It is easy to find success stories from low carb dieters who have reached their goal weight and feel great. But no goal is reached without first encountering hurdles. Those early challenges can knock you off course if you are not prepared, causing you to stop before the results show up. In this post, I’ll share three common traps new low carb dieters face so that you can avoid them, stick with your plan, and reach your goal.
Common Traps for New Low Carb Dieters – At-A-Glance
- Trap #1: Expecting Your Body to Be on Board from the Start. Allow your body time to transition from being an efficient carb-burner to being an efficient fat-burner
- Trap #2: Expecting Your Brain to Be on Board from the Start. As you progress on your low carb diet, your brain chemistry will adapt, making it easier to resist temptations.
- Trap #3: Comparing Your Results to Others. Low carb dieting gets easier with practice. Stay focused on improving your diet and avoid comparing yourself to experienced dieters.
Common Traps for New Low Carb Dieters [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Three traps for low-carb dieters.
- Solutions to each of these traps.
- Additional resources for weight loss success!
Trap #1: Expecting Your Body to Be on Board
Carbohydrates are a quick and easy source of energy for your body. If you’ve been eating a high-carb diet, your body has produced the pathways and enzymes it needs to convert the carbs you eat into energy, making you dependent on them to feel good. When you feel low on energy, or you expend energy through exercise, you feel better when you refuel with carbs.
When you reduce your carb intake, you disrupt this pattern. Now, when you feel low on energy, you don’t refuel with carbohydrates. Your body reminds you to do so by turning on carb cravings. When you resist, you feel tired because, essentially, your body is running low on gas.
However, carbs are not the only form of fuel that your body can run on. It can also run on fat. The challenge is that before your body can effectively burn fat for fuel, it needs to do some work on your metabolic engine, converting it from being a good carb-burner to being a good fat-burner.
That conversion takes time, requiring the production of new fat-burning pathways and enzymes. Until the switch is complete, you will feel low on energy and crave sugar and carbohydrates.
These uncomfortable feelings present themselves as part of the normal transition that your body must go through as it adapts to your new low carb lifestyle. They do not indicate that anything is wrong. However, you can fall into a trap if you expect your body to be on board with your dietary change from the start.
When you have this expectation, it is easy to think that there is something wrong with your body or that low carb dieting is not for you when all your body needs is a week or so to get up to speed.
Solution: The solution is to think of your body as a friend, not a foe, during this transition. Give it time to make the shift, and it will give you the fat loss results you want.
Trap #2: Expecting Your Brain to Be on Board
Understanding and accepting that you may feel worse before you feel better can help you get started with your low carb diet. However, you are not just fighting physical factors. You are also fighting your brain’s chemistry. The second trap that those who are new to low carb dieting face is expecting your brain to be on board from the start.
There is an area inside your brain called the nucleus accumbens. It is nicknamed the reward center because it is associated with feelings of pleasure. That pleasurable feeling is generated by the release of a chemical called dopamine.
When you do something that you enjoy, your brain gives your nucleus accumbens a little hit of dopamine, and you feel good. Eating sugar and refined carbohydrates has this effect, which is why it is hard to stop eating things like potato chips, cookies, and candy once you start.
Even more challenging is the fact that this pleasure experience is not just a once and done thing. This area of your brain is capable of learning and making associations. So, it can identify foods that caused you pleasure and remember them.
Therefore, when you start cutting carbs and feeling low on energy, your brain reminds you that eating a cookie will make you feel better. That may be true in the short run. However, when you give in to a craving, you keep yourself stuck in the carb addictive loop.
Solution: The solution is to understand that you can break this mental pattern with consistency. As you progress on your low carb diet, your brain chemistry will adapt, making it easier to resist temptations.
Suppose you came from a high-carb lifestyle where you were eating sugar or refined foods every day. In that case, you were chronically stimulating the brain’s reward center, causing it to downregulate and become less sensitive. In other words, the more sugar you ate, the more you craved because it took more of it to get the same sugar high.
When you start your low carb diet, the first things to go are the sugary junk foods. Without the constant stimulation, the reward center in your brain resensitizes to sugar, to the point where foods that used to taste good now taste too sweet to be enjoyable.
Many low carb dieters remark that they no longer feel addicted to sugar or tempted by junk food. This can happen for you, but you must resist the urge to take the edge off by eating a high-carb snack. Focus on keeping your daily carbohydrate intake low and boosting your intake of healthy fats.
Healthy fats from whole foods like eggs, meat, fish, nuts, and seeds do not cause the same dopamine spike that we see with quick-digesting carbs. Instead, they digest slowly, giving you a calm feeling of hunger satisfaction that lasts for hours, keeping you comfortable and in the game.
Trap #3: Comparing Your Results to Others
As I mentioned at the start of this video, it is not hard to find low carb success stories. These stories can be a source of inspiration, but they can also be a trap that leads to discouragement if you try to compare where you are to where they are.
Everything gets easier with practice because we establish new routines to support the change. When we read about someone who reached their goal, we are coming in at the final chapter of their story. They have already gone through the transition and established new habits and patterns that make their new way of eating easy to do, enjoyable, and effective.
What we rarely get to see are the hurdles they encountered in their earlier chapters. There is no overnight success when it comes to overhauling your diet. We all face physical and mental challenges as we wait for our bodies and brains to adapt to our new way of eating. If you are just getting started, you may feel like you are all thumbs, constantly having to think about food choices.
Solution: The solution is to give yourself a break and be willing to falter now and then. As long as you get right back on track, you’ll get to your goal.
When you are just getting started, it helps to have a guide to follow. I have resources available here on my website, including low carb challenges that provide you with daily menus that save you the hassle of planning your meals. You can learn about the challenges through the links at the top of the website. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.