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To carb or not to carb?

I’ve looked at a lot of different diets over the years. While I find the act of dieting rather torturous, I find the idea and benefits very appealing. But, unfortunately, there are a number of factors that stand against me. They include:

–          My almost constant desire for anything sweet, especially chocolate

–          Becoming hungry as a result of exercising often

–          My history of competing for food in a family with three men over six feet, one of whom has been nicknamed ‘rubbish bin’ due to his skill at putting away food

Suffice to say, I don’t ‘do’ diets very well. Sometimes I go as far as buying the right food, fuelled by motivation, eyes set on the goal, but nine times out of ten, by Friday night I’m curled up on the couch with my loyal friends Ben and Jerry.

Nonetheless, I have researched different diets over the years and I’ve tried the occasional one, albeit usually very briefly. I think my biggest diet milestone was probably a two-month detox and, more recently, giving up sweet things over lent. I’m not sure how I had the will power on either occasion, but it felt really good to stick to it.

The latest diet I’ve heard about is the Paleo diet, which seems all the rage with celebrities including Jessica Biel, Megan Fox and Miley Cyrus. Based on what was apparently consumed during the Paleolithic era, the diet concentrates on protein and eliminates food that wasn’t common or didn’t even exist back then, such as dairy, cereal grains and salt. The diet also advocates fewer carbohydrates.

No carbs? I think not

Now this is where I get suspicious.

The Paleo diet suggests that the main source of carbs should be from non-starchy fresh fruit and vegetables, which will provide 35-45% of your daily calorie intake. I’m all for fruit and veg so I think this is a great idea. And I’ve also read that, while the Paleo diet does contain fewer carbs than the average diet, that it is higher in fat than the average diet, and fats are a source of energy.

But there are always two sides to the argument. I know what too many carbs can do to you – the impact it can have on blood sugar, blood pressure, insulin levels etc.

I also know what too few carbs can do to you – slow your metabolism, increase stress hormones, decrease muscle-building hormones and so on.

I think we need to be careful of ‘low carb’ and especially ‘no carb’ diets, more so if you’re an active person.

I think the answer lies, as it usually does, in moderation. I think, yes, as the Paleo diet suggests, protein is important and we should be having a good amount of it. Healthy fats, too, like avocado (yum!) and nuts (yum!), help make up a good diet.

And carbs? Yes, I think there is definitely a place in our diets for carbs. Again, there are bad carbs and then there are good carbs, such as wholegrain products, fruit and vegetables.

But, along with moderation, a good diet is also going to look different for different people, dependent on factors such as goals, body types, medical conditions and activity levels.

Getting personal

One way to decide if you should change your diet or how, could be to measure your body mass index, analyse your diet, see how your exercise levels are shaping up and then, if you think you could do with going on a diet, decide on your goals. For example, do you need to lose weight or just eat healthier? Does your diet need more protein for strength? Could you hike up the carbs since you’re regularly exercising? And so on.

In all of this, I am a firm believer of treating yourself once in a while. Yes, avoid bad, processed foods as much as possible, but a chocolate now and then is not going to hurt. Food is to be enjoyed! But again, moderation is key.

On that topic, I know a certain someone with a serious case of sweet tooth. Anyone care to offer her some tips in that regard?!

PS: It’s me!

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