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.
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 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….
 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.