If you’re exploring to see how to start a low-carb diet and what this lifestyle is all about, you’re in the RIGHT place. What you'll find in this article about low carb is a practical guide to getting started. It's easy to follow and I hope will help along your journey.
How to Start a Low Carb Diet
I had an interesting talk about how to start a low-carb diet with a nutritionist, Cara Halber. And she told me a few things about what she was taught in her science and nutrition classes.
She said that their focus was NOT on which diets were good or which were bad. Instead, they focused on what nutritional values the body needs to THRIVE.
This way of living doesn’t have a name or a label. But it can easily fall into the low-carb high-fat category.
Think about this for a second - we are all wired in a similar way, despite our external differences and preferences. So physiologically, everybody has the same necessities as if it was 100,000 years ago. And this has a huge impact on what to eat and how your body works on a day-to-day basis.
Sadly, the “food-like products” that we find on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus are far from what your body needs to THRIVE.
So diving into a new way of eating overnight often comes with a big price. That being said, here's how to start a low-carb diet with a successful and EASY transition.
7 tips on how to start a low carb diet
Let's jump right in and take a look at these tips on how to start a low carb diet:
Step 1: Figure out if Low Carb is for you.
Jumping right into a low carb diet CAN and DOES work for a lot of people. All that being said... every single person reading this has a different body than anybody else on the planet!
Just because it works for me doesn't mean that it will work for you. Read more about If Low Carb Works For Weight Loss. The article has successes, failures and alternatives to the low carb lifestyle.
Step 2: Prepare for an "Adjustment" in your body.
Cara recommends that if and/or when you decide to start, begin by cutting sugar, grains and other processed foods 100%.
However, she strongly recommends avoiding a drastic increase in your fat intake.
Why? Disaster pants. It's a little crude but a stark reality for many when jumping into low carb by downing "fat bombs" and loading up on mountains of bacon.
In the preparation phase, gradually increase the fats you eat while you slowly decrease the carbs. By doing this you will:
- Encourage weight loss and allows your body to ADJUST to a higher intake of fat.
- Give your body time to switch over to using fat for fuel, rather than sugar.
- Avoid digestive issues like nausea or diarrhea brought on by eating too much fat, too fast.
You don't need to worry if you experience these symptoms. Simply dial back on your fat intake until your body balances itself out.
After one to two weeks of this preparation phase, you’re ready to switch to a low-carb lifestyle.
Step 3: Avoiding the dreaded "Carb Flu."
If you're just researching whether to start a low carb diet, maybe you have seen posts about the dreaded "carb flu." First, let me say from personal experience that it is REAL and can be a complete pain in the ass.
The "carb flu" gained its name from common symptoms experienced in the first 1-4 weeks of starting a low-carb high-fat diet. Here's what the carb flu is all about:
- It is a natural DETOX reaction and adjustment to decreasing the number of carbohydrates you eat.
- Different people experience different severities of "carb flu."Lots of people don’t get any symptoms at all.
- Several "carb flu" symptoms such as dizziness, poor sleep, and tingling in your limbs come from an electrolyte imbalance.
One way to try to help prevent the carb flu is to drink at least 2 liters of water a day with a BIG dash of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt. Also, drinking at least 1 cup of bone broth or bullion per day increases your sodium intake.
Cara says that people actually need more salt on a low-carb diet because the body will shed excess water more easily (carbohydrates actually cause your body to hold onto water). Who knew?
Step 4: Set up accountability
This was the very first thing I needed when I started this whole low carb journey.
I realized that it wouldn't be sustainable unless I'm held accountable so I tell EVERYONE that I'm low carb. I don't preach about it... just let them know that I might be eating a bit differently than normal.
What accountability actually amounts to is less of a recommendation on how to start a low-carb diet and more of a long-term success STRATEGY.
What will you do when your first dinner party comes up? Or the next holiday? Considering these occasions before they happen is a great way to avoid temptation and staying in alignment with your low-carb life plan!
Step 5: There are no cheat days
While you’re adjusting to low-carb, it's not a good idea to include a cheat day in your overall strategy. Here's why:
- It's incredibly hard to cut sugar, grains and carbs from your diet already. Having to do it over and over again feels like insanity.
- Sugar and carbs are addictive. A cheat day is going to re-introduce those cravings which start to subside.
- Cheat days are a slippery slope. Once it is okay to cheat 1 day it becomes a lot easier to cheat once day.
- After a while, there's absolutely no need to cheat. That carb laden food won't even seem like real food.
If you ABSOLUTELY MUST have a cheat day in your long term strategy... try to at least avoid it in your first month. Your body is ADJUSTING to going back to a natural state of burning fat, so it’s best NOT to interrupt this process.
There are lots of delicious low carb options out there, even for dessert. So the temptation to cheat is not really that big - just check out this Low Carb Banana Cream Pie recipe and thank me later!
Step 6: Listen to your hunger
There are SO many different voices out in the low carb community screaming about strict carb counts, meal times and more. It's really intimidating. Here's my take on starting a low carb diet: listen to what your body is telling you.
I've found that people fall into three categories when starting a low carb diet:
- Some people are immediately satisfied when going low-carb and discover that they love eating 2 meals a day.
- Others start off ravenous and can’t get seem to eat enough.
- Some feel that the low carb lifestyle isn't for them at all.
Guess which category I fell into? Definitely the second!
During my first month of eating low carb, I was actually overeating all the meat and cheese I could find. I wasn't listening to my body. I wasn't sticking to the plan to eat when I was hungry.
Eventually my hunger balanced out as I increased my veggies and learned more about how to eat low carb as a lifestyle. Now I definitely fall into the first category of easily eating two meals a day and feeling completely satisfied.
Step 7: Start intermittent fasting
Cara suggests that after 2-4 weeks of eating low-carb, your body will be adapted to using fat as fuel. And that this is the only time to even think about starting intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting happens when you either choose to eat at noon or 1 PM so that your “eating window” becomes a shortened period of time.
The intention of intermittent fasting is NOT to reduce calories. You actually have the same amount of calories in a CONDENSED period of time. Calorie restriction is not healthy.
Intermittent fasting is the PERFECT recipe for hormone imbalance, hair loss, poor sleep, and weight gain. Start practicing it slowly if you need to.
If you are hungry at 11 AM, eat at 11 AM. If you can easily wait until 2 PM, that’s great too! The entire purpose is to stay in a fasted state for LONGER.
The longer your fasted state, the more cell regeneration and ultimately the hope to increase longevity.
What will you do with your new found ENERGY and mental CLARITY?
What delicious foods will you enjoy again?
For me, it was cheese, bacon, and eggs!
Staying in touch with your health and life goals will help you stay strong. Over time, you’ll build momentum to keep you moving forward. And don’t take yourself too seriously!
Stay committed to the daily actions that get you where you want to be and enjoy the benefits of this lifestyle!
If you enjoyed my 7 tips on how to start a low-carb diet or lifestyle, please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Keep in mind that your body is your overall guide. Trust how you feel. I am wishing you all the best on this low-carb adventure!
Nutritional information for this article was provided by Cara Halber, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. Find out more about Cara by visiting her website.
PLEASE NOTE: Before changing your eating or exercise routine, please consult your physician.