Friday, July 06, 2007

A reader asks "Where do I begin?"

I recently got an e-mail from a nice reader who is interested in trying the low-carb lifestyle, but wasn't sure where to begin. I thought it might be a common question so I've decided to share my answer here.

She writes:

my name is ____ and I have been thinking of trying the low carb lifestyle! I don’t really like meat ..chicken and fish only and I just don’t know where to begin. I have _____ pounds to lose but more important I have a daughter that could lose at least ____ pounds. if I start losing I think she will follow. and pointers would be great . things that you eat that help. any info would be greatly appreciated.

thank you ....

My response:

Hi ______,

My first advice would be to decide on a plan you want to follow. It's vital you pick a plan and follow it to the letter when you are first starting out. After you've been doing that plan for a bit you can adjust things here and there and see how it works for you. But it's generally not a good idea to tweak a plan until you've seen how the original plan works for you.

I only have experience with Atkins and Kimkins(which I no longer recommend), so that's all I can really help you with. If you'd like to see a summery of the most popular plans, please feel free to visit my website and look them over at .

Assuming you are going to do Atkins, you should buy the book Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution. It generally runs about $6 and can be found for even less at used book stores. (I also have a link you can use to buy it from on my plans page I mentioned above.) You also may want to opt for just borrowing one from a library. Read it from cover to cover. I can't stress this enough. The reason I'm so adamant about this is because it's vital that you understand how your chosen plan works. It makes it much easier to make the correct choices if you understand WHY you are making those choices. It will also help when naysayers try to discourage you and tempt you to stray from your plan. If you have sound scientific information rooted in your mind, then you can brush off the "you'll kill yourself on that diet" comments. You'll know better. You'll be informed while they are spouting myths they've heard from the media, who've never bothered to check out their claims either.

The first few days can be rough when starting the low-carb lifestyle. Your body is detoxing from all the simple carbs and junk it has been consuming for who knows how long. Some people refer to this as the induction flu. You may experience fatigue, headaches, achiness.. everyone is different. Or you could be like me and just have cravings for everything you know you can't have. :0) Think of it as if you were coming off of drugs. It's tough.. but once you have it out of your system, you are better off! Whatever you experience, and you may experience nothing, I urge you to give it a full week. By then you should have everything out of your system and should start feeling incredible.

You will have then reached a state of ketosis. Please don't confuse this with ketoacidosis, which is a dangerous condition sometimes seen in Type 1 diabetics. It's NOT the same. Ketosis is simply the state your body is in while burning fat for fuel. It's harmless and quickly suppresses the appetite. This is part of the beauty of a ketogenic diet - your appetite is naturally suppressed (better than any pill works!) and you burn fat as your preferred choice of fuel! You will hopefully also experience the coveted energy surge that so many have had once reaching ketosis. (I have and I love it!)

I would recommend getting in at least your daily 64 ounces of water. This does three things for you.:

1.It keeps your body hydrated, which helps keep your skins elasticity intact.
2.It helps flush toxins and fat. helps with the only low-carb complaint in the media that actually has some truth to it - bad breath.

Let me explain #3. Ketones seem to cause bad breath in some individuals. Not in everyone, and not all the time, but many have had to keep sugar free mints around just in case. Drinking plenty of water has always helped me with this. I noticed when I drank adequate amounts of water, my breath was always much more pleasant. Brushing often seems to help as well. It's a small price to pay and I've never heard of it being so severe that someone quit the diet altogether.

I also recommend a good multivitamin and calcium. These are things you should be taking no matter how you eat.

Exercise is not really an option. Sure, you can skip it - but I think you'll be happier if you do some sort of workout. Even if it's just going for a walk. When you first start losing it's difficult to get motivated to move. But as you lose you'll find that it gets easier to move about, and soon you actually FEEL like moving! Any kind of exercise is helpful and will speed along your weight loss efforts.

As for what I eat, it varies a lot. Let me just say that you can't go wrong with grilled or baked meat and some low-carb veggies. That is mostly what I eat right know and I'm losing quickly.

Don't let yourself get bored! There are tons of low-carb recipes online you can try and many great low-carb cookbooks as well. Some of my favorites are by Karen Rysavy and Dana Carpender. Experiment and have fun trying new things!

A word about low-carb products: They can be a great blessing in a low-carb lifestyle, but that can also be a curse. Don't add anything in that is not on your list until you see how your plan is working. Some people can eat all kind of extra stuff and lose, others are too sensitive to them and will not (Example: ME). Remember that these items were always meant for maintenance or to be used in moderation during the weight loss phases. Too much of a "good thing" will hinder your progress.

My final words to you would be this. Don't think of this as a diet - think of it as a permanent way of living. If you are only doing this until the weight is gone, there is a very real chance you will gain it all back.. and maybe more! That's the last thing you want after you've worked so hard, right? So make the decision that this is the way you will live from here on out, and don't let anyone deter you from that goal. I honestly believe you'll find you made the best decision for your health and happiness.

I wish you the best and will be glad to help anytime I can. I also hope you daughter follows your example!
Feel free to e-mail me anytime. :0)

Best wishes!

Do any of you have any tips for someone just starting out that I may have missed? If so, I'm sure this reader would love to hear them! Please share them in the comment section of this post. Thanks!


Cindy said...

Excellent response!

Big Daddy D said...

With regards to her daughter... my advise is to not try to force her to do the diet. Just do it on your own but make only your dinners. Allow her to continue as she normally would at school, etc. Once she realizes that your food is not bad and she starts to see how much weight you are losing then she is likely to decide on her own that she wants to join you. I recommend leading by example because I know that the first month or two of doing low-carb usually results in very rapid weight-loss at least if you have a lot to lose. This strategy worked well with my wife. She knew that she was overweight but didn't want to go on a diet. I went on without her. I do most of the cooking. By eating my low-carb dinners and doing everything else as she normally would, she lost 15 pounds during the 1st month. This was enough to wet her appetite and make her decide to dive in will me. In less than a year, I have lost about 85 pounds and her about 70.

Anonymous said...

I could not have said it better myself! That was great! You really pointed out exactly what the new low carber is about to experience and you described it so well!

Sparky's Girl said...

Good advice Big Daddy D! A person really needs to WANT to lose the weight, regardless of their need to. If they don't want to, they will sabatoge themselves everytime. Thanks for helping!

Thanks Cindy and Adam! I hope this reader will keep in touch and let us know how it's all going. I know we'd ALL love to be the support they need to see success!

The Fats said...

try to avoid low carb bars and drinks, and watch the cheese. keep it to less than 4 oz daily (I think)
Other than that, nice write up. Definitely read the book first. After the a few days in induction, you will find a burst of energy you that you may have never experienced before.

Mr. F

size8jeans said...

Load up on the veggies. :) Veggies are the cornerstone of low-carbing.

size8jeans said...

One more suggestion for her - soy is a good low-carb complete protein since she doesn't like much meat. And maybe brnach out and try other meats like buffalo and venison. If she likes fish, branch out and try other marine meats like squid. :)

Sparky's Girl said...

More good advice! Thanks for the help Mr. Fat and Victoria!