We are a carb crazed culture. Ask anyone on the street what foods make them gain weight and the answer will always be “carbs”. Carbohydrates have been demonized by popular diets like Atkins or South Beach, which promise lasting weight loss, yet fail to deliver because weight loss is about more than just cutting out carbs or dividing them into two camps- good or bad.
However, I bought into the lie too.
About 8 months ago, I started reducing the amount of “carbs” that I was eating to about 40/day. This is generally the recommended amount for being in a state of ketosis, or fat burning. Being Paleo, this meant cutting out fruit, winter squash, sweet potatoes and coconut water leaving me with only veggies for carbs. I also limited my fat intake, which was a big mistake. My weight slowly crept up over those eight months, leaving me almost 15 pounds heavier than my body’s “happy weight”. However, I thought the weight gain was because of a messed up menstrual cycle and unbalanced hormones.
My skin started breaking out. Since going Paleo, I have had perfect skin (whereas when I was growing up, I had to take Accutane and birth control to help alleviate my horrendous acne). So naturally, I was stressed to the max about my skin. I couldn’t figure out why it was breaking out so badly. What food was I eating that could cause this? Was it my makeup? I rubbed coconut oil on my face at night and used even more makeup during the day to hide my blemish ridden skin.
My sleep suffered. This one I thought was completely hormonal. I would have a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep. I had wacky dreams and felt more tired than ever before.
My stomach became ultra-sensitive. I had always struggled with IBS and Leaky Gut until going Paleo. Having a sudden recurrence of this surprised and shocked me. My stomach hurt eating just about anything and I could not figure out why.
My body fat percentage went up too! Not only did my weight increase, but I was losing muscle and having a hard time burning fat. Which was ironic given that I was supposed to be in fat burning mecca according to information from Marks Daily Apple, PaleoHacks, Dave Asprey, Jason Seib and Tim Farris.
My energy slumped and my motivation went with it. I lost all desire (and I do mean all) to work out. I didn’t want to walk, run, CrossFit or even touch any weights. Even yoga seemed like more work than it was worth.
I was whining to my friend Laura of Rising Moon Nutrition about it and she asked about my carb intake. I told her I was trying to keep them low to stay in ketosis. She gently, but firmly, reminded me that in order to get pregnant (spoiler alert!) and be fertile, that I would need to increase my carb intake to over 100 grams per day!!
The next day I started incorporating in more carbs. It started with a coconut water and ended with some mashed sweet potatoes. Instantly, I could feel a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I feel more energetic and content. And full!
Fast forward 4 weeks and I am down 5 pounds, sleeping like a baby and my skin is clearing up!! I am still working through the emotional side of transitioning from a “Fat loss” to fertility mind-set which brings its own baggage and challenges, but I can honestly say that increasing my carbs and balancing that with good fats and clean protein has been awesome. I feel so excited to eat again!
All this to say, cutting out major food groups (unless it’s crap like sugar) is not a good idea. It is the answer, it is a Band-Aid that will fall off after a few weeks, leaving you more wounded than healed. Finding balance with your food has to be the priority, not just information you find and try to assimilate. Be your own detective and figure out what foods fuel not only your body, but your heart and soul too.
Have you even gone “low carb”? How did you feel? Are you still doing it?