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Is low carb worth a try when I know I can't do it forever?

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Old 04-14-2010, 06:59 PM   #1
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Question Is low carb worth a try when I know I can't do it forever?

Hello All,

Firstly, thank you for being willing to view my thread and question!

Okay, here's the deal. I've accomplished a lot of things in my life. Losing weight is about the only thing I feel I've worked hard at and failed.

A long time ago I tried Physician's Weight Loss, which was a low carb diet. If I recall correctly, I lost a little bit of weight (less than 10 pounds) and quit the expensive program because I simply couldn't eat the foods I was required to eat AND because I physically felt *awful*. I seem to remember lots and lots of cheese and bacon. Ugh.

So, I've been trying to do calorie counting and working out with a personal trainer. He and I were talking about nutrition today and he is going to talk to me soon about a low carb diet. He was talking briefly about it and said that he was going to suggest that I cut out almost all carbs (would only have them in the morning? Not sure I understood correctly).

Here's the thing. If I understand correctly, low carb basically means high fat. I would assume that the number of calories still matters? I am just about certain that I cannot maintain a low carb diet for the rest of my life. I *prefer* healthy, unprocessed fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I dislike eating most meats and really only eat it as a source of protein.

Anyway. One of the things I believe and read a lot is that we should find a plan that we can do forever. Should I try low carb again almost certain that it isn't for me? Should I try it, keeping in mind that I will only do it for a little while? Or, do I tell my trainer that I just need to keep working with the calorie counting (which isn't working very well... as ususal)?

I didn't mean to make this post so long and if you're still reading and have any advice, I'll really appreciate it. Thanks!
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Old 04-14-2010, 07:20 PM   #2
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Personally, no, I wouldn't do anything that I couldn't keep doing for the rest of my life.
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:20 PM   #3
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Even most low carb diets aren't "very low carb forever." Even Atkins, often considered one of the more extreme low-carb diets has you adding back carbs until you reach the point at which you stop losing weight, and if you're need to lose more, you back up the carbs until you start losing again. Once you reach maintenance you continue at the carb level that allows you to maintain your weight.

I tried low-carb diets in the past, but never for more than a few weeks, because I thought they were unhealthy and unustainable. I've slowly come to realize that I just don't do very well on a high carb diet. I feel hungrier, I have more autoimmune symptoms, my IBS flares more.... Reducing carbs isn't an easy diet for me, but it is one I feel best on. It's changed my view of the "feasibility" of carb-controlled dieting.

I do believe that you can choose a different route for maintenance than weight loss. I've used at least three different methods to lose the 80 lbs I've lost so far, and I didn't gain it all back when I switched methods. Even now, I continue to experiment with different nutrient levels. I've chosen an exchange plan, but I do occasionally change the number of carb/protein/fat servings. My maintenance plan may be different than my weight loss plan. I believe that it's perfectly fine to find a plan you see yourself doing "for now" or for a limited time, as long as you're comitted to finding another plan the moment the first one no longer serve your needs.

However, that's not what you believe. You've said that you believe that you should find a plan you can do forever - so do that. You've got to work in accordance with your own beliefs, but don't be afraid to experiment if you're not sure.

I wish I had not been so prejudiced against low-carb plans, because I don't think I ever gave them a fair trial. I always had an "all-or-nothing" approach to them, thinking that if I wanted a piece of cake once a year then it meant that low-carb diets "weren't for me."

Instead I've come to a practical conclusion. I do best physically and mentally on a low-carb diet, but I don't always eat what's best for me. I need to learn to eat closer ot the plan I feel best on, but it doesn't change the fact that I do feel my best when I'm avoiding processed and simple carbs (and even need to limit the high-carb whole foods, maybe not forever, but definitely for now). So for me, learning to make low-carb a sustainable plan for me is a higher priority than finding a plan I can easily stick to (I find there is no such plan, at least low-carb allows me to stick to it without feeling ravenously hungry).

Low-carb diets do not have to be incredibly high in fat, but they do have to be sufficient in fat. South Beach is a nice moderate-carb (or "good carb") plan.

But ultimately, you need to make choices based on your own belief system. Know what works for you, and if you don't know, experiment.
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:23 PM   #4
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There are many forms of lower carb.
Lots of folks eat oatmeal for breakfast and then just protein, fruits and vegetables later in the day.
I'm doing Primal Blueprint. Your amount of carbs depends on your goal.
My SIL is eating far less carbs than she used but doesn't count.
I think (you'll have to check this out) that a few lower carbs plans start your amounts very low and then increaase for maintenance.

