What is the Secret of Reaching Your Low Carb Goal?

While doing a bit of research this week on the role that calories play in a low carb diet, I ran into a very interesting thread over at the Maintain Lane of Low Carb Friends. It's called: "How many of you maintainers had to tweak things to get to your goal."

I absolutely loved it, and will probably spend a bit of time over in the low carb maintenance section for awhile, because it was both inspiring and helpful.

When most people begin a low carb diet it tends to work well, as written, especially if they're new to the game. Yo-yo low carb dieter's might not experience the same results, but generally the diet works well enough to keep everyone moving forward.

For some it takes a bit of an adjustment getting used to the new low carb food choices, and leaving the carbs behind. But once the dieter has overcome their fear of not being able to lose weight on the large portion sizes and high fat foods, they tend to settle in nicely, loving their ability to smother everything they eat in butter, mayo, sour cream, and cheese. 

Initially, this type of low carb diet behavoir helps the dieter adjust to the major changes in lifestyle, and since body fat is falling off, everyone just expects it to continue that way. For a low carb newbie, it just might happen that they can make it all the way to goal that way, especially if they are fairly active and began the journey at the overweight level, rather than being obese. But for the greater majority of folks, it doesn't seem to quite go down as expected.

Watch any low carb forum, egroup, or blog, and you'll see that it's true. While a lot of people make it to goal weight, and become shining examples for the rest of us; the greater majority of folks who adopt a low carb diet plan, do not. In fact, some of them end up gaining back part, or all of the weight they lost.

The reasons vary, depending upon our own individual psychological issues regarding all of this. But there seems to be a few recurring themes that cause a lot of stumbling.

For some it's opioid addiction, which makes it especially difficult for the dieter to stay away from low carb products that are loaded with wheat protein and/or sugar alcohols. For others it's a misunderstanding  regarding the various metabolic pathways; how and why a low carb diet works. For some life interferes, and they don't know how to maintain what they've accomplished. And then there are those who get fed up with their lengthy stall, and chuck the whole darn thing. 

The common thread is that most of us who fail either don't understand the process of change, the adaption and continuous evolving that's necessary to achieve our weight loss goals, or we are totally unwilling to do so. We want things to stay and be like they were in the beginning. We want things and results to be like they were the last time we tried to follow a low carb diet.

We want things to stay the same.

But none of that is real. Most of it is fantasy. Including quite a few of our low carb notions and beliefs. Calories matter. Portion sizes matter. Even the amount of dietary fats we eat matters. We don't want to believe any of that, of course, we want to continue believing that a low carb diet and the state of ketosis is a magic feather. We want to continue believing that we need that magic feather in order to fly.

So we fail...we stall...and some of us even return to the path we came from, because we aren't willing to face the truth. We aren't willing to do what it takes to change. We've bought into all of the low carb myths, and can't bring ourselves to let go of the feather and do whatever it takes to fly on our own.

Now, I'm not talking about abandoning the low carb diet. It's healthy and effective. I'm talking about coming to our senses and looking at things logically and realistically. Because that's what the greater majority of those who have reached their goal weight have had to do.

When you weigh 256.5 lbs, like I did, you can eat a heck of a lot of low carb food, and still be in a calorie deficit. You can eat lots of fat and still not be eating what you need to completely fuel the day's activities, even if your lifestyle is sedentary. You're going to be making lots of ketones and throwing a lot of them away.

But somewhere along the line, the body is going to adapt to ketosis and begin making only enough ketones to fuel the brain. If you continue eating the same sized portions you ate when you began your low carb journey, if you continue eating the same amount of fat after you've lost a lot of weight, even though you aren't at goal, energy in is going to balance energy out. And you're going to stall. Permanently. That's just the way it is.

The truth of the matter that few low carb dieters want to face is that a smaller body needs less fuel than a larger body does. In fact, 2Big says that the difference is so great that a 75 lb weight loss (like I have accomplished so far) will drop your BMR requirements by about 675 calories per day!!!

As low carb dieters, we understand that we have switched from burning fats and glucose for fuel, to burning predominantly fats for fuel. And yet we don't take the time to actually figure out what that means. Somewhere, we've gotten it into our heads that if we keep our carbs low enough, and as a result our insulin levels low enough, we can eat all of the fats and calories we want because they don't matter.

Dr. Eades says "it doesn't work that way." That a calorie deficit is necessary to lose weight. The authors of the New Atkins for a New You agree. But us? We'd rather hold onto our false ideas and fantasies of what we wish Dr. Atkins was saying when he told us not to fear fat when beginning Induction. Because that's what we want to be true, not what is.

If fats are how we fuel our body on a low carb diet, and our smaller bodies now need less fuel, why is it so hard for us to add 1+1 together, and get 2? Why do we keep coming up with 3 for an answer? Probably for the same reason that we keep insisting that we need a magic feather to fly.