Are you doing low carb the right way for YOU?
Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole will only end in frustration, and failure is almost guaranteed. But, shaving off the edges of the peg a little might just make it fit. Once the peg is altered to fit the hole, there is a good chance it will stay there for good. So it is with low carb diets. For ultimate long-term success, the diet needs to be tweaked to fit YOUR unique needs and goals. Here are some factors to consider.
What’s your current eating plan like?
If your meals are currently heavy on the carbs and filled with processed junk foods, take things slow. There is no need to shock your system. Yes, changes must be made if you are to lose weight and get healthy, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start by changing breakfast. Swap out your sugary cereals for eggs or homemade beef patties with avocado, then move onto lunch and substitute your sandwich for a tuna or chicken salad drizzled with olive oil. Snack on nuts and berries instead of a chocolate bar. Once this is working well, the next step is to get the evening meal sorted out. Don’t let the “rules” of a low carb diet overwhelm you – just take it one meal at a time. Remember, there are 21 opportunities in a week to make better choices.
Already eating low carb meals but your weight loss has stalled? Start experimenting with some stricter measures like reducing portion sizes, dropping fat intake a little, cutting out dairy, no snacking between meals or perhaps even intermittent fasting. Some people (especially women) seem to respond well when they cut back on dairy and include some healthy carbs back into their diet (especially if they have been on a very low carb diet). Others, who for example are insulin resistant may need to drop carbs even more. No matter where you are in your weight loss journey, there are strategies you can experiment with to get you closer to your goal. Just be prepared to make changes.
How active are you?
Do you love working out at high intensity? Are you lifting heavy weights or doing some serious mileage in your running shoes or on your bicycle? Embrace the opportunity to eat healthy carbs before or after your workout. When energy levels tank or you are no longer able to perform at your best, evaluate whether you are eating enough and/or whether you are consuming enough carbs to support your exercise routine. There is no need to sacrifice one for the other. Carbs, especially the right carbs, are not the devil, if eaten in the right quantities and at the right time.
If, on the other hand, lying on the couch after work is your idea of fun, you may want to consider reducing your carb consumption. Operating the TV remote control is not hugely taxing on your body’s resources and eating more carbs than your body needs will, more than likely, result in fat storage and weight gain.
What’s your health like?
Health can and should be a big motivational driver. It is a great reason for sticking to a way of eating that will improve your health and can make you feel better. If you have insulin resistance, diabetes, joint pain, thyroid dysfunction, depression, anxiety, heartburn, high blood pressure, IBS or heart disease, know that a real food, low carb diet can be a very powerful remedy. If living a long and healthy life is important to you, consider being highly compliant to a healthier way of eating. Depending on the severity of your condition, the more relaxed 80/20 approach could back-fire on you. If you are already quite sickly, there is much at stake. Next time you think about indulging in a special treat consider the consequences to your health and not just the implication of those calories for your waist line.
If you are a poster person for good health and vitality – well done. You are obviously doing many things right. Perhaps you just need to lose the baby weight or combat the middle age spread. If this is you, be clear on your goals and tighten up on your eating habits but don’t drive yourself insane by getting lost in the minutiae or trying to be perfect ALL the time. A low carb diet is very doable when you make it fit your lifestyle and not the other way around. For some it could mean enjoying a little sushi with friends once a month or having a glass of wine or two over the weekend. The 80/20 rule could be perfect for you. You get to live a little and still achieve your goals.
How normal is your relationship with food?
People with eating disorders or a history of restrictive dieting, will often view food as the enemy. Others will use food as a salve for an emotional wound. In serious cases, dieting can make things worse. Be honest with yourself about your relationship with food and, if need be, get counselling before embarking on a diet. Being extreme is not a good fit for those with a tenuous relationship with food, therefore don’t overly restrict calories and/or carbs when wanting to lose weight. Adopt a long-term approach. Progress may be slower but a good mental state is just as important for success. Have frequent check-ins and ask yourself, “Do I feel satisfied?”, “Are my energy levels and mood OK?”, “Are my cravings under control?”, “Am I moving towards my goal”?, “Can I see myself following this way of eating indefinitely (or at least 80% of the time)? “If your answer is YES to these questions, you are doing low carb the right way for YOU. If there were some NO’s, consider making a few changes.
For some it isn’t so much a strained relationship with food per se, but rather a case of “diet fatigue”. Repeatedly failing to lose weight or losing weight and not being able to keep it off can be very demoralizing. Be hopeful and give low carb the benefit of the doubt. Don’t expect miracles overnight though. A history of yo-yo dieting can certainly make weight loss more challenging. Be patient, persevere and don’t compare your progress to that of others.
Can you cook?
This might seem like an odd question but it is very relevant if you are serious about losing weight. Eating out too often or relying on packaged food can thwart the best of intentions. If you lack knowledge and skills in the kitchen make an effort to acquire them. You need to be making food at home using fresh ingredients. Find the time, get organised and start cooking. Feeling a little overwhelmed? Keep it super simple. You don’t have to be Nigella or Jamie Oliver. A pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and ready-made mixed green salad is perfectly okay. Grill a piece of steak and fry some chopped broccoli in butter and garlic. Don’t overthink or over-complicate. “I can’t cook” should never be your excuse. The good news is that if you can read, you can cook. There are lots of good low carb recipe books and free internet resources offering simple and quick meal ideas.
If you are a real foodie and love nothing more than spending time in the kitchen, then let rip. Experiment with all the awesome recipes available. The variety of options and the challenge of de-carbing your favourite foods will keep you motivated and inspired and enjoying the culinary experience while, at the same time, losing the extra weight.
Out there is a version of low carb eating that fits you perfectly – YOUR needs, YOUR goals, YOUR lifestyle. You may just need to apply yourself more or spend a little more time to find it – but once you do you will have found a sustainable eating plan for life that will keep you slim and healthy.
Article written by Nicky Perks for Lose It magazine. (Volume 29)
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Posted on March 21, 2019, in Primal 101 and tagged activity level and carbs, check health status, customising low carb, keeping cooking simple with low carb, relationship with food, tweaking low carb for you. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.