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Top Ten Low-Carb Diet Mistakes

Common Problems and How to Correct Them

By

Updated August 11, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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No big surprise - we all make mistakes. From the newest newbie, to the person who has been low-carbing for years, we all encounter bumps in the road, or our experiments don't turn out well. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes I see in low-carb eating.

1) Getting Off on the Wrong Foot

You don't have to take a college class to understand low-carb eating. But some people assume it means they should just eat meat all day (or other low-carb myths) or don't know where the carbs are lurking. This is really a recipe for problems. Everyone needs some basic knowledge about how reducing carbohydrates works, what foods have carbohydrates, and how to eat a balanced low-carb diet.

What Is a Low-Carb Diet?

Low-Carb Food Pyramid

How to Cut Carbs

7 Things to Know about Carbohydrates

2) Giving Up Too Quickly

There are lots of different approaches to low-carb eating, and there are often missteps at first, as you try to find one that works for you, or to modify an existing one. There is a tendency to over-react a bit when everything doesn't go perfectly, and give up. A prime example of this is eating too little carbohydrate at first, suffering carb crash, and deciding low-carb isn't for you. This is a shame, when a simple adjustment can usually get you through the first week comfortably, to the great rewards at the end of it.

Getting Through the First Week

3) Not Enough Vegetables

Time and time again, people tell me they don't feel good eating a diet lower in carb, and it turns out they are eating almost no vegetables or fruit. This will not work in the long run. My low-carb pyramid has vegetables at the base - in other words, you should be eating more of them than any other food! Fruit, too, especially fruit low in sugar, has its place in a complete low-carb diet.

Low-Carb Vegetables

Low-Carb Fruit

10 Tips for Making Vegetables Easy

4) Not Enough Fat

This can be a real problem. Despite some effort to get out the word about so-called "healthy fats", hardly a day goes by that I don't see or hear a negative message about fats in the diet. This leads some to attempt a low-fat version of a low-carb diet. At the beginning, some can even manage it, if they are using up a lot of their own fat (as opposed to eating it). However, fat loss inevitably slows down, and people can then become hungry if they don't add some fat to their diets. Nothing will sabotage a diet faster than hunger. So don't let this happen to you!

How to Overcome Fat Phobia

5) Not Enough Fiber

Eating enough vegetables and fruit go a long way towards insuring you are getting enough fiber in your diet. There are other low-carb sources of fiber as well, and it's good to learn about them.

High Fiber, Low Carb

More About Fiber

List of High-Fiber Low-Carb Foods

6) Eating Too Much

It's true that you don't have to count calories on a low-carb diet. But that doesn't mean calories don't count! The great thing about low-carb eating is that our appetites "turn down," allowing us to eat fewer calories without getting hungry. Some people make the mistake, though, of thinking they can just keep eating and eating and still lose weight as long as the food is low-carb. Let your appetite be your guide - eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are comfortable.

Tips for Dealing with Food Cravings

7) Lack of Planning

When you are first on a new way of eating, you'll run into old habits that need to be changed to new healthier ones. No longer can you mindlessly hit the vending machine or drive-thru. This is a good thing: Pausing to re-consider our habits is a constructive step towards making improvements in our lives. But in the case of eating, it's important to plan ahead for awhile, until our new habits come naturally. Nothing will sabotage your goals more quickly than realizing that you're hungry but you don't know what to eat.

Low-Carb Snacks

Low-Carb Menu Help

8) Getting into a Rut

There are people who eat the same things day after day, and like it that way. But frankly, most of us like variety, and will get bored very quickly if that is not built into the way we eat. There is no reason for not eating a wide variety of foods, and in fact, a varied diet is likely to be better for us nutritionally. Every cuisine on the planet has low-carb options - you just need to skip the starch and sugar. Also, most dishes can be "de-carbed." If you want to figure out a way to have your favorite flavors, ask in our Forum - we love to talk about what we're eating.

How to Avoid Low-Carb Boredom

9) Problem Ingredients in "Low-Carb" Packaged Foods

Be wary of meal replacement bars, ice cream, and other "treats" labeled low-carb or sugar-free. They often contain ingredients such as maltitol (the worst offender) which are just as bad as sugar in a lot of bodies. In general, products that talk about their "net carbs" or "impact carbs" deserve close scrutiny of the ingredients, and careful experimentation.

What Are Net Carbs?

Maltitol: Just Say No

What are Sugar Alcohols?

10) Carb Creep

You're eating low-carb. You're feeling great, and the weight dropping off as if by magic. You're not hungry between meals! You have energy! You can concentrate better! Wheee! You think you'll have a piece of toast! It doesn't matter! You still feel great! You think you'll have some ice cream! Hey! You're still losing weight! A little sugar in the coffee can't hurt, can it? Maybe not, but...uh oh. Something has sent you over your own personal carb limit. Suddenly, you're having cravings, you're hungrier, you're gaining weight, and you're in a vicious circle that's hard to break of eating carbs, being hungrier, eating more carbs...ugh.

Sometimes it happens more subtly, but it's common to let more and more carbs creep in, sometimes unawares. If that happens, it's time to take stock and probably start over, at least for a few days, to break that cycle.

Bonus #11) No Exercise

There is a temptation to leave exercise out when talking about low-carb diets, because often people can be successful at first while staying sedentary. However, there are several reasons for talking about exercise in any diet discussion (Atkins called it "non-negotiable"). One is that exercise lowers insulin resistance - this is probably partly why exercise alone will tend to help many people lose a few pounds. The second is that exercise is good for our bodies in so many ways. And the third is that while we can lose weight by diet alone, at least to some extent, we are very unlikely to be able to maintain a significant weight loss without exercise.

About.com's Exercise Site

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