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,





Simply Ketosis

Assuming you’re all up to date with what carbs are and how insulin affects the body, we can now move on to the fun stuff: a low carb lifestyle, will it work for you? How do you make it work for you? Should you make it work for you?

So, first off: What is a Low Carb Diet?

There’s a lot of varying definitions for this and if you’ve travelled through the Internet you’ll likely have come across a whole range of different programs. You’ve got the famous Atkins Diet, Southbeach, Paleo, and a whole range of others (all of which are worth having a read through as they’ll help explain everything I’m trying to get through). What they all have in common is that they limit the amount of carbs a person consumes during a 24 hour period to induce a ketogenic state.

‘Okay, hold on a second,’ you’re saying, ‘what’s with all the fancy terminology? Is this going to be one of those things that I need a science degree for to understand?’

‘Nope, don’t worry,’ I reply with a big smile, ‘I’ll talk you through it. I learned it, so you can too! I’ve made a ‘Glossary’ page – look at the top of the site! – which I’ll be adding onto as we go.’

In a ketogenic state your body will start using fats for energy and not carbs. Remember the difference between the two things here: Carbs = sugars, fats are different! They shouldn’t be tied together in the same circle; in most LC diets, you need to be consuming a high amount of fats, particularly animal fats (unless you’re vegetarian of course, and in that case you will need to find some suitable alternatives – we’ll explore that at a later point!). Fats are important for a number of reasons. Firstly, when you eat fats you feel satiated, full, comfortable and you’ll be less likely to overeat. Secondly, you’ve got to replace the carbs you’re cutting out with some sort of fuel for your body and while you want it to be using your reserves, you can’t starve yourself, so for the love of all that is scared eat the fats! Okay, so, back to the ketogenics. Remember how I said that your liver turns excess sugars in your system into fatty acids which the body then stores are fat? Well, your liver does this other magical thing…

Think of your liver like a factory worker – go ahead, picture a little guy/gal in a overalls with a cap, working a switch. There you go! – and his/her job is to make sure the factory has enough energy to work. So, now picture a large jar, the worker has got to keep that jar full so that there’s enough energy for the body – er, factory – do to its thing (breathe, walk, talk, keep organs functioning, etc.). But suddenly, down the conveyer belt comes extra fuel/sugar! The jar’s already full so it’s got nowhere to go. The factory, however, has a strict no-wastage policy, and so the factory worker diligently packs it up into a box or something and puts it onto another conveyer belt that takes the box to a storage locker labled either thighs, arms, neck, torso…

You get the picture. That’s what happens in a regular system. During a ketogenic state (ketosis), you’re removing a very large amount of the sugar that would normally fill the factory worker’s jar. So, the jar is never full, and the factory –i.e. your body – isn’t getting enough energy from its food to maintain general function. Now, this would be bad, I mean, the last thing you want is organ failure (which kills you, by the by), except that your body is a miracle worker and has, of course, built in a fail safe: ketosis.

When your body enters ketosis, your liver starts producing what are known as ketogenic bodies from the fats you’ve diligently been consuming. In all honesty, I can’t really explain what these special little bodies are, only that your body can use them just as efficiently for fuel as it does carbs. So, back to our little factory worker:

Realising there’s not enough fuel in the jar, he simply throws a switch on the second conveyer belt and summons up some of the fat stores from, say, the thighs’ stores. He does something special to the stuff when it arrives and tips that into the jar to make it full.

Keep that up long enough, and the fat storage lockers are going to empty themselves out, which is the whole point of being on this new diet isn’t it?

‘That sounds simple enough! So, what carbs do you have to cut out to enter ketosis?’ you ask, getting excited, could this be the answer you’ve been looking for?

Before I go any further, I want to reiterate what I said in my first post. I’m just an interpreter of what I’ve found on the Internet and from other more reliable sources like my GP: I’m not a specialist or qualified in this field. It’s not that I’m worried about being sued – though, of course, I’d rather you didn’t, which is why I keep saying this! – but it’s also VERY IMPORTANT that you do what suits you and that you don’t damage yourself in the process. In other words, before you read my next post and dive straight into trying out this new diet: SEEK REAL MEDICAL ADVICE FIRST! No doubt I will be saying that a lot throughout this odyssey, and you’ll get bored with it, but it’s important and it’s about your health so don’t mess about with it.

I’ll let you sit on that for this post, the next one will pop up tomorrow and we’ll look at what you’ve actually got to do to get into ketosis and get those kilograms washing off of you.

