What to Do When You Fall Off the Low-Carb Wagon

Little Red Wagon
Many dieters compare eating on plan with a wagon.
You're either in or out of the wagon.
So what do you do when you fall over the side?

Going on a low-carb diet is a major event in your life. It is not a whim, and it is not a gimmick. It's a drastic lifestyle change that requires a whole new revolutionary way of looking at food, diet, and health.

Most diets are weight-loss games that take a standard American diet and tweak it just enough to trick you into eating fewer calories and fat.

Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't, because standard dieting doesn't address the problems that accompany metabolic defects. This is the main reason why a low-carb diet works. It places your metabolic faults front and center.

There are several benefits of eating low carb:

  • corrects elevated insulin
  • stabilizes blood sugar levels
  • primes the body to burn fat for energy
  • drastically reduces your hunger

These 4 benefits make low carbing much easier to stick to than a traditional low-fat, low-calorie diet. However, expecting yourself to never fall prey to a chocolate chip cookie isn't realistic.

While some people do have the strength to never go off plan, many others find dieting a struggle. If that describes you, don't despair. There's a better way of getting back into the wagon than beating yourself up after you cheat.

Deprivation is no picnic, and while it's exciting to initially be able to chow down on a thick juicy steak, use real butter on your veggies, and spike your morning coffee with heavy cream and sugar-free flavored syrup, at some point, most dieters find themselves unconsciously reaching for potato chips rather than cheese.

Habits are extremely difficult to break.

And no matter how committed you are to your low-carb lifestyle, you could honestly find yourself waking up the morning after a carb binge, and wondering -- what happened?

Pinterest Image: Monkey Falling Out of a Red Wagon

Forgive Yourself

When you fall off the wagon, forgiving yourself is essential. It doesn't do you any good to sit around trying to find something to blame. It's better to just realize that you did what you thought was right and justified at the time.

While the rationalization you used the night before might not make sense now, listening to the internal dialog that's blaming you or the carbs only hurts your chances for ultimate success.

You are not a victim and you are not helpless.

You are just human, so both guilt and blame are equally destructive activities.

Indulging in that kind of thing only keeps you a slave to the dieting mindset. It paralyzes you, especially if you believe the lies that your inner critic is telling you.

Guilt weighs quite a bit, and being angry with yourself and beating yourself up for eating something you wanted to eat at the time isn't going to help you accomplish your goals.

Resistance to what you want to do is normal. It's not something specific to you. While you might be weak where avoiding carbs is concerned, it happens to many low-carb dieters.

You are not alone.

Get Inside Your Head

Atkins Breakfast: Fried Eggs with Salsa, Lean Bacon, Lettuce Salad
Eating low-carb involves more work than just
avoiding the carbs. It takes mindfulness.

Successful dieting involves more than following a print out of established rules and regulations. It's more than being told what to eat and which foods to avoid.

While the science behind why low-carb diets work is important to make an informed choice about which diet is best for you, once the choice has been made, it becomes a mental game to stay on plan.

Most of us have been feeding the subconscious mind for years. It's set in its ways and doesn't want to change.

It loves being in charge.

It loves seeking after comfort and avoiding all forms of disturbance and pain.

Low-carb diets disrupt the way the subconscious mind has been programmed, so it's common to experience resistance.

A lot of resistance.

The trick is to observe what's going on without resorting to self-judgment and criticism. You can't make essential changes in your current lifestyle or thought patterns if you're blind to what's happening. That's why a binge or going off plan is not a bad thing.

It's actually something to celebrate, because you now have an opportunity to take a closer look at how your mind currently functions. Only by seeing your food triggers, false beliefs, and attitudes can you take the appropriate steps necessary to lead you into permanent change.

Change Takes Hard Work

Forgiveness doesn't mean that you should make excuses for your behavior. If you have serious issues with carbohydrates, such as:
  • metabolic syndrome
  • PCOS
  • pre-diabetes
  • or high cholesterol levels
Then it's essential to stick to your low-carb diet. You owe it to yourself to lessen the stress on your body and give it the proper nutrition it needs to function appropriately.

