No Wellness Wankery

106: Do I need to fear carbs?

March 18, 2024 Lyndi Cohen
No Wellness Wankery
106: Do I need to fear carbs?
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever found yourself in a carb conundrum.. Staring down a plate of pasta while your diet plan screams "NO"?  I, Lyndi Cohen, certainly have. And I'm ready to spill the beans on the love-hate relationship we have with carbohydrates. 

Listen up, as this week's episode we dive head-first into the murky waters of diet culture, starting with my own story involving a Hens party, an Italian restaurant and my low-carb misadventures. Not a match-made-in-heaven you could say! 

Let me take you on a journey through the ups and downs of my diet obsession and how I found my way to intuitive eating. A liberating approach where I've learned to listen to my body's natural hunger cues. WITHOUT the guilt.

Waving a big Bye-Bye to the crappy low-carb craze, this episode is all about setting the record straight on carbohydrates. From energy slumps to the social minefield of mealtime choices, we'll bust the myths that have unfairly demonised this essential (and super delicious!) nutrient. 

I'll reveal the pesky side effects of cutting carbs . Which may shock you! By the end of our chat, you'll see carbohydrates in a whole new light – as your body's best bud and preferred energy source. NOT the bad guy! 

So, get-set for a conversation that’s all about embracing the guilt-free, healthy life you deserve. With a side of that freshly baked Sourdough bread!

Looking for more support to feel in control around food? I'd love to support you in my Binge Free Academy

If you don't already - come follow me on the gram at @nude_nutritionist (no nude pics, sorry).

Want to share some feedback or have an idea for an episode, I'd LOVE to hear from you - hit me up at hello@lyndicohen.com

Speaker 1:

I have a story. I once went to my friend's Hens party during this low carb era and I had many low carb eras. But during one of my low carb eras and I couldn't eat the carbs and the Hens party was at an Italian restaurant. You know, it's really hard to eat low carb at an Italian restaurant. They just simply aren't there many options. There's pasta, there's pizza. Occasionally there might be something that's based with protein, but it's tricky. And because this was a Hens party, there was alcohol involved. So I could barely eat at this Italian restaurant, even though it smelled amazing. I proceeded to get quite stupidly drunk because I hadn't eaten enough, and that's how I found myself eating an entire kebab at 12 am on the side of the road in the ditch, pretty much feeling incredibly ashamed and silly. And then I went home and I made rice, white rice in a saucepan and then I ate pretty much the entire saucepan of cooked white rice. I'm talking cups and cups of rice.

Speaker 1:

Yes, avoiding carbs maybe do so many dumb things. Beyond the binge eating, it also caused fights with my family, because when I don't eat carbs, I get aggressive. I genuinely think I am a kind, gentle person, but if you take bread away from me. You take the cereal, you take the grains. I'm not good. I'm not good to be around. The problem is I was willing to avoid carbs if it meant I'd lose weight. I knew it had all these impacts on my body, on my life, on my mood, but I had, in my diet years, spent so much of my life being told that it was worth compromising my health in order to lose weight, and perhaps you were told this as well, and it led you to do a whole bunch of things that deprived yourself and you sacrificed 95% of your life to weigh 5% less, and then you couldn't even maintain that weight loss.

Speaker 1:

["wanker's Wanker's Diet"]. Hello everyone and welcome to this week's episode of the no Wellness Wanker podcast, where we talk about all things nutrition, the psychology of eating, and you're gonna get actionable strategies for ditching your weight loss diet and your obsession with food and hopefully inspire you to finally make peace with your body. I'm your host, lindy Cohen, a dietitian and nutritionist who has done way too many diets so many I have lost count. Now I eat when I'm hungry, I stop when I'm full and I actually no longer think or worry about my weight, which is something I never thought was possible for me. I thought it was something that really happened for other people. But I wanna teach you how to eat, instead of telling you when and what to eat, because I know you've tried all those meal plans and those diets and I gotta ask you the question if they worked, wouldn't you be at your goal weight by now? On this podcast, I talk to nutrition and health experts to give you the facts so you can move it away from the wellness wankery and towards real, long-lasting health. Plus, you'll hear interviews and live recorded consults with real people who are just like you, who are breaking free from diet culture, nonsense, and I think you're going to learn a lot. I know you can be healthy without obsessing over food. You can learn to be consistent with health and eating, even if you are the all-or-nothing type, and I'm going to be your guide. All right, let's get into it.

