I feel like since I’ve started this blog I’ve been absolutely ALL OVER THE PLACE as far as what I’m doing nutritionally. Reduced carb, low carb, paleo/primal, going on a crazy free-for-all, etc. I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore but I do think I know what happened and I’ve been working to change it around.
After being diagnosed with impaired glucose tolerance/insulin resistance I was told to make some simple changes (keep carbs to 40%, choose whole grains, limit 2 fruits daily, and combine carbs with protein+fat). Looking back on it, I feel like that plan seems completely reasonable and fitting to my needs. However, because I am an extremist, perfectionist and avid researcher, I started to put a to of unnecessary stress on myself searching for the “perfect” diet that would resolve any issues I had.
The next approach I took made sense but I’m not completely sure it was necessary. A new nutritionist put me on a diet of 20% carbs, 20% protein and 60% fat. The goal was to resensitize myself to insulin and give my body a rest from working to control my blood sugar. For a month or so, this worked but I slowly began to get more obsessive about it–always plugging in everything I ate ton my iPhone to make sure my ratios of nutrients were on track and making myself eat things like more fat just to keep the percents up–I felt almost sick eating that way.
And of course, there came my pale/primal phase where I thought I could literally cure everything If I just stuck to meat, eggs, nuts and boatloads of veggies. And I really did notice a difference–good blood sugars, clear skin, etc. But this lifestyle pushed me to my extremist tendencies as well, always trying to stick to the plan. My system didn’t feel that great either–I still had a slightly sick feeling that came with eating such calorically dense, tough to digest foods all the time. Even though I lost a lot of the cravings I would have for sweets and carbs, I still felt like my meals were missing something that kept them from being totally satisfying. Furthermore, I didn’t like the fact that I really lost my appetite and didn’t feel hungry often. A reduced appetite is ok, but feeling hunger is a normal biological process that shouldn’t be reduced to such an extent. I wanted to feel hungry and be ready to eat at mealtimes like I used to feel.
I had also come across countless research articles stating the importance of consuming carbohydrates and their role in metabolism and thyroid function. They are particularly important for the female’s hormonal cycle. That’s why a lot of low-carb enthusiasts are men! An extreme in one direction is rarely good.
So, sick of dinners consisting of just meat and veggies and all my coconut/almond flour concoctions to replace my beloved pancakes, cookies and muffins, I’ve made yet another change that I’m still in the midst of tailoring to my needs. Carbs have made their return–but in a modified way:
1. Emphasis on paleo friendly carbs (sweet-potatoes, potatoes, fruits, squashes, etc) but not excluding some grains and gluten-free bread products here and there
2. Carbs are eaten with meals (with protein and fat) to control blood sugar response
3. Sticking to a single portion of carbs at a given time
I’ve been eating this way for nearly a month and I finally feel content, balanced and satisfied. My stomach is comfortable and I feel more relaxed knowing I don’t have to 100% exclude foods that I love and that I don’t have to be as strict. However, this adjustment is a process that has required experimentation and adjustment with my glucose monitor. It seems that if I have more than a portion of carbs at a meal or if i don’t combine it with enough protein, my sugars are outside the normal range. I’ve spent some time charting my fasting sugars as well as my 1,2 and 3 hour after-meal sugars and have learned a lot about what my body can handle right now.
Sometimes the high responses I got from eating a high-carb meal scares me, and makes me sad to know I can’t eat with total abandon. However, knowing the damage I could do to myself if I did’t know to make these adjustments make me grateful for the awareness. So, I guess in the end, even if it’s not completely the answer I wanted, it’s all good.