I have a confession. This is a big one. Hold tight. It pains me to say this……….
I used to be a carbophobe.
Seriously. I used to be deathly afraid of carbohydrates. Any form of carbohydrates. All grains, all sugar, all fructose/sucrose/glucose. All of them. I wouldn’t touch them. Not with a 10 foot pole.
It wasn’t always like that. Carbs were my friend. Actually, they were more like my lover. Carbs were a huge contributor to the problem I had eaten myself into.
And it wasn’t like I was a binger………..I just………….snacked. A lot. I was a guy who would finish up his (mostly carb) dinner and go directly to my pantry and open up a bag of potato chips. Because I needed to snack on something after dinner.
Because I needed to eat after I had just finished eating. Which sounds utterly stupid looking back at it………….but that’s what I did.
And this sort of an eating pattern, this sort of a “small meals, all day long, always snacking” type of a meal frequency was terrible for me. I’m a large guy – I’ve always been a big eater. I can eat all day. And night. And week. I have a black hole for a stomach.
It was the summer of 2011. My first daughter had just turned one. I was on summer vacation from teaching. And I was very unhappy with my physical appearance. I was tipping the scales at around 300 or so.
One warm, July day, during “naptime”, I was browsing Facebook. And I ran across a post from a colleague of mine. It was an Amazon link to a DVD. A documentary. Called “Fat Head”. My Facebook friend commented how the DVD was “interesting” and “thought provoking”. And recommended it. It was only $10. I clicked on “Buy”.
The DVD came to my house. I popped it in and watched it. And it blew me away.
The movie was about carbohydrates. More specifically, the movie was about how insulin was a “storage hormone” and how it caused all the food you eat to be turned into body fat. There were interviews with Doctors, case studies, evidence to support all the claims – the whole “nine”.
After watching, I thought about my own diet. And I really started to think about the carbohydrates I frequently consumed. So, I jumped on board. Hook, line, and sinker.
I became a full-blown carbophobe.
I once ate two porterhouses for breakfast because cereal was a bad choice.
I once ordered a full rack of ribs with butter and ranch dressing at a steakhouse, but skipped the potato.
I once went to Wendy’s with a friend and ordered 5 Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers, tossed the buns, and ate them with mayo on the side.
I didn’t eat fruit (FRUIT!) because it had too much fructose in it.
Okay. This is going to be tough. Really tough………….
I used to………………………put coconut oil in my coffee because I thought it would help me shed fat.
*Whew* – I feel better now.
Yup. That was me. The “No-Carb Guy”. And guess what? I lost weight. Oh, man, did I lose weight.
My plan? My plan was simple: Eat no carbs and eat only if you’re hungry.
And the crazy thing? I was rarely hungry. So, I rarely ate. (This was likely due to hormones being messed up due to the lack of carbohydrates, but it was never verified via Doctor.) But, admittedly, the weight just flew off of me. I went from 280 to 225 in about 4 months. Gobs of fat disappeared (and likely muscle, too….). At first, though, I felt amazing, invigorated, and energetic.
But around 5 months into it……….the weight loss leveled off…………and that all began to change. I began to fatigue frequently. I was often sick. I started to struggle with some bouts of depression. I lost my…………..”mojo”, so to speak. I very distinctly remember sitting in my desk at school thinking, “God, I feel terrible. But I’m losing fat. This must be what fat loss is like.”
So, I sucked it up.
It wasn’t until I developed a cold which lasted about 8 weeks that I finally started to question things. Every day, I would wake up, hoping to feel better, and realize I was still sick. I began to get very frustrated. Week after week, my immune system just couldn’t tackle this simple, little cold. Eventually, my fever spiked and I went into the Doctor’s office. It was winter of 2012, right about 3 years ago.
The Doctor handed me a scrip, wrote me a note for work, and sent me on my way. I drove sheepishly to the local pharmacist and handed them the note. And I sat down in a chair, miserable and clammy from the fever. And I waited for my scrip to be filled.
I’m not sure what made me do what I did next. Still, to this day, I don’t know why I got up from that chair. I felt horrible and drained. I remember clearly how terrible I felt. But I stood up, fever and all, walked to the freezer, opened the door, and grabbed a half gallon of ice cream.
I got my pills, paid for my ice cream, and drove home.
I popped a pill, grabbed a spoon and a blanket, and curled up on the couch, watching the NCAA basketball tournament, and ate half of the container of ice cream.
The next day, I ate the other half.
I immediately began to feel better. And I started to question what I was doing. Why did I always feel so terrible? Why had my immune system become so ineffective? Why was I losing so much strength in the gym? Why was I depressed? Why was my “mojo” non-existent?
I had to be doing something wrong. And I was pretty sure it had to be related to my new diet.
So, I decided to begin to count macronutrients. Which meant having a good, moderate dose of protein, fat, AND carbohydrates.
And the rest is history.
Positive feedback loops are incredibly important in the world of fitness. If you’re attempting to better yourself, your motivation and willpower are finite resources. But if you create a feedback loop, if you are constantly seeing results as a direct cause of your actions – you will find it much easier to continue your journey.
But what happens if your “positive feedback loop” is a bit…………..”off”?
I was avoiding carbs like the devil, losing strength, screwing up my hormones, and likely suffering from orthorexia. These are NOT good things.
But I was losing fat – by the bucket-full. It’s very easy to see why this nonsensical, nutritional dogma was so difficult for me to break out of. It was working for me – when nothing had worked in the past. And breaking out of that flawed “cause-and-effect” relationship was a difficult break-up indeed.
These days, when I diet, I feel amazing. Absolutely, 100% fantastic. I feel energetic, I feel happy, I feel alert, and I feel “peppy”. All of those negative side effects to low-carb dieting have vanished completely from my life. I can diet all the way down to the low, single digits and feel fantastic.
But I never would have been able to figure out how to do this if I hadn’t been inquisitive and mindful about what was happening to my body – and had the courage to try something new. And let go of the biases I had formed in my own mind.
Never stop questioning. Never stop tinkering. Never stop being intrigued. Never stop researching. Never stop experimenting.
In short, never stop learning.
There’s no single approach that works for everyone. Perhaps no-carbing works for some. It sure as hell didn’t work for me. If it works for you, more power to you.
But if the approach you’re using leaves you feeling poorly, you’re doing it incorrectly.
Health and fitness should enhance your life, not hinder it.
Your choices should make you feel better, not worse.
Your training sessions should make you stronger, not weaker.
And if these things aren’t all happening regularly, you’re doing something wrong.
Don’t be afraid to let go of your past and begin to analyze your present.
In order to improve your future.
Yours in true health,