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Developing a Low Carb Lifestyle

A low carb lifestyle takes a little time and focus to develop, but the results in terms of body composition and health can be remarkable.


Developing a low carb lifestyle can have significant benefits for the vast majority of our population. 

Once upon a time, I would have said “the western population”, but with India dealing with an epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM), the effects of excessively carbohydrate-heavy dietary patterns are no longer the preserve of countries like the US, UK and Australia.

Why do I say, “the majority”? Well, it’s estimated that between 75 and 85% of the US population have some level of metabolic disease, essentially T2DM or a level of chronic insulin resistance that could be termed pre-diabetes. This is evidenced most obviously by our ever-expanding waistlines. Where the US goes, countries like the UK follow closely behind, so the figures elsewhere aren’t that different.

In the UK, the treatment of T2DM costs in excess of £14bn per year. The disease is treated as if it’s inevitable and almost everybody knows people who have T2DM. Contrast that with the 1970’s, when the only folks with diabetes had Type 1 Diabetes, a condition you’re either born with or which develops very early in life.

Adopting a nutrition strategy, way of eating or simply diet (whichever term you prefer) can make a significant difference to anybody who suffers from the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the Metabolic Syndrome as follows:

“A cluster of biochemical and physiological abnormalities associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.”

You would be diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome is you had 3 of the following symptoms…

  • Obesity
  • High levels of abdominal fat
  • High triglycerides
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor blood sugar control (insulin resistance)

These all put you at significant risk of developing T2DM and suffering a heart attack or stroke.

A low carbohydrate diet has been shown in several studies to significantly reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. In this study, for example, the low carb approach was found to be favourable to a low-fat diet for improving metabolic syndrome markers.

For the sake of discussion and to help when reading research, I use a widely accepted definition of a low carb diet, which is a diet that supplies less than 15% of calories from carbohydrate sources.

[Once again, I’m not a calories guy, but clarity on the definition is kind of useful if you’re talking to someone who is.]

Based on the advice issued by the NHS of 2000kcal per day for women and 2500kcal per day for men, this would mean a daily intake of 75g of carbs for women and 93.75kcal for men.

“Hold on,” you say, “That’s more than the 50g we all talk about.”

Remember, I’m using that definition of low carb for the purposes of discussion and clarity. 

This is important because many studies that claim to have investigated low carb versus low fat diets have, in fact, not employed a low carb diet. Instead, they used a diet that was lower in carbs than the 45-65% of calories recommended in the dietary guidelines (meaning that 40% of calories from carbs would be considered “low carb”).

For the purposes of making a therapeutic nutrition intervention and developing a low carb lifestyle, I use < 50g for most people and < 20g for people who are very insulin resistant.

Enough about calories; I’m going to try very hard not to mention them again in this article.

At this point, I have to add an important note of caution when it comes to discussions about nutrition that many people miss because of the inherent human tendency towards tribalism…

Nutrition is not a religion. Nobody goes to hell for eating carbs, neither are they banished from heaven for avoiding them.

Why Do People Do Low Carb?

Why do an increasing number of people think that developing a low carb lifestyle is worth the time and effort?

There are as many reasons for doing anything as there are people doing it. Broadly speaking, I believe it falls into a few categories.

This is the one that gets all the press, is the reason most people seem to get into low carb and is also the one that promotes much of the debate that seems to rage among experts around the topic.

There is no question, developing a low carb lifestyle is a remarkable way to lose weight and, more importantly, keep it off.

Anyone who has struggled with their weight will tell you that diets fail; the statistic that’s bandied about says that 97% of people who lose weight on a diet put it back on within three years (I’ve never been able to find the reference).

Those who do manage to keep the weight off longer are usually those extremely determined people, who are willing to count their calories day-in and day-out for the rest of their lives and accept hunger as a necessary trade-off.

When you talk to people in the low carb community, you find an ever-increasing group of people who lost their excess bodyfat seemingly effortlessly, were seldom if ever hungry doing so, and have kept it off for years.

