Monday, August 8, 2011

Confessions of a Former Carb Queen: Part I

Right around last Valentine's day I turned into a carb queen. No, it wasn't because I had boxes of Sees candies flooding my mailbox—although that would have been nice.

And no, it wasn't because I assuaged singlehood woes with potato chips and a carton of ice cream. Although some rocky road and a chic flick marathon would have been nice, too.

The source of my carb cravings was some seriously severe adrenal fatigue and the second round of mono in six months.

These illnesses sucked up every last ounce of my energy until I couldn't remain in a vertical position for more than five minutes without reaching for some sweet and savory carbs to give me a temporary energy boost.

And while I enjoyed my tasty indulgences for awhile, it wasn't long before I ran into a couple problems in all of my carb-filled glory.

Problem #1: The quick carb fix made me even more exhausted in the long run. Without fail, after every five-minute carb high passed I found myself feeling even sicker, weaker, and more exhausted than before.

I knew something had to change, and so did my doctor, so she ordered me to cut all gluten, refined sugar, and dairy out of my diet.

Goodbye joy and happiness.

Because really, who wants to eat cucumbers and raisins for an afternoon energy boost?

But overall health was more important than a short-term "fix", and so I turned into one of those health nuts that doesn't touch man-made foods, only shops at select grocery stores, and goes everywhere barefoot. Minus the barefoot part. Mostly because I hardly ever went anywhere.

Now don't get me wrong; I've always been a fairly healthy eater. I had to be to run track at a collegiate level for so many years. But I really loved my chocolate, cookies, and the salty, fatty carbs I ate to balance out my low-fat fibrous meals. I'm all about balance.

Not surprisingly, it took about four months of maintaining my new diet before my insatiable chocolate cravings died down, and it took just as long to figure out how to eat in a way that gave my body the nutrients necessary to repair itself on this long journey toward healthy living.

Thankfully I'd been picking up diet tips over the years that helped me to develop a way of eating that's slowly been restoring my body toward health.

I've taken what I've learned and have pieced together some trusty diet guidelines.

Give it a try, or your money back guaranteed!

And don't worry, you don't need to be as extreme as I am, and you sure DON'T need to give up sugar, gluten, and dairy to eat like this.

1. Here's the skinny on Americans: most of us have at least mildly fatigued adrenal glands. This is because our adrenal glands produce our adrenaline, and boy do Americans require a lot of adrenaline. We have fast-paced, action-packed, high-stress days, and don't often give our adrenal glands a reprieve from their adrenaline-producing frenzy. Nor do we feed them with the right fuel.

There are a lot of side-effects to having taxed adrenal glands because they play a role in regulating blood-sugar, monitoring hormones, and aiding the immune system. If you're prone to hypoglycemia, you could have fatigued adrenals.

Enter: good carbs.

Try to supplement your protein and good fats with carbs that won't spike your blood sugar, but will give you steady energy for the entire day. You can check this glycemic index for carbs that won't give you a temporary burst of energy before sending you crashing to the couch mid-afternoon.

Some carbs to avoid when possible:
  • Potatoes
  • Rice (especially white)
  • Corn
  • Chips
  • Crackers

Some of my favorite good carbs:
  • Black beans
  • Oatmeal
  • Apples
Is your heart sinking? Are you wondering if life is worth living without a daily dose of sour cream and onion potato chips?

I feel your pain.

Actually, I felt your pain. It gets better, it really does. Before you know it your body will be craving a handful of almonds and some cucumber with hummus. Bring on the beans, baby!

2. Focus on adding, not taking away from your daily eating routine. Every meal should have a serving of good carbs, protein, and healthy fats. If you're like me, then you don't have a problem getting a serving of carbs in at every meal and will need to work on adding a serving of protein and healthy fat at each meal.

I also try to focus on adding leafy greens to every meal too—even breakfast. It's amazing the energy some dark leafy greens can provide. And it's amazing how much easier it is to add good things to my diet than focus only on taking bad things away. This is an empowering, energizing way to begin changing a lifestyle.

By the way, a serving is about the size of your fist, although your fat serving will be about a tenth of a normal serving.

Back to good fats: I CANNOT sufficiently stress their importance. I know it may seem counter-intuitive to include good fat with each meal, but our body needs the proper ratio of fats, to protein, to carbs to function properly, with high energy.

Try to include one of the following healthy fats with every meal:
  • nuts
  • avocados
  • olive oil
  • fish
I promise you'll feel the difference after awhile!

This is all for today! Come back tomorrow for my carb problem #2 and part II of "Tips From a Former Carb Queen."

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