If any of you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I shared a “story” from my date night at the B&N book store. In my story I shared about how I was looking at the cookbooks and noticed something too obvious not to share. It had been about a year since I had been to a bookstore (because, life with a one year old), and what I noticed was that the cookbooks had a whole new trend in diets than the last time I had been in. The cookbooks always seem to follow the trend of the most popular diet at the time, which just like the cookbooks in the store that day always seem to be changing. Those IG story posts led to a lot of questions coming in about low carb diets, and diets in general, and I thought it was a very good topic of discussion. I realized a lot of women are having mixed messages about what to eat, and the dieting industry has not made it any more clear! I thought it would be good to clarify coming from my nursing background. In addition, I have taught nursing courses on the glycemic index and how carbohydrates affect our bodies at WCC, so I want to share what I have learned in my own research about how carbs affect our bodies. I hope this helps bring clarity and also a better understanding for those of you wondering not only my view point, but how our bodies work.
The hard thing about diets is the fact that they generally do work, to a degree, and for a time; BUT the results and the methods are usually never sustainable long term. Another reason they work for a time is because they are often “truth in part”; Meaning there are SOME good points to them. For example, many people notice weight loss with diets initially because it is the first time they cut sugar and white flour products out. They also stop grabbing take out, and focus on cooking from home within the limits of the diet. This is the "truth" part I can certainly agree with. The downside is that this "good" is often taken to an extreme, causing them to be out of balance in one way or another. This can cause more harm than good often times, both mentally and physically for the person who follows the tight and rigid plan that is prescribed. Physically: Insulin sensitivity, sub-par metabolism, adrenal function, and thyroid function, hormone imbalances, and your body preserving fat in order to maintain a "safety cushion" to name a few. Emotionally and Mentally: Yo yo dieting, binge eating, eating disorders and everything in between.
The other thing about diets is that they always seem to be changing. Years ago low fat diets were "the thing." Do you remember the 90's when everyone went around eating pretzels and dry popcorn thinking that it was good for them if it was low fat!? We have since learned that fat doesn’t make us fat; Rather, we do want to stay away from the unhealthy fats that are harmful to our cardiovascular system (such as fried foods, trans fats etc.) Likewise, carbohydrates do not make us fat. Rather, we do want to stay away from the processed nutrient void carbohydrates that cause insulin spikes and are fast burning (such as white pasta, white bread, sugar, etc.) Cutting carbohydrates or fat out of your diet too much for too long can cause increased insulin sensitivity, increased cortisol levels, hormonal imbalances, and it can even cause damage to our endocrine system, cardiovascular system, our kidneys, and our bodies as a whole.
So let's talk about carbs for a minute, since they seem to be "all the talk" these days. First, I will say that many people in our society have undiagnosed insulin sensitivity, and there are a lot of reasons for it! One being hormones, another stress (high cortisol levels impact our insulin), and another our processed diets, and even chronic dieting including extremely low carb diets. (The list goes on… but these are the most common in our American culture). That being said, stevia oat flour, almond flour, coconut flour, (all the ingredients you find in Dashing Dish recipes), are low glycemic index carbs, which means they will not spike your insulin as simple high glycemic carbs would. This makes using flour possible in recipes, and oat flour and old fashioned oats are great to use as a slow burning carb and allows you to make all of your favorite baked goods without cutting carbs all together. At the end of the day, our bodies (especially as women NEED some carbohydrates), that is why God designed fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Glucose is broken down in our bodies for hormone production and our brains are run almost primarily on glucose. That being said, our culture is on processed carb overload, which is why so many doctors are saying just do "low carb" diets, as an over-generalized way of saying cut the processed stuff out. In addition, we certainly don't need as many carbohydrates as we eat on a whole because most of us sit all day instead of being active (also against what God intended for our bodies).
Now, if all of that information leaves you more confused than ever, let me break it down into practical easy to follow advice. To start, I would recommend trying stevia or a Low GI sweetener, and seeing how you feel using oat flour, almond flour, and coconut flour, (in addition to cutting out the white stuff). If after that you still feel like your body does better with less carbs overall (I personally feel this way), then consider switching your complex carbs to lower sugar alternatives; ie: fruits to lower sugar fruits, veggies to lower glycemic veggies, and use almond flour and coconut flour as your primary flours. From there, continue to experiment and find what works best for your body.
Now, instead of analyzing diets any further, let’s do our bodies a favor and start to listen to what they are telling us. What gives you the most energy? What makes you feel satisfied and like your body is nourished. Do you feel restricted and like you are deprived, or like you want to binge? Look at all of the different areas of health, mentally, emotionally, and physically and see how you feel. If it is something you can maintain, and it produces health (short and long term), and it makes your body feel and work it's best then it makes sense. For some this will mean cutting out gluten, dairy, beans, grains, etc. For others it will mean logging their food on MFP, joining a group like WW, or choosing a style of eating that is a way of life. These are things that I agree with as a whole and do not view as a diet, which is why I have made all of these options available at Dashing Dish in the recipe category selection.
I hope you can see my motives behind writing this article, and see that I am only hoping to provide some balance and clarity in the midst of all of the extremes. By no means do I think I have all the answers, or that there is a one size fits all approach for your body or individual needs. What I am saying is that I would encourage each person to learn about and find what is best for their individual health and body. It is important to understand "the why" behind what you are doing, and the choices you are making rather than just following a trend. At the end of the day our bodies are SO much more than a number on a scale or our weight/waist line. The important thing is, are we honoring our health? We only have ONE body to carry us through life. We don't want to make short term decisions that we will regret later on in order to have short term results. We also have a mind that can be damaged by viewing foods in the wrong light. At the end of the day, our relationship with our bodies and the way we view food is so much of the BIG picture that is so important to keep balanced and health for the long run! My best advice? Make an investment to learn how incredible our bodies are made, and why they work they way they do. If you find it helpful to have a plan, and it includes real food, balance, it makes your mind and body feel great and is sustainable for life, go for it! Ultimately, there is no perfect cookie cutter approach that will work perfectly for everyone, but finding an approach that helps your body feel its best, nourishes is, and is sustainable long term is always best! xo Katie
(Please note that the advice given in this article is not medical advice, nor is it to be used as such or replace the advice of your medical professionals.).