Low-Carb Tips and Tricks
August 26, 2013 10:33 AM   Subscribe

How did you ease into a low-carb lifestyle?

Hey mefi, after my last question on managing my appetite, a lot of people have suggested eating low-carb. I am trying to do this but really struggling! I don't really know what is realistic or how to go about eating low carb and eating mindfully at the same time!

So here are some questions for people who have successfully lost weight following some form of the low-carb diet:
1) What helped you to ease into it?
2) How many grams of carbs did you eat per day? Did you make allowances for fruits and 'sanity carbs'?
3) What are some unexpected difficulties you face and how did you overcome them?
4) How did you balance 'low-carb' from the philosophy of 'eat what you want when you want mindfully'?
5) How did you deal with munchies/cravings?
6) How did you deal with emotional eating?
7) Did you take any supplements, and if so were they helpful?
8) How did you explain your low-carb eating in social situations (e.g. when confronted with the dessert menu) and what did you do about alcohol?
9) What did you do about your carb intake once you lost the weight? Did you up to moderate levels? Did you manage to maintain the weight loss?

Sorry for the long post!
posted by dinosaurprincess to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
I didn't really ease into it*, I went on Atkins and started induction per the plan. This was in the late 90s, when hardly anyone had heard of it (or hadn't heard of it since the 70s) and everyone was all "no bread WHA??".

After the first five days, I felt so much better that I didn't need fruit (fruit is really not necessary to a healthy diet, propaganda be damned) or "sanity" carbs. I stopped addict-eating, I stopped emotional eating, I stopped being hungry pretty much ever, I just ate 3-4 times a day on a schedule. Cravings are easily stopped with fat, and there are hundreds of websites devoted to recipes for replacing carbs with other stuff for look-alike dishes.

I just told people I was eating low carb. At this point, there is nobody in the Western world who doesn't know what that means. I'm rarely "confronted" with dessert menus, but my habit was a cup of coffee with cream if I wanted something desserty.

I took a multivitamin when I thought of it. I tried doing the whole array of Atkins-recommended supplements but I've never been good at keeping up. I did notice, especially during "whooshes" that I needed some extra potassium or I got muscle aches really bad.

I drank moderate amounts of clear liquor drinks (generally vodka, I don't like gin), or an occasional glass of red wine or light beer, and only drank once a week. It's honestly a lot easier and healthier if you're just not much of a drinker.

I only maintained for about 4 years, unfortunately. For a lot of (primarily emotional, somewhat self-destructive) reasons, I went off-plan hard after a few years. I'm in the middle of starting over, knowing that it never works as well the second time.

It was a nearly effortless 4-5 years, though. I just didn't have that crap in my life, didn't want it, didn't think about it, had all kinds of habits that just made it a non-issue.

*I partially take that back. I switched to diet soda two weeks before induction. I had a serious Coca Cola habit, and cold turkey switched to Pepsi One, which was disgusting on multiple levels. Quitting sugar soda was probably responsible for the first 25 pounds that came off, and by then I was out of induction and had a lot of motivation. In general, though, "easing" and "moderation" are the enemy of sustained weight loss in the initial weight-loss period. Moderation is for maintenance. Sloppy, indulgent "moderation" is how I gained it all back.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:53 AM on August 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


5) How did you deal with munchies/cravings?
6) How did you deal with emotional eating?


We emptied our carb/snack drawer and didn't refill it with simple carbs. In the beginning, it had only things like nuts and seaweed snack.

1) What helped you to ease into it?

Having a partner who was doing it with me and who set a good example without any nagging or policing of my habits. She just made choices for herself and they looked pretty good and doable to me, so I did my best to emulate her.

2) How many grams of carbs did you eat per day? Did you make allowances for fruits and 'sanity carbs'?

My goal was "under a hundred grams net per day, closer to fifty is better, under fifty GO ME." I did (and still do) my best to not just replace simple carbs with low-carb fakey-food things. Whole foods, foods whose ingredient list was short and basic. If I *really* wanted pasta one night, I'd have pasta, but I would make just enough for one small serving and the rest of the meal would be like a big salad and some good fats and protein.

I also tried to frame it as "Hey, lemme try this new way of eating" rather than "I will deprive myself of deliciousness so I can reach my goal weight" and that made a big difference for me. YMMV. For me, this has been pretty sustainable and not difficult and hasn't made me feel like a martyr. I still drink beer and eat fries and donuts, but not at the rate I used to.
posted by rtha at 10:59 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


What helped you to ease into it?

