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Cheating On a Low-Carb Diet – Is There Any Hope?

Posted Jun 06 2013 1:25pm

Low-carb dieters come in several varieties.

1. There are the die-hards who believe you should never ever cheat on a low-carb diet, even on holidays or your birthday. They have a particular list of low-carb foods that they believe everyone should stick to, and if you eat something that is not on their acceptable list, you’re not truly committed to your low-carb lifestyle.

2. Then there are those who take up the low-carb baton, willingly, but aren’t as fanatical about the details. They’re much more flexible about the whole process. They eat what they believe are low-carb foods, but don’t count how many carbohydrates they’re eating. They don’t know if they are within standard low-carb guidelines, but aren’t concerned about it because they’re either losing weight their own way, or they’re happy with their improved health. They will go off plan on holidays, their birthdays, and sometimes during social engagements, but then they’ll climb right back into the wagon and continue their low-carb journey.

3. There are cyclical low-carb dieters that fluctuate between being a die-hard and being overly relaxed. They will strongly stick to Atkins Induction for a few weeks, never cheating, but as the restrictiveness of that very low-carb level begins to wear thin, or the temptation to cheat becomes too strong, they’ll become more flexible. Where the relaxed dieter can easily climb back onto their plan once they’ve satisfied their need to eat normally, the cyclical dieter often finds themselves face down in the carbs. They have so much trouble getting back on plan, however, that they’ve usually gained back part of their weight, if not all, before they try again.

4. And then there is the person who can’t stick with a low-carb diet for more than a few days before the pull to cheat is too strong. They go into an unconscious binge before they wake up and discover what they’ve done. Sometimes it’s cyclical behavior, and sometimes it’s flexible, but they never really get the chance to lose much weight, and sometimes they even gain more, because their mind talks them into refilling their glycogen stores almost as soon as they’ve been emptied.

5. There are also a chosen few who are die-hards for most of the year, but allow themselves the luxury of participating in planned cheats. They are more strict than those who have a relaxed style of dieting because they do count their daily carbohydrates and do eat from a select list of low-carb foods. Their cheats are small and well controlled, because that’s all they need to feel satisfied. Those who practice controlled free meals and refeeds would fit into this category.

Granted, these are exaggerated caricatures, but they do illustrate the wide variety of eating styles that can be found within the low-carb community. Some of these eating styles are more friendly to fat loss than others. I’ve even experienced or purposely tried a few myself. Regardless of a die-hard’s unforgiving attitude, no style is better than any of the others. These are just the patterns that I’m aware of.

Subconscious Mind Drives the Cheating

These patterns are so distant from one another, it makes it difficult (if not impossible) to make solid recommendations in regards to cheating on a low-carb diet, because what drives us to overeat carbohydrates isn’t necessarily something that we can easily control – especially for those who experience a strong famine response to dieting. The mind and body are wired toward survival, and that’s what many of us are fighting against: the mind and body’s determination to survive at all costs.

It can be shocking to come to the realization that the mind and body would rather be fat than thin, but in my low-carb journey so far, that’s the epiphany I’ve sadly come to. The subconscious mind is in control, and when our conscious ideals and goals butt heads with our unconscious programming, the subconscious mind always wins.


That doesn’t leave us in a very good position. It feels rather hopeless actually. And that hopelessness and reinforcement only gets stronger when you take the time to actually LOOK at what’s going on within the low-carb community today. Very, very few individuals ever reach their goal weight. That’s reality. Luckily, for those of us who are still trying, there are a handful of low-carb success stories available, such as a man at Low Carb Friends who goes by the name of avid .

I talked about him a little bit in my last post about coffee and heavy cream. He’s gone from 180 pounds to 131. He reached goal weight on June 5, 2013. However, the last five pounds did require him to lower his daily calories, which he chose to do by cutting down on how much coffee he drank, as well as how much heavy cream he was putting in it. While losing 51 pounds is a tremendous accomplishment and should be celebrated, the sad part of this story is that it fits into my 50-Pound Theory.

What is My 50-Pound Theory?

For awhile, I’ve been watching people within the low-carb community that have actually make it all of the way to goal weight, and it has prompted a few questions.

  • What sets them apart from the rest of us?
  • Why do some of us completely stall out when we’re still so far away from a healthy weight?
  • Why does the mind and body do everything in its power to trick us into eating too many carbs?
  • Why does someone go from a die-hard eating style to someone who cannot stick to a low-carb diet for more than few days?

At first, I entertained the theory put forth by the BloodSugar 101 website that the body will only allow us to lose a certain percentage of our body fat before it puts on the breaks. But that doesn’t explain how people like avid have been able to succeed. Obviously, he has lost more than 15 or 20 percent of his weight, so what makes him different? What made Dr. Atkins’ success different?

At one time, the popular theory within the low-carb community that tried to explain this phenomena was called the One Golden Shot Theory. Many guessed that a low-carb diet ceased to work if you yo-yo’d back-and-forth between a low-carb diet and a high-carb diet too often. In fact, Dr. Atkins even warned his readers about abusing Induction for that very reason. It could backfire in our face. However, looking at my own weight-loss and weight-gain patterns, I’m now wondering if it’s about absolute poundage lost rather than a percentage.

It seems that when I look at success stories, people that have about 50 to 60 pounds to lose, or less, do very well on a low-carb diet – provided they stick with the plan. That’s because they hit maintenance about the same time that the body catches on and stalls. Those of us who started out with a hundred pounds to lose, or more, tend to stall when we are still far away from goal weight. When we attempt to push the issue, to force our bodies to give up more of its fat stores then those first 50 to 60 pounds, eventually, one of the non-die-hard low-carb eating patterns I described above raises its head to try and stop us from succeeding.

In my own case, I’m sad to say it worked.

Is There Any Hope of Overcoming the Subconscious Mind?

Honestly? I don’t know! Every low-carb diet I’ve attempted since I lost my initial 100 pounds has only left me heavier than I was before. It’s getting very disheartening. I managed to get down to 145 pounds after completing a round of the hHCG diet, but I wasn’t able to maintain that loss. Not because the diet is not sustainable. You move to a low-carb diet after it’s over. But I couldn't maintain the loss because of the amount of calories it takes to sustain 145 pounds. I just couldn’t do it.

When I regained and reached about 160, which was a little less than a 100-pound weight loss, I found that livable. It was maintainable. However, that quickly changed when I attempted to do a low-carb, high-fat diet. Eating high-fat only packed on more pounds. It was a big mistake on my part, because I was following a small low-carb subset, but I had HOPE.

And hope was what I needed at that moment.

Unfortunately, it backfired in my face. I quickly went from 160 pounds to the 190 that I weigh today before my weight stabilized. Not pretty. In fact, I was literally shocked when the DMV recently took my picture for my driver’s license. I had no idea I looked that badly again! But the drop in metabolic rate that