Friday 5: Five Hard Truths About Carbs

Friday 5: Five Hard Truths About Carbs

Bread1People are constantly asking me questions about carbs. “Do you eat carbs?”

“I bet you don’t eat bread. Do you?”

“Do you eat pasta?”

I’ve got five harrrrrd truths for you people who are struggling with the carb situation. Hopefully this’ll help.

1) I do not live a low-carb diet. When you talk about carbohydrates, you’re talking about fruit. You’re talking about vegetables. The key sources of our vitamins and minerals. You need those. And, yes, you’re talking about breads, pastas, biscuits, cupcakes, cookies… the whole nine yards. When most people talk about living “low-carb,” they’re often referring to cutting refined carbs, most commonly understood as “things made with flour.” I do, however, cut those things.

2) Why? Because, when you start counting calories and start understanding where your calorie totals for your day are going haywire, you wind up realizing that most of those calories? Come straight from refined carbohydrates. Refined carbs are, more often than not, an unnecessary caloric black hole. That big giant roll of bread on your lunch sandwich? Probably could’ve swapped that out for a salad – don’t most sandwich toppings often wind up sounding like delicious salads, anyway? – or could’ve been rolled in a nice strong leaf. That big giant bowl of cereal? Yeah, one serving size might say “80 calories,” but you didn’t realize that that “one serving size” is for “one half cup of cereal” and that you actually ate four servings this morning. That massive serving of rice in your kung pao chicken you ate? If it was over a cup of it, it was well over 300 calories that you didn’t need… because you could’ve easily tossed some steamed broccoli in there with that, instead, and been much more satiated with less calories and more food.

Wonder bread ingredients3) Quality matters, and can determine the difference between a filling carb and a not-so-filling one. And, while it’s ideal for one to seek out organic, local, sustainable, hand-crafted goods… that’s not what I’m talking about, here. A quality bread is little more than flour, yeast, salt, water and some oil. That’s it. Not… um… all this stuff, here. Quality flour, believe it or not, has protein in it. Oil, pure fat, helps fill you up. Yeast has a sweet flavor that it can yield to dough. A quality piece of bread is awesome. It can be filling. And, if it isn’t filling for you, then you shouldn’t be eating it.

4) If a carb isn’t filling in an adequate portion size – and only you can determine what’s “adequate” for you and your needs – then guess what? It’s time to let that high-carb food go. A good pasta will fill you up long before you could fall asleep from eating it, but if you’re not getting that good quality pasta, it’s okay to turn down the lessor quality. A good cupcake… you might not even get to finish it. Don’t scarf down a bunch of cheap ones looking for the same feeling. You won’t get it. A bowl of store-bought cereal? People are going through two-to-three boxes a week. It’s never going to fill you up, and you’re overdoing it on the calorie totals because you’re so busy trying to eat to get “full.” Let that go. Not happening. Find another option.

5) Refined carbs are the reason why, when most people tell me they “had a craving” for something… I usually give them the side-eye-of-eternity. If you’re craving nails (like, hammering nails) or cornstarch, then I’m willing to believe it’s a nutritional deficiency. Cravings for cookies, cupcakes, ice cream (the store-brands have so much sugar in them that yes, I’m counting them too), chips and goodness knows whatever else are not cravings. They’re emotional eating… harmful reactions to stressors in or lives. Refined carbs just happen to be the most common vessel for emotional eating, and if you find yourself taking in refined carbs in obscene amounts, then consider scaling back. As in, no longer buying products that make you feel like you can’t only “eat just one.”

I’ve even got a bonus one for you: if you’re a runner, you often don’t worry about this. You need every darn calorie you can get your mouth around!

Who’s got carb questions for me? Let’s hear ’em!

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By | 2017-06-10T11:24:29+00:00 April 21st, 2014|Friday 5|32 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. Lily March 9, 2012 at 1:20 PM - Reply

    I think people can feel cravings for cupcakes and cookies. But, I think it’s sort of similar to the craving addicts feel.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall March 9, 2012 at 2:11 PM - Reply

      I agree, but that furthers my point that they’re generally not cravings meant to fulfill a substantial need. They’re really, in comparison, quite “surface level.”

