How to Choose the Best Low-Carb Weight-Loss Program for You

Questioning which low-carb diet is right for you?
Confused about which low-carb diet is right for you?
Here I share my personal experiences
with several of the most popular low-carb diets.

If you're searching for the best low-carb diet to help you lose that weight, there are a lot of things to consider before taking the plunge.

For example, health issues, such as:
  • celiac disease 
  • metabolic syndrome 
  • food sensitivities 
  • or diabetes 
can greatly affect the results you get. Your food preferences, lifestyle, family support or struggles, and even your basic beliefs play a huge role in how well a low-carb diet plan will work for you.

If your concern is finding a crash diet, rather than choosing a plan that will teach you how to transform your body and life, then that goal will seriously narrow your dieting choices.

Few really good weight-loss plans are designed to help you lose weight fast.

That's the bitter truth.
Most diets that work well don't work fast unless you are brand new to dieting.

Although low-carb diets often allow you to drop several pounds during the first few days, NONE of those pounds will be body fat. Weight loss during the first 7 days comes from:
  • glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates)
  • water
  • worn-out protein structures
  • muscle tissue
Fat-burning diets require a special combination of foods to correct hormone irregularities and eliminate foods that interfere with the body's ability to mobilize fat stores. Healing takes optimal nutrition, and correcting malnutrition and insulin resistance takes time. 

Sometimes, a lot of time.

In addition, weight-loss diets that work are not temporary. They are purposely designed to be lifestyles.

Since you can't go back to your old style of eating, returning to what you used to eat before is not an option if you want to reach goal weight and stay there. Making permanent changes is the only way to shed the excess fat for good.

Over the years, I've experimented with several low-carb diets:
  • Atkins 2002
  • Atkins 72
  • Zero-Carb Diet
  • Keto Diet
  • Kimkins Diet
  • HCG Diet
  • Nutritional Ketosis (Jimmy Moore's version)
  • Protein Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF)
They all resulted in weight loss, but some of these plans worked better than others.

If you need help in choosing the best low-carb weight-loss program for you, here's what I learned from following some of the most popular low-carb programs available today.

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Atkins 2002

Atkins 2002 is generally the first diet I recommend.

It is the most popular version of the Atkins Diet today. While my involvement with the low-carb agenda began in 1975, the 2002 book is the one that was used exclusively within low-carb circles when I returned to a low-carb lifestyle in January of 2007.

Although, Atkins Nutritionals has now come out with Atkins 20, Atkins 40, and Atkins 100, the version published by Dr. Atkins in 2002 pretty much continues to be the Bible of low-carb diets within the low-carb community.

(is still available at Amazon)

In fact, in 2007, if you didn't follow the instructions as written in the above book, many low carbers insisted that you were not doing Atkins. You were doing something else instead.

The irony was that very few low carbers actually follow what Dr. Atkins wrote in that book. Most dieters listen to what Atkins Nutritionals tells them to do.

Atkins Nutritionals (sometimes called the ANA) is the company that purchased the rights to the Atkins name after Dr. Atkins died. Over the years, they have changed the Atkins Diet to fit their marketing and business goals.

I've talked about the 2002 version of the Atkins Diet a lot on this blog because its Atkins Induction still works well for most people. So well, that low-carb forums continue to recommend it to newbies coming into the low-carb fold today. I rarely see anyone send those new to ketogenic living to one of the newer diets.

Although hard-core Atkinites do struggle with some of the changes, wording, and principles set forth in the book, when compared to earlier versions, carbohydrates are limited to 2 cups of salad and 1 cup of vegetables per day.

You don't have to eat 12 to 15 net carbs of vegetables if your metabolism can't support that level of carbohydrates.

Plus, Dr. Atkins left your dietary fat intake up to you.

For that reason, it's easy to tailor this version of the diet to fit your own metabolic defects and food preferences.

While the rules are more lenient than they were in 1972, 1992, and 1999, the expanded program was a result of what Dr. Atkins had learned over the years from his weight-loss patients. A lot of them found the earlier versions too restrictive and cheated by adding more vegetables to their meals.

Since the extra vegetables didn't affect their ability to tap into their fat stores, Dr. Atkins modified the diet as the program went along to reflect the changes his patients were making.

Shish Kabobs on the Grill: chicken, zucchini, tomatoes, yellow peppers, and onions
Some people are able to handle a higher vegetable intake.
In 1992, Dr. Atkins added 2/3 cup vegetables to Induction.
In 2002, he raised those vegetables to 1 cup.

