On my blog and Facebook posts I tell my story, my tips, my journey, my ups, my downs. I focus a lot on inspiring you on WHY you should try and change your life, now it’s time to focus on HOW you do this.
In order to lose weight yes you have to work out, and we’ll get to that in another post, but no matter what the late night infomercials say, in order to lose weight, you need to change how you eat. Notice I didn’t say “diet”…for as you know I hate that word. I’m not telling you to diet, or do some insane depriving of food in order to shrink your waistline. You won’t be able to maintain that. But you do have to change how you eat.
Now before we go any further, I am not a doctor, scientist, nutritionist, dietitian, nor do I play one on TV. I am merely a nearly 39 year old woman that has been transformed by the world of Low Carb/Keto. So, my post below are my thoughts and summary based on what I have researched, read, and LIVED. There are hundreds, no make that thousands, of internet articles and research texts from people much smarter than I am about low carb that you can check out. This is merely my perspective and opinion formed from living this lifestyle. So please do your own research and feel free to “check my math” so to speak.
Step #1: Don’t wait for Monday – start today.
So many people when they are getting ready to lose weight make this big declaration to themselves that they will “Start Monday”, or some random day. “I just went grocery shopping, so I’ll start eating healthy after we eat this food.”, “I have a party tonight, I’ll wait to start until after that!”. Let me tell you if you do that Monday will never come. You can make changes that matter TODAY. You don’t have to jump in all gung ho today…but start TODAY.
Step #2: Go your own way
I have lost my 130 pounds without following any specific diet plan. I don’t believe diet plans work, because dieting is extremely personal. It’s not a one size, fits all so to speak. You have different cravings, different time constraints, a different body, different life than Dr. Lose-a-Lot that is publishing his latest book. Here’s the rule of thumb I follow: I do not change anything in my life that I don’t think I can live with for the rest of my life. Stop looking at a diet as a temporary thing and start realizing that you are going to make changes that you have to stick with FOREVER. In other words, if you want lasting success don’t make promises to yourself that you can’t keep. This is a permanent change. Let me give you an example:
I LOVE PIZZA.
Like really love it, like it was sent from the heavens love it. Of course this is a problem for someone low carb, because pizza is very carbie. Now I could make some large declaration to the world of “Ladies and Gentlemen I, Recovering Carbie, will NEVER NEVER NEVER eat Pizza again for the sake of my waistline”. But here’s the thing, I can’t even type that with a straight face because I know it is impossible. I can’t live the rest of my life without pizza. So I didn’t give up pizza, I modified how I ate pizza. Now, I opt for thin crust to save some carbs, fill it with meat instead of just mushrooms to fill myself up, and limit my pizza consumption to a more reasonable amount.
So start small. If you know you will end up in the drive thru lane at least one time a week, that’s okay! You just need to learn how to live with that in your new lifestyle: get a 6 piece chicken nugget no fries, or a burger with no bun and ketchup over a side salad. You will not succeed if you make huge changes that you can’t live with. The key to making this a permanent lifestyle is making it work with YOUR life.
Step #3: Start researching why Low Carb diets work.
If you are like me, the idea of giving up delicious bread, potatoes, and everything carb-a-licous has you terribly nervous. For me I was terrified to start because carbs were really all I ate. So, yes it’s completely normal that before you start something of this magnitude you want to make sure that it works.
So the next step in this process is really to understand why low carb/keto diets work. So here is your science lesson for today, dumbed down to a level I can understand. Let’s start by truly grasping the concept of what food is. Food is Fuel. That’s it. Food is not comfort, not an activity, not a friend…it’s simply the gasoline that makes our bodies go. We eat because we need fuel, plain and simple.
Our body as two main energy sources: (1) Glucose (blood sugar), i.e. carbs and (2) Fats. Think of them both like two different kinds of gasoline – they will both make the car go, they are just different types. Our body first goes for the carb fuel first, it doesn’t produce as much energy as fats but it is able to burned quickly, so our body can do less work to burn it and likes that.
But, here’s the thing about carbs, we need them for fuel, but most of the world eats WAY too many of them. Just like your car can only take so much gasoline in its tank, your body only needs so much fuel. So your body uses the carbs that it needs and HERE’S THE PART THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE TO YOUR JEAN SIZE, if your body has left over carbs after it has made the energy it needs, it stores those carbs in your body, unfortunately in the “lovely” form of fat.
