Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Conscious Carb Revolution (Turn, Turn, Turn)

I like to think of myself as a reasonable person. I figure, since nobody else does, I'm maintaining some metaphoric centre of balance by exercising my will - my extremely formidable will, that is, the one which knows no equilibrium. I try to be moderate. Sometimes I almost succeed. For example, a few years ago I decided to embrace nutritional and lifestyle balance as an antidote to completely losing my mind. I have to say, it was one of my better attempts.

This is all a preface to my update about eschewing carbs after Xmas. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I haven't enjoyed that experiment. After reading a number of texts, I opted to eat 75g of carbs per day (by no means "low carb" in the Atkins sense of the term). It is a lower than average carb count for most. I also decided to increase my fat consumption, good fats, that is. And to cut out all processed foods and simple sugars - including almost all flour.

I cannot begin to tell you what an exercise in dullness this has been. You think that eating steak and cheese 3 meals a day is going to be exciting. And it is for about 72 hours. Then all you want is some fries. Or a piece of toast. Even if, like me, you don't actually like bread. And don't get me started on baked goods.

I kept it up rather religiously for almost 2 months, till I went to NYC in mid Feb. I didn't weigh myself, choosing instead to gauge the success of my experiment by taking body measurements. I do sew constantly, after all. My goal was to lose an inch or two in any of the core spots - bust, waist or hips. My primary objective was to become a bit lighter in the waist area, though I'm not fussy. I wanted to see if losing carbs, i.e. lowering insulin levels, would impact the distribution of fat stores on my frame.

As I've mentioned, I feel that perimenopause has begun to show itself, at least in small ways. I am adamant about retaining my current shape, hormonal fluctuations notwithstanding. Even if it means ditching the cake (sob).

My husband was the first to say that he thought this was a crazy idea. He's my biggest fan, btw, and tells everyone about how successful I've been in restoring balance to my life over the past few years with healthy diet, lifestyle habits and supplements. He sensed, from the get go, that my plan was extreme. Note: It's by no means extreme in the low carb sense of the term. But my "healthy lifestyle" diet was entirely varied and included all kinds of foods - both healthful and, ahem, enjoyable. The low carb diet of the past couple of months has been far less varied, as you would imagine.

The experiment has reminded me of many valuable lessons: cake is not good for you (except psychologically), eating sugar primes your body to want more sugar, protein and fat are satiating. It has also made me aware of my love of variety. I don't know about you, but when you start to feel guilty about eating a small bowl of full fat, unsweetened yogurt with a teaspoon of dulce de leche, I feel it's time to get a grip. When you need to choose between fresh berries and a glass of wine, that's just sad.

I know that cupcakes are the road to chubby, or at least a detour from Slimville, but there are many beautiful, moderately-carb rich, healthful foods (not containing a grain of flour, I might add), that shouldn't be sacrificed.

Or at least that's my view this week.

I was all ready to throw the low-carb plan out the window (despite losing an inch from my waist), when a few co-workers told me how lithe I was looking. The power in those words is scarily affecting. Nonetheless, the past few weeks have been carbs-as-usual. Or maybe even carbs-plus, as I seem to be making up for lost time. That, my friends, is the sign of an eating plan that doesn't fly.

Y'all know I got an iPhone just before I went to NY. Seriously, I don't know how I've lived without this thing - a freakin' extension of my brain - for so long. Like everyone else, I love surfing the app store for interesting buys. My latest find is a program called Low Carb Diet Assistant and it rocks.

See, I love to keep track of things with lists. But, in truth, I'm getting bored of my regular catalog. I mean, I know calorie counts in my sleep. Furthermore, I do believe that eating fewer carbs - especially the sugar-laden and processed ones - is a sounder premise than counting calories. One of the best things about this app is that I can determine and set my preferred daily carb count. I've set it at 90g per day.

Those of you who live low carb are probably laughing at this point. But that's ok, because I'm not doing your plan. Instead, I've decided to live the Conscious Carb Lifestyle (yes, I made up this name. Catchy, huh?). It involves eating the most healthy, delicious, low-sugar, not-processed foods I can manage. Of course, I will be challenged on the basis that I love sugar, flour and junk food. But I know how much better I feel when eating well. Which, to me, means well-roundedly.

