Before and after: how a low-carb, high-fat diet changed my life

Happy 2015 everyone! Today we have a guest post from my friend Adrian who changed his life on a low-carb, high-fat diet. Here is his story.

Before I started my low-carb regiment in December 2012, I would catch a flu bug once every two to three months. When I visited the doctor, he would give me the same cough syrup and pills to suppress my cough, fever and joint aches. I was extremely overweight with body mass index (BMI) of 31.7; I weighed 95 kg on my 173 cm frame. I suffered from borderline hypertension and high cholesterol. Even climbing two flights of stairs or brisk walking would cause me to be out of breath.

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After visiting the doctor for the umpteenth time about my cough, I was given two options: one, to start exercising or two, to be prescribed a medication to help lower my blood pressure. I chose the first option and started running on a daily basis.

My weight fell from 95 kg to 87 kg but soon plateaued. I ran more, ran faster and even introduced resistance training into my exercise regime but the weight refused to budge. At that time, I was still eating the typical USDA-recommended diet, with more than two-thirds of my calories coming from rice, pasta and bread.

It was only after I read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes did I suspect that my high-carb diet was keeping me from reaching my ideal weight. In his book, Taubes argued that the best diet is one loaded with protein and fat but very low in carbohydrates. Most health problems are due to refined carbohydrates, which raise insulin levels and promote the storage of fat. Hence, it is not so much about the quantity of calories we eat but the type of calories.

To overhaul my diet, I focused initially on cutting all refined carbs and grains, which were overloading my pancreas and causing my body to accumulate fat. A typical dinner would consist of a slab of meat – be it chicken thigh, grass-fed steak or pork chop – and accompanied by some greens and a handful of nuts. For breakfast, I would eat eggs, a lot of unsweetened cheese, such as gouda, brie, cheddar, camembert, port salut, emmental, comté, sausages, full-fat Greek yoghurt or Paleorina’s grain-free bread with peanut butter. Continue reading Before and after: how a low-carb, high-fat diet changed my life

Now online at The Naturalyst: paleo condiments and cooking essentials

I’ve lamented before that it’s never easy to eat paleo in Singapore. Every time I go to the supermarket, I have to read the ingredients label of everything I buy. Recently I was looking for miso soup paste and I had to study the back of every packet to find one that didn’t use MSG.

There is now a new online shop in town called The Naturalyst catering to us fussy paleo eaters. Run by a lady named Regina Soh who shares the same frustrations as me about the difficulties of healthy eating, she has stocked her online shop with essential paleo ingredients such as Red Boat fish sauce, which contains just two ingredients: fresh caught wild black anchovies and sea salt. Popular paleo blogger Nom Nom Paleo loves it in her dishes. It’s really freaking difficult to find sugar-free sauce so Red Boat fish sauce is a must.

I’m also excited by her supply of coconut aminos, which is used in the paleo world as a replacement for soy products. Coconut aminos are great when you need salty flavouring. I’ve used it to fry Shirataki no-calorie noodles. Before knowing of the existence of the Naturalyst, I bought my bottle of coconut aminos from iHerb.

So without further ado, let’s meet Regina and see what the paleo diet has done for her health.

Interview with Regina from The Naturalyst

Regina

Continue reading Now online at The Naturalyst: paleo condiments and cooking essentials

Shirataki “no calorie” noodles

What would you say if there was a food that would fill you up and contain practically no calories? What if there was a food that was not just good for weight management was also good for diabetes control and lower cholesterol levels?

I first found out about shirataki noodles from someone who was using it for weight loss. These are traditional thin and chewy Japanese noodles made from a dietary fibre called glucomannan, derived from the konjac root. Although they may look unfamiliar in this form, I found out that it’s essentially the same thing as konnyaku jelly, minus the sugar, which was very popular in Singapore in my schooling days. The shirataki noodles pass through your colon unchanged and unabsorbed, which makes them perfect for helping you feel full.

I got hold of two packets thanks to my cousin who was shopping in Liang Court. They came to me packed in liquid and I stored them in the fridge for a few days because I didn’t know if I could leave them out in the open.

