Tag Archives: caffeine

Lifestyle vs. Diet

Today I want to ramble on a bit about what it really feels like to change your lifestyle from whatever it was before to a LC one. Please note that I use the term ‘lifestyle’ here; I know I’ve called this a ‘diet’ in the past, but I’m not comfortable with the connotations behind that word so I’m going to elaborate somewhat. For me, the word ‘diet’ infers either a temporary change of what you eat, or, to follow the literal definition, simply ‘what you eat’.

So what’s the difference then between a LC diet and a LC lifestyle?

Simply put: an LC diet is a temporary diet change that will – in theory – let you lose weight over a set amount of time before you go back to eating whatever it was that you were eating before. Like most ‘diets’, doing this is likely to cause you to regain the weight you’ve lost over time, but we don’t judge, so if you’re aiming to lose those 10kg before your wedding next year, by all means go for your life. A lifestyle change – no matter if it’s dietary, physical, whatever – is permanent. And by permanent I mean, ongoing for the foreseeable future. I’ve made a lifestyle change, as I know most of you have too. For me this means reducing the amount of carbs – especially processed ones! – that I consume for the rest of my life. It’s not just a passing fad for us ‘LC lifestylers’, but before any of you start to pity us, it’s okay. Just because we’re in this with both feet, we’re also in it with both eyes open, and if that means we’re going to need a cheat week once every six months, hell, let’s do it! It means that we’ve committed to a dietary lifestyle that aims to keep our blood sugar level by eating low carb and/or low gi. We – mostly – avoid caffeine, fight off cravings by dealing with their chemical and psychological sources, manage our constipation with high-fibre foods, and above all, aim to maintain a healthy weight – this is after we’ve lost the excess! It’s not a constant battle, per se, but rather, it’s something that we’ve chosen. It’s a way of life, just as say, vegetarianism, veganism, or halal choices are a lifestyle/cultural/religious choice, low-carbing can be a choice as well.

Some of us have made the switch for health reasons – like me, with the PCOS and the no-gallbladder thing – while others want to avoid certain processed foods and have made the decision to eat ‘cleaner’. Whatever the reason, it’s an acknowledgement that some things just don’t have quick or easy fixes and require a complete change of living.

When you start out, it’s important that you keep that in mind: what are you doing? Is this a lifestyle change or a diet? Are you going to be in it for the long haul or just the short term? No judging, just make sure you know what you’re going to be doing: this is a commitment thing. If you’re going to do this, make a plan for it. For example, last year in November (2013) I weighed in at 82.2kg. I set myself the rather steep goal of losing 30kg in a year. As I progressed, I realised this wasn’t going to be that easy, given the pitfalls and curve balls that life throws, so I extended that to a year and a half. It’s November 2014 and currently weigh 60.8kg. That’s a 21.4kg loss and that’s bloody awesome, but yes, it’s around 9kg short of what I’d aimed for in the beginning. I realised about half way through the year that I was losing weight too fast; I admit I kind of freaked out when I realised one week that I’d lost 3.4kg. That’s too fast, and not sustainable, so I readdressed the weight loss and now I’m more comfortable. Keep in mind that I’m not in a rush, sure, I’ve set myself a timeframe in which to lose the weight, but I’m more concerned about maintaining it when I get there than getting there as fast as I can.

So what does it feel like? I feel better! I feel awesome. It’s not just the clear headedness that comes from removing processed junk out of my system, but also from losing all that weight. I look at pictures of myself from a year ago and wonder how I didn’t notice that I was lugging all that extra around. At the time I didn’t think it made much of a difference, but golly gee wiz, it makes a difference! I feel more energetic, and yes, occasionally when I slip up some I feel dizzy or nauseous, but I know how to fix it now. I’ve become more in tune with my body, and I know what to listen to and what to ignore. I know that dizzy means I need some protein, nauseous means I need a low gi hit of ‘good’ carbs – usually a carrot or a tomato with some salt! – and I know that headachey means I need to eat now. I also know that I need to eat every 2-3 hours or those symptoms start. This means I now carry snacks around in my bag to avoid me turning to easy available things that might lose me my carb count. I’m being overly cautious at the moment, obviously, because I’m still in the losing weight part of this lifestyle. I’ll tackle the ‘maintaining weight’ bridge when I get there…

Clear skies,

Vee

Migraines, Caffeine and the Low Carb Dream

This morning, I rolled out of bed, had my shower, got dressed and made myself the customary green tea – the only caffeine I allow myself now barring the occasional dark chocolate. I get one cup a day. That’s it. And today I really want more – I want to be on a caffeine high! Forget the fact that the crash at the end is worse than a hangover, I miss my university days where night and day blurred together without margins. It was a poetic time that; I remember watching the dawn on several occasions, struggling to finish the essay due at 9am that day.