My diet includes cappuccino, wine, cheese, veggies, chocolate and full-fat dairy. It contains healthy fat, burgers (with half a bun, let's not go crazy), other kinds of meat and soy, eggs and nuts/seeds. For the foreseeable future, it will aim to stay under 90g carbs a day. I will probably continue to monitor calories - because despite myself, I don't seem to be able to shake that habit. Calories consumed will stay in the very normal range, as they have always been (well, except when I was binging from stress).

So let's see how this works. I wonder if I'll be able to lose an inch on my waistline with this plan. One thing's for sure - I'll enjoy it. And let's face it peeps, you only live in this body once.


  1. That sounds like a perfectly reasonable plan to me, and a lot more sustainable, which is the big deal, right?

    I must admit I've fallen off the chocolate wagon rather badly lately...

  2. I feel your pain. My body has started to object loudly to all processed sugar and some fruit sugar, and it's killing me to eat absolutely nothing sweet.

    Your plan sounds fabulous to me. I'm sure you can stick to it!

  3. I just can't bear to give up carbs. I am a carb addict. I'm the Charlie Sheen of carbs.

    As a result, I've had to step up working out a lot recently!

  4. Sweets don't tempt me nearly as much as fries and chips do (we're not even talking cheese, here). I am trying to wean myself off of processed foods (chips, crackers, etc.) and make them a once a week treat instead of a twice daily affair. My goal is that this clean eating will help me to run faster. But damn it's hard. And I'm out of town this week so I'm just trying to limit it to once a day. :)

  5. I think you look great as is, but I hear you about maintaining at our age. It seems there's a new part of my shape giving way every couple of weeks or so. Unfortunately, moderation in everything - and no foods off-limits - is the only way that works for me. So it's either amping up the exercise (ugh) or living with the changes (double ugh) for me. I hope your plan works out for you!

  6. I think it's smart to build in some enjoyment for yourself.

    I build in too much enjoyment myself, but I keep meaning to be better :-)

  7. I don't care for sweet stuff or bread, but giving up pasta and rice would kill me.

  8. I'm a breadatarian, so this sounds like blasphemy!! ;-) No, actually, I think if it's sustainable (for you) and healthy, go for it. :-) And congrats on your inch loss! That is awesome, and hard to do around the midsection. :-)

  9. My only carbs at this point are fruits and veg and I couldn't be happier. I don't miss the simple carbs and I never imagined that was possible.

  10. I tried to severely limit my carbs once...boy did that make one crabby Kristin. Guess that means I'm addicted. HAHA

  11. At this point, I'm still keeping carbs pretty low (don't count g's, but am not eating any obvious carbs or sugars or even fruit more than a couple of times per week) and still am mostly doing OK with it. Cut back on the wine a bit this week, trying to make that final push to goal (3 lbs. to go) after having plateaued for several weeks.

    I find I go through phases. For weeks, I'm fine with what I'm eating. Then I'll get bored. When that happens I try to mix it up a bit, maybe some veggies I haven't had in a while, some sushi (with brown rice if possible), some new gourmet cheese. I allow myself a couple of small squares of very dark chocolate daily. But I just feel SO much better being off the carbs, I really don't want to go back. There are almost no foods I truly miss, other than a fleeting, "geez those apple fritters smell good!" But then it's over and forgotten almost immediately. I do think habit plays a large role.

  12. Hi! I've only started reading your blog recently, but you've got some great ideas and posts. One thing I've found that really helps with the carb cravings? Maybe try this rule: nothing refined. It really helps me to think this way, because your body just needs the right kind of foods. Whole wheat everything, no refined sugars, eating an actual apple instead of dried fruit or apple juice... Things like that. I know everyone has their own thing, but it's one that's worked for me! Love your blog!

  13. Tanit: Who doesn't with weather like ours?

    Sal: I feel for you. Not being able to do it makes it that much harder to stick to.

    Wendy: You shout it proud.

    R: Chips are a serious weakness. All dressed ruffles.

    Uta: Thank you! It really does suck adjusting to metabolic slow down...

    Susan: Enjoyment is what we're here for, IMO.

    Tiffany: I do enjoy some rice. But I'm ok without it.

    CGC: There's always something to trip us up!

    Bel: You are an example to us all. I wish I had your zeal for the clean living.

    Kristin: That makes 2 crabby Kristins!

    Pseu: I find that wine is the easiest way to moderate. It's unnecessary, for starters (well, nutritionally, I mean) :-)

    Rhi: Thanks so much for you rlovely comment. And I think you're right on the mark. How I wish I didn't crave the processed stuff :-)