It’s the Carbs, Stupid!!

Remember back in the 1992 Presidential campaign, one of the popular slogans surrounding Clinton’s campaign was, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Well, I have a variation on the phrase. Every time I get fed up with how I feel and what the scale says, and I look at my diet, I always come back to the same old mantra:

It’s the carbs, stupid!!

it's the carbs stupid

WHEN will I learn?? WHEN??????

When I decided to try gluten free living, I intentionally did not go out and start buying the carbolicious gluten-free replacement foods. I had already been reducing the amount of processed foods and baked goods in my diet — which really needed to be done because my diet has always been horribly unbalanced. I luv me some carbs, that is for sure and certain!

So I tried natural gluten free living at first. I dropped a good five to eight pounds, and I felt great — less bloated, lighter, clear headed, all those things people say about going low-carb.

But my natural inclination towards carbs prevailed, and slowly I began eating more and more breads and cookies and crackers and chips . . . all gluten free, but still very heavy on the carbs.

Lately even my meals have become more carb-centric (did you notice my meal plan this week??) and I am feeling the effects. Even with all my exercising, I’ve been feeling bloated and full and heavy. Some nights I’ve gone to bed feeling almost sick.

Something’s gotta give.

Serendipitously, several bloggers that I read have posted this week about their paleo diets.

I always balk a little bit at anything with a label. It just smells of skunk. Or you know, fad. But I have been considering going this route for a long time because it just makes a whole lotta sense to me — not necessarily the origins (that you only eat the things people from the paleolithic period had available to them, assuming that that means the human body is best suited to these foods from an evolutionary perspective) — but because I think that the paleo diet is probably the best way to eat. If not for everyone, then for a lot of us, anyway.

Why Go Paleo?

It helps manage your blood sugar, and I tend to get light headed when I have had too many carbs and sugar and not enough of anything else to eat.

Meats, fats and fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition, and they help you feel full for longer periods of time. Ironically, lately I have been getting hungry more often. I know that could partly be due to increasing my exercise regimen, but I think the shift in my diet is also a contributor.

In Lydia’s post, she claims that eating paleo improves your mood. I’m pretty moody, so I will take any help I can get in that arena. The main reason I exercise is to help regulate my mood swings (and it works!! That’s another story for another post.)

The paleo diet is also anti-inflammatory. We are now discovering that inflammation is the root cause of just about everything that ails us as a culture.

And last night after I feasted on homemade pizza? My feet were swollen up like a pregnant woman. As I sat there looking at them, feeling like a beached whale, and thinking about the posts I’ve been reading and what I’ve been eating, all I could think was I HAVE. TO. GIVE. UP. CARBS.

So I’m debating the paleo thing.

But . . .

I hate to make a big deal about “I’m going paleo.” I should just cut down on carbs, right??

Well, that never seems to work out. I guess I’m just an all or nothing kinda girl.

Part of the reason I haven’t done it yet is that I am not sure how to cook a meal without a starch. I tried it for a while, but my meals always seemed so empty without a potato or rice. I think I need to seek out paleo-specific recipes and learn to cook differently.

So . . .

That’s what I’m going to try to do. It will be reflected in my menu plans. Hopefully that will hold me accountable.

I’m not saying “I’m going paleo” just yet, but I am definitely going to try to cut back on carbs . . . AGAIN. And I’m going to focus on making meal times as paleo-friendly as possible. And we’ll see how it goes.

Do you follow any specific diet? Or have you in the past? Do you find it helpful or not?

And if you have any ideas for breakfast and lunch that is paleo-friendly (or just low-carb) I’m open to suggestions!

image by @DresdenPlaid

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39 thoughts on “It’s the Carbs, Stupid!!

  1. I don’t follow a paleo or gluten-free diet, but I do try to limit carbs for health and weight-control reasons. My recommendation when meal planning is to substitute the carb/starch for another fruit or veg. Last night we had turkey meatloaf (I use oats instead of breadcrumbs as a binder), roasted beets and squash latkes for dinner. Sunday night we had fresh-caught flounder stuffed with crab (we were down the shore) with kale, zucchini/squash saute and roasted potatoes. Having two veggies makes me reduce the amount of the potatoes that I eat. Sometimes I put a crudite-type plate of raw veggies and/or fruit on the table along with the rest of the meal so we all fill up on veggies/fruit. Its especially easy in the summer when we are drowning in produce!