I started by not bothering to try to eat healthy protein. So, bacon, pepperoni sticks, etc.

How many grams of carbs did you eat per day? Did you make allowances for fruits and 'sanity carbs'?

At the beginning when I was hardcore, I'd say 20 - 30. I made little allowances for berries in my smoothies, but no other fruit. Sanity carbs - a cheat meal one time per week.

What are some unexpected difficulties you face and how did you overcome them?

Protein-based meals can be gross. You don't feel like eating if all you can eat is broccoli and a chicken breast. Then, you just sit there being hungry and starving. I started having a second smoothie in the afternoon for a while when I couldn't stand to face more eggs or whatever.

How did you balance 'low-carb' from the philosophy of 'eat what you want when you want mindfully'?When in hardcore mode, you don't. There is no balance. When in maintenance, then you can. You won't feel like eating much sugar and carbs. You'll have established the habits to cook and enjoy something else.

What did you do about your carb intake once you lost the weight? Did you up to moderate levels? Did you manage to maintain the weight loss?

I now have tiny portions of pasta or rice a few times a week. All meals seem to require a carb base, so it's tricky, but I still stick with cauliflower mashed potatoes and zuchini noodles. If going out for supper (say, 1 time a month for me) I eat whatever I want. If I go on vacation, I eat what I want. Sometimes, just for the heck of it, I eat what I want (I mean pasta, deserts, bag of chips, whatever). If you overdo it and put on some weight, I think you'll find that you lose it easily once you tighten things up.

** I ate very strictly low carb for 6 months. I laxed things up for another 6 months. Now, I feel like a normal person who just doesn't eat a lot of carbs. In order to get to the place where you maintain your weight easily, you have to stick with it for a long time, I think. I lost pregnancy weight and some additional - a total of 60 pounds.
posted by kitcat at 11:02 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


1) What helped you to ease into it?
I think the #1 thing that helped me dive in was to do a lot of research on meals and really planning out exactly what I would eat for each meal. I had to have a game plan in place for me to stick with it. I always brought breakfast, lunch and snacks to work and actually brought extra just in case. I also found it to be kinda fun to look for ways to make my favorite dishes in low-carb versions with few modifications.

2) How many grams of carbs did you eat per day? Did you make allowances for fruits and 'sanity carbs'?
Between 50-100, and they are almost all from non-starchy vegetables, nuts, coconut and avocado. I tried going below 50 but it meant eating fewer veggies and I just wasn't comfortable with that. Veggies are good for you!

3) What are some unexpected difficulties you face and how did you overcome them?
I still have a bit of a weakness for junk like popcorn and fries. Typically I will let myself have one "cheat" day per week where I can eat as much of that crap as I like, and then I get the craving out of my system for a bit. Also, alcohol because I'm doing paleo and so low-carb grain alcohol like vodka and gin were out. Right now I am trying to just have white wine if I want a drink, but I sure do miss having more options.

4) How did you balance 'low-carb' from the philosophy of 'eat what you want when you want mindfully'?
I guess my approach is to eat until I'm full and not think about how much I'm eating or how many calories it is or whether I'm eating too much. For the first week of low-carb I was a little too mindful, if that makes any sense, and counted up my daily calorie consumption and I was like HOLY CRAP THAT IS NOT OKAY. But then I realized that for the first time in my life I was always full and didn't have low blood sugar or get hangry all the time. I just don't worry about it now and magically I self-regulate.

5) How did you deal with munchies/cravings?
See previous. Having a cheat day is really valuable to me. Also, I have a huge jar of almonds (a mix of blanched unsalted and smokehouse) at my desk that I munch on whenever I feel snacky.

6) How did you deal with emotional eating?
I guess I'm still working on this. Actually, for me it's more emotional drinking.

7) Did you take any supplements, and if so were they helpful?
The only supplements I've taken are probiotics and the occasional laxative because, uh, yeah.