Problems only came into play for me when the diet the low-carb community called Atkins fell clearly outside the parameters of the book.

By 2007, the low-carb community had turned Dr. Atkins' adequate protein, low-carb, moderate-fat diet into something that was low protein, very low carb, and very high fat instead.

It took me a while to figure that out.

Oddly enough, no matter what problems low-carb dieters brought to the table back then, the answer tossed their way was always to eat more fat and raise your calories.

This was long before the Nutritional Ketosis program entered the scene and started changing the Atkins Diet even more. While it's true that most people do have to tweak their low-carb diet to fit their own metabolic issues, those tweaks are very personal and won't be the same for everyone.

The objective of the Atkins Diet is to find your personal carbohydrate tolerance and then use that tolerance level to create a personalized low-carb weight-loss program from the lists of acceptable low-carb foods available in the book.

These lists enable you to truly make the diet your own.

Atkins 72

My favorite Atkins Diet isn't the 2002 version, however. I prefer Atkins 72, the original Atkins Diet, due to its simplicity and because it starts you out at a low enough carbohydrate level that food sensitivities don't affect the diet's effectiveness.

(Available as a used book at Amazon)

The only carbohydrates allowed for the first week are 2 cups of loosely packed salad, which makes this version the best way to lose weight for those having trouble shedding pounds on regular Atkins.

In 1975, this version of the Atkins Diet allowed me to reach goal weight within only 6 weeks. When you return carbohydrates to the diet, as instructed, it truly is a luxurious way to eat. I was losing 5 pounds a week eating:
  • a wide variety of omelets
  • bacon cheeseburgers
  • crab-stuffed sole
  • shrimp scampi
  • spicy barbecued spareribs
  • chicken cordon bleu
  • full-fat small-curd cottage cheese
  • fried cabbage with onions and bacon
  • mixed nuts
  • whole strawberries
  • mock root beer floats
  • guacamole with pork rinds
There was even a recipe in the book for sugar-free cheesecake, but over-the-counter sugar substitutes were rather bitter back then, so I opted for artificially sweetened gelatin with whipped cream instead.

I tried to do Atkins 72 again after I returned to a low-carb lifestyle in 2007.

While the 2002 version of the diet was working, the pounds were coming off excruciatingly slow. I had 135 pounds to lose going in and knew I was going to hit the wall long before I managed to whittle myself down to a healthier 125 pounds.

Two pounds a month just wasn't going to do it for me, especially since the first 8 to 10 pounds you lose on a low-carb diet are glycogen and water -- not body fat.

Where the standard Atkins Diet didn't curtail my hunger as much as I'd hoped, the lack of carbohydrates in Atkins 72 Induction did the trick for me.

Eating only eggs, meat, cheese, and one salad a day, my cravings for sugary foods completely went away.

In addition, the weight loss improved to 1 pound per week, which was more reasonable considering the amount of weight I had to lose.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't suggest that you choose a program based on how quickly it lets you lose weight. Fast weight loss doesn't teach you how to eat appropriately, nor does it help you gain the skills you need to avoid temptation.

If you are severely insulin resistant, however, reversing that condition and bringing your basal insulin down to an appropriate level can take several weeks to occur. In the meantime, the elevated insulin will interfere with your body's ability to tap into its fat stores.

Sometimes, going with lower carbs is the better option.

Once, your insulin level has corrected itself and the weight is coming off at a nice pace, Atkins 72 lets you return carbs to the diet, 5 to 8 carbs at a time, just as Atkins 2002 does. However, on Atkins 72, you do not count net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber grams). You count total carbs instead.

Zero-Carb Diet

The Zero-Carb Diet is about as drastic as you can get.

But, during my low-carb journey, I didn't know what my particular health issues were. The only official diagnoses I had were:
  • pre-diabetes
  • asthma
  • idiopathic neuropathy
Pre-diabetes is insulin resistance, so when Atkins 72 stopped working for me, I dropped my carbohydrate level even further. I joined a 100-day very low-carb diet challenge because I thought that if a low-carb diet wasn't working, I was simply eating too many carbs.

I had learned this when doing Kimkins, which I'll talk about in a minute.

What I didn't understand at this time was that as your carbs go down, the internal stress can cause your cortisol levels to skyrocket, especially if you're gluten intolerant or have thyroid issues. Cortisol is a stress hormone that results in the liver converting some of its glycogen stores into glucose to fuel the emergency.

