You’ve done Weight Watchers more than once. You know the calorie count of pretty much everything you’ve ever eaten. Jenny Craig meals don’t fill you up and never have.
But nothing has worked. You still weigh the same, give or take those ten pounds. You still have those love handles, and your goal jeans are still as much of a goal as ever.
So, what do you do when it seems like you’ve tried everything?
Go low carb.
I know, I know.
“But I love bread! I can’t give up my pasta! How can you live without pancakes and waffles? I just can’t stay out of the kids’ pudding!”
Yes, you can. And I’m here to show you how.
First, Get Rid of Old, Outdated Ideas about Going Low Carb:
The first step to being successful on a low carb diet is to forget everything you know about low carb diets.
No, seriously. All those mental images you have of unappealing, dry salads and chicken baked so long that you can barely choke it down… forget about those.
I am going to show you how you can make low carb work, and keep those pounds off for good. Trust me – the things I’m going to teach you will work.
A diet doesn’t have to be insanely restrictive in order to work, and I’m going to show you exactly how to make it work for you. You can feed yourself and your family satisfying meals that are easy to make and help you shed pounds quickly.
First, let’s talk about the word diet.
Before you can change your body, you have to change your mind. Right?
The definition of the word diet is simply “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” Notice that it doesn’t say anything about restriction or calories or weight loss.
But what does it mention? Habit.
That’s the most important thing you’re going to learn here today: your diet is simply what you eat as a course of habit, and it is by developing good habits that you’re going to be successful with your weight loss.
Habit number 1: Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t have.
This is a big one, right out the gate, and it’s important. Start by putting yourself in the mindset of someone who focuses only on deprivation. Every time you’re at a buffet, at a restaurant, or even in the grocery store, all around you are things you can’t have. Sometimes there are even entire aisles of stuff you can’t eat! And that’s what you’re focused on: all those tasty things that you can no longer enjoy. To be blunt, you’re going to be miserable. The entire time you’re in that mindset, you’re going to be unhappy because you’re constantly thinking about what you can’t have.
Same goes for feeding your kids. You may choose not to feed your kids a low carb diet, which means you’re going to be faced every single day with things that you can’t have. How do you deal with feeling deprived all the time?
I’m not denying that when you do low carb, you should avoid certain things. But that’s true of any diet. The key here is to change the way you think, and instead, focus on what you can have. See the glass as being half full.
So instead of browsing the menu and noticing glumly that nearly every item is drenched in sugar-laden barbecue sauce, check out the huge selection of fresh grilled seafood, or the hand-pressed burger patties. Focus on the fact that you can have a Caesar salad as your side, and you don’t have to worry about the thick, creamy dressing having too many calories. Use the grocery store as an opportunity to try out some vegetables you’ve never had. Experiment!
And at the same time, use this as an opportunity to expose your family to better, healthier, lower carb foods. They don’t have to go low carb with you, but there’s no denying that snacking on carrot sticks is better for you than snacking on Lay’s potato chips. Try cooking radishes with your roast instead of potatoes. Let your kids pick out that funny-looking fruit at the store just to try it!
Habit number 2: Get used to saying no.
Look, I’m not here to lie to you. There simply isn’t a way to do low carb and still eat bread and pasta and cake and cookies. When you go low carb, sometimes you just have to say no.
Sure, you can buy low carb bread and bagels, and you can find great tortillas full of fiber. But when you’re at a restaurant, you can pretty much assume that those aren’t the brands you’ll be given. So sometimes, you just have to say no.
You’ll have to say no to buns on your burgers, but that’s not a big deal. Most places wrap your burgers in lettuce. In-n-Out calls it Protein Style, and I guarantee you’ll forget all about the bun. Mexican restaurants are usually willing to give you fajitas, tacos, or burritos in a salad, or just without the tortilla. Most of the time, you can make pretty simple exchanges.
But yeah, there are times when you’re going to have to say no. You’re at a birthday party at the Dairy Queen ice cream cake comes out. Your kid offers you a piece of his candy bar. Your Aunt Mabel insists that, “Just one slice won’t hurt, honey!” but you know better. Learn to say no. Say it often. People will soon realize that your diet is actually a lifestyle change, and you’ll develop a habit that makes turning down sweets and starches so much easier.
