The Covid Chronicles : the starchy diet conundrum

12:11 PM

How starchy food destroyed my diet
As some of you may already know, I have had a probably adult lifelong issue with insulin resistance that only got diagnosed in 2007. I figured out along the way that I am also HEAVILY carbohydrate intolerant (and that include ALL grains and pulses and even the whole type), I also have a crappy super slow metabolism which means I only really thrive on a high protein (the animal kind) and high veggies and fruit diet. 

I'm not really interested in discussing those facts further, or get a million suggestions about veganism, or how I should look into Ayurveda, homeopathy, and traditional "cure" at this point. Why? Because after years of struggling trying to figure it all out I have found what works for ME (the aforementioned diet above). 

The national lockdown did affect me and my diet big time, and I am just now getting back to what feels more or less normal after 2 months of pretty much being forced to eat a lot of the things I should not be eating...simply because there was no alternatives, thanks to a badly implemented lockdown that suddenly stopped the influx of certain food stuff overnight. 
The amount of carbs that ended up on my plate even with me restricting it was more than double what I normally eat, and a lot of it wasn't even the good stuff because we were also pretty much reduced to get mass produced, big brands processed crap and I think this part infuriated me even more than being put on a carbohydrate bomb-like diet. 

The effect on my body were almost instant : bloated, constipated, gassy, tired all the time, constantly hungry...
After a week or two, the nasty brown patches of skin that are trademark of insulin resistance made a comeback. I was DONE with those the instant I switched to the high protein / low carb diet I had been on since 2016, and here they made a nasty comeback, even with me mostly trying to eat the good grains. That is how badly crabs of all kind affect me people! 

It took us a few weeks to finally be able to find the stuff my body tolerates : leafy lettuces, veggies that can be steamed of put in salads, quality meat and fish, and quality dairy products (that last one is still hard by the way). Since getting them regularly was a challenge, I still ate stuff like rice, roti, and dal (which I can't handle well in more than tiny quantities). 
Then our society attempted a one of those "tin pot dictator" thing the BBC article mentioned recently : 

Trying to ban all outside deliveries of any kind even up to the main gate. They also wanted us to avoid all trips outside the compound unless it was for buying medicine, and went as far as asking us to make do with whatever grocery service they could arrange, which was only vegetarian starchy staples.  

Fortunately, they had to go back on that highly illegal order a few hours after announcing it, probably because many like myself complained that it was not taking into account having pets at home and having special diets that required special food stuff. But the fact they even tried in the first place is really disturbing to say the least. 

While my diet took a blow during the strictest phase of the lockdown, so did my principles. You see, I have been in favour of giving my patronage to Indian brands and small local businesses, and the lockdown made it near impossible for a lot of small brands to keep going even if they were food industries and technically should have been allowed. 
I'm not joking, I know a lady who make good quality bread in Mumbai, she had all the government authorisations, but her company still got shut down a couple of times because apparently the Panchayat disapproved. 
This lockdown has been a painful exercise of me putting my money in companies I was avoiding funding in the first place : Nestle, Kellogg's, Britannia, Unilever...Because this is specifically all we could get. And these big brands also make the crappiest type of packaged food out there. 

With having to homeschool and still work as an artist/illustrator, you can bet I was not going to turn into the domestic goddess making everything from scratch all day long either, otherwise what was left of my streams of income (many took a blow) would have died as well. 

Needless the instant restrictions on good shipping were lifted in the second half of May, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and many of my good old favourite brands that you normally can only find in bigger supermarkets or on Amazon made a comeback. The variety of meat cuts I could get from local butchers also increased a lot. 

Welcome back varied, balanced diet! 

Before I proceed further with this blog post, let me state right now that the links below are affiliate links, which means if you click on them, and buy anything, a commission will be paid to me at no extra costs to you whatsoever (this is one of those income streams I mentioned above by the way).

So, with the "non-essential" goods ban lifted, my diet could start going back to normal, things like black rice which I like in small quantity in salads and "buddha bowls", or unsweetened, all natural made in India peanut butter with no added trans fat or additive. 

Replacing the less healthy namkeens and chips for the 5pm hunger pang with something still crunchy and healthier was the big game changer post lockdown. Since I am on a 5-6 mini meals a day plan, there is always one around 4-5pm and usually, I like snacking on something crunchy and a bit starchy. Normally, I either go with quality multigrain bread from a local bakery (not the processed sliced bread crap) or something like multigrain crackers or brown rice puffed crackers like these from Wise Crack, I have them with a bit of quality cream cheese (still super hard to find) or just as is (I'm weird like that).
Before you judge me on those rice crackers by the way, a serving size of 2 which is what I have is about 55 calories, and just what I need to have my starchy craving satisfied, I either have them with cream cheese, as mentioned, or right now since I can't do that, have them with a small cup of yogurt or few cucumber sticks. 