Going back to my car illustration, if you don’t drive far you don’t need much gasoline right? Well, for those of us who are sedentary and don’t do much activity, we don’t need as much energy. So you can imagine what happens to people like I used to be who eat a ton of carbs and don’t move…our bodies store more stuff than a hoarder at a storage shed.
So, why does our body convert our extra carbs to fat? Well, fat is PREMIUM GASOLINE and our body loves it! It might be the slowest source of energy in our body, but it has the most energy (i.e. calories) that the body can use, so it’s the most energy-efficient form of food. So if your body can turn unused carbs into fat…well, that’s like finding a good deal on Premium gasoline…your body loves you so much it’s going to store that amazing stuff for you just in case you need it someday. So let me simplify this for you nice and easy…extra bread and carbie foods turn into the fat in our abdomen and under our skin.
You’re not going to look at the big loaf of bread the same again, are you?
So low carb diets make perfect sense. When you lessen the amount of carbs you eat, your body burns through all of them, with nothing to store in our bodies. When it has no more carbs to burn, our body uses that lovely fat that we have been storing in our bodies to make fuel, and our “storage sheds” become a thing of the past.
You never thought a lawyer would be teaching you science right? Please feel free to do your own research on this topic, there is a ton of stuff out there. This concept of knowing how your body uses carbs and fats will really help get you started.
Step #3: Figuring out how low you should go.
The most common question I get from beginners is how low should I go? How many carbs should I eat a day? Now remember, this is LOW carb, not NO carb. Your body needs carbs to function to its fullest potential. But, how many carbs do you need? Well that just depends on you! It’s just like I can’t tell you how much gas to put in your car if I don’t know where you are driving, I don’t know sitting here how much energy you need, so I can’t tell you how low you should go.
I will tell you that the lower carb you go, obviously the more fat your body burns for energy. When I started a year ago, I was not nearly as active as I am now, so I kept my carb count super low to see those pounds fly off the scale. Now that I am very physically active and more in maintenance mode than losing mode, I allow myself more carbs.
So unfortunately I don’t have a magic number of carbs for you. But here’s some general rules that I follow: I try and keep my meals anywhere from 15-20 net carbs (I started lower at around 10-15), and my snacks less than 10 net carb. My goal is to definitely keep my carb count under 100 each day.
Here’s some guidelines I have learned from my research that work the majority of the time. This will give you an idea to help you best understand your range.
If you are very active then you can low carb by consuming 100-150 net carbs a day. However, you aren’t going to lose a lot of weight doing this, but its good if you don’t need to lose weight and just want to be healthier.
If you are moderately active and want to see some weight loss then go 50-100 a day. This is my range now, and a great place to start if you want to just tiptoe into the diet. You will lose weight, just not super fast.
If you want to lose weight super fast and are just starting to get active than you can go 20-50 a day. This would be what I did the first 100 pounds of my weight loss. Of course this is a more akin to a diet as you are going to sacrifice a lot, but this was the secret to dropping 130 pounds in year.
Just experiment and see what you can actually live with and how your body feels with lower level of carbs. I jumped right in and went straight to the 20-50 range, but for my family for example, I started with the higher range and slowly I’m decreasing more carbs in their diets.
Check out this article to learn more.
Step #4: Learn what to count.
When counting carbs you are counting NET carbs, not regular carbs. So the only part of a food label I care about is the Carb count and the items listed under that. I don’t care one bit what the calories are or the fat content. So, I look at basically three parts of a label: (1) The serving size, (2) The carbs and (3) The sugar.
When you look at a label start with the carb count. To get to net carbs you look at the carbs and subtract out the fiber and sugar alcohols such as mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol. Your body doesn’t digest these carbs the same, so they are okay to eat. Now the fact you can subtract sugar alcohol means you can have these natural sweeteners to fulfill your sweet tooth. However, don’t get too excited about being able to eat these natural sweet foods, because some sugar alcohols can hurt your stomach if you eat too much. In other words, don’t eat a whole container of Halo ice cream if you don’t want to be in the bathroom all night!
