A Low Carb Beginning

In today’s excited episode of rambling chattering, we’re looking at how to achieve the mythical ketogenic state I was talking about yesterday. To be honest, it’s not that hard – there’s a few bumps along the way, but it’s not difficult – you just have to cut your carb intake.

Hold up, don’t go running to the fridge to throw out everything with carbs in it, you probably won’t have anything left. Remember how we talked about simple and complex carbs earlier on? That comes into play now. What you want to do is cut out as many of the simple carbs as you possibly can – stop eating bread, pasta, rice, crackers, cakes, cookies, biscuits, pastry, etc. and stop drinking milk, soft drinks, alcohol, juice, etc.

‘That doesn’t leave me with much of anything, Vee, what am I going to live off of? Lettuce?!’

Well, you’re not entirely wrong. After my GP suggested I try a LC diet, I hopped online and started researching what exactly I was getting myself into and why it might be different from any other fad that’s out there. Afterall, I’d tried a soup diet, a low-fat diet, and a don’t-eat-too-much diet – none of which had been useful in the least. About the only time I ever lost any remarkable amount of weight at all had been when I ended up in hospital where they had to remove my gallbladder – no fun that – and I didn’t eat solid food for about a month; I lost 10kg during that stint, and not in a healthy way, which meant I put it on straight away when I started eating normally again.

Now, when I first looked into it, the only LC diet I’d ever heard about was the Atkins diet – an ex had told me he’d tried it with great success, but I’d always thought it was a ‘fad’ and haughtily told myself I wasn’t going to ‘do fads’. Funny. Anyways, so I pulled up the Atkins website and did some reading. Like the other diets, Atkins is very strictly structured – divided into phases that first remove and then slowly reintroduce carbs into your system. I liked the idea, but knew I wasn’t going to able to stick strictly to the dietary limitations all the time since my husband wasn’t joining me on this journey – not that he needs/needed to, so hey, what can a girl do? – and since he does most of the cooking, I was determined not to put him out by having to come up with fanciful meals just to meet my new dietary requirements. I’m just one of those people who hates to inconvience anyone just for my own sake – the standing rule in the house now is barring certain obvious things – like flour, sugar – I will eat around what everyone else is eating/cooking. This has lead to some pretty awesome recipes and food ideas, like deconstructed hamburgers and boiled-cabbage-in-place-of-pasta meals.  

So anyways, after exploring a few options, I decided that I wasn’t going to follow any particular diet. Instead, I decided to pick and choose what I wanted to do – what I believed I could do –  and as long as I was losing weight I’d stick to that. I followed the example of the Atkins Phase I: Induction and limited myself to a total of 20g of Net Carbs (Total Carbs – Fibre = Net Carbs). I cold turkeyed straight up, from one day to the next – probably not the most advisable method, but it worked for me; you can choose to cut back one bit at a time, or go hard, up to you.

I stopped eating bread and pasta and rice and potatoes. For someone who’s entire food life revolved around stuffing one’s face with the beautiful organic sourdough we sell at the Cafe this was no small feat. I can feel myself salivating at the thought of the delicious bread, all toasted and crisp, coated in a thick layer of melty butter, oozing over the edges. Dammit, now I’m craving bread – sorry! That aside, having cut out these staple foods means I’ve drastically reduced the amount of simple carbs I’m taking onboard.

Next, I looked into fruits, discovered that I couldn’t eat most of them so for the first three months or so just cut them out categorically. Next up under the research-scope were vegetables. As it turns out, veggies are great, provided you choose high fibre options. I eat a lot of tomatoes, mushrooms, lettuces, spinach/kale/chard, a moderated amount of pumpkin and sweet potato. Every now and then I also munch on a bit of beetroot, just to keep things interesting. Oh and carrots, carrots are awesome, just moderate your intake as some types of carrots can be higher in starch! Other things that fill my veggie diet are zucchinis – extremely versatile these things! – and cauliflower – which is a LC godsend.

Then there’s dairy. This was one of the harder bits for me; I absolutely love cheese. Luckily for me, cheeses are primarily fat and protein so they’re okay, along with thickened cream and butter. I did notice, however, that if I had too much of these over the course of a week my weight loss would stall; whether that’s the normal case I don’t know, but it’s something you should keep an eye out for. So no milk – and for the love of everything, if you absolutely have to have milk have full cream.

This goes for pretty much everything else, by the way: avoid anything that says ‘diet’, ‘lite/light’ or ‘fat/sugar-free’ on it. Namely because you need fat as part of this diet, and far more importantly, products bearing these labels tend to be higher in processed carbs, artificial sugars, and certain bad fats (like transfats) that you don’t want to be consuming. It’s imperative that you become a devout reader of labels, and I’ll probably reserve a post in the near future devoted entirely to that art – and it is an art sometimes.

When I started the diet, I had to stop ‘sampling’ the things I bake for the Cafe – a very very very hard thing for me to do – and generally conquer my sweettooth. No more ‘oh, just need to check the flavour of this batter one more time’ and certainly ‘oh dear, the cookies don’t all fit into the jar, I’d better eat one’. This was actually easier than it sounds; I just started a mantra in my head that went ‘I don’t need it!’ every time I really wanted to have something I shouldn’t.

The other BIG thing I cut out was every single soda drink barring unflavoured soda water. No more coca cola, sprite, ginger beer, blood orange….No. More. Soda. 

Having figured out what I could eat I slowly began to discover how many carbs fit into 20g of Net Carbs. The answer is: not very many simple ones. The higher the fibre count, the lower the Net Carb count, so obviously I could have those, but I was having serious trouble keeping up with the count. I tried keeping a notebook on hand and doing the research on my phone, but seriously? SO HARD. Finally, I stumbled across the MyFitnessPal App on my phone.

It’s saved my life: this wonderous little app lets you record what you’ve eaten, and then shows you the nutritional values for everything you’ve had throughout the day. All you have to do is calculate your net carbs and you’re set, you don’t really have to look at anything else if you don’t want to. For those of you who aren’t into Apps, the MyFitnessPal website is also available and very useful. I don’t use the site as much as the app because I always have my phone with me and have turned into a dedicated ‘food recorder’.

I’ll leave it at that for now and let you digest over what I’ve written so far. Check out the MyFitnessPal site (the link is in the Resources tab) and we’ll tackle some more next time along with carb paranoia.

Clear skies,





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