This is not a medical advice. Check with your doctor first if you plan to go on a low-carb, intermittent fasting regimen.
It’s past 3pm here, July 21, 2022. Our last meal was about 10pm last night. So it’s been about 17 hours since our last food intake. My wife Tweet and I had been going on low-carbohydrate (low-carb) intermittent fasting (LCIF) lifestyle for a while now.
She started around October 2021, as she tipped the scales at over 90kg. She was taking several medications, including hypertension tablets. I’d been taking diabetes meds for 8 years, including a 500-mg dose per day combo of insulin-boosting Sitagliptin/Metformin. Another doctor switched me to Glimepiride, another anti-diabetic medication.
My own LCIF journey started around February 2022, upon my wife’s diligent prodding. I weighed between 75 to 76kg then, though my ideal normal weight should have been 62 to 67kg.
My body mass index (BMI) then was 27 (considered “overweight”, which I was on for more than 20 years of my adult life). Thankfully, it’s down to 24.7 today (at 64kg), considered “normal”. My wife, meanwhile, is down from 90kg to 76kg.
In nutrition science, BMI is a mathematical formula to measure body fat — in general, your weight in kg divided by your height in meters squared. I do believe our body weight reduction journey kicked off with low-carb life, coupled with intermittent fasting, coupled with more aerobic exercise.
Why did we go with LCIF?
A host of reasons. But our biggest “why” is health. Among HMOs (health maintenance ogranisations), I learned that most now shun people who list diabetes as a “pre-existing” condition. I don’t blame them. It’s a chronic condition and deemed irreversible. Some insurers could still sign you up, but at sky-high rates (at >$2,000 a year).
Here’s another: The diabetes meds I was taking didn’t seem to work, and my doctors simply ramped up the dose as the condition lingered, seemingly without hope for remission. I never tried a body weight reduction before, believing I never needed it, despite knowing my overweight status.
Renowned UAE-based bariatric surgery specialist Dr Samir Rahmani, whom I interviwed in May for a story, further enlightened me on the subject. That’s how our low-carb-intermittent-fasting, coupled with more aerobic exercise, unfolded.
What we eat
Here’s a snapshot: Last night, we had a salad — just chopped cabbage really with Kewpie mayonnaise + Cheese Whiz. I prepped it quickly, had maybe a five or six bites before I went back to work (in my home office).
Before I knew it, my 8-year-old son Toffee, already finished the plate.
He told me he’s “sorry” for finishing my food. He liked it. Our kids have separate meals, and are not on LCIF, but they also like our meals.
This morning, we went to the farm, about 7km away. I was supposed to go on a bike. But it rained, so went by car.
We also transplanted some avocado and rambutan seedlings to my grandparents’ farm (I’ve grown those seedlings our backyard). It was good exercise, and a wonderful time to mark the special day (15th wedding anniversary).
So in the five to six months of my low-carb journey, here’s what it meant:
> Less rice (occassionally, low glycaemic-index rice).
> Less bread/ pasta/ noodles.
> Less or no sugar /honey/maple syrup.
On most days, our food consists of proteins (that is, meat, fish, eggs, nuts) and loads of veggies. Even for coffee, we avoid sugar substitutes, and learned to love a sugar-free brew.
Here’s the long and short of it: Alongside leading an active life, LCIF actually brought by blood sugar down to normal levels (see video), where it was hitting above normal before, despite the meds.
Just to clarify: we’re not on a hard-core “no carb”, or “zero carb” regimen — totally eliminating digestible carbs from someone’s diet.
Carbs are your body’s primary source of energy. They’re found in grains, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, milk, yogurt, pasta, bread, and wheat-based baked goods.
Check with your doctor
And we don’t advice this low-carb, intermittent fasting lifestyle for anyone: It’s best to check with your doctor first. That’s what we did with Dr Josephine Chua Rojo, a licensed medical practitioner, and low-carb advocate, who organises LCIF “master classes”.
We don’t go into the minutiae of counting caloric intake either. Here’s another disclaimer: We do allow for some “cheat days”, when we indulge in carb (pasta or pizza!) — maybe 4 to 5 day out of 30 days in a month.
But once you go on an LCIF path, or kicked the high-carb habit, you don’t want to lose your “gains” (or in my case, weight loss, a normal blood sugar level, a skipping my diabetes medication).
We know from scientific journals, interviews with doctors, and LCIF consulting sessions that low-carb life does help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. From our experience, every expert we consulted were right on the money, as it also boosts overall wellness.
A normal weight goes a long way
Obesity is a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. Experts say that almost any diet that helps you shed excess weight helps improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
I was not obese, but was overweight. I do remember my endocrinologist in the UAE getting upset with me — when I told him I was unable to resist my “usual” intake of rice and bread (which is to say, “unlimited” rice, especially at night.)
Can I go back to high-carb / eat-all-I-can life?
Our food choices, weight, blood sugar levels and overall health are totally up to us — they’re not the doctor’s responsibility. They can only give good advice.
From our experience, every expert we consulted were right on the money on LCIF, as it also boosts overall wellness.
It’s only now that I realised anti-diabetes meds won’t help much if I overload on carbs and sweets like I always had, and then do just some compliance exercises. From there, it was just a downward spiral into ill health.
Of course we can opt to indulge in an anything-goes high-carb diet. But now that we now know better what works, the choice is entirely up to us.
What are carb substitutes do we use for baking?
There are a number of them available locally or online.
Wheat or rice substitutes:
> Low glycemic-index (GI) rice (eat only in moderation)
Foods to eat and avoid
In a low-carb diet, most of the calories should come from healthy, natural sources, including:
> Lean protein, such as eggs, fish, nuts, and tofu
> Good fats, such as olives or avocados
People going for a very low-carb diet also limit fruit intake since fruit also contains fructose, a kind of sugar (sweet carb) — though most people consider fruit is a better substitute for sugary snacks and processed foods.
Low-carb, healthy diet suggests limiting intake of the following:
> Processed foods (prepackaged meals and salty snacks)
> Sugar-rich foods (cakes, candies, pastries, cookies, sodas, and juices)
> Starches (esp white bread or bagels)
> Potatoes, including potato chips
> Other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro, cassava)
> Whole-grain bread, lentils, and beans are also high in carbs (but they can be an important part of a healthy diet). These may be eaten only moderation or as a substitute for unhealthful carbs, such as cakes and pies.
Some simple ideas for our meals include:
> Low-sodium cottage cheese
> Fiber-rich smoothies with avocado, frozen berries, and
> Eggs and vegetables fried in coconut oil
*Cauliflower, a great low-carb food, is not easily available where we are, so we don’t have it as often as we wish.
Lunch and dinner:
> Baked or grilled chicken
> Cauliflower rice with vegetables and tofu
> Salad with toasted nuts
> Bunless hamburgers or cheeseburgers
> Pizza with a cauliflower crust
> Chicken stuffed with vegetables and cheese
> Tuna, including packaged tuna and tuna steaks
> Nuts | Fruit (in moderation)