I love carbohydrates. I absolutely adore them: breads, pasta, starchy veggies, fresh fruits and, yeah, refined sugar. I’ve always known that white sugar (and, well, brown, that amazing kind that not only tastes good as part of a streusel topping or a cookie but entertainingly can hold its shape like a sand castle …) is bad for me. But it’s been, honestly, my one vice. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, I do eat lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, but I indulge overmuch in baked goods and ice cream.
I was raised, though, with the belief that whole grains were a no-brainer. They were, undoubtedly, good for me. My church has always taught its members to be prepared for all kinds of eventualities (natural disasters, emergencies, job loss) by storing food and other necessities, so my parents stored wheat, among other basic items, and I always have since I’ve been on my own. I own a wheat grinder, same as my mom, and we both grind our wheat and bake all kinds of things with our freshly-ground whole-wheat flour. Sounds delightfully down-to-earth and wholesome, doesn’t it?
So not only do I love carbs, I love to create carb-loaded goodies: homemade whole-wheat bread, muffins, biscuits, cookies, cakes, even from-scratch pasta. I enjoy cooking with fresh wholesome ingredients.
My life has been SUSTAINED BY CARBS.
Come to find out that carbs are not just making me heavy as I’ve reached middle age, they’re very likely the cause of my slightly-too-high cholesterol levels. My dad had always had slightly-high cholesterol levels, too, and he was a fanatic about eating healthy and only eating healthy fats and lean meats and fish and nuts with Omega-whatevers. He exercised. He was too thin, really, for most of his adult life. But darn it if those cholesterol levels weren’t low enough. What the heck? Why?
Now the food-and-health trends are leaning towards showing how carbohydrates, especially simple sugars, are doing us all in. I mean, yeah, we’ve always known that refined sugar isn’t good for us. But the idea that it could impact cholesterol levels, for just one thing, didn’t occur to most of us, after the low-fat trends of the previous decade or two.
I wouldn’t have believed it myself except for battling the cholesterol tests every other year or so. Then this year I happened to be on a good diet where I was drinking healthy shakes for some meals and watching carefully the amounts of sugars and carbs I did eat. And lo and behold, I happened to go in for my yearly lab work during that time. When I sat down with my doctor after the results came in, she was astonished. My levels had gone down from about 220 total to 170 or so. I have to say, I was equally amazed. But putting two and two together and then doing some more reading and trying-out of diets, I have come to appreciate that my body needs fewer carbs. DARN IT!
Like I said, I’ve generally eaten pretty healthy. I love to eat a very varied diet, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, all kinds of recipes and styles of cooking, various ethnic foods, etc. I’ve never indulged much in soft drinks; my parents allowed us one small soft drink once a week and that was it. I have never had a soda-pop habit. Ever. Drink my calories? No thanks. I love water. And yeah, I’ve felt a distinct disdain for parents who have given their toddlers soda, even with caffeine. Crazy. I would NEVER have done that to my kids. I’ve seen people with all kinds of horrible diet habits, who eat processed food and fast food like it’s the only kind of nourishment that exists; people who wouldn’t know healthy food if it bit them. And I’ve judged. Yes. I have.
I have felt a little pride in my good eating habits, in my whole grains and vegetables and fruits. I don’t have to make drastic changes. I just have to try to cut back on my sweet tooth. Not a big deal, right?
Now that I’ve realized how sugar is impacting my cholesterol, I feel like the rules have changed. I never saw this coming.
So I decided perhaps Atkins might be a good way to do some changing. And a month in, being on Phase 1 of the program, with no grains and having to count net carbs even in vegetables, for pity’s sake!, I’ve lost 6 pounds and am feeling fine but am starting to really, really want some grains. Bread! Cookies! Rolls! They are calling my name from the kitchen, from the huge canisters of flour that sit on my countertops.
I never thought whole grains, whole wheat in particular, would ever possibly be the bad guy. Just changing that one aspect of my diet seems like a sea change, one I don’t know if I’m prepared to make permanently. It’s devastating! If it’s that hard for me to just change this part of my eating habits, how in the world do people change their entire diets when they’re really eating a ton of stuff that’s bad for their bodies? Disdain aside, I’m feeling more affinity for them.
Atkins it is for me right now. I’m also prone to emotional eating and less motivation during hormonal times of the month, so it’s been a little tough the past week. I’m giving it another week to see if I swing back to being just fine with this trial of Atkins. If I don’t think it’s just the right fit, I might look into Paleo. Or I might just see about not doing an official diet but just trimming my diet down to a very minimal amount of grains but still some.
I’m just in the early stages of a sea change. We’ll see how well I can swim … or surf … or captain my eating-habits boat.
I’m a book reviewer, editor, and writer with four daughters and tons of projects always keeping me hopping. I blog at Life and Lims and run the book review site Rated Reads.