    1. That’s a really good idea. I tend to eliminate the starch and end up with just a meat and a veggie, and it seems too plain. I need to try to make more veggies. It is really hard in the wintertime, but right now, as you say, it should be do-able. Especially with all the stuff I get from our CSA!

  2. I started early last year going low-carb and then eliminated gluten, and have since morphed my way of eating more into paleo/primal. I am not 100%, being that I still have dairy (cream in coffee), some peanut butter and popcorn or a corn tortilla now & then. If I have anything with too many carbs (even too much fruit) I notice a difference. I tested a pre-mixed sweetened ice coffee drink and oh my I felt horrible!!!
    I never did the normal GF substitute foods for me, I prefer to use coconut or almond flour for “treats”.
    Really I just made a point that I do not eat bread or pizza or anything like that, and don’t miss it anymore.

    1. See, I DO miss those things. Terribly. I go along without for a while, and I’m okay but then I start getting the hankerings. I’m sure it’s b/c I’ve never totally eliminated it for long enough to get over the cravings. I think that is the biggest reason ppl have to “go paleo” b/c it IS an all or nothing thing. Otherwise the cravings never leave.

      I think the whole “moderation” mantra we’ve been fed is a load of crap. I don’t think moderation is possible for most people.

  3. I haven’t gone strictly “paleo” but I am adhering to a mostly grain free diet. I say mostly because I have been allowing myself fresh sweet summer corn, but no other corn derivatives or any other grains. I do eat tubers and some legumes (which are also a paleo no-no), and I do cook with grains for my family, albeit not nearly as much as I once did due to my son’s ADHD.

    I’ve stopped calling it anything than the way I eat. And I have thrown out my scale.

    I eat my way to feel well & have energy, and to NOT have sluggish digestion or feel bloated and gassy (TMI, I know!). Honestly, I think no one label works for everyone all the time, that our chemistry is constantly changing and we just have to do what we can to try and optimize health without getting too nuts about what to call it at any given moment.

    1. I agree with all that. I don’t like to get too hung up on the labels and the do’s and don’t’s but something has to give here.

      Do you find that fewer grains help your son’s ADHD?

      1. I did at first, not as much anymore. We were in the baby stages of converting from SAD and what I noticed initially was probably more a preservative/artifical color or candida healing. We did try full GAPS for a while (never did intro since it was summer and I knew I would never get him to eat soup in July-August) and he improved so much.

        Now I think his behaviors are 80% 6 year old very spirited boy / 20% ADHD and I can live with that.

  4. We gave up carbs a week and a half ago, on a modified South Beach diet plan – similar to Paleo, but it allows for dairy (which I don’t actually eat a lot of, but don’t want to give up completely). And we feel FABULOUS. The consistent lowering of the number on the scale certainly goes a LONG way towards keeping us going. But on top of that, we’re eating WAY more healthily, spending less money on eating out, feeling/looking significantly less bloated, and generally feeling excellent. I highly recommend it!

    1. That’s how I felt when I first went gluten free and low carb and I thought I’d never go back. I am frustrated that I allowed myself to be wooed by all those delicious gluten free treats. 🙁

      1. I think that’s the nature of our lives – we are tempted by lots of things we shouldn’t be eating but they’re there so we want them. So the trick is to recognize when we start slipping down that slope, and get back up and make a change. Which is exactly what it sounds like you’re doing!

  5. I am so glad to see your post!!
    After years of reading of these paleo diets and thinking ‘HOW can I do that with kids’ we finally took the leap 3 months ago. We chose the new Atkin’s to guide us. Guess what? The kids do FINE (I do cook them pasta 1-2x a week, they have THEIR snack cabinet and get this – they eat WAY more veggies now).
    The results… 18 pounds GONE, no cravings for anything carb/sweet. I consume veggies ALL day long, my anxiety is all but gone. I try to keep my proteins as health as possible (organic, grassfed) and my grocery bill has gone down.

    I should also mention my BP is the lowest its been in 25+ years and my total cholesterol dropped 20 points.
    To me – it is how I FEEL: energized, sleeping well and happy. You cannot buy that!!

    1. I wanted to mention also my Hub has not touched a tums since we started – AND get this – he does not snore anymore 🙂

      1. Karen, I find your story truly inspiring. I LOVE hearing these stories, as you know. I have to remind myself HOW VERY FAR I’ve come. Those of you who haven’t known me long would be shocked to hear how I used to eat and how sick I got before I finally discovered Michael Pollan. He totally started me on this path, and I daresay, he saved my sanity. I am not being melodramatic, either. It was ugly. Sometimes I forget those days, and all the doctor visits and meds and afternoons I spent out of commission on the couch because my stomach hurt so bad.

