In reality going low carb over 50 is technically no different than going low carb at any age, however we’ve had a lot longer to develop bad habits and sometimes it takes a little longer to shake them.
Fortunately we were raised in a time where kids played outside until the street lights coming on meant it was time to head home for dinner. We climbed trees, sometimes fell out, but we brushed ourselves off and climbed right back up again.
Our generation was raised to suck it up, we built forts, battled with sling-shots, played in the mud, jumped bikes over make-shift ramps and had the grazed knees and bruises to prove it.
So when you face your first hurdles living low carb, you have the built in ability to push through, to tough it out, to dare I say, man up and make the right decisions. Fall down 10 times, get up 11.
That’s probably why I found it so easy when I made the decision to dump sugar and carbs.
No amount of birthday cakes, sweet treats at family barbeques or dessert menus while eating out could lure me back. While the treats all look amazing, I never want to go back to an obese, out of breath diabetic. I just don’t eat like that anymore.
I just quit one day. Manned up, made the decision and that was that.
People can get obsessive, almost evangelical about low carb, usually coupled with extreme exercise routines.
It sometimes seems like a pissing contest.
Who can post the sweatiest gym floor, the biggest dead lift, who can photograph the earliest alarm clock image, who can fast the longest, who marathoned the farthest.
If that’s you, I tip my hat to you. You’re having a go. You do you.
One thing’s for certain, that’s not me.
I’d argue that great results can come from less intense, less obsessive behaviour that is simple and easy to follow.
If you’re my age, mid 50’s Gen-X you probably don’t buy into the hype machine. I won’t be rushing out and buying orange glasses, hopping into ice-baths or taking 400 supplements a day.
What did and continue to do is eat real food.
The right food.
If you don’t know my story, a few years ago I lost 20kgs and effectively reversed my type 2 diabetes in the space of 4 months. Facebook won’t publish that, they say it’s an unrealistic outcome. But you only have to spend a couple of hours on low carb twitter to see my story is replicated over and over.
Here’s what I did.
Low carb diet strategy for over 50’s
Eliminate sugar from your diet. This can be tricky, because it is everywhere. This means checking the labels on anything packaged you buy. You’ll end up skipping 95% of supermarket aisles.
Soda’s are the worst.
Fruit juice even though sold to us as the healthy option, is just sugar concentrate.
This can be the toughest challenge for some people, but we’ve already discussed our attitude to challenges. Just do it.
There are work arounds.
If you have a sweet tooth, get hold of some monk fruit sugar (Lakanto) or another natural sweetener that you can get along with.
Most fruit packs lots of sugar, so avoid fruit.
Anything marketed as low fat is usually packed with sugar.
I produced a guide on what sugar/carbs are in common foods, drinks and alcohol, see the bottom of this post to download it – it’s free.
Get familiar with the cloaking terms for sugar. HFCS – high fructose corn syrup is the food processors go-to cheap sweetener. Fructose is enemy number one.
Any refined or processed carbohydrates need to go.
Bread, Pasta, Rice, Noodles it’s all just sugar disguised as starch. White or “Healthy” brown, it doesn’t matter, throw it in the bin.
Some vegetables are high in carbs, like potatoes. They are off the menu.
Others are borderline, while some are very low carb, so you can knock yourself out and eat as much as you like.
See the carb guide, it’s got a traffic light system, green is go, yellow ok with moderation, red = in the bin.
The aim is to get your carb intake as low as possible. If something has 2 or 3 grams, don’t stress about it, it doesn’t always need to be absolutely zero.
Meat is the backbone of a long term low carb lifestyle for me. Sorry vegos/vegans it just is.
Almost all meat is carb free. So beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, seafood, deer, rabbit and anything else your dog will chase is on the menu.
I mainly eat one of the above options with salads or veg or just with eggs and butter at most meals.
Oh and not forgetting bacon. Mmmm bacon.
Dairy and Eggs
Dairy and eggs are definitely on the menu. The nutritional profile of eggs is off the charts. They contain just about every vitamin and mineral in those 400 supplements I don’t buy.
Don’t stress about LDL cholesterol. There are so many studies debunking the cholesterol myth, which is grounded in breakfast cereal marketing and big pharma statin sales.
Do some research and you’ll see what I mean.
So full fat dairy will keep you fuller longer.
Butter, Cream, Yoghurt is all 100% recommended for low-carbers. Don’t be scared of it, despite what the low fat propaganda you have been bombarded with since the 1970’s would have you believe.