      • Rochelle April 27, 2012 at 12:08 PM - Reply

        You body can crave carbohydrates. The are a quick source of energy and often it is the bodies way of requesting quick energy. The catch 22 is that many choose refined carbs and sugars. These refined carbs spike the blood pressure very quickly but then you get the big let down as blood sugar drops and you end up feeling more tired and more hungry which causes more quick energy cravings and ends up creating a vicious cycle and even an addiction to refined carbs. I agree they can be emotional triggers for many instead of cravings but I find when a eat a balanced meal of good quality carbs, fats, and proteins and get enough rest. I do not crave refined carbs. Yesterday I was stressed after a big exam and wanted chocolate pretty badly. Instead I went to a really nice horticultural garden and walked 3 hilly laps around the garden. I actually felt better and did not experience the typical mid afternoon energy tank.

        • Erika Nicole Kendall April 27, 2012 at 2:26 PM - Reply

          Your body craving “energy” is one thing; your body craving “carbs” is another and the two don’t feel even remotely the same. Sorry.

      • nadia June 21, 2013 at 5:16 PM - Reply

        Would it be better if I ate bread I made myself instead of at the store? I know it sounds weird but I love bread and it has felt like a sacrifice giving it up…

        • Erika Nicole Kendall June 21, 2013 at 8:19 PM - Reply

          Of course it would. However, it’s still quick calories that you may not necessarily need. You have to determine what’s best for you, ultimately, but keep in mind that, when it comes time to reassess, you’ll need to consider all this.

        • Alicia January 18, 2015 at 4:01 PM - Reply

          I would try making something called “oopise” bread if I were you, it’s a bread sub that you make at home without flour, or whole grain wheat bread because you can count on seeing white bread on your thighs next week.

  2. Candis March 9, 2012 at 1:56 PM - Reply

    Hi Erika, when you say “a quality bread”, is there a specific store brand that you suggest? Or do you bake your own??


    • oekmama March 11, 2012 at 7:27 AM - Reply

      Hi there,
      I bake my own bread, and it’s not as hard or as time-consuming as you would think. I work part-time and normally do this in the evening. Here’s the simplest recipe I use:
      First measure out the amount of flour that you need into a deep bowl. Should be room-temperature. Use a spoon to make a ‘well’ or indent in the flour. Put your dry yeast then a cup of warm water into that indent. Throw a kitchen towel over the bowl to make it dark and leave that for 15-20min.
      If your kitchen is cool, you might want to put this on or near a radiatior. When you come back, add a few pinches of salt, 6Tsp of olive oil, herbs and mix together with a fork til you have a firm dough. Let it rise for another 30 min.
      You can use this as a pizza dough (abt 30min at 200C), if you roll it out, or dinner rolls, or ciabatta, etc.

      You can vary this however you want, with wholewheat flour, add different spices, walnuts, dried chopped tomatoes, and so on… hope that helps.

      Good luck baking higher quality bread!

      PS- you can also bake ahead and freeze. If you want to freeze dough, then double the amount of yeast you use, so that when you defrost enough of the little critters are still alive.
      If anyone’s interested, I can tell you how I do my sourdough…

    • Telekendall April 13, 2012 at 10:17 AM - Reply

      You should try Ezekial Bread. Its amazing. Almost pure protein and keeps you full forever!!!!

  3. Diandra March 9, 2012 at 2:36 PM - Reply

    After some trial and error, I have found that my body actually does not function very well on a low-carb diet. Instead, I am buying whole grain everything, and eating those in moderation. I like baking – cupcakes, muffins, my own bread – which I rarely ever do, because I end up with way too much of everything. I mean, of course the two of us could eat a dozen muffins in two days, BUT… ^^

    The funny thing about low-carb diets is that those people usually increase their protein intake, and guess what the body does when it has got protein and no carbs? Right, it turns protein into carbs. Magic!!

