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10 Things to Stop Doing When You're on a Low-Carb Diet

Make it Easier to Eat Low-Carb

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Updated April 05, 2014

10 Things to Stop Doing When You're on a Low-Carb Diet
Photo: Vincenzo Lombardo/Getty Images
Eating a healthy low-carb diet isn't always easy, especially at first. But you can definitely make it worse for yourself! Here are ten easy things you can stop doing to make it easier on yourself.

1. Stop Drinking Sugary Drinks

This one seems totally obvious, but this is the #1 source of sugar in the U.S. diet, by far. There may not be another thing besides quitting smoking that would have as great an effect on the health of the general population than to stop doing this.

Of course, water is the obvious thing to substitute, but this is going to sound a little austere to a lot of people. Another suggestion is tea, in all its many forms: hot, iced, black, green, and herbal. The "regular" teas (black or green) and many of the herbals have a lot of health benefits, at a fraction of the cost of soda. There are even flavored teas. And don't be afraid to mix and match! My current favorite is to brew some flavored green tea (lemon, mango, or jasmine) with some black tea. (Note: if you're brewing green tea, it should be at a slightly lower temperature than black to avoid bitterness. I throw a couple of ice cubes into the kettle after it comes to a boil.)

2. Stop Going Hungry

Does the word "diet" bring on memories of being hungry, obsessing about food, and even dreaming about food? Do you think hunger and deprivation are necessary for weight loss? Well, start thinking about the opposite! If these experiences are frequent, your way of eating is simply not sustainable. Check this out: Low-carbers talk about their favorite things about eating this way, and notice how often "lack of hunger" and "feeling satisfied" comes up. ("Just cut down on calories" might work for awhile, but it usually becomes the same thing as "just go hungry".)

3. Stop Being Afraid of Eating Fat

The messages about how bad it is to eat fats are everywhere. You simply must learn to ignore them. The Harvard School of Public Health held a symposium with food writers and journalists where they asked them to take a pledge to stop using the term "low-fat", but, alas, it was apparently in vain.

4. Stop Eating the Same Things Every Day

When we first change our diet, it's easy to get into a rut and eat the same few foods all the time. This, for most people gets boring pretty fast, and the label "boring" is quickly added to the diet. Look at some cookbooks or recipes online, check out the spice aisle for inspiration, try a new vegetable or cut of meat. Use the change in your diet as an opportunity to expand your horizons. And remember, variety is a good thing, nutritionally speaking.

5. Stop Relying on Low-Carb Junk Food

Low-carb bars and packets of snack foods have their place -- when traveling, for example. But there are drawbacks to making them a part of our everyday diet. For one thing, people tend to have highly variable blood sugar reactions to many of these products. The "net carbs" listed on the package may look low, but for a variety of reasons, your body may disagree. Also, these so-called "highly palatable foods" are designed to "hook" our taste buds and brains into wanting more. Eating lots of artificially-sweetened foods foods is an example, as they tend to make us keep believing that foods are supposed to be that highly-sweetened.

6. Stop Browsing the Cereal, Crackers, and Cookie Aisles

Out of sight, out of mind. Seriously. Gazing at those bag of Chips Ahoy! cookies only reminds you that you used to enjoy eating Chips Ahoy. No good can come of this. My husband says that there are "islands" in the supermarket with "food that won't poison me". He just goes to those islands. I, too, just go to the foods I'm looking for, and ignore the brightly-colored packages along the way. "Shopping the perimeter" of the store, and avoiding the inner aisles altogether, is a great strategy if you can manage it.

7. Stop Shorting Yourself on Sleep

There is a whole basket of things that stresses our bodies, and not getting enough sleep is one of the biggies. Lack of sleep and other kinds of stress tend to kick off cortisol and other stress hormones that mess with our blood sugar. This, of course, is the opposite of what a low-carb diet aims to do, which is to stabilize blood sugar. As part of the package, the stress reactions of the body tend to increase appetite, which we certainly don't need!

8. Stop Freaking Out About Diet Studies in the News

I am a science-minded person -- in fact, I came to low-carb eating because of the science. But many "science" articles in the news misrepresent the research, or the studies themselves are problematic in some way. Rest assured that over the years, as data accumulates, it points more and more to a reduced-carb diet being a very healthy way to eat for much of the population. In any case, the average result of 50,000 people isn't going to tell you much about what will work for you. No study costing millions of dollars is needed; just check it out for yourself!

9. Stop Trying to Follow the Diet that Works for your Neighbor

Almost every diet works for some people, and different amounts of carbohydrate work best for different people. One of the strengths of the Atkins Diet, for example, is that it is structured to help each person zero in on the types and amounts of carbohydrate that work best for their bodies.

Similarly, don't try to argue your neighbor out of the diet that works for her or him. Just tell what works for you and your body -- that's hard to argue with.

10. Stop Avoiding the Truth

If you know that a reduced-carb diet works for you -- if you're healthier and happier when you've rid yourself of the extra sugar and starches -- you owe it to yourself to figure out a way to make this work for you as a permanent way of eating. No one is perfect, and we all need help making this a "way of eating" rather than a "diet". There's lots of help on this site and elsewhere on the Web, including our Low Carb Discussion Forum. Your future self will thank you!!
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