Hello all! Let me tell you – this post is long over due; although, the subject has been weighing on my mind for quite some time now.
I had somewhat of a revelation recently. Let me start off by backing up a bit – going back about a year and a half ago. When Jason and I first began living a Paleo lifestyle we read thoroughly on the subject. I immediately got hooked on daily advice from all the greats – no need to name them all here. If you’re Paleo – you’ve probably heard of ’em! Anyway, my typical diet before going Paleo was already pretty darn healthy (to most people’s standards.) At this time I already recognized that bread & grain sources needed to be minimized but definitely did not think they needed to be eliminated. I allowed myself 2 servings daily (ex. oatmeal in the morning then whole-wheat pasta at night or a whole-wheat english muffin w/ peanut butter for a snack and quinoa with dinner.) To be honest, I felt pretty great on a diet like this. The rest was filled with salads, lean meats, greek yogurt, nuts, and fruits. Pre-Paleo there was no bacon – nope, I admit I actually did the turkey bacon a few times. Gross! There was no butter, and I sweetened my morning coffee with 0% milk and a packet of truvia. Ahh well, you live and you learn. And well….then you learn some more.
Conventional nutrition has created this huge fear that eating fat will make you fat. I too, was convinced that was the case; hence, my 0% milk. Back in the day I wouldn’t even choose chicken that had skin on — that was bad, right?? Well, the point I am getting at is that we have had this fear of fat drilled in our minds and for no good reason at all. The Paleo community; while they mean well and are undoubtably heading this amazing movement for eating real foods — they have instilled a fear of their very own. While it has not been intentional, I think that there has been a huge craze for supporting some unnatural fear of carbohydrates. This has been going on for years.
Now don’t misunderstand me — I in no shape or form suggest eating any grains containing gluten or splurging on a bowl of pasta here and there. We’re not talking about that realm. To a lot of people, those that may not be as familiar with nutrition, do associate carbs with breads, pastas, cereals, etc. Those are not the only carb sources! The Paleo diet is usually coined as being a low-carb type diet simply because we don’t eat those commonly thought of items. Okay — here’s where we really get into it. Bare with me…
Fat loss. That’s what everyone wants, right? That’s why you’re here. Admit it. We can say that we’re in this to be healthy…but humanistically it’s natural to gauge your health level by your physical appearance. Most of the time that’s legit. For anyone who remembers their introduction to Paleo – you might have learned that being in a state of ketosis every once in a while was beneficial to your health and would help you lose body fat. I guarantee you’ve read that if body fat is what you’re geared to lose then you should refrain from eating excess fruits. I can also bet money that you’ve read sweet potatoes, yams, winter squashes, and the like are great on the Paleo diet but shouldn’t be eaten in excess and mostly used as recovery type food post workout. So, what is an individual to do…when they know they have fat to lose and want to get there. They’re going to follow points 1,2, and 3. I did. But, as with that unreasonable fear of fat that everyone else follows — the same happened to me with carbs.
For anyone who understands how food works in the body — when you eat carbs, they convert to sugar. Sugar = fat or weight gain. Simple as that? Haha, well nothing with nutrition is simple…and nothing with your body chemistry is simple. For someone like me who is educated in nutrition, who reads a crapton about this stuff — you’d think I’d know not to limit carbs. You’d THINK!? But I’m also human…and can just as easily make bad decisions.
Here’s the deal. Carbohydrates convert to glucose when they’re eaten. Glucose is essential. I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly important it is in carrying out everyday functions in your body. I was blind for a long time — I thought that as long as I was eating meats, healthy fats, and lots of veggies I would be good. Wrong, very, very, very, wrong. Vegetables do NOT count as carbohydrate sources! They are carbohydrates in that their main macronutrient is such, but as far as glucose is concerned — they can’t be your only source. Vegetables contain a lot of fiber, and in order to break that fiber down a majority of the glucose is used up within your gut. It is also absorbed by your immune system and doesn’t really give you any reserve. Now, if you’re simultaneously working out and having a daily lifestyle that’s go, go, go, go….well, then welcome to my world. I mentioned earlier that I know sweet potatoes and other carb heavy root vegetables are great for a post-workout recovery. Well, yes, that’s true…but it doesn’t always happen. Depending on when you get a workout in, whether or not you have those things on hand, etc. you can easily get out of the habit. If you do get out of the habit, and you find yourself working out 4-5 days a week and eating lots of meats, fats, and green vegetables you could become glucose deficient. Especially if this goes on for a while.
What happens when your body is deficient in glucose? A slew of things. For me personally, I noticed some body fat coming back, I was feeling extremely fatigued, my mood was just sad and overwhelmed, and I started having menstrual irregularities. Was I pregnant!? Nope. I was diagnosed to have hypothyroidism. That means that my thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, or it is underactive. I of course decided right away that I would not take thyroid hormone. There had to be a way I could correct this (haha, control freak huh?) Anyway, it was suggested that maybe I needed to eat more carbs. I immediately let this suggestion go through one ear and out the other. Not out of fear from carbs at that point, but I honestly thought that I was eating enough. After really giving it some thought — I looked back at the things I had been eating over the last month, and longer than that…and I realized that my only carbs were coming from vegetables. It wasn’t enough. I had deprived myself. It was a shocker to me…I really thought my diet was fine-tuned. Haha, well I guess it was on the wrong channel.
I won’t get into all the specifics — just know that glucose is necessary for proper thyroid function. Now your body can produce glucose on its own — it doesn’t have to come from food. But the problem is that if you’re making your body go through that extra process, as well as working out often and not recovering, not sleeping enough, etc…your body is going to think you’re starved. At that point your body is simply doing far too much for you. If your body is working so hard just to carry out everyday functions that keep you going — it’s not going to worry about shedding those extra pounds or controlling your sex hormones. In fact, you probably won’t be producing any sex hormones to begin with.
For men it’s a little different. Their hormone make-up is very simplistic compared to that of a woman’s. I could go on and on — just know that I urge you to not be restrictive. Don’t be scared of eating too much or counting things… don’t fear those carbs. Don’t fear those fats. Just eat WHOLE REAL FOODS and let the rest go. Every body is different and responds in a unique way to foods. If you don’t think that you do well with more safe-starches then don’t eat them but just know that you need to make sure your body is being properly nourished. Your body belongs to YOU; it is the only one you have and it is your responsibility to take care of it.