Nourish and Nurture

Carb Clarity

February 08, 2024 Miriam Hatoum Season 4 Episode 88
Nourish and Nurture
Carb Clarity
Show Notes Transcript

Episode #88: Carb Clarity

In this episode you will learn all about carbohydrates: What they are, what kinds there are, what do they do in - and to - your body, how they add up in a day, and how to count them. Learn about what carbs have to do with hunger, fatigue and stubborn belly fat. 

Even if you are eating extremely low carb, as in Keto, you will not be at zero - as you learn that even cheese, nuts, and some protein have carbs. Believe me, they are everywhere, but they are not to be vilified, just understood.

You will get a look into insulin resistance and your hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. 

Your actionable coaching advice is to build awareness - not judgment - as you track just one day's food intake so that. you can see where your carbohydrates are coming from in a day. Easy-peasy. Just an exercise in awareness to get you thinking about what changes you might want to make to the way you are eating. 

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Episode #: 88: Carb Clarity

You’re Listening to the Nourish and Nurture Podcast, Episode #88, Carb Clarity.


 Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or even weigh, measure and track your food unless you want to? What if you could learn to have success by learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, which is the cornerstone to weight loss success? What if you could learn about what foods work best in your body for weight loss and why they work? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl.

 I am celebrating Season 4 with a brand-new party dress, Nourish and Nurture. The title has changed but not the insightful advice and tips that you enjoy and look forward to. And now, you can get all my free guides that are designed to help you in your journey, in one place, at

 Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or services. And please know that I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!

 Now on to the Episode…

 What are carbohydrates? A carbohydrate is simply made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Carbohydrates are sugars, starches, cellulose, and fiber that the body breaks down into glucose (a simple sugar that the body can use to feed its cells). The difference between the different carbohydrates lies in the number of sugar molecules they contain.

·       Simple carbs — also known as simple sugars — contain one or two sugar molecules.

·       Foods known as complex carbs have three or more sugar molecules. 

The main purpose of carbohydrates is to provide the body with energy. So no, a carrot doesn’t turn into chocolate cake when it hits your bloodstream, but it is broken down into simple glucose the way a piece of cake would be.

There are three main categories of Carbohydrates:

1.   Sugars: Sweet, short-chain (simple) carbohydrates. Examples are glucose, galactose and sucrose.

2.   Starches: Long chains (complex) of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.

3.   Fiber: We do not digest fiber although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them.

The good news is that if you become a fat burner by keeping your carbhohydrate intake low, you use fat for energy not carbohydrates

Carbohydrates fuel insulin, which is the fat-storage hormone! In order to lose that stubborn belly fat, your goal needs to be to lower your carbohydrate intake, not your fat intake!

There are many definitions of low carb eating – from 100 carbs a day to 100 per meal. This can be incorporated into any eating style or diet you are following, and if you are interested, start with 50-75 per meal; if you lose weight, add a little more but if the scale doesn’t budge, go down a bit. It is a continuous adjustment. Don’t use what the scale says as punishment – just use it as feedback. Another option is to go by the day, again with adjustments, but starting, perhaps with 150 total per day rather than dividing your intake into three meals and snacks.

The definition of Ketogenic eating is to eat about 20 carbohydrates a day (higher or lower, using your scale and/or glucose monitor as guides). If you are not insulin resistant or otherwise metabolically “damaged” you can safely go up from there. 

Those Carbs Add Up

A “typical” day

Take a moderate typical breakfast:

·       8 oz juice: 27 carbs; 

·       1 cup multi-grain cheerios: 24 carbs; 

·       small sliced banana: 24 carbs; 

·       1 cup 2% milk: 12 carbs; 

·       coffee with 2 TBS creamer: 10 carbs. 

§  Total: 95 carbs.  

o   Want to add a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffee drink to that on the way to work? 

·       Depending upon whether you use a flavoring and/or sugar, it can add up to another 40 carbs for a small one. 

·       ONE multi-grain bagel – nothing even on it: 63 carbs! 

For lunch you brought a Lean Cuisine to heat up at work: 

·       Sesame Chicken: 51 carbs; 

·       Glazed Turkey Tenderloins: 44 carbs; 

·       Lasagna with Meat Sauce: 45 carbs; 

·       Parmesan Crusted Fish: 42 carbs.  

o   AND let me add, as a former Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers frozen meal sort of gal – you are STARVING within an hour…

·       so let’s add a handful of grapes: 29 carbs, 

·       and maybe just a half a bag (15 chips) of baked Lays: 31 carbs.  

o   Haven’t switched to diet soda to go with that Lean Cuisine? 

