Does a Low-Carb Lifestyle Have to be Super Low in Carbs?

BBQ Meats on the Grill: Steak, Chicken, Pork
Many low carb dieters
do not know what normal eating is.

Low carb isn't just another weight-loss diet. It is a complete nutritional approach to living that teaches you how to make better food choices, choices that will enable you to reach a healthy weight. But to do that, you have to have the courage to experiment on yourself.

Are you game? If so, read on . . .

Are You in This For Life?


Are you chasing after a weight-loss fantasy?

Do you have false expectations and misunderstandings about low-carb diets? Or, are you making carbohydrate restriction an authentic lifestyle?

Most dieters see carb restriction as a temporary solution to their weight problems. For them, dieting is just a way to get a certain number of pounds off quickly. So, I was surprised to see that a Low Carb Friends forum member had approached these questions with a healthy, honest perspective:

"Honest answer . . . I don't know. I will never look at food the same way though."

Me either. How about you?

Rabbit Drawn in the Sand
Do you see low carb as just another crash diet?
Or, are you in this for life?

I signed into Low-Carb Friends that morning, thinking I might want to say something, but by the time I waded through the misconceptions, a cat-and-dog fight, and all of the typical replies:
  • "I have no other choice."
  • "There is no other healthier way to eat."
  • "I don't want to get diabetes."
  • "This isn't a diet - it's a lifestyle."
I discovered that I was no longer as vitally interested in speaking as I had been when I first signed in.

When you're at the start of your low-carb journey, your enthusiasm and determination to succeed is high. The weight falling off convinces you that a low-carb eating style is the only way to go.

Initially, you are not ready to hear anything different.
  • blinders go on
  • walls get thrown up
  • belief systems get defended
Because if you didn't do it that way, you might have to face the truth, which few folks within the low-carb community are willing to do.

Santa's Elf Sitting on Presents
Kick Your LOW Carb Fantasies
to the Curb

What is Normal Eating?

One of the major themes running throughout the various replies I read that morning was a misunderstanding of what normal eating is.

These people had learned through trial-and-error that returning to their old ways of eating, which was obviously not normal, would cause the pounds of unwanted body fat to return.

As a result, they had vowed to stay at an extremely low carbohydrate level for a lifetime, claiming that level of carbohydrate restriction was the only safe and sane approach to the problem of obesity.

For some people, I agree. Very low carb, or even zero carb, is the only alternative.

But what disturbed me (and what always disturbs me):

A large portion of participants began preaching that their solution to the problem of obesity was the only viable one for everyone.

Man Eating Cookies
Very low carb or zero carb is not necessary for everyone,
but many low carbers believe it is.

Many said very low carb was the only healthy way to eat because it helped them control their distorted view of what normal eating was. It slashed their cravings for what they believed were unhealthy foods, so normal for them was very low carb.

To them, a well-balanced diet was not normal.

And yet, most of them had never truly looked at what a normal portion size was. They were eating low-carb foods to appetite.

Next time you're feeding your family rice or mashed potatoes, measure out 1/2 cup of those starchy carbs and plop it on a regular-sized dinner plate - you might be surprised at how little a serving of starchy carbs actually is.

Your Energy Needs Change as Your Weight Does

You might have gotten hooked on the extravagance and luxury of what worked when you first began the weight-loss process and have adopted the false belief that you will be able to eat that same way forever.

Truth is . . . you can't.

And you can't do it even if you only eat low-carb foods.

If you have more than 50 or 60 pounds to lose, equilibrium will probably catch up with you before you reach goal. At some point, you will stall partway to your goal, as many of us have learned.

The amount of calories and dietary fats you could eat when you started your low-carb journey, and lose body fat effortlessly, is not the same amount of calories and dietary fats you will be able to eat after you've completed the weight-loss phase.

To keep losing and maintain your losses, you have to do something different.

One Solution to the Dreaded Weight-Loss Plateau

For some, the solution to the problem of equilibrium is simply to give up.

Content to maintain where you are, you continue to eat a low-carb diet because you are grateful for what you have accomplished. You don't want to change what you're doing, so you accept your fate.

Nothing wrong with that solution.

The adversity arises when people who have made that choice for themselves project that solution onto others. They tell you that you are free to go and do what you want, but then in the next breath, they are telling you:

"I do not believe that anyone can go on a diet. This has to be a commitment for life. There is no such thing as a diet."

Well . . . I am living proof that is not true, so who does low-carb work best for?

Who Does Low Carb Work Best For? 

The poster was right about one thing:

You can't return to the way you used to eat and maintain what you have accomplished. How you ate before was an unnatural and probably unbalanced eating style.

However, the choice, when you reach equilibrium, isn't between a low-carb diet for life and gluttony. 

What most miss is this:

There is more than just two paths.

Science shows and proves individuality. Science doesn't prove that a low-carb diet is better than any other alternative. It's a matter of context.

Low carb works best for those with insulin resistance, but everyone doesn't have insulin resistance.

Many overweight individuals are insulin sensitive, so they may or may not do well restricting carbs. Others might have trouble digesting fats or using fats for energy. You also might feel terrible if your basal insulin level drops too low.

Problem with Falling Leptin Levels

In the beginning of my weight-loss journey, I was like all the rest. I fell hook, line, and sinker for what Dr. Atkins believed.

I walked right on by the fact that a lot of what he taught was theory instead of fact. He took his best guess as to why low carb works, but some of these beliefs haven't been supported by science. Many have even been disproved.

It wasn't long before I came to realize that Dumbo's magic feather wasn't real, especially when my Leptin levels began to crash about 1-1/2 years into the weight-loss process.

If you have ever reached a point where you have lost a lot of weight and despite being on a low-carb diet:
  • your hunger suddenly shoots through the roof
  • you become ravenous and consistently think about food
  • and have little focus on anything other than food
you'll know what I'm talking about.

