Lisa MarcAurele is the founder of Low Carb Yum, a thriving health, wellness and recipe blog focusing on — you guessed it — a low-carb lifestyle!
After an autoimmune diagnosis in 2001 (which she talks about more, below), Lisa switched to a low-carb diet to help manage her health. Nine years, an expanded family and tons of tasty trial-and-errors later, Lisa started her website to share her experiences and recipes with others!
Here, Lisa shares her take on reclaiming health, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and, of course, low-carb cooking!
This is part of Nutrishatives’ Ask an Expert Series, where we chat with movers and shakers in health, wellness, nutrition and medicine about their careers, their current work and their expert opinions on… well… their area of expertise!
Your healthy living journey started, as it does for many of us, out of a place of illness. You were struggling Graves’ disease and needed a fairly aggressive treatment. For our viewers/readers who don’t know what Graves’ disease is, could you explain a little bit about it and the type of treatment you needed?
Sure. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease where the body produces antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland causing it to overproduce the T3 and T4 hormones. It’s unknown as to what causes the disease, but it’s speculated that exposure to certain inflammatory foods or things in the environment may be a factor.
Initial treatment is usually an anti-thyroid medication but that isn’t recommended long term. Surgery can be done to remove all or part of the thyroid, but many doctors perform radioactive treatment to destroy all or part of the thyroid. In my case, most of my thyroid was destroyed with radioactive iodine.
What drew you to a low-carb diet, of all the possible diet options out there, to manage your weight after your thyroid treatment?
I’m a foodie and I love food. Before having the radioactive iodine treatment done, I was able to eat all the food I wanted without gaining weight. A low-carb high-fat diet was the only option that didn’t leave me hungry and allowed me to eat satisfying food.
Could you talk a little bit about those first few weeks on a low-carb diet? What was your experience making the transition? Was it simple, difficult? Did you instantly feel good, or did it take some time?
Like most people, I began my low-carb eating plan by eating tons of eggs, bacon, cheese, meat, and other low-carb high fat foods. However, I missed those comfort foods like bread, pizza, and potatoes. That’s why I started creating my own versions of the foods that I love. It did take some time to learn how to adapt to a low-carb lifestyle. But once I learned how to work with low-carb ingredients to create the foods I was missing, sticking to a low-carb diet was much easier.
What has surprised you the most about being on a low-carb diet?
I’ve been doing low-carb, for the most part, since 2001 although there were a few years where I was less strict with carbs while on a rotating shift job. When I started, I never intended to make low-carb a permanent lifestyle change, but it’s what has worked the best for managing my weight. Any time I’ve tried to move back to regular eating, I’ve always gained weight quickly. So, what surprised me the most is how easy it’s been to stick to eating low-carb long-term without really thinking about it.
If some of our readers are sitting now where you were sitting 17 years ago, about to transition from a standard American diet to low-carb, what advice would you give them moving forward?
When I got started, there wasn’t a lot of companies catering to those following a low-carb lifestyle. These days, keto and low-carb have become very popular. There’s a lot more foods available to make it easier to stick with the eating plan. And, there’s a fairly large community offering support online. Therefore, I recommend joining a support group and stocking up on low-carb foods to help make the transition to a low-carb lifestyle as easy as possible. It also helps to get rid of any tempting high carb foods you may have in the kitchen so you won’t get tempted to eat any of them.
You turned your health journey into a thriving website and business, Low Carb Yum! Let’s talk a little bit about your amazing recipes! What inspires the creation of your tasty dishes?
I get inspiration for tons of sources. A lot comes from things I enjoyed eating before moving to a low-carb diet. I’ll also get ideas from eating out at restaurants or by watching food trends online. And, I have a huge cookbook collection that I like to browse through for ideas.
We noticed that you have sections for vegan and vegetarian dishes on your site! This kind of surprised us because vegan and keto diets are often presented as antithetical diets. You don’t necessarily agree with that opinion, we take it?
There’s no doubt a low-carb ketogenic diet is often associated with eating a lot of animal flesh. This, of course, goes against vegetarian and vegan beliefs. However, I’ve had several people ask for vegetarian and vegan recipes because following a low-carb lifestyle has so many benefits. Even those who refrain from eating meat have become carb conscious. The average person following the standard American diet consumes about 250 to 350 carbs per day. Anything less than 100 grams a day is considered low-carb. So, even those consuming a lot of plant-based foods will see benefits when they reduce carbs to less than 100 grams daily.
This is either a super easy question or a really mean one, depending on if you have one or not! What is your favorite recipe that you’ve ever created?
My favorite recipe is a flatbread that’s made with crushed pork rinds and cheese. The reason I like it is because it’s so versatile. I can use it as an appetizer, for dipping into soft cooked eggs yolks, or as an appetizer or snack. It also makes a fantastic low-carb pizza crust. And, it’s super filling so one small piece is more than enough to satisfy.
In your nearly two decades of experience cooking and eating keto meals, have you come across any useful “rule-of-thumb” tips that make low-carb cooking or meal planning easier?
I like to bulk cook once a week. Typically, I’ll make two or three dishes. That way, I can freeze half and enjoy the other half during the week.
If you could get the entire world to understand just one thing about low-carb diets, what would it be?
A lot of people still think eating fat is bad. However, naturally occurring fats like avocado and olive oil are healthy. It’s the trans-fats, which are man-made hydrogenated oils, that need to be avoided.
If you could get the world to understand just one thing about living a healthy lifestyle, what would it be?
Eating a whole food diet low in carbohydrates is one of the easiest ways to improve overall health. A high sugar diet has been linked to inflammation in the body which can lead to chronic disease. Therefore, a low-sugar diet that eliminates refined carbohydrates is one of the best ways to prevent common diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.