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My top tips to a low-carb diet

January 6, 2013

So I’ve spent a lot of time recently explaining to people how I’ve successfully managed to lose two stone easily, over a six month period (so nice and slowly and it’s all stayed off as a result), through low-carb eating, and how I’ll never go back to my previous habits.  In a previous post I described that this was as a result of reading a book called ‘Why we get fat and what to do about it’ by Gary Taubes and I still stand firmly beside this.

But as not everyone can be bothered to read this book, I thought it might be useful if I explained how I’ve adjusted to low-carbohydrate living in a world that is literally bursting at the seams with them.  So here we go – a whirlwind tour of everything I think you need to know:

1. Read the book.  Ok, it was worth another try.  But seriously, it’s not some nonsense diet book, it gives you all the biological facts about what certain foods to do your body and why some are great and others not so.  Forget about eating everything in moderation, there are some things that you should just avoid like the plague.

2. Prepare to question everything you’ve been told throughout your life.  Five a day – the Government just made that up.  Low-fat is good for you – not true.  Every balanced meal should be made up largely of carbohydrates – only if you don’t mind gaining weight.

3. Body shape is carried through the genes.  So you really could end up looking like your mum or dad. Be realistic with your expectations.  Some people will be able to eat what the hell they like and stay super slim.  But it might not mean that they are healthy on the inside…don’t be fooled.

4. Stop thinking that you need lots of carbs to give you energy – you don’t.  If you adopt a low-carb diet your body will start burning fat instead.  This is called ketosis.  This means that your body takes the fat that you are eating (dietary fat) and what it needs from your fat cells (stored fat) and circulates it round your body to feed your vital organs. If you’ve got excess fat on your body, this will reduce at a healthy pace.

5. A bit of the science: When you eat/drink carbs, your blood sugar rises quickly.  To reduce it back to a normal level, your body releases insulin.  Insulin is bad for anyone trying to lose weight as it’s like the gate keeper to all your fat cells – it locks them up so the fat can’t get out.  And if your body doesn’t burn all the carbs you’ve eaten as energy (and if you’re quite sedentary after a meal, there’s a good chance it won’t), then these will turn to fat and be stored as well.  In fact, your body stores excess carbs as fat quicker than it stores actual dietary fat as fat.  Which leads me nicely onto the next point.

6. Natural fats, such as those found in Olive Oil, Butter, Cheese, Cream, Nuts, Avocados etc, are GOOD FOR YOU! Read it and weep with joy, baby!  It’s just those horrible, chemically formed transfats that you need to avoid like the plague.  And the easiest way to do that is to avoid pre-prepared foods, such as ready meals and diet products.  If it says ‘low-fat’, leave it on the supermarket shelf!

7. Stop thinking of meals in a traditional way.  Ideally, you’ll eat a large breakfast, and healthy-sized lunch and enough dinner to fill you up but no more.  After all, your body wants to be resting and restoring when it goes to bed, not trying to digest an epic portion.  Oh, and a couple of snacks during the day are good, providing you’re hungry and aren’t just eating for the sake of it.  And what you eat is the real make or break.  Every meal should be made up of three components:  Protein (from meat, fish, eggs, tofu etc), fat (from cheese, cream, butter, healthy oils, nuts etc) and some vegetables (or tomatoes!), preferably leafy green ones that are rich in fibre.  And every snack should be made up of protein/fat and veg, such a cream cheese and celery, or ham and cucumber. So forget cereal and toast for breakfast, though a fry-up is an option, providing you include some mushrooms and/or tomato.  Sandwiches are a no-no for lunch, so you’ll need to think ahead.  And that’s my next point…

8. Plan ahead.  The one downside to low-carb is that you do have to be organised.  Food sellers largely cater for high carb-eaters so if you don’t think ahead, you might find yourself with nothing to eat.  And that’s not a healthy option.  So make sure you’ve always got a few things to snack on at hand (individual cheese portions and cherry tomatoes are my saviour) and be one day ahead with your meal planning.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask.  Eating out low-carb is easier than you think, but only if you get temptation removed.  So if your dish is normally served with potatoes or chips, ask them to leave them off and give you more salad or veg instead.  Don’t even scan the pasta section of the menu.  And cheese is the only thing you could even begin to contemplate on the dessert menu, so why bother looking? Are you even hungry anyway by this point?

10. When you reach your ideal weight, you can re-introduce some carbs back into your diet, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know to be choosy about which ones to introduce on a regular basis.  The rule of thumb I work to is natural carbs are going to be better for you than those that have been made.  So for example, lentils and rice are natural products, but pasta and bread have been created using refined flour – no natural goodness in these…  But you can see how it works for yourself. Eat what you like and if the weight starts creeping back on (known as ‘carb-creep’) you’ll know you have to be a bit more picky about what you’re choosing.

11. Low-carb food is stuff that has less than 5% carbs.  So if there is nutrional content on the back have a look at how many grams/milliletres of carbs there are per 100g/ml.  Also check out the fibre content.  Subtract the fibre content from the carbs and if it’s less then 5, you’re good to go.  The reason for this is that even though fibre is a type of carb, the body does not ingest it and it does not affect your blood sugar either.  So carbs high in fibre (such as leafy greens) are the good guys.  Most meat and fish, in it’s natural state, is low-carb, though don’t eat too many mussels or clams.  The sweeter the vegetable, the higher the carbs, so go easier on the sweetcorn, peas, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and squashes etc.  Oh, and potatoes, of course, are a no-no.

12. I used to think I couldn’t live without pasta and chocolate.  Turns out I can.  Try low-carb for two weeks and your sweet tooth will disappear.  You also don’t have to forgo these foods entirely; the 80/20 rule works out just fine.  80% low-carb will still allow you to lose weight and feel more alert and healthy.  Once you’ve done it for a little while you’ll find it easy to make smart choices and you’ll automatically gravitate to low-carb foods.  Especially once you’ve had a relapse, eaten lots of carbs and then feel really unwell as a result – that soon talks you back round.

I hope there is some useful stuff for you in here.  If you’ve got any questions, please do just ask, but again, I would urge you to read the book as it has all the answers.  Good luck with your low-carbing; I hope it works for you too.

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From → Low Carbs

One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Food: from Dawn till dusk and commented:

    One from my archive to help anyone wanting to lose weight in the New Year:

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