Following on from last week where I talked about taking a break from Banting so see what would eventuate, I am sharing my observations and results of the experiment. Thank you to all who commented on the post. I always enjoy reading about your experiences and am happy to answer any questions.
Grab a cuppa and settle down, this is a long post.
There is nothing like experiencing something for yourself so you can tell whether or not you like it. You can hear everyone’s opinions but your own is really the one that counts. When I decided to pause Banting, it had been 18 months that I had been on the lifestyle. I decided to reintegrate carbs into my diet and see what would happen. I introduced them uniquely so I could tell what effect each had without muddying the waters. I (very unscientifically) kept a record of how I felt after each meal on each of the following:
- Heart rate (using an optical heart rate monitor which I wear all day)
- Digestion (wind, bloating, cramps, bowel movements)
- Head health (headaches, ringing, clarity of thought)
- Muscles and joints (cramping, soreness)
- Hunger patterns (satiety, meal frequency, portions, cravings, thirst)
Over the longer term, I also observed:
- Skin / hair changed (texture, appearance)
- Weight / body changes
- Sleep patterns
- Proneness to illness (coughs, colds)
Before I get into the results, I’d like to point out that:
- I was very, very strict with the Banting when I did it. I am an all or nothing person – I go hard or I go home.
- I am neither your mother nor a scientist – this experiment was not scientific and you should not rely on the results
- Factors such as work patterns (I work crazy hours), stress, winter bugs, travel and homesickness cannot be accounted for in this experiment
- Mr. Meow has been incredibly patient, supportive and non-judgemental about the whole thing. For the record, the Banting is strong in this one
- This post is my story and while I fully encourage discussion and debate on machinegunmeow, please leave any negativity and judgement at the door
Ok, with that out of the way, here are the results:
- I lost weight initially – Up until hitting snooze on Banting, I had been frustrated with the scales because I was back to pre-Banting weight and no matter what I tried (including intermittent fasting, dropping to 30g carbs per day and even egg fasts), it wouldn’t budge. Then I stopped Banting and in two weeks, lost 2.5 kilos.
- Sugar makes my heart race and my head spin – as soon as I had it (and ‘it’ was a piece of jalebi, an Indian sweet made of fried fermented batter soaked in sugar syrup), my heart rate shot to about 200 bpm and I felt light-headed nearly instantly. I actually couldn’t finish the jalebi and tossed it. It was about 2 hours before my heart rate normalised. Given it was the first bit of sugar I ate in 18 months, I repeated the test with other sweet things and found similar results (I couldn’t quite bring myself to eating anything that’s been near sugar-syrup). I don’t get quite the same extreme body reaction but I definitely get a headache after I eat anything sweetand can’t think straight.
- Wheat makes me sniffle – this is really weird but I noticed that whenever I ate wheat, I developed hayfever-like symptoms (minus the sneezing). I can handle about 1-2 slices of bread or a serving of ramen noodles but any more and I also start to get sore elbows – go figure!
- My muscle cramps disappeared almost immediately – And so, I stopped taking magnesium supplements. I still get sore joints from time to time but I think this is because I remain in the same position for long periods of time.
- Sourdough is fine – I think the fermentation has something to do with it but I don’t seem to experience trouble after I eat sourdough.
- Chickpeas are hard on the digestive system – They are so delicious but man, they give me cramps and bloating. Best enjoyed in moderation.
- Rice is ok, in moderation – This one is hard to pin down. If I eat more than about half a bowl of white rice, I find I get headaches. But not always.
- Buckwheat / kasha is fine – no effect in the general sense
- Tubers didn’t hurt – Other than make me very full, eating potatoes, sweet potatoes/ kumara and their friends didn’t have any adverse effects on my wellbeing.
- I made dal again – And it was spectacular! And I had no trouble digesting it. I felt fine.
- Fruit never tasted better – I wouldn’t go as far as saying I don’t like cake, I have never had a sweet tooth. But I have always loved fresh fruit. It was great to enjoy mangoes, oranges, mandarins, figs and cherries
- I realised how much I missed eating out as a social activity – A whole world of options suddenly were opened up to me and I could share plates with my friends without asking for modifications.
- The weight came back – About 5 months in, I am back to the weight I was just before I hit pause on Banting. My clothes fit the same but the weight is redistributed somewhat from my lower half to my middle. I know this is not a good thing.
- My skin is less dry – When I initally started Banting, my skin becamse so dry, I panicked a little. I’ve never had dry skin so it was quite strange to have flaky skin (only on the body, my face was fine).
- Digestion overall is a lot better – Banting tends to cause constipation for some and since I’ve stopped eating LCHF, I am more regular.
- I am back to eating lunch – I get hungry at lunch time now and so I eat something. A couple of months into Banting, my appetite for lunch disappeared so I stopped eating any.
- No noticeable difference with my hair, nails, sleep patterns or illness / ailments.
I must say that I am, on the whole, much happier because despite the cons with eating a higher carb diet than Banting advocates, I feel like my enjoyment of food has returned. This isn’t to say Banting was boring. Not at all. But I think I missed some dishes that are integral to my childhood and my way of life. And I also missed eating out occasionally.
I am not completely sure where to go from here when it comes to diet apart from avoiding sugar. I’m certainly not looking to go back to pre-Banting eating when Pop-Tarts used to make a regular appearance. Whenever I eat anything that requires sweetness, I continue to use xylitol or stevia. And I still do eat lower carb incidentally as Mr Meow and I try to make meals we can both enjoy. I don’t care for sweet things other than for special occasions but I am overjoyed to have a bit more flexibility with my meals.
It might be too early to tell what longer term effects going back will have on my body. I am planning to get some bloodwork done to see whether my cholesterol and fasting glucose (among other things) have taken a hit. I’ll let you know how that goes. What I have learned though is that no matter what diet and lifestyle I follow, exercise must be a part of it. I have never enjoyed working out but I am getting more comfortable with incidental exercise such as walking and bike rides in the park. I’ll be working on this a lot more especially now that warmer weather is finally here.
For now, I think I will continue to enjoy some more freedom whilst incorporating the lessons I have learned from eating low-carb. Sustainability is a really important thing when it comes to something we do 2-3 times a day. Daily diet should not be stressful, uninteresting, a chore or harmful to health. I believe there is a balance to be struck so that we can take pleasure in our meals without sacrificing health. Banting has taught me a lot of important things about what I consume and how much damage some ‘foods’ can do. I am very glad I did it and I will continue to practice the main tenets of this wonderful lifestyle.
I hope this post has been of some value to you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and about your personal journeys with diet and lifestyle. Drop me a line below.