By now it’s probably apparent to my regular Twitter followers that I’m not only a health enthusiast but also a sugar free advocate, after all – I HAVE given myself the pseudonym of ‘LondonHealthMum’. I can confirm that I am a mum, I do live in London, but the ‘health’ bit? Yes, I do that too. With food and with fitness too.
Did I jump on to the trendy ‘sugar free’ bandwagon, swept along by the media frenzy and keen to try anything in order to lose weight and reach some ill thought out target weight ‘for the summer’? Far from it. My sugar free journey began way before October 2014 which is the point where I describe myself as ‘becoming sugar free’.
Yes, I have lost weight during this journey but that was very much a by-product of clean eating and regular exercise. Most will argue that I didn’t need to lose weight in the first place. I’m very petite and I have now reached my pre-pregnancy size which is, well, child sized but that’s my natural size. I don’t weigh myself as I don’t see the point. I’m strong, healthy and feel great which is the whole point, in my opinion.
The ‘My Sugar Free Journey’ blog and various blogs since have documented my surprise at my newfound general feeling of wellbeing since cleaning up my diet so in this blog I wanted to focus on how food can affect our general health including our emotions.
My diet is really clean at the moment and any change from my usual daily intake of fresh, healthy and nutritious ingredients will quickly result in sluggishness, lethargy, headaches and digestive issues. Slip up for a few days and my mental health changes too, my positive outlook disappears and I can quickly become moody, irritable and at times can suffer with moments of feeling really down.
This could boil down to me being in ketosis some of the time when I’m eating really well. Ketosis simply means that my body doesn’t use sugar/carbs from food for fuel but it burns the fat I eat instead.
I am by no means suggesting ketosis is a direct route to emotional wellbeing. But I do know for a fact that my emotional health has dramatically improved since giving up sugar.
Ketosis is well documented to give a general feeling of wellbeing and although I have never tested myself to confirm whether I am in ketosis I am pretty sure that I have been, sometimes for weeks at a time.
I actively avoid carbohydrates, especially refined carbs like white bread, rice and pasta. I also avoid any bread with yeast in it (it’ll give me a tummy ache) and potatoes. If I do eat any carbs it’ll most likely be in the form of root vegetables, pitta bread or a wrap. I always try to keep the portion size at about a quarter or half the size of a normal portion of carbohydrate. Instead of the carbs I always add some fat to my meals.
Adding fat sounds scarier than it actually is. Just an extra drizzle of olive oil, a knob of butter or some full fat yogurt or cheese will give me all the fat I need.
I think all of the good fats I eat really do help keep my mood buoyant. Think smoked salmon, eggs, avocado, Brie, olive oil, coconut oil, nut butters. Delicious, dreamy and absolutely without a doubt total and complete brain food.
I recently bumped into a colleague in the staff kitchen at work, she had prepared herself a lovely salad for lunch with cottage cheese. It looked delicious. The cottage cheese was fat free. When I asked her why she said – touching her belly – “I want to lose my fat”.
The fat we eat and the fat we carry are two very different things!
Aside from feeling generally happier and much livelier since eating a ‘low carb high fat’ diet I have also managed to lose that same stubborn belly fat that my colleague was referring to. I told her about fats actually being good for us but she was having none of it. “Baby steps,” she said, unconvinced.
It seems as though we have been fed the wrong ‘low fat is good’ message for far too long. If my colleague and countless others had the confidence to believe in reducing carbs and adding fat to their food then soon enough they could all start feeling great too. Here’s hoping.