I mentioned Metabolic Syndrome earlier in the article. Beating it is another reason for many people developing a low carb lifestyle.

It’s not normal to live with chronic disease.

It’s not normal to have to take a handful of medication every day.

Depending on what research you look at, people over 50 are taking an average of three prescription medications. This rises to seven in the over-65’s!

In 2015/16, almost a quarter of UK adults (all ages), were taking three or more prescribed medications!

Many of these prescription medications are to treat T2DM and cardiovascular disease, which are the consequence of Metabolic Syndrome, or the side-effects of the original medication.

There is no such thing as a medication deficiency

This is to say nothing of the huge number of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) that people in pill and gel form take to treat joint pain and other conditions that are quite possibly linked to their failing metabolic health.

What is remarkable is the number of people who have not only lost weight but have improved their metabolic conditions and even been able to discontinue their medication (in consultation with their doctors) as a result of developing a low carb lifestyle.

Some say it’s only the weight loss, and there is a therapy being promoted by the UK NHS which involves patients adopting a very low-calorie diet containing just 850kcal per day as a way to reverse T2DM. Have you ever tried to eat that little? It’s a miserable experience, doomed to failure for the majority.

In contrast, people living a low carb lifestyle are able to get the same or better results, just by restricting carbohydrate foods and eating tasty food to satiety.

Exercise is a celebration of your human body, not a punishment for something you ate!

People don’t often think of exercise as a reason for developing a low carb lifestyle, but it is just that for some people. I number myself among those people.

I came to low carb because I noticed two things in my training and racing (at the time as an ironman triathlete and long-distance cyclist).

  • It was increasingly difficult to keep the belly fat off. I couldn’t move more; you try training more than 20 hours a week and having a life! And eating less was a great way to be miserable, tired and grumpy.
  • The attempt to fuel my long workouts and races with sugary sports nutrition to the level needed simply resulted in sub-par performances due to digestive issues.

Developing a low carb lifestyle solved both of these almost at a stroke.

Others report a desire to exercise that they’ve never had before, simply for the joy of being able to move, run, lift heavy stuff or play a game of tennis. 

Humans are designed to move, not to eat cake whilst watching Netflix all day.

Still others - what we might call aging athletes - find that their recovery improves, so that they can train harder and more often than before. The result is that they’re more competitive and competitive for longer.

Another benefit of developing a low carb lifestyle is improved mental clarity.

Once your brain makes the switch from using only glucose for energy, fluctuating with blood sugar changes, to using ketones instead, it’s not unusual to experience far more mental clarity, stability of mood and improved focus.

Dementia is a rising threat to aging people around the world and there is emerging research suggesting that it too, is related to metabolic disease. Some are calling dementia “Type 3 Diabetes”. 

Having seen how dementia steals peoples’ minds and the grief this causes to their loved ones; this is a huge reason to consider developing a low carb lifestyle.

Bizarrely, a low carb diet is in fact the normal human diet. It wasn’t until the late 1970’s, early 1980’s that the idea of eating most of your food as carbohydrates appeared, and yet it’s become ubiquitously accepted as the only healthy way to eat.

This, despite the disastrous consequences for human health that we see all around us.

In fact, developing a low carb lifestyle is a return to the way humans have eaten for our entire existence as a species. Farming grains only appeared fairly recently in our history and has been associated with an increase in chronic disease, more dental caries, a decrease in our brain size and decreasing population average height.

Industrial processed foods, with their abundance of sugar, refined grains, and seed oils, have only become the norm within the last one hundred years or so.

If we’re to be healthy, we need to return as nearly as possible to the foods that our ancestors would have chosen in times of plenty in pursuit of optimum health. Of course, we must make compromises because…

  • We cannot know exactly what they ate (although the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies and paleo-archaeology can give us clues).
  • We live in “developed” societies, where most of us are reliant on the food supply chain and what it can provide.

