If you’ve recently made a decision to work towards achieving better health and losing the extra weight with a low carb or a ketogenic diet, you have probably already encountered the first obstacles on the road. Indeed, now’s the season of yearly resolutions – each January many people start a new diet, or a new exercise plan (or both), and often give it up after a few weeks.
Why is that, though? Is there a better way to implement lifestyle changes, so that you don’t get tired of them so quickly?
We all know that getting started is not easy – you have to build a lot of new habits, make time for planning your food and for cooking (and eventually for working out), and the learning curve can be rather steep. Feeling discouraged early on is one of the main reasons people give up their diets – but that doesn’t need to be this way for you.
So what are some things that can help you stay on course?
Let’s find out.
#1. Define Your WHY
When you get started with a low-carb diet, you need to have a clear idea on WHY you want to change your eating habits, and why you have chosen that particular diet.
The reasons can be very simple – for example, “I want to be healthy and independent as I grow older”, or “I want to lose weight to feel good in my skin again”, or “Processed carbs make me feel like crap” – but you need to know and understand them, in order to be able to define your goals and work towards them. Make a list and reread it every now and then.
Low-carb and keto are one of the best choices out there, for giving yourself a fresh start after New Year or when you set a new goal – both for weight loss and for general health. Both diets are very effective at helping you manage your appetite and feel less hungry, as well as regulate your blood sugar and insulin. Plus a number of other health benefits!
#2. Have a Plan and Stick to It
If you want to succeed at anything, you need to have a plan and commit to it. Having a keto plan gives you clear direction to reach your goal. You’ll know exactly what to eat for each day to meet your macros.
If your goal is weight loss, don’t forget to check these 7-Day Free Trial Keto Weight Loss Meal Plan!
#3. Think About It As A Lifestyle Change, Not As A Quick Fix
Both low carb and keto are a way of eating and a lifestyle, and not a quick diet that you can do in 5-6 weeks and then forget about it.
In order to lose weight and successfully keep it off, you need to change your whole lifestyle, and not just go on a diet and then go back to your old habits right after you lose the unwanted weight. Old habits are what got you there – and if you go back to them, the result will be the same. Don’t make New Year resolutions about weight loss only – make them about getting healthier and feeling better.
That being said, keto doesn’t have to be for life – once you’re done with weight loss, you might wish to switch to another diet that helps you stay where you want to be – low carb, paleo, primal, Mediterranean, flexible dieting with an accent on macros, and so on. There are plenty of great options – the main thing is, you need to be mindful of your caloric and nutritional needs.
#4. Be Realistic And Consistent
You didn’t gain the weight in 2 weeks, so you’re not going to lose it in 2 weeks either. Make realistic goals and work towards them.
Some people might lose up to 10lbs after the first week of keto. Others might lose 2-3 lbs per week. However, losing 3-4 pounds a month is reasonable and most people can achieve that by being consistent and sticking to their macros.
If you have more to lose, in the beginning, your progress might be faster – but the closer you are to your goal weight, the slower it will be (and the more your body will resist to change).
When you first start keto (or a low-carb diet, to a lesser extent), in the first week you’ll likely see a rapid weight loss – although it feels very motivating to see the scale moving, most of it will be water weight.
#5. Choose A Reasonable Deficit That Won’t Be Too Drastic For You
You might be tempted to do a huge deficit and be done with dieting as soon as possible, but that’s not a great strategy for most people, and you might be setting yourself for failure.
While some prefer to do a short and painful calorie deficit in order to lose the excess weight quickly and be done with it, very few actually succeed with such a strategy. That’s also why many people give up their new diets 2-3 weeks after starting them – they just get tired of eating so little.
Keeping the weight off afterwards won’t be easy if you lose it very quickly, as you will be prone to episodes of insatiable hunger. Especially if you switch back to eating lots of carbs.
Your body doesn’t like change, and it will resist to losing weight. If you’re going slow and steady, it will be less stressful for you (physically and psychologically), and you have much better chances at maintaining your new, lower weight over the long run.
#6. Get Moving
Although the most important part of losing weight is diet, being active certainly won’t hurt.