Speaker 1:

Back in my dieting years, I really, really, really really was of the opinion that cutting out carbohydrates was definitely going to make me lose weight, because there had been a few attempts, some diets that I tried whether or not it was Atkins or Paleo or you know all that jazz where I had pulled back on my carbs and I did lose weight as a result, and so I always thought that cutting out carbohydrates was kind of my go-to strategy if I wanted to lose weight. In this episode, I'm going to help you move away from dumb diet rules and outdated thinking and challenge the idea that carbs are the enemy and if you want to lose weight or be healthy, you need to cut them out, because that's just not the case. So perhaps you're wondering will carbs make big gain weight? Is pasta fattening? Is bread bad? Here is the scientific evidence. I think that carbs have been demonized by social media and culture, but in reality, they really are a very essential component of your diet for most people. I'm not going to sit here and say that everyone needs to eat the exact same thing. We all know that is nonsense. Each person is going to thrive with a different percentage of carbohydrates in your diet and I can't exactly tell you over this podcast what that amount is for you, but for most of the clients that I've seen in the past, eating carbohydrates with many of their meals or part of their snacks definitely part of their diet is something that's super healthy for them. So there are so many fad diets we know, like Keto, that will tell you carbs are a one way to get to weight gain.

Speaker 1:

Cutting carbs out of your diet is actually likely to have more negative effects on your ability to lose weight. Now there are so many pathways in which this happens, so let's go through them. Firstly, cutting out carbs can leave you unsatisfied and this can lead to that binge and overeating In the example of me going to that hence party and yes, there was alcohol involved in that situation but it can leave you feeling like you're not satisfied or you haven't eaten enough, or lead you to feel deprived. Now, if you are a binge or emotional eater, chances are you binge on the very foods you tell yourself you're not allowed to eat. And I'm going to take a stab and say majority of your binge foods are carbohydrate based and that is due to this faulty thinking that you need to eliminate these foods in order to lose weight.

Speaker 1:

During my carb free years, I had this little thing where I try and exercise without eating first, because I saw that apparently it helps you lose weight. And I tried it and you know what happened. I turn up to my exercise class. I felt so flat, I didn't have the energy and, as a result, I didn't enjoy the exercise. I felt like I wasn't strong, I wasn't making progress, I wasn't getting fitter and, as a result, I was inconsistent with exercise. So don't underestimate how much having a carbohydrate based food before an exercise can give you the energy you need. So you turn up to the exercise class, you enjoy it, you're more consistent and I think in the long term that is a far more impactful to your weight than perhaps the Incremental weight loss you might get from doing a fasted workout.

Speaker 1:

Another big problem with cutting out carbohydrates is you're going to find that maybe you're or you don't go to the toilet so regularly because a lot of foods that have fiber in them also contain carbohydrates. So by cutting out carbohydrates it can be a real struggle to get that 25 to 30 gram recommended amount of fiber every single day. And, as I experience when I cut out carbohydrates, it was actually so tricky to stick to a very low carbohydrate diet when you were trying to socialize and exist in the world. I've had friends who've gone to a brunch with friends at a friend's house and taken their own food and you know, the crazy thing about that is, instead of people going, why did you bring your own Scrambled eggs to this bagel party instead of thinking and saying that the friends go. Oh, my goodness, you've got such good willpower, you're so disciplined, and I think that is faulty and wrong and I'd like to change that as well. But that's definitely something where you're going to find it's so much harder to be very low carbohydrate.

Speaker 1:

The last thing I want to talk about is how demonizing this whole food group can actually make you less tolerant to them, and it may reduce the safe foods in your diet. So what we find is, once you've been someone who's dieted again and again and again, you start to whittle down the number of foods that you feel comfortable, that you feel safe eating, so that when you do go out in public, it can feel really stressful to make a food decision. If you are experiencing this, you might go. I don't even know what I can eat anymore. It feels like everything is bad for me, feels like everything is off Limits. If that is you, then the answer is not to continue to eat less of these foods, but start to incorporate them back into your diet.

Speaker 1:

We all have a natural tolerance for eating certain foods, and let's take beans, for example, if you find you get really bloated from eating something like beans. Including a small number of beans, you know, maybe a couple of tablespoons or a quarter of a cup in your diet Two to three times a week. You might find that is okay and then you can start to build up your tolerance to it. If you never eat beans and then you just go and have half a cup of beans, you do not have a good reaction to it. So you might find that by caching out carbohydrates, you inadvertently cut out things that are higher in gluten, so that when you do actually eat something that has carbohydrates in it, you feel really bloated, you feel really yuck, and it's not a good thing. So in a way, we're kind of create a bit of a intolerance for ourselves by demonizing this entire food group.

