Building a Strong Foundation for a Low-Carb Lifestyle

How to Ditche the Diet and Build a Strong Nutritional Foundation
A Low-Carb Lifestyle Begins with Building a Strong Foundation

There is a thread over at Low-Carb Friends specifically devoted to those who have decided to return to a low-carb diet this year.

It isn’t really about anything. It’s just a place to announce your intention of trying again.

In a way, it is a spot where you can declare your New Year’s Resolution to return home to where you know you belong. It's a safe place where you know you can shed the weight you’ve regained over the past few months or years without enduring judgment or ridicule.

The problem:

Achieving success with a low-carb or moderate-carb diet often takes more than just choosing to return to carbohydrate restriction. Only a strong nutritional foundation can convert a low-carb diet into a lifestyle.

Yet, most of these individuals have returned wearing their dieting mindset on their sleeve.

They believe that this time things will be different.

This time they will do better.

This time they won’t stray.
If that’s your attitude as well, you might want to reconsider what you’re doing, and why.

Weight Loss Success as Taught by the Low-Carb Community

Within the low-carb community, you’ll find a large variety of ideas about what does or does not make a successful weight-loss program. You'll be told to:
  • get rid of your fear of saturated fats
  • lower your carbohydrates
  • up your fat percentage of calories
  • don’t eat too much protein
  • pick a specific low-carb diet plan
  • follow your chosen plan exactly
  • suck it up and just endure the Atkins flu
  • ignore your cravings for carbohydrates
  • drink gallons of water per day
  • and just believe
It’s not very reassuring. You are expected to reach your weight-loss goal by using:
  • willpower
  • determination
  • a self-improvement mindset
And above all:

Low-carb magick.

Nutrition, if it’s even discussed at all, is only briefly addressed in terms of insulin resistance, the state of ketosis, or the familiar low-carb mantra that says to:

"Do this for your health, not the weight loss.

The reality is that the nutritional aspects of diet are placed on the back burner, while fat loss and dieting itself consumes the major focus of your efforts.

You should do:
  • Atkins
  • Protein Power
  • Nutritional Ketosis
Or whatever other low- or moderate-carb fad diet is popular today, and nutrition will simply take care of itself.

But is that true?

Building a Strong Nutritional Foundation is the Only Way

Can you truthfully give your body everything it needs to heal by simply focusing on carbohydrate restriction, upping your dietary fats (by percentage), and/or counting your calories?

Probably not.

Not if the amount of people returning to a low-carb lifestyle every January is any indication of what works, and what doesn’t.

Obviously, those who feel compelled to return to a low-carb diet didn’t turn it into a lifestyle last year. They simply milked their dieting mindset.

They ignored the suggestion or mantra to use solid nutritional principles for the foundation of their low-carb lifestyle, and attempted to do things in accordance with the conventional low-carb wisdom of the day.

That type of behavior almost always ends in failure because losing the weight isn’t the hard part. Most diets as written work, including low-calorie diets, if you follow them faithfully.

The hard part is maintaining those losses.

Maintenance is when the real work begins.

But Where Do You Start?

The dieting mindset tells you that you are either on or off a diet. It tells you that the restriction you're currently enduring is only temporary, that you can return some of your favorite carby foods to your diet once you’ve reached your weight-loss goals.

While that's true, in part, the phrase occasional treat is where a lot of dieters trip and fall. 

What does occasional mean?

To me, it means:
  • holidays
  • my birthday or my husband’s birthday
  • our wedding anniversary
  • or going out to dinner
To clarify going out, we don’t go out very often – maybe once or twice a year – because we are gluten-free and the only place I’ve been able to eat at safely (with my own personal degree of gluten sensitivity) has been P.F. Chang’s.

And the closest one is an hour-and-a-half away.

The first idea that you have to accept and embrace, to build a strong low-carb foundation, is that:

Occasional treats or occasionally eating higher carbs, higher dietary fats, and/or higher calories than your normal, everyday diet (on or off plan) doesn’t mean every other day, or even every weekend.

It means rarely.

So commit to doing that.

Root the idea out of your mind right from the very first day, that your priority, including during the holiday season, is going to be your health.