8) How did you explain your low-carb eating in social situations (e.g. when confronted with the dessert menu) and what did you do about alcohol?
I've never had to explain it, really. I LOVE cheese as a dessert and a lot of restaurants that I go out to with friends offer a cheese course on their dessert menu. No one bats an eye at that. Also, I've found that low-carb/paleo eating is pretty common where I live so on the occasions I did mention it people would usually say "oh yeah, I've heard of that, how is it working for you?" and that's it. Also, low-carb is pretty damn easy to do at restaurants - steak, roasted bird, pan-fried fish (as long as it's not breaded obviously), etc are pretty easy to come by. I'm also pretty fond of bunless cheeseburgers - lots of places will wrap it in a lettuce leaf so you can pick it up like a burger but I just like to eat it with a knife and fork. Yum!

9) What did you do about your carb intake once you lost the weight? Did you up to moderate levels? Did you manage to maintain the weight loss?
I love paleo so much that I plan to stick with it even once I reach my goal weight. It started as a diet but it turns out it just works so much better for me than traditional eating. I feel better than before and it honestly hasn't been difficult.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:05 AM on August 26, 2013


1. I did not ease into it, my doctor told me this what I need to do and I followed her advice.
2. I try to keep it under 50g net carbs, with the carbs coming from fruit and veggies. This isn't "keto" or as low as many people go who follow a low-carb diet, but I have some dietary restrictions (pescatarian, lactose intolerant, food allergies) as well. I have "cheat days" and eat carbs. I eat fruit--especially the lower-glycemic fruit like berries, and try to limit fruit like grapes and pineapples.
4. I don't think those ideas are all that different--just my idea of being mindful about what I eat is different than it used to be. I know a bowl of sugary cereal or a couple slices of bread isn't going to fill me up, and I'll just be hungry again soon.
5. It gets easier, cereal is one of my favorite things to eat, but it's been at least a year since I ate it, and I'm okay with it. Make sure you find lots of foods that you enjoy eating. I don't buy soda regularly, so letting myself have a coke zero as a treat helps.
7. I do take vitamins, but it's unrelated.
8. Some of my friends and family know that I'm following my doctor's advice, so they don't question it. Everyone else can just mind their own business, and I don't owe them an explanation, as far as I'm concerned.
9. I've been maintaining for the past several months, basically I am pretty careful about everything I eat when I'm cooking at home, but I have more "cheat days" than I used to.
posted by inertia at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2013


1) Don't ease into it. Dive into it headfirst.

2) I didn't count carbs for fresh veggies, otherwise I'd try to keep it under 25g/day.

3) Emotional eating and lifestyle changes (I went on third shift for a sysadmin gig) will absolutely sink you, and you need to deal with it not from the diet end, but with counseling from a professional shrink. It never works as well the second go 'round, and self-sabotage can make it a non-starter.

4) Tracking down the carbs in everyday items makes you more mindful of the stuff you're eating - stuff like ketchup and applesauce, even some mustards, contain a lot of unexpected starches and sugars. After a year on the diet, I found I was eating dramatically less - I rarely felt the need for second helpings.

5) Give in once a month - not once a week! Save it for something special, like a fancy dessert or pizza or craft beer.

6) See no. 3

7) I took a multi-vitamin recommended by the doc.

8) I didn't care about what other people thought of the diet. Just say straight up what you're trying to achieve, most people will be on-board, in my experience. As for booze, white wine and Miller Lite are very low carb, and hard booze with diet soda mixers are zero carbs. (Jack and Diet was my go-to at the bar)

9) I lost track around 3/4ths the way to my goal - major life changes and stress lead to spotty adherence to the diet... which is terrible, as Atkins-friendly food is very high in fat and calorie-dense, and when combined with carbs, puts the weight back on with a vengeance. If you do get it restarted, what once took you a week to lose the first time 'round now takes months, which can cause spotty adherence, &c.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:16 AM on August 26, 2013


Here in France the Dukan Diet has been pretty popular in recent years. It is basically just a low carb diet - but it does aim to instigate a long-term lifestyle change a little more explicitly than (eg) Adkins did.

The diet starts with a rigorous "Attack phase" lasting for just a few days. It is intended to make enough difference to get people started and motivated. There is then a "cruise phase" where one alternates more and less rigid days until once gets to a target weight. Finally there is the "rest of the life" pattern of eating what one wants - but going on an "attack day" once a week. The diet has been popular enough that sales of meat in the country now peak in time for Thursday - the suggested default for an attack day.

Broadly people can eat as much of the allowed food as they want - whenever they want - when on the diet. The suggested food is also of high quality. Carbs appear most characteristically in oat bran during the initial days of the diet.