This doesn’t mean we need to give in to the likes of EatLancet, who have commercial profits in mind, not population health. We need to insist on our right to eat foods that have fuelled humans for hundreds of thousands of years.

There is a small, but extremely vocal group on social media who will argue endlessly, usually about why they believe developing a low carb lifestyle works no better than any other diet and explaining away the results as nothing to do the fact that it’s low carb at all.

They love to argue about the mechanisms. To them, it’s important to know HOW it works.

To me, and the thousands of other people worldwide who know it works, what matters is simply that IT DOES WORK. And it works better than anything else most of us have tried. Most of us don’t care much about why or how it works.

It’s a feature of our “knowledge society” in which how clever you can sound matters more than what you can actually do.

Something interesting that I’ve observed is this (it’s an observation, not a controlled study):

Most of the people I see developing a low carb lifestyle are in the 40+ age-group. We’re the group that followed the dietary guidelines for all our adult lives… and failed because the guidelines were flawed. 

We ate all the seed oils and grains we were told would make us healthy, we used sugar for the “pure energy” that we were told it was. We’ve had time to develop metabolic syndrome and we’ve watched friends and family suffer from T2DM and die of heart disease. 

We were the experimental group, albeit without our consent.

On the other hand, most of the people shouting about carbs not being the problem we say they are, are in their 20’s and 30’s. They don’t have Metabolic Syndrome (yet). 

They’re still in that phase where many of us were; that phase where you could eat whatever you wished, and it would have no outward effect on you. They’re still at an age where they can drink until 3am and still somehow function the following day.

Experience is a wonderful teacher.

Of course, there are younger low carb advocates and older detractors, but I’ve yet to have an interaction with someone older in which they’ve told me, “Just eat some carbs, dumbass!”

This is the mechanism used by most low carb advocates to explain why developing a low carb lifestyle works.

In simplified form, it says that due to the enormous amount of sugar and carbohydrate foods we’ve consumed over the years, we have become chronically insulin resistant. This means that we have to produce more insulin to have the same effect that it had before we became resistant to its effects.

Insulin is a storage hormone. It tells the body to shuttle excess glucose out of our bloodstream and to store it for later as fat in our adipose tissue. This is important because…

  • More than about a teaspoon of glucose in the bloodstream is toxic.
  • Having stored energy is a survival imperative.

The problem arises in that our fat stores are meant to be dynamic, with a balance between the use of glucose for energy and the use of fat for energy. But insulin in the bloodstream blocks the release of fat from our adipose tissue.

That makes us feel hungry, so we eat more carbohydrate-laden foods, most the glucose from which gets shuttled into adipose tissue and we get hungry again. Essentially, we’re starving internally, even though we have plenty of fuel on board.

Over time, we get fatter.

The solution, so the model says, is to keep insulin low so that the fat in your adipose tissue can be released and used for energy.

Whether this is exactly what it looks like or not, the model holds in that people stop being hungry all the time and lose weight by developing a low carb lifestyle.

Accurate or not, this is the explanation I accept for now.

“Low carb diets only work because you cut out a whole macronutrient and thus create a calorie deficit.”

That’s the standard response from the CICO (calories in, calories out) proponents.

As far as they’re concerned, it’s all a matter of energy balance: if the calories you eat are matched by your calories out, through your basal metabolism and exercise, you remain weight stable. 

Eat too much and move too little; you get fat.

Eat less and move more; you lose weight.

It’s a very simple view of the world, but it doesn’t stand up to the simplest real-world experiment.

On several occasions, I have eaten 10,000kcal in a single day without doing any exercise. Now, I accept this is simplistic, but if the law of conservation of energy they rely on were true, I should have gained at least 2lbs of body mass overnight in the form of bodyfat.

I can assure you, I didn’t. In fact, on more than one occasion, I lost weight overnight and appeared leaner the following morning.

I’ve also spent a little time counting calories and macros in an attempt to remain as light as possible for racing. Here’s what I found: I WAS ALWAYS HUNGRY!

