September 17th, 2003


Diet Stuff

Before I started on the low-carb diet I read up on as much of it as I could, browsing through the various FAQs on the Atkins site and reading an awful lot of discussion between people on the diet about the problems that they'd had and the solutions they'd found.

Two of the useful things that came up in these discussions were Sucralose and Bran. Low carb diets tend to be low in fibre, as protein itself isn't at all fibrous. This obviously tends to cause constipation, a problem which is no fun at all (and is probably making you wish you hadn't read this far). The obvious solution to this is bran, which is not just fibre, but insoluble - you don't digest it at all, so I don't have to worry about eating it. Of course, if you look at the ingredients label of supermarket bran you'll notice that it's between 20 and 50% sugar (despite being labelled healthy), so it was off to RealFoods for me, where I picked up some no-sugar, no-salt bran (apparently they add salt to normal bran, which just makes you wonder what you are eating most of the time).

Now, the problem with bran sans sugar is that it tastes fairly foul. You might as well just chew cardboard. However, I'm extremely lucky in that there's a recent sweetener on the market which is Atkins-Approved (that is, the website speaks highly of it, not that it's sold by them). The problem with most sweeteners (aspartame, etc) is that they don't just taste sweet, they cause a surge in insulin levels just like sugar does. Since it's these insulin surges I'm trying to avoid it makes no sense to use a sweetener that has the same effect. Sucralose (marketed as Splenda) on the other hand tastes sweet, but seems to be completely ignored by the body once it leaves the mouth. At least it's ignored by most people's bodies, I did bump into a few unfortunates who had allergic reactions of some kind, but they appeared to be very rare. So I bought some, gingerly added it to my cereal and it worked fantastically.

The only problem is that my organisation isn't good enough to make sure I always have bran in the house. Every so often I don't pick up more in time and end up bran free for a few days. You don't want to know what happens when I don't have bran for a few days and then start again, but it's an image I'll happily leave you with.

Which reminds me, I weigh 11.5 stone - lighter than I've managed since I was at university nearly 10 years ago. I'm now slowly increasing my carbohydrate levels until my weight stabilises, adding back in more fruit and the occasional sweet treat. Not only that, but my sugar cravings have entirely vanished, as have the side-effects of sugar consumption. Where I used to get hypoglycaemic shakes and cravings if I ate sugar and then stopped, I now find that I don't get any effects at all. I'm not willing to push this to see how well I cope if I really binge, but for the moment I'm just enjoying being able to treat myself occasionally and not regaining the lost stone and a half...