Now carbs and sugar generally go hand and hand, high sugar = high carbs, so you may be wondering why I look at sugar on the label. This is because whereas I focus heavily upon carb counting in my diet, I focus on sugar counting for my kids’ food. Kids are really active, they should have more carbs. I’m not too worried about the carbs in my kids’ food, but the sugar content does concern me. Sugar is as addictive as heroin and cocaine, and has some dangerous effects. Watch Fed Up on Netflix and do some research on the dangers of sugar. The high amounts of sugar we eat in today’s society is really bad for our bodies, in more ways than just increasing carbs. So I try and limit the amount of sugar my kids eat. I try and keep my kids at 20-30 grams of sugar a day.
Finally I look at the servings on a label. This is really important because food companies can be sneaky. That pint of ice cream may only have 8 net carbs, but that’s for a 1/4 cup serving. Eat the whole pint and you could be definitely carb overloading!
Step #5: Beware of carbs EVERYWHERE
When I started I made mistake after mistake after mistake. For example, I once switched to eating grapes for each snack thinking, hey they are grapes, they are great right?!? Carbs are everywhere, even in fruits and veggies. Now the sugar in fruit is natural so I don’t care if my kids eat fruit, but if you are trying to lose weight you need to research the carb count in everything. Even fruit and veggies. Some fruit can be FULL of carbs. Now, when I want a fruit kick I go to strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries which are lower in carbs than other fruits.
Step #6: Learn how to De-carb your favorite foods
I think the best way to find recipes for your new lifestyle is to start with recipes you already love. No you do not have to eat chicken for dinner for the rest of you life. Get out your favorite recipe and start looking for where you can swap out ingredients. Could you use low carb tortillas? Could you simply switch to skipping the potatoes and using a vegetable instead? Analyze your recipes and find out where the carbs are coming from and switch those ingredients. If you need help send me the recipe. I love to decarb things.
Step #7: Stop worrying about fat
I am telling you this right now, stop worrying about the fat in your food. This was the hardest thing for me to get used to, but I have lost 130 pounds and I eat more fat than I ever did at over 300 pounds. Fat does not make you fat. In fact, fat is amazing because it makes our food taste really good and fills us up. So cook with real butter, use cheese, real sour cream, etc. These ingredients are rich and taste amazing so they make the transition easy to low carb. My husband and kids hardly know we are eating low carb because the food we eat is really good and filling. You will be absolutely blown away at the food you can eat on low carb. So stop buying food with Diet on the label. That stuff tastes like crap and does nothing for you. Get ready to buy heavy cream and cheese sticks instead of skim milk and rice cakes. It’s strange and against what we were taught our whole lives on dieting, but it works.
Step #8: Pinterest is your friend
Pinterest is amazing. There are so many recipes on there to help you get started. Here’s the terms I search to find amazing boards: Low carb, Low carb for families, Low carb for kids, Keto, THM S, Low carb crock pot meals. You will be amazed how many recipes are out there.
Step #9: Learn to recognize hunger
This was the hardest part on my journey, but probably the most important. Before I started this lifestyle change I was hungry all the time. ALL THE TIME. And that’s because I didn’t know what hunger really felt like. Most of the time when I was “hungry” I was actually thirsty or bored. Now 130 pounds in, I know how to recognize my hunger. When I get hungry, i.e. when I’m out of fuel, I feel tired and a bit cranky. I can feel my body’s reaction to a lack of fuel and I know I need to eat. If I just finished lunch an hour ago and I’m hungry again, then I know its probably stress or thirst so I start with a huge glass of water to see if that does the trick. It usually does. Increase your water intake and see if that helps curb your hunger. It does mine…every time.
Step #10: Prepare for a rough start
So unfortunately I saved the worst for last. Beginning a low carb diet can be hard. While your body is getting used to switching its fuel base you may get lethargic, or feel almost flu like symptoms. These are normal and for me they didn’t last more than 2 weeks. I will tell you after that point I actually feel SO much better on this diet than I ever did before. I love eating this way. In fact, when I do cheat and eat carb filled foods, I’m always left hungry and bloated. My stomach problems of my past are completely gone, I have more energy, and I just feel better eating this way. Put good fuel in get good results!
So there you go, your beginners guide!! This month on the blog we will be focusing on more of what to eat. I’m starting a Question and Answer segment on Facebook where I’ll answer your questions about how I eat, how my kids eat, how I do this, and anything else you want to know. So, feel free to post any questions below or on Facebook!!
Let’s get started!