Habit number 3: Stop allowing yourself to cheat
There are like, a million and a half ways to convince yourself that cheating is okay when you’re doing low carb. I’m here to tell you that it’s not.
Some people claim that they’ve a way to “cheat” on low carb or keto. They have “carb-up” days or just plain old cheat days, and it helps them get past plateaus and stalls. Maybe it works for them, but here’s the thing. It might work for you, and it might not. But if you want to make this diet a lifestyle change, one of the habits you need to develop is to cut out making excuses that allow you to stay the same.
Think about it that way – when you’re cheating, you’re essentially staying the same. You’re just thinking up new ways to justify staying the same.
You’re researching low carb diets for a reason – you need this. You want this. Don’t give it all up just because it gets hard once or twice.
Trust me, I’ve come up with all the excuses in the world:
- It’s a holiday; I’ll get back on track tomorrow.
- I’m going on vacation; I’ll get back on track after I get home.
- (Insert name here) is having a birthday/wedding/party; I’ll get back on track right after!
- I’ve got to live a little, right?
- I can’t be too hard on myself or I’ll give up.
- I have to teach my kids moderation!
- Maybe if I cheat, it’ll kick my body back into shape and I’ll get through this plateau.
I’ve used them all myself, and do you know what I’ve learned?
I’ve learned that in the end, I’ve only ever regretted cheating. Besides, if you let yourself slip up and have one bit of cake now, or one small candy bar, is that going to make it easier or harder for you to turn down the next one? Our bodies crave sugar. We’re addicts. Slipping up and giving into temptation once or twice or ten times isn’t going to make it easier.
Get into the habit of not cheating. Try letting that be your new normal and see how it feels.
Second, Learn to Enjoy Cooking:
Now, you may be looking at your computer screen right now with a side eye that could rival the emoji guy. I get it – not everybody likes to cook and that’s okay.
But you will find that sticking to a low carb or ketogenic diet is much, much easier if you start cooking at home more often. Is it absolutely required? No. But it will make your life immensely easier. It’s not always easy to find restaurants that cater to low carb eaters. And let’s be honest – the frozen meals and TV dinners that you might otherwise buy are definitely not low carb.
This doesn’t mean that you have to learn to be a gourmet cook. I’m talking about having a few simple, go-to recipes that can save you when you’re in a hurry or just don’t feel like going out. These are recipes that are pretty quick with low effort. And best of all, they’re great meals to feed your whole family. Here are a few of my favorites (complete with recipes for those of you who really aren’t very skilled in the kitchen!):
- Creamy Swiss Chicken Bake from Lil’ Luna. Casseroles are a fantastic way to get your cooking done with very little effort and very little time. Also, they’re incredibly easy and almost always turn out perfectly. This one is no exception. I make it at least once a week! Layer the chicken and cheese, mix up a spread, and bake. It’s consistently good and satisfies my entire family, even the ones that aren’t low carb!
- Blackened Dijon Chicken from Peace, Love, and Low Carb. This is another recipe that my entire family enjoys. It always results in juicy, tender chicken, and thanks to the blackened seasoning, there’s just enough kick to keep it interesting! The dijon mustard adds a bit of tanginess. This recipe involves less than ten minutes of active cooking time; the rest of the time, the chicken bakes in the oven. Perfect for getting it started, then helping the kids with homework while it cooks.
- Quick Frittata with Tomatoes and Cheese from KetoDiet Blog. This is one of the simplest recipes out there. If you can scramble eggs, you can make this frittata! It’s tasty, quick, and easy, and can be served hot or cold. (And remember, don’t get tied down to time of day. You can eat a frittata for any meal, so don’t discount “breakfast” food as something that can’t be served for dinner, too!)
- Tangy Bacon Egg Salad from Ruled.Me. Here’s a great recipe for lunch or a quick snack, and it’s super simple to make! In my opinion, any recipe is improved by adding bacon, and this one is no exception. You might not be able to eat this egg salad on bread, but the bacon and mustard give it plenty of flavor and enough extra substance that you won’t miss the toast!
There are a ton of resources out there with free low carb and keto recipes. Don’t be afraid to try some of them, even if they look tough. You’ll find that most of them are easier than you’d expect, and they’ll be worth it. It’s great to have a few recipes handy that you know can be whipped up easily and without much effort!
