Diary of a low carb dabbler

This post (and the next few installments) is bought to you by Helen Kilding (MSc Exercise Science), currently on maternity leave from her human performance research role at New Zealand Defence Force. Helen has a keen interest in the science of nutrition and in particular the application of science in to practice. 

Helen is also a recently reformed vegetarian. Welcome back to the land of the omnivore Helen (Omnivore (n). An animal or human eating both animal and plant foods).

Over to you Helen, and thanks everyone for reading and passing on this blog, already at over 5000 views.  

Grant Schofield

Helen Kilding with Ella and Tom

Helen Kilding with Ella and Tom

As a scientist, ‘dabbling’ isn’t something I do very often but I’m on maternity leave so anything goes!

So why have I decided to dabble in LCHF?

To set the scene, I’m a 37 year old pescatarian with a wonderful carb-loving husband, a beautiful daughter (2.5 years) and a lovely new son (3 months and exclusively breastfed). I’m not overweight, I’m relatively fit and I have no health problems. I love running and am currently trying to improve my swimming so that I can do an Olympic distance triathlon at the end of the year. My goal next year is to run a sub 3-hour marathon.

Having always been involved in sport and exercise, I’ve followed a low fat high carb diet for as long as I can remember. And after both babies, I upped my carb intake to meet the extra nutritional demand of breastfeeding. But with time on my hands in the middle of the night, I started to read the suggestions that there might be a better way; that the exact opposite of my diet could have long-term benefits that I could not ignore. Although as yet unproven, the suggestion of a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s struck a particular chord (having experienced the effects of this disease first-hand), as well as the potential prevention of cancers, coronary heart disease, diabetes, the list goes on. The more I read, the more I saw myself in the description of “falling off the glucose cliff”. I fall all the time; always have. I thought it was just because I’d gone too long without food; that I had low blood sugar so needed a hit of sugar to rectify it. Despite being well-educated, I hadn’t associated the hunger pangs soon after large meals, the crankiness and light-headedness if I didn’t eat for a few hours, with the foods I was eating. Why not? Probably because I didn’t want to. I like the foods I eat. To some people my diet would seem boring and “healthy” (in the traditional sense). To me it was enjoyable, satisfying (at the time), and convenient.

So to get back to the original question of why have I decided to dabble in the LCHF diet:

  • I realise that the foods I eat at every meal and snack are resulting in an insulin surge, closely followed by a blood sugar low. No wonder I feel a bit ropey soon after having a huge bowl of cereal and then hungry again shortly after
  • I might not be overweight but any improvement in body composition can only help my marathon aspirations
  • My diet might not be optimal for long-term good health
  • I want to see what all the fuss is about
  • I don’t believe the anecdotal reports about feeling satisfied for hours on end with what appears to me to be an insubstantial meal
  • And most importantly, I want to try to do something constructive to help address the epidemic of obesity and chronic disease. In trying out a potential solution, I might uncover some of the questions that need answering and the issues that need addressing before it can or will be widely adopted.

So why am I dabbling and not going in all guns blazing?

  • I’ll be honest, my beliefs have been so ingrained that I’m nervous of change
  • I’ve believed that fat is bad for so long that I’m almost scared of it
  • As a fish-eating vegetarian, I’m worried about what I will be able to eat
  • I’m worried about how a change in my diet will affect my milk supply for my currently healthy and happy son
  • My husband loves pasta, rice, bread and cereals and I find it hard to prepare one meal for us let alone two
  • We’ve got some large expenses and only one income at the moment and I’m worried about the cost
  • There has been no research on the effects of a LCHF diet on people like me (active female; breastfeeding)
  • I don’t know what the long-term side effects might be
  • If I fully accept that this is a good idea, I will feel guilty about the food I am feeding the rest of my family
  • I’m pretty happy the way I am
  • And lastly, I’m addicted to Pepsi Max[1] and am not sure how I will survive without it!

My first dabble was comically unsuccessful: fish, veggies and salad for dinner….starving and wolfing down a huge bowl of cereal an hour later! Why? Nowhere near enough fat.

My second dabble…..full fat yoghurt mixed with cream…..a text to Grant and AUT nutritionist Mikki Williden an hour later asking if it’s normal to feel so sick! Yes it turns out….my high carb-low fat trained body just isn’t used to such high fat dairy products. I felt full for hours though!

So I’m going to give it a go for 7 days and see how I get on. Watch this space…. 

[1] Strictly speaking, Pepsi Max is fine on a LCHF diet, but it seems pointless to test out a diet designed to improve health whilst still consuming something I know is bad for me. So the carbs are going and the Pepsi Max is going.

6 Comments on “Diary of a low carb dabbler

  1. Interested to see your progress. One really has to change the way of thinking for his diet…

  2. Hi Helen, really refreshing to read your story, ever since I saw Grant on the TV woofing down fat and vegetables and keeping trim and healthy I was fascinated. Grant single handedly prompted me to go on an information gathering exercise on the internet and I was amazed at the very many compelling stories about how LCHF has changed people lives.

    I’m so convinced I started on Saturday – complete cold Turkey – complete dropping of all processed carbs in fact all obvious carbs and really ramped up the Fat and leafy vegetables.

    To be the honest the first few days were really weird I couldn’t stop going to the loo and I started to get a metallic/salty taste at the back of my mouth (gone now) but both signs (apparently) that my body was changing converting carbs to fat and storing it to actually burning fat.

    My work mates think I’m crazy at first but when I start talking to them about what would a caveman have eaten 10000 years ago and how in that time how little the gene pool could have changed to adapt to new foods and they start thinking….Hmm there could be something to this.

    I had a Chicken Curry last night cooked in Coconut Oil, Coconut Cream and Butter! with lots of vegetables, skin on the Chicken and it was heavenly!

    I could never really take coffee without sugar but now I’m drinking black coffee with full cream and its delicious!

    The raspberry, cream and coconut milk smoothies shown on the TV are yum (don’t forget the chia seeds)

    So far I’m thinking this is great the food tastes amazing and even though I have consumed more fat this week than I would ever dream of I think my weight is down by around 600g already though I’m pretty sure this is water loss chucked out of my cells as I purged them of glucose (or something like that). Also I’m not craving food, no drop offs

    I’m taking this very seriously though and got my blood test done today and will go back in month or two to compare and plan to stay rigidly LCHF until then.

    I think this information, if true, is set to radically change peoples understanding of diet and feels like there is groundswell out there already.

    Thanks Grant for alerting us and good luck Helen on your journey – if it helps I’m going through the exactly the same issues in a way, my wife loves her carbs too!


    Andrew Busst

    • That’s great Andrew, good luck and thanks for the encouragement as well. Give this another couple of weeks and you will fully fat adapt and feel amazing again.

  3. Really interested to see how you get on. my current nutrition plan sounds much like yours (also do triathlons so traditional high carb, low fat) and your reasons for dabbling would be much like mine except for the baby bit. keep posting!

  4. Pingback: LCHF on tour….make or break | Eat...Enjoy

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