Low carb until dinner to lose weight?
April 8, 2013 8:57 AM   Subscribe

I live with a group of friends and we all take it in turns to cook dinner one day of the night, which usually consists of lasagne, pasta, rice etc. I am wondering if I could lose weight if I ate low carb for breakfast and lunch, and then ate dinner that is prepared by my housemates?

I would like to lose around 15 pounds by July.
I will not give up on these dinners as it is a really nice thing we have that brings us together. Also on weekends I do enjoy going out and having a drink or two, althout I don't ever drink so much that I get drunk. So my question is will it be possible to lose weight by balancing these habits with exercise 3 or 4 times a week and with healthy meals apart from dinner.

If this would work, I am also wondering what some ideas are for breakfast and lunch that are vegetarian. Thanks!
posted by lovisa91 to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I am wondering if I could lose weight if I ate low carb for breakfast and lunch, and then ate dinner that is prepared by my housemates?

You can lose weight eating almost anything, and you can gain wait eating almost anything. Unless you go into ketosis (Atkins-style), your equation is that, to the best of our knowledge, a deficit of 3500 calories/week will result in one pound of weight lost per week, which is about what you're looking for. Yes, that notion has been criticized recently, to good measure, but it's the best I know of at the moment. Further, if you're eating vegetarian, drinking, and eating lasagne, you probably won't be able to go into ketosis.

"Healthy habits" don't determine your body's weight, calories do. Figure out how many calories you are eating, figure out how many calories you are burning via exercise, and make those numbers result in a net caloric deficit either way.
posted by saeculorum at 9:02 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately low-carb dieting doesn't lend itself well to this sort of yo-yo dieting. You won't experience one of the biggest benefits of eating low carb, which is the appetite suppression. While I agree with saeculorum above, that until you get to ketosis, calories are probably the primary determinant, even without getting into ketosis, you can have a huge appetite suppression effect if you stick to less than 40 g of carbs (this is because you will have less blood sugar and thus less insulin released -- this means that your blood sugar levels won't swing up and down as crazily -- think about how you feel about three hours after a heavy meal -- maybe you could have a bite? That's the insulin talking). But with this sort of regime (vegetarian + drinks + high carb meal every night) there is no way you'll get into that range and will instead just feel deprived and crappy the whole day. Unlike low-calorie dieting, low-carb dieting tends to be a be all-or-nothing -- you can't really half-ass it and expect to see results (which I know all too well, because it's not like I haven't tried the things you're proposing). You could do a cheat meal once every two weeks, maybe (and that includes drinking etc.) and you'll still feel crappy for three days after that meal. For me it isn't worth it, but I understand that in can be difficult to eat this way in real life, especially if you want to be social with your housemates.
posted by peacheater at 9:12 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think your best bet is to be conscious about limiting your portions at dinner (as well as watching what you eat at breakfast and lunch). I know for me when I'm eating family-style with a bunch of friends it's hard to say no to seconds when everyone else is digging in, but that's what I'd focus on first.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:14 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Anecdota, yes, but I lost 15lbs (and am continuing to lose) in a couple of months by eating a giant bowl of veggies with a little pat of butter and seasoning steamed in the microwave. A seriously big bowl such that will keep me full and happy for a good long while (usually a whole head of broccoli, a carrot or two, some green beans, and a couple stems of kale). I tend to do carbs/meat for supper and I wanted to introduce some more veggies and fiber into my life. I've lost a few inches and gained muscle in my workouts as well. Really haven't changed anything other than my lunches, but I eat it at least five days a week for lunch. I value ease of prep over variety so it doesn't bother me to have the same thing over and over but if I feel a little bored I just throw some sriracha or adobo seasoning or something different on it for the day.
posted by takoukla at 9:14 AM on April 8, 2013

Low Carb until dinner is pretty much the premise behind the Carbohydrate Addicts program. My recollection is that it's not a very Vegetarian friendly program, but it's not an unheard of weightloss principal.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:15 AM on April 8, 2013

I am not a low carb expert, but in general, here's what frustrate me about weight loss questions on AskMe (and in life). If these don't apply to you, I am sorry for not answering your question, but see if this is you:

1. I would like to lose weight by eating low-carb/some other diet. However, I don't keep track of what I eat and I eat sweets or other junk food.
2. I do the same low-intensity exercise three or four times a week.