You don’t need to do endless hours of cardio in order to succeed – in fact, this might be counterproductive, as it might increase your hunger and make it more difficult to manage your diet.
However, low-intensity cardio, resistance training, or HIIT can be all amazing choices in maintaining a larger deficit and, in the case of resistance training, to help you maintain your muscle mass. All of these can be combined successfully with keto or a low-carb diet.
Even just moving more during everyday activities is helpful, as it will increase your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). When you’re dieting, your NEAT tends to become lower, which is your body’s attempt to not lose the weight you’re trying to lose, so you need to make a conscious effort to counteract that.
In the first 2-3 weeks of keto (i.e. during the adaptation phase), your performance might suffer – that’s a known side effect and it will soon get better. Keep going and you won’t regret it.
#7. Get Used To Some Level Of Discomfort
Dieting will usually mean that you’ll experience some side effects such as hunger from time to time. Keto and low-carb are known for helping you control your appetite, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never be hungry. However, remember this: hunger is not an emergency.
You need to get used to it and develop good strategies to not allow hunger derail you. These can be having a low-carb snack at hand, not doing an extreme deficit, having large, satisfying meals, making sure you’re staying hydrated, and so on.
The keto flu and the adaptation phase are usually not fun either, but at least they’ll be over soon.
In most cases, the keto flu lasts for a couple of days, while getting fat adapted takes around 4 to 6 weeks (but the side effects are much milder and easy to deal with).
#8. Make Your Health A Priority
If you don’t define your priorities, life will always get in the way.
Let your family know that you’re working towards a new goal, and ask them for their support and encouragement. Plan ahead and ask them for help whenever needed, for example, to help you do some chores so that you have time to go to the gym, or to go shopping for keto foods with you, or anything else you might struggle with.
If you’re a busy parent and struggle finding time for yourself, consider this – your health is extremely important to the well-being of your family. It’s not only about you, it’s about everyone around you, too. Keto doesn’t have to be expensive, either, so if you’re on a tight budget you can still make it work. And remember – being unhealthy is much more expensive in the long run than making a few sacrifices now.
#9. Get Informed And Find A Supportive Community
There are plenty of resources online – use them! Both keto and low-carb dieting can be challenging in the beginning: there’s tons of new info to learn.
Having your friends and family support you is awesome, however finding a community that will understand your struggles and victories, and that will help you stay accountable, might be very helpful too.
There are plenty of Facebook groups both for low-carb diets and for keto, and plenty of online forums, too. Keep in mind that not all groups adhere to the same rules or share the same principles. Make sure to check the group’s rules and FAQ (if they have one) in order to know whether it’s the right one for you.
#10. Plan Ahead And Be Specific
Don’t rely on willpower and on motivation – these will only get you so far. Instead, make a plan and stick to it.
Plan your meals ahead of time to make sure you’re staying within your carb limit. Bring your own meals to work – meal prepping makes keto and low carb dieting much simpler.
Plan your workouts.
Plan your snacks, if you need any. (Don’t eat out of boredom or stress – have a snack only if you’re genuinely hungry).
Have a plan for the next time you’re going out with friends.
Be as specific as possible with your plans. “I will eat healthier” is not specific and you aren’t likely to stick to it; “I will eat whole foods and stay under 30 g net carbs per day” is much more specific and easier to track. “I will exercise more” is very broad. Try instead “I will exercise 3 times a week for an hour”. (Don’t have an hour? Make it 30 minutes. 30 > 0).
You can even schedule time for cooking and working out in your calendar so that you don’t need to rely on motivation to do it. Developing healthy habits will always get you much further than sheer willpower. Which brings us to the next point:
#11. Build New Habits
We’re creatures of routine and enjoy stability. Building new, healthy habits, will be very helpful for you in the long run, and this goes beyond keto and low carb.
Make tracking macros a habit. Make meal planning a habit. Make taking the stairs instead of the elevator a habit. Make staying hydrated a habit (while always keeping an eye on electrolytes). Make working out a habit. It takes discipline and perseverance in the beginning, but once you get used to it, it becomes second nature.
