The carb thing

What is mostly on my mind at the moment is what I should be doing with my life (oh that small thing!) but I haven’t organized my thoughts in any coherent fashion yet, so today’s observation is something simple and unexpected (to me).

I have been low-carbing on purpose of late. I periodically low carb by accident but just because my food choices don’t include potatoes for a few days. I have recently read Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat and found it persuasive enough to deliberately cut out potatoes for a while and see how I felt about it.

I am not fat, but nor am I thin. I eat what I eat because I think it’s important to put food that’s good for you in your body, not because I particularly want to look like a fashion plate (which is lucky really, because I couldn’t even if I wanted to on account of not finding clothes terribly interesting once they have met certain criteria: warm, comfortable, clean, and make me look socially normal enough that no-one looks at me because I look like a bag lady…). So losing weight has never been terribly interesting to me. I like to eat. I don’t think my body weight is unhealthy (although I know there are several who wouldn’t agree with me). But you know, I’m in my forties and I’m OK with my body.

So, back to low carbing.

I have been shocked by it. Not because weight has fallen off me (which it hasn’t: I have lost a little; but nothing untoward — and anyway I’ve only been doing it a couple of weeks) but because of the impact low carb eating has had on my resting heart rate. Who knew? (I know, I know, lots of people probably knew but I wasn’t one of them.)

I used to write marketing material for Polar HR monitors a thousand years ago. I LIKE HR monitors and am very pleased now with having a FitBit HR. I watched my RHR go up and down and could pin point some of what was going on (stress = RHR of 80 bpm which freaked me out but I couldn’t figure out how to reverse it; being on holiday for a week = RHR of 70). I worked out that drinking alcohol had an immediate impact on my RHR, which surprised me and definitely fed into my evening decision of “shall I have a glass of wine” and my answer became “no” more often: not only was it disrupting my sleep, but also having a visible impact on my heart. I also worked out that was where some of my “stress = RHR” was coming from because stress also equalled being more likely to have that glass of wine. Or two. Or three.

What I hadn’t expected was my RHR to fall dramatically when I cut carbs out. And to go back up on the day after I eat carbs (but not wine). It’s like magic. My RHR is down to 65. (It went up a lot over the weekend of the wedding: stress, carbs and alcohol — no wonder!)

I know there are all kinds of indicators that change when you cut carbs out of your diet, but they were all beyond me to easily measure. My RHR, though, that’s easy. And it’s more meaningful to me than my weight. It’s like getting immediate feedback that those tiny things you do on any given day REALLY DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You know, the minute particulars. Whether you have a glass of wine or not. Whether you decide that today, you will eat that chocolate. Well, it’s a wedding. What harm will one piece of cake really do?

It makes a difference to your RHR. Who knew? Not me.


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