        Anyway, not to go on and on. Your story inspires me to take my health to the next level and reminds me how very powerful the food we put in our bodies is. So thank you! xo

        1. I have been reading these comments and they are very helpful. My husband and I went on the J.J. Vergin diet. You give up 7 foods for 21 days and the main one was sugar. I have used to much sugar all my life ,but now just in an occasional snack on week ends. My husband was getting so tired from not being able to eat, because his stomach hurt and no energy and bloating. Now he is fine and is able to work again. I lost 18 lbs in 21 days and have been able to keep it off. We also stay away from glutien food and use coconut or almond milk.

  6. I really believe paleo (or even just striving for paleo) is the way to go! Like Mary B, I have gone pretty much “paleo” but I MUST have my creamer in my tea and I also sometimes have corn/corn tortillas. It has been about 8 weeks for me and I still crave bread and pasta something fierce! It is hard and I feel like I am eating vegetables all the time (because I am) but I truly believe this way of eating makes sense.

    Your meal plans are already so healthy but I would LOVE to see you incorporate some paleo friendly meal plans!

    1. There is no way I’m giving up cream in my coffee. And I hope to still eat some raw cheeses from time to time b/c I do love them. I need to do more reading about what exactly constitues paleo – not so that I can be legalistic about it, but so that I can label my recipes and meal plans correctly.

      I hate to hear that you still have cravings. I am afraid I will never be rid of my sugar cravings entirely, but I do know that I have a limit now to how much sweet I can tolerate. That is progress, in and of itself! 🙂

  7. I’ve been pondering this as well. I have 2 really good friends in town who eat a Paleo diet and they swear it has changed their lives, for the better. And from my post today (it’s about how I’ve gained weight back) I know I definitely need to change SOMEthing. Besides the diary part, I eat a lot like Paleo already so it wouldn’t be THAT big of an adjustment for me. BUT. All that being said, I just cannot imagine going without some of the treats I love. Sometimes this whole eating thing stresses me out and I so wish it did not have to…

    I’m curious to follow along with your journey though and I COMPLETELY agree with you about the evil of CARBS. Ugh.

    1. My scale is at an all-time high right now, and it is making me crazy. But besides that, I just feel shitty and I am so tired of feeling that way. I think I’m ready for another drastic diet change. I know I sound like I’m too militant about my diet, but I just have to do it that way. Moderation doesn’t work for me.

  8. I went paleo about 6 months ago,after I stalled on my weight loss goal it’s working very well for me. I feel much better in myself and have discovered some really fun and easy ways to still have the things you like. ie cauliflower ‘rice’ so you can still eat rice dishes like thai, chinese and indian food. I also love spaghetti and thought I’d miss pasta but there are alternatives like juliene shredded zucchini, or roast spaghetti squash to give you the texture of pasta when eating the spaghetti sauce. There are so many things you can substitute but I have found that I no longer want to substitute and am satisfied with the paleo meals I cook. The family are alos loving it. So far I’ve dropped a further 10 lbs eating this way and I abhor conventional ‘exercise’ and gyms.
    Good luck with it, I know you’ll feel better.

  9. I’ve been reading about paleo diets for a while now…just hovering on the brink of diving into that lifestyle. I’ve given up gluten and feel much better but I know I’ll feel even better if I give up grains and most dairy. (By the way, “So Delicious” brand makes a coconut creamer for coffee and I can’t tell a difference! I am totally a coffee snob so that’s saying something. 🙂 Also, I’ve switched to coconut sugar for my coffee as well. Same thing…can’t tell a weird aftertaste, low on the glycemic index) So, you probably already know about Mark’s Daily Apple. I like his philosophy because he see’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine every now and then and there are some great links and recipes on his blog. Also, I’ve been following: Their new book is in my Amazon Cart. They are a little more strict but there is a lot of great info on their site.

    I’ve probably stayed away because of the “fad” thing, too. Basically, I’ve come to the decision that most things that go “back to the basics” are inherently good. For instance, I don’t really see kettlebells as a fad. It’s more of a rediscovery or bringing a basic, effective form of exercise into the light. Non-fancy, non-pimped out running shoes…also back to the basics….good for the knees and feet. Anyway, that’s how I’ve talked myself out of the whole “fad” idea with Paleo.