·       A can of Coke is 40 carbs. What else do you snack on during the day?

For dinner you are keeping it simple: 

·       A boneless skinless chicken breast with light breading (15);

·        a small baked potato (25);

·        steamed broccoli (5);

·        tossed green salad with 2 TBS of Italian dressing (21);

·        and a baked apple – no sugar or whipped cream – for dessert (30).  

o   The conservative total is 96 based on your portion sizes (and choice of dressing!). Let’s say the evening is not complete without at least:

·       2 cups (small bowl) of popcorn (10)

·       and maybe ½ cup of sherbet or sorbet (30 – at least!).

The best way to start is just to be aware! You can see from the example above, that even if you are careful, you can eat well over 200 carbohydrates a day. You can get yourself a small carbohydrate counter book and carry it with you, or there are many websites and apps that will do it for you when you enter a food.

 Counting your carb intake:

Total Carbohydrates:  This is just what it sounds like: The total number of carbohydrates in a food. You do not have to be concerned about whether it is a simple carbohydrate (table sugar) or a complex carbohydrate (a piece of whole wheat bread). It all gets turned into glucose in your digestive system.

Net Carbohydrates:

This is the total number of carbohydrates minus the fiber in the food.

Sugar alcohols are usually completely not counted.  (Sugar alcohols are your sweeteners such as xylitol, erythritol, stevia, allulose and the like.)

Don’t get caught up in the NET CARB MYTH: A food can have 2 net carbs (sometimes called impact carbs) but be loaded with, for instance, sugar alcohol, fiber, and various starches. For example, the label on PowerBar's double chocolate flavor "ProteinPlus Carb Select" bar says it has "2 grams of impact carbohydrates." The Nutrition Facts label on the product says it has 30 grams of total carbohydrates. Unless you are talking about fresh vegetables, net carbs are a manufacturer’s way of making you think they are inconsequential when, in fact, many of the subtracted carbohydrates do impact blood sugar and insulin

Hybrid: This is usually a comfortable and livable way to count carbohydrates. It is my own system for counting carbohydrates. When I used to follow Keto, or as I still advice my Keto clients, I did it this way: I counted total carbohydrates for everything packaged, prepared, or processed, but I counted net carbs for vegetables and avocado.  Further, if you find you are doing well and find (according to the scale) that you are not particularly sensitive to carbs, then you can experiment with not counting above-ground leafy green vegetables at all. But remember, when you enjoy those free leafy greens, you should start out counting net for what is not a leafy green (like tomatoes and bell pepper) and anything you add to the salad like seeds, nuts, and cheese!

It’s not hard to do, but you will want to start out with a notebook to figure out your favorite foods. Chances are, you eat the same items all the time. After I while I PROMISE you that you will not be locked into the process, and that you will just have a knowing about how the portion of food fits into your day. 

How many carbs in a day? (Total, Net, or Hybrid)

Low Carb:

While there is no strict definition of a low-carb diet, anything under 100–150 grams per day is generally considered low-carb. You may achieve great results within this carb range, as long as you eat unprocessed, real foods. Give yourself a couple of weeks in this range and see if you can move up or down, or perhaps giving yourself one day a week to indulge a little more, say, at a family dinner. It is not permission to “cheat” or be a glutton. It might be, once a week, taking a potato when you usually do not, or having a small dessert.

A favorite saying is “You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.” I truly believe that once you start even just looking at the food you eat – never mind weighing, measuring, and tracking – you will improve your health by leaps and bounds. Once you know the carb counts of your favorite foods (can we say pretzels, bagels, chips, potatoes and pasta for starters?), I am sure you will never eat in the same way with the same quantities again.

There are many commercial diets that tend to be low carb, such as South Beach or The Zone, but there is no need to even look at these – they are not magic. Many, such as Slim Fast have even gotten on the Keto bandwagon – but please, please, PLEASE do not fall for this lying come-on. They play games with net carbs and also use inflammatory ingredients and all sorts of chemicals to flavor their foods and keep them to a low net-carb count. Eat real food. PLEASE!


