A woman on a low carb diet might enjoy a Greek salad

We asked Joanie, one of our Advisors, to try going five days on a low-carb diet and write about it. Here’s what she wrote:

Why is it that the minute I decide to give something up, I want it more than ever? This is what happens when I agree to go low-carb for a few days. Just a few days! Other than the occasional binge-type behavior, I try to limit carbs anyway. Suddenly I find myself wanting French bread dipped in spicy olive oil, pasta, and, strangely enough, peanut butter cups!

So, let the games begin. I go blank. What do I eat? The first day goes well: eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch, a nuts-and-seeds trail mix for snack. I feel really good. I’m confident that this experiment will be a piece of cake.

My saving grace: Greek salad greaksalad

Here’s what saved me after three days of failing my low-carb experiment:

  • Green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion
  • Garlic, mint, and parsley
  • White beans
  • Mix walnut oil and lemon juice with salt and fresh pepper
  • Add feta cheese and olives if you like
  • Toss and enjoy!

Cake? Exactly. A baby shower at work sends me into goodie mode and I not only have too much, but I go home at night and have a glass of wine. I really thought I was in control at the time. Hah! The result of that smart move is that I stop sleeping. I toss and turn all night, up and down, wide awake. I’m 58 years old, post-menopausal, and went years trying to regain the ability to have a good night’s sleep. Insomnia caused me to gain a lot of weight and the less I slept, the less I felt like doing anything about it. Staying very low on carbs, along with some good supplements that work for me, has helped me regain my sleep patterns. But I really blew it in one day!

The third day I have to put up with hot flashes and exhaustion. Was it worth it? Maybe. I did have some fun. And I’m also reminded as to why I had to change my diet in the first place.

The other wrench in the spokes is that all I want now are carbs because my blood sugar keeps crashing and I just want something to make me feel better fast. It’s not like I don’t know what to do. I just don’t want to do it. They don’t call it comfort food for no reason. All that sugar makes me feel really irritable and I know that sugar (in any form) will make me feel better fast. I’m sure everyone else around me would have appreciated it if I ate some, too! I really believe that mood swings are the worst aspect of eating too much sugar. Not sleeping, pity-partying, losing sight of pretty much every health goal, all from that one over-indulgence. That doesn’t stop me from grabbing lots of sugary leftovers today either.

On the fourth day of my carb experiment, I have to regain control. I feel like a failure. In spite of everything I know, I’m doing all the wrong things to feel good again. What helps me turn the corner is a recipe for a Greek-style salad made with lots of fresh vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, garlic, parsley, mint and anything fresh you want to add. It also has white beans which seem to help with the blood sugar issue. I add a dressing made of walnut oil and lemon juice, salt and fresh pepper and eat it for two days. Being able to sleep again is the key to how well I feel all the next day, the key to getting things done, and also the key to feeling good about myself.

So the low-carb experiment has given me a bit of a jolt. I thought I was in control, but quickly found out how fast that can change. I know now that for me, I just have to politely decline the goodies if I want to feel good and be healthy. I’ve had to change not only how I eat, but what I cook for my family. There were some grumblings at first, but now I’m really sticking to my guns and my Cake Bible is going to a yard sale!

What might Joanie have done differently?

We all know that parties, showers, and celebrations of any kind can make it hard to skip the sweets. Of course, Joanie could have just gone back to her desk and eaten an apple, but how fun is that when everyone is eating cake? If you like to celebrate with sweets, there are some strategies that can keep the after effects to a minimum.

  • Don’t go to the party hungry. This will help you to avoid over-indulgence in sugary treats.
  • Make a plan. “I will have one piece of cake and enjoy every bite.”
  • Be sure to pair your cake with some protein (nuts, seeds, or cheese will work) so that you can tone down the blood sugar surge and the subsequent cravings.
  • When the leftovers are staring you in the face the next day, remind yourself of how good it was yesterday and how good it will be at the next special occasion. Meanwhile, stem your cravings with some fresh or dried fruit, a smoothie, a baked potato with cheese, or something that includes healthy fats and protein.