“I can only abide mornings from the right way in,” I used to say.

Ah, good times. Then of course came the migraines. Inevitably after a couple of days stoked up on caffeinated beverages – not just coffee, I was a bad, bad girl and mainlined Red Bull, Rockstars, Mothers, and V –  my brain would decide to set itself on fire, release a herd of around a 10,000 mustangs, and rev up the migraine engine. The result was that I’d be forced to spend three days in a dark room, sick to my stomach, doped up on over-the-counter painkillers that made me feel only half connected to the world. When  I first moved in with my then-just-friends-later-husband the first thing he did was put all the coffee out of reach – not hard since I’m literally 5 foot nothing. I remember the first week without coffee being agony, I had shakes, headaches, bouts of anger and depression. It really was kind of pathetic to tell the truth, I mean, it’s not like I’d been on heroin or cocaine…seriously.

After the week of hell and a gentle reintroduction to caffeine through black tea – consumed in moderation! – my migraines became less frequent. Where before I’d have been having them at least twice a month, I was now down to once every two or three months with a few random flair ups in between, but those were minor and manageable. I don’t know how many of you suffer through migraines, but for those of you who don’t, I would like to elaborate a little bit on what it’s like to have them:

Think about an anvil. You know, like in a blacksmith shop. It gets worked over as the blacksmith goes about his business, bending metals to his will. The pressures an anvil faces – not just heat, but physical pressure – is the only thing I can compare having a migraine too. It’s like someone’s taken the inside of your head, compressed it in some sort of vicious vice, and then started hammering down on it over and over and over again with no relief. I used to describe the pain to my brother as a white hot knot of the worse pain you could experience sealed in a pressure cooker that just happens to be your skull. Sometimes I’d experience auras with my migraines: bright lights, spots of colour. Think eyestrain only with shards of broken glass being driven into your eye sockets. Sounds like fun right? And mine aren’t even the worse ones. A friend of mine was telling me that her cousin is literally crippled by migraines – she does not function as a human being because of the pain. I’d always considered myself lucky because I’d only ever experience mine a couple of times a month at most – I’d lose a week, maybe, out of every month – but other people lose entire months, completely unable to do anything.

“Isn’t there any medication out there for this stuff?” you ask, worried.

Of course there is, the trouble is the diagnosis: migraines are not chronic headaches; they have different triggers and medical science hasn’t quite been able to work out just what exactly sets them off. So while for some people a prescription of beta-blockers or blood thinners help combat the symptoms and the triggers, for others it makes absolutely no difference. My only recourse, for example, was the cut out things in my diet that I believed to be the triggers, and number one on that list was caffeine.

Caffeine does funny things to our bodies. It ups our energy levels in one quick burst, almost mimicking a sugar rush. After having cut it out, I now get a racing heart and feel anxious when I have a cup of full strength coffee. That’s because caffeine speeds up our metabolism – albeit temporarily – by causing a release of adrenalin. This makes the liver burn up any and all glycogen (sugar) it’s got in one burst, causing a spike in blood sugar, causing a rise in insulin levels aaaand basically messing with the LC balance you’ve been working on. That said, this doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone – people who are prone to unstable blood sugar or insulin levels should be wary of their caffeine consumption while on an LC diet, but others seem to be able to drink as normal.  It’s a funny old world, this.

After I started my LC diet I realised that my migraines became a thing of the past and it wasn’t just the lack of caffeine – like I said, only having one cup of green tea, I rarely drink decaf coffee now and hardly ever have black tea of any kind – but also the processed sugars I’d obviously been consuming. The beauty of an LC lifestyle is that you don’t realise how much crap you’re cutting out of your diet until you notice that you’re feeling so much better, your skin’s looking great, and not only are you losing weight but you’re getting some serious muscle definition. The best part, I find, is that people notice and compliment you! Now for me, hopelessly introverted when it comes to face to face meetings – yes, I know…I work in hospitality, don’t ask – the fact that people tell me I look ‘great’ or ‘wow, have you lost weight?’ makes a big difference and gives my self esteem a well deserved boost. It’s important to take those compliments on board: you’re doing this for yourself, but it never hurts to get a little help along the way!

Clear Skies,

Vee