Back in early March, I bit the bullet and increased my daily carb intake from around 35% to over 50%. It was the first time I’d eaten that many carbs on a regular basis in about seven years, since a doctor urged me to cut them back in 2012. As it turns out, my body never adapts to lower-carb diets. My muscles need glycogen! For the last five months, I’ve been learning to live this new way and experimenting to figure out what is and isn’t related to seven years of terrible-for-me nutrition.
March – Eat All The Carbs
March was purely about increasing carbs and seeing what happened as a result. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, or exercise a specific amount, or anything. The only goal was to eat more carbs, see what happened, and ask more questions. I had a lot of good results, and began to wonder about some of the stranger symptoms I’ve had over the years. Could the Effexor side effect of really high body temp (not a normal side effect!) be related to the body temperature problems I had due to lower carbs? Could calorie counting for weight loss actually work now, the way it used to before I cut back on carbs? Could my PCOS symptoms and abnormal hormone blood tests be related to the abnormal menstrual cycle and hormone changes that began when I cut carbs? Would injuries like my broken foot have healed faster and more normally if my body was properly fueled? Etc.
Of course, I can’t answer every question, but I’ve learned something important throughout my adult life: When you have an underlying problem, you’re going to get weird reactions to things most people respond normally to. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that if you have an underlying condition, you might have extreme weight gain on medicines that don’t normally cause weight gain, or you might not react normally to the calories-in-vs-calories-out equation, or your broken foot might take years instead of months to heal. All those years when I had the tooth infection, my body never responded normally to anything! But it began responding normally as soon as the infection was gone. March was about discovering that I’d essentially had a seven-year-long health condition, and now that condition was gone. And of course while I’d like to have discovered this years ago (or never gained the condition in the first place), March was about finding hope that I’d have some control and normalcy back for my body.
April – Failing to Count
The plan for April was to count calories and see if I could lose weight. Unfortunately, April was a bust. I tried counting calories, but other health issues took precedence, and I discovered one small negative side effect from reintroducing carbs: my daily calorie intake increased, because carbs don’t fill you up as much. There was just too much going on, so I put off this goal and just continued to relearn how to balance a diet with a higher carb percentage.
May – Nixing Gluten
In an attempt to counter what is likely an autoimmune disorder (the hives stuff), I cut gluten from my diet. I’ve said before that I have a complicated history with gluten, and this seemed to be a good first step. The goal was to cut gluten for a couple weeks, then reintroduce and see what happened. However, as soon as I cut gluten, the whole calories-in-vs-calories-out equation suddenly started working. I began losing weight slowly but surely. The negative side effect in April – increased daily calories – disappeared because I didn’t need nearly as much food when I cut gluten, even while keeping my carbs around 55% of my diet.
By the end of the month, my body seemed to recognize that I was getting enough carbs on a regular basis, and some of the weirder symptoms – like sudden extreme thirst if I had a day when that percentage dropped below 50% – leveled out and/or disappeared. All the positive results I noted in the first link above remained positive, while the two mixed results have either turned positive or have been dealt with by other means (ie starting an antidepressant). And speaking of antidepressants – that question above about body temp and Effexor? Well, turns out that WAS related to my diet, because I don’t have that symptom now. Yay!!
June – Crashing, Burning, Getting Up Again
So…June wasn’t a good month for me, and while I kept eating GF, I started eating a lot of junk and drinking too much alcohol, and long story short, I regained the weight I lost in May during the first three weeks of the month. I got myself together in the last ten days, though, and discovered two things: First, I tried re-adding gluten. That resulted in a mild feeling like a cold or allergy symptoms (that I knew couldn’t be true allergies, given the number of antihistamines I’m on for hives!). It also resulted in several days of mild stomach cramps and a bump up in weight because I was carrying water (my face was so swollen!). Second, I confirmed that with the higher carb levels in my diet, the weight bumps from too-much-alcohol don’t stick around for weeks/months as they used to. They flush out like any other too-many-calories-fests and disappear after a few days. Despite the first three crappy weeks of June, I ended up the month less than half a pound over where I began it. Cool.
July – Testing, Testing…
July marked my second set of blood tests since switching my diet over, this set specifically for PCOS and hormone levels. And as it turns out, the change in diet seems to have little effect on the bloodwork – at least after only a few months. My progesterone is still too low (though a tiny bit higher), my testosterone still on the higher side of normal (though a tiny bit lower), and my estrogen is sitting about exactly where it’s been. Time will tell if these slight changes will continue to improve.
To be honest, other than back in March and May, I’ve done very little to really check what is and isn’t going on in my body. All I know is that my facial inflammation has disappeared, heavy exercise and strength training no longer give me week-long crippling pain, I have more energy, and many of my longterm medical problems have disappeared. That’s all good enough for me!! I’ll continue to keep my carbs high!
I’ve found it much easier to take on long-distance cycling trips with some carb loading. Nutrition is so individual; some of us do much better with more of this macro. Best wishes on your own health journey 🙏
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Certainly swim meets as a teen were much better with carb-loading too!
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