Do You Really Want to Quit Your Low-Carb Diet?

Mom and Daughter Doing Pushups on the Ground
Consider what you're giving up before you go back
to eating carbs.

If you're new to low carb, but you are thinking about quitting, stop and consider what you're giving up.

Don't make that decision hastily.

Make sure you clearly understand how your false expectations might be setting you up to fail. Keto isn't a crash diet. It's a complete nutritional approach to life.

Low-carb diets come with many benefits, but most of those advantages get tossed aside and forgotten once the scale refuses to fulfill your weekly expectations. This is especially true within the first month.

While you might have easily lost a decent amount of weight during the first two weeks of your new eating plan, encouraging you to keep going, moving into week three or four – where weight loss slows down to normal – can be rough.

The weeks that follow Atkins Induction test your determination to turn the low-carb nutritional approach into a lifestyle, rather than using it as just another crash diet.

During this time period, your true motivation for using a ketogenic strategy instead of other approaches to weight loss will come to the surface.

If things haven't gone as you anticipated, you might not make it to the end of the month without wanting to quit. But before you start stuffing your face with carbs again, I highly recommend that you read this post first.

Knowing how body fat is lost and pausing to evaluate what quitting will do for you is the only way to make a responsible choice.

What Causes Weight Loss?

Women Athletes Running
What will you GET if you quit
your low-carb diet?

Many people get into the habit of weighing themselves every single day, but that habit can set you up for a lot of unnecessary frustration.

Yes, you're able to be more mindful of what's going on when you climb onto the scale every morning, but the scale doesn't just measure the body fat you're carrying around.

It also measures:
  • water
  • blood
  • muscle
  • organs
  • cellular structure
  • undigested food
Weight loss can come from losing any of those items, as well as body fat, making scale weight highly unreliable for measuring a diet's success.

The amount of weight you lose or gain each week can be from many things other than body fat, so if you're basing your decision to quit Keto on what the scale says, you might be making a vital mistake.

Weight loss doesn't equal fat loss.

It never has. And yet, most people still base their health on the number on the scale.

What Causes Those Huge Initial Low-Carb Weight Losses?

The immediate problem a low-carb diet creates causes your metabolism to switch from predominantly burning carbohydrates for fuel to predominantly burning fatty acids and ketones instead.

This life-saving adaption often causes huge amounts of weight to be lost in the form of glycogen and water, especially during the initial stages of a low-carb diet.

While you might lose a small amount of body fat during the first two weeks, the water and glycogen loses will be much higher than fat.

In addition, if you don't eat enough protein to cover your immediate needs, you'll also burn a certain amount of muscle or protein tissue, which will show up as lost weight on the scale.

Huge weight losses are nothing to write home about because they often indicate muscle wasting, rather than fat loss.

Is Muscle What You Really Want to Lose?

Huge weight losses on the scale are motivating, but they generally consist of glycogen, water, and sometimes protein structures. These huge losses are no indication of how well your body is burning fat for fuel.

In fact, despite a drop on the scale, you might not be losing any body fat at all.

The lack of carbohydrate forces the body to use an alternate metabolic pathway. This path is an emergency back-up system designed to keep the body alive when glucose is scarce.

The body doesn't expect a lack of carbs to be a long-term problem.

For this reason, it often allows you to shed a tremendous amount of water and even some muscle tissue during the first couple of weeks.

Once the body understands that the famine of carbs won't be over soon, the body begins to implement short-term solutions to what it perceives to be a problem, such as stuffing water into your fat cells, so the fat cells don't atrophy.

This allows those fat-cell structures to remain healthy, functional, and available when carbs are coming in again. The body doesn't know that you are on a diet. It honestly believes you're starving.

Skeleton Using the Computer
Body doesn't know what a diet is.
Calorie restriction is considered a famine.

For that reason, the downside to this adaption process is that water retention won't reflect any weight loss on the scale, even though fat loss is actually taking place.

While the water retention is only temporary, many dieters get angry at their inability to control the scale and quit. Others want to see fast weight-loss results because they want to imitate the success they see in others.

If you need to be showered with rewards every time you eat on plan, going Keto will be a rough ride.

We are all individuals and getting the same results as someone else isn't always possible. Neither do you have any control over your mind's backup systems and adaptions to scarcity.

Have You Ever Been on a Diet Before?

If you've been on a weight-loss diet before, adaption often occurs quicker, depending on how long you were on that prior diet and how severe your calorie restriction was then.

The larger the calorie deficit and the faster you quit your last diet, the quicker you will adapt the next time you try to diet. When your body knows that you never last a month or two on any diet scheme, that is what it will expect you to do again.

In the meantime, the body simply does what it needs to do to stay alive, such as:
  • lowering your metabolic rate
  • shutting down non-essential body systems
  • or making you feel more tired and lethargic than normal
These adaptions slow down the rate at which your body uses its stored fat supply, so any initial metabolic advantage the eating plan offers is quickly neutralized if this isn't the very first time you've gone on a low-carb diet.

