A way of low-carb eating that fits you perfectly does exist! You may need to apply yourself or spend some time finding it but once you do, you’ll have a sustainable eating plan to
keep you healthy for life. Here are five questions to ask yourself that will help steer you in the right direction.
1. WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT EATING PLAN LIKE?
If you’d like to make the switch to a low-carb lifestyle, take things slowly, especially if your current meals are carb-heavy and filled with processed junk foods. Start by changing breakfast: swap sugary cereals for eggs; then move onto lunch by substituting your sandwich for a tuna or chicken salad drizzled with olive oil; and snack on nuts and berries instead of a chocolate bar. Once this is working well, the next step is the evening meal.
Don’t let the ‘rules’ of a low-carb lifestyle overwhelm you – just take it one meal at a time. There are 21 opportunities in a week to make better choices. If you’re already eating low-carb meals but your weight loss has stalled, experiment with a few stricter measures such as reducing portion sizes, dropping fat intake a little, cutting out dairy, avoiding snacking
between meals or perhaps even intermittent fasting.
Some people (especially women) who have been eating very few carbs seem to respond well when they include some healthy carbs in their diet. Others, such as those who are insulin-resistant, may need to exclude even more carbs. No matter where you are in your weight loss journey, there are strategies you can experiment with to get closer to
your goal. Just be prepared to make some changes.
2. HOW ACTIVE ARE YOU?
If you like high-intensity workouts, lift heavy weights or do endurance running or cycling, and you’re not fat-adapted, you may need to eat healthy carbs before or after your workout. When energy levels tank or you’re no longer able to perform at your best, evaluate whether you’re eating enough carbs to support your exercise routine. If eaten in the right quantities and at the right time, healthy carbs can be beneficial. If, however, you tend to park off on the couch after work, 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 likely result in fat storage and weight gain.
3. WHAT IS THE STATE
OF YOUR HEALTH? Health should be a motivational driver. If you are insulin-resistant or
have diabetes, joint pain, thyroid dysfunction, depression, anxiety, heartburn, high blood pressure, IBS or heart disease, a real-food, low-carb lifestyle can be a powerful remedy. Depending on the severity of your condition, a more relaxed 80/20 approach (where you follow a stricter plan for 80% of your meals with a few indulgences for 20%) could backfire.
If you’re already quite sickly, this is very important. The next time you think about indulging in a treat consider the consequences to your health, not just the implication on
your waistline. If you’re the picture of good health and vitality, you must be doing many things right. Perhaps you just need to lose a bit of weight or combat middle-age spread. If so, be clear on your goals and tighten up on your eating habits, but don’t drive yourself insane by trying to be perfect all the time. The LCHF way is doable in the long term when you make it fit your lifestyle, not the other way around. For some, this could mean enjoying a little sushi once a month or a glass of wine or two over the weekend. Here, the 80/20 rule could work for you: you get to live a little and achieve your goals.
4. WHAT IS YOUR
RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD? Those with a history of restrictive dieting or eating disorders often view food as the enemy; others use it as a salve for an emotional wound. Be honest with yourself about your relationship with food and, if necessary, seek counselling before embarking on a diet. Adopt a long-term approach. Progress may be slower but a good
mental state is just as important for success. Check in with yourself frequently by asking: Do I feel satisfied? Are my energy levels and mood okay? Are my cravings under control? Am I moving towards my goal? Can I see myself following this way of eating indefinitely? If your answer is yes to all of these, you’re following a low-carb approach that’s right for you. If you answered no to any questions, consider making a few changes. For some, it isn’t necessarily about having a strained relationship with food, but rather a case of ‘diet
fatigue’. Repeatedly failing to lose weight or not being able to keep the weight off can be demoralising. Give low-carb the benefit of the doubt, but don’t expect miracles overnight.
Be patient, persevere and don’t compare your progress to others’
5. CAN YOU COOK?
‘I can’t cook’ should never be an excuse if you’re serious about losing weight. Eating out too often or relying on packaged food can thwart the best intentions. If you lack kitchen skills, make an effort to acquire them – find the time, get organised and start cooking, as you need to be making food at home using fresh ingredients. You don’t have to be Jamie
Oliver; keep it super-simple: a precooked rotisserie chicken and ready-made mixed green salad is perfectly okay, or grill a piece of steak and fry some chopped broccoli in butter and garlic. There are good low-carb recipe books that offer simple and quick meal ideas.
If you’re a real foodie and love nothing more than spending time in the kitchen, then the variety of options and the challenge of ‘decarbing’ your favourite foods will keep you motivated and inspired PH while you lose the extra weight.