Before I started working at here at the Protein Bread Co, I was a typical uni student - eating not too badly, but with plenty of coffee, take away and sugary treats. My main meals were usually fine, with veggies and lean meat, but there was also plenty of pasta and rice. I didn't know much about what a low carb life meant, about the real life benefits of being committed to exercise and how both of these things are really empowering in your life. So I've put together a quick list of what I've learnt in the past 8 months.
1) It's not that complicated
I thought it would be about counting carbs and calories and complicated meals that take forever to cook... but it's not. You can make it that way if you like, if you prefer that level of organisation. But it can also just be about choosing fresh and delicious veggies, fruits, nuts and meat. A salad for lunch takes me less than 5 mins to chuck together the night before - I add cashews, fetta and cranberries to a regular green salad and it's perfect with colourful and fresh veggies.
2) Without goals you don't go anywhere
If you just vaguely decide to go "low carb" with no reasons behind your choice or goals in front of you, it's hard to stick to. I ended up snacking on chips or chocolate when I went to friends' houses, and eating the leftover snacks we had in our house way too much. But if I a set a time and date that I was aiming for, and thought about why I was doing it (for me it was about maintaining energy levels through the day), it was so much easier.
3) You can still enjoy your food!
It's important to have the right attitude - switch your thinking from what you're missing out on to what you can still enjoy. I can still enjoy my big coffee on Monday mornings, my Date & Walnut bread
at morning tea and a bowl of pasta on date night. I can also enjoy my fresh, crunchy salad at lunch and a piece of Protein Bread
for breakfast smothered in peanut butter
4) Exercising makes a huge difference
When I started working full time I found it really hard to fit any exercise into my work days (which involve a lot of commuting). But it's amazing how exercise helps you feel so much better - it improves your mood, helps you sleep and helps you focus better during the day. So even if it's just a 10 minute jog, a few sit ups and star jumps in your lounge room, or a walk around the block at lunch - always try and get out and do something!
5) Guilt has no place in your dieting habits
If you fall off the wagon and pig out on a block of chocolate... get over it. It's not the end of the world, and you don't have to shame yourself. Guilt does nothing positive. Learning from your mistakes is so important, but I feel that for myself guilt does not help me do this, it only makes me feel like a failure. So instead, I admit what I've done and I plan for how not to do it in the future (e.g. don't just buy that chocolate bar at the register just because it's on sale).
6) Skinny does not equal healthy
I'm quite tall and skinny - but this has never meant that I'm overly healthy or fit. That's just the way my body is. I can't assume that I'm healthy because I'm not overweight, and you can't make that assumption about someone else either - the "skinny fat" epidemic can be deceptive.
7) Carbs do crazy things to your energy levels
I've found that when I have a carby lunch - pasta, rice etc. - my energy levels dip significantly in the afternoon around 2pm. But if I have my fresh salad, I'm able to feel much more focused for the entire day. Honestly, sometimes the salad can feel a bit lame when it's raining outside or I've had a bad morning, but I always know it's a good choice for feeling better through the afternoon. I never regret my salad.
8) Learning to love your choice of exercise is important
Don't force yourself into running if you get bored, or into a spin class if you hate it. Finding something you love will help you be so much more motivated. I really enjoy the yoga/pilates class that I do at the end of my work week on Thursday nights. It's sometimes hard to get out the door, but it's always worth it. I also love taking my dog for walks - which is good for both of us. Love what you do and you'll find yourself doing it more and more.
9) It really is all about balance
I really love pasta. A lot. And so I'm not going to remove it entirely from my diet, but I'm going to be balanced with it. No it's not a part of my weekly diet, but I will choose it when we go out for dinner. Balance out your favourite, high carb foods so you don't miss the things you love.
10) Don't judge other people by their food choices
It's great that you are educated enough to make healthy food choices, but there are plenty of people who aren't. Many people don't grow up learning how to cook, but instead were given a lot of takeaway and so make the same choices as an adult. Or maybe they feel like they don't have the time, because they don't know healthy can be easy too. The problem that these people often have is not that they're too lazy or incompetant, but just that they don't know enough. Instead of judging friends and family, why not explain to them the benefits? Help them learn why you've chose this lifestyle and how it helps you, rather than judging them for their food choices.
11) It won't break your budget
Yes health food stores can be very expensive, and you can spend a lot of money if you choose to and can afford it. But it can also be surprisingly cheap - cheaper maybe than your previous diet. If you are having mainly veggies and meat, if you're cutting down on takeaway and prepackaged foods, it can work in your favour. Homebrand items can be just as fine as branded health foods - you always just need to read the label.
Hopefully, you love your low carb lifestyle as much as me - what are your low carb lifestyle tips?