But, the biggest "happy to be back" to my old diet moment came when we could FINALLY do away with Kellogg's and it's overly sugary mega-crap they call muesli. As a Swiss, I know how to make my own muesli from uncooked oats, yogurt, nuts and fresh fruits, but I usually end up messing up the quantities and end up eating more than I should, so I found fixing myself a bowl of commercially available low GI breakfast cereals a much better alternative. 
My absolute, all time favourite is the "Choco chip oats clusters and ragi flakes muesli" They have several variants, all good, but this one is my to-go to in the morning. What is great about it, is that oats and ragi have a low glycemic index, and to make them more palatable, they have added a little bit of jaggery to sweeten them just enough to make them nice, but not as much as to make them nauseatingly sweet. 
About 60g is the serving size I go by, and it keeps me satiated until my next mini meal 2 hours later. 

To give you an idea about how the Kellogg's muesli sucked, I usually have my breakfast first thing out of bed at 6.30 - 7am, I then have a second breakfast at 9am and lunch around 12pm. 
With my Monsoon Harvest cereals, I can do it without problems. With the Kellogg's ones, in similar serving size, I was hungry as if I had not eaten a thing barely an hour later, and on the prowl for anything to eat, which is disturbing considering that the calories load in those was also much higher than my usual brand. 
By lunch time I felt exhausted and had a post meal energy crash because meals with too much carbs kept succeeding each other.
Oh and if you were wondering, my second breakfast is usually one or two eggs (hard boiled) and a fruit, or ham and a fruit, or an apple dipped in unsweetened peanut butter. But the second breakfast tide me over to lunch only if the first breakfast that kickstarted my day has the right mix of carbs and fibre. This is a delicate balance you can't really disturbed without consequences, I think those dealing with Insulin resistance or diabetes will understand that bit better than others. 

Getting back to normal

Now that I can eat what my body needs again, my energy levels have gone back to what they were before this madness started, and along with it, the brown patches are slowly exfoliating away. 
Last week we also got the right to walk around our society premises, so I can also go back to being a bit more physically active, which also helps getting my body to feel and operate the right way again.

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  1. Ugh, we got stuck with a mega pack of Kellogg's Eggo waffles from Costco and they taste just like cardboard! I don't even want to look at the label to see what they are made of. We miss our whole wheat naan since we have been relying on deliveries so far. I have only made chapatis twice in the past few months. You're right, carb heavy food (especially the white rice, pasta and breads) are so bad for our energy levels and we are constantly hungry afterwards. I'm also an oats person for breakfast. I need to start adding ragi into mine. Glad you have your diet back again - your posts even sound way more upbeat!

    1. What we eat is super important to promote a good immune system and steady energy levels. I read a couple of article recently that all point that the severity of Covid 19 symptoms can be linked to poor diet habits and poor lifestyle choices. Also obesity increase the overall inflamation levels in the body, so when one's body is already coping with all kind of inflamatory issues, I can see how it can lead to more severe issues with Covid.

      The sad irony in India is that the lockdown ensured that people eat even less healthy than they would otherwise, giving all of us here even less of a fighting chance.

      You are right about my posts being more upbeat, i guess having food that my body can process and not having to live in anxiety of not being able to replace things that break down in my home made a world of difference. Now we also got the right to go for a walk in our compound wearing a mask, so we even get to move our legs a little.

  2. I am glad that your food woes are finally over. Those nasty skin patches that you mention remind me of the sugar boils that my mother had when her sugar level went out of control. She occasionally had brown patches too.

    The Covid cases in Delhi are increasing day by day. I heard that they are doubling every fifteen days. It is competing with Mumbai. Meanwhile, cases keep popping up in my office every few days and the building gets sealed for a day for sanitization. This is the case with most buildings now. We have been instructed to stick to our rooms, not gather for lunch, wash hands and wear mask all the time. For the first few days I felt like I was under siege but now I have got used to it. It is a small price to pay because you never know who is infected until that person falls sick and gets tested. Many are asymptomatic. Then anyone who came in contact with him has to be quarantined which usually mean a dozen people.

    I am in agreement with you that weak immunity is putting all of us in danger. In order to get over it, I have been practicing pranayama everyday for the past few months. It sure feels good throwing the polluted air out of my lungs.

    1. Yeah the brown patches are typical sign of insulin resistance and a poorly managed diet. For me this is the first sign that I have been eating too much carbohydrates and grains of all sort for too long.

      In Mumbai most people who can work from home still do it, because the government decided to not relax the lockdown too much in an effort to keep the spread in check, we also see cases doubling every 15 days, I think this is a figure that holds in all big cities in India.
      There have been a few cases in buildings across the street last month but it was quite well contained and we didn't see out of control spreading in our immediate area.

      Right now my enclave allows us to go walk, jog or cycle within the compound, while wearing a mask, they also set a special time slot aside for senior citizens and pregnant women to go enjoy the outdoors. We are all instructed to keep 2 meters distance as much as possible and it's quite doable. We can also resume social visits from flat to flats within the enclave, no outside guests allowed yet. Most people are just happy to step out of their home at this point, so they prefer going outside in the garden to talk with friends rather than do a home visit.

      Good immunity also comes with good diet, we are eating a diet varied in fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting all the packaged and fried stuff we could not avoid during the tight lockdown now. We also all take vitamin D and Vitamin C supplement as it has been found that vitamin D plays a HUGE role in how the body copes with the virus.

  3. Many belated happy returns of the day.


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