Carbs to the Rescue

Carbs to the Rescue

Ah Carbs!  The pleasure trigger of the taste buds and the bain of all the empty calories we consume.

Carbohydrates get a bad reputation as being the worst thing to enter our dietary lives–EVER!

But as with most things the majority of people are getting this wrong. This is mostly because they are not doing the research themselves because they are relying on all the sound bytes they hear…

And while I am just another sound byte–I have at least done my homework.

Carbohydrates are a necessary part of our nutritional plan. It is where we get our energy so we can, you know, do stuff.

If we were not getting energy from our food we would feel deflated and tired–all the time–and you would quite literally be unable to function.

If you are trying to lose weight many diets encourage you to cut out carbohydrates–completely.  

Many people grab onto that advice and cut out all carbs!  This does lead to weight loss but very often that weight loss is too much, too fast, can be very dangerous and is not sustainable.

Those diets fail–or I should say the people on those diets fail to reach their goals because they cannot follow the program long term as a lifestyle…I’ll discuss that next time.

Back to carbohydrates–we cannot survive without carbohydrates in our system everyday and this is why:

Carbs come in 3 main categories:

  1. Sugars or simple sugars like glucose, fructose etc. that are basically already broken down for us. These go into our system, give us a little zip of energy and then fizzle out quickly. Because they are simple it takes a lot of them to make us feel “full” or “satisfied” so we eat a lot of them.
  2. Starches are more complex sugars that need to be broken down by our digestive system to create the glucose our bodies need for energy.  So these carbohydrates take longer to break down and give us a slow burn of energy.
  3. Fiber.  Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by the body but is needed to aid digestion and to give us a happy gut and happy bathroom experiences. This, as you know, is super important!

When we eat too many carbs, the body can store some of them for future energy and turns them into fat. Not good.

In a nutshell–we need to eat carbohydrates that are complex and whole to provide us with that slow burn and with fiber. Processed foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in everything else are just empty calories that do not serve us!

The amount of carbohydrates that we need depends on the number of calories you need per day to reach your nutritional goals. I discuss that in a previous post called The Big Mac.

The best carbohydrates are found in vegetables, whole fruits, potatoes, legumes and whole grains. It is important though to remember to watch the serving sizes and the preparation of these foods so that we don’t change a good carbohydrate into a fattening dish.

We also don’t want to eat so much of a good thing that we turn it into a bad thing by overloading our bodies with too much sugar–even from whole foods–that is needed in a day.

For people who are currently battling obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease a low carb diet can be life changing. And I think–especially given our current society–that this is important to mention.

And while a low carb diet may come to your rescue–we need to include the proper water intake, exercise and a host of other changes to our habits as a permanent life change for our rescue to be sustainable.

Remember that carbohydrates did not cause our obesity and a host of other health problems.  Our ancestors ate all kinds of carbs and were healthy–and thin!

Our ancestors, though, ate whole foods–not processed foods!  And there is a way to include whole foods and the science of convenience in processed foods to help us achieve both nutritional values and health objectives!!

While I am still digging for the answers–remember to take everything you know and understand to be true with a grain of salt. Do some discovering of yourself and what works best for your body–because no two bodies are alike!

Reach out with a comment or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!

To Diet or Not to Diet

To Diet or Not to Diet

As I have been studying and learning and experimenting with different “diet” options–I have come to a profound conclusion:  Diets don’t work.

I know, most of you knew this already.  That is not to say that all the diet books and experts and suggestions are wrong. Diets don’t work because people that try them–me–do not take our lifestyles into account.

Diets are part of our lifestyles–and our cultures.  As Americans we embrace food like–well hot dogs and apple pie! We celebrate the diverse cultures in this nation by going to Chinese on Tuesdays and Mexican on Thursdays.

In between we eat all the “stuff” we buy at the grocery store that is so convenient and instant and tastes so good because it is processed and full of chemicals that mimic salty, sugary, soft, crunchy, flavorful yummy stuff.

Never mind that most is artificial and full of preservatives so they can sit in the warehouse, then the store, then our pantries–until we are ready to eat them.

And yet, we want  to be healthy and fit. So we go on a diet, we join the gym and we rock it! We lose 10, 15, sometimes 20 pounds–look great–feel great, and then stop. We go back to eating all the things we “gave up” during the diet, we stop going to the gym.

Slowly but surely the pounds come back and sometime they bring additional friends–making us heavier and in worse shape than before.

What we forgot was our lifestyle–not the foods. Our diets are not something we can do for a while and then we can stop when we reach a specific goal. Diets were never meant to be “a temporary eating phenomenon”.