And when I stopped counting those calories, the weight went back on quickly. Now, I’ve never been obese, but when you’re trying to run a long way fast, every pound you’re your ideal body fat mass matters.

Of course, once again, it doesn’t actually matter if CICO is all that’s going on because developing a low carb lifestyle works for people to lose the weight and keep it off. And that’s the point, not some silly spat about exactly how it works.

As with anything, results are never 100% guaranteed, although developing a low carb lifestyle is the most effective way to get control of your body composition and metabolic health that I have seen in my 23 years of coaching.

It is nowhere near the usually quoted 97% failure rate quoted for diets in general.

Here are some reasons why people might struggle to make low carb nutrition work for them.

This really is the big one.

Your choice is between doing a short-term diet, after which you plan to return to the same old food you used to eat - a bit like the bride who wants to fit into a wedding dress for a day, after which it doesn’t matter because she’ll never wear it again - or developing a new low carb lifestyle.

The diet will fail because you you’re going to return to the behaviours that made you fat and sick in the first place. No short-term diet is going to be the solutions to your long-term health.

If, as I believe, over 75% of the adult population of countries like the US, UK, South Africa and Australia are metabolically ill (or at least chronically insulin resistant), the way to fix it is by adopting a lifestyle that deals with that metabolic illness.

I know we live in a quick-fix, credit card world, but this is an area where the quick-fix is no fix at all.

It’s a new lifestyle or bust.

Nutritionists, dieticians, personal trainers, sports coaches, and that guy on Facebook will all have their insistent say about how people need carbs to function properly and how a low carb diet is thus unhealthy.

Strictly speaking, they’re right about needing glucose. There are a few functions in your body that require it and you do need a small amount of glucose in your bloodstream. The usual figure quoted is 130g.

However, they’re wrong about not being able to supply this on a low carb diet.

First, it’s a low carb diet, not a no carb diet. So, even at the low end of a keto diet, you’ll still get 20g of that from your non-starchy veg. Even those on a carnivore (or animal foods only) diet will get some glucose from the glycogen in the muscle meat they eat.

Second, you store glucose in your muscles in the form of glycogen, between 400 and 500g of the stuff. When you need it, your body liberates it into the bloodstream and your liver makes more.

Third, your liver makes glucose through a nifty little process called gluconeogenesis, using excess amino acids and the glycerol backbones left over after fat metabolism. And it only has to make just over 5g an hour, hardly stressful.

It’s worth noting that the ability of your body to make glucose has been painted as an argument for why you should avoid eating them. It’s not; it’s simply a reason why you don’t need to eat them and why it’s perfectly safe not to do so.

You’ll also find many folks insisting you need carbs for exercise, I wrote a long article about low carb workout nutrition but suffice to say: any perceived need for carbs is almost certainly in the athlete’s mind, not their body.

There is a small downside to developing a low carb lifestyle and that’s the fact that there is an adaptation period in which your body gets used to using fat as opposed to carbs as its primary fuel.

It might be this adaptation period that makes some folks feel that they can’t do low carb. My advice is to be a little bit brave and tough it out. The results on the other side are worth it.

For most people, it takes about 3 weeks to make the initial adaptation, after which you’ll have most of the benefits of fat adaptation.

Apparently, it can take a further two years to get all the benefits of fat adaptation, but the only things I noticed getting better over that period were improved exercise tolerance at higher intensities and diminishing cravings for sweet foods.

The problem that many people who are profoundly insulin resistant and therefore over-fat or obese is that they are starving on the inside. They’re eating way more food than they need to survive, but once that food is absorbed and stored as body fat it becomes inaccessible for use as energy.

These people are starving.

The world doesn’t have a calorie shortage; it has a nutrient shortage.

The only way, it seems, to gain access to that stored energy is to reduce the insulin circulating in their blood to a minimum, so that their adipose tissue can release fat for use as energy.

One way to do this is to starve yourself on an unsustainable 850kcal per day diet and the other is to adopt a low carb lifestyle, in which you teach your body to get its energy from fat, including that which it has stored. 