Chronic elevated cortisol is due to the way the body interprets carbohydrate and calorie restriction as a famine situation. Plus, gluten intolerance and thyroid issues can set you up for malnutrition, which the body sees as another emergency.

This doesn't happen to everyone, but it did happen to me.

Zero carbs requires the liver to produce glycogen from some of the protein you eat, to help fuel the brain.

The brain can't use fatty acids for fuel. And since the brain can only fulfill up to 80 percent of its calorie needs from ketones, the other 20 percent has to come from glucose, which is stored as glycogen in the liver.

If your insulin response to a higher protein diet isn't normal, or if the amount of insulin you produce can't handle the extra glucose load, your blood glucose levels can go too high.

They will also soar if you have fatty liver disease or any condition that puts you into starvation mode, such as celiac disease or Graves' disease.

I went diabetic on zero carbs.

Some of the problem comes from the liver not being able to see the level of glucose in the blood.

The liver uses your insulin level to determine what your blood sugar is doing. If you're insulin resistant, the liver won't be able to see the insulin in the bloodstream and will think that your blood glucose is too low.

Glycogen will then be converted into glucose and the glucose dumped into the bloodstream to feed the brain and other body tissues. If the liver is already converting glycogen into glucose due to elevated cortisol, your blood sugar can go quite high.

However, this doesn't mean that a zero-carb diet is never a good choice. A lot depends on how your body reacts to the stress of carbohydrate restriction and what your individual health defects might be.

Severe insulin resistance often demands a much lower level of carbohydrates than what's required for those who are more sensitive to insulin because the purpose of low carb is to lower your chronically high basal insulin levels, which can interfere with fat loss.

The lower carb level can reverse insulin resistance more quickly since carbohydrates are no longer putting a high demand on the liver. But keep in mind that going lower and lower in carbohydrates is not always the answer. You can actually under eat carbs, which can trigger a starvation response.

Many people doing Atkins Induction believe that if they aren't losing weight fast enough, then they need to eat fewer carbs.

This idea is totally false.

Pile of Pork Chops
Zero carbs causes a starvation response in some people.
I have insulin resistance, celiac disease, and Graves' disease,
so I need to avoid zero-carb diets.
For me, celiac disease and Grave's disease (which raises cortisol levels and creates insulin resistance) resulted in malnutrition and a strong starvation response. Although, low-carb diets tend to be a good choice for those with gluten issues, due to the lack of grains, most of the low-carb products on the market are not gluten free.

Going to a zero-carb diet when the celiac disease was not being treated only magnified the problem of starvation, rather than correcting it.

Untreated food intolerance keeps the intestine inflamed, which prevents you from absorbing:
  • protein
  • fats
  • carbohydrates
  • vitamins
  • and minerals appropriately
Grave's disease pushes food too quickly through your system for it to be absorbed, so even though a zero-carb diet is essentially gluten free, the Grave's disease caused a starvation response, as well.

A zero-carb diet can be an appropriate choice under certain conditions, but monitoring your blood glucose levels for problems is essential.

The only reason why I realized that something was wrong was because I also have neuropathy that kicks in when my blood glucose level goes too high.

Keto Diet

Stricter than Atkins, the Keto Diet, which you can find lots of information on at, is based on Lyle McDonald's book, The Ketogenic Diet. While many people use the term Keto to describe any low-carb diet that puts you into a ketogenic state, Keto and Nutritional Ketosis are not the same diet.

(Available at Amazon)

The Keto Diet, which is also available at Lyle McDonald's website, Body Recomposition, differs significantly from the Atkins Diet in the following ways:

Protein is considered an essential element of this diet, with a generous target of .8 to 1.2 grams daily per pound of lean body mass. During the first three weeks, the recommendation is 150 grams of protein for everyone.

This level of protein intake is not optional.

It is specifically designed to prevent the muscle loss that is so common on other weight-loss programs, including Jimmy Moore's version of Nutritional Ketosis, so you always want to hit your protein target.

Carbohydrates are set as a maximum of 20-net carbs daily for beginners, to guard against accidentally popping yourself out of ketosis should you make a mistake. The 20-net carbs is a starting point, however, which you are free to change later on, depending on how you feel and your ability to stay in ketosis.

Since there is no Induction period on the Keto Diet, no carbohydrate ladder to climb, or carbs added weekly, the carbohydrate foods you eat can be adapted to your personal tastes and metabolic issues after you become keto-adapted.