IF you do that:

Half of your weight-loss battles will have already been won.

You aren’t telling yourself never, so there’s no reason to feel deprived. You’re saving those treats and higher calorie items for very special occasions.

In fact, living that way will keep those occasions special and give you something to look forward to.

Step 2: Nutrient-Dense Foods are the Norm

Once you have embraced the idea of doing what's in your own best interest and saving treats for rare special occasions, the next step is to firmly plant your low-carb diet plan on top of a solid nutritional foundation.

Your body cannot heal from insulin resistance or repair any internal damage from decades of poor nutritional choices (or celiac disease, as in my own situation) unless you give it nutrient-dense foods.

Whether you're on or off the Atkins Diet, Protein Power, Nutritional Ketosis, or whatever diet you're doing, you still eat mostly whole foods and you still eat an abundance of vegetables.

That’s essential.

Because the best way to achieve a successful low-carb lifestyle is to begin with a diet that’s closely related to what you will continue to eat throughout maintenance.

This doesn’t mean that the Atkins Carbohydrate Ladder doesn’t have its benefits, but once you find your carbohydrate, fat, and calorie tolerance, it's time to create a way of eating that you will use for the rest of your life.

Don’t wait until you reach the pre-maintenance phase.

Start today.

Because if you don’t, you might never reach the pre-maintenance phase, let alone maintenance.

The idea behind a low-carb or moderate-carb diet is to heal your insulin resistance, to bring your body into equilibrium. Once you do that, you cannot return to the mindless way that you ate before or you’ll simply get the same results that you got then.

Your insulin resistance will return and so will the pounds.

The only way to secure a successful future is to start building a strong foundation for your low-carb lifestyle from the very beginning of the diet phase.

How Do You Do That?

Seek out recipes you can live with for the rest of your life.

Learn how to incorporate an abundance of vegetables and whole foods into your meals.

Don’t depend on processed products or low-carb junk foods to sustain you.

This doesn’t mean a low-carb tortilla or low-carb flatbread sandwich is bad and can’t become part of your regular diet. But it does mean that you need to sincerely think about everything you are putting into your mouth.

Is it beneficial for you to eat high-gluten breads and cereals? It is healthy to add a few carefully chosen starchy vegetables like peas or winter squash? 

The low-carb community has some weird ideas about what is or isn’t acceptable within the parameters of a low-carb diet. The other day I heard someone make the comment on a low-carb blog that hummus wasn't a low-carb food.

Many tag sweet potatoes, oranges, carrots, and even peas as evil, yet see nothing wrong with putting gobs of butter in their coffee, eating coconut oil or grass-fed butter off a spoon, or eating an entire brick of cream cheese in the afternoon to get their daily fat intake up. Many also justify eating an entire bar of dark chocolate or sugar-free candy in the afternoon.

The truth is:

It isn’t enough to just control the carb count of your food. It isn’t enough to simply up your fats and lower your protein. None of those ideas guarantee that you are fulfilling your nutritional needs. None of those tricks and justifications guarantee that you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to heal and keep your hunger and cravings at bay.

The only thing that convert a low-carb diet into a healthy lifestyle is to incorporate an abundance of nutrient-dense foods.

That means eating:
  • fresh meats, poultry, and fish
  • whole eggs
  • dairy products (if you can tolerate them)
  • plenty of fresh vegetables and salads
  • low-glycemic fruits, such as berries
  • variety of nuts
  • and healthy fats
But using healthy fats doesn’t mean that you can gulp down a couple of swigs of heavy cream right out of the bottle or eat grass-fed butter or organic coconut oil right off the spoon. That isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t healthy. That is forcing the fat, which is not healthy behavior.

What is healthy:

Give your body a wide assortment of:
  • proteins
  • fats
  • carbohydrates
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • and live enzymes 
That is what you body NEEDS.

Only then, will you be able to actually achieve and maintain your weight-loss goals. 

When you begin your low-carb diet with a strong nutritional foundation and nurture that nutritional foundation throughout your weight loss phase, you set yourself up for a lasting, healthy weight loss.