Do your research, low carbs may not be as restrictive as you'd guess. I resisted for a lot of years but I'm really enjoying it now.
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:39 PM   #5
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The first time I heard about low carb, I was 12 years old. A decade ago and a half ago - LONG before the Atkins craze. My dad's parents were both diabetic as long as I knew them, and my dad was always researching the best ways to avoid diabetes. He now has full control over his blood sugar by maintaining a low carb diet.

But that's not the point. The point is, I remember hearing no corn and no pineapple (two of my favorite foods!) and thinking that it was stupid. Those are healthy foods! I resisted and resisted, eating whatever I wanted. I stayed relatively slim - but here's the shocker. My blood sugar soared. It was 99 last I checked, about 3 months ago.

That plus the need to lose a little pregnancy weight made me chose low carb. Will I never eat chocolate again? Not a chance. But when I do eat it, it will be calculated portions, preferably after a meal to avoid blood sugars from soaring.

I don't want to eat meats and fats alone for the rest of my life. No one does, as far as I know. But for me, 2 weeks is fine. Then I can begin adding a bit more every week, until I've lost all my weight and hit a maintenance weight I enjoy. And I've learned things about myself - I used to HATE cheese. Now, it's something I look forward to every day. The veggies taste richer, without comparing them to chocolate. I'm learning to eat in a way that is healthy, for me.

So before you write it off as "No carbs forever," look into it a little more. Its not "no carbs" - it's low carb. And eventually, "Healthy Carbs."

I'll also say, I'm losing weight a LOT quicker on low carb than I was calorie counting I had a month long standstill, tried low carb, and instant pounds gone. And my actual calories per day have gone UP. There's something to be said for low carb.
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:46 PM   #6
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What have you got to lose? You may find it easier then you think... and if you don't... well you stop and find something else. No harm no fowl.
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Old 04-15-2010, 12:30 AM   #7
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yah you need to keep carbs, carbs are actually healthy!!! its mostly the "hi" carbs that diabetics cannot have that you want to avoid.. but getting rid of carbs completely is not a good idea. Learning to balance between protein and carbs might be a better option and looking for HEALTHY carbs.
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Old 04-15-2010, 01:34 AM   #8
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Do not confuse low-carb with no-carb. No reputable low-carb plan eliminates carbs. It's an unfortunate and untrue stereotype that low-carb dieters constantly face and struggle against. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people tell me that I "have to eat fruits and vegetables to be healthy," thinking that I am eating meat, fat, eggs, cheese and water and nothing else. I am eating a great deal of non-starchy vegetables, a moderate amount of fruit, and not much more meat than I did when I wasn't low-carbing (I've found that low-carb cuts my hunger so much, that I probably ate more meat when I was high-carbing just because I ate more food overall because I was hungry all of the time).

There are a few plans that start people out with very few carbs for the first couple weeks. The rationale given is to break carb cravings, but I think it's something much simpler. People want a jump-start to weight loss, and they expect rapid loss in the first couple weeks. For a weight loss book to sell well, for it's plan to become popular, it has to deliver impressive results in the first few weeks. People buy the book because "so and so lost 6 lbs the first week."

The Zone diet for example recommends 40% of calories coming from carbs, 30% from fat and 30% from protein.

Now, whether the Zone diet is a low-carb diet is open to some debate. The definition of low-carb isn't universal. Opinions and definitions vary, and there's a lot of disagreement even among low-carbers as to how low is too low, and how high is too high. A common definition of low-carb diets are diets that provide fewer than 200g of carbohydrate. Although under 100g is another common definition.

Many low-carb diets will argue that anything lower than their plan is too low, and anything higher than their plan is too high

That's why it's so important to understand the carb-controlled or carb-restricted diets, so you can understand what you're judging. How low do you have to go? How low should you go.


I highly recommend the book The Low-Carb Bible, by Elizabeth M. Ward. It's no longer in print, but it can be picked up cheap on amazon.com or you may be able to order it through interlibrary loan if your local library doesn't have it.

The book provides overviews and reviews of popular low carb plans such as Atkins, Carbohydrate Addicts, Neanderthin, Protein Power, Schwarzbein Principle, South Beach, Sugar Busters, Suzanne Somers, and the Zone.

I've also heard good things about Low-Carb Dieting For Dummies by Katherine B. Chauncey, but I can't recommend it personally as I haven't read it.