The general rule is, if you do nothing else, count your carbohydrates (in other words, protein and fat will take care of themselves once you learn to listen to your body).

You will hear a lot about “fatty coffee” and this can be a bridge while you are looking to become “fat adapted” (i.e., using fat for fuel instead of glucose for fuel and being able to go longer time between meals) but if you are also looking to lose weight, try not to drink your fats and carbs.

Do not eat fruit – it is a senseless waste of carbohydrates.

When you start out you may want to do the TOTAL carb approach, even weighing and measuring leafy greens and above-ground vegetables.

Even if it fits your carbohydrate limit, Keto does not include anything with sugar, grains or legumes. These items are inflammatory, and healing your system is as important as bringing your weight down.

As you become fat adapted – burning fat for fuel instead of glucose, which is sugar, it will be easier to eat less food and less frequently (you won’t even have to try – you will just realize one day that you have skipped a meal or find yourself more frequently pushing the plate away). As a result, it will become easier to keep your carb intake under control.

Do not, especially at the beginning of your journey, eat substitutes like Keto bread, cakes, cookies, sauces, etc. Although there are wonderful cookbooks out there that can conjure up all manner of Keto low-carb substitutes, they:

*Crowd out more nutritious foods where you should be using your carb intake, such as fats, dairy, seeds, nuts, and vegetables.

They also keep your cravings alive. I would venture to say that for most of us who are fat (yes, I will use the word!), we didn’t get this way because we could handle sweets, breads, pasta, etc. Providing substitutes – the CONCEPTS of sweets, breads, pasta, etc. – will keep us stuck in behaviors that we are trying so hard to change or eliminate.

 A Look at Hunger

 I know for me, my ultimate success will lie in understanding how knowing what to eat to make me feel best. I have insulin resistance meaning that I am very sensitive to the nature of carbohydrates – at many levels, and I must recognize and honor this with any eating style I follow. I am sure that many of you – even if you don’t know it – have some degree of insulin resistance. 

 Some signs of insulin resistance include:

·       A waistline over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women

·       Blood pressure readings of 130/80 or higher

·       A fasting glucose level over 100 mg/dL

·       A fasting triglyceride level over 150 mg/dL

·       An HDL cholesterol level under 40 mg/DL in men and 50 mg/dL in women

·       Skin tags

·       Patches of dark, velvety skin

 Insulin resistance can progress to type 2 diabetes, and indeed, if you are pre-diabetic or already have type 2 diabetes, then you are insulin resistant, even if the doctor has not used that term.

 There are other non-medical signs that you may be insulin resistant, including being hungry soon after you have eaten, feeling fatigued all the time, and turning to, and not being able to limit, carbohydrates as comfort food, even taking into account that you are acknowledging head and heart hunger – you are indeed a person who can’t eat just one, regardless of any emotional issues going on. 

 I have discovered in myself another type of hunger other than true physical or emotional, which I call real-pseudo hunger and it all comes down to my carbohydrate consumption. 

 There are the many levels of hunger and cravings that carb consumption plays a role in. Knowing this will help you with your understanding of why it is so important for you to limit carbohydrates, but especially processed and simple carbohydrates. I have come a long way from my Keto days, and don’t have the same view about complex carbohydrates, such as those in potatoes and other starchy and non-leafy green vegetables, but I will say that if you already have type-2 diabetes, you will want to limit and keep track of those as well.

 The Mechanics of How Carbohydrates Influence Hormones

There is very much a hormonal biological basis for when you feel hunger.  Ghrelin and leptin, known as the “hunger hormones” along with insulin and other hormones, play important roles in hunger regulation. These two hormones, in particular, help regulate insulin and are very prominent in successful weight loss. 


  • Ghrelin is considered your "hunger hormone" and is produced in the stomach to signal hunger. 
  • When you eat a meal, ghrelin normally will decrease so that you are no longer hungry until it builds up again for the next meal. 
  • When you are insulin resistant, ghrelin decreases only slightly. 
  • Because of this, the hypothalamus doesn’t receive as strong of a signal to stop eating, and when you do, you are never quite satisfied and always have a certain level of hunger, even if you have just finished a meal.
  • This, as much as emotional reasons, leaves you to stuff yourself until uncomfortable because you never feel done eating.