Speaker 1:

Before I get into the science, which I'm about to do, I just want to say that carbs are actually your body's preferred energy source. You may have heard this before, but it's so true. They fuel your brain. That's why you turn into a grouchy, moody human when you aren't eating enough carbohydrates. They give you that fiber and support your digestion so you can go to the toilet regularly. Remembering fiber is so important to prevent things like bowel cancer, and it's also really important for your gut microbiome. And I think the myth I also want to dispel here is that you need to cut out carbohydrates in order to Manage or support your blood sugar levels and your insulin levels. That is not the case. In fact, in this episode, I'm going to give you a very simple tip If you are someone who's looking after their blood sugar levels and who still wants to eat carbohydrates.

Speaker 1:

Now let's get into the research. So a 2022 study a big review in fact found that people who were overweight or obese lost no more weight from following a low carbohydrate diet compared to those following a balanced carbohydrate diet, and this is quite a consistent finding from all the research. A review from 2023, remembering a review is when they look at lots of different pieces of research and they go, hmm, what did all these pieces of research tell us? It's not just one study, it's an aggregate and, as a result, it's actually a really high level piece of research. So this review from 2023 found that there was no correlation between eating pasta and weight gain. So what this means is you can lose weight by eating pasta, and cutting it out isn't going to expedite weight loss.

Speaker 1:

People lose weight by not eating that many carbs, and people lose weight by eating carbohydrates, and I think, like all things that you hear me talk about, I think what we need to do is find what is sustainable for you. I don't know about you, but I don't want to go through the rest of my life not eating pasta, and the biggest mistake I think we often make is we are willing to do something for a short period of time in order to lose the weight, but if you're not willing to do that for the rest of your life, well, when you stop doing that habit, what's going to happen to your weight? Well, you might notice that the weight just creeps back on as you reintroduce that food that you previously cut out. Or and this is most likely what ends up happening you now have a feeling of deprivation and a big craving for the food that you eliminated from your diet, and now you end up binge eating on it. You eat it in a much larger quantities than you did before, and this is why 80% of people who regain the weight on a diet end up regaining more than what they originally started at, something that I know all too well. This used to be what happened to me all the time. So, yes, you can eat pasta.

Speaker 1:

And what about something like bread? I know that for me, bread was certainly a binge food, as well as pasta and cereals all those foods I told myself I wasn't allowed to have. And when it comes to the research with bread, what it shows us is that the type of bread really does make a difference. We know that all carbs are not created equal, that some are going to be more nutritious for us than others and more supportive for weight loss goals. One study found people on a lower calorie diet that included whole grains, such as whole wheat bread. They actually lost more belly fat than those who only ate refined grains such as white bread and white rice. Now, remembering that belly fat abdominal fat that is the type of fat that is more associated with chronic illness, and therefore being able to reduce it, is really good for our wellbeing. And it can be as simple as moving more towards things like whole grains, which contain more vitamins, more minerals and they have more fiber because it hasn't been refined and processed. Now I think the hesitation people have is going well. What's the point in just swapping from a white bread to a brown bread, it doesn't really make a big difference. But all these tiny little differences, they do all add up to something and you might not notice a difference on the scale immediately, but what you might notice by having something like a whole grain, whole meal piece of bread is that you feel a little bit fuller, you feel a little bit more satisfied after eating, you do have a gut that's operating a little bit better, and there are so many flow on effects from making these small little changes. They really do add up.

Speaker 1:

Now, I'm not demonizing white bread and white pastas. Those are certainly things that I do occasionally have in my diet, but when I have the choice, I kind of think of it as a default option. When asked which bread I want, yes, I might go for a sourdough, but I do often go for that wholemeal, whole grain, particularly when I'm buying it for home. So maybe it's something that you could do, going just making a swap to that whole grain option when it comes to something like bread. For me, I don't eat pasta all that often, so when I do, I want the real pasta, I want the good stuff, and so that's what I'm gonna have.

