Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pet Peeve: To Diet or Not to Diet (Part II)

Part 1 of this post discussed my views on healthy eating, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and deciding what, if any, diet to follow. Now, I want to discuss my own diet.

I follow a fairly strict no-starchy-or-refined-carbs diet, which I affectionately call "eating like a diabetic." Because, really, that's exactly what it is. Over the summer, a close family member discovered they were prediabetic, which prompted me to learn exactly what it means to eat for a diabetic lifestyle.

The Idea
I read The Glycemic Load Diabetes Solution, which is a fantastic, life-changing read whether or not you yourself are diabetic. Diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are three of the most common chronic diseases in the US, and all three are linked to higher risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, and various cancers. The idea is to cut out foods that not only are high on the glycemic index, but those that are high on the glycemic load. The glycemic index compares foods by how much sugar each food item contains, while the glycemic load compares foods by how quickly and how much of said sugar will be distributed into your bloodstream. Hopefully, you can see why it is important to consider both when choosing your carbohydrates.

The main idea is that carbs don't have to be starchy - fruits and vegetables are also made up of carbohydrates that are much more nutrient dense (more vitamins and minerals per calorie) than breads and pastas. Starchy carbs release all their sugar into your bloodstream at once, causing a spike that makes your body store the extra as fat. After your body has stored it all away as fat, you experience a sugar crash and more hunger sensations. Sucks huh?

My Diet
So what do I eat if I don't eat carbs? Well, I don't eat starchy and refined carbs. You're thinking breads, pastas, cereals, rice. But that also includes chips, crackers, pretzels, potatoes, granola, oatmeal, porridge, and even sweet potatoes.

The government tells you, via My Plate or the Food Pyramid, that starchy carbs should be a major part of your diet - the most servings in your day. I eliminated that entirely and enlarged the fruits and vegetables category.

What do I eat in a day?
I'm a college kid on the go (moreso than most), but I figured out how to cook simple meals in less than 15 minutes that I can pack to go. I start off my day with greek yogurt with some chia seeds, berries, nuts, and another piece of fruit (a pear, peach, plum, apple, etc). Lunch and dinner usually look pretty similar: a piece of chicken, a sausage, ground turkey, eggs, etc as protein and probably 3-4 servings of kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers (if I don't have time to cook), etc. Somewhere in the middle of the day, I'll have an apple and some trail mix as a snack.

I mix my own trail mix with pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, crasins, and raisins. I always have a mason jar full of it in my backpack for whenever I get hungry. As soon as I feel hunger pangs, I eat a handful and drink more water to keep my stomach happy and blood sugar constant.

How do I feel and why did I do it?
I feel great, probably better than ever. I don't really experience carb cravings, but sometimes I'll have a handful of pretzels, chips, or some chocolate. Moderation is key - I'm rarely starving, so I'll just eat a little and feel satisfied.

I did it to lose weight, to be honest. I wanted to be healthy and prevent disease (diabetes runs in my family, as well as breast cancer), but my immediate goal was to lose 10 pounds. I wasn't overweight by any means, but I could stand to lose a little tummy fat (most people can) and...let's be real, I'm a dancer. We always want to lose weight.

I've been about 5 weeks on this diet, and that combined with a little more exercise has helped me to lose 5-6 pounds, which is a pretty good deal in my eyes. I feel and look better, and I don't feel as though I've lost much.

Part of this is that I love fruits and veggies - I'm sure this diet could be devastating to someone who loves starchy carbs. The lifestyle change wasn't that radical for me, it was just one less food item I had to prepare (and when you're cooking for yourself, it's a huge difference). As always, moderation is key. I had to ease into giving up carbs, but it's second nature to me now. I order my burgers without buns or at least take off the top bun (to justify ordering fries). I'll order protein and veggie entrees at restaurants and replace the mashed potatoes with green beans. Sugary drinks are mostly gone, but I'll keep some juice in the fridge for when I need something sweet.

**Edit: the most important thing when considering a change in your diet is "Is this a diet?" Diets are not supposed to be short-lived, I-need-to-lose-weight-now deals. A true diet is a lifestyle change, a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.

Remember, what works for me might not work for you, and my beliefs may not be consistent with yours and what you've learned. Either way, I hope you learned something, and maybe that you'll consider a good lifestyle change. Good luck!