This is also a great opportunity to get your kids involved in the kitchen. Let them help you prepare veggies, mix up casseroles, and make dips. They’ll love the extra time spent with you, and as a kid, it’s totally more fun to eat something you helped make!
Third, Experiment with Replacements:
Sometimes it feels like deciding to go on a diet means resigning yourself to the fact that you’re never going to be able to have certain treats again.
It’s really hard to willingly put ourselves in that position; food is important, and it’s tied up with memories and emotions. (How many of you are familiar with emotional eating, right?) So to decide that you’re giving something up forever is a really hard, difficult decision to make.
The great thing about going low carb, though, is that you don’t have to give up all the things you love. It’s actually pretty easy to come up with replacements for your favorite high carb foods – and most of them are pretty good!
Everyone’s favorite junk food: Pizza
Let’s start with pizza. You’re probably never going to find what you consider to be a suitable replacement for that thick, bread-y crust. Just go ahead and accept that. But you can find some recipes that make pretty dang close replacements! There are a few different options here. The most common low carb crusts are cauliflower crust and Fathead crust.
Cauliflower crust isn’t the easiest or least effort meal to make at home, but fans say it’s worth it. There are many, many great recipes out there. Pick one and give it a shot! Or, if you’re not interested in wringing the water out of your cauliflower with a towel (I can’t say I blame you for that; it was not an enjoyable step for me, either), you can even buy a pre-made cauliflower crust! It has a few more carbs than one you’d make at home, but if buying the crust makes this lifestyle change easier for you, then it’s probably worth it!
Another option for low carb pizza is Fathead crust. The recipe originated with the guys who created the Fathead movie, but my personal favorite recipe comes from Ditch the Carbs. This is the one I use every time (although I don’t even use the recipe anymore, because I’ve made it enough that I’ve memorized it!). It may look a little intimidating at first, but it’s much harder to ruin than it might seem at first. It’s also very calorie dense, so if you’re watching your calories, be careful about how much of this you eat at once. Consider pairing it with a salad or something a little lighter, so that you don’t eat as much.
I’ve made both for my own family, and in our house, the Fathead crust is the definite winner. We top ours with Rao’s marinara sauce, chicken, and red onions, and it’s one of our favorite meals for the whole family.
Cookies, cakes, chocolate: Low carb dessert time
People might try to tell you that you can’t have sweets on a low carb diet. I am here to tell you that they are wrong.
Thanks to some much more imaginative people than me, there are tons of recipes out there for low carb and keto friendly sweets and desserts! You might find, once you’re accustomed to eating low carb, that you really don’t crave sweets the way you once did. If you do, though, don’t stress. Instead, let’s check out a few of the tasty desserts you might enjoy!
A couple of my favorite sites for finding low carb dessert recipes are Ditch the Carbs and All Day I Dream About Food. These two sites alone feature every dessert recipe you could possibly want, whether it’s cakes, brownies, cookies, or fruit recipes.
If you’re looking for an amazing dessert recipe, I think you can probably stop here, at Ditch the Carb’s Chocolate Swirl Baked Cheesecake. Or you can try your hand at some chocolate cake doughnuts. Seriously, did you ever think you’d be able to have doughnuts on a low carb diet?
It’s important to remember that you can turn your favorite desserts into low carb alternatives! Don’t give in to habit when your child has a birthday coming up – they don’t need that 12-pack of cupcakes from the grocery store deli. Make them something at home and enjoy it together.
Going low carb doesn’t have to be hard:
Although it sounds like a huge change from your normal diet, going low carb doesn’t have to be dramatic and it doesn’t have to be a big deal. You could probably go low carb without anyone even noticing!
Switching to a low carb diet is something that you do one decision at a time. You’re faced with doughnuts (not those awesome low carb ones, either!) at work? Just say no. Say no just this once, and see how you feel after. If you’re miserable and you can’t function because you can’t stop thinking about those doughnuts, fine, go have one. But at the next opportunity you have to say no, do it.
Don’t be too hard on yourself at first, but definitely find out what works for you. Some people, like me, find it easier to quit carbs cold turkey. Other people need a day or two to ease into a low carb lifestyle. Neither of these approaches is wrong.
Ultimately, the best diet for you is the one that you can stick to, so take some time to experiment with low carb, and work hard to make it work for you!