A low-carb diet is an effective, but highly restrictive, weight-loss plan. It works well when you follow the rules. If you waltz into the room thinking you can do your own thing without having read and studied any of the weight-loss plans, you’ll probably find yourself asking, “Am I doing low carb right?” A dead giveaway that you aren’t.
However, if you’ve been carefully following one of the low-carb programs, and weight loss has slowed, or stopped, you might want to check and see if you’ve been making one of these low-carb mistakes.
Where Are Your Carbs Coming From?
Most individuals enter the Induction phase on a diet-high. Motivation is strong. The weight loss you experience from losing the glycogen needed to get you into ketosis keeps you pumped. Motivated by the new lack in cravings and sense of well-being, low-carb diet mistakes are few. You stick to the rules, start experimenting with new foods and recipes, and make the decision that this low carb stuff is going to be a lifestyle change – not just another diet.
But lifestyle changes don’t come that easy. Like anything else, even with a rock-solid foundation, we can reach a point where we start to slip back into our old ways of doing things. For some, that means giving ourselves permission to cheat once in a while. But for others, the tendency surfaces by trying to recreate the diet that got us fat in the first place – but from a low-carb perspective.
While there’s nothing wrong with attempting to low carb a favorite recipe or holiday treat, it’s easy to slip away from Dr. Atkins’ caution when moving into the Ongoing Weight Loss phase. “If you have decided to move to phase two, I want to remind you not to regard it as a time to cut loose and undo all of the good work you have just completed,” Atkins writes. Pretty much common sense. But then he adds that phase two is “very similar to Induction in that you will continue to derive the majority of your carbohydrates from vegetables low in carbs.”
While the carbohydrate ladder allows later additions of nuts and berries, phase two doesn’t lift most of the restrictions given for Induction. These daily limits are:
- cheese (3-4 oz)
- heavy cream (2-3 tbsp)
- sugar substitutes (2-3 servings, counted as 1 gram of carbohydrate each)
- salad dressings (without sugar, and no more than 2 grams of carbohydrate per 1 tbsp serving)
- spices (without added sugar)
- lemon juice (2-3 tbsp per day)
- olives (20)
- sour cream (1 oz – that’s 2 tbsp)
- avocado (1/2)
Dr. Atkins also cautioned against using too many low-carb products. While he did mention that convenience foods were an option for when “you are unable to find appropriate food, can’t take time for a meal or need a quick snack,” he also warned to watch out for carbohydrate counts. Far too many products today, like low-carb breads, tortillas, and pastas, or low-carb shakes and bars have hidden carbs or digest exactly like the high-carb products they replace.
In addition, if you have wheat sensitivities, be extra careful with what you spend your carbs on, because most low-carb products are loaded with wheat protein. The same is true for many favorites like soy sauce. Also, keep in mind that some whole grains like soy flour and uncertified gluten-free oatmeal (which many low-carb bakers grind into flour) are also highly contaminated with wheat.
Are You Counting Your Carbohydrates?
Following a low-carb diet, rather than a traditional low-fat low-calorie plan, doesn’t get you out of having to play the numbers game. Do you know what your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL) is? According to Dr. Atkins, knowing that number and “counting grams of carbohydrate is truly your responsibility. If you don’t count you could get into trouble.”
The idea behind the Atkins diet, or Protein Power, or any number of other low-carb plans is that your rate of fat loss is in direct proportion to the amount of carbs you eat. Knowing your CCLL, and staying at or below that number (or whatever level of carbs and protein The Protein Power Lifeplan assigns you) is like a safety net. That’s a little less than the amount of starch your body can deal with on a daily basis without having to store it as glycogen, or body fat if glycogen stores are full. Go above that number, and your weight loss will stall.
That’s pretty much what the carb ladder is all about too. Helping you make the best choice for whatever condition your current metabolism is in.
But too many times, we think we know better and we do something that sits outside the rules. Sometimes we get away with it, like eating low-carb tortillas, pasta, and bread way before step nine on the ladder. Or we stick to eating just allowable foods without actually counting the amount of carbs we are eating each day. If we’re lucky, we will continue to lose weight just fine. But sometimes we don’t. Sometimes those little inconsistencies and mistakes catch up with us, and our weight loss stalls.
Get Back on Track
When that happens, step one is always to get back to counting carbohydrates. After which it’s a good idea to examine closely where those carbs are coming from. It’s easy to get lax and stop reading labels, allowing a little sugar or high fructose corn syrup to slip into our diet through a store-purchased salad dressing. It’s also easy to forget what level of the carb ladder we’re on – when see others eating low-carb pasta and continuing to lose weight. And it’s even easier to devote ourselves to low-carb foods and ingredients than it is to drag out the measuring spoons and cups to find out exactly how many carbs we’re eating.
That’s because, when it comes to fat loss and staying on plan, most of the time, we are our own worst enemy. However, if we want to reach our weight-loss goals, we have to be willing to take a good look at ourselves, our current lifestyle, and weed out any low-carb diet mistakes that might be standing in our way. That certainly isn’t easy; it’s where I’ve been slipping down the slippery slope of fat gain lately. Not much – I weighed it at just three pounds over my current temporary weight maintenance goal – but three pounds is where I’ve personally chosen to draw the line.
So it’s back to lower carbs for me, for awhile.