People are different, and if you're already at a healthy weight, it's more difficult to lose that last ten or so pounds. But in general: Watch your portions, exercise until you sweat and your heart pounds, and stop eating crap. There's no magic bullet, and Saeculorum is right that you're not going to go low-carb enough to go into ketosis.

I think that the biggest issue with these group dinners is not the carby-ness of them but that people tend to eat more when eating with others. Watch your portions and skip dessert if it's offered. Write down everything you eat in a little notebook and see if that helps.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:20 AM on April 8, 2013 [14 favorites]

You could make a big bowl of veggies or a big salad, and then treat whatever delicious carb your friends make as a side dish- a couple of bites of lasagna, or baked ziti or whatever the main course is.

As far as veggie meals- I make this: http://ohsheglows.com/2013/03/05/roasted-buddha-bowl/

once a week- it's enough for a dinner and a lunch or two. It's so so good- and the dressing introduced me to the deliciousness of nutritional yeast- which in he past always seemed weird and gross to me.
posted by aviatrix at 9:38 AM on April 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think it's worth a shot. For the record I have done low carb vegetarian without being crazy strict and got great results. I wouldn't call what I did half assed, I still worked at it, but for example I would eat low carb breakfast and lunch (for me, All Bran cereal breakfast and for lunch an open face sandwich with Tofurky, or no added sugar peanut butter and fruit, or cheese) and then if dinner was lasagna as a main course, I would fill my plate with mostly salad and take only a small serving of the lasagna.

There are bunch of old questions here about low carb vegetarian food if you are interested.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:48 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can lose weight by reducing calories and increasing exercise.

Now, I'm doing a low carb plan where I'm looking to get into ketosis. I can only do this if I strictly reduce the number of carbs I consume. So I'm at around 20 to 40 grams per day. (Induction!)

I'm in the pinky-purple range on my dip-sticks, so yay! I also am here to testify, when I nix starchy carbs out of my diet, I don't feel hungry. (I do eat veggies, which have carbs, so you do have to watch out for that.)

You won't be able to achive this by eating pasta, rice or noodles.

As for alcohol, if you stick to Vodka with no mixers, or with only soda as a mixer, you can enjoy a beverage every now and again. Or you can try a few cocktails of the "Skinnygirl" ilk.

Life is full of these conundrums. You have a few options:

1. Ask your friends cook you a little something that's on your food plan that you can eat with them.

2. Bring your own food to enjoy with them.

3. Pick out the items you can eat around what they're serving.

Here's how we handled it this week. Husbunny and I were invited to a party. Chili was being served. We ate before we went, hung out in the kitchen the entire evening chit-chatting with folks and then left without eating a morsal. No one noticed, no one cared, and we were happy knowing that we each stuck to our plans (he's doing Body for Life.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:53 AM on April 8, 2013

In a similar vein as ablazingsaddle I don't think anyone can make the blanket statement that "avoiding carbs before dinner and then eating carbs at dinner" will or will not help you lose weight. It depends on WHAT you eat. What are you eating before dinner? If you're eating enough fiber and protein you won't be so ravenous at dinner that you eat 3 huge pieces of lasagna.

What will the dinners consist of, aside from carbs? Fiber? Protein? Veggies?

I was pudgy as a teen but started eating better and exercising in college, and when it came out I read "French Women Don't get Fat" and realized that I basically subscribe to that kind of lifestyle and that is why I never have a problem with my weight when so many others do. So in your case when your housemates are making a big lasagna to share, I would probably cut up a salad for myself(at least, maybe the others as well) and make it a big salad so that I will then have a very small piece of lasagna. Just a couple of bites to satisfy my taste for delicious lasagna. Same goes for dessert.

If you're open to carbs before dinner, I think that lentils are an absolute gem for someone who is looking to lose weight and curb the appetite. Sure they're not low carb but they are so filling and have fiber + protein + nutrients that when you get to the dinner that sounds like it often has a lot of empty carbs, you won't have a problem only eating a small amount.

