No more sugar, no more grains, no more processed foods and no more potatoes; yes, to full fat and food products with no processing, just real ingredients. Does this low carb diet sound good to you?
I recently was asked about my thoughts of dramatically reducing carbs and following the above recommendations. This way of eating is essentially the message delivered by Dr. Sarah Hallberg, DO, an obesity specialist with her own patient research to back it up.
No grains or potatoes means no more pasta or rice, or baked potatoes with that steak. It means anything made with flour from grains or sugar is out. Good bye to crackers and cheese, pie and ice cream, all cereal and bread, including pizza. And that means no more Holy Donut…. Hmmmm.
Reducing carbs, reduces insulin levels.
The theory behind this way of eating is very logical: the goal being to reduce insulin levels. Almost half of this country has a condition called insulin resistance where the body makes extra insulin due to compensate for decreased insulin sensitivity. This is partly due to genetics and partly due to eating a high carb diet consisting of too many processed foods.
Insulin is a fat storage hormone so the more insulin on board, the more weight people gain. High insulin levels also raise inflammatory proteins that raise the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
So, reducing carbs, reduces the need for that extra insulin. Less insulin means weight loss and decreased inflammation. Sounds perfect on paper, but how about execution? I’d say daunting.
Why do we eat too many carbs, sugar, potatoes and grains?
If you look at each insulin spike caused by eating too many carbs as the enemy, then this shifts the solution to understanding the motivation for eating too many carbs. It’s emotions that drive our behavior. If you want to make behavior change, you should understand the “why”.
Why are so many of us eating too many white, processed carbs?
- Is it from a lack of understanding of the consequences of food choices?
- Is it from cravings from too little sleep, too much stress, loneliness or boredom?
- Is from not knowing how to cook?
- Is it from unwillingness to change eating patterns due to entitlement, denial, or plain stubbornness?
- Is it from bringing tempting foods in the house that make it hard to say “no”?
- Is it from watching too much TV with all the food commercials that trigger binge eating?
The solution lies in addressing both the emotional component of eating as well as the structural component of how to eat. Moreover, the stronger the reason someone has for not wanting to reduce carbs, the smaller the changes in eating patterns must be. It’s like asking someone to suddenly reverse direction going 60 mph. First, they must brake slowly, then down shift and then turn the steering wheel before they can go 60 mph the other direction. Cutting out grains, sugar and potatoes for most people is like being asked to reverse direction mid race. Mindset needs to be shifted first, then change needs to happen gradually before someone can resume usual speed.
If someone is an emotional eater, then it starts with addressing the emotions first and then the plate second.
I don’t believe in drastic dietary changes. I believe in making gradual changes that fit the person where they are in life. If someone grew up eating boxed, canned, and fast food, it’s pretty unlikely they’re going to have success in the long run cutting out sugar, grains or potatoes. That’s all I’m saying.
There is another way. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s called damage control.
What if someone reduced their insulin spikes by eating well some of the meals, and eased up a bit on one meal each day. That would be a 50-66% improvement. Not perfect, but much better.
What if someone ate a lower carb breakfast consisting of plain Greek yogurt with some fruit and nuts, or an omelet with lots of sautéed veggies and one piece of whole grain toast, and a lower carb lunch consisting of a couple of hard-boiled eggs with a piece of fruit, a salad with chicken, or some cottage cheese with fruit and then had a burger, chips and dessert for dinner. That would be much better than a donut or muffin for breakfast, McDonald’s for lunch and eating the same dinner.
Making two out of three meals lower carb is much better than eating poorly at all 3. Even making just one of your meals lower carb is still a 33% improvement.
Or what if someone followed a low carb diet 5 days out of the week, and the other two days they ate “their way”? This is similar to the intermittent fasting diet.
A good place to begin
People with insulin resistance tend to have the highest insulin resistance in the morning. Skipping cereal and making breakfast low carb with focus on healthy fats and lean protein is a perfect place to start. My experience shows that people who eat this way at breakfast tend to stay full until lunch and be less likely to binge the rest of the day.
Psychologically, when people start off the day on the right foot, they have more confidence to make healthier choices the rest of the day.
Success builds success
From my experience, I also find that when people have success for a few weeks, they have the confidence and desire to take further steps as long as these three things are also in place:
- They must like what they are doing.
- They must not feel deprived.
- They must feel it is sustainable.
I’ve worked with so many people who think making drastic changes will get them into the size 10 pants forever. Some achieve their goal but end up regaining it once a vacation, holiday or stressful event happens.
Making gradual changes allows enough time to strategize, explore and understand what’s behind unhealthy eating. It’s not that people can’t reverse direction in life, it’s that the mindset has to be reversed first.
Cutting out grains, potatoes and sugar makes complete sense for the body, but the head has to be on the same page.
Barbara will work work with you for 3 months free if you make a donation to the St Vincent De Paul Soup Kitchen