#12. Keep It Simple – Keto Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated
Don’t overcomplicate everything – you don’t need every keto-friendly ingredient on the market in order to start doing keto and be successful. Stick to the basics and switch things a little whenever you start getting bored.
What are the basics, you might be wondering? Here they are:
- Concentrate on whole foods: choose a protein source of your liking, add fat while cooking, and have a side of low-carb veggies with it.
- Stick to a caloric deficit.
- Track your macros.
- Stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes in check.
Do you need some snack ideas? Check out our list of keto snack ideas that require a minimal amount of preparation.
Do you need an idea for a keto dessert? Head over to our Recipes section for plenty of inspiration!
#13. Clean Your Home Of High-carb And Unhealthy Food
Get rid of all the high-carb food that might be tempting: it’s much easier to not eat food that you simply don’t have at home, rather than making a conscious effort to resist eating it.
If you’re living with others and they’re not following a low-carb lifestyle, ask them to help you by storing their food apart from yours, and do not store junk food at home (they could still benefit from a healthier diet, even if they aren’t doing low-carb or keto).
#14. Track Your Macros And Be Diligent With It
Tracking your macros with a food scale and a tracking app is an essential part of both keto and low-carb. Carbs are everywhere and if you’re not tracking everything, you could get over your carb limit without even being aware of it.
Tracking is not only about carbs though – your protein and fat macros are equally important. Protein is a goal and you need enough of it to maintain your muscles and organs, as well as to keep you full. Fat is a lever to meet your energy needs and is what makes your diet sustainable in the long run.
When tracking, it’s essential to measure everything with a scale and not just eyeball it. And keep in mind that meat and veggies should be measured raw.
#15. Track Your Progress
Don’t rely exclusively on the number on the scale. It often doesn’t tell the whole story. Track your progress in a few different ways:
- Take measurements – losing inches but not weight? That’s actually better than you might expect.
- Take photos – don’t forget to take a “before” photo – although you might not feel like it, it’ll be a very important tool to measure progress later on and you’d regret not doing it
- Weigh yourself – don’t concentrate on the number, though: weight fluctuates a lot. Instead, look at the general trend.
- Check how your clothes fit.
- Take the time to acknowledge any non-scale victories, such as climbing the stairs without getting out of breath, your joints no longer hurting, your face looking less puffy, etc.
If you’re tracking your progress in a few different ways, it’s much easier to stay on course, as the changes in your body composition will not always be measured with a number on the scale.
#16. Don’t Be Too Harsh With Yourself If You Fall Off The Wagon
We all make mistakes, and when you change your lifestyle you won’t be able to do everything perfectly from day 1. Accept that, acknowledge your keto mistakes when you make them, understand why you made them, and move on.
Went over your calories for the day? Check your food log, see what changes you can make so that it doesn’t happen again, and move on.
Had a (planned or unplanned) cheat meal? Move on and make sure your next meal is keto.
You might experience some side effects, but it’s much more important to not let your cheat meal derail you completely (“eh, I’ve had a slice of cake, I might as well eat the whole cake”) and turn into a cheat day or a cheat week.
And remember – if you cheat, you don’t need to “detox” or anything of the sort – your body is detoxing itself just fine. Just stick to whole, natural, low-carb foods. You don’t need to punish yourself either – you’re creating a negative reinforcement cycle for yourself if you do, and that won’t be very stimulating in the long run.
Many people start a new diet only to give it up after a few days or weeks – diets can be confusing and difficult, and you are likely to experience some level of discomfort when dieting. However, if you start with the right mindset and expectations, you’re much more likely to be successful.
Keto and low-carb are both incredibly simple when you get used to eating that way, but they tend to have a steep learning curve in the beginning. Don’t treat them as a quick fix and a miracle solution for a long-term problem – they aren’t one. Use them as an opportunity to change your whole lifestyle for the better, and to learn a ton of new things about food, nutrition, and health. After a while, it becomes much easier to intuitively apply that knowledge to your life and to stick to your goals.
Once you achieve amazing results with keto, don’t forget to share with us your keto success story!
Enjoy this post? Share to save for later!
Photo credit: unixx.0.gmail.com/Depositphotos.com