Low-carb Lent

For the past several months, I’ve been discussing the Trekkers’ attempt at a lower-carb lifestyle.  Now that the season of Lent is upon us, I will be kicking that up a notch.

The Backstory:

I grew up Lutheran, which, for those who may not know, is kind of like Catholic, we just don’t quite have the same dedication. 😉😉  Many people who followed my religious traditions chose to give up something for Lent.  Usually, this is some type of favorite food, but it could also be a toy, a game, or an activity you enjoy, such as social media or video games.  It really doesn’t matter what you give up, the point is that you sacrifice something.  I am not aware that any of the denominations in the Protestant faith require a Lenten sacrifice, it is solely based on personal choice.  

What is Lent?

Lent is the 40-day period in the Christian religion that leads up to Easter, starting on Ash Wednesday.  The whole point of it is to symbolically recognize the sacrifice Jesus made when He wandered the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the devil, before His crucifixion.  The date that Ash Wednesday occurs changes every year based on the date of Easter (which also changes every year).  My understanding is, Easter always falls the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, and is also related to when Passover occurs.  Passover is a holiday from the Jewish faith that isn’t usually celebrated by Christians, but the Christian religion has its roots in Judaism so some of the traditions still share similarities. (Does this make anyone else’s brain hurt?  This is why I’m a nature girl and not a religious scholar. 😉)

Previous fasts:

I didn’t start participating in a Lenten fast until I was in high school and I’ll admit it, for my first few attempts, I failed miserably.  Six weeks is a long time to give up things you really enjoy!  But the last several years I’ve been able to stick with my fast fairly well.  In the past, I’ve given up sweets (i.e. donuts, cookies, candy, ice cream, basically anything that could be construed as a dessert).  The caveat to this is, my birthday “almost” always falls during Lent.  So, God and I have an ongoing agreement that birthday treats are exempted from consideration. 😁 (It’s not my fault that this is when I was born! 😉)  Funnily enough, this is the first year I can remember that my birthday DIDN’T fall during Lent…it fell on Fat Tuesday** instead. 😂 

**For those who may not be aware, because Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday, the Tuesday directly preceding it is known as Fat Tuesday as you “get fat” gorging on the foods you won’t be enjoying for the next six weeks. (Fat Tuesday factors into Mardi Gras celebrations as well.)

In past years, I have also given up cheese, gum, and soda, though none of those felt as difficult as giving up all sweets.  As the Trekkers have been slowly working to decrease our sugar intake over the last several years**, I did feel giving up sweets was easier last year than it’s been in the past.  Going low-carb this year will be interesting, as, not only will I be giving up sweets, I’ll also be giving up things like blueberry muffins or cereal.  These types of foods have been my go-to “treats” in past fasts when I couldn’t have the cookies, candy or ice cream that I was really craving.

**Mr. Trekker and I have been slowly edging towards a low-carb life the last several years, so I’m not exactly going “cold-turkey” in my quest to lessen my carb intake.  A little over a year ago we traded out our usual Cheerios for fruit smoothies in the morning. (On REALLY cold mornings, I’ll still sometimes make oatmeal, but the stuff you actually have to cook, not the instant kind.)  For lunch, we also traded out our lunchmeat sandwiches, chicken/veggies/pasta (or rice), or leftovers from the crock pot, for salads with a meat-based protein.  Several years ago we started switching out ground beef for ground turkey and I began buying nothing in the oil department other than olive oil (and using that for almost all recipes, even if they call for butter or another fat).  I only really use butter for baking purposes. (And yes, ALWAYS real butter.  I never touch the margarine/hardly-any-different-than-plastic stuff. 😝)  

Mr. Trekker has also traded cookies and crackers/chips, in his lunch, with nuts and granola bars.  We’ve also been trying to eat fewer desserts overall–we’re still working on this one a bit. 😳😉  Just by doing these things, however, Mr. Trekker has lost more than 20 pounds! 😳  I haven’t seen quite as good of results, but I think I had slightly better practices to begin with (I eat fewer cookies 😉).  I also haven’t been as dedicated to giving up the “naughty” foods (I mentioned above my love for soda.)  I am doing better in this area, however, now that I’ve discovered “La Croix” sparkling water.  

Side note:  I am SO glad this type of stuff is easily available again! Do ya’ll remember “Clearly Canadian”?  I used to LOVE that stuff! Am I dating myself? 😳😝  

I find I usually need SOMETHING fun to drink during the day to look forward to.  I drink a lot of water, as well, but I need something else. Fortunately, a few years ago, I discovered fruity, green tea.  I’m not a big fan of it hot, but I LOVE it ice cold.  I can even take it sans sweetener (though I’ve got a soft spot for the green tea frappucinos at Starbucks, and there is NOTHING “low-sugar” about those!  I don’t know what it is, there’s no love lost between my palate and “green”-tasting veggies, but a drink that tastes like grass?  I LOVE it! 😜  Go figure.)  Other than slightly stained teeth and a few stained dishes, I’m not aware of ANY negative consequences for drinking green tea (especially assuming you take it without sweetener).  That’s one of those few items that you really can’t drink too much of.