Unlike the Atkins Diet and Jimmy Moore's version of Nutritional Ketosis, fat intake on The Ketogenic Diet is limited.

Bratwurst on the Grill
On Keto, you don't eat all the fat you want.
Fat is limited, to keep you eating at a caloric deficit.

Instead of eating all of the fat you want, you curtail your fat intake to fit your daily calorie deficit -- after you set your protein target and carbohydrate level.

That fat limit makes the Keto Diet plan a good choice for those who have problems with portion control on Atkins.

Instead of eating in a haphazard way, which can quickly cause your weight loss to stall, this ketogenic diet encourages you to keep track of what you're eating and readjust your food intake as your weight loss slows down.

The calorie deficit suggested by the Keto Diet Calculator is quite small compared to ordinary low-calorie diets. The suggested deficit is only 15 to 25 percent less than the amount of calories it takes for you to maintain your current weight. This small deficit keeps the body from drastically lowering your metabolism too quickly to compensate for a large drop in calories.

It also gives you plenty of room to lower your calories when you reach energy equilibrium.

A lowered metabolism is the number one reason for weight-loss plateaus on all diets, not just those low in carbohydrates.

The body shuts down systems not necessary for survival when your incoming calorie level drops. Keeping the deficit small requires only minor adaptations, and the body will be more likely to give up its fat reserves if it doesn't perceive an immediate danger for doing so.

Keeping track of your daily macros at or MyFitnessPal is highly recommended.

However, if you have a lot of weight to lose, you might be able to get away without tracking at first. This non-tracking behavior is referred to as Lazy Keto, and very similar to Atkins Induction. It's not the recommended way of doing it because you are more likely to go over in calories from eating too much fat if you don't keep track of what you eat.

At some point, not tracking your Keto macros will catch up to you, the same as it does for those on the various Atkins diets. You'll reach a point where your weight loss stalls.

How long it takes you to reach that point depends on how large your deficit is.

The larger the deficit, the quicker your body will take action to adapt to the calorie deprivation and the quicker your Leptin levels will fall, but this is true for any diet plan.

At some point in your Keto Diet journey, you'll have to recalculate your macros and begin tracking them daily from that point on.

The only other options you have are the same two options you have when following the Atkins Diet: you can accept your weight at whatever number your body stops shedding the pounds and just be grateful for what you've accomplished so far OR you can find non-counting ways of eating less.

If I can make it back down to 160 pounds, the first option is the one I'm going to take this time. Currently, I've stalled at 200 pounds, though. I've been at 200 pounds for the past year, every since we moved to Texas over a year ago.

There isn't much of a maintenance diet on Keto because most people using this Keto Diet plan have found that it's easier to just up your fat calories once you reach goal weight than it is to mess with adding back carby foods that might derail all of the progress you've made.

While adding a little brown rice to your stuffed pepper recipe or having a baked potato when you go out for dinner isn't frowned on, most people who reach goal weight have found that the best method for maintenance is to simply create your personalized diet while you're losing the weight.

That way, maintenance won't be as difficult because it's simply the exact same diet.

Protein-Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF)

A protein-sparing modified fast was originally designed by Harvard Medical School and the Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland to treat morbid obesity in a hospital setting.

The principles provided an adequate amount of protein to reduce muscle loss, plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, and vitamin and mineral supplementation to keep electrolytes in check. Calories were low, since it was a fat-free diet with protein given intravenously or in shake form.

Vanilla Protein Shake
The first PSMF Diet was a shake diet
designed to treat morbid obesity

The purpose of the PSMF Diet was to get the weight off quickly while avoiding the consequence of losing muscle tissue that always results from water fasting and low-calorie diets. For that reason, this was a low-fat, low-carb, high-protein diet.

Later on, the PSMF Diet began to be used in a clinical outpatient setting.

In addition to the rapid weight loss experienced on the diet, patients reported a lack of hunger and high energy levels despite the lack of fat. The diet's simplicity removed the dieter's need to think about food since there were no meals to prepare.

However, some clinical programs did allow a low-carb dinner of meat and salad.

Protein supplements worked so well that they began to be produced commercially, but originally, they were only available to doctors. Dr. Michael R. Eades, co-author of the Protein Power Lifeplan, studied the materials the manufacturer sent him, as well as the scientific literature on the PSMF and low-carb diets, concluding that:

The protein available was collagen, and therefore not adequate as a complete supplement. In fact, even with medical supervision, a couple of people died trying to use weight-loss shakes exclusively.