But neither is forgiveness an excuse to go off your diet every single time there's a chocolate cupcake in your environment calling your name. It's impossible to take advantage of the benefits of a low-carb lifestyle if you're not really living that lifestyle.

Cheating can cause your cravings to skyrocket, your hunger to spiral out of control, and it can even make you feel ill if you have hidden food sensitivities you don't know about.

For example, many people who turn to a low-carb diet are sensitive or allergic to wheat, so when they cheat on the diet with bread or grain-based desserts, they feel:
  • bloated
  • crampy
  • sick to their stomach
  • and quickly pack on the pounds
The power of forgiveness lies in the understanding that a low-carb diet plan isn't just a diet; it's a lifestyle change. And true change takes time and whole lot of work.

Change requires you to get on top of your emotional eating style, to observe and consider your eating patterns and tendencies, to look at your activity level, and above all -- to teach yourself and habituate yourself to a whole new way of living.

Change requires you to look at who and what you are today, right now, and not who you think you might become tomorrow.
This takes a lot of self-observation, self-considering, and perhaps a little self-talk along the way.

It's takes confidence in your self that you can do this, but even more than that, it takes the strength and courage to get to know yourself. Your real self. Not the image you've created in your mind to hide behind, but the bare-naked self that is sabotaging your dieting efforts and goals.

However, the key to making a low-carb diet work isn't demanding perfection. The key to making a low-carb diet work is experiencing the power of forgiveness.

Weight-Loss Success Requires Inner Transformation

Think of change as transforming your inner couch potato and the carb monster who's currently sitting in the driver's seat into someone who's fit and trim.

While they have both served you well up until now, and deserve your thankfulness and full forgiveness, the truth is that if you want to be thin and healthy, you can't do what you've always done.

You have to stand up do something different.


  1. So true Vickie. Weight loss really begins in the heart and head. And forgiveness is needed each and every time a mistake is made. It is about loving rather than punishing.

    So often, I'll get frustrated when I fall off the wagon, eat more of everything that I know doesn't work long term. I get amnesia and then feel self pity. Days have passed.
    However, I'll focus more on forgiving myself rather than getting frustrated. That sounds so much better. Thanks for this post.

  2. Hi Sandy,
    You're welcome. Our thoughts can really do a lot of harm if we listen to them. I've watched a lot of people give up when they slip and eat off plan or eat too much. That's giving in to the dieting mindset. But putting needless stress on ourselves hurts just as much. Forgiveness, getting up, and getting back on the job of being aware is the only way. Our awareness is like a muscle. It will get stronger the more we use it.

  3. Ty for all ur info very informative. Please forgive me if u have answered this question but i am at a loss. I hv started the LC life 6 days ago and only lost 3lbs. I am not hungry at all and no cravings. My question is; if i am only eating 1 meal and 1 snack a day is that gonna hinder me? I def eat less than 20 net carbs a day but i kinda feel stuck. I am adding fat in my diet as pork rinds and bacon and cheese on my salads and only drinking water. A ton i shd add! Any help wld b greatly appreciated. Ty

  4. Anonymous,

    One meal a day and one snack is not a lot of food and could backfire on you, yes. Losing 3 pounds in 6 days is a little less than average, but not unheard of. I only lost 2 pounds the entire first month in 2007. The number of times you've been on a diet - any diet - matters. And if you're been on a low-carb diet before, each time you return, weight loss will be slower. Losing weight takes time.

  5. I've really been enjoying your blog, and I have to say this is the best article I've ever read about transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. Self-awareness, observation, and compassion toward self are the key to bringing peace into one's life. Thank you so much for such a thoughtful, insightful post!

  6. Shannon,
    Thank you so much for your input. I really appreciate your comments.

  7. Thanks so much. Experienced my first slip since going LCHF 2 months ago and I really appreciate the wisdom. I do not want to slip back into my old mind set just because I am not perfect. I know this is what can sabotage me, more than the actual mistake itself. Thanks.

    1. You're welcome. When I lost the weight the first time, I was pretty extreme about it. This time, I'm more relaxed and just call it a maintenance day if I eat a little more than I should.


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