Most people don’t really think about what their bodies need and how they fuel it. Like, people go on diets and say they’re ‘clean’ eating, but it’s not very often that people actually look at their body’s needs, tailor a diet plan to suit them and watch how their body responds to it. It’s usually something that’s been found online or in a book that fits ‘the masses’ and mostly (but not always) for aesthetic or weight loss reasons rather than overall health. In our culture, thin=healthy. But that’s not always the case.
I’ve been having issues with feeling well and diet for a long time. The only way I could vaguely feel like I wasn’t going to pass out or faint for a long time was by eating a lot of sugar and carbs. There’s a cortisol-linked reason behind this, which I’ll go into in another post, but I’ve learnt recently that this is also partly because I’ve got reactive hypoglycaemia. So basically, I’d eat a lot of carbs and feel better temporarily, but the carbs made my blood sugar drop too fast and I’d feel like I was going to faint again. Which meant I’d have to eat again to make my blood sugar go back up and the cycle continues- it’s like being on a roller coaster with the highs and the lows. I became a bit like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors- the more I ate carbs, the more I had to eat them to keep me feeling ‘stable’.
I’ve been to see many dieticians and they were a bit stumped. But with an actual diagnosis now and the advice of eat 5/6 small meals a day rather than 3 big ones from my endo, I’ve been doing some experiments, reading and learning. I’m essentially eating the same or less than I was before, but more routinely and regularly. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:
Eat like a sheep- little and often
Those were my endo’s exact words. Now I eat a meal of some description every 2-3 hours, regardless of whether I’m hungry or not. Mentally, it’s a lot easier to deal with because I’m not as hungry all the time, but there are times when I definitely feel I have a bit more energy than before. (Although I’m stress dosing currently so not a completely valid test for the scientists amongst you).
Eat low carb/low GI
I’ve been eating low carb high fat anyway, but the key is eating even fewer carbs at each meal but more often. That’s not zero carbs, I still need to eat carbs, but I *think* I feel relatively steady on between 10-25g carb per meal depending on the time of day. It’s a massive case of trial and error though.
Some foods trigger when they ‘shouldn’t’
Some foods make me feel terrible, I’ve discovered, even if they’re low carb or low GI. Raspberries should be fine but seemingly aren’t. Likewise with sweet potato and dark chocolate. Pretty much any of the foods I really enjoy, which is pretty frustrating! So it’s a case of working out which foods cause problems even though they’re on the ‘ok to eat’ list. You’ll be relieved to know that small amounts of Nutella seems to be fine (thank god!), possibly because it’s probably part of my blood stream by now 😉
It depends on the time of day
I was eating a portion of porridge recommended by a dietician but with a bit of experimenting I realised that actually it was eating that amount of porridge which was messing me up by lunchtime with the rollercoaster feeling. I halved the amount and I stopped feeling quite so all over the place. However, I seem better if I eat slightly more carb in my evening meal.
You have to think about food combinations
This is where it gets hard and maths-y. Each meal needs to have carb, protein and healthy fats. So that sometimes means I end up eating a hunk of cheese if I can’t find anything else to go with a salad. Cheese and peanut butter seem to fix a lot of problems, especially if I’m not feeling well and need something fast. Although not at the same time, that’s just gross!
But you also have to think about *where* the carbs come from
More maths. Carbs coming just from vegetables makes me feel shocking most of the day, except for at lunchtime, where I worked out that carbs coming from obvious carb like sources e.g. Bread or oatcakes makes me feel terrible. At 10.30 and 14.30 meal I eat oatcakes with protein and fats and at lunchtime I eat only vegetable soup and salad at the moment.
You can’t cut the calories
If you’re cutting carbs, you can’t cut calories as well, otherwise you don’t get enough energy. Problem is, we’re in a culture where people think fewer calories means better for you. Actually, lots of low fat or low sugar things have more carbs in them than the full fat versions. It just makes eating out or from packets hard work sometimes.
Eating in the middle of the night is ok
I used to try to convince my body I didn’t need to eat and try to tough it out because that’s what the dieticians said. But having done some research, all that happens if I avoid eating overnight is that when I do eat my porridge first thing, my body peaks and drops blood sugar a lot quicker, which then causes me problems for the rest of the day. I tend to eat things with 0 or traces of carbs overnight, which has been working so far.
Cortisol and blood sugar are linked
I’ll go into this more in another post, but just to add to the difficulties, sometimes my blood sugar is off because of what my cortisol is doing. But I can’t check cortisol in the same way I can check blood sugar, so it’s another thing to guess at and experiment with.
I’m still learning, and I think I’ll be learning for a while. It also takes a lot of planning and organisation to get right, which is actually pretty complicated, especially if I’m not at home. So I’ve got alarms going off all over the place! I’ve got a testing metre so I can check my blood sugar which has been helpful and means I can vaguely work out what I should be eating or what isn’t a good idea to eat. I’m trying to get used to the way my body feels with it though- numbers and measurements are good indicators, but aren’t the be all and end all. I’d rather learn my body’s instincts if I can. And sometimes I’ll eat cake and put up with the feeling crap afterwards because sometimes you have to eat cake!
Photo: google image