Shirataki noodles

The most common ways to eat them are to fry them or eat them in a stew. They absorb flavours very well and my cousin recommended that I put them in a beef stew or miso soup. With limited ingredients on hand, I decided to go for fried noodles instead. I cut up some vegetables I had on hand, included lettuce, mushrooms and tomatoes. For the sauce, I chose to mix together garlic, spicy bean paste and coconut aminos, which I used as a replacement for soy sauce.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to prepare them for frying.

Step 1: Get rid of the smell

The noodles smell a bit funny when you first open the packet and the first way to get rid of the fishy smell is to rinse them quickly in hot water. Don’t cook them for too long as they will become rubbery. One or two minutes in hot water should be enough.

IMG_0306 Continue reading Shirataki “no calorie” noodles

How I lost 2 kg in two weeks

I gained 2 kg over Christmas and Chinese New Year from overeating. It was your typical case of holiday indulgences. I ate everything in sight and convinced myself that I was allowed to because the holidays were meant for merry making. Alas, my metabolism couldn’t keep up, given that I was no longer a teenager. I didn’t stick to paleo eating as well – bring on the pineapple tarts and Christmas puddings.

I didn’t realise I had gained any weight (because I don’t weigh myself) until my clothes starting feeling tight on me. My stomach, which was never really slim to begin with, started protruding out and I felt self-conscious about wearing fitting clothes. Even my bra was cutting into my chest.

Was running the answer?

I decided that I would run more. Since I enjoy running, it wasn’t a chore. It just took quite a lot of time because I wanted to go for long runs and I often didn’t have an hour a day to spare. This went on for about a month before I hurt my knee and couldn’t run anymore. The frustrating thing was that my weight didn’t budge at all. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to lose 2 kg that shouldn’t be there in the first place. To me, I was 2 kg over my equilibrium weight. I wasn’t trying to be unnaturally slim.

At the same time, I signed up for the CFA exam – which is a really tough 6-hour exam covering financial topics – for my work. My spare time was further reduced. So I didn’t have time to go to the gym now and I didn’t have time to run. I decided to look for home exercise videos.

Home exercise videos

Friends recommended Beachbody’s Insanity workout by trainer Shaun T, which was touted to be the hardest workout ever put on DVD. But you get really good results, like so:

insanity workout

Continue reading How I lost 2 kg in two weeks

What do you thrive on?

What do you thrive on?

What makes you feel alive? What kind of diet makes your skin glow, your hair soft and satiates you? What gives you energy to run for hours on end or helps you recover more quickly after an intense workout?

I like the word “thrive.” It implies not merely existing but living with vibrancy. It suggests a life bursting with energy. I thrive on good books, storytelling, exhilarating sports and the love of people close to me.

But here I want to focus on one specific thing: our diets.

I started thinking recently that it seems that there is no one perfect diet. Sure, there is general consensus that we should eat unprocessed food, avoid sugar and chemicals. But within this general consensus, you have vegans and you also have the paleo types. Within the paleo types, there are people who advocate a low-carb, high-fat diet as carbohydrates are unnecessary for our well being. Then there are others who eschew dairy. Then there are people who say that white rice is a safe starch and others who avoid it at all cost. It can all be very confusing.

Continue reading What do you thrive on?

Mindful eating – how not to gorge on food

When I first started my paleo lifestyle, I felt liberated. I could eat whatever I want (within the paleo limits) and know that it’s nutritious for my body. So I started gorging on pork belly, which I love, and it wasn’t enough to have just one portion. I needed to eat two or three portions in one seating because they were too delicious. I also ate all the cheese and nuts I wanted and polished off a few ounces of cheese every day.

Sure, it was liberating. But at the same time, I realised I was becoming obsessed with food and thinking constantly about my next meal. I’ve never been like that. Since I was a child, I was always “eating to live” rather than “living to eat.” Food to me was just a way of getting energy into my body. I was never interested in travelling all over Singapore for the best roti prata or trying out a different restaurant each week. I once told my friends, “All food tastes the same to me!”

As well, it was physically uncomfortable to have my belly stuffed all the time. My stomach also looked bloated from too much food. In addition, I was adding unnecessary calories to my diet by eating things that I didn’t like (but was told it was good for me), such as heavy cream and butter in my coffee (a la bulletproof coffee). What happens is that I ended up eating things that do not satiate me because they were things I didn’t like.

Continue reading Mindful eating – how not to gorge on food