But, in theory, this was a solid weight-loss program. You just needed a higher quality protein.

Since Eades was overweight himself, he created his own weight-loss shake recipe using non-fat powdered milk, protein powder, granulated fructose, and a potassium salt substitute. He also chose to have a standard low-carb dinner along with his weight-loss shakes.

At the time, he didn't realize that he was using a low-carb dinner. He just limited himself to:
  • 6 ounces of meat
  • 1 cup of salad
  • 1 cup vegetables
Meat was baked, broiled, or grilled with all visible fat removed, and chicken had to be skinless.

This low-fat, moderate-carb diet is how Dr. Eades lost all of his weight. 

He did not follow the low-protein, low-carb, high-fat program that many within the low-carb community use today, which is probably why the Protein Power Life Plan doesn't require you to eat gobs of fat.

Eaders did experiment with transitioning from the protein-sparing modified fast to a more typical low-carb diet, once he had reached a healthy weight and realized that his dinner was low in carbs.

As time went on, physician-supervised PSMF programs were replaced by protein shakes of a high enough quality that they could be sold to the general public. However, without adequate guidance as to how to move into maintenance after dropping the weight, many dieters were unable to maintain their losses.

After reading Dr. Eades' first diet book, Thin So Fast, I tried using two high-protein shakes a day, plus a low-carb dinner of:

  • 6 ounces of meat, chicken, or fish
  • 2 cups of salad with full-fat dressing
  • 1 cup of vegetables

But I didn't make it longer than a week before I started craving real food.

I did better on a high-protein shake for breakfast OR lunch and eating two low-carb meals instead of just one.

But, by this time, my weight had reached a plateau.

Having left the Kimkins Diet behind, due to the peer pressure I had experienced from the low-carb community, my weight-loss days were essentially over.

Still not knowing that I had Grave's disease, I thought my metabolism was too slow to support a high-fat diet, so I turned to Lyle McDonald's Rapid Fat Loss program instead.

The Rapid Fat Loss Diet (available at Amazon; or at Lyle McDonald's website, Body Recomposition, is a protein-sparing modified fast, but instead of using protein shakes, it uses whole foods instead.

This PSMF Diet program has you eat .8 to 1.5 grams of very lean protein per pound of lean body mass, depending on your activity level. Fish oil capsules are not negotiable, but you are free to eat as much or as little fibrous vegetables as you want to.

Keep in mind that if you're a smaller woman, eating too many vegetables can prevent weight loss since you're more likely to go over on calories due to the adequate protein intake.

In general, calories and carbohydrates are low by default on this diet, but you only eat this way for 6 to 12 weeks at a time, depending on how much you weigh. The heavier you are, the less resistance the body will put up as the pounds initially fall off, but as your fat stores become diminished, you'll need to take a diet break more often.

A 2-week maintenance break at the end of each diet cycle is mandatory. There are no exceptions.

Those at lower body fat percentages must have a low-fat high-carb refeed for a 5-hour period once a week during the weight-loss phase. The amount of carbohydrates you eat are specifically regulated to bump up your Leptin levels. You are also allowed one special treat per week as well.

Except for the free meal and weekly refeed, this diet was very similar to Kimkins.

In all honesty, the diet worked very well for me, but since I had been dieting at low calorie levels for over a year-and-a-half, the body fought back hard by sending hunger threw the roof.

I also did not know that I had Grave's disease and celiac disease when I was playing around with this diet. For that reason, I decided to take a diet break before giving the diet a second try.

The second time I tried the diet, after eating at a maintenance level of calories for a month, or so, I had very good success. The Rapid Fat Loss Diet enabled me to reach 160 pounds.

Kimkins Diet (as presented at Low-Carb Friends)

Chicken breast baked with a little butter and spices
Chicken breast baked with butter and crushed hot chilies
makes a nice high-protein moderate-fat dish

The Kimkins Diet triggers a lot of anger and venom within the low-carb community, even today, but this blog post wouldn't be complete without explaining what I did to lose over a hundred pounds.

The truth is: this low-carb, lower-fat diet was how I lost most of my weight.

I have no knowledge regarding what the Kimkins Diet morphed into once Kimmer set up her website. Nor do I have knowledge of what several members of the low-carb community experienced when they decided to take their daily calories down to starvation levels.

