Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact
Year’s ago I received the book Body For Life as a Christmas gift. I was really impressed by the before and after pictures, which motivated me to read the book cover-to-cover. After reading the book, I firmly believed that a balanced diet required protein, carbs and vegetables, but everything should be low fat.
As a bachelor I used to joke that you spell kitchen with an “M”, for McDonald’s. Fast forward almost twenty years and I was still frequenting mainly McDonald’s when I wanted to grab a quick lunch. Enough so, that I now liked to say that I buy enough McDonald’s that I should be a shareholder. In all seriousness, I would buy fast food on average once a week.
Given my perspective about food, I didn’t feel that a fast food meal was so bad for me (except for the high sugar drinks). Well, that all changed drastically at the beginning of this year.
The typical western diet is simply too high in carbs and shouldn’t be low in fat.
Blood Sugar Roller-coaster
I have now changed my beliefs about what constitutes a healthy diet. I used to get unstoppable food cravings. Grabbing an afternoon snack or rading the fridge just before going to bed was common practice for me. I tried resisting, but it just simply felt like I was starving and unhappy if I didn’t fulfil my craving.
I have since learned that this is caused, at least in part, by the typical blood sugar roller coaster. I eat a meal containing highly refined carbs, which shoots up my blood sugar. After a while, my body compensates for this and starts driving down the blood sugar levels. My blood sugar hits the low point, I crave food again to bring up my blood sugar. I tried eating salad like other people, but my stomach would quickly start growling and I felt like I was being deprived of “real food” that is filling.
So what changed then? A friend who had been struggling to control his weight, cholesterol and pre-diabetes, mentioned to me the major improvement in his overall health. So much so, that his doctor said he had improved the most of any of this doctor’s patients in his career as a doctor. Seeing my friend’s health improvement and hearing the feedback from his doctor, I decided I had to find out more.
This friend was following a diet called Banting, which you can read about here. I have since come to understand that this is just one version of what is called Low Carbs High Fat, or LCHF for short. Their is still a lot of controversy around this kind of diet, but more and more people are finding the truth about nutrition taught by this dietary philosophy. So much so, that we can finally force the food companies to acknowledge the damage they have done and are still doing. The typical low fat diet does not lead to healthy eating.
There are three nutrient groups: fat, protein and carbohydrates. Of these, the only one that is non essential to support life, is carbohydrates. If you’re stranded on an island with only fish for food, you body will simply breakdown some of the protein into sugar, thereby giving you any carbs you might require. Even with this fact, it’s important to realize that a LCHF diet is not “no carbs”. Their are other diets that attempt that, however I’m unconvinced is completely healthy and it seems very difficult to follow.
With a LCHF diet you are basically aiming to average between 50-100 grams of carbs per day. That might take the form of a slice of toast with breakfast, an apple with lunch and half a potato with dinner. As long as you didn’t have other carbs during the day, such as potato chips or a sandwich for lunch, you will be fine. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound to difficult to me. You only need to be disciplined with the portions you eat. But, this is only one part of a LCHF lifestyle.
Reducing the carb intake only will put you on one of those see-saw diets, because you will have days when the hunger and cravings get the better of you. So for the Low Carb High Fat lifestyle to work, you must also increase your fat intake. Finding out that animal fats taste great and are healthy was a real benefit for me. Healthy fats can also be found in avocado, tree nuts and coconut products. I have fallen in love with avocado oil for cooking, drizzled on salad as a dressing and baking.
Changes I Made
With this new found knowledge and changing belief system, I decided to try going low carb high fat. I was uncertain if it would be difficult or easy to follow. I made the following changes in sequence:
- I cut all sugar and products with added sugar from my diet.
- Next, I eliminated all refined carbohydrate products, e.g. bread, rice and pasta. (I now occasionally eat rice, but still limit it)
- Given the natural sugar content of fruit, I limited my daily intake to one serving of fruit per day.
- I still wanted to have sandwiches as I made the change, so I baked some almond and coconut flour bread. Which, buy the way, is very delicious. Unfortunately it’s very expensive, so I do this sparingly.
- I increased my fat intake by drinking bulletproof coffee once or twice a week, switching from low fat yogurt to full fat yogurt, using wiping cream in my coffee, eating chicken with the skin, etc.
- I was already eating good quantities of vegetables, so I just needed to maintain this to take in enough fiber and other micro-nutrients.
Within days, I felt the persistent pain around my joints go away, my mood improved and I slept better. I stopped experiencing the food cravings I normally couldn’t withstand. I thought to myself, “Wow, I didn’t expect this!” I expected to start loosing weight after some weeks, but certainly didn’t expect these other immediate benefits. I also started losing weight almost immediately. I’m convinced that if it weren’t for these other health benefits, I might have been tempted to give up. It has now been over six months and I still enjoy my new eating lifestyle. Needless to say, McDonald’s now miss my regular visits. When I do visit now, I buy a salad or eat a burger without the bun.
Changing my eating lifestyle from the traditional “balanced diet” to where I eat less carbohydrate and more fat has changed my life. I lost 40 pounds in five months. I’m still about 25 pounds above my target weight, but now I feel healthy enough to start exercising regularly. With regular exercise, I’m confident that I will reach my target weight in the next six months.