Once upon a time, I ate an extremely low-carb diet. And at the time, it felt easy and natural. But I have to tell you: trying to eat that way now doesn’t work for me. While I still eat a very low-carb diet compared to the average American, my leniency for carbs would make a hardcore low-carber shriek in horror.
You see, a strict low-carb diet just causes me to spend hours of my life looking at pictures of dessert on Instagram. And wanting to eat every single food in all of the pictures in portions that just aren’t reasonable. A strict low-carb diet, at this time in my life, just causes me to spend all day thinking about dessert. It’s consuming and eventually, it wins. My low-carb effort would crumble and fall.
Instead, I’ve realized over the past few years that:
1) A strict low-carb diet is not right for me at this time in my life (or maybe ever again!) and
2) I can eat a very low-carb diet during 90 percent of my day, but still include things like strawberries (gasp!) and homemade cookies (gasp!).
I'll still feel awesome, stay in-range of my blood sugar goals, and continue to love the food I eat! If you've been trying to practice an extremely low-carb regimen but haven't found success, this way of eating might not be the best fit for you.
Here are three red flags that going extreme low-carb isn't right for you:
This is the 17th time this year you’ve tried going low carb.
If your strict low-carb (or “keto”) diet is constantly stopping and restarting, something is wrong. The “all or nothing” approach doesn’t work for many. Finding yourself a more doable middle-ground approach to reducing your carb-intake may actually provide you with a more peaceful relationship with food. The “I-will-not-eat-any-carbs!” plan that only collapses a week later into "GIVE-ME-ALL-THE CEREAL-AND-COOKIES-AND-BREAD!” is not a successful nutrition plan. In fact, you’re probably eating far more carbs overall in the stopping and bingeing and restarting approach than you would be if you just gave yourself the freedom to eat a few cookies every night after dinner.
You’re just doing it for a few weeks to lose weight fast.
I’ve got some sad news for you: a low-carb diet that you stick to for 22 days, lose 8 lbs, and then go back to a life full of processed carbs is only going to lead to gaining that weight back, and maybe more. Super strict low-carb eating has a reputation for being the fastest track to weight-loss, but if it’s not something you can realistically maintain for months and months, it’s probably going to turn into a yo-yo-ing, crash-dieting cycle. It'll drive you crazy with frustration, and mad with cupcake cravings. Trying to reduce the carbs (particularly the processed carbs) in your diet rather than cutting out “all the carbs” will likely lead to better weight-loss results and a more peaceful relationship with food.
You’re eating tons and tons of cheese, bacon, and more cheese.
Sure, cheese and bacon aren’t going to raise your blood sugar if that’s all you’re eating. But is that a healthy nutrition plan that you really want to be on long-term? If the strictness of your low-carb diet has caused you to fear the healthiest “carbs” from green plants, then something isn't right. And you know it -- somewhere deep in the back of your mind -- that just because you’re losing weight on a diet of cheese and bacon, and your blood sugars have been nearly effortless to manage around those meals, that doesn’t mean you’re improving your health. A low-carb diet done well is still a diet that should revolve around lots of whole foods. If the 3 grams of carbs in a bowl of spinach or the 6 grams in a serving of broccoli has become something that gives you anxiety, your low-carb strictness may have actually turned into disordered eating (and may be worth talking to your healthcare team about). Greens (and their carbs) are GOOD!
So what the heck are you supposed to eat?!
What works for me might not be the perfect plan for you. But I can tell you I’ve never felt more at peace in my relationship with food than when I took the emphasis off the carb-count and focused more on ensuring that the majority of my meals and snacks came from whole foods and recipes I made myself, at home. And that includes dessert! But I don’t eat dessert more than once per day, and I try to make sure several days a week contain no dessert at all. (Gotta keep that sweet-tooth in check!)
And guess what: I eat as many strawberries and blueberries as I please -- nearly every day. Sometimes, I even eat peaches! And grapes! And apples! It's a wild world out there (with lots of exciting and delicious and nutritious things to eat!), so take a bite. Connect with a One Drop Health Coach on our Premium App to learn more.