This is not the best given speech ever, but it is really high quality information about the paleo diet (and why it’s nonsense).
This is important.
I already wrote a post about how losing weight is only about consuming fewer calories than you burn in a day. So a lot of people will take that fact to its “logical” conclusion and think, “oh! That means if I barely eat, I’ll lose a ton of weight really quickly!” which is also recognizable in various fad/product diets such as the Special K Diet. This is really bad. DO NOT DO THIS.
These diets, which from here on out I’m going to accurately refer to as starvation diets, are common – especially among women. But they’re also only minimally effective, super bad for you, extremely difficult to follow, and ultimately counterproductive. Here’s why:
Phew! That’s quite the title, I know. I tried to come up with a shorter way to get the same point across but it just wasn’t having the same effect, so super long title it is.
I find myself talking to people about how I’m eating healthier or how I’ve lost a good amount of weight fairly often. Part of this is because I’m nearly always thinking about food – either planning out what I’ll eat for the day, talking about things I want to eat, or talking about things I shouldn’t/won’t eat because I don’t have the calories for them – and part of it is because when I’m not talking about food I’m often talking about running instead, which then tends to naturally bring itself around to talking about weight loss.
Anyway, after spending all this time talking to people about these topics I’ve noticed that, most commonly, I get one of two responses. And if you think about those responses for long enough, it’s a fascinating look into how our society feels about weight and healthy food choices. So here are some of the most common responses I hear, and what I’ve extrapolated from them:
I have to be honest, I’ve been having a really hard time the past few weeks. I touched on it briefly in a post a few weeks ago, because I thought I’d conquered it, but that was apparently only a temporary fix. It was barely a few days before my motivation took another deep dive into the depths of all-I-want-is-cookies. And then, last night, I hit a breaking point.
I’ve mentioned a few times before that, although I’m pretty happy with the way I look now, and I’m most certainly healthy, I want to lose just a few more pounds because I want my lower abs to show. And, in the time following my half marathon, I started to get impatient. I was feeling the stress of having been in a “trying to lose weight” state for almost a year, and I really, really wanted to get to the “maintaining your weight” stage. So, I took drastic measures.
I changed the settings on my calorie counting app to be at about a 400 calorie a day deficit. This may not seem like much, since most things you read will recommend a 500 calorie deficit (which I do not endorse), but because I’m so small this meant only about 1370 calories a day. In other words, not very much. Especially because I frequently get bored at work and look to (healthy) snacking to keep myself occupied. I was at a point where I’d see a 400 calorie recipe and think “no… that’s too much. I need it lighter.” Trust me, that is not a place you want to be.
Plus, because I was eating so little of everything else, I felt like I needed to be eating sweets of some sort every day just so that I didn’t feel like I was in some kind of forced self-deprivation. But this meant I was saving calories I should have been using on quality food for admittedly yummy, but nutritionally valueless desserts. Plus, as a person who has nearly always been moderate with my sweets, it meant I was drastically upping my sugar intake which was leading to some pretty nasty cravings.
Enter last night’s breaking point.
I have to start this post with a biology lesson. You probably already know that there are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These are our bodies’ sources of fuel, but they are not all treated equally.
The article I linked to above explains this quite well, and in more detail than I’m going to, but the short version is that carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel source, largely because they are the easiest to break down. While your body can and will break fats and proteins down into energy, it takes longer than breaking down carbs and therefore, as a less efficient process, is not preferred by your body in most cases.
Fat contains the most energy potential per gram, so it is also commonly used by the body as a source of fuel – either in low intensity exercise where it has the time to break the fat down, or during endurance exercise in an attempt to preserve glycogen (sugar), which comes from carbs and is used by your body to create energy.
Finally, the least preferred source of fuel is protein. It is used in late stages of endurance exercise, when glycogen (sugar) runs really low and the body is forced to break protein into amino acids for fuel. However, this is not ideal because protein is much better used for other purposes – specifically muscle build and repair functions.
So that brings us to how low carb diets work.
So as I’ve been increasing my interest in both cooking and healthy eating, I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching the internet for healthy recipes I can try. As a result, I’ve noticed something: a significant portion of the internet has no idea what healthy means.
Now in some cases this is understandable; for example, I recently found an entire blog dedicated to healthier recipes for baking. She does a really great job making recipes that are significantly healthier than a typical, comparable recipe, and I intend to make a huge number of things on her site, but there is a limit to how healthy things can be when you’re baking. And that’s fine.
What’s not fine is when people post things like “extra super cheesy bacon squash mac and cheese” and pretend that it’s healthy because they used squash instead of wheat pasta. I’m sorry, internet, but that’s just not how it works. You don’t get to pretend that unhealthy dishes are suddenly healthy just because you took out the gluten; gluten isn’t even bad for you, unless you have celiac disease.