What You Need to Know Before Starting a Low Carb Diet

In the last 12 months or so, low carbohydrate diets have captured the hearts and weight loss hopes of the American public. And why not? These diets promise quick weight loss and the ability to keep eating fatty foods. If you love your steak and eggs, this seems like the ultimate diet. However, before signing up, the low carb diet bears a review. Is it really the right diet for you?

The premise of the Atkins or any low carbohydrate diet is that carbohydrates are the source of all our weight loss woes. There is some real substance to the argument in that we Americans have been eating excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates which have caused many of us to become insulin resistant as the body continues to wage war against repeated blood sugar spikes brought on by our poor eating habits.

The Atkins diet and other very low carbohydrate diets take your body out of a sugar burning state by practically eliminating all carbs for an induction period that can last two weeks or more. The body will continue to burn sugar as it primary energy source until it essentially runs dry and then converts to burning fat. During the conversion, the dieter can feel tired, irritable, have headaches or get dizzy. Once you get past this incredibly tough period, you are allowed to eat a few carbs, but generally not more than 60 grams a day. That’s like eating one bagel a day and then stopping. This is a difficult road to follow for a liftetime.

In fact, a recent study showed that most adults who start a low carbohydrate diet quit the diet within a year. Admittedly, there is great progress by Atkins and other food manufacturers to dramatically reduce the amount of effective carbs in some food offerings that could be classified as comfort foods (e.g., muffins, brownies, yogurt and more). This helps but you cannot have much if you want to stay within the diet guidelines.

In addition to the loss of almost all traditional comfort foods, by cutting out carbohydrates, the diet is also cutting out a lot of foods that are good for us. Fruits and vegetables have fiber, vitamins and phytonutrients that help keep us healthy. Limiting fiber while consuming a lot of saturated fat, is not the most heart healthy diet.

The low carb diet does take a person out of a primary sugar burning state into a fat burning state. However, some literature makes it sound as though you cannot burn fat any other way. The fact is that we are all burning some fat, we may just be adding more fat faster than we burn it. Modifying the diet to eliminate refined carbohydrates and focusing on high quality protein and good fats will gradually train the body to burn more fat and less sugar.

To their credit, the Atkins group have refined their diet guidelines from their original ‘eat all the fat you want’ stance to ‘eat moderate amounts of good fats’. This is not only a heart healthy step forward but is also likely to help your weight loss efforts as essential fatty acids (the good fats) can help you actually burn more fat. However, when you consider that carbs are already limited on this diet, I’m not sure what you eat except grilled chicken breast, fat free cottage cheese and egg-white omelets. This effectively transforms the diet into a high-protein, low-calorie diet which, if it becomes low calorie, will induce the body to lower its metabolism.

But the one thing you need to know about why the Atkins diet brings about significant weight loss in the first week is that it sends the body into ketosis. Without getting technical, this is a body imbalance that causes your body to flush out toxins (ketones) through your urine like crazy! What you are losing then is primarily water – not fat. Over the long term, restricting carbohydrate consumption to the levels recommended in Atkins and other similar diets is that they overlook the fact that your body needs carbohydrates to utilize the protein you consume. Thus, just like the low calorie diet, this diet cannot help you increase or even maintain muscle mass if carbohydrates are not consumed at a higher level than they recommend.

Finally, if you go off of the low carb diet, your body will immediately stop burning fat as it’s primary fuel source. Adding carbs back into the diet will usually cause weight gain as the water weight loss comes back within days.

If you are committed to fat loss success, then you cannot overlook the body’s need for sufficient calorie levels to prevent the body from lowering its metabolism. You also need sufficient protein that the body can utilize to have a shapely figure (this goes for guys and gals), youthful skin and great hair. Keep the fruits and vegetables, permit yourself a serving or two of a whole grain bread or pasta, focus on high quality proteins and good fats, get calcium from low fat dairy products such as yogurt and your body will respond with a slow, steady and healthy weight loss.

Dieting 101 – Being Flexibile is Key

Lose the Rules: You Must be Flexible

Why is it that when you decide to get in better shape or lose a few pounds, life suddenly throws you a curve? Fact is there are constantly invitations to over indulge so you must decide in advance how you want to handle them.

Make a Plan
Implement Your Plan
Review Your Plan and Adjust if Necessary
Rinse, Repeat

Have a Planning Session First

You’ve decided to get back in shape; now you must have a planning session with yourself about what might change, how you might go about following through, and most importantly whether you believe you can and will follow through (are you serious or are you kidding yourself?).

To get a good plan, write it out. Include when, where, what time of day. Imagine yourself following through and see whether there are any obstacles? Will you get up earlier or sleep in? Will your partner complain you’re never home? Will work interfere? Think it through. When you spot a potential obstacle you can find a way over, under or around it, or you can change your plan. Once you have a plan, implement it for one week, then at the end of the week, look back and decide whether you should alter your plan or follow through with it for another week. This way you are able to modify your plan as needed, but still have a plan.

Here’s a Sample Plan: Watch What Happened:

My plan is a regular workout schedule (four days a week at home or at the gym), drinking less alcohol (special occasions and weekends instead of every night), and tightening up “weekend eating” from the current Thursday evening through Sunday to only Saturday and Sunday.

Reflection: What would this accomplish? I’d be eating a bit less (reining in the indulgence from three days a week to two), and exercising consistently (consistency is key), and drinking less alcohol saves a lot of calories (plus alcohol can cause more poor decisions, especially if inebriated).

Make your plan, then follow through and track what happens.

Here’s how this plan worked in a typical first week:

Monday: All is well, worked out and ate as planned. Good day.

Tuesday: Worked out and ate as planned. Good day. So far this is easy.

