of things in my freezer, often in serving-size plastic bowls, the stress about 'not having food' has dimmed a great deal.

It used to seem like a nightmare, the planning and shopping and cooking and cleaning. Now I buy mostly the same things, which takes out most of planning and simplifies shopping, I cook more seldom for 'full meals', which simplifies cleaning, too.


I think some was a cultural issue.

I grew up with the idea that a meal had several different components to it. You were supposed to have a little meat, a couple of side dishes, a drink, dessert. Except for much of my adult life, the meat took a hike or was barely-there in the midst of pasta or something.

I grew up with the idea that you ate three times a day. As I got older, I ate one time a day. Now I've completely ditched that mentality. Now:

* I have usually dairy+berries for meal 1, like a smoothie.
{1/2cup plain yogurt, 1/3cup cream, 1 egg, 6 ice cubes, 1/3 cup frozen wild blueberries or half a dozen frozen whole strawberries, vanilla, cinnamon, sweetzfree, blendered}

* I have eggs, usually with sausage, and hopefully a tiny bit of veggie, for meal 2.
{3 eggs and 2oz sausage, or 4 eggs 1oz sausage, or 3 eggs, 1oz meat, 1oz cheese, and part of a bell pepper}

* I may not have a meal 3 but if I do, it might be a bowl muffin, or a meat-centered leftover, nuked. It is usually very small (>2oz protein). It may include beans (some of the higher-fiber (lower ECC) beans) or peas, but not a lot.

* For meal 4 I have meat. Lots of it. Like 9-12oz depending on the meat and other meals of that day. It sometimes has a bit of veggie as part of it, in a stew or alongside (like bell peppers and broccoli in stir fry). Or not. Often it's just plain meat. I often make a quick little sauce of some kind for the kid for dipping.

* I may not have a meal 5 but if I do, it might be a tiny gala apple and a few slices of cheese. I only have this if I began eating early and there's at least 2+ hours before sleeping time.

* I take supplements (finally!), and I recently added a 5,000iu of Vitamin D3 from the Drs. Eades's site (proteinpower.com) which I kid you not, within about 6 hours or so greatly improved my "sense of well-being." I think it's made a big difference. I use a potassium salt substitute to make sure I'm not getting too much sodium (I use sauces from jars/cans sometimes) and that I'm getting enough potassium. I drink diet soda, and then guilt (and zits) cure me and I drink only water for awhile, until I forget why I was doing that and go back to diet soda. ;-)

In the end I have about 20-26oz of animal-based protein a day (varies slightly), not enough veggies but some, a little fruit, a little too much dairy but not too extreme, sometimes a bit of legumes (beans or peas) and some supplements.

I'm losing weight on and the important thing is: I feel really good.

I'm deliberately eating more carbohydrates than I used to, but none of it's junk, and none is a ton at once. My highest carb intake is my morning smoothie, except the occasion when I have a meat stew that contains some beans.

I don't feel the way I do in a hard ketosis. I'd be losing weight faster if I were there, but my diet would be a lot more limited.

I don't feel the way I do when I'm eating tons of carbs (like hell).

I actually feel as if for the first time in my life since I can remember, I must be eating in a way that my body is pretty happy with.


And it isn't rocket science.

So what I can't figure out is, up until now, why has it been so complicated?



kamafood said...

First, a few recipe questions:
-What do you use for low-carb pizza crust? I have a flax bread recipe but it just doesn't cut it.
-What's a bowl muffin?
-Please share dipping sauce recipes :)

I agree with most of your points above, particularly your cultural observation. IME, low carb can be hard because it's not what everyone else is doing. Friends want to go for pizza or share popcorn at the movies. Potlucks are full of carb food - the worst was my father-in-law's funeral when the Mormon church ladies showed up to provide food (I knew I had no chance - hello, lettuce). And until you get the hang of things, it really does require much more cooking and kitchen time then we're used to. "Cooking" to most Americans means "getting a box from the pantry." I got frustrated at spending so much time in the kitchen, and sometimes I still do.

And let's not even get into the social pressure of, "Oh, you're on one of those fad diets, aren't you? How silly, grains are good for you, you know."

For me, it all boils down to "it's hard because it's different." I'm a food non-conformist. Agh! I confess that a year or two ago, I might have qualified as "food emo," though.

Anonymous said...

I'd love the coconut popover recipe

Carol Bardelli said...

Excellent post! I want to steal, um, borrow your '200 grocery items that won't kill you' and do a post on it. That's such a profound statement in and of itself. People just don't get that they're killing themselves slowly. My brother's a diabetic and eats whatever he wants and expects his drugs to do the job. If you decide to do a post on that and want another "researcher" I'd be happy to help.

Can you imagine the 'do not eat' list?! It would be endless what with new frankenfoods developed all the time.

Nina said...

What kamafood said... it's hard because what you're doing is different from what everyone else is doing, and everyone else thinks you're crazy.

I just got back from 4 days at my mother's, and I really wish that I'd counted the number of times that I said, "I'm sorry, but I don't eat that." Politely but firmly. But you know, you just get tired of saying that after a while.

We have gone to a low carb version much like yours, except a tad lighter on the meat and a little longer on the veg... and it was really when we started adding the lower-glycemic legumes in small quantities that our weight loss became generally steady, and we started feeling better.

It's not rocket science, but it's hard to get the balance right until you really learn what the right balance is for YOU... and you have the time to develop low-carb habits, to replace a lifetime of other things.

Niki said...

I went to the "Diabetes Nutritionist" this past week and she gave me the, "Diabetes Exchange List" by the American Diabetes Association...I almost died!!! I looked at her and said, "OMG, no wonder everyone is still dying from diabetes!!!". I couldn't believe all the "crap" and CARBS they are "suppose to" and "allowed to" eat =-O She said I could have popcorn, potatoes, bread, crackers, "snack chips", animal crackers, graham crackers, waffles, english muffins...the list goes on and on, and it's all in the Diabetes book.

My cholesterol has gone up and up so my Dr. sent me over to her (my diabetes is still under control and is "normal" and I am still off all meds for it...thank God).

My mouth hung open most of the time with the things they wanted me to eat. And their mouths hung open when I told them what I have been eating...it was crazy. It confused me a lot, but I KNOW these things aren't good for you, and I am NOT doing a "Diabetic Diet"...that's just crazy. If I want to die I might O_O

Ok, I just wanted to tell you that...lmao!!!

Hope all is well with you and the little one. I have been busy and losing my mind lately (what else is new). School starts for me this week again...BLAH!!! AND what's a coconut popover...sounds Divine =)