First timers can lose a large amount of weight before they become fully fat adapted. Comparing yourself to someone who has never been on a low-carb diet before, or even someone who needs to shed over 100 pounds, isn't realistic.

If you get mad and start overeating carbs again, it will only be harder the next time you try to diet.

A Low-Carb Diet is Not a Crash Diet

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see. 

A lot of people expect Keto to perform miracles it was never designed to do.

On the scale, water fluctuations look like a stall or weight regain, even though your body is still using a portion of its fat supply to furnish your daily caloric needs. This is because water is being used to replace the mobilized fat, masking any weight reduction on the scale.

A low-carb diet is not a crash diet.

The amount of fat that can be mobilized, used for energy, or stored on a daily basis is limited, regardless of the type of diet you're following. There is nothing magical about Keto that will allow the body to override biochemistry.

While those who are carrying around a tremendous amount of extra fat can lose more weight than those who are thinner, the body is still limited to how much fat it can actually mobilize and use each day.

You can't gain 10 pounds of fat in a single day, for example. That's impossible.

If you go to a party and eat something carby, it will refill your glycogen stores. Along with the glycogen, your body will store the amount of water it needs to process that glycogen. This normal body process can account for a several-pound weight gain after a single indulgence.

However, those pounds are not body fat, so when you go back to eating your ketogenic diet, the glycogen and water will get used fairly quickly, causing those pounds to disappear.

You also can't lose body fat quickly either. At least, not as fast as most people believe they should.

How Much Weight Can You Lose on a Low-Carb Diet?

While genetics plays a huge role in how quickly you can ditch the pounds, on an average, the body is able to mobilize and burn about 1 to 2 pounds of body fat per week. That's an average.

A smaller woman might only be able to use one-half a pound per week while a larger man might be able to mobilize 3 or 4 pounds if he is super heavy.

If you're losing more weight than 1 to 3 pounds per week, you're probably burning muscle tissue for energy rather than body fat.

Burning muscle for energy will cause the number on the scale to go down, making it look like you're achieving your weight-loss target, but at what cost?

Burning muscle reduces your overall metabolic rate.

The lower your metabolic rate, the less your caloric deficit will be, and the less your calorie deficit is, the slower your weight loss will be, so in the next section, I'll talk about what you believe quitting your low-carb diet is actually going to get you.

What Will Quitting Your Low-Carb Diet Do for You?

A low-carb diet is not a sprint.

Depending on how much weight you need to lose, it is going to take anywhere from several weeks to several years to hit your target weight.

In 1975, for example, when I was brand new to low carb and only needed to lose 40 pounds, Atkins 72 helped me ditch that excess body fat in as little as 6 weeks.

In 2007, after I taught myself how to walk again, I was much heavier from being bedridden for 2 years. I had gained 80 pounds on top of the amount I was trying to lose in 2004, and had several un-diagnosed health conditions, so it took me a long time to find the tweaks that would make the Atkins Diet work for me.

However, these time frames are not different than other weight-loss plans. You didn't put the weight on overnight, and you're not going to correct the problem overnight either.

Low carb is a nutritional approach that focuses on correcting metabolic and hormonal imbalances that can often interfere with weight loss, but that doesn't make them superior to other alternatives.

A lot depends on your metabolic condition.

What a low-carb diet does is lower your appetite, which makes calorie restriction comfortable and easier to stick to.

If you don't have a larger-than-average appetite, and don't crave sweets and starches, then quitting your low-carb diet and going back to how you used to eat might make sense.

But what will you gain by doing that?

Without being in the state of ketosis, many dieters find reduced-calorie diets uncomfortable and hard to stick with.

While the initial water fluctuations of a low-carb diet can certainly be frustrating, many believe the benefit of hunger reduction is worth the extra time it takes to become fat adapted. Whether that's true, or not, is up to you.

It all comes down to what you want:

If you want a diet plan that's easy to follow, curbs your cravings and hunger, and helps to balance your hormones, then a low-carb lifestyle might be what you're looking for.

If you'd rather go with a diet that promises you fast weight loss in exchange for a lower calorie intake, then maybe a higher carb plan would be best. Higher-carb diets are also appropriate for those who feel like crap when eating at severely reduced carbs. Everyone doesn't have the necessary genetics to burn fats for fuel easily.

If you just want to eat without caring about what you look like, you can always go back to mindless eating as well. While society tends to frown on such things, as a responsible adult, you're free to take charge of your own health and lifestyle.

The ultimate question is always the same:

What can you live with?


  1. If you dedicate yourself over the next 21-days and follow The 3 Week Diet as outlined, you will be walking around with 12 to 23 pounds of body fat gone from your waist, hips, thighs, belly and butt. Your clothes will be looser, you’ll look healthier and more attractive…and you’ll have more energy than you’ve ever had in a long, long time.

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