Scared of Carbs? It's all in your head
If you’re scared of carbohydrates as an entire group of food I can tell you with 100% certainty it’s because you don’t know really know what they are, how they work and what your body is REALLY trying to tell you.
Today, I’m going to help you out and teach you all about what carbs are; and why saying “I don’t eat carbs” is worthy of eye-rolling.
We're going to cover what carbs are, why people think they make them fat and 8 things you are REALLY experiencing when you think you're having an attack of the carbohydrate demon.
WHAT IS A CARBOHYDRATE?
A carbohydrate is a chemical compound made from carbon (that’s your ‘carbo’), hydrogen and oxygen (that just happens to be your ‘hydrate’). When you eat carbohydrates you are eating carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Fruit and vegetables are carbs.
No matter what carbohydrate you eat they get broken down in your gut into simple sugars; glucose, fructose and galactose. I know, I know you just had a mild panic attack over the word fructose. Relax, and read on.
Galactose “is a component of the antigens found on the surface of red blood cells that determine blood groups” (Wikipedia sourced from Understanding Biology, 3rd Ed). So ok, we kinda need Galactose.
Fructose is primarily used by the liver and as much as I’d love to tell you what the body does with it, I can safely tell you it goes WAY over my head so it’ll go over yours. Google ‘fructose metabolism pathway’ and you’ll just simply see that fructose is allowed in the body.
Glucose is what your cells use mostly. Sorry, you can’t shortcut that one. Even when you decide to eat ZERO carbs, your body is still looking for and converting things into glucose. What things does it convert? Proteins – aka your muscles and if things get really bad, your organs.
These monosaccharides join to form disaccharides like mannose, lactose and sucrose. We form longer chains into polysaccharides and the type and length of the sugar chain determines what type of carbohydrate it is.
Fruit, pastry, cakes, broccoli, potato, sweet potato (kumara in NZ), rice, chips, milk, coca cola are all either simple or complex sugars but when broken down, they end up back in their simple state for the body to use.
But why do carbs make people fat?
Our poor respect for food and our body makes us fat. Dysbiosis makes us fat, and stress makes us fat. (Stress is another very misunderstood topic)
Overeating on processed and poor quality carbohydrates (or anything in general) will produce caloric and hormonal imbalance which promote fat storage. Your body can only handle a certain amount of fructose, which is why fruit is good fructose and soft-drinks are bad fructose. Your body can only utilize a certain amount of calories which is why ENOUGH food is good and too much food or too little food is not.
Dieting is an epidemic and this sets us up for the now very well known diet→binge→diet cycle. Respect for our body means giving it the food it needs, the love, care and attention it needs. You don’t find that in a diet book or sitting there chewing your nails off because you’re starving.
Have you ever noticed what it is you binge on when you restrict carbohydrates?
It’s not meat is it?!
In case you didn’t work it out – its carbs!! Holy shit, do you mean your body is actually trying to tell you something? And this is also what I mean by respect for your body. Try listening to it instead of fighting it with the lies that carbs are bad and watch how life unfolds in a ray of joy for you.
That I quit sugar lady and chef turned paleo *cough* guru seem to have you all running scared. I can see that – it upsets me because you’re missing out on true physical and emotional health.
Poor Stress Management, Emotional Hygiene, poor sleep and not loving and accepting yourself will promote fat storage from carbohydrate. On the one hand we have our Binge Eaters consuming loads of calories (like I had for 26 years) and on the other hand we have the hormonal dys-regulation that comes from unconsciously telling your body it’s not safe.
Ok back to the science lesson and why some people have a GENUINE problem with SOME carbs
SOME. CARBS. I did not say all carbs are bad, I said SOME people have SOME problems, with SOME carbs. Let’s get crystal clear right now on this.
“FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates (oligosaccharides), disaccharides, monosaccharides and related alcohols that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. These include short chain (oligo-) saccharide polymers of fructose (fructans) and galactose (galactans), disaccharides (lactose), monosaccharides (fructose), and sugar alcohols (polyols) such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol”.
Thanks Wikipedia – you saved me from typing all that out
In other words – some people have trouble digesting certain carbohydrate STRUCTURES. But geeeeeez that does not mean avoid all carbs and further to that, it doesn’t even mean avoid ALL FODMAPS foods.
I’m a FODMAP’s gal – I can’t do garlic / beans / legumes, but there are a ton of things on the list I can eat that don’t give me symptoms.