The body fights hard to refill its fat stores if you stay in the alternative metabolic pathway too long because it was designed to be used for temporary famine situations. At least, that's what I've learned about myself. My body will only tolerate a low-carb existence for a short amount of time.

Now, I realize that this is only true for me.

Maybe, you're luckier than I am.

Maybe your Leptin levels have never crashed. You digest dietary fats properly, can easily burn fatty acids for fuel, and you are not sensitive to gluten. You don't have hyperthyroidism. Your body is under less stress at lower carb levels. As a result, you thrive on a very low-carb diet.

Maybe, it's your first or second time on a low-carb diet and your body hasn't completely adapted to ketosis yet, so you're still basking in the light of your One Golden Shot.

I've been there, done that, so I honestly understand where you are at. I do. In 1975, I lost 40 pounds in 6 weeks. When I reached goal weight, those 6 weeks later, I hadn't even become fat adapted yet.

Science has yet to prove that living the rest of your life with partially filled glycogen stores is safe and healthy. I know that a few individuals have done this long term and are okay. But others have not.

If science one day acknowledges that ketosis is safe for the long haul, I'm completely fine with that. But it won't change my experience with a LOW carb diet. Nor, the experiences of many others who have commented on this blog.

Despite what low-carb folks want to believe, most of the time, if you want to make it to goal weight, you gotta bend the rules. Tweak the plan to fit your personal health issues and metabolism. Bend the diet to fit your genetics.

This is what Sherrie from the Pinch Of... blog used to tell me. Upon following her advice, and adding an additional taste of realism that I acquired from "2 Big," I found that to be true.

How I See Low Carb

Success with a low-carb diet isn't guaranteed just because you demonize carbs. 

Nor is being unsuccessful always due to a lack of commitment and focus, as most participants in the Low-Carb Friends thread claimed.

If I had sat back and continued to believe all of the low-carb magic being taught in years past, and still being taught today, I would never have accomplished what I did:

Losing over 100 pounds!

A low-carb lifestyle is about having the courage to seek out your own personal truth, and then experiment with the ideas presented to discover for yourself what is useful.

A low-carb lifestyle is about not giving up and settling for less than what you could be if you maintained vital interest in achieving better health and fitness.

Health challenges demanded that I let go of the low-carb magic. I had to let go of the LOW carb dream and do something different. I had to bend a low-carb lifestyle to fit my health challenges.

So, I also believe that a low-carb lifestyle is about finding the strength to DO whatever it takes to achieve your vision, to fulfill your purpose for living, even if that means adding more carbohydrates to your diet instead of eating less.

I am an n=1.

You are an n=1.

Neither n=1 is all-inclusive, but neither is either n=1 invalid or irrelevant because we live different lifestyles. The core foundation that Dr. Atkins stood for, above all else, was personalization and individuation.

He believed in shaping your diet and lifestyle to fit your personal circumstances, health status, and inner state enabled the greater majority of low-carb folks to be successful.

Atkins Induction and Keto and even Nutritional Ketosis Phase 1 are only starting points from which to rebuild and craft your life. They are ideas to play around with and add upon, as needed. They are a different alternative than the path of the majority.

But even if LCHF doesn't work for you, like it didn't work for me, that doesn't mean you have to go face down into the cherry pie. 

The choice isn't between:

1) Very LOW carb


2) HIGH carb

Healthy eating is a spectrum. You may fit anywhere on the continuum between zero carb and high carb. Promoting low carb and demanding that everyone be low carb is exclusive. It's divisive. It's like:

Building your house on a bed of sand and then keeping your front door locked with a dead-bolt.

The best method of achieving your weight-loss goal is to do what it takes to discover where you fit on the continuum, and then keep doing that for as long as it works for you.

If it stops working, like it did for me, simply make another choice. You don't have to be afraid of making the wrong choice.

There are no wrong choices.

There is only n=1 experience.

Make the best of the opportunities that come to you, and no matter how things turn out, you won't be wrong. Your choices are always perfect for your current state of being and level of understanding.

You are what you are.

So be that, and enjoy the ride.


  1. You are right. I've learned more about my body and what I can and can't eat by tweaking. I know I can't tolerate grains for instance and that I need to take it easy on cheese. I sometimes include starchy tubers in my diet even if they are higher in carbs because I crave them and part of listening to our bodies is to respect that. For me, bottom line, I have to keep my blood sugar in line while respecting my nutritional needs. Not always easy to do. And I've learned that sometimes 2 meals a day is plenty.

  2. Sorry my reply is a bit late; I have vertigo, and this hasn't been too great of a winter for me.

    This idea really hit home with me back when I was monitoring my blood sugar levels on a daily basis. I had attempted a zero-carb diet back then, because I needed to do some type of elimination program due to gluten intolerance that wasn't getting better on a gluten-free diet.

    The result wasn't good. My blood sugar zoomed up to diabetic levels. It was like gluconeogenesis went completely out of control. Even after I got my body to stop over-reacting, (I had to literally go off of a low-carb diet to do that), low-carb recommended benign fair like home-grown fried zucchini sent my blood-sugar readings over the line that BloodSugar101 recommends per meal.

    What I eventually got through my head was that as far as my own body is concerned, a carb is a carb. All of the "this is low-carb" food and "that isn't low-carb" food proved not to be true for me.

    My blood sugar can handle about 20 carbohydrates per meal. It doesn't matter if those carbs come from veggies or starchy tubers. The result is the same.

    Although my thoughts sometimes "sound" low-carb unfriendly, I do appreciate the work that Dr. Atkins and others have done, or are still doing. I could never return to a typical American diet and maintain what I've accomplished so far.

    Thanks for your comments.


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