After a decade of fearing carbs and engaging in constant dieting behavior, yoyoing between low carb and high sugar, Jen made the decision to leave diet culture behind and pursue balance. Entering the fitness industry was her awakening that she had to quit dieting. She knew she had to make a change for the sake of her kids. She wanted to support them and having a healthy relationship with food. Like research shows, food restriction leads to food preoccupation. Low carb diet led to preoccupations with carbs, even fear of carbs. But is low-carb eating even what it’s cracked up to be?
Part of the allure of Keto is the fabled quick results, however, the podcast interview with Amanda Howell shared that the weight loss was from glycogen and water and not actually fat. “Women have been conditioned to believe that that number on the scale is the most important thing,” Jen explained. She shared how the preoccupation with morning dehydration leads women to believe they are bloated when in fact they’re not.
Sometimes bloating comes from Binging after the restriction of trying to live on a diet like Keto or low carb. The cravings that come during a restricted diet are natural, like a body gasping for air after holding their breath. This level of restriction can be particularly problematic for postpartum moms who are prone to running themselves into the ground in pursuit of postpartum weight loss, the faster the better. The stress of a restrictive diet can negatively impact their mental health. While she had risk factors for postpartum depression otherwise, Jen feels that her low carb way of eating contributed to her struggles. It’s not just new moms that are affected.
Low intake with high output inevitably leads to exhaustion. Jen found that in moving towards a more balanced diet she was able to attain more personal bests in the gym and really start to enjoy exercise without feeling so exhausted.
What science says
A study done recently that compared the Keto diet to a non-Keto diet and it showed that the Keto diet actually increased total cholesterol, LDL and markers of inflammation, compared to the non Keto Diet. Regardless of science, people tend to rely on their personal experiences and often report that they feel better on a low-carb diet. The diet gets the credit where positive changes might just be due to generally making better food choices, drinking more water, and moving their bodies more. This is particularly true of people who had poor diet prior to exploring low-carb diets.
One of the challenges that come with being on a low-carb diet is that the food that is eaten can change the palate and can make food that’s outside of the plan taste bad. Fat makes food tasty and low carb diet tend to contain a lot of it, making a shift from a high fat diet seem less flavorful. The other challenge people can have is when they add in the carbs but don’t decrease the calories from other macros accordingly, leading to excess calories and weight gain which they attribute to the carbohydrates.
In making the decision to abandon diets, psychological work needs to take place as well to allow former dieter to be able to listen to their body again. Often a diet is an attempt to manage psychological pain and trauma by changing dieter’s bodies. Without dealing with the underlying issue, lasting behavior change can be challenging.
With dieting success there’s also the psychological boost of people who celebrate weight loss at any cost. The flip side of this is that during weight regain between diets, the lack of positive reinforcement can feel like rejection. The extent to which body hatred and diet culture have become connection points for women in their relationships means that removing connection points can lead to a feeling of being left out and not knowing what to discuss in social situations.
Walking Away From Diet Culture
There is often temptation when walking away from diet culture to try this one more diet. The reality is that in moving away from diet culture so much mental space is being freed up that sticking to a diet can become very challenging and ultimately not very satisfying.
Self-love is a rebellious choice in a world consumed with self-hatred. In walking away from diet culture and restrictive low-carb eating, it’s possible to build better relationships with food and each other, to experience food freedom from preoccupation and enjoy a little more balance.
Download a copy of this episode’s transcript here.