I read the reports, where people claimed to have been told to eat only 300 calories a day, but Kimmer did not prevent them from eating more. They chose to follow her advice, and they -- and they alone -- are responsible for making that choice.

I can only speak about my own experience with the Kimkins Diet.

When I first ran into the Kimmer posts at Low-Carb Friends, I was intrigued by what Kimmer was claiming. Although her Low-Carb Friends avatar looked like someone I used to work with when I was younger, I was more concerned with what Kimmer was hypothesizing than I was with whether or not she actually looked like the photo.

After re-reading all of the Atkins books and finding a lot of what she said to be true, I decided to give the diet macros she posted at Low-Carb Friends a try.

Protein was set at a minimum of 72 grams per day. You were free to eat more if you were hungry, but you couldn't consume any less than that.

During the trial period, when Kimmer was testing her ideas, we were encouraged to eat mostly chicken breast, but chicken wings and other fatty meats were allowed for the first three days. After you were solidly in ketosis and your hunger plummeted, only lean meats were allowed from then on.

Dairy products were avoided, due to their high calorie content and addictive qualities.

Later on, some of us ignored this initial suggestion, especially after Kimmer revealed it was based on her own cheese addiction, and I included an occasional mozzarella cheese stick in my meal plan or an ounce of crushed pork rinds mixed with dry Parmesan cheese for breading the chicken.

It didn't affect my rate of weight loss.

Instead of 20 net carbs, the Kimkins Diet, as posted at Low-Carb Friends, advised you to return to the 20 total carbs that the original Atkins Diet recommended.

This lower carbohydrate intake helped curtail cravings better, lowered hunger, and emptied out your glycogen stores that might have been replenished from eating low-carb products or just too many carbs on traditional Atkins.

As for dietary fat, the main point of the controversy, the original Kimkins recommendation was to eat only the amount of fat you needed to make the diet work. It was up to you how you interpreted that principle.

Fats provide potential caloric energy, so how much fat you ate determined how large a caloric deficit you carried on any given day. 

That's equally true for the current Keto Diet.

Realistically, this is the only point that separates this older Kimkins protocol from the current Keto Diet today. Plus, the Keto Diet is a bit higher in protein.

For me, the Kimkins sweet spot was:
  • 72 grams of protein
  • 20 total carbs
  • 60 grams of fat
Any more fat than that and the weight would stop coming off, no matter where my calories fell. Likewise, if I tried to go lower than 60 grams of fat, weight loss also stopped.

Many low carbers who got involved with the Kimkins diet aimed for only 30 grams of fat per day, thinking in absolute terms and Kimmer's recommendations, rather than making the effort to find their own special sweet spot.

However, by dialing in the best fat level for me, I was able to keep my excess fat stores coming off at a fast clip.

This was not a lot of calories, I admit. I was only eating between 900 and 950 calories a day, but I am only 5-feet tall, post-menopause, and was never hungry due to the amount of protein and bulky vegetables I was eating.

Since salad had to be eaten with a spray-type zero-fat dressing, rather than the luxurious, high-fat dressings allowed on Atkins, I normally ate steamed vegetables with a pat of real butter instead.

The HCG Diet

I don't know if I would have eventually hit the wall with the Kimkins Diet like I did on Atkins or if using the perfect macros for me would have taken me all the way to goal weight.

I never got the chance to find out.

When the low-carb community pressured me into eating at a higher fat level, my body moved into fat-storage mode and still had not snapped out of it when I first wrote this post.

(Today, it's May 2018. I dropped 40 pounds in 2016 just by eating smaller portions. I have maintained that weight loss since moving to Texas and am actively trying to reduce my portions even further, to see if I can coax the body into giving up more of its fat stores.)

The theory that you have to gain weight to heal your metabolism simply isn't true.

My starvation response was quite sensitive to carb restriction. In fact, it took me several months to reach the point where the body would allow me to eat a low-carb breakfast without sending intense cravings for sugar within an hour or two.

When I first wrote this post, I was working on eating a low-carb lunch followed by that low-carb breakfast, but wasn't having a lot of success getting through the afternoon, unless I was totally focused on something that didn't give me the opportunity to think about food, so I could skip lunch completely.

(Today, I'm able to eat low-carb without problems -- except, I'm not losing any weight eating this way.)

I don't want you to get the wrong idea, so what you need to know is that the mental war I had with my body wasn't because I went on the Kimkins Diet.