For my part I have found the attack stage of the diet useful if I find I need to loose some weight. Otherwise it has helped me get into a habit of eating less sweets, pasta and bread.

Personally I like to combine the basic rules of the diet with regular exercise. Loosing weight is easy but preventing the body hauling itself back to its pre-diet state is the hard part. There is some evidence that exercise can help reduce the power of this rebound. That and continuous monitoring of weight, for life.

I regularly meet French people who tell me about the weight they have lost on Dukan - before adding that it is, of course, dangerous and, in the manner of boules and bouillabaisse, not something that should be lightly attempted by a foreigner. This is, of course, part of its appeal for all concerned.
posted by rongorongo at 11:19 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


1) What helped you to ease into it?
What kitcat said. I'd tried induction before, several times, and failed miserably. I don't care what the experts say, it's not for everyone. Start reading all labels on your food now, because it's more complicated than "don't eat bread and sweets." After a while, you'll have the numbers in your head -- and, even more important, you'll also know when you DON'T have the numbers, and can plan for that.

2) How many grams of carbs did you eat per day? Did you make allowances for fruits and 'sanity carbs'?
I try to stay around 50, which is high for a lot of low carbers. I think across three days rather than just one. "Sanity carbs" totally backfire on me. The only fruit I eat with any regularity is berries.

3) What are some unexpected difficulties you face and how did you overcome them?
Quick snacks became much harder to find if I haven't planned ahead. I got strict about doing my own grocery shopping regularly, rather than relying on what other people bring home.

4) How did you balance 'low-carb' from the philosophy of 'eat what you want when you want mindfully'?
I find low carb food to be generally filling and satisfying. Once I got off the sugar cycle, the latter concept fell into place.

5) How did you deal with munchies/cravings?
6) How did you deal with emotional eating?

For both, I either eat protein or I eat something that requires a little work (e.g., sunflower seeds, baby spinach with salad dressing when I want chips and dip, etc.) Drinking water instead of eating helps, too.

7) Did you take any supplements, and if so were they helpful?
I take supplements, but I don't find them particularly helpful in adapting to this way of eating. From what I have seen, mileage can vary with this.

8) How did you explain your low-carb eating in social situations (e.g. when confronted with the dessert menu) and what did you do about alcohol?
I try to draw as little attention to what I'm doing as possible, because talking about it and/or evangelizing also backfires on me. Dessert menus get "Nah, I'm full/don't feel like it." Ordering just coffee is another way around it. I drink vodka tonics or a glass of red wine (which isn't as low carb, but I've got other issues as well).

9) What did you do about your carb intake once you lost the weight? Did you up to moderate levels? Did you manage to maintain the weight loss?
I let it go back up a bit, and I probably shouldn't have -- what little wiggle room I have, I already took with 50g a day. I didn't maintain the weight loss because I had to begin taking a medication where nausea was an issue, and breads were a fast cure. That phase has passed now, and I'm back. I had a cobb salad for lunch. It was really good.
posted by gnomeloaf at 11:21 AM on August 26, 2013


1) I just sort of swapped out the starchy, sugary stuff for other things. For example, instead of having rice, I have cauliflower "rice" or other veggies. I also cook all my veggies in macadamia or olive oil, so I get yummy roasted veggies with fiber + added fat to keep me satisfied.
2) I don't aim for a specific number, rather a percentage of calories from carbs. I try to keep my carb intake around 20% of my daily calorie intake. It generally ends up between 50-90 grams per day. I find that tracking in an app like LoseIt helps.
3) I really didn't have many. I didn't go extremely low-carb so the transition was pretty easy.
4) I do eat what I want, but what I want is mostly fatty and salty things rather than starchy or sugary things. I just kind of naturally gravitate towards the savory. I track my calories as well so I am very mindful of portions as well as macronutrients.
5) I don't really have any anymore. Once I stopped eating high-glycemic carbs on a regular basis, my cravings stopped and I do not get the munchies at all. See also above: lots of fiber, fat, and protein keeping me satisfied.
6) n/a for me.
7) I take a vitamin D supplement because when I don't my vitamin D is low, and I take a daily fish oil supplement on the recommendation of my doctor to help increase my HDL cholesterol because we don't eat much fish since my husband is allergic. But both of these things are unrelated to my low-carb approach to eating.
8) I say "no dessert for me, thanks" and I drink hard liquor on a regular basis, as long as it fits within my calorie budget. If someone needs explanation for why I'm not having dessert I just say I don't want any or, if pressed, "I'm stuffed and couldn't possibly eat anything else!" I have never had a sweet tooth, though, so most of my friends & family don't expect me to eat dessert anyway. Except my mother-in-law who just will NOT stop trying to feed me dessert.
9) The first time I did low-carb, I gradually upped my carb intake and then eventually completely fell off the wagon, and not only regained the weight I had lost, but gained even more. That was over 15 years ago. This time, I have been eating this way, with 20% of my calories from carbs, for a little over a year. I have lost 63 pounds so far, have another 10-15 to go, and I plan to pretty much eat this way for the rest of my life, because it is a sustainable lifestyle for me - I absolutely LOVE the food I eat now and both my husband and I are measurably healthier as a result. Once I am at my maintenance weight, I will likely eat more calories, but I plan to keep the nutrient ratios about the same because it works really well for me overall.
posted by bedhead at 11:27 AM on August 26, 2013


