Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Carb conscious

I'm interested in nutrition. Not obssessed. Just interested. Ah... back in the 90s some friends and I were following a guided-nutrition programme, which we got from our gym. One of those portion-substitution programmes were you target percentages of calories coming from fats, carbs and proteins, mixing and matching foods from various groups. This programme worked really well for me except that I found it difficult to get through the volume of food; and that was on around 2000kcal/day. Eating a cup of vegetables and a cup of rice and then a large amount of chicken or fish for dinner was especially challenging.

What I did find is that following this programme made my eating very strict. I was hard on myself. I remember joining at friend at university on a lunch break. He  persuaded me to have a cup of hot chocolate adding, "Stop being so hard on yourself". He was right. I don't think that I'd had a cup of hot choc for a few years by then. There's a limit.

For the most part, I've always kept the principles from this programme in mind - closer or further depending on my dietary inclinations, which have been predominantly vegetarian.

In recent years Paleo and Tim Noakes' Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) recommendations have been in the limelight. I've seen friends transformed - not only in mass but with substantial improvements in their running too.

As a vegetarian/pescatarian I love things like lentils, quinoa and Indian dishes of dhal and black beans. Hit me with some hummus and I'm in heaven. I favour many of my vegetables in their raw form and I devour salads almost daily. I've never liked butter on sandwiches, my skin crawls at the thought of dunking ciabatta in olive oil and it is only in recent years that I've added any dressings to my salads - usually just olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If the balance is off and there's too much oil, I can't eat it. I don't eat meat or chicken (the more I run the less it agrees with my stomach - go figure) although I do eat fish here and there. Not regularly and not often. Even during omnivore stages I've never been a big meat eater. As far as the starches go, in recent years I don't often eat either rice, potatoes or pasta (rice and quinoa are my favourites) more than twice a week. Sometimes not at all. But I do love fruit! My natural dietary inclinations are very not Paleo nor LCHF.

Following a two-week long gastric illness a few years ago (I thought it was a 24hr bug following a restaurant meal, but it obviously wasn't), I developed a sensitivity to bread. Well, that was what I pinned it down to. As much as I love a slice of toast or a cheese and tomato sandwich, it suits me better to keep my bread intake minimised. I also noticed a sensitivity to sweets. Fortunately I've never been a big sweetie eater but pop a bowl of jelly tots or a packet of White Rabbit sweets in front of me and I'll definitely enjoy them. But, my stomach won't. Within 15 minutes my belly expands. Bloating is so not nice.

Anyway, it has been a process and I figure that everything in moderation and avoiding foods that make me feel awful is the best way.

A good friend has been following Noakes' guidelines for a good number of months now and she's doing fabulously. Interestingly, her natural dietary inclinations are completely opposite mine. She enjoys her meat (with fat), can merrily slather Italian bread in olive oil and every morning she now drinks a 'coffee bomb' - coffee with a tablespoon of coconut oil. My stomach heaves.

When I'm stressed, I take everything into my belly. And since I returned from Argentina I've been super stressed. Multiple projects on the go, FEAT and the biggest stressor, a time-dominating part-time English course from which I'm learning much but not exactly 'enjoying' (for various reasons). While I'm not overtly stressed, my digestive system is and just a sniff of bread creates chaos. I've been looking at stuff on sugar, which I know we eat far too much of. It's nice to eat sweet stuff and sugar-loaded foods are readily available.

My friend recommended the Livin' La Vida Low Carb podcasts by Jimmy Moore and a South African food diary website and mobile app - Fat Secret, especially as it has South African foods pre-loaded (and you can add your own too).

So, I signed up (free) because I really do need to take a closer look at what I'm eating. Over the winter months I can easily eat three oranges a day (or more! yum-yum) without blinking. Throw in a banana too. How about some papaya and strawberries? Sugar. Sugar. Sugar.

Where I don't have four spoons of sugar in my tea nor packets of sweeties nor fizzy drinks, fruit is my sugary dietary downfall. If you're following Noakes' guideline of around 40g of carbs a day, then one orange zaps almost half of your allocation and three most definitely blows your quota.

And when I'm a bit stressed and strained, I suffer the effects of this sugary intake.

So, I'm being more aware. I'm using the food log to see where I have deficits and where I'm getting too much. Just like keeping a training log, it is only by putting down what you're doing that you can see where you need to shake a leg (Fat Secret has an exercise log component too).

Never mind a leg, I'm shaking a monkey out of a tree.What I've been doing hasn't been working. I haven't felt great for a number of weeks now and clearly I need to do something differently.

Now, I am.

1 comment:

adventurelisa said...

In response to this post my friend emailed to say, "I have just completed the Whole30 eating plan which is basically a Paleo diet with a few additional limitations. Stuck to the food part very well, but still had the occasional glass of wine which was supposed to be a no no.

My gut and nose are definitely much happier without dairy and starch/grains. But I agree with you 100% - we are all different and we each need to find what works for us. You can’t prescribe a single fix for everyone. But I do think everyone can benefit from cutting down on the processed sugars.

I’m going to continue with my occasional glass of wine, but think I will stick to my eggs, meat, fish, chicken, fruit and veg only."