Weight Loss and Low Carbohydrate Nutrition
The health benefits of reducing your carbohydrate load and cutting sugar and refined and processed carbohydrates from your diet are numerous and I have discussed them a few times. No matter how great people feel, how much energy they have, how much better and more restful their sleep is, how much happier and calmer they become and even how certain inflammatory conditions may have receded and sometimes even disappeared, the most common complaint or issue I hear is 'why aren't I losing weight on my low carbohydrate plan??'
As much as I try to avoid focusing on weight and fat loss as primary goals of whole food based low carbohydrate (relative to standard Western diets) nutrition, I will address a few factors that may be subtly preventing you from seeing the same benefits on the scale as you may be feeling in other aspects of your life.
Too Many Carbohydrates
Are carbohydrates starting to sneak back into your diet? Be honest and start tracking things for a few days. A little treat here and there adds up. You may be more carbohydrate sensitive or insulin resistant than others and it is important to discover how many carbohydrates you personally can tolerate. I know that to be feeling great and in control of my appetite my carbohydrates generally need to be between 50 g and 100 g a day. If I go lower than that and I feel exhausted and any higher does not seem to sit well with me either. I generally can go without too much tracking because I have done it for so long.
Too Much Fruit
You might be using berries in your breakfast and desserts, but that should be it. The sugar and fructose in fruit can be way too much. I feel fruit is great when enjoyed as a treat, focusing on the lower carbohydrate nutrient dense berries. Fruit works best as an occasional sweet treat. It is packed with fiber, antioxidants and nutrients but if you find yourself struggling with fat loss, fruit is not your friend.
For so many, their biggest downfall is milk. Milk can be great, full of protein and calcium, and about 5% carbohydrate. Your daily latte can range from 9g to 15g of carbohydrates depending on the size you choose. Most dairy such as milk, cream and yogurt contains approximately 5% carbohydrate. You are probably more likely to eat a bowl of yogurt or drink a large latte than eat 5-6 oz. of full fat cheese which has a negligible amount of carbohydrate. Tracking how much cheese, cream, milk, yogurt and other dairy products you are having can be eye opening. It is important to remember that dairy products also contain a lot of protein, which can (via gluconeogenesis) turn into glucose in the body and dairy is know to be pro-inflammatory and may be blocking your progress through this mechanism too.
Are you snacking on too many nuts, too often? Nuts are a great source of nutrients including fiber, omega 3 and selenium but not all nuts are created equal. Cashews are the highest in carbohydrates coming in at about 20%. make sure your nut mix does not contain any dried fruit. Measure out a small dish of nuts and make them last for the day. Buy nuts in their shells so it takes longer to eat them.
Not Enough Fat
Eating fat supports losing fat. Eating fat helps fat also helps with appetite control and allows you to feel full and satisfied for longer, reducing the physiological need to consistently snack. Enjoy ample fats at every meal and use good, whole food based, delicious sources like coconut oil, olive oil, avocados and olives liberally. Don’t fear the fat.
Personally I do not believe diet drinks have a place in weight loss. You may use certain naturally occurring low carbohydrate sweeteners or sugar alcohols in baking and desserts, but desserts and sweet treats should never be a huge part of your diet. The whole point is to get off the sugar and the sweet treats. Sweeteners can affect appetite and make you think that if a recipe contains them instead of regular sugar, then it might be okay to eat more. If your weight loss has stopped, stop the sweeteners and the sweet treats and reassess.
Eating Too Often or Eating Too Little
Conventional wisdom would have you believe you should snack little and often throughout the day. You need to learn what real hunger feels like and actually get used to the fact that being hungry is a normal, appropriate physiological experience. The focus on calorie reduction in conventional diets leads to the other extreme of eating too little. This set up a cascade resulting in your feeling insatiable hunger which often leads to you eating something you know is not optimal and overindulging. Eat when you really think you need a meal, and make it nutritious. If all you want is a sweet treat, but not real food (ask yourself if you could eat some broccoli or chicken), then chances are you are experiencing a craving rather than true hunger. Cravings are often a sign of insulin resistance, learn to resist them, reset your metabolism, you will learn to both want and need real, whole foods.
This is by far, in my experience, hardest lesson to learn. sticking to the plan and feeling your fat loss is not progressing is frustrating, especially when the eat less/move more template worked really well initially. Remind yourself that in that instance, weight loss was never sustainable. Fat loss may be rapid at times and slow and steady at others. This will begin to regulate your body finds its way back to health followed by its own natural weight. Keep reminding yourself that your way of eating now is so more nutritious than when you ate many low-fat refined and processed foods. The weight WILL go, you WILL gain control of your appetite, and you WILL succeed. There are so many benefits (in addition to weight loss) that eating a lower carbohydrate load brings.
Lack of sleep and increased stress are critical factors to weight loss and wellbeing.
We are all well aware of the benefits of caffeine but in certain situations it can stall fat loss efforts. Caffeine is a stimulant which increases you adrenaline (your fight or flight hormone). It stimulates the liver to release glucose from its glycogen stores. What follows is a new high level of glucose which can cause insulin to be released again, fat gets stored and fat burning turns off. If weight loss has stopped, you are struggling to have a restful sleep or you feel too stressed, stop the caffeine.
Stop those low carb bars, sugar free chocolate snacks and low carb breads. Firstly, they are not real food, they are not wholesome and provide no real nutrition. The biggest element regarding my approach is to eat real, whole, well sourced food and that is not manufactured, processed or overly refined.
Too many of these bars calculate their carbohydrate content in a dubious way and some of the sugar alcohols will still raise your blood sugars. Read your ingredients carefully and learn to be skeptical about what the front of a package may advertise.
Treats are just that, treats, occasional planned indulgences, entertainment rather than nutrition.
These are great places to begin when lack of fat loss on your low carbohydrate eating plan seems to be slower than you would like or expect. Do you have any others you may have found were sabotaging your efforts?