If you are thinking about going low-carb, you may have already downloaded my “17 mistakes starting low-carb.” If you didn’t, pop over and take a look at it. It’s a free guide full of practical information that directly impacted my LOW CARB journey! 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.
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
- Include a “preparation” phase
Jumping right into this diet can work for a lot of people. And Cara actually recommends that when you start, you should cut sugar, grains and other processed foods 100%. However, a drastic increase in your fat intake isn’t recommended. There’s a reason why the term “DISASTER PANTS” is known around the low-carb world. In the preparation phase, gradually increase the fats you eat while you slowly decrease the carbs.This encourages weight loss and allows your body to ADJUST to a higher intake of fat. Eating lots of healthy fats helps your body switch over to using fat for fuel, rather than sugar. However, some people notice digestive issues like nausea or diarrhea. That can happen if you’re eating too much fat, too fast. You don’t need to worry if you experience these symptoms. Simply dial back on your fat intake. And then slowly add more fats 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. Switching 100% is far easier and more successful than trying to do it gradually.
- Avoid the “carb flu” with electrolytes and water
If you’ve done your fair share of research on how to start a low-carb diet, you may have heard of the dreaded “carb flu.” The “carb flu” gained its name from common symptoms experienced in the first 1-4 weeks of starting a low-carb high-fat diet. This is a natural DETOX reaction and adjustment to decreasing the number of carbohydrates you eat. Different people experience different severities of the “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 prevent this 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).
- 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 this 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!
- Don’t do cheat days
While you’re adjusting to low-carb, it’s not a good idea to include a cheat day, especially in your first month. Why? Because 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. Eating low-carb is already so satisfying. And there are lots of delicious options out there. So the temptation to cheat is not really that big – just check out my Grilled Chicken Wings Recipe and thank me later.
- Listen to your hunger
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. Guess which category I fell into. Yup, definitely the second! On my first low-carb weeks, 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. They say you can’t eat too much because you’ll make yourself feel sick. I can tell you that I didn’t feel sick. But I lacked energy and something felt off… So you need to listen to your body and remember that this is not a traditional “diet.” Therefore, restricting what you eat is not a good idea. Over time, your hunger will BALANCE out. And you’ll find one of the best benefits of eating low-carb is that the restlessness that usually comes with hunger is gone. You’re now a fat burning machine!
- Start intermittent fasting when you are fully fat-adapted
Cara suggests that after 2-4 weeks of eating low-carb, your body will be adapted to using fat as fuel. Intermittent fasting comes when you either choose to eat at noon or 1 PM so that your “eating window” becomes 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! This entire purpose is to stay in a fasted state for LONGER. This means more cell regeneration and ultimately the hope to increase longevity.
- Have fun!
What will you do with your new found ENERGY and mental CLARITY? What delicious foods can 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!
These are my 7 tips on how to start a low-carb diet or lifestyle. It will not only help your start easier but you’ll feel great doing it. Overall, your body is your guide. Trust in 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.
- Include a “preparation” phase