In addition to what rtha said above, I tried to make sure I always had plenty of things I *could* eat on hand -- cheese, nuts, etc. for snacking purposes. One of my goals was to do this without being hungry all the time, as I knew that wouldn't be sustainable for me. Fortunately, low carb eating also really changed my hunger response, so that became less of a problem over time.

I tried to keep my net carbs under 25g per day when I was in the weight loss phase. I've gone up since then. I was fine without fruit.

I told people that I was eating low carb, and many people had done that themselves, so didn't have any particular negative reaction. What I honestly found more challenging to deal with was when I was obviously losing weight, and people would ask me about it, and then just want to tell me their dieting woes, which weren't what I wanted to hear about. The "oh, I could never eat like that!" response.

Alcohol -- I switched to distilled liquors, like bourbon, which have no carbs.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:49 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I "low carb" I give up bread, pasta, and junk food (chips, cake, candy, granola bars, refined sugar, etc.)

Sometimes I am hardcore. Most of the time I'll have the occasional bowl of oatmeal, fresh fruit, and yogurt with the sugary fruit on the bottom.

5) How did you deal with munchies/cravings?

Some things that help me feel full and reduce cravings are:

Breakfast of eggs and bacon or breakfast smoothie with one banana, handful frozen strawberries, half cup milk, half cup water, scoop of protein powder.

Avocados help take the edge off in the afternoons. I'll eat a whole avocado with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice and kosher salt.

Eliminating junk food.

4) How did you balance 'low-carb' from the philosophy of 'eat what you want when you want mindfully?

Diets don't work and intellectually I understand that with my lifestyle it's difficult to eliminate carbs entirely. If I ate mindfully 90% of the time, I wouldn't have to worry about eating too many "carbs". Granted, I still fall prey to the idea of losing weight quickly or painlessly. I'll go paleo or "low carb" thinking this will "jumpstart" me or solve my weight problem. If I'm following the "normal eating" way of life I can have the tuna on wheat if I want it, eat until I am at 7-8 on the hunger scale (1 being the hungriest you've ever been and 10 being most full), and not feel guilty about it, right? This is my ideal and what I strive to attain. I deal with eating too quickly, eating when I'm not hungry, and portion control. Mindfully eating can eliminate these problems.

6) How did you deal with emotional eating?

I still deal with emotional eating but I have come a long way. I used to have mini binges on a fairly regular basis. I binged when I was anxious, stressed, lonely, upset, or bored. An example of a mini-binge would be a bowl of cereal, followed by a granola bar or two, and then a sandwich. I was full after the cereal but kept eating. I don't do this any more. I stopped binging by consciously eating three meals a day at regular times. I kept this habit up long enough (a year or so) to break my binge habit. In the past I used to skip breakfast because I felt guilty about my binge the prior evening. I stopped this cycle of erratic eating by eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Lately, I'll have episodes of eating in the evening when I'm not hungry -- a bowl of cereal or popcorn at night. I notice I'll still occasionally stand in front of the pantry or fridge when I'm stressed. I tend to want to get a caramel sundae at McDonalds after I've had a big meal at a restaurant. I still deal with guilty feelings surrounding food. Maybe I want a caramel sundae because I think it's "fun" or I feel guilty that I ate too much at the steakhouse. It's still an issue for me and I'm trying to be mindful and not eat too much. Today, I think guilt and boredom are the main reasons why I eat when I'm not hungry. I'm still working on it.

