Low Carb, Keto, Mediterranean, LCHF, Paleo, – there are a dozen different names for what can be classified as a low carbohydrate lifestyle. In a nutshell, eating a “low carb diet” can mean that your carbohydrate consumption makes up anywhere between 5 – 30% of your calories on the day-to-day. A typical Standard American Diet (or SAD… I always chuckle a little at that) is made up of 60 – 80% carbohydrates, the remainder coming from fat and protein.
March marked the one year anniversary of my low carb journey, and I think that’s worthy of a little commemoration. This blog was inspired by a lot of the questions (and criticisms) that I’ve received over the last year about my lifestyle change. I think it’s time to tell the full story. Before I dive in, however, I want to add my disclaimer: I’m not here to convince you to eat a low carb diet. If you use this story as a way to help make a decision, then that’s awesome. But really, I just want a space to talk about my own experiences over the last 12 months of living low carb.
It all started in early 2018, when I was still a happy carb-eater. I had just started a new relationship with a guy that was a certifiable bio-hacker. He was actually the one to introduce me to the low-carb concept. Of course, I had heard about the Keto-craze, and had already dabbled Paleo and Whole30. But after those first two weeks of feeling the sugar crash that I was highly unprepared for, I always bailed out and returned to my normal carb eating ways. So when he suggested I try doing keto with him, I scoffed at the suggestion.
It wasn’t until a couple months later, after listening to the research and watching him thrive that I actually considered it. (Okay, okay I’ll own up – my abhorrent, unyielding stubbornness also played a major role. When he told me he didn’t think that I’d be able to handle doing Keto, I fell for that bit of reverse psychology hook, line, and sinker.) And so, my low carb journey began with a Ketogenic Diet (Keto). I’d learned through the research that the best way to get passed what they call Keto Flu – a horrible period of low energy when your body converts from using sugar to fat for energy – was to just dive right in. So that’s what I did. One day in March of 2018, I just stopped eating carbs. I made sure I had my groceries ready, that I had tons of fat in the house (which the Keto diet calls for), and that I didn’t have any carbohydrates in the kitchen cabinets to tempt me. And guess what happened. It didn’t completely suck. Keto flu came and went more easily than I expected, I felt more energetic than I had in months, and I lost a bit of weight. For a solid 6 weeks or so, I was in the Keto-zone.
And then life happened.
To be totally honest, I can’t remember what threw me off my path. It very well may have been sheer boredom. I just remember sometime around May, I found myself in bed with a pint of Talenti and spoon. Very not Keto-approved. I also remember taking a lot of criticism from people around me during those months. I was called crazy because I had decided to cut out carbs and sugar. I was told that the Keto diet was “wrong” by people who wouldn’t read the research. Mostly, I was told that it was an unsustainable lifestyle and that I’d eventually fail. And if anyone reading this has ever made a life decision that goes against the grain, I’m sure you can relate to the frustration of constantly having to explain yourself.
Now at this point you might be thinking something like, “Um, but Eva… you did fail. You ate the Talenti.” But one thing that my low carb lifestyle has taught me is that it isn’t about failing or winning. It’s about creating better habits and consistency. Converting to a low carb lifestyle taught me that that kind of change doesn’t happen over the course of a few months, it takes a lifetime.
My current low carb lifestyle didn’t just magically happen one day because I decided too. It took months of practice, many failures, and a lot of honesty. I really had to understand what I wanted for myself. When I finally owned up to it, it made the switch a lot easier. These days I live a truly low carb lifestyle, not to be confused with a no carb lifestyle. I still eat ice cream on occasion and I still drink red wine on the weekends. But practicing low carb eating habits has taught me so much about the physical impacts of food that I rarely crave sugar anymore.
All in all, I think my rationale for continuing on my low carb journey can be summed up in three main points:
- The research. I didn’t start this journey uninformed. I did a lot of reading and watched a lot of lectures before deciding to embark on this journey. The research in support of low carb dieting is extremely compelling. And along the way I fell into even more interesting topics like the importance of food quality and vitamin/mineral balance. I definitely recommend taking a look at some of the resources at the end of this blog if you’re interested in learning more.
- I feel fantastic! People literally used to tell me I was “like a little baby” because I would eat a meal then pass out 20 minutes later. I hated it, but I honestly couldn’t control my exhaustion. I have become much more in tune with the effects that carbs have on my body, and realized that eating ice cream everyday is honestly just not worth it. I’ve also discovered that my chronic pain symptoms flare up when I eat sweets. I now know that this is a common side effect of the inflammation caused by sugar. So for me, the physical relief is worth more than eating a sugary snack.
- A mentality shift. It was definitely an adjustment at first, but I don’t feel restricted by my diet at all anymore. In fact, eating a low carb diet may have been the most liberating thing I did 2018. I finally got to a point in which my diet wasn’t a stress factor for me anymore. I no longer worry about taking a couple days to nosh on some carbs because I know I’ll get myself back on track. Those negative physical effects that I mentioned start to kick in after a couple days anyway, and act as a reminder that low carb living works better for me. That kind of self assuredness is actually quite freeing.
Ultimately, my decision to continue living low carb has been an accumulation of research, experience, failures, and successes. Unfortunately, there’s no big secret I can reveal as to how I did it, or any trick I used to make it as far as I have. It really came down to always being honest with myself, and jumping back on the bandwagon everytime I fell off. It took time, effort, and patience, but I firmly believe I’m in a better place now than I was a year ago. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me on this ride.
Until next time… -Eva