Speaker 1:

Ultimately, what we're doing in this health journey is working out. What is it that we're willing to do that doesn't feel like a life compromise, that it feels enjoyable to us, because I ultimately think that it's the key to sustainable, healthy living. Can you make it enjoyable and can it actually be something you're willing to do for the rest of your life? Now, I'm sure you know that there is a difference between our carbohydrates. You have simple carbohydrates, which are more quickly digested. They're not as satisfying, they can cause a bit more of a spike in your blood sugar levels and they may leave you feeling a little bit more hungry. So think about things like soft drinks, refined grains, like white bread, cakes, pastries delicious, but also having these foods does not leave us with the best source of energy. Think of me, huddled in my kitchen, spooning that white rice into my mouth as quickly as I could. I certainly didn't sleep all that night and I certainly didn't feel that good in my body. My stomach felt really bloated as a result of eating all that white rice.

Speaker 1:

Now let's look at complex carbohydrates. These do take a longer time to digest. They release energy more slowly, so it doesn't result in those huge spikes in blood glucose levels, but a little bit more of a moderate spike, and they may help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. They can be good for your gut health because they tend to be high in fiber, and what I'm talking about here when I say complex carbs are things like whole grains, so it could be anything from brown rice to freaker quinoa, but it doesn't have to just be those things. It could also be legumes, which I think are very under-eating and under-consumed. It's a very cheap way to get some really nice complex carbs into your diet, and ideally you're having them three times a week, and fruits and vegetables are also a source of carbohydrates that I think are fantastic. And, of course, you have something like dairy foods. Most dairy foods do provide you the slow burning source of energy. There's low GI. So, to sum it up, I want you to think less about reducing carbs and more about the types of carbs that you eat.

Speaker 1:

Now onto my tips. If you are someone who is managing their blood glucose levels, I do want you to consider how you eat your carbs. Yes, going for that more complex, that less refined option is the way to go. Please go for that. In addition, another thing you can do is think about how you pair your carbohydrates With different foods and a really simple way to think about it. When you have a piece of bread, so a carbohydrate, a really nice thing to do for better blood glucose results is to pair it with a protein, a healthy fat, and make sure that carb has got fiber, and by doing those three things you're gonna notice that your A1C levels. So if you've got diabetes, that's this long-term results where we're looking at how your blood glucose has been managed over time the thing that your doctor's gonna go oh, I really want this to be better. By doing a trick like that, you're gonna notice that your A1C levels, your blood glucose, is so much better managed. So it's not about eliminating carbohydrates, but about doing this quick little trick. Let's see what this actually looks like in practice. It might be going all right.

Speaker 1:

Instead of a white piece of bread, can I go for a whole grain, one, one with seeds, one I can visibly see the color. Then can I add in a source of healthy fat? So something like avocado is a perfect example, but it might be something like some cream cheese or some cottage cheese. Just having that fat in your food is gonna help to slow the digestion of it and curb that glucose spike. Then you're adding in a little bit of protein. Now you've got something like cottage cheese that already has got that protein in it. Fabulous, something like a tin of tuna, an egg, maybe some tofu, even some beans, so you can smash up chickpeas or beans, baked beans on toast. That is another source of protein that you can have. And, of course, things like a lean meats and fish. Those are also gonna count towards having your protein. Now we've got those three ingredients that fiber, the protein and the fat and that is your simple trick to improve your blood glucose levels and make your doctor really proud without having to obsess about shedding weight.

Speaker 1:

So I hope you found today's episode useful and I hope it has convinced you that you absolutely do not need to cut out carbohydrates from your diet. In fact, worry less about carbohydrates. I think sometimes it can be a bit of a red herring, something that is demonised, and once you cut it out of your diet, you're going to make healthy eating so much harder than it needs to be. Instead, focus on crowding in more of the healthy stuff. Can you crowd in more beans and legumes? Cut in more whole grains, get in the more fruits and vegetables, and what you might find is you naturally eat less refined carbohydrates as a result and, as I said, make your doctor really, really happy.

Speaker 1:

I hope you've enjoyed today's episode and, of course, if you need any ideas on how to include carbohydrates in a healthy way into your diet, my Back to Basics app is a really easy way that you can get loads of recipe ideas. Sometimes I know we get a bit overwhelmed going. I don't even know what is healthy, which recipe is to make and goodness knows. Deciding what to cook for dinner every night is so exhausting. So if you're sick of that battle and all that pressure that comes with it, then try Back to Basics. You can try it free for seven days and I'll leave a link to that down below. Anyway, thanks for listening to today's episode and I'll catch you next week.

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Healthy Carbs Back to Basics