How do I eat a low-carb diet that satiates me, doesn't make me lose weight and leaves my skin clear?
August 22, 2011 7:21 PM   Subscribe

How do I eat a low-carb diet that satiates me, doesn't make me lose weight and leaves my skin clear?

I'm a 36-year old male and no amount of drugs (Accutane, Minocycline) or topicals (Aczone, Retin-A) over the years has cleared my skin for more than a few months. I am so frustrated and self-conscious at this point... to be the only male in my demographic who seems to have this problem.

I have been recently hearing about low-carb diets helping acne. My diet is very average in terms of being "healthy", but I do crave salts and dairies which I'd like to cut out. In fact, I'd like to try radically changing my diet for a few months anyway to see what happens. But I've never really learned how to consistently eat healthy food that wasn't bland or left me hungry.

What are some meals I could eat that don't inflame the skin or cause salt/sugar-derived spikes that make my skin worse? I don't mind eating the same thing virtually every day, I'm not picky. I would just like to find a handful of recipes for things that are tasty, filling, but not bad for someone prone to acne.

The other problem is that I'm very skinny. I have extremely high metabolism and eat frequently, yet don't gain weight. How can I strike a balance? How can I make myself full while still eating healthy?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you could start by looking for foods that are high in fat that aren't dairy, like cashews and avocados.

Forgive me if you don't want other suggestions at all, but have you ever been tested for skin allergies? I kept breaking out till my mid-20s and somehow figured out it was happening because I was allergic to dust mites, who knew?
posted by Ashley801 at 7:30 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Totally anecdotal, sample size of one, but when I was in uni I remember someone's mom telling a story about her friend's daughter, who had really bad acne. The mom recommended cutting out dairy entirely - for some reason she thought it might be a reaction to the dairy - and after 3 months, the acne was gone, replaced by smooth and clear skin. This was after the daughter followed a strict diet of 100% no dairy whatsoever, which might be a bit tricky as I think there's a little dairy in a lot of things nowadays.

You might also explore other food intolerances as many people have trouble with gluten, or soy, etc.
posted by lulu68 at 7:40 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know about the clear skin part, but after a few days on the "slow carb" diet (basically, nothing "refined", with starch from rice/potatoes/wheat replaced with slow-digesting beans, no dairy, and no fruit*), my blood sugar stabilized noticeably. Three weeks later, that's still the case, and I'm down a few pounds.

* Google for details on this; the diet allows for one "splurge" day a week. I cheat slightly on the 'no fruit' part by having salsa on my beans (tomatoes are berries).

It's also worth ruling out allergies.
posted by dws at 7:45 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try the Paleo diet, maybe? Not necessarily low carb unless you want it to be... And seems to resolve acne for a lot of folks.
posted by lizifer at 7:45 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My skin cleared up after I started my gluten free diet. Celiac Disease was causing my acne.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:07 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

hey anony, memail me. You're not the only male in your demographic with this problem. (I don't have a great diet suggestion, but I do have some reassurance to offer privately.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:10 PM on August 22, 2011

Here's an answer to part of your question -- how to feel satiated on a low carb diet: fat. Eat more fat. Fatty meat, if you eat meat. Avocados, nuts, etc. IF you're eating dairy, full fat, but it sounds like that's part of what you want to eliminate. I found that low carb leaves me far less hungry on a regular basis than my previous way of eating.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:18 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My acne cleared up during a Whole30. It took about a year of experimentation afterward to realize that it was caused by gluten and sugar but not dairy. YMMV. Do a Whole30, your skin will likely clear up, you can worry about exactly how or why afterwards.
posted by telegraph at 8:23 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

The specific carbohydrate diet is a good way to go low carb. Pretty much any carbs but fruit and veg are out. It seems pretty restrictive at first, but if you stick to the outside of the grocery store (dairy, meat, and produce, no inside aisles with processed food) it gets easier to figure out. I felt like I had more energy and I'm pretty sure my skin was better too. Just remember that fats will help you feel full. Batch cooking and freezing meats was the trick to making sure I was getting enough fat and protein.

