And yes, I refuse to call it a diet, because that’s not what it is. It’s more a lifestyle than anything else, and a lifestyle which will make you healthier, less predisposed to illness and – depending on your starting point – to reach your ideal weight (if you’re not there yet). But it’s no diet, and certainly not a quick-fix.
If you start eating this way, you’ll feel healthier fairly quickly – and many people can lose a lot of weight already in the initial days. However, it also takes determination and some stubbornness to stand against what’s often the norm in our carb-infused society, heavily supported by advertising from grain manufacturers and the sweets industry.
A common misconception of LCHF is that it makes people stuff themselves with meat, butter and eggs. This is only partly true: eating LCHF means eating vegetables too, but the above-ground grown varieties, meaning cutting out potatoes, carrots and other high-in-starch kinds of veggies. Because in our bodies, starch becomes sugar, which in its turn affects insulin levels. And – as scientists have known for some time already, insulin is the key to how our bodies store fat. As Gary Taubes (author of Why we get fat) says: “…what makes our fat cells fat is fundamentally the hormone insulin. Raise insulin levels and we accumulate more fat in our fat cells. Lower insulin and fat is released from the fat cells and the cells of our lean tissue can burn it for fuel.”
He continues to give the scientific reasons for it (for more info on those, go to http://www.garytaubes.com/blog/) and then sums them up in saying: “Insulin puts fat in fat cells. That’s what it does. And our insulin levels, for the most part, are determined by the carb-content of our diet — the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates consumed. —- The way to get fat out of fat cells and burn it, which is what we want to do with it, is to lower insulin. This has been known since the early 1960s.”
So when you hear the phrase calories in – calories out it’s only partly true. Of course your weight depends on your overall food consumption, but the trick is that when you lower your carb intake, the fat you eat is used by your body, instead of being stored in your fat cells (which is what happens with starch and sugars – they turn into fat which is stored by the body). A simple reality with fatty foods is also that they tend to make you feel fuller faster, therefore making you eat (and crave) less food as a whole.
I’ve been health-conscious for most of my adult life. For almost as long, I’ve juggled more or less difficult carb cravings. Thanks to the amount of exercise I’ve managed to fit into my life, I’ve never really had a weight problem. But I’ve had other health issues of various kinds, mainly different stomach problems, repeated infection streaks, flues and severe PMS.
I’ve been aware of the carb-issue for years, but so far I had always believed the so-called experts who claimed that an athlete (or a person performing very much exercise) simply couldn’t survive without a daily carb intake. And so I’ve struggled with my cravings, thinking they were a necessary part of the active lifestyle I’d chosen.
Imagine my surprise when I encountered Dr Andreas Eenfeldt, the Swede who has become known as the Diet Doctor. On his web pages (http://www.dietdoctor.com/)he presents several athletes who compete and perform on a daily basis eating only LCHF. And not only that: they also claim they’re performing better than ever, because they’re no longer as sensitive to infections and illnesses. Among others: the skier Björn Ferry, triathlonist Jonas Colting and fitness guru Sid Knutsson shared their stories.
Reading these gave me the confidence to break my lifelong habits and boy, am I glad I did. Because now, a couple of months into my new eating habits, I can genuinely say I’ve never felt better or healthier. And yes, I still have the energy to exercise as much as I want to. The only difference is that I’m no longer bothered by those sudden blood sugar dips after heavy training sessions, because I’ve been fueling my body with long-lasting energy, instead of empty carbs which only make me hungrier.
The best part of it all is that my former cravings are but a distant memory and, nowadays, passing by the chocolate shelf in the supermarket is very easy. Keeping a strict eating regime most of the time allows me to stray if I want to. It’s just that I’ve discovered I usually don’t, because this way of eating just makes me feel so much better.