Clear Skies,



Insulin Talk


If you don’t know what it is, it’s okay, you’re not alone. I imagine most of us who don’t have a close relationship with diabetes only really get a picture about insulin from the movies; syringes, blood pricks to test sugar, that sort of thing. Let’s explore a little so we know what we’re talking about, and I promise, we’ll soon get to the good bits: LC recipes, side effects like carb flu (I know, sounds awful, but it’s good to know about!), and foods you can enjoy to the end of the world. They’re coming, I promise.

So. Insulin. Master hormone, expert sugar manager, secreted by the pancreas. It can kill you, save your life, or just go about its business without you ever knowing a thing about it. A couple of years ago someone very close to me nearly died of pancreatitis (this is what happens when the pancreas goes postal for whatever reason) and one of the godlike nurses said: ‘Forget liver failure, we can fix that. If your pancreas goes you drop dead, no questions asked.’  That’s the thing: when your pancreas fails, it can dump insulin into your system, and too much insulin in your system will kill you.

But apart from that morbid anecdote, insulin is quite awesome. Wikipedia will tell you that insulin is a ‘peptide hormone’, which means a lot of complicated medically things that aren’t really important; what we need to know here is that insulin is vital in the regulation of carbohydrates and fat metabolism. Here, let me give you an excerpt from Diabetes Australia – an excellent source of information for diabetics, I must add:

“Insulin is a hormone made by beta cells in the pancreas. When we eat, insulin is released into the blood stream where it helps to move glucose from the food we have eaten into cells to be used as energy. In people with diabetes the body produces little or no insulin.

For Type 1 – In people with type 1 diabetes, the body produces little or no insulin as the cells that produce insulin have been destroyed by an autoimmune reaction in the body. Insulin replacement is required by daily injections.

For Type 2 – In people with type 2 diabetes the body produces insulin but the insulin does not work as well as it should. This is often referred to as insulin resistance.  To compensate the body makes more but eventually cannot make enough to keep the balance right. Lifestyle changes can delay the need for tablets and/or insulin to stabilise blood glucose levels. When insulin is required, it is important to understand that this is just the natural progression of the disease.”

At this stage, insulin can only be injected.

Insulin cannot be given in tablet form as it would be destroyed in the stomach. This means that the insulin would not be available to convert glucose into energy.”

In a nutshell: insulin makes sure that the sugars we consume don’t stay in the bloodstream where they can become poisonous. This means that the moment you eat something carby, like a piece of bread, your body releases a certain amount of insulin to turn the sugars you get out of the bread into energy that you then use for energy. What we need to remember here is this: sugars are considered toxic – glucose toxicity I believe it’s called, please correct me if I’m wrong! – so the body will burn them up as quick as it can. People with diabetes (I & II) or high insulin resistence (pre-diabetics, for example) don’t get enough of the hormone to deal with the sugars in their food, thus the insulin injections and blood testing. Insulin aims at keeping the body running by maintaining a steady flow of energy – i.e. high blood sugar = bad, too low blood sugar = can also be bad. When there’s no sugar left to burn, insulin turns its attention to sugar it’s put aside earlier which is when we finally start losing weight. Your liver – a big player in all this right along side your pancreas – is where this all really happens; your liver, with the aid of all that insulin, transforms sugars into fuel and once the fuel guage is full, it’ll turn it into fatty acids (there’s the fat you were looking for!) that’s then stored throughout the body – which is where body fat comes from.  Too fatty can lead to organ damage, which (obviously!) be extremely detrimental to your health! It raises blood pressure, decreases metabolism, and can mess up your immune system – all of which can lead to things like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hormonal imbalances.

This is why a lot of people turn to Low Gi or Low Carb lifestyles: one of the goals of these diets is to keep your blood sugar as level as possible.

So, summary: Insulin is important, you need it to turn carbs into fuel. Excess sugar carbs turn into fat. Too much fat is bad.

And that’s enough about insulin for now. There’s a lot more information about it out there online, from far more reputable people than I so if my ramblings haven’t made too much sense, do a Google search.

Most definitely check out http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/, and as always, make sure sources you use are reliable, don’t just use Wikipedia as gospel. Be smart.

Clear Skies, Vee

What are Carbohydrates anyway?

Alright, here’s round two!

Firstly, a big ‘Hello! And thanks!’ to my new followers – honestly, your interest is an inspiration to get me writing! I hope you’ll bear with me while I get the hang of WordPress and adjust my themes – I’m a WP newbie.

And now onto the matters at hand.