Low-carb Lent 2019

In past years, I have craved carb-heavy snacks when I gave up sweets.  This makes sense as my body was seeking alternative sources to acquire the “sugar fix”.  Going low-carb will require me to adjust my notions of “snacking”.  No more grabbing a bag of Doritos or pretzels at the gas station.  During “Low-carb Lent” it will be all carrot sticks, other raw veggies, granola bars and trail mix for me! (I may allow myself a bit of dip to go along with the veggies, and yes, I realize granola bars have carbs in them.  *sigh*  I gotta have SOME enjoyment, right? 😝) 

The one exception to the “no sweets” rule that I will be allowing myself is that I will, occasionally, allow dark chocolate on the menu.  This is because dark chocolate is the one true “dessert” that is allowed by the Paleo diet.  You are supposed to eat the darkest type you can stand, preferably 90% cacao or higher.  However, neither my IBS, nor my palate, will let me go that high, so I’ll be sticking with around 70%. Fortunately, my IBS doesn’t allow me to eat much of this food at any given time either, so my “treats” will be minimal.  

Another exception I will be allowing myself is soda.  I love soda, L-O-V-E, LOVE it! I could drink it all day, EVERY day (and we’re talking full sugar here, that diet stuff tastes like crap and the fake sugar is bad for you, it also triggers my IBS.) 😝 Obviously, this is not the healthiest of choices.  Fortunately, my stomach doesn’t tolerate high amounts of soda intake, so I try to show a little restraint.  I usually allow the occasional soda as a “cheat” during Lent, and I plan to continue with that this year as well.  Yes, I am aware there are carbs in soda. (Actually, it’s chock full of sugar, let’s just be honest.)  But it isn’t made from grains, and it isn’t a sweet dessert, and those are the main things I’m focusing on this year.  (As I said before, a girl’s got to have a little fun SOMEWHERE. 😉)  Depending on how this year goes, maybe I’ll be willing to give up soda next year?

As you may be able to tell, I’m pretty bad at this.  I HATE counting calories, carbs, whatever, so I pretty much refuse to do it.  I’ll read the occasional label, but, basically, I’m just trying to live a reasonably, low-carb lifestyle. I am NOT going to count how many carbs are in the raspberry vinegarette dressing I am putting on my spinach and kale salad I’m eating for lunch, or how many are in the fruit smoothie I make every morning.  I can’t contemplate how it can be bad to have something like this for breakfast, even if there is a bit of natural sugar in it (assuming you aren’t diabetic). Especially if I’m using this to replace cereal, pancakes or a bagel.  

Neither of the Trekkers is gluten intolerant, has been diagnosed as diabetic, or as having an autoimmune disease at this point in life (for which we are very thankful).  If that were to occur though, that would alter the zealousness with which I pursued this type of diet.  The author of the book Wired to Eat, that I discussed in a previous post, is gluten intolerant.  He, literally, gets sick if he eats too much gluten.  So he has far more invested in this type of alternative lifestyle choice.

Basically, I SUCK at dieting, and I’m too lazy and unmotivated to reasonably see this changing much in the future. Even with the Paleo diet, you are allowed a modicum of carb intake, so I will be allowing some exceptions (such as low-carb noodles or whole-grain pancakes, and maybe whole-grain oatmeal on really cold, snowy days). I also don’t seem to have the dedication required to give up potatoes this go around, maybe next year?  I am doing this partially because I can have SOME carbs and because it gets REALLY inconvenient not to eat any.  What I’m hoping is, if this diet really does work, I should still see some positive results.  They may not be as good as if I was actually following the plan perfectly, but they should still be present. (And if I do see results, even if I’m not following the plan to it’s fullest extent, that proves it works, at least somewhat.)

Fasting:

I’ve been implementing fasting–on a VERY minor basis–the past few months, as well. Basically, during the week, I fast around 12 hours per day.  My understanding is that this is the absolute bare minimum that you can fast and still call it fasting. 😝  But, it still counts in my book. 😉  We usually eat breakfast around 7:30 – 8:00 in the morning.  It’s rare that we aren’t done with dinner by 7 at night, so my goal is that by 7:30 each night, I won’t be eating anything else until the following morning.** 

**Fasting at night is easy, I’m asleep! 😉  I find, sometimes, I’ll start feeling hungry about the time I go to bed.  That’s easy enough to ignore, though. Even on those occasions, I rarely wake up with my stomach growling, seven or so hours later.  I also usually find I can wait an hour or two from wake-up before actually ingesting breakfast.  

Realistically, I should be fasting for at least 13 – 15 hours per day, but with our daily schedule that starts to get into the wholly inconvenient arena.  That would be the point where I make smoothies for breakfast…and then they sit in the fridge for several hours before we actually drink them?  Or we end up needing to eat dinner before Mr. Trekker usually even gets home from work at night?  I just…can’t.  Perhaps I’m lazy, or just lack discipline, but I’m seeking out real solutions and lifestyle changes that I can maintain long-term.  Anything extreme just isn’t practical for me and I know it won’t last.  I am aware this may mean I don’t see the full extent of the results possible on these types of diets, but I’m ok with that.  

So, this will be my adventure for the next several weeks.  I’ll continue posting monthly updates regarding new recipes that we’re trying and any progress that I’m making. I’ll also try to take special note of any oddities I notice (am I lethargic, am I hungry all the time, do I feel irritable, do I feel GREAT?)  Stay tuned for further reports from the Tranquil Trekker’s explorations into a low-carb lifestyle!

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