Seriously, read French Women Don't Get Fat. It will change your outlook on food.
posted by fromageball at 10:46 AM on April 8, 2013

If we're doing book recommendations, Mindless Eating is really interesting, and also has a bit on why we tend to eat more when we're with other people.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:06 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're planning on doing a heavy resistance training workout just before eating your carb-heavy dinner, then manipulating the timing of your nutrients in this fashion could be somewhat to your advantage. Refraining from carbs the rest of the day and then doing the workout will cause your muscle glycogen stores to be diminished and your insulin sensitivity to be increased; the carb in your dinner will then preferentially be utilized by your muscle tissue. This kind of carb timing is a component of several diet/workout plans popular on the internet, including LeanGains, Carb Backloading, Cheat Mode, etc. This is somewhat of an advanced training/nutrition method, however, and isn't the be-all end-all anyway.

Other than that, manipulating the timing or composition of your meals makes no difference beyond whatever impact it may have on your energy levels and thus your mood and ability to stick to your diet. Your ability to lose weight will be determined by your ability to maintain a caloric deficit, regardless of what type of foods you eat.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:59 AM on April 8, 2013

For what it is worth, I lost 8 kilos (about 17 pounds) in my mid twenties following the Carbohydrate Addicts Diet mentioned above, and this was with next to no exercise excepting a 40 minute daily walk. So it is possible.

Some caveats:

- I was extremely strict with it. No carbs at all except for the hour window in the evening, including alcohol, and I made sure my evening meal included a fair whack of protein.
- It was my first attempt at low carb eating, so as I didn't really understand my options I erred on the side of caution during the day. I would maybe have an egg for breakfast and the contents of a chicken and salad sandwich minus the bread for lunch. I think a fair whack of that weight loss might have been accounted for merely by the fact that I had seriously lowered the amount of calories I was consuming during the day, and this was not offset by the hour of "free" eating. You'd be surprised how little you can eat in an hour.
- I found it impossible to stick to over the long term. Weight loss stalled as soon as I started being more lenient (adding a tortilla wrap to my lunch for example). Weight piled back on as soon as I slacked off.
posted by arha at 3:25 PM on April 8, 2013

I did a moderate low carb plan similar to what you're proposing to lose the freshman 30 during college. It took a couple of years, but I lost the weight without counting much of anything or exercising. Been maintaining for the past 3-4 years. It becomes a habit, just like anything you put effort into doing 3x daily. Some days I eat a lot more carbs and don't stick to plan, but those days are just blips on the radar in the grand scheme of things. Most important lesson I learned whilst losing weight is to not be too hard on myself for slipping . It's much harder to get back on track with your next meal in a negative, hopeless "screw it, I'll eat whatever I want now since I messed up already" state of mind.

I naturally consumed less calories eating meals consisting of protein (not lean- choose a cut of meat with some fat on it to stay satisfied), veggies or fruit, and string cheese or nuts. Sometimes I'd have a bit of a starchy side like potato, but not much white floury stuff.

Try to eat your protein and veggies FIRST for every meal. That way you fill up on the good stuff, and have less "room" for that heaping slice of cake, or giant bowl of ice cream. It's a very enjoyable, sustainable way to eat. I'm also not afraid to waste food, and will eat the bits I really love (applies to desserts in particular), having that top crunchy layer of pecan pie without that tasteless crust, having the filling and one layer of that giant cake slice, even just getting my McDonald's dipped cone in a cup with a spoon... those are ways of minimizing excess calories and junk while still indulging. Feel free to Memail me for healthier dessert recipes and less carby meal ideas.

IIRC Hilary Duff and Nicole Ritchie were told to eat protein with every meal and choose either a starch, or have dessert, but not both. It makes sense when you think about what our paleolithic ancestors ate. Fatty meat, a handful of berries, a few glugs of coconut water is what they could access. It wasn't pasta salads, Special K, or lowfat yogurt cups!
posted by sunnychef88 at 11:18 PM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

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