Before we can really understand a Low Carb (LC) lifestyle, we’ve got to look at what the heck a ‘carb’ actually is and why we might possibly want to cut it out of our diet. This has been explained to death all over the Internet and if you’ve stumbled onto this site after a long day of research you’ll already know this bit, but for those who’ve just tuned in, here we go:

We’ll skip the science-y bit where I talk about the molecular structure of a carbohydrate; no one’s really here to listen to that – and if you are, I’m sure Wikipedia will deliver such information quite readily. For our purposes we need to talk about the carbohydrate in terms of nutrition. In most diets, carbs are the primary source of fuel for the body – I remember hearing somewhere that ‘carbohydrates are the building blocks of life’; I don’t know how accurate that is but there you have it. Most people consume carbs as part of every meal. Essentially, they are sugars, starches, and cellulose (which, as I understand it, are all kind of similar anyways). When we eat these carbs our body burns them for energy and keeps all our body functions going.

‘It’s been doing this since the beginning of humanity, why would we want to mess with that?’ you ask.

‘Great question,’ I say.

The problem with the human race is that we’re all about convenience. Back in the stone age, we didn’t have access to sugar, we didn’t process our flour so that it was white and shiny, and we certainly didn’t grow hybrid potatoes to make them sweeter, or creamier or whatever. (Aside: I’m not against any of these things, just putting them into context!) So, while our food production and sources have developed at a massive rate, our body’s evolution hasn’t kept up. The long story short is that we can’t always cope with the amount of sugar/starches/carbs in general that our modern day diets supply us with. Take for example a loaf of supermarket bread – just a generic white loaf, sliced for the toasted, nothing special, nothing too boring – you’re looking at around 50g of carbs in a 100g, with only around 3g of fibre. Put into basic terms this means that just under half of what you’re eating is sugar/starch/cellulose that you’re body’s going to burn up for energy. What it doesn’t burn is what gets stored as fat.  Which is fine, by the way, unless you’re sensitive to carbs and have a tendency to crave the sugar!

So, foods that contain carbs:

  • Bread, Pasta, Rice
  • Fruits & Veggies – and juices!
  • Candies – and chocolates!
  • Milk – Dairy, Soy, Rice, Almond, Oat, etc…
  • Soft drinks – including energy drinks!
  • …basically every section in that Food Pyramid from Year 9/Grade 8 science class has some sort of carb in it.

Now, here’s the thing. Before my GP suggested I try a LC diet, I had no idea what carbs were doing to me; I didn’t even realise they were a possible thing – I just assumed that fat was the culprit and that cutting that out and regulating ‘sugar in general’ might help, until I started doing all this research. I’m one of those people, because of my genetic makeup – and my PCOS, I suppose – that is sensitive to sugars – and has a sweettooth to boot, yay, go me! My body tends to need very few carbs to keep going. This is most likely due to the fact that I don’t get enough exercise and my body has decided that I don’t need extreme amounts of fuel to maintain that type of metabolism. Again, this would be fine, if I hadn’t been eating a diet that was high in the wrong type of carbohydrates.

“Wrong??? There’s a right?” you demand, possibly slightly fed up with my rambling.

Well, strictly speaking: yes. We’ve got ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ carbs. In case I haven’t really been clear about it: carbs aren’t technically bad for you, it’s the overeating of the wrong types that will kill you – or at least cripple you with obesity, diabetes, some sort of cancer, and a host of other issues. So, what’s the difference between the carbs?

Simple carbs = straight up sugar. Stuff that the body doesn’t have to break down to get energy out of; these are products with white flour, honey, milk, yoghurt, candy, chocolate, fruit, fruit juice, cakes (and cookies, crackers and biscuits!), jam and preserves, molasses (corn syrup, maple syrup, agave extract, etc), soft drinks and a lot of store-bought cereals.

Complex carbs = carbs your body has to work for. Basically, if your body has to work to get energy out of these things you’re burning energy to get them, so you’re not just flooding your system with instant fuel, you’re using up calories to get to them and releasing them a bit at a time rather than all at once. This steadier release of energy means that you’re not likely to feel hungry straight after you’ve eaten, and you’re maintaining a steadier blood-sugar level. This means you’re burning energy at a slower rate – but steadier! (i know, I’m overusing the word) – and you’re not likely to store the sugar.

That brings us to INSULIN, which I will save for the next post because it’s incredibly important and I’ve rambled enough for one post – the last thing I need is for you all to go ‘she talks way too much!’. Overloading the brain with information is nearly as bad as overloading your bloodstream with sugar. Trust me.

Clear Skies, Vee

Let’s Make a Start

Let’s start by me saying ‘HI! I’m Vee, and for some magical reason you’ve managed to find my blog out of the millions of other low carb blogs out there. So! Welcome to Low Carb Odyssey (LCO for short)! I’ll try not to bore you.’