Tuesday evening sister invites me over Thursday evening for home party, “I’ll have something there to eat,” she adds. I’m about to say, “That’s okay, I won’t want anything anyway,” but thought better of it. (Telling someone you don’t want what they’re serving because you’re trying to get healthy is a surefire way to be attacked with a full-frontal assault on why that is ridiculous and, “Just this once won’t hurt.” Who needs that? Stay quiet instead).

Wednesday: Ate fine and worked out according to plan. Very good, hump day and all. (Notice it has all been pretty easy up until now.

First obstacle: Wednesday evening another sister calls saying Friday night we’re celebrating family birthdays at a Thai restaurant. I’m to bring blackberry cheesecake, mom is bringing blackberry pie.

Taking stock of the rest of this week and it’s not pretty: Thursday evening workout won’t happen because I need to be baking and said I’d go to my sister’s (evening workouts are often waylaid); Friday evening eating is dicey due to birthday dinner at restaurant. To top it off Easter is Sunday so most of Saturday I’ll be shopping and baking. I already decided to make a cake and scalloped potatoes. This is turning out to be a lousy week for my new getting in shape plan.

But, all is not lost. This is a typical week in a typical life. You must be flexible if you expect to lose weight and keep it off. You’re always going to be confronted with the unexpected occasions, birthdays, parties, special events where they’ll have all the yummy goodies you just can’t resist. Keep reading to see what a successful dieter does next.

Thursday, ate well. Had dinner already so didn’t snack at sister’s Thursday event (she had chips and a vegi tray and I wasn’t hungry so easy to pass up). Too busy with baking to exercise (I anticipated this so I’m not upset). Evening workouts are so often missed I’m already working on a new plan to fit in earlier workouts.

Friday: Ate great, dinner was wonderful. Had a “splurge” glass of wine with dinner at the restaurant (tasted pretty darn good too, but didn’t leave me wanting another). Ate plenty but not over-stuffed; knowing we had desserts coming. Enjoyed a full piece of blackberry pie and some cheesecake and it was great. I’m fine and right on target.

Saturday: Ate well, did my exercise as planned. Shopped for groceries for Easter dinner and suddenly decided to make homemade peanut butter cup easter eggs; how’s that for a healthy eating plan? Now I’m a candy maker! I enjoy candy, so sue me.

Easter Sunday: Big family dinner, potluck style. Nothing is better than good homemade food, especially when you’re learning to eat better and make better choices. I ate what I wanted and felt great, satisfied, content. Did not overstuff, didn’t feel the need to. You can take a bit small amount, eat it slowly, taste it, check out the texture, and really make an effort to enjoy the buffet style dinner. There’s no need to stuff yourself. It’s not the last time I’ll ever eat. Easter eggs turned out great. I left plenty behind and took the rest to my office on Monday. I didn’t actually eat but one of the homemade candies; they were good, but I didn’t feel the need to eat more.

I love to bake for special events as I get to eat the goodies, but I ditch the leftovers. A piece or two of cake every so often is not a problem, but half a cake on the counter, or sweets and desserts every day for a week is a recipe for the beginning of poor eating habits.

Sunday evening (remember I had the big Easter dinner earlier) I started feeling somewhat hungry, but it was late, so I ate the leftover desserts I’d brought home for my dinner. This time it was “eat dessert first,” as grandpa used to say. You make a choice, sometimes you’ll overeat, and sometimes you won’t and it’s okay. The trick whether losing weight or maintaining weight loss is to change the equation from usually overeating and indulging and watching what I eat once in awhile, to eating well most of the time and indulging once in awhile.

Sunday Evening Reflection: Look Back at Week 1:

Lots of sweets, plenty to eat. I stuck to my overall plan for the week. I drank far less (from a couple glasses of wine a night down to just a couple for the entire week). I ate plenty of the good foods I wanted, but didn’t feel the need to stuff myself, nor did I ever feel deprived. I didn’t have the, “I better eat now because I’m starting a diet on Monday” mentality. Every meal stands alone, so if you overeat at lunch that doesn’t mean the rest of the day is blown (why pre-blow it?).

Overall I exercised and ate according to plan Monday through Thursday then lots of unexpected events started to occur that could have been big roadblocks but weren’t.

Fad Diets – Make Them Healthy

Fad diets come and go. Sometimes they come back again. People like to follow fad diets because they promise quick weight loss, the plan is easy, and you just have to do it for a short period of time. Plus, it’s fun to jump on the bandwagon along with friends who might be following the program, too.

Common characteristics of fad diets include nutritional deficiency, frequently relying on just one food or food group, recommended short-term use, and lack of long-term benefits.

Medical authorities debunk fad diets because of their dubious nutritional value, low daily calories, and bland tastes. The diets can also lead to weight-cycling or yo-yo dieting.

Some of the more well-known fad diets include:

— cabbage soup diet

— grapefruit diet

— chicken soup diet

— even the chocolate diet!

With a little creativity, these diets could contribute to a healthy diet as well as weight loss.

How can you make a fad diet into a healthy one?

Include the “fad food” as part of a nutritious meal. Have a grapefruit for breakfast along with oatmeal, a glass of milk, and a slice of toast, for example.

Soups are very nutritious, so why not bave a pot simmering on the stove? Enjoy it for a snack–it sure beats high-fat chips or sugar-laden cookies!

Chicken or cabbage soup is a great part of a meal. Include a green salad with low-calorie dressing and a piece of fruit for dessert.

Have soup or grapefruit on hand when the “munchies” strike. You’ll get filled up fast.

You could even have a piece of chocolate (make it small!) when you’re eating an overall healthy diet.

Be sure to incorporate exercise into your daily activities. That’s another problem with fad diets–most of the time physical activity is completely ignored. Increasing your exercise will help you lose more weight than any single diet plan on its own.

Want to follow a fad? Make it a healthy one!