Tag Archives: carb flu

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

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Low-Carb ‘Morning Sickness’

A couple of days ago I rolled out of bed, went through my morning routine and headed off to the Cafe. Nothing new, nothing different, except that about half way there a wave of unbelievable nausea hit me. No, I’m not pregnant; though, ironically, diet-change nausea is remarkably similar to morning sickness!

I’m sure some of you have experienced the nausea, the headaches, the dizziness – and not necessarily during the first weeks of carb flu hell. Don’t worry, this is a normal thing, though, if you’re doing things right you shouldn’t be experiencing it more than once in a while. If you’re experiencing constant or regular dizziness, nausea, or other symptoms you find worrying, see your GP. The reason why we experience these symptoms is – sardonic drum-roll, please – because of our blood sugar. So say you’ve had a great LC day, you’ve been exceptionally good and you’ve even managed to squeeze in some exercise time! Awesome. Now, make sure you have a snack before you go to bed, preferably something protein or slow-burning carby – like, say a bit of cheese, or some nuts.

“Why?” you ask.

Remember, you’ve been eating regularly ever two-three hours while you’re awake – theoretically, anyways – to keep your energy levels up and your blood sugar steady; you’re not doing that while you’re asleep. So say you sleep for 8-10 hours, that’s a long time for your newly programmed body to go without fuel, and sure, you’re not using as much fuel as you would when you’re awake, but still… What I’m getting at is that by the time you wake up your body’s out of fuel to burn up so you’re running on left over energy. This means your blood sugar’s going to drop drastically, so until eat you’re going to feel off. Sometimes it can just be that feeling you have normally when you first get out of bed – especially if you’re not a morning person! – but other times, if you’ve had a particularly low carb day the day before, you’ll feel the heavier symptoms of nausea and dizziness etc. This is exactly what women go through with morning sickness as their body’s adjust to their new physical needs. It’s normal, and it’s easy to fix.

“Okay, that’s interesting enough…but how do you fix it?”

Easy: eat something! Just don’t go nuts – er, crazy – eat something simple that your body’s not going to throw right back up. For me that usually means avoiding my usual breakfast foods of eggs and ham and avocado, so I’ll have half a tomato with some salt on it. I’ll wait half an hour after that, then have some more – the other half of the tomato with salt – and if that settles it I’ll try a proper breakfast. Due  to the fact that I no longer have a gallbladder I have to be extra careful, so you might find you can eat heavier foods to fix your ‘morning sickness’, it’s really a matter of trial and error. The things I would definitely avoid however are dairy products, they are just too fatty + carby for an instant fix. It you’re really not getting anywhere with light foods, try getting a whole-grain cracker – like 9 grain Vitawheats, for example – and munching on one of them. Check the box and count the carbs to see how many you can have to stay within your limit, for me that’s usually around 2-3, but I only ever eat them if I’m desperate for something that feels like a cookie.

The other thing I can advise is peppermint or spearmint tea. I use it pretty much as a cure all for headaches and nausea but not everyone likes the taste – especially not without honey or sugar. So if you’re really stuck, say you’ve got a meeting and you really need to be able to concentrate, get some sugar-free spearmint chewing gum and chew on two of those for a while; the menthol and spearmint flavouring should fix your nausea, but keep in mind that it does contain sorbitol – which is a sugar alcohol, something I’ll discuss in greater detail later.

Clear Skies,

Vee

Dreaded Carb Flu

When I started I cut back my net carbs to under 20g; this was hard, it required a complete change in my life and overhaul everything about myself. As my body readjusted to this new regime I suffered only marginally from ‘carb flu’. I felt ill for two days, maybe three, but after that I was just dizzy – a sign that my blood sugar was changing. After having restricted yourself for a couple of weeks to such a limited net carb intake, you get used to it.

“So what is ‘carb flu’ really? It sounds horrible!”

“Don’t worry, it’s not that bad!”

Carb flu is essentially carb withdrawal, your body is getting used to having to run off of ketones. It’s a big deal, you’ve changed the fuel supply! You might experience dizziness, nausea, a slight flux in tempreture, and headaches. It’s all normal – if it goes on and on and on for more than a couple of weeks, or if you feel like something is seriously wrong: seek medical advice. If you think it’s not serious, but you’re struggling for more than two weeks, up your carb intake; some people are more sensitive to the loss of carbs than others, and that’s okay, just go slowly, this doesn’t have to happen overnight.

In these first weeks you need to stay positive, determined and above all patient. Drink lots of water – if you can’t stomach still water, get some unflavoured sparkling water, it tends to be easier to drink on an upset stomach than still stuff. Eat simple things, and slowly lower your net carb count until you’re below your mark. I’ve managed to go as low as 15g, but that in itself was hard and I wouldn’t advise it unless you’ve had a good run already.

Also something to keep in mind: every time you build in a cheat day – which, lets face it, we all end up doing at some point or another – you’re might have to go through a mini carb withdrawal when you start up again, the longer you’ve cheated the worse it’ll be. I started my diet in November 2013, which meant I had to persevere through Christmas and New Years. I did alright with Christmas, forgoing on the alcohol and the sweets and stuffing myself with turkey and salads. New Years was a different story, I’d been on this diet for two months and it was already making a difference so I decided I deserved a treat. I had sweets and wine and was stalled for two weeks before I started losing weight again. So just remember that you’re in control and if you do decide to have a cheat day – for whatever reason! – there are consequences to deal with.

That said, sometimes you do need a cheat day, and that’s okay. You’re not meant to be going insane: if you really need to have a day where you have to eat something not entirely in your schematics, that’s fine. Do it. This isn’t just about your physical health, it’s also about your mental health and the last thing any of us need is to become distressed or depressed because we can’t eat certain things.

It’s not an easy road, but we’ve chosen it because it works and it works fast. If you’re doing it right, you’ll see returns straight away. I lost 8kg in the first month, and between 2-3kg the months after that; I’ve gone from weighing 82kg in November last year to nearly 62kg now (July). The difference between this and other things I’ve tried is, I’m keeping it off by regulating myself and a little bit of exercise.

It’s important to be honest with yourself, so when you’re keeping your food diary be honest! No one else has to know, but you will and you’re the one fighting here, so fight fairly and give yourself the best chance you can by understanding what it is that your body is doing,  why it’s doing it, and what affects it’s going to have on you, physically and mentally.  It won’t happen overnight, but I promise you, this is for real.

Clear skies,

Vee