    • Chris C April 26, 2013 at 8:51 AM - Reply

      Except a lot of people, myself included, think that you shouldn’t eat a ton of protein on a low carb diet (certainly not much more than normal), but you should be eating more fat. But first you have to shed the notion that “fat is bad” and that “fat makes you fat” and all the other nonsense… It’d be pretty hard to gain weight on a low sugar (no grains, no other concentrated carbs) while eating about the amount of protein you need, and fat.

  4. LBrooke March 9, 2012 at 3:11 PM - Reply

    When I started following the way you changed your habits, I definitely discovered the whole black hole carb problem. Had to pretty much cut those, and if I do get a craving for it.. I literally sit there and eat a bad of corn. Yep, that’s what I do. I know those still have a decent amount of calories as well, but no where near as much as refined carbs. And next time I’m craving something, if it’s not featured on that show Weird Addictions: chalk, nail polish, laundry detergent, or nails.. I will definitely tell myself that it’s NOT a craving! LOL

  5. Gloria March 9, 2012 at 3:30 PM - Reply

    I’m a runner, and there have been a few times when people have tried to convince me that ALL carbs are bad and that I should eat minimal fruits and veggies, absolutely no grains (oatmeal, brown rice, good quality pastas and breads) and survive off of proteins and fats. Yeah…tried it once for a month, had very little energy, couldn’t run as far, and gained weight. While I do not believe in a low fat diet, I do think your diet needs to be broken down into a balance of carbs, proteins, and fats.

    For some reason, people are hesitant to cut out processed foods, and they feel the need to cut out key nutrients instead. My snacks throughout the day are pretty much just fruits, and I’ve had people tell me things like this: “Oh, I’ve heard that sugar is really bad for you, even the sugar in fruit, so I’m going sugar free. That apple you’re eating is soooooo unhealthy…but my sugar-free Diet Coke is what is going to set me on the path to a leaner, happier, healthier me!” These people always fail to notice the major side-eye I’m giving them. Lol.

  6. LaDonna March 9, 2012 at 5:26 PM - Reply

    I’ve been calorie counting for the last 2 weeks and it is really keeping me aware of portion sizes and how many carbs I’m eating. I’ve found that one of the ways I can stop unhealthy cravings is to look up the calories. A few years ago I was craving dairy queen blizzards. Turns out the size medium had 1,000 calories! No wonder I gained 5 lbs in 2 weeks.

  7. J March 9, 2012 at 9:54 PM - Reply

    This is timely for me. Today I saw my endocrinologist/gynecologist, and she told me to stop eating all bread and potatoes.

    I was like………pretty sad about it. And then angry. But I know she’s right: I can’t control my consumption of them, so they’ve got to go.

    So now to find creative, ultra-low carb meals.

  8. Lola March 10, 2012 at 12:20 AM - Reply

    I’ve always wondered about this. Sometimes my office has bagels in the a.m. and I used to indulge but noticed that if I ate a bagel at 9, by 11, I would be starving, like STARVING. Feeling that I needed to eat something RIGHT NOW or pass out. But if I had something else (oatmeal, fruit, etc.) or NOTHING I would be fine or a little hungry. Any idea what that could be?

    • Biolobri March 30, 2012 at 10:40 AM - Reply

      Lola, that probably has to do with insulin. Your body secretes insulin to break carbs down but since there isn’t much to refined carbs, it can do this easily and ends up with leftover insulin that is seeking more to break down. Whole grains and higher quality carbs take longer to break down so your insulin doesn’t spike as much.

  9. Anita March 23, 2012 at 2:42 PM - Reply

    I’m also tried a low-carb diet and Iost weight – I ate like a pig and still lacked energy. So I went wild eating carbs again. I gained weight of course (as in really, really wild) but, even with the weight I have my umph back. I’m slowly losing again because I’m better managing my carb intake with only good carbs, whole grain breads, quinoa, fruit, even rice and potatoes are in the game again because I manage the portion size. I’m not missing out on minerals and vitamins, and now I’m feeling balanced.

  10. curlsz May 18, 2012 at 10:51 PM - Reply

    for me i realized i needed to add more veges and protein in, i kept track of my meals for a while and realized it was a little uhh carbcentric, i’ve also been reading labels more and noticing some carbs have added sugar for no reason other than taste, it’s not worth it to me to eat that kind of carb

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