As you’ll see from my About Me page, what truly fascinates me about food is the impact it can have on our mood, which, incidentally, effects what we go on to eat: the mood-food cycle, as I like to call it. With this in mind, I decided to try a little experiment and live off refined carbohydrates for a week to see how my behaviour changed. This is what happened.
Refined carbohydrates- sometimes referred to as simple carbohydrates- are primarily baked goods made using white flour. Thus, I ate an awful lot of white bread, pasta and much too much cake. Woe is me. They do say variety is the spice of life, so I threw in a load of butter, chocolate and cheese for good measure. Throughout the process, I had repeat flashbacks of Gillian McKeith (terrifying in itself) revealing huge piles of dough to her bread-loving clients/ victims and them almost fainting from a combination of shock and shame, but for some weird reason, these only seemed to spur me on. Of course, a diet so devoid of nutrients had an effect on my physical wellbeing (I was bloated and got a bit heavier), yet far more noticeable than any of these were the consequences those delicious carbs had on my mental and emotional state.
First and foremost was the detrimental repercussions on my energy levels. I was almost immediately exhausted and remained in this condition for the week’s entirety. To be fair, I had started working full days at my part-time job again (a mere ten hours on my feet), which is incredibly tiring indeed, but with no slow release-carbs or nutrients in my system, it felt unmanageable. This lethargy spread into my days off too and I couldn’t bring myself to rise before 10am or even open a book for my freelance work. The breathlessness that excessive white flour seems to provoke in me, rendered even a short run impossible and the lack of endorphins resulted in an even lower mood. Not only did I lack the motivation to exercise, the only thing I was able to get remotely excited about was the prospect of more carbs. The cravings were uncontrollable and I found myself eating both mindlessly and incessantly. In order to eat constantly sans judgement, I largely remained in the house and rather than treat my cabin fever with a trip outside, I dosed myself up with bread and butter. That’s right, I became Hermit the Carb.
But why do such foods have this effect? Simple, as opposed to complex carbohydrates found in wholemeal grains, are rapidly absorbed into your body. This results in increased sugar levels and a quick release of energy, which is then used up equally as fast causing you blood sugar to drastically drop. It is this sudden drop that not only leaves you feeling tired, but tells the hormones in your brain that you need more of the same. Interestingly, my resolve to spend a week surviving only on refined carbs instantly gave away that power of decision and handed it straight over to the carbs themselves.
I’m not saying low-carb diets are the answer because the moment you make any food group a foe somewhere in your mind they become that unobtainable, popular friend you can’t stop obsessing about. And so, it is my strong belief- based on my heavily scientific research- that it was not the makeup of the carbohydrates themselves that made me put on three whole pounds, but the hormonal effect they had on my mood and my resultant eating habits that caused the weight gain. What did I learn from last week’s experiment? The effect that food had on my mood was far greater than it had on my body. Mind over fat(ter), every time.