Okay, great. Now that that’s done we can move on a little bit. So, things you’ll need to know about me and this blog before you dig in:

  1. I AM NOT A NUTRITIONIST, MEDICAL EXPERT, OR EVEN REMOTELY QUALIFIED TO BE GIVING OUT ADVICE OF A DIETARY, MEDICAL, OR NUTRTIONAL KIND. All my knowledge comes from talking with my GP, researching a vast variety of resources – both Internet based and analogue! Be thorough! – and delving into the reports on studies as they pop out. What I’m trying to say here is: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS! SEEK REAL MEDICAL ADVICE BEFORE YOU START ANY NEW DIET/LIFESTYLE. So don’t sue me. I don’t have any money and I’ve just told you I’m an amateur. Ahem.
  2. In 2009 I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which, amongst other things, makes it incredibly difficult to lose weight while putting you at risk of developing horrible diseases like diabetes and cancer. Sounds totally delightful right? Yup. So, for years, I went through the rigmaroles of trying to lose weight. I wasn’t that keen on it; why would I want to lose weight when I was comfortable with myself? Lie. I wasn’t actually comfortable with myself, that was just something I told myself – and my friends and family – when I realised just how impossible it was to do! So, like so many of you out there, I suffered in silence – struggling with the weight gain, hirutism and just a general sense of crushing low self-esteem. Then, I moved, I got married; I lost a little bit of weight, and on a random visit to a new GP in 2013 I was lead to the ‘Low Carb Diet’, and…here’s the clincher: it works! I am thrilled with my progress, the kilograms rushing off of my body like water in the shower; energy levels rising, self-esteem at an all time high – those darned skinny jeans falling loose around my thighs and slipping down! It’s great!
  3. I work, own and manage a Cafe. I do all the baking, so I’m accosted by temptation pretty much six days out of the week. I have developed iron-clad willpower to conquer my sweet-tooth. Trust me when I say that if I can do this, so can you.
  4. I hate exercising. I’m self conscious about it, can’t stand public gyms or pools, and yet I’ve managed to squeeze in a few things I can do easily at home that are helping out. For the most part, I walk – alot. I get a lot of walking in at the Cafe, but I also walk the dog – our beautiful, hyper eleven-year-old border collie Max – and try to wear my pedometer every day. People often tell you that dieting is enough. If you believe that, I’d like you to open up your mind a little bit and think about this: once you’ve lost the weight, the goal is to keep it off, one of the things that will help you with that is the raising of your metabolism while you’re losing the weight to start with. Best way to raise your metabolism? You got it! Exercise!
  5. I’m hopelessly introverted, and often sarcastic. Hopefully you’ll get used to it.
  6. I’m a creative writer, sometimes I get a little bit floral and dramatic with my writing. I apologise in advance for any florid prose, tangent anecdotes, and other possible literary devices I can’t foresee at this point.

I think that’s everything. Apart from the fact that I love animals and music…but that’s not entirely relevant, this isn’t a dating site after all. This is a blog about food and lifestyle, like so many others out there. More importantly, I hope that this blog will help some of you out who are stuck in a rut and are feeling the heavy burden of despair settle on you. Maybe you’re a teenager and you’re getting teased at school – been there, done that – or you’re publically in denial but privately painfully aware. I know how you feel, I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I feel better now and I’m feeling better and more beautiful every day.

I want to share that finding of self with this blog. Make no mistake, this is going to tackle a few things: I’m going to be blunt and honest – about myself and about information I find. I want this to be a two-way street; if you’re not sure where to find the information, or if you want to compare notes, post something up! This blog is going to explore a lot of things revolving around a Low Carb Lifestyle; we’ll look at PCOS and its issues, at diabetes and how that’s ripping the world apart, cancer – particularly ovarian, breast, prostate, and cervical – and how all these pieces fit together into the wonderfully complicated thing that is the human body. We’re going to be painfully honest, brutally so at stages; some of you might find some of the ideas put forward here confronting – and it’s how you choose to act on that information that really matters!

But if there’s one thing I really need you all to take away from this first, inaugural post is that I am not a guru, I’m not an expert. I’m not qualified to be teaching, promoting, or advising anyone of you in this. The only thing I am doing here is sharing what I’m discovering on my own journey through this, and like me, you should always consult a medical expert – your doctor, gp, whatever – on what you’ve found and are thinking of doing. I’m not joking about this: the low carb lifestyle can adversely affect those who are going too crazy with it, and can have serious health repercussions if it’s not suited to your situation. So! FIRST RULE OF LCO: ALWAYS BE SMART.

Other than that?

Welcome to my Low Carb Odyssey. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Clear skies,



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