Settle down, grab a cuppa (no bikkie), this is a long post!
It all started when Mr Meow attended a talk given by renowned exercise and sports science expert, Professor Tim Noakes. The key message in Prof. Noakes’ presentation was that carbohydrates, particularly from grains, are the cause of many modern diseases (such as adult onset diabetes, obesity, inflammation, digestive disorders etc), and that to live long, healthy lives, giving up carbs was the way to go. AND, get this, we should be consuming more fat instead.
Now, if you don’t know this already, Tim Noakes was a big advocate of carb loading (see his published books), has changed his stance, and has been honest and humble enough to say he was wrong. That certainly earned my respect. If you listen to him talk, he really comes across as a modest, personable character, but what sold me was the science behind it all. I know, because I watched a recording of said presentation.
It really turned everything on its head. High fat? The very thing we are told to avoid if we want to be slim and healthy. The very thing that is demonised in most dietary advice out there. Why else is there a billions-of-dollars industry centred on low fat? Look at the food aisles and chillers in your supermarket. Most of the food on there is low fat!
The problem with nearly all low-fat/ low calorie food is that it is absolute crap. When you alter food by taking out the fat content, it tastes different, unappetising. To make sure it tastes delicious and has a good mouthfeel, it is often pumped full of sugar. I am not exaggerating here and I’m not talking about the usual suspects either.
There is added sugar in everything from baked beans, sauces and marinades, breakfast cereals, soups, dips, curries to dressings. Sugar is everywhere and the scary thing is that there is so much more of it in there that you could imagine.
I watched That Sugar Film recently. Although I knew of the damaging and addicting effects of sugar in the diet, I had no idea how much sugar we unknowingly consume. There is more sugar in a single-serve tub of low-fat yogurt than in a bar of chocolate. On average, in Australia, we consume 40 teaspoons of sugar per person per day! Even if you take away natural sugars from fruit and milk, we are eating 16 teaspoons of added sugar. The worst part is that this sugar is in so called ‘healthy’ food, not commonly known junk food. If this isn’t staggering enough and blowing your mind, you might as well stop reading now.
If you’re still reading, may I encourage you to do yourself a favour and go watch That Sugar Film?
So low cal/ low fat diets are certainly not the way to go. I’ve been on several of them in the past and they are both difficult and unsustainable. So maybe there was something to the low-carb-high-fat theorem. Even then, I couldn’t fathom a life without bread, pasta, potatoes, rice and dal. It seemed too hard, too lofty. I had been eating these things all my life, and I thought of all the social situations where I would starve on account of this low carb thing coupled with my personal preferences. Ugh! Life is difficult enough as it is with me being bundled into the ‘vegetarian’ group.
The catalyst was this. My family has a history of diabetes. We also have obesity in the family. My week-long migraines and hypoglycaemia were not improving and although my blood work in September 2014 showed up fine, it wouldn’t be long before I’d be running into problems with cholesterol and insulin resistance.
Mr Meow posited we simply try to eat low-carb-high-fat for three weeks. No pressure, no eternal commitment. Just a go. If it didn’t make us feel any better at the end of three weeks, we could always go back to eating the way we did.
I reluctantly agreed to do it. Banting, it is called and is also known as a low-carb-high-fat (LCHF) diet. It isn’t quite Paleo but the two share similarities including no grains. Essentially, we gave up carbs and increased our fat consumption. There are lists of what is good and what is not good to eat on the Real Meal Revolution website. Oh, by the way, Banting has taken South Africa by storm!
Out went the seed oils (canola and sunflower) and in came butter, ghee and extra virgin olive oil. We ditched lean cuts of meat for fattier ones and kept the skin on. I threw out my stash of Pop Tarts, chocolates and biscuits and filled the fridge with grass-fed yogurt, cream and cheese. And we bought an obscene quantity of pastured eggs (we eat 6-9 a day).
We didn’t just jump in though. We did the research for a month, understood the science, planned ahead, went on holiday in Japan and ate whatever we wanted. But when we came back, we gave it a red hot crack. That was in October 2014. Here I am now, more than four months later telling you that what started out as an experiment, is now a lifestyle. Mr Meow and I have been so pleased with the results and ease of eating, that it is no longer a diet for us, simply how we eat.
Low-carb-high-fat goes completely against the grain of what we have been taught for decades, the messages we see on TV and hear from ‘experts’. It really takes a while to change your set of beliefs and understand that the dietary guidelines out there are wrong and have been wrong for so long. Mr Meow and I get strange looks and obvious questions/comments from others when we mention our lifestyle: what about your cholesterol levels; what do you eat for breakfast; sounds too hard; I love bread too much to ever give it up etc . . . .
But we did it and continue to eat this way without major challenges. The hardest part of this diet is being prepared. If you don’t plan ahead especially when travelling or eating out socially, you will run into difficulties and struggle to eat right. Once you’ve overcome this hurdle, the rest is a breeze.
We eat well, we don’t count calories and we are never hungry. Our pantry shelves are not as full anymore but our fridge is bursting with greens from our weekly market shop. The most processed food item we eat is aged cheese. I don’t get as many migraines, my energy levels are stable so no more 3pm slump, my teeth are in better nick, I no longer get hangry and I’ve lost about 6 kilograms. Mr Meow has lost more than 12. There is no bloating or feeling of lethargy any more. Go figure!
Our grocery bills are about the same but we are eating real food, not stuff out of cans and jars. We have discovered new recipes and tweaked some existing favourites. We are also getting pretty good at creating new ones like the Nachomelette. Simple, clean eating. And it is as delicious as it is satisfying.
Check out our food porn below, most have clickable links to the recipes. A lot of these are thanks to other bloggers out there. Please support them.
| at the australian open 2015
You really can’t say it is a boring spread. A typical day consists of a cooked breakfast such as omelettes, bacon, avocado and asparagus. If we get a little tired of this, nut granola with hung yogurt helps shake things up a little. Lunch might be a leaf salad with tuna or chicken, dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette or mayonnaise. Dinners vary between curries, steak + veggies, larb salads, zoodles and kebabs. All with some form of vegetable or leafy salad. No chips, mash, rice or bread. And we don’t miss it.
Sometimes we make some snacks for particularly active days, special occasions or when we’re travelling: fat bombs, cakes, crackers, bread, ice-creams and chia puddings – all of which are low carb, grain and sugar free.
It is not difficult at all and it is absolutely worthwhile because the results are so immediate and noticeable. Banting is suitable for those on a Paleo diet (that allows dairy) and coeliacs as well.
The minor issues I encountered since changing my eating habits are: leg cramps at night (I take magnesium to help with this), light headedness in the first week from not enough salt, and dry skin/hair in the first three weeks which has since cleared up. So much gain for really little sacrifice. I genuinely cannot complain. I am planning to get some bloodwork done once I hit the 6 month mark so I can see whether the external effects are being translated inside as well. I’ll keep you posted.
I’m no expert or dietitian and this post is not meant to preach or sway you to change your eating habits. It is meant to provoke thought and get you to question what you have been taught and whether there is enough solid science behind it. There is a lot of information out there if you are really keen to know more about LCHF. But challenge what has been drummed into us, what is advertised as healthy and what is convenient, and where that information comes from.
I’d be happy to answer any questions from my experience and will point you in the direction of published, peer reviewed articles and journals for any evidence-based reasoning.
Have you had any experience with LCHF? Or are you curious about it?
Please share your thoughts.
Ps. some recipes are in development but will be up soon on mGm.