How to Stick to a Low Carb Diet


There are a lot of fad diets out there, and the low carb diet is no exception. It’s popularity comes and goes, and it’s definitely a hot topic these days.

But fad or not, that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. The key is in treating it like a “new way of eating” instead of just a “way to lose weight quickly.”

Meaning it’s not a fad to YOU, but a true and lasting change in your diet, in your daily choices and in your lifestyle.

Does this mean that you’ll never eat a piece of cake again at a birthday party, or forever give up your favorite holiday pie? Nah. But it does mean that you’ll choose to make dramatic long-term changes to your diet both for your health, and for losing unhealthy weight – and keeping that weight off.

I’ve had GREAT success with the low carb diet, but like many people I’ve had trouble from time to time sticking to it and maintaining my new way of eating. Or not “falling off the wagon” so to speak. So I thought I’d share five ways that I have personally found helpful along the way…

Five Keys to Maintaining Your Low Carb Diet

1. Understand How & Why The Low Carb Diet Works

It’s important to understand how the low carb diet works, because “cheating” can actually cause you to gain weight – not just *not* lose weight.

During the initial “induction phase” you want to be super strict, counting your net carbs closely. And since it is a High Fat diet (which is why it’s often called LCHF – for Low Carb High Fat), sneaking in bad carbs can really backfire on you.

2. Make Sure You’re Eating Enough GOOD Carbs

It’s a LOW carb diet, not a NO carb diet. I stick to 20 net carbs per day or less, and “spend” those carbs on good foods such as romaine lettuce, cheeses, broccoli, spinach and other favorite non-starchy vegetables.

If you’re struggling with cravings, or having a hard time sleeping, save the majority of your carbs for your evening meal. This tends to help.

3. Self Discipline: Make Conscious Food Choices

Prior to starting the low carb diet I was barely aware of what I was eating or when. I might grab a random snack, hungry or not, and didn’t pay a lot of attention to what it was or why I was eating it.

Becoming more aware of my eating habits was the first step to mastering the low carb diet. From that point forward I started making deliberate decisions about eating and my food choices.

4. Avoid the Carb Relapse!

It’s been about 16 months now since I started eating low carb. In that time I’ve had several relapses. Most of the time it was simply to indulge – a means of pleasure or enjoyment. Particularly when going through a rough phase or feeling a bit down (or just bored, even).

The key is to find other ways to indulge. Other things you ENJOY as much as you enjoy food, or more. I’ve started new activities, including fun workouts to burn off negative energy, but definitely seek out things that count as a pleasurable “indulgence” to you personally.

Staying busy helps, as most of us will easily snack or “cheat” out of pure boredom.

Vacations, traveling, nights out with friends, etc are not a good reason to “cheat” – which could result in a long-term total relapse. It’s not worth it, considering how disappointed you’ll be with the weight gain, and with yourself.

Besides, there are great low carb restaurant options everywhere you go! ;-)

5. Accept Low Carb as a Lifestyle Choice, Not a Diet

Just like working out and building muscle, or toning, when you stop… you lose everything you gained. Except with the low carb diet, when you stop, you gain back everything you lost.

While you can easily eat low carb for rapid weight loss in a pinch (I lose 8 pounds the first 10 days, for example), if you want to get healthy and keep the weight off then you need to make a long-term lifestyle change. Going back to the way you ate before will just get you back to the shape you were before.

Consider it a “way of eating” instead of a diet. If people comment on your weight loss, just say “yes, I started eating healthier.” In fact, try not to use the word diet at all but rather focus on making smart food choices and simply changing bad habits into good habits.

Using the word diet eludes to a short term method of losing weight. Eating low carb, or just “eating healthy”, is a long term choice with extremely positive results!

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6 Responses to How to Stick to a Low Carb Diet

  1. GREAT article Lynn!
    Want to “treat” yourself to something yummy? If you have Kroger grocery stores in your area I just discovered their CarbMaster Yogurt! Only 60 calories and 4 carbs in each container! Nice thing is that they have breakfast/lunch kind of fruity flavors and others that seem more like dessert! YUM! I eat mine REALLY slow! LOL!

  2. Laura says:

    Lynn,
    As soon as I saw the title of your article I had to read it. I started healthy eating (low carb) almost a year ago, using FatSecret.com to help calculate my carb intake and calories burned due to various activities. I got tons of good recipes and advice off your blog (new at the time) and it slowly but surely worked to the point I hit my target weight (a weight I hadn’t seen in 18 years) about 7 months after starting the new way of eating. Then I made the mistake of stopping using FatSecret and caring about my 20 carbs/day. My husband, never a supporter of my carbless diet, really pushed bread and pasta on me—and I said okay too many times. Suffice it to say, I’m not fitting into my pants any more so have realized I need to get back on the healthy eating and stick to it as my lifestyle. I’ll try training my husband, again, to lay off pushing the carbs, but he’s actually on record saying “it isn’t dinner without a starch,” something he picked up in the dark ages and firmly believes. (And yes, somehow, he stays slender—although I’m starting to see a little belly on him, too).

    Anyway, thanks for continuing to blog with humor and persistence. It’s very helpful and appreciated!

    • Kim says:

      Laura,
      In December my husband went to the doctor’s because he was developing symptoms of acid reflux and restless leg syndrome in addition to his long time allergies. The doctor did some tests, and diagnosed him with a severe gluten intolerance.

      My hubby has always been a huge bread eater. He would joke that if you took away his bread, he’d have nothing left to eat. However, he had to let the gluten go. From January to May he lost 14 pounds without trying. He had always been very slender, but had begun to put on weight around his middle. He feels much better now and has more energy. His symptoms completely disappeared and have not returned. He still eats some gluten free products, but very few compared to the carbs he used to eat.

      Now I just need to get him to come the rest of the way with me to eat no processed carbs…

  3. igor Griffiths says:

    Well Hello Lynn
    Great article and one that I certainly agree with, having not just fallen off the wagon but been run over by it as well, I now find myself back where I started 9 years ago!

    However looking at the food diary I kept at that time, I now appreciate that it took 2 months eating strictly a low carb menu to go from a 37″ to 32″ waist line, all without exercise due to injury.

    There are a couple of points I would add, firstly eating a low carb menu will save you money as you will no longer be snacking on the expensive high calorie low nutritious options.

    Secondly be prepared for clarity of thought, this was the strangest effect I experienced. Once your brain is not obsessed with managing insulin levels and thinking about your next meal, you have the mind space to think about other things.

    igor Griffiths

  4. Kim says:

    I switched to a lower carb diet about a month ago and feel so much better. I am going the Paleo route, so as a general rule I am not eating processed foods, including breads and pastas, and sugar and artificial sweeteners. Returning to whole healthy fats, adds a wonderful dimension to my cooking, as does all the nifty spices I am learning to use to change up recipes.
    As you say, it does have to be viewed as a lifestyle change, not a diet or a fad.

  5. Johanna says:

    Why do you count net carbs?
    Here in Sweden we count total carbs, because those “non digestable” carbs are just bogus, me and a few others tried low carb pasta and tested our blood sugar levels, an hour after it looked OK and perhaps dropping a bit, but then 1½ hours it started rising and rising and rising. Still 6 hours after eating that “low carb” pasta we still were not down to normal blood sugar levels as we were with “normal” pasta

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