As mentioned above, the adaptation phase is arguably the most challenging time for anyone developing a low carb lifestyle. Nobody likes to feel hungry or sub-par, but the ultimate results are worth it if you can tough it out.

If you need support, there are some fantastic folks on Twitter who will offer words of encouragement, my DMs are always open, and you could also sign up for my coaching programme for more tailored support.

Here’s what to do…

Reduce your carbohydrate intake to below 50g per day. Some people try to calculate nett carbs, but I feel this is often simply a way to try to game the system. I have a bit of a binary view: you either believe you need to restrict the carbs in your diet and that they’re unnecessary, or you don’t.

Ban anything from your diet that is sugar or contains sugar. This means no fruit juices, reading the label on sausages (yes, they put sugar in sausages!), no ice cream, no cakes, no biscuits, no sweets, or candy. You get the idea. The exception here is low sugar berries, which are low in carbs, but most other fruit needs a careful read of the label. The good news - or bad news, depending on your perspective - is that fruit isn’t necessary in the human diet in any significant volume.

Avoid starchy vegetables and all grains. Even the so-called high protein grains are quite high in carbohydrates. If you eat grains, you will struggle to hit your < 50g per day target.

Make sure you get your protein. There are a few disagreements about this in the low carb community, but I come down on the side of those who recommend 1g/lb (2.2g/kg) of ideal body weight per day. Protein does raise insulin a little, so it’s a place to look if you find you struggle to adapt or weight loss stalls when you still have a lot to lose, but for most people higher protein is fine and protein is vital for many body structures and functions.

Eat enough fat. This doesn’t mean gorging on blocks of butter or lard, but it does mean not restricting fat in your diet. Especially in the early days, you need energy from somewhere. You’re not going to get it from carbs and if you’re one of those people suffering from the internal starvation described above, your body won’t want to give up fat from your stores just yet.

Get your protein and fat from animal sources if at all possible. Plant proteins are nowhere near as bioavailable as those from animals and despite the claims of the plant-based movement, unless you’re willing to drink highly processed pea protein isolate, getting enough protein will be hard.

Related to the previous point, avoid seed oils (euphemistically called “vegetable oils” in all the marketing). These substances aren’t fit for human consumption and, in fact, they’re now thought to play a big role in the development of the metabolic derangement that becomes T2DM and Metabolic Syndrome.

Get enough salt. This is a topic all of its own but suffice it to say that you need sodium in your diet in far higher amounts than the salt reduction campaigns would have you believe. Also, in the first few weeks of developing a low carb lifestyle, your body will excrete a lot of salt, which you need to replace by salting food liberally. I also used to put salt in all my water and still drink salt water every morning; it’s an acquired taste but makes a difference to me so I keep doing it.

Eat as much or as little of the non-starchy vegetables as you please. Generally speaking, this is any veg that grows above ground. These are mostly very low carb and add variety to your diet. Also, for those used to eating larger volumes of food, these vegetables will help to make you feel fuller, at least until your digestive tract gets used to having a smaller volume of food.

Keep any exercise at a comfortable, low intensity level for the first few weeks. You might not feel like doing anything but getting out for a steady walk or lifting some light weights will actually help with your adaptation because your body will need to find energy and low-level activity encourages fat metabolism for energy although not in the amounts that some personal trainers claim.

Be aware that when developing a low carb lifestyle, you may suffer from what is now commonly referred to as the keto flu.
Don’t worry, this is not a viral infection, it’s just the symptoms of your body struggling to make the shift from a carbohydrate-based metabolism to a fat-based one. Because it takes a little time to do this, you may experience some or all of the following common symptoms

  • Sugar cravings 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Muscle soreness
  • Stomach pain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Irritability 
  • Weakness 
  • Headache

If you’ve ever had real flu, you’ll recognise many of these, thus the name. In extreme cases, you might also experience…

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea

Fortunately, none of these symptoms usually last more than a week and most of them respond very well to the addition of a little more salt and a little more fat to the diet.