You will find that some plans (such as Neanderthin, The Paleo Diet, and other "ancestor" diets) do recommend avoiding most grains.

However, before you decide that this means "eliminating a food group," it's important to realize that the nutrients in grains can be obtained from other sources, and that grains are relatively new to the human diet (if human existence to this point were compared to a single day, we've only been eating grains for the last 6 minutes).

It's also important to realize that the concept of food groupings is somewhat arbitrary. It's neither universal or static. Even the "experts" in the field are not all using the same system (The current American standard is not the only system) Food can be grouped in many ways, and there is no universal agreement on how food should be grouped and how many groups should exist. There are many ways to group foods for nutritional purposes and there are many systems still in use today. Americans are often concerned about eliminating the food group of grains, but you don't usually hear about people concerned about the elimination of the food group of insects or the food group of bones and connective tissue.

I'm really going off on a tangent, because most low-carb plans don't eliminate grains. Most low-carb plans aren't drastically high in fat, either (although you should be careful with plans that combine extreme low-carb with extreme low-fat, they can be dangerous).

There are so many myths about low-carb plans, that it's no wonder people view it as unhealthy - but they're not judging based on reality, but on perception. Or they're judging all low-carb plans by the most extreme low-carb plan they can find.
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Old 04-15-2010, 06:43 AM   #9
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So grateful for all of these answers...

Thanks to each of you for taking the time to lend your time and expertise.

I'm going to spend an hour next week going over nutrition with my trainer. In the meantime, I'm going to do some more research. I am at least more open to trying low carb again. I have thought more about it and I am pretty sure that I can't maintain the plan. As I've read more I remember having an awful taste in my mouth that I couldn't get rid of and that alone makes me feel that I can't maintain the plan... but... I am willing to give it another try.... and... if it doesn't work... well.. then.. as some of you have said... I just go back to the drawing board and try again.

While I've never been particularly successful, at least I've never quit.

So, again, thank you ladies, for all your wisdom and input. Maybe someday I'll find the right path for me, too.
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Old 04-21-2010, 03:23 AM   #10
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Yes, calories still matters in a low carb diet. I think you should give it a try and see if you can find some foods that you like better. If it doesn't work well...counting calories is still there.
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Old 04-21-2010, 05:11 AM   #11
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The "icky taste" of low-carb can be dealt with in several ways. You can make sure you're eating all of your vegetable alottment and drink more water (those two things usually takes care of it), you can use sugar-free breath mints and gums, or you can raise your carb levels until the bad taste disappears.

Something to keep in mind - there are dozens (if not hundreds) of reduced-carb plans, and the degree of carb-restriction varies tremendously. All low-carb plans are not the same, and you don't have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Watching carbs doesn't have to be any more complicated than calorie counting. Some people may choose to keep carbs lower so they can occasionally splurge on something high-carb once in a while, while others may decide on a daily carb "budget." And there are thousands of other ways you can choose to interpret your food plan.

YOU not only can choose your food plan, you can create it from scratch too. Diets aren't magic formulas that must be adhered to exactly or poof they don't work - you can make your own rules. If you don't have much of a nutrition background, it does help to have the input of a doctor or dietitian, or books written by medical and nutrition "experts" but you get to tweak whichever plan you follow, and you can make changes as fequently as you like.

You don't have to decide before you start, what you can do forever. You can experiment along the way. Your starting plan does not have to be your maintenance plan.

I also suspect that you're not very familiar with low-carb plans, because a major part of most low-carb plans is adding carbs during maintenance and often even during weight loss phases as you get closer to maintenance. So even following low-carb plans as written, you're not expected to follow the most restrictive phase forever. On maintenance you'll be eating more carbs - and you'll only have to restrict carbs as much as necessary to maintain the weight.

You also can tweak plans as you see fit (it may not work - but a failed experiment is not the end of the world. It teaches you what works for you, and what doesn't).

I cannot, for example follow Atkins induction (20g of carbs). It makes me dizzy and light headed (and it doesn't "go away" so it isn't "carb-withdrawal" as often alluded to). In the past, that always drove me away from Atkins, and it really didn't have to (I'm not following Atkins or saying anyone else should or shouldn't). Now that I'm on diabetic medications, it's even more important that I don't drop my carb-intake to induction levels. I have to use at least 40g of carbs or I feel sick. So, I don't drop carbs that low.