I want to make that clear.

When I left the Kimkins Diet, the weight was still coming off at 2 to 3 pounds per week and I was having no symptoms of starvation. In fact, my doctor told me I was the healthiest patient she had.

The starvation response I went through was because I did an HCG Diet round near the end of my low-carb journey, trying to force my body to give up more of its fat stores than it was comfortable giving up.

I had seen the success that others had on that low-carb diet plan and wanted the same thing for me.

On the HCG Diet, which I do not recommend by the way, my weight loss was minor compared to other dieters. I did manage to shave off another 15 pounds after 8 weeks of intense dieting, eating at 500 calories per day, which brought my weight down to 145 pounds.

However, even though I followed the third phase instructions completely, avoided sugar and focused on eating only healthy fats, that new weight was not sustainable on a traditional low-carb diet.

Instead of the healed hypothalamus that the diet promised, the body completely rebelled.

It literally went into starvation mode.

Out of the blue, I started experiencing the signs and symptoms of starvation. My mind began coming up with all kinds of distorted:
  • thoughts
  • suggestions
  • and urges
to leave the low-carb lifestyle behind.

I started reacting to all sugar substitutes with digestive problems, including pure stevia. Cravings for sugar went through the roof. I couldn't stop thinking about food and what I was going to eat next.

My sense of taste went wacky, and low-carb foods began tasting bitter to me. I also quickly put back on the 15 pounds I'd worked so hard to starve off, plus a little more.

Jimmy Moore's Version of Nutritional Ketosis

At this point, I gave Jimmy Moore's version of Nutritional Ketosis a try. I honestly didn't know what else to do. I thought that maybe he was right. Maybe I was eating too much protein, but that wasn't true.

With a lower protein intake, the body simply fought back even harder.

Plus, it didn't help my mental state when people started insisting that I had to be doing the diet wrong if lower protein and super-high fat wasn't working for me like it was for them.

Today, I understand that most of the information available on the web about Nutritional Ketosis, LCHF diets, and how to do those carbohydrate-restriction plans correctly is not accurate.

Most people are eating 80 percent of their calories in fat, with 15 percent of their calories in protein, and up to 5 percent of their calories in carbohydrate, but that isn't what the Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living even recommends.

Those macros are for maintenance and designed to fit the needs of endurance athletes. But I didn't know that at the time.

(Available at Amazon)

What I knew was that I'd gained 30 pounds doing the type of Nutritional Ketosis that everyone else was doing (60 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrate, and as much fat as I could eat), and it completely backfired on me.

My weight just kept climbing and climbing, even on Atkins Induction.

Out of anger and confusion, I went rogue.

What About Today?

Today, I regret the decision to turn my back on Kimkins because I'm having an even more difficult time getting the weight back off than I had before. Since my body was fighting so hard to protect its fat stores, I moved to a "just eat less" approach in 2016 instead of low carb.

If you have decided to come back to a low-carb lifestyle, after going rogue yourself, you are not alone. If this is your first experience with a low-carb diet, you are not alone either. Low carbing isn't dead. It's very much alive.

In fact, Atkins Induction was the 6th most searched for weight-loss programs in 2015.

A low-carb diet is a very popular way to shed the pounds, but shedding the fat isn't the hard part. Keeping it off is much more difficult because the body doesn't like to see its fat cells empty.

I clearly understand that now.

Vickie Ewell Bio


  1. I Never realized how much impact a diet concept can have.
    It shows the necessity of continuous experimentation and knowledge of the changes in the body and health concerns.

    1. And this is just the physical side of dieting. Add mental distortions and emotional junk and it can get quite complex. Looking back over all of this, I've come to realization that it doesn't really matter which diet concept you choose as much as being willing to experiment and tweak what you're doing to fit your own physical, mental, and emotional state.

  2. I just want to say thank you! This was the most in-depth, "real" article I have read. Good luck with your journey and I appreciate you sharing with us your experiences.

  3. You're welcome. I greatly appreciate the feedback. I've definitely learned that keeping the weight off is much harder than losing it.

  4. This is a great article, but I'm wondering where the exercise fits in? You talk of plateaus and stuff, but isn't exercise supposed to help with those? Even Dr Atkins said to include exercise.

    1. I have vertigo and balance problems, so I don't have a lot of experience as to how exercise helps with weight loss. What I've seen is people stall out when over-exercising. You're right about Dr. Atkins, though. He said that exercise was not negotiable.


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