Last time I discussed the weight loss aspect of low carbing and how to set realistic goals for your weight loss program. Now let’s look at some other goals, which are based on some of the other reasons why we choose to follow a low carb lifestyle. It seems obvious to me, though maybe not to everyone, that related goals should have to do with feeling healthier and being better able to function on a daily basis.
Perhaps the number one reason for low carbing, after (or concurrently with) weight loss, is diabetes treatment. And a low carb lifestyle is ideal for that purpose! The goal for most low carbing diabetics is, of course, good blood glucose control, with few or no medications. In spite of what doctors may tell you about the safety and efficacy of oral medications for diabetes, these sneaky little drugs can cause a great deal of harm even if they do manage to control your blood sugar.
For example, “tried and true” drugs such as Glucotrol or Glyburide can actually increase your appetite and slow you metabolism, piling on the extra pounds just when you most need to shed them! And for some people (like me), Glucophage has such a disruptive effect on the intestines that it just can’t be lived with. Just about every low carb book explains the insulin/glucose equation, so I won’t go into it here. Suffice to say that if you don’t give your body a glucose load, your post-prandial (after eating) numbers won’t spike. (Promise!) Some people, especially if they’ve reached the stage where their non-insulin-dependent diabetes has become insulin-dependent, may need to continue on medications, usually in greatly reduced dosages. But many, if not most, Type II diabetics can discontinue all oral agents if they follow a low carb lifestyle.
NOTE: If you are diabetic, always consult your physician when making dietary changes and for supervision of medication tapering!
One controversial medical condition is high cholesterol. Several recent studies have looked at the effect of low carbing on high cholesterol. The universal consensus seems to be that low carbing may raise total cholesterol in those whose cholesterol was in the normal or high-normal range to begin with, but it also greatly improves the ratios of “good” and “bad” cholesterols, and also lowers triglycerides. In people whose cholesterol was very high to begin with, low carbing tends to reduce total cholesterol as well as improving the cholesterol ratios. The goal here should be an acceptable ratio of LDL to HDL, lowered triglycerides, and the discontinuation of cholesterol-lowering medication.
Some of the other medical conditions that seem to be alleviated by low carbing include hypertension, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, some forms of arthritis, chronic fatigue, lupus, and ADHD.
And speaking of feeling healthier, what about exercise? Yep, many of us dread that horrid “E-word” as much as we dread stepping on the scale after a weekend off-plan! And yet, exercise of some kind is essential for optimal health and well-being.
Many doctors will advise their sedentary patients to begin by walking. Walking is great exercise. It moves all the major muscle groups without being too strenuous for most people, and can be done almost anywhere, almost any time, by almost anyone. (If you have a medical condition that makes walking difficult or impossible, please consult your medical specialist for advice on appropriate exercise.) Walking requires no special equipment, merely a pair of shoes that won’t cause your feet to hurt. You can begin as slowly as you need to, and work your way up to longer walks at faster speeds.
What if, like me, you find walking to be the most boring exercise in the entire universe?
If you’ve been sedentary for a long time, and walking around the neighborhood (or on a treadmill) bores you to tears, you might consider swimming or water aerobics, or even just pool walking. Exercising in water provides buoyancy and gentle pressure to keep arthritic joints and fibromyalgic muscles from becoming more inflamed and painful, and may actually help to alleviate existing pain. If your local pool, Y, or health club offers water aerobics classes, you may find it enjoyable to exercise with others. Don’t worry if you can’t keep up – do as much as you can, because every little bit helps!
Other types of exercise that can build and tone muscle (and, incidentally, burn fat, if you’re still in a weight loss phase) include bicycling, skating (ice, roller, or inline), martial arts, and, of course, utilizing whatever classes and equipment are available at your local health club, recreation center, or Y.
The ultimate goal? Feeling good, looking your best, and – of course! – living the healthiest lifestyle possible!