Also, unsolicited advice from somebody who has had skin problems for ages:

I had regular whiteheads and intermittent very deep, very painful cysts that never came to a head. I found out you can get the skin peel chemicals they use at dermatology offices online at places like Amazon. I use a 20% salicylic acid peel once every week or two, depending on my memory. It was the missing piece of my skin care regimen that made the big difference. At first, expect an increase, as all the blockages work their way out. Then, the improvement is great! I haven't had a cyst in months. And while I still get whiteheads, they are smaller, less painful and easier to heal. Its cheap, easy and if you follow the directions, relatively painless. It feels like a moderate sunburn while its on, and some irritation when you wash it off. Just don't use it more than directed or for longer than directed. I tried it. I peeled. Build up to longer exposure. I use that, plus a salicylic acid body wash in the shower, and benzoyl peroxide at night to get rid of active whiteheads. YMMV but it seems to be the perfect combo for me.
posted by gilsonal at 10:19 PM on August 22, 2011

I will third avocados. They've got lots of calories from "good" fat, and actually lots of fiber too (which seems surprising since they have a creamy texture). They are also versatile and easy to prepare. Also, nuts and seeds. I like to sprinkle hemp seeds over salads and cooked veggies. Again, lots of good fat (omega-3's) and caloric bang for the buck.
posted by parrot_person at 1:21 AM on August 23, 2011

You need to go read on sites like or the other sites devoted to Paleo eating. There are forums where people have answered this exact question many times. There are guys who do body building and people whose skin has cleared up. If you are going no or low carb that is the place to read about it.
posted by CathyG at 6:59 AM on August 23, 2011

Try the pH Miracle Diet. The whole point is that it balances your body chemistry internally, so many health issues get resolved as a side effect (also known as an alkaline lifestyle).

This particular diet emphasizes good fats (e.g. avocados), lots of fresh vegetables, some seafood (mainly wild-caught cold-water fish), and eliminating (for the most part) meat and dairy.

With the underweight problem, the way this is resolved with an alkaline lifestyle is that micro-organisms thrive in an acidic environment, and steal the nutrients you feed yourself. You eat the nutrients, but don't get them (instead you get the waste products of the micro-organisms). The typical diet these days creates an acidic pH in your body. When you eat the right things to create an alkaline pH in your body, these micro-organisms die and you start getting the nutrients that you are eating. Actually, come to think of it, the acne problem could be a sign of this -- basically, you have a lot of bacteria in your body (sorry).
posted by DoubleLune at 7:52 AM on August 23, 2011

Please don't fall for that pH diet nonsense.
posted by cabingirl at 8:46 AM on August 23, 2011

I don't know about low carb diets, but my sister solved a prolonged and visible acne problem by making a very small change - she stopped eating cheese.

I'm not saying being cheeseless is the answer, but if you haven't considered that it may just be a particular type of food your body is having trouble with, it's worth thinking about because cutting out something like that is a lot easier than what you're proposing.
posted by fearnothing at 11:09 AM on August 23, 2011

As for putting on weight (didn't notice that before), you're probably quite similar to me. I have always been skinny at 5'9" and 126 lbs. My gym instructor said that for me to put any kind of extra weight on (muscular weight at least), I need prolonged serious training with high weight/low rep, plus a diet that's high in protein to supply the extra material, and high in carbs to keep my energy up while I'm doing it (and make sure I don't start converting muscle mass due to a lack of energy supply). My build and metabolism mean that I find it very difficult to build, and after 3 months of hard work I'm just beginning to see visible results.

I'm no dietician or training instructor myself, but trying to build weight on low carbs doesn't seem like it would work too well.
posted by fearnothing at 11:17 AM on August 23, 2011

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