8) How did you explain your low-carb eating in social situations (e.g. when confronted with the dessert menu) and what did you do about alcohol?

I don't worry about carbs when I'm out with friends. I might order the salmon with asparagus but if a piece of cheesecake is to be shared, I'll dig in. Alcohol for me is another thing entirely. I have dramatically cut back on my drinking. Maybe I'll have a beer or two when I don't have to drive. I no longer order alcohol for the sake of it. I find that the less I drink, the less I overeat or binge when I get home. I realized I was probably drinking more than I had to in social situations (after gym workouts with friends, at the local bar trivia night, at the ballpark, etc.). I cut most of that drinking out and still have fun with my friends and family. If I was going low-carb and didn't want dessert I wouldn't feel compelled to say anything except for "no thanks". There is no reason why you have to explain what you're eating or what you're not eating. Most people aren't going to notice or care.
posted by Fairchild at 11:57 AM on August 26, 2013


1) Didn't "ease" in. I'm in the middle of another Phase 1 on South Beach and I'll be done on . . Today? I think actually.
2) Always under 100 grams, some days it's higher b/c I'm exercising and I really need calories and it's late and what the hell peanut butter means I make my numbers.
3) Undereating due to exercise. And I'm starting to hate salad. I'm hoping that will wear off soon.
4) Decided that I wanted to mindfully eat low carb while being sure I was meeting calorie needs.
5) String cheese and almonds.
6) Change it to emotional water drinking? I use My Fitness Pal hooked up w/ my Fitbit and I know what I can and can't eat and I own up. If I drink anything "emotionally" at this point it's coffee.
7) I ought to be taking my B12, Fish Oil, E, and D, but I'm not because of no good reason.
8) I don't. I also don't eat dinner with people who want to interrogate me about my food choices, YMMV. On South Beach, after the first two weeks, you can have wine with meals, which is fine - I mean, also, I'm just going to say, if you get off-wagon with SB, you can just go back and do phase 1 again if you need to. So there's always that. Otherwise, Diet Coke!
9) Follow a plan - South Beach is good, whatever, -- and it will ramp you on to maintenance after a couple weeks.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:55 PM on August 26, 2013


I have ulcerative colitis and decided to go wheat-free, which is basically low carb anyhow. It has greatly improved my symptoms. That's been my main source of motivation with a side of fat reduction and weight loss. When I eat wheat, I get bloated, gassy, and have urgent, frequent and bloody stools. So yeah.

I'm not into measuring grams of carbs or any of that. I've also never been the kind of person who eats in moderation or can leave a large portion of food leftover on my plate, especially when eating out. But I've found that since going low-carb, I no longer have those insatiable cravings, which I have dealt with all my life and assumed were just part of my biology. I used to get so hungry that my stomach would ache and I'd ferociously slam down anything in sight. I'm not that way anymore. I stay full for hours and then gradually become hungry. I ALWAYS bring snacks to work, snacks I can sort of mindlessly eat (like snap pea crisps) without the guilt. I am not into portion control. I want to eat until I'm satisfied, and now I can finally do that with little to no consequence.

I do eat fruit rather liberally. For breakfast, I combine greek yogurt, a splash of orange juice, bananas, strawberries and peaches with a handmixer (which is seriously the best invention ever) to create a delicious smoothie, which can hold me for hours. I eat a lot of omelets, guacamole, chicken, fish, eggplant, other veggies, seafood, and the occasional rice noodle. I sometimes buy rice cereals and oatmeal which do not upset my stomach. I don't keep ice cream or cookies in the house, but if I'm really craving something sweet and the craving does not disappear in 30 minutes, I will drive to McDonald's for a sundae. I'm not much of an emotional eater, more of a boredom eater, so I try and keep healthy snacks around the house so that if I do dip into them I don't feel guilty.

I don't like the taste of most alcohol in general so that has not been a struggle. I avoid beer and will drink liquor. There are also gluten-free beers. I haven't had much questioning from my friends as I tend to associate with active/fitminded people who are familiar with low carb diets, but I usually just defer to my ulcerative colitis. "Oh, my stomach is sensitive to wheat," I say.

When I'm out and confronted with a "forbidden" food, I do a risk/reward analysis: Is it worth it to endure gastrointestinal distress over some storebought, bland vanilla cake? No. How about a warm, gooey, homemade brownie? Absolutely.