Other than the addition of salt, the best advice is to schedule your switch to a low carb diet for a time when you’re not likely to need to be at your best. That said, there will never be a perfect time, the best time is always NOW.

A lot of people use low carb copies of their favourite foods to help them get through at least the first part of developing a low carb lifestyle. There are whole websites dedicated to producing low carb bread, pasta, pizza, cakes etc.

Whilst I’m not much of a fan of the “low-carbification” of popular foods, they definitely have their place. If you’re someone for whom food is one of the real joys in life, these recipes can make an enormous difference in normalising what is a rather alien-looking way of eating when you start.

The only word of caution is to beware of the significant amounts of nuts used in many of the recipes to replace grain flour. The high Omega 6 content can throw off your Omega 3 to 6 ratio.

In our “measure everything”, self-quantification world, low carb doesn’t want to be left out.

As a result, it’s possible to measure your ketones as you adapt and beyond, using one or all of three methods.

 Urine strips measure the acetoacetic acid excreted in your urine. On the plus side, they’re cheap, easy to use and use no needles. 

On the minus side, once you become fat-adapted, it’s not uncommon for a test to show few if any ketones bodies in the urine. This is because, while in the initial stages of fat adaptation your body goes wild producing ketone bodies and is a bit wasteful, you soon become very good at producing what you need and using them more efficiently so that there isn’t an excess that needs excretion.

Breath meters measure the acetone in your breath. They’re great because they are easy to use, need no extra supplies and involve no needles. There is a small initial expense to buy the unit, but if you’re not keen on needles and are dead set on measuring your ketones, this is a good solution.

It’s worth noting that, much like the urine strips, you are measuring a waste product as opposed to directly measuring the ketones available for use, those in your bloodstream.

Blood ketone meters are the most accurate way of measuring your ketones. They measure the level of Beta Hydroxybutyrate in your bloodstream using a drop of blood obtained via a simple finger prick.

Again, there is an expense because you have to buy the unit and will need test strips on a regular basis. And if you don’t like needles or faint at the sight of blood, this is the one for you.

In a world that likes to measure everything (and share it on social media), it’s tempting to think that you must measure ketones. And, yes, it can be reassuring to see a number on a device screen.

However, as with most things to do with the human body, just because you don’t have proof that something is happening doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

It’s just as valid a measure to see your body fat decreasing, your stable energy levels rising and your ravenous hunger every hour or two vanishing.

Truthfully, ketosis or the presence of ketones isn’t the goal anyway; the goal is better health, as evidenced by the symptoms in the previous paragraph.

Obsessing about whether you’re producing ketones or not can even be counterproductive during the adaptation period because stress causes your body to release glycogen as glucose into your bloodstream. 

So, instead of keeping blood glucose low and forcing an adaptation to fat as your main fuel source, you’re maintaining at least a level of the glucose dependence you’re trying to break. This won’t stop you becoming fat-adapted but might make the adaptation process longer.

Rest assured that if you keep your carb intake low, your body will produce the ketones it needs to function properly. The only circumstance where this will not happen is if you have a really rare medical condition, which you would probably know about already.

The whole point of knowing the information I’ve presented so far and undergoing the adaptation process is developing a low carb LIFESTYLE, not simply going on a short-term diet.

It’s this lifestyle that makes low carb nutrition work.

Your mindset has a positive or negative effect on every area of your life.

Compare these statements…

“I can’t eat carbs.”

“I can eat what I like, but I choose not to eat carbs.”

Or even, “I’m the type of person who chooses not to eat carbs.”

All three statements send very different messages to your brain. As much as it sounds a little “woo-woo”, changing how you frame things works remarkably.

The second works better than the first because you’re in control and you’re making the choice. Nobody likes to feel that they’re doing something they don’t want to do. If you own the decision, you’re more likely to follow through.

