Variations of the low carb diet have been rotating for YEARS. Whether it be the classic Atkins diet, Keto or the now popular Paleo approach; thousands have jumped on the band wagon of this fad diet.
When I learned about the Paleo diet in 2013 and this low carb approach to eating, I was immediately hooked. When I learned about the benefits of eating like our ancestors, I became obsessed. The most intriguing part about the diet though was the quick and effortless weight loss that was promised. I wanted to experience it for myself. Though I really didn’t have any weight to lose, this was definitely the driving factor for diving in head first.
I wish I would have understood then the dangers of adapting a low carb diet for long period of time. But even if I heard the contrary, I would have been in complete denial. I was drinking the kool aid and soon enough I would start experiencing some serious side effects that I quickly dismissed. I truly saw no wrong in the low carb approach. Boy was I wrong!
I’m hoping that this post will save you some of the struggles I had to endure by putting my body through this rigid diet.
MY LOW CARB LIFE
Let me first start by saying that everyone is SO unique! A diet that may work for one person perfectly could be completely detrimental to another. I do NOT believe in dieting extremes especially after my past struggle with Yo-Yo dieting. It left me with a completely distorted relationship with food and several imbalances that I am still working to correct.
When I began the Paleo diet, I initially felt AMAZING. I had suspected that I was struggling with a gluten intolerance for a while and never cared for dairy so eliminating those two foods from my diet was a breeze. My eczema cleared up and a lot of the bloating I had been experiencing went away. Smooth sailing right?
I started increasing my protein and fat intake over the course of a few weeks. Soon I began noticing a decrease in my energy levels. The spark that I once had was slowly fading. I was listening to so many Paleo podcasts and reading all the low carb books I could get my hands on so my diet was the last thing I suspected to be the culprit.
THE “HEALTHY” DIET
I replaced my morning oatmeal with bacon plus eggs cooked in coconut oil with a side of avocado. Lunch was a salad with chicken and dinner more meat, veggies and lots of added oils. Because the high protein blunted my hunger, I rarely snaked but when I did it was a handful of nuts or jerky.
This seems like a really healthy diet to some and yes, I had cut out a lot of the shitty processed food from my diet BUT the problem arose when my cravings for carbs began to become almost instinctual. I would maintain the above “healthy” menu during the week and on the weekend… Watch out! I would be completely out of control and binge on ALL the cookies, brownies, cereal, chocolate, granola, aka CARB HEAVEN.
I would feel really disgusting and ashamed for these carb binges but would go back into Monday on my super strict low carb diet. Somehow this became my new norm for over 3 years!! From the outside I looked completely healthy, but on the inside I felt trapped in my body and unable to control my ravenous cravings.
SIDE EFFECTS I EXPERIENCED FROM A LOW CARB DIET
My body began giving me some SERIOUS signs that it was NOT thriving on this low carb approach but because I was so disconnected from my intuition then I had absolutely no clue it was the cause.
After a year of following the Paleo diet, I noticed that my hair was starting to fall out in CLUMPS. This was of course really alarming and it was actually my hair stylist at the time that suggested I go get my thyroid checked.
Luckily because what I knew about Western medicine and their old school way of testing your thyroid health, I immediately did some research and found a local Natropath that ran a full-panel on me. If you suspect that you could be dealing with a low thyroid and are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- hair loss
- weight gain
- chronic fatigue
- brain fog
- constantly cold
- hormonal imbalance
then I highly suggest getting your own FULL PANEL thyroid test done. Sure enough, my t3 levels were ROCK BOTTOM. Along with my hormones which could explain why I hadn’t had my period for over a year. Getting this news was bitter sweet because I finally nailed down why I was feeling so awful but it meant I had to go on Thyroid medication…indefinitely.
THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMELS BACK
Besides the hair loss, sluggish thyroid and total hormonal imbalance I also began experiencing chronic constipation. The lack of fiber in my diet from fruit, starchy veggies and gluten free grains wreaked havoc on my digestion.
When getting a pap that same year, I was told by the OBGYN “Wow, your really backed up, you should try some MiraLax.” -TMI but that was the last straw for me. I was SO SICK of feeling sick! Plus I was ready to END the vicious yo-yo dieting and disordered eating cycle.
All I wanted to experience was BALANCE again. By adapting a more of a plant based diet, I was finally able to heal many of those ailments. I will never again label myself to a certain diet, put my body through such rigid food rules or deprive what I truly crave. Though the journey to intuitive eating hasn’t been the easiest or most rewarding (no quick fix weight loss!), I can finally say that I love my body as it is now more than ever. Body peace and food freedom have been absolutely TRANSFORMATIONAL.
OUR BODIES PREFERRED ENERGY SOURCE
So back to the food binges that I had experienced for YEARS on a low carb diet. Have you experienced this phenomena before?
If your human then you probably have at some point in your dieting journey. Depriving ourselves of our preferred source of energy turns into a strong biological force that even the strongest of wills can’t turn down. Carbohydrates are the gold standard of food energy to the body PERIOD. Cells function best when they receive a certain level of carbohydrates, in the form of glucose and even a small decrease can cause problems. I’ve found this especially true for women as our finicky hormones RELY on a proper source of carbs to run smoothly. Our bodies truly are a ecosystem and small imbalances can quickly turn large problems in the body if left untreated.
GIVE IN TO THOSE CARB CRAVINGS!
So why do we become so ravenous when carbs are limited? Neruopeptide Y (NPY) is a chemical produced by the brain that triggers our drive to eat carbohydrates, the body’s primary and preferred source of energy. Food deprivation or under eating drives NPY into action, causing our body to seek more carbohydrates. When the net meal or eating opportunity rolls around, it can easily turn into a high-carbohydrate binge- NOT because you lack willpower or are out of control, its your biology (rather NPY) screaming FEED ME!
As we eat more carbohydrates, it helps to increase the production of serotonin, which in turn shuts off the production of NPY and puts a halt to the desire for carbohydrates. The more you deny you true hunger and fight your natural biology, the stronger and more intense food cravings and obsessions become!
Bottom line is EAT MORE PLANT BASED FOODS and watch your cravings for junk food disappear! Our society is so quick to demonize carbs. It is the TYPE of carb (processed/packaged) that you should limit not ones that nourish and satisfy our bodies.
If you can relate, then i’d love to hear from you in the comments! Curious about becoming a intuitive eater? I teach women how to end the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting by connecting them back to their own intuitive power in my 1:1 sessions.
work cited: Tribole, Evelyn. Intuitive Eating. New York, St. Martins Griffin, 2012.