It sounds like you're very resistant to the idea that low-carb could work for you. I can relate, because it took me nearly 40 years to even consider trying low-carb seriously. Because induction-level made me sick, light-headed, dizzy, nauseous (I even passed out) and left the sticky, yucky taste in my mouth - it was proof enough that the diet wasn't healthy. What I never tried (until fairly recently) was to modify the plan until it stopped making me sick. To add back carbs until I found the level that allowed me to lose weight comfortably.

My attitude towards low-carb is practical. I can lose more weight on 1800 calories of low-carb than I can on 1800 calories of high-carb eating - and I'm less hungry when doing so. So, it makes sense to eat in the way that allows me to eat more and feel less hungry. I could change to high-carb eating at any time, but I'd have to drop my calorie level lower and I'd have to deal with more hunger. You have to know what the trade-offs are and what you're willing to trade.

I'm losing slowly, simply because I do often choose to eat higher-carb than I feel is perfect for me. I could lose weight quicker by eating lower-carb, but I'm ok with slow weight loss so I can eat higher-carb (but even "higher" is relative. My food plan is low-carb by many definitions. Certainly by the under 200g criteria).

Experiment until you find what works for you. The least restrictive form of carb-consciousness is avoiding the "white" foods of sugar, flour, rice and potatoes most of the time, so many people start there.

Again, I'd highly recommend Elizabeth Ward's book The Low-Carb Bible, because it provides an overview of many low-carb plans, it will help you decide whether (and if so which) plans are suited to you. There are so many different plans, I find it hard to believe that not a single one would meat your needs. The Carbohydrate Addict's diet or maybe Protein Power (I forget which. I've read both books) allows you "cheat meals" at which you can eat high-carb foods (even cake), but only at certain times/intervals.

I'm sure you can find, or create a plan that works for you.
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Old 04-29-2010, 06:01 AM   #12
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I would never have thought that low carb would work for me, but I've been really happy with it, and because I've really liked how I felt (high energy, NO HUNGER) I decided I COULD do it for long-term.

I got into low carb after reading Gary Taubes' book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and decided to give low carb a try - and immediately had the hunger monster which I've battled all my life calmed down & manageable. It was a dramatic shift. My weight loss has not been dramatic but it's been consistent, and it's been that way despite enormous personal stress (I could have easily gained 50 pounds, instead I lost 35).

If nothing else, several weeks of low carb should give you information about how you personally react to carbs, and it could lead to you making changes to just gently reduce certain foods (my sister did this approach - dropped sugar & bread & lost 20 pounds).

I have been a whole-foods, mainly-organic eater for about 10 years so the idea of a low carb diet was pretty shocking to me, but I found it to be really useful, so you might too...
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Old 04-29-2010, 09:59 AM   #13
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I am eating FAR more veggies while I cut back on carbs than I ever did before, even when I was doing the super-strict low-fat vegetarian Pritikin plan!
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Old 04-29-2010, 01:56 PM   #14
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I never thought I could follow a low carb plan but have been doing so for 12 weeks now. I chose Ideal Protein and it's definately changed my life for the better. I have tried many low-fat, low-calorie diets. I've felt slightly deprived but I'm getting ready for phase 2. In maintenance I get all of my food groups back and have 1 day a week where I eat whatever I want. This is definately do-able for me!! Losing weight is a process, no you can't go back to your old habits, but I could do the low-carb short term knowing I'll get a full balanced diet back in the long run. I feel better than every, my body seems to be functioning more efficiently, and I feel in control now. In the end choose what's right for you
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Old 05-11-2010, 03:31 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahinparis View Post
I would never have thought that low carb would work for me, but I've been really happy with it, and because I've really liked how I felt (high energy, NO HUNGER) I decided I COULD do it for long-term.

I got into low carb after reading Gary Taubes' book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and decided to give low carb a try - and immediately had the hunger monster which I've battled all my life calmed down & manageable. It was a dramatic shift.
This for me.

I was very resistant to low-carb. I am a nurse and everything I had ever learned about nutrition and the human body was turned on it's head when I read Good Calories Bad Calories. It is a very well researched treatise on nutrition.

Since going low carb, I have been able to lose weight without the hunger. There were carb cravings to be sure, but they have lessened. When I am hungry, I eat from a wide variety of vegetables, meats, nuts, and fruits. I eat until I am full and that's that. No having to leave half of my plate, or no worries of binging. It's been a real life changer just in the short time I've been doing primal eating.
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