    One more thing about the Atkins, specifically, is that I just heard about various studies that show an initial positive response when following this diet–clearer head, more energy, etc. But, after a while, the lack of good carbs interferes with your hormone regulation and adrenals. If your adrenals are already stressed, as most of ours are, you will damage them further. That’s why a more paleo-type approach, where more “good carbs” are allowed, is more beneficial in the long run.

    I’m inspired that someone else will be jumping in and look forward to your menu plans! If I come across some good recipes or books, I’ll send them your way. 🙂

  10. we are just completing a 30 day program through Arbonne that fouces on eating whole foods, not processed and you are not supposed to eat gluten, dairy, sugar, coffee, soy, and several other misc. items. I feel great at least (after my cravings stopped, well most of them have…I still crave pastries and breads! I have lost weight and inches which is great! My hubby does not eat veggies or fruits (except apples) and we do not eat fish. So this month was difficult to find things to cook. Especially when getting on Pinterest and seeing all the yummy recipes that did not fall within the guidelines. I borrowed a few Paleo cookbooks from someone, but most of them hubby would not eat. So I am just going to try and remain as gluten free as possible and see if I keep the weight off and continue to lose weight! It can REALLY be frustrating sometimes.

  11. I am following a paleo book right now. No, I don’t desire to be a hunter/gatherer, cave dweller, but what this plan includes makes sense to me. I had adrenal fatigue, which led to insulin resistance. I watched thin people all around me eat three times more than me. I was so discouraged because I really tried and my weight wouldn’t budge. I was on 4 medications at 40 yrs old. Didn’t seem right when I really watched my diet. I would try weight loss plans and get discouraged because others in the group talked about binging and sugar addiction and I weighed the same. So I got to thinking of how God created our bodies and what is real food and what we are made to digest. I eat veggies, fruits, nuts, meats(try to eat the leaner ones) and almond or coconut milk for coffee or cooking. I only drink water or iced tea. If I want cheese on something, I have it and move one. Now that I’ve followed this for weeks I feel at peace in my body for the first time in a while. I don’t pound myself exercising either. I just do what makes me stronger. Weights, yoga, walking. And SLEEP. I am down to one medication and for the first time, the scale is moving. I have no desire for processed or refined foods. I suspect sometimes that gluten free is ok, but isn’t a lot of it higher on the glycemic index? Wouldn’t that make you hungrier? Not sure. So to make my very long story short, paleo is just another way of saying pure and whole for me, and it feels amazing.

  12. Hi- I often read your blog, but never comment (don’t take it personally I don’t comment on any blogs, but I should 🙂 ). You should check out the blog She has a recipe section on there that is paleo friendly. I have made a few of her recipes and they’re very good. Good luck!

  13. Jo-Lynne,

    Glad to hear you are inspired by my post! Just wanted to let you know, I am hosting a challenge starting mid-July that you might be interested in! Stay tuned – and this is a GREAT time of year to eat more ‘Paleo’ like – really it’s all about eating the most nourishing nutrient dense foods than any ‘diet’. When you give your body the basic building blocks you nix all the lame health complaints one by one! You can do it!

  14. Have you seen the Perfect Health diet? It’s kind of like Paleo but with what they call “safe starches,” with varying amounts depending on your goal and how your body reacts. Here’s the website: I’m not affiliated with them; they are just awesome.

    It is written by a couple of scientists who were trying to improve their health, and it just made sense to me while I was reading it (science geek that I am).

  15. I’ve been following a paleo/primal diet since last August, having given up gluten the year before after a lifetime of stomach issues and then fighting fibromyalgia that nearly left me bedridden for 2 years. I don’t think I can overstate the difference going paleo has made for me – the stomach issues (including GERD and chronic gastritis) are gone, every single one of my fibro symptoms disappeared and I am more present and involved in life than I have ever had the capability to be.

    I’ve become telling people I follow an anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense diet rather than paleo because there are soooo many ideas that just aren’t right that come along with the “paleo” term. It’s not about eating just what hunter-gatherer’s ate or a strict list of yes’s and no’s – for me it’s really been about eliminating inflammatory foods, focusing on good fats and properly raised produce and meats…but ultimately, it’s about discovering how foods affect my body.

