If you have visited this blog site before, you likely know that I am the self proclaimed “Low Carb Queen.” A strong family history of diabetes and a personal diagnosis of pre-diabetes convinced me that for many of us sugar is the “root of all evil.” Before I knew any better, I was just like everyone else in my affinity for things sweet and starchy. I, like many of you, ate way too much bread, potatoes, rice and pasta and had a long standing love affair with Peanut M and M’s. I fell for the lie that becoming a runner would allow me to eat whatever I wanted only to find myself gaining weight and becoming more and more unhealthy. The memories of my struggles with childhood obesity and a lifetime of yo-yo dieting sent me in search of tools to help me not only improve my own health but to share what I have learned with you in this blog.
As I have completely reversed my pre-diabetes by cutting the simple sugars and processed starches out of my diet, I have adopted it as my forever lifestyle and have been sharing with my patients and friends how simple low carb eating can be. I have even completed classes that qualify me to teach the low carb way of eating within my medical practice. It is our collective indulgence in highly palatable processed sugary treats and other “junk foods” that has been a major player in the obesity epidemic. The inflammation that those foods cause has resulted in markedly increased rates of diabetes, heart disease, joint problems as well as certain cancers. All foods are not created equal in how they affect the body. Real self care is educating yourself about which foods you need to include and which to eliminate for your long term health. A generation ago, we came to grips with the dangers of smoking. We now know that the standard American diet, filled with refined sugars and other processed foods, is just as dangerous!
The most common objection I get from patients when I recommend the low carbohydrate way of eating is that it is too complicated and not sustainable over the long haul. My inability to convince my patients who struggle with obesity related diseases that they too can achieve improved health with SIMPLE dietary changes has become a real challenge for me. Many of my patients have tried internet keto diets, lost weight and quickly regained it when they returned to what they think of as normal eating. That is why I do not refer to low carb as a diet but rather a lifestyle. The term diet implies that what you are doing is a temporary effort you make to achieve a particular goal after which you plan to abandon that effort and go back to the way of eating that got you unhealthy in the first place. It is no wonder why diets don’t work over time and 90% of people who lose a significant amount of weight gain it all back within 2 years.
If you think you cannot stick to healthy dietary changes for the rest of your life, think of it this way. You have already proven that you can stick to healthy habits when you brush your teeth and shower daily. You would not dream of stopping those behaviors just because you got tired of doing them. Once you figure out the healthiest way of eating for you (it is different for everyone), you have within you what it takes to stick with it for the long haul. Food is medicine and the right foods can be stronger than any prescription to keep you healthy. This simple approach to eating has kept me off diabetes medication and has allowed me to maintain a 20 pound weight loss for over 4 years while continue to enjoy the experience of eating (did I mention how much I LOVE to eat?).
My simple maintenance strategy to keep my blood sugar and weight stable is to have in my head a list of the foods that I stopped eating in order to reverse my pre-diabetes. Those are the foods I no longer buy at the store or order in restaurants. They are simply no longer a part of my life. The interesting thing about giving up sugar is that once you stop eating it, you stop craving it. Your taste buds change so that some of the sugary things you used to love, now taste downright nasty! I choose to see that as God’s way of protecting me from things that are not good for me (He knows me so well!). The good news is that I feel better and have more energy than I did 20 years ago!
The list of foods I no longer eat includes:
Sugary foods and highly processed junk food (cookies,cakes,pastries, candy, ice cream, chips)
Bread, crackers, tortillas and pizza crust and pasta
Whole grains, rice and cereal
Deep fried foods
Fruits and fruit juices (except berries)
Beer and wine
I never feel deprived because I still have plenty of foods from which to choose including:
Meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs (increasing the intake of protein is very important as we get older)
Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, cabbage, kale and collard greens.
Limited amounts of cheese, raw nuts, and berries
Healthy fats like those contained in avocados and olives
Limited quantities of heavy cream, sour cream and butter
Sugar free condiments including all types of mustard, salsa, hot sauce and low carb salad dressings
Recently I took a mini vacation to spend some quality time with my adult children. I decided to take the opportunity to demonstrate just how sustainable low carb eating can be – even while traveling. My “ketocation” started with a road trip from Memphis to St. Louis with my son for a Cardinal game. Later that week I flew to Las Vegas to meet my daughter for a mother/daughter girls weekend. I took the pictures below of my meals during the trip. I ate as much as I wanted and thoroughly enjoyed my ketocation!
Starting at the top right and moving clockwise I had:
Grilled Chicken/ bacon salad at at Busch Stadium
Scrambled eggs with cheese with bacon in the Phoenix airport.
Naked Roasted wings and Grilled Salmon Salad at Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas.
Scrambled eggs and cheese, chicken sausage and avocado at Primrose restaurant in the Park MGM hotel.
Bun-less cheeseburger with green beans and a side salad at Lambert’s Cafe in Sikeston, MO – Home of the “Throwed Rolls.”
Salami and cheese snack pack from the hotel gift shop (you can also get these at convenience stores when you are driving or make your own for road trips).
The point I am trying to make is that low carb eating can be an enjoyable lifestyle even on vacation! Fortunately, it has become easier and easier to find low carb friendly choices in restaurants. It is a good idea when eating out to look at the menu beforehand and to feel free to ask for substitutions. I have yet to have a waiter not try to accommodate my requests and some have even suggested alternatives that surprised me with how good they were. Who knew that chicken Alfredo sauce over steamed broccoli instead pasta could be so delicious???
Yvonne Moore, MD
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit”
3 John 1:2 (NLT)