As for weight loss, I do not own a scale. I also do Crossfit and I'm pretty sure I have gained weight from muscle since starting. But I have noticed in the almost three months since beginning lowcarb that I can pinch less fat than I used to around my stomach and love handles. My legs also look more toned. Good luck!
posted by thank you silence at 1:07 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree, easing into it just prolongs the discomfort. Read the Atkins book, it lays out what to do.

Another way to approach it is to test your blood sugar on a regular basis and get a feel for what meals have a negative impact on your glucose level. This was easier for me because it was a little more results-based. Instead of having to figure out what foods were low (enough) in carbs and which "low carb" foods really weren't, I am able to simply follow the one simple rule: don't eat so much. It also led me to conclude that smaller meals work for me. The hard part is that 10 minutes of ravenous hunger after eating some small meal. But if I distract myself, it goes away. Those few minutes are really hard, but they pay off in the long term: I feel much better, I lost 30 pounds without really even paying attention, etc. I've just resigned myself to the fact that I cannot eat until I am satisfied, because that simply doesn't work for me.

(Both approaches sort of lead to the same place: lower calorie intake and keeping the blood sugar regulated. It is the blood sugar shooting up, and then overcorrecting down that makes carbs so easy to overindulge in and weight so easy to gain.)

I also learned that, for me, the standard daily calorie recommendations are just plain wrong. I was terribly frustrated because I was generally following recommendations, and gaining weight.

Another piece of advice: my weight plateaued once I lost that 30 pounds. I didn't really look or feel all that different. But over the course of 3-6 months of maintaining that weight, I've lost almost two pant sizes. So don't be discouraged if you start seeing a similar plateau. Just keep up with it, and you'll start noticing changes.
posted by gjc at 2:24 PM on August 26, 2013


I've been low carb (ketogenic) for about 6 years now. Here is just a dump of the wisdom I've acquired.

* Rule number one and most important: KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU'RE DOING. I can't tell you how many people I talk to who tell me low-carb doesn't work for them, then I find out they were eating a big bowl of Grape Nuts every morning or something. Maybe it is "healthy" but it will wreck a low-carb diet (also, it's not healthy). Watch this and this, then read this cover to cover.

* Don't ease into it, just go cold turkey. The first 7-14 days will be hard, you are breaking real, chemical dependencies and you just need to get through it as quickly as possible. Trust me, when you're through it you will feel like a GOD AMONG MEN. I'm a super big fan of the Atkins way (nearly zero carb for two weeks, then slowly re-adding foods over many weeks), and as an added bonus there's a well-written book with a plan that's easy to follow.

* Ketogenic low carb (roughly, less than 50g carbs per day) is the way to go. It has no real downsides and a host of upsides, including appetite suppression, mood elevation, improved mental acuity, stable blood sugar, lowered cholesterol, improved energy... the list goes on.

* Bread and sugar are awful for you. They do nothing good for your body and you will be missing nothing by never having either of them again. After a surprisingly short amount of time you will miss neither.

* That said, you will probably have an average of a day a month where you indulge and have a dessert or a pizza or whatever. As long as this day is planned and controlled (i.e. you go right back to low carb eating the next day) this is totally okay, and can even help the process along.

* If you do this right you will lose a lot of weight effortlessly (up to a point) and probably feel a lot better day-to-day.

* You don't need to count calories unless you're already close to your goal weight. You'll naturally eat less, you'll be free from the need to snack, skipping meals will be easy.

* You will need to educate yourself about what does and does not have carbs. Read labels. Eat lots of whole foods. Prepare your own foods so you know what's in them. This can be a lot of work, but it's worth it and once you get used to it it's a lot easier.

* You don't need to kill yourself working out. Regular low-impact exercise is just fine (actually ideal). Walk a bunch. Maybe do some lifting.

* At first it really does seem like all of the sudden you can't eat anything. Give it time, it gets better. You just can't eat what you're used to, but all sorts of food in the world is low-carb friendly. Eat meat and vegetables. Snacks: deviled egg, pork rinds, kale chips, vegetable crudite, cheese, nuts, berries, deli meats, jerky. For sweets there are tons of low carb dessert websites out there. Splenda is your friend.

* After I went low carb I stopped eating out nearly as much, and I don't think this is a bad thing at all. If it's a big part of your life, you may have to do some strategizing, but it's possible.