    I agree with Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of – all food has either a positive or negative effect on our bodies and there’s really no inbetween. Rather than taking part in the science experiment that is the SAD, I’ve experimented on myself with real food and know that gluten is an absolute no-no for me, dairy is okay in very small amounts if cultured, and I have way less anxiety and stomach issues if I steer clear of all grains.

    For me, it came down to the realization a few months ago that I’d rather eat a restricted diet than live a restricted life!

    1. Oh – and it doesn’t have to be strictly low carb. I focus on smart carbs like sweet potatoes. Sweet Potato Power is a great book on the subject!

    2. “For me, it came down to the realization a few months ago that I’d rather eat a restricted diet than live a restricted life!” <--- That really says it all, right there!

  16. I don’t know that I’d call my husband and I paleo or primal, really. We don’t eat grains, sugar, or soy – but we do eat quality dairy, some legumes, some starch, and natural sweeteners. So I guess that’s somewhere between paleo, primal, and a traditional foods diet. Really, I call it a “eat normal food” diet and I just subconsciously evaluate everything I eat and make sure it’s of quality and not processed like crazy.

    All that to say, cravings and eating right is still a daily struggle for me. Knowing that I feel good when I eat right isn’t enough to keep me on the right path. Seeing myself shrink down in inches and lose weight isn’t enough to keep me on the right path. I just finished reading this – – and it was the missing link in my entire healthy living adventure. Once I pulled the spiritual element in with my knowledge, good intentions, and goals – staying on track suddenly got a lot easier. So I always recommend that book to women who are looking to make drastic healthy living changes. I really think it’s a spiritual fight more than anything else. 🙂

  17. So we joined the low-carb ranks a few weeks ago. I say “we” but I really mean Mike, because he forced me into it and I still cheat like crazy. He was just diagnosed diabetic so it’s a necessity for him to maintain his blood sugar. Only big problem is fruit messes up his sugar too, so he doesn’t eat fruit either. But I have gotten used to cooking without starches. Meals looks much smaller and he says he often feels hungry minutes later but I totally think it’s healthier. We do grilled meat or fish and usually three veggies. Two steamed or grilled plus a salad. Lots of raw crudite stuff on the table too. We’re not totally paleo because we still eat dairy (cheese and salad dressing, especially) and peanuts. He eats celery with peanut butter almost every morning for breakfast, unless he has time to make eggs and bacon. My kids still insist on starches, but they do eat WAY more veggies and meat than they used to. If I didn’t cheat and eat carbs when Mike’s not around, I swear I’d be dropping weight by the ton.

    1. By the way, we have multiple friends who SWEAR by the Whole9Life plan and I have watched them shed pounds like crazy, even though they weren’t overweight to begin with.

  18. I’m curious how you handle this with your children? I struggle A LOT with this in that *I* feel so much better when I restrict my own carbs but my girls love a more carb focused diet. Cooking separate meals for everyone ends up driving me nuts & back to the path of least resistance. I mean its hard enough to be strong for just myself with the cravings without them carrying on about the changes. (Gah, that sounds awful when I type it out. I hope you understand where I’m coming from!!!) Do you cook different meals or sides for your family or are they on board? Out of curiosity what do you eat for breakfast & lunch? I’m always looking for new ideas. 🙂

    1. Hey Shannon. No, I don’t make separate meals for dinner. I do, however, make separate meals for breakfast and lunches. I will make pancakes or waffles or french toast for the kids, and then fry myself an egg or make a smoothie. But for dinner, we all eat the same thing. I suppose I might still make rice or potato for them and try not to eat it, myself, but if it’s there, it’s hard NOT to eat it so I prefer to make for them what I plan to eat as well (at dinnertime.) Because don’t all sit down together to breakfast and lunch, that doesn’t bother me so much.

  19. Just a thought even though I’m a little late to this post party! Have you thought of just trying different grains as your “starch” for dinners? I get the paleo thing, but I do think there are some great nutrients in whole grains/seeds like quinoa, couscous, millet etc. I’ve seen with my clients that are “carb people” just trading in what kind of carbs they eat, rather than eliminating all together, can sometimes solve the bloating and mood issues. For some people, ridding of grains entirely can backfire in some ways. Try what you like of course. I’m not saying it’s not a great plan, but here’s another point to ponder.

    1. That is a very good point. I am not convinced all carbs are bad, it’s just that I seem to crave them and the more I eat them, the more I crave. Perhaps I wouldn’t crave them the same way if I was eating quinoa and stuff. I think it is probably the sugar causing the cravings.

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