  • Leptin, on the other hand, is considered your "fullness hormone" and is secreted from your fat cells in the adipose (fat) tissue. 
  • Leptin also communicates with your hypothalamus but in this case, sends a fullness signal. 
  • As with ghrelin, insulin resistance dulls this communication so that not only are you hungry because of the unbalanced ghrelin production and communication, but now the imbalance of leptin's production and communication will make it so you never feel satisfied. 

Dramatically lowering your carbohydrate consumption will heal your insulin resistance and thus get your ghrelin and leptin hormones functioning correctly. This reduces hunger and helps with sustainable weight loss.

Does Excess  - or even normal - Carbohydrate Consumption Cause Cravings?

Yes, if you are insulin resistant!

 What is insulin and insulin resistance?

  • Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas after you eat. 
  • It helps the glucose (sugar) in your blood enter cells to be used as energy. 
  • When you are constantly consuming glucose (in any form) your pancreas keeps pumping out insulin to open the receptors to your cells so that they will take in the glucose for energy. 
  • At some point, your cells become "deaf" to the insulin knocking at the door, and they lock themselves up from accepting any more glucose to use as energy. 
  • This is why your blood sugar will go up. 
  • It circulates instead of being moved into the cells for energy. 
  • This state of the cells no longer responding to insulin is known as insulin resistance

Think of the system as a lock and key. 

  • Insulin is the key that unlocks the cell. 
  • If the cell does not get unlocked the glucose has no where to go so it stays in your blood (ultimately being moved to fat cells for storage). 
  • When your blood sugar reaches a high level you are said to have developed type 2 diabetes. 
  • Pre-diabetes is when some glucose is getting into your cells to be used as energy, but not totally and not efficiently.

Under this "lock and key" condition the pancreas secretes even more insulin in the hopes it will lower the glucose in the blood. 

  • This condition leads to high insulin levels, called hyperinsulinemia.
  • Hyperinsulinemia then leads to an exaggerated insulin response. 
  • This means that eating even a small amount of carbohydrates may cause the pancreas to release large amounts of "useless" insulin. 
  • This exaggerated insulin response results in a vicious cycle where you feel you are on a hamster wheel getting nowhere with your efforts to diet. 

Hunger and Fatigue

Even if you have just eaten you could be fatigued and sluggish. This is because your insulin is not getting glucose into your cells to be used as energy. You are tired all the time. 

You are also hungry all the time because not only are your cells not getting the energy they need, but your satiety hormones (ghrelin and leptin) are also out of whack. And what do you do? You eat! 


This week I would like you to pick just one day and jot down the food you are eating. This is only an awareness journal – it has nothing to do with judgment: If you eat a candy bar, put it down. If you eat a fruit bowl the size of your head, put it down. If you eat a bagel for breakfast and have a muffin with a flavored coffee for a morning snack, put it down. 

The only goal of this day’s journal is to put a carbohydrate number to the food you eat. You don’t even have to make a purchase to do this. If you don’t already have a carbohydrate-counting book, just go to a free site like Calorie King or My Fitness Pal (you might have to open an account, but it won’t cost you anything) and put in the food for the day. Unless you are intentionally eating Low Carb, you might be shocked! 

You don’t have to write down after every meal and snack, but take note of how you feel. Did the oatmeal for breakfast not hold you till lunch? Did that muffin and flavored coffee put you into a mid-morning slump? Did you have your usual indigestion at night after eating your usual “grazing” after dinner?

THEN, the next day, instead of reaching for something that you now know is high in carbohydrates, make another choice, or leave it out for the day. Have eggs instead of cereal. Grab some cheese and nuts for a mid-morning snack. Have a lunch that is not fast food or a sandwich. Take note, as you did the day before, about your energy levels, fullness levels, indigestion levels, etc. 

All this has nothing to do with getting on the scale. It is how to tune in to how you are feeling, and that’s the name of the game. 

Next week’s episode
Next week I will follow up with decoding grains and legumes. Friends or foes? We think that we need to cut down because of the carbohydrate counts and everything I talked about in this episode, but they have their own set of issues and problems, having to do with inflammation and gluten intolerance. You will not want to miss this next episode! 

 Please share the new Nourish and Nurture Podcast with your friends, and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison. Please leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast. It helps other people find it by bringing it up in the various directories. Also, don’t be a stranger. Like or join my Facebook page, Breaking Free From Diet Prison, and let me know if there is anything you would like to hear on the show, and let me know you are a podcast listener. 

 Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time. 

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And don't forget my book!