Obviously the yoghurt and cheese shouldn’t be full of fruit.
Fats and Oils
The rule of thumb is that animal fats are good everything else should be avoided, apart from olive and coconut oil.
A fatty steak is perfect. No need to trim, get it in you. You’ll burn the fat for energy and it sparks your body to burn fat you have stored straight afterwards.
Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. It’s quite the opposite.
All seed oils are potentially rancid, promote inflammation and a whole host of other problems that i’ll write about another day. Some people say that seed oils are as much to blame for modern day problems like obesity, diabetes and dementia as sugar is. The more I read, the more I tend to agree.
I cook with butter, olive oil and good old fashioned lard if I can.
Almost all fast food is cooked in seed oil, which is another good reason to steer clear of it.
Desserts and Sweet Treats
You would think that sweet things would be off the low carb menu.
That’s pretty much true for everything you get from a supermarket or restaurant.
But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out though.
I still make ice cream, chocolate brownies, cakes and so on.
I just supplement the sugar and flour of low/no carb alternatives like monk fruit sugar or almond flour.
There are a million low carb recipes on the internet and detailed instructions on how to make them on youtube.
Just be wary, some “low carb” cooks don’t think things through and start adding fruit or honey assuming they are natural, so they must be good or you. But we know fructose is the enemy, so you won’t be caught out easily now.
If in doubt, there are safe recipes on here (Pizza and Ice Cream anyone?) or you can check the ingredients on the carb guide to find out.
Throw that Jenny Craig points book in the bin.
Eat as much green traffic light food as it takes to feel comfortably full.
I found that as I removed carbs and sugar, my hunger pangs went away. I don’t have the urge to scan the fridge or food pantry in between meals for a snack to get me through.
This isn’t necessary but you’ll probably get the urge at some point.
18:6 is where you go 18 hours without eating and eat in the remaining 6 hour time window.
For me, once I was on a meat & veg low-carb regime, after a few weeks I didn’t feel hungry much.
So I skipped breakfast.
This meant eating at lunchtime (12-1) and dinner (6-7pm) and then not eating until lunchtime the next day.
I do this most days now. But I listen to my body. If I wake up hungry, out come the bacon and eggs.
One of the most common questions I get asked, especially by gentlemen of a certain age is can I still have a beer.
My answer is usually yes, in moderation.
Alcohol packs a few calories (even though we aren’t counting)
All beers aren’t equal however. Look for low carb options.
Most spirits are zero carbs, so as a big Scotch fan that was good news.
The bad news is that after a few cleansing ales your judgement or more specifically your will power will almost certainly desert you. After a few scotches, that take out pizza starts looking pretty attractive.
You’ll get faster results not drinking, but you’re a grown up, that’s your call.
Soft drink / soda call it what you will is almost certainly so jam packed with sugar it’s a surprise they can get the lid on. Avoid at all costs.
Tea and coffee – knock yourself out.
Milk – full fat – go for it. I usually have a glass in the evening which kills off the munchies if I stay up late.
Anything you are going to buy, the rule of thumb is always check the label. I always assumed tonic water was pretty much fizzy water. Not so. It’s full of sugar and nearly caught me out quite recently. So double check.
You’ll need to take up Marathon running.
Apologies if that’s your thing, or you love going to the gym. I don’t. Well I’m assuming I don’t because I never tried. Plus I live on a farm in the middle of nowhere so I don’t have that option.
Intense exercise isn’t required to see results like I got. (44lbs / 20kg in 4 months)
I just walked the dog twice a day. At a leisurely pace, stopping to sniff and wee on every tree and lamp post along the route (the dog not me)
It’s great for clearing your head.
I’m Gen-X so don’t whine about anything often, but I’ve got a very old slipped disc injury that probably wouldn’t lend itself to heavy weights or high impact cardio, so I’m content walking.
Besides that, have you ever seen a jogger that looks like they are having fun?
If you haven’t moved properly for years, just do what you can. Make it to the garden gate and back. Then the corner of the block and back, then around the block. As your weight falls away, which it will doing low-carb, the whole thing gets easier.
So that’s it. That’s as complicated as low-carb gets. Well my version anyway.
Just a reminder, I’m not a doctor, or a nutritionist and I don’t play one on TV. This is just my story, what I did, what worked for me.
Here’s the carb guide mentioned earlier,