* Alcohol in moderation (because alcohol will always get burned before fat, slowing weight loss) but wine and many hard liquors are fine.

* If you find you are feeling like crap or hungry all the time, eat more fat. Fat is life. Eat a couple strips of bacon, a coffee with heavy cream, some oil-roasted kale chips, some cheese, etc. You get the picture.

* Finally, if you choose to go off of it, go off SLOWLY. As others have said, you'll be eating lots of calorie-dense foods on keto, so if you just hop right back onto carbs your weight can shoot back up REAL fast.
posted by annekate at 4:36 PM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


5) How did you deal with munchies/cravings?

Almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts...all raw, unsalted

8) How did you explain your low-carb eating in social situations (e.g. when confronted with the dessert menu) and what did you do about alcohol?

Telling your server that you're eating gluten-free helps. The better ones are able to guide you to decent choices. We were at Disney World a few weeks back and made reservations online for a character lunch. We input gluten allergy on the online reservation form. When we arrived, the chef came out and walked her around the buffet, pointing out all gluten-free options.

Who is confronting you with dessert menus? When asked, "save any room for dessert?", say no.

Alcohol is tough. I opt for a little red wine every now and again.
posted by glenngulia at 6:41 AM on August 27, 2013


Oh, straight from the tips/tricks file: if you're gonna blow it, do it in a single hour and then drink extra water and eat some fat for the next couple of hours.

I remember back in the day, Atkinsers kind of borrowed this from SouthBeachers, but it serves multiple purposes: for one thing, it limits the amount of damage you can do, as you can only eat so much in one hour. It promotes a "right back on track" mindset. Most importantly, it prevents Fuckit Syndrome, where one mishap with the pastry basket or hidden carbs you find after you've already eaten something is catastrophized into two weeks facedown in mashed potatoes and ice cream because you're a big fat failure who can't stick with anything ever *sob*. (Carbs make you moody.)

The one-hour rule works really well with alcohol as well, as long as your solution to that problem isn't to pound down as many drinks as you can in an hour.

That hour should be more along the lines of one hour a week or month rather than one hour a day, though.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:13 AM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


1) What helped you to ease into it?

Reading the /r/keto subreddit and the numerous FAQs and other bits of info in it. I gave myself a week to have the carb-heavy foods that I would be giving up, and by the end of that week I was so bloated that I was more than ready to go keto. During the first couple of weeks, I was concentrating on reducing/eliminating the carbs and not so much on counting calories.

2) How many grams of carbs did you eat per day? Did you make allowances for fruits and 'sanity carbs'?

I aim for 20 grams or less, I don't sweat it too much if I go over a bit as long as I don't come close to 50, which is the threshold for being kicked out of keto. The more I get into this diet and start trying different low-carb recipes, including low-carb bread-type things and desserts, the less I need "sanity" foods; ditto for fruit, which I miss a bit.

3) What are some unexpected difficulties you face and how did you overcome them?

Making sure I have something ready/available for lunch.

4) How did you balance 'low-carb' from the philosophy of 'eat what you want when you want mindfully'?

Keto changes the body's appetites. Plus, to me, mindful eating includes reflecting on why I'm craving something in particular--is my body telling me that I really need a whole tray of brownies, or am I acting out some childhood power conflict where my inner child is trying to prove to my adult self that I am not the boss of me? (Plus, of course, you can make brownies with almond flour and stevia.)

5) How did you deal with munchies/cravings?

Pork rinds: completely keto. Also almonds and string cheese.

6) How did you deal with emotional eating?

See above. I can also eat more than I usually would, as long as I don't go out of keto.

7) Did you take any supplements, and if so were they helpful?

No more than I usually do (multivitamin and a small aspirin). I have tried glucomannan capsules to add fiber and avoid overeating, but I haven't had to use them nearly as much as I thought I would.

8) How did you explain your low-carb eating in social situations (e.g. when confronted with the dessert menu) and what did you do about alcohol?

I don't really have a problem telling people. (I have diabetes, so I can always play the 'beetus card if people have a hard time with it.) I gave up drinking over a year and a half ago; in fact, doing so made giving up carbs pretty easy by comparison.

9) What did you do about your carb intake once you lost the weight? Did you up to moderate levels? Did you manage to maintain the weight loss?

Well, I'm still in it (I started end of July).
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:38 PM on September 13, 2013


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