In my peanut-sized, super-experimental world of fitness and weight loss, I am both—the scientist and the rat that is subjected to experiments. From keto and GM Motors’ to low-carb to the Atkins diet—there is hardly any diet that I haven’t tried.
Some pleasant and some not-so-pleasant results later, I still haven’t lost my spirit to keep trying to find that one thing that really works for me. Though I will reveal the lesson I’ve learnt over the years, but more on that later. First, let’s just talk about my recent diet experiment first.
I quit wheat and rice for an entire month
For someone, who loves her morning paranthas and a bowl of dal-rice for lunch, this was quite a huge sacrifice to make. But, the extra weight gained from quarantine snacking pushed me to take this step as I thought to myself, “Let me get rid of the excess weight with a quick-fix diet first and then I’ll get back to my regular fitness regimen.”
Thus, I did what an ill-informed, self-proclaimed fitness-lover would do: I attacked the two main sources of carbohydrates in my diet—wheat and rice. The idea was to give a bit of a shock to my body by quitting these staples as well as cutting down on carbohydrates and calories to lose weight.
But did it work?
I would be lying if I said that the experiment failed. Because I did lose weight. However, what I had to lose completely shattered my confidence as a scientist and cut short my career as one too.
From my energy levels to concentration levels—I lost it all along with the weight. However, I did feel a certain lightness while I was at it, probably because I removed the most heavy source (wheat) of gluten (a protein that the body might find exceptionally hard to digest) from my diet.
So, I contacted an expert to figure out why my experiment bombed
“The main function of carbohydrates is to provide energy to the body to carry out various functions,” points out Diksha Chhabra, fitness expert, nutritionist, and founder, Diksha Chhabra Fitness consultation.
She further explains that when you eat excess of carb-rich foods, the body derives its energy from them instead of using up its fat reserves. The high carbohydrate-content of these grains might mean that there’s still more unutilised energy left after it burns these grains. Now, this excess energy can get stored as fat, thus adding to your previously-existing fat reserves.
“However, when someone leaves or reduces the intake of wheat or rice, the body does not get enough amount of energy from an external food source. Thus, it usually attacks its protein sites and breaks them down to derive energy,” Chhabra adds.
Now, the one thing I gathered from her explanation is that there is a high chance that I lost weight due to muscle breakdown and not fat breakdown. FYI, losing muscle is linked with a slower metabolism, decreased weight-loss, and fatigue, which pretty much explains why my chain-wain-sab-ujda post this diet.
Additionally, several studies have found that our brain needs a healthy dose of carbohydrates to function properly. So, I am attributing the loss of concentration to these findings.
What should I have done instead?
I promised I’d talk about the lesson I learnt in the end. So, here it is: Fad diets will come and fad diets will go, but weight-loss from them won’t remain forever.
Thus, the best way is to lose weight slowly and in a healthy manner by making a few lifestyle changes such as working out, getting adequate sleep, not leading a sedentary lifestyle, and eating a balanced diet.
“There are no side effects of eating rice or wheat unless you are allergic to them. If wheat and rice are consumed as per your body’s requirements along with a balanced diet comprising of all micro- and macro-nutrients, while you still maintain a calorie deficit, you will be able to lose weight without compromising on your overall health,” says Chhabra.
“Hence, instead of quitting completely, one should control the portion size of these grains,” she adds and signs off.