A diet, by definition, is the sum of the food consumed by an organism or group. A noun.  Dieting–the verb–is the deliberate selection of food to control body weight or nutrient intake. So we verb the heck out of ourselves!

The question becomes are we happy living like this? In a constant argument with ourselves about our food choices. Feeling bloated and swollen and uncomfortable in our own skin.

I was not. So I have been experimenting with all kinds of diets to see which one “fit”. Of course, they didn’t “fit”–not for long anyway.

If you are in your 40s or 50s, like me, or beyond you know this will not work–because we have been experimenting like this most of our lives.

What I failed to admit to myself (because I am pretty sure I have known this all along) is that is not the food–it’s the lifestyle. The lifestyle brings with it the food.

As part of the master plan I have been working on is a major change in lifestyle. I have decided that I will eat a scientifically researched and proven healthy diet of what my body needs to function and thrive, in the amounts that it needs and nothing more. The optimal word is NEEDS.

Some, I know, are with me on this journey–they have already accepted and embraced–what I am coming to know as truth. Others know this to be true–but are just not ready yet. Its ok…

Having this lifestyle means that I am going to respect my meal times, the portion sizes of my meals and the foods I will include in meals. And everything else is unnecessary.

My lifestyle has to change, so my foods will change, so I can live the healthy and fit life I want to live.

In the next few posts, I will take you through part of my journey and why this lifestyle sounds better and feels better each day!

Don’t forget to love yourself today! And have fun!

You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat

There has never been a truer phrase–you are what you eat. Many of us eat all that is around us. And then we accept that our bodies feel sluggish and bloated and uncomfortable.

Worse yet we are all going towards being part of the statistics that list the highest incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease in the history of the United States.

Unless you make a change.

For the last several years I have really been watching what I eat.  I have become very conscious of ingredients and labels and portion sizes.

When I started “eating healthy” what I was really doing was NOT eating certain foods.  I knew for example, that I was eating too much sugar. So I really cut back to basically no white sugar at all.  

I found that I did not miss it. I was really used to having sugar in my coffee each morning.  Two spoonfuls of sugar! Instead I bought stevia packets and use one. It was just about changing the habit of what I was doing.

At work, I realized, many co-workers would bring food in to share on Fridays–donuts were a big favorite. The first time I ate one after going “off” sugar I got a horrible headache and stomach ache and soon after felt completely deflated like I needed a nap!

I never realized how much sugar had affected my system. And as I investigated further–I found that there is sugar in everything! Even ketchup has sugar!  I could not believe it!

Not only do most foods contain sugar–it contains sneaky sugar because it is called by a dozen (or more!) different names–corn syrup, corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, sucrose and evaporated cane juice–just to name a few.

But sugar was just the tip of the iceberg. Meats. I love meats but when I started learning about farm practices and how animals are given antibiotics and growth hormones and fed GMO corn to fatten them up–well YUCK! And the chickens! Don’t even get me started on the chickens!

For a while I could not eat any meat. But I was also not a vegetarian. With time and some additional learning–I was able to find free range chicken and different meats that were not processed or that came from places where the ranch practices were not questionable.

The search for the best foods available is a journey in itself. But I am committed to my health and the health of my husband–and so we look for the best foods we can find.

Still–these are big changes and they are not easy.  But we are what we eat–so it is important to care about ourselves enough to investigate what is best for us.  That may mean a different thing to each person.

I am not advocating that we should all wake up tomorrow morning and never eat in a fast food restaurant again or give up meat entirely or swear off eggs. I am encouraging you to think about what is going into your body though.

We sometimes buy organic, but not always because how do we really know if something is organically grown or not? Especially at the grocery store. Farmer’s Markets are a better source if it is available to you. But we do buy more fruits and vegetables than before and eat more salads in general.

Our portion sizes are smaller, we drink plenty of water and herbal tea (hot and iced–we live in Texas after all!) We have drastically cut back on breads, chips, pasta and dairy products.

And we didn’t die! In fact, we feel good! We do not feel deprived of anything and we don’t go hungry. If we feel like having something, we have it–in a reasonable portion size. And we feel satisfied and full.

So we definitely are what we eat! Our bodies are wonderful machines that we have abused for the sake of convenience.

If you are really interested in living a healthier life–we have to change the habits we currently have around food. Habits are hard to change especially in the run around hurry up life we are in.

But there are some solutions that I will discuss in my next post to bring us closer to eating as healthy as we can and having the healthiest habits.  

What has been the one go to food that you feel you could not let go of? Are there foods you would not miss if you stopped including them in your diet?  Comment below and let me know what you think…

And until next time–have fun!