The power of the third is that it describes your identity - who you are - not just your actions. Once this identity becomes entrenched in your mind, it becomes hard to act differently because your brain will go out of its way to be consistent with that identity.

Don’t believe me? Think about a time you really wanted to change an unhelpful personality trait. Did you find it hard to be that person when with your family? That’s simply because your brain desperately wanted to be consistent with who you had always been to your family. That personality trait was part of who you were and changing identity is hard.

Enough pop psychology; just try it.

Many are the people on social media who are only there for a good argument. They have a simple position, usually very narrowly defined, and they’ll defend it at all costs.

I’ve never seen any such person who can speak about the entire breadth and depth of low carb. Instead, they attack something small and pretend that this weakness in your knowledge or your argument negates the everything.

It doesn’t!

Never wrestle a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

- Anon

There is nothing wrong with debate, as long as you keep in mind that the other person will probably not change their mind (at least not on the spot) and that no matter how much you disagree or how poor their argument, the opinion is not the person.

Debate can help us to recognise the weaknesses in our beliefs, encouraging us to refine our position and increase our knowledge. 

Remember that none of us knows everything and while we know that developing a low carb lifestyle works, it’s not the only way to eat. Young people doing a lot of exercise can tolerate carbs at a higher level than I can.

That’s OK. Nobody changes their mind because I call them an idiot or use some version of, “Just wait until you’re 50, you’ll have diabetes because of that potato you eat every day!”

Lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle!

Developing a low carb lifestyle, in which you don’t have sweet treats in the house or where they explicitly don’t belong to you (I won’t touch my kids’ sweets because they’re theirs), telling the people around you that you choose not to eat those things (not that you “can’t”), cooking meals that meet your requirements and either eliminating or replacing starchy carbs with low carb copies is the route to sustainability.

This is not a 12-week diet, after which you go back to all the food habits that got you to the point where you realised you had to do something. It’s not how the rest of the world works, but when you look at the results the rest of the world is getting, it’s clear the rest of the world is arguably clueless about nutrition.

Purposeful development of helpful habits and replacing or breaking of unhelpful ones will make developing and maintaining a low carb lifestyle exponentially easier.

Habits are simply patterns of behaviour that save brain bandwidth by running automatically. By establishing a habit, you no longer have to make a conscious decision. Obviously, when the habit is buying 2 chocolate bars every time you put fuel in your car is not a helpful habit.

The good news is that once you identify a habit, you can break it simply by anticipating and interrupting the pattern. Knowing that you’ll be drawn to the chocolate bars allows you to do something different every time you encounter the filling station trigger. Initially, it takes conscious thought, but it very quickly becomes unconscious because your brain (and mine) prefers the path of least resistance.

While nothing is ever the last word on anything, developing a low carb lifestyle is an extraordinarily effective tool for losing excess body fat, restoring metabolic health, and even enhancing exercise performance.

I’ve seen people make remarkable changes to their lives, including reversing their T2DM, reducing or eliminating long-term medication and mystifying their doctors with the improvements in their health, all by drastically reducing the carbohydrates in their diet.

I’ve also had conversations with people who insist that carb reduction is not the answer, yet who cannot suggest a better intervention, unless it’s “eat less, move more”, which we know from years of experience doesn’t work for the vast majority.

Whenever I’m asked for studies to “prove” that low carb nutrition works, I have to point out that there are no studies that definitively prove that any nutrition approach works.

I can point to the thousands of people all over the world with whom I have contact through the magic of social media.

“But that’s just personal anecdote!” 

That’s true, but in the final analysis, the only thing that matters to any individual is their own personal experience. 

If what you’re doing is working, keep doing it. When it stops working, change something. 

Developing a low carb lifestyle might just be the change you need.

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Ladder Workouts

Will Newton

In over twenty years of coaching, I have coached everyone from absolute beginners to world champions. My interest in getting the best results for people who train for health and fitness or the love of sport, rather than as professionals, drives me to find the most effective ways to get results. My mission is simple: Be in better shape at 70 than most people are at 20, and to help you do the same.

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