Some people have trouble with the absorption of Fructose through the intestine. This, again is not “all carbs are bad” and “I MUST QUIT SUGAR”
Some people have trouble digesting lactose, as the lack the enzyme lactase. This, again is not all carbs are bad.
Some people are very insulin resistant and need to manage their carb intake for a period of time while they heal their body (if the have chosen to take that rewarding journey) – but carbs are not bad for these people either and when they heal, they too can enjoy even more carbs!
Some people have dysbiosis, meaning their carbs are being somewhat fermented instead of digested well. Carbs are still not bad.
Sugar & refined carb consumption affects your DNA for 14 days and wipes out a proportion of your gut flora. Research is now showing us that our gut flora balance is hugely responsible for our body fat levels.
Some people think that just because they CRAVE carbs, it must mean they have a problem with them. Nope, not true. It’s probably because you’re not eating enough of them, or you’re tired and exhausted or you’re on a diet and you’re starving. There are other craving triggers, but none of them have anything to do with carbs being ‘bad’.
Some people eat too many carbs comparative to proteins and fats (the old if it fits ya macros label). This doesn’t mean slash carbs down to zero, this means adjust your ratios to arrive at the optimal level for you.
Some people have a REAL problem with gluten, and many carbs contain gluten. But my dear reader this is not ALL carbs. And in fact, those gluten free slicey things and muffins and stuff that you buy – this is exactly why you are so confused about carbs – you’re still eating hormonally disruptive carbohydrate, it just happens to be MINUS the gluten.
ENERGY OR JACKED UP ON CORTISOL?
Some people feel highly focused without carbs (usually they report this in the first 1-5 days). But do you know the difference between energy and focus and “jacked up”? When your blood glucose dips, cortisol is secreted to help your body make glucose from your muscle. A cortisol spike jacks you up. You might be focused, but I suspect it’s because your stress hormones are off the richter scale. You do realize that hormone dys-regulation is a fat gainer right?
CARBS ARE GOOD - REALLY GOOD.
- They help keep your stress hormone levels under control, which in turn stops your thyroid from slowing down.
- They keep you sane and reduce the urge to binge or give into 5 pizzas instead of one slice.
- They fuel your brain. Your brain uses 80% of all the available glucose in your body and if you’re studying or in a high-braining job – carbs are your best friend.
- They spare your muscle. Muscle = metabolic firewood.
- If you’re anything like my clients and I MORE carbs will allow you burn fat easier.
- They taste good, which is psychologically pleasing and satiating.
- They fuel you for a better workout.
- They help with serotonin, (and as a flow on melatonin) so you’ll have a better mood and sleep.
- Because. Bananas.
- And mangoes
- And mashed sweet potato
- Oh, and coconut water … electrolyte-tastic coconut water
I could go on. But you get the point? Yeah? Do you? Really? Please Dear Lord or Mother Nature tell me these people are getting the point that carbs are good and that you didn’t put carbs on the planet just for people to disrespect your wisdom?
Here's a fun fact: the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue are also the same as Anorexia, Dieting and not enough carbohydrate. Are you shining the spotlight in the wrong direction on your health issues?
Here are a couple of pics of clients who ended up losing body fat EASIER when we increased their carbs. Yes, I am one of them even though I used to a lot of problems with them.
And here is a list of carbs that will not make you fat. Assuming, you are listening to and respecting your body, food and your Self.
- Vegetables are carbs (celery, broccoli, pumpkin, carrot, etc)
- Fruits are carbs (bananas, apples, berries, oranges etc)
- Legumes are carbs
- Starchy root veg are carbs
- Grains are carbs
- Milk is a carb (stop it with your weight watchers milk is protein nonsense, when you get diarrhea from it, it’s not the protein, it’s the sugar – lactose!)
- Pies, pizza, cake, and so on. YES you guys, these are PART of a balanced diet that fuels you psychologically. Eat them with respect for yourself and you won’t have any problems.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
- Carbs are good
- If you feel you are reacting poorly to carbs see a professional so you can get a realistic understanding of what is happening in your body.
- You may be jeapordising your metabolism and fat loss by being scared of them
- You are probably already eating carbs (fruits, vege, sweet potato) but for some reason you keep lying to yourself that you don't eat carbs.
- ALL carb digestion issues are NOT because of carbs. It is YOUR BODY that needs healing.
- If you are gaining weight – get your nose out of the internet and go and talk to someone who understands the nutritional, emotional, mental, biochemical and chemical drivers to fat loss. (Spoiler alert, she just wrote you an article about carbs)
- Your tribal ancestors ate more carbs than meats at certain times.