Earlier this year, Logan and I tried a low carb diet. For the most part, I felt really good on it. I didn’t gain any weight (in fact, I lost a few pounds) from eating more fat. I rarely felt bloated or gassy, and overall I felt alert and energized.
Seeing positive results, I continued eating relatively low carb after the trial month ended. With the exception of the occasional dinner out, I largely replaced grains like pasta (even whole grain), quinoa, and rice with alternatives like cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles.
After a few months though, I started to miss carby foods, such as popcorn, oats, and sweet potatoes. I longed for fruits like apples and mangoes. And with the start of fall, beans in chili sounded amazing.
This lead me to question if I was helping or hurting my body by staying within the confines of a specific diet and decided that I wanted to introduce some of those foods back into my diet.
The fake news of diets.
There is so much conflicting information about what the “right” diet is and what’s sustainable, so it seems counterintuitive that there would be a one-size-fits-all prescription for health and weight management.
Rather, it seems more likely that what we should put into our bodies varies person to person and can change over time. Our body compositions are different, and we should remember to honor that by tailoring our diet to our own genetic makeup.
The body is feeding you information.
Once I started to introduce whole carbs back into my diet, I started to test which ones I processed well and which ones I didn’t.
I realized that I have no issues with sweet potatoes, popcorn, or oats. Carb-heavy fruits were okay too. Beans were not – I felt bloated and gassy. I knew from previous experience that I tend to feel bloated when I eat rice and get stomach pain from simple grains (like white bread) and quinoa.
I concluded that overall my body does well on a diet full of meat, dairy, and vegetables as well as some whole food carbs, but I should avoid most grains.
What to do with cravings.
It sounds easy, in theory, to listen to my body, but it can also be confusing. There are plenty of times when I’m “craving” sugar or carbs, but does that mean I should eat an a handful of chocolate or reach for a slice of bread? Maybe not.
It might make me feel good in the moment, but doesn’t keep me full for very long and often cause me to crash later.
I believe there are general principles to follow if you want to be healthy. My starting point is eating lots of veggies and limiting refined grains and sugar. I do this because, from what I’ve experienced, these are two constants among practically all diet plans and feels like a safe place to start.
From here, I pay attention to how my body reacts to certain foods. Take beans for example, as I mentioned above, I often get stomach cramps and gas when I eat them. This tells me that I either should avoid them or prepare for stomach pain, and perhaps isolation…
Trial and error.
I’ve realized that it can take time to figure out what the best choices are for me to make when it comes to my diet. I listen to what the experts are saying but also question their conclusions and motives, and, therefore, decide for myself if I buy into their advice and if their recommendations work for me.
One example of this is intermittent fasting. For a long time, I was resistant to it because I was convinced that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and necessary for me to have energy during the day. But then I started questioning my own resistance to it and decided to give it a try.
When I tried IF, I realized that I was often reaching for food even when I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t actually listening to my body, but rather using food as a way to cope with boredom. Now, I ask myself when I’m reaching for food, “Am I actually hungry?” and “Is eating this a smart choice – one that will satiate my hunger rather than perpetuate it?”
As my dietary needs have changed over time, I believe that my dietary needs will continue to change as I age. It’s important for me to listen to my body and what it’s telling me. However, experimenting with low-carb and whole foods has made me realize that listening to my body may be the best diet plan I’ve ever had.