Last month we we spent a week on the fantastic low-carb cruise in the Caribbean.
We invited our moderators to write guest posts here at the blog. Here’s the last report, by Marina Yudanov, with our final reflections:
Guest Post by Marina Yudanov
Team DietDoctor Caribbean Reflections
I enjoyed myself immensely on my first low-carb cruise this year. I would recommend it to anyone at least slightly familiar with LCHF, who has experienced the positive effects or done some reading on the subject. The speakers covered a diverse range of low-carb, high-fat-related topics and the talks ranged from personal accounts of LCHF life to technical talks on the biochemistry of the body and how it responds to diet. Listening to the presentations and talking to people was a great way to validate the things I’ve read, tried and internalized as truths. It was also a great eye-opener for new things LCHF-related that I hadn’t come across of my own accord before.
I took notes during the talks. Some words keep recurring. The most common are something along the following: refined carbs are like fire to the body. Throughout our week on the cruise, a train of thought was formulated in my brain and I’ll walk you through it, referring to which presentations which thoughts primarily came from.
First, a classic that was mentioned by several speakers: A normal blood sugar level is having approximately one single teaspoon diluted in your entire blood stream. Anything outside of this sets off intense activity in the body to try and restore normality: increasing it to keep us from fainting, or bringing it down with insulin to stop us from going into a coma. Outside of one teaspoon, the body panics. Remind me again what we are recommended to eat for breakfast by TV ads and the like?
So, refined carbs are like fire to the body and brain. They are inflammatory and make your body send panic signals to go and fix things, to go and put out the fire and restore calm. And this is all diet: you can eat things that will put you into an anti-inflammatory, fat-burning mode – or you can eat things that send you into a pro-inflammatory, fat-storing mode. Dr. Justin Marchegiani spoke a lot about this.
If you eat what gets you into the pro-inflammatory, fat-storing mode, you’re going to realise pretty soon that you are miserable and hungry. Your body will be bent on storing energy as fat and not releasing it. If the stored energy is inaccessible, you will be hungry. The trick is to hormonally trigger your body to release energy from fat cells. Dr. Marchegiani mentioned this, and so did Tom Naughton. Any other diet than low-carb, high-fat for fat loss is painful and eventually ends in failure, guilt and shame. It’s because no other diet can hormonally set you into the anti-inflammatory, fat-burning mode. Hormones are stronger than willpower.
Tom had a nifty metaphor for how hormonally-controlled we are: he had us picture the body as an elephant, and our conscious minds perched upon it like a rider, trying to tell it where to go. Now, if the elephant sees a fire, it will run, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The trick is just deciding that you, too, want to avoid fires, and presto: you and the elephant will be in synch.
Don’t start fires and your body will be free to manage the other important changes that are going on. For us women Jackie Eberstein had an honest, personal and down-to-earth presentation about how to prepare and cope with the struggle of menopause. And Michael Fox had some very interesting material on hormones and insulin resistance in women around pregnancy, and how to handle that. It’s all about working with your body instead of against it.
Similarly, Jamie Caporosso talked about the reduced recovery time you experience as an athlete when you keep dietary-induced inflammation down. This I explain to myself like so: if I don’t start fires, my body gets fewer emergencies to deal with and can focus on the recovery process. Being able to couple my own experiences with diet, exercise and health to the technical names of hormones and reactions going on in the body is wonderful. A lot of times, the speakers confirmed something I had “felt” but not put into coherent thought.
This cruise is great for anyone who has experienced the positive effects of LCHF and wants to be in a setting with like-minded people and experts who can give the science behind the scenes. It’s perfect for those who have done some own reading and research: you get a chance to hear straight from the doctors and scientists, which helps tie your knowledge and experiences to the emerging evidence.
Still other speakers gave me something completely new. There were some terrifying statistics presented: Dr. Ann Childers told us that in the U.S., adults consume 22 tsp of added sugar daily, and teens consume 34 tsp of added sugar daily — and this is not including starch. I think it was Jimmy Moore who brought up the shocking statistic that in the U.S., vegetable intake consists of 35% potatoes for adults, and 56% potatoes for children. Potatoes!
This was my first time in the States. One feeling that kept creeping up on me was summarized by Dr. Jay Wortman with the following quote: “We have a health system that doesn’t care about food, and a food system that doesn’t care about health”. After his talk on the money, politics and lobbyism working for conventional high-carb food, I spoke to several people who, like me, were alarmed and concerned.
The ship carries a huge variety of food which is available almost round the clock every day. There are plenty of opportunities to eat both good and bad foods. My tactic was to just “not see” the bad foods and pretend they didn’t exist, and to instead focus on the choice of real foods.
Seeing the reality of the food climate in the U.S. for the first time fills me with admiration for the low-carbers I’ve met: I am mightily impressed that people have the courage and curiosity to step outside the conventional recommendations, find something new for themselves, convince themselves that it’s a better way and follow through, gaining better health and being proud of the journey they’ve made. But also, seeing that so many people seem to have changed their lives eating LCHF, I can’t get my head around why the movement doesn’t seem to be growing faster. How do we change that? How do we put out all the fires?