The approach of this way of eating is simple – it takes the best of a low-carb diet and the best of a low-fat diet, and alternates between them. You either eat a low-carb meal (that has protein and fats), or you eat a low-fat meal (that contains proteins and slow carbs), and you eliminate sugars altogether.
But what is a slow carb? A slow carb is a carbohydrate that releases glucose in to your blood stream slowly, instead of all at once. Slow carbs have a low glycemic index, and keep your blood sugar from spiking. Examples of slow carbs include whole-grain breads, whole-grain pastas, brown rice, and green vegetables. Sugars and starches are fast carbs, because they do not have a low glycemic index and release glucose in to your bloodstream quickly.
This eating plan is about managing how quickly the food you eat turns in to glucose in your blood stream. Many popular diets today, including low-carb diets and slow-carb diets are based on similar principles, but take different approaches to weight loss.
So, why should I eat slow carbs? How does this work?
The theory goes like this: when you eat carbs your body releases glucose into your blood stream, and your body reacts by producing insulin. Insulin is the hormone that tells your body to store fat. When your insulin level rises, the fat that is in your blood stream is stored away. For example, when you eat a cookie, the sugar in the cookie raises your blood sugar level, and then the fat from the cookie is stored.
There are two approaches to reducing this effect:
1. Don’t eat high-glycemic (sugary) foods. This keeps your insulin levels from spiking.
Sugar and starchy foods cause your insulin level to shoot up. You want to avoid extreme insulin levels altogether. You can check the glycemic index of a food to see how much it spikes your blood sugar – the higher the number the worse it is. So just cut out the sugar (and the white flour, white rice, potatoes, corn syrup etc.) For more information on what is not allowed, see the FAQ.
2. Eat food that has a low glycemic index (slow carbs), and when you do, cut out the fat.
Your body needs carbs. Whole grains and green veggies contain carbohydrate and fibre, and cause a much lower increase of your insulin level. However, they do cause a small increase, so when you eat them you want to avoid having very much fat in your blood stream at the same time. Your body can get the fat it needs from another meal.
3. When you eat fat, cut out the carbs.
Your body needs protein and fat for tissue repair, so it is important not to eliminate them from your diet. When you eat fat, you can reduce the impact it has on your waistline by cutting out the carbs that you eat at the same time. By keeping your insulin levels low when you eat fat, you avoid storing the fat as extra weight.
This way of eating ensures that you get protein, fat, and slow carbs, and that you keep your insulin levels low.
You need to wait before you alternate from a low-carb meal to a low-fat meal. When you eat a meal that contains carbs, you need to wait about 3 hours for your blood sugar to go back down before you can eat a meal that contains fat. If you eat a meal that contains fat, you need to wait about 1 hour for the fat to work its way through your system before you eat a meal that contains carbs.
This way of eating does not limit the amount of food that you eat. In fact, you’ll find that many food cravings are actually sugar cravings, and that they go away when you cut the sugar out. So eat until you’re full, since you don’t want to put your body into starvation mode, but of course keep it reasonable – have a slice of low-carb cheesecake, not the whole thing!
Beware though, this way of eating is not as simple as it sounds, because we tend to put hidden sugars in most processed food. And eating sugar with your fatty meal will set you up to gain weight, not lose it. You’ll have to read a lot of labels, and you’ll have to cook a fair bit of your own food if you want to be strict with this way of eating. The recipes on this site have all been adjusted for this way of eating, so I hope you find some of them helpful.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be perfect in order for this to work! You can cheat a bit and still lose weight. (By cheating, I mean splurging with some sugar or combining fat and carbs at the same time). Cheat a bit more and you’ll maintain your weight. And we all know what happens if you cheat a lot! Personally, I found I could splurge on one big dessert every week and still lose weight, although after a few weeks I didn’t want to. How much you can cheat depends on your body and your weight loss goals. It’s pretty simple – if you are cheating and not losing weight as quickly as you would like, then you need to stop cheating. Personally, I find that it’s the little cheats that get me – they tend to add up and increase over time. I recommend being pretty strict with your day-to-day eating and save the cheats for something really good.
When you’re happy with your weight, you can ease up on the rigidity of separating carbs and fats, or you can just cheat a little bit more. I hate to have to tell you this, but you’ll probably never be able to eat loads of sugar and maintain your weight. However, you can probably start to do things like add a moderate amount of cheese to your whole-grain pasta meal, or fry the onions for your brown rice meal in a bit of butter. If you start to gain weight, just go back to weight loss mode for a little while. Because losing weight this way does not put your body in starvation mode, you will probably notice that you can move easily in to maintenance mode without putting all the weight back on.
If you want more help with this diet, you can learn about the low-carb diets that are around. The closest diet to this eating plan (that I know of) is old-style Somersizing. Suzanne Somers describes this type of diet in her first few weight loss books. However, she changes her diet plan part way through her book series, promoting juices and some other things that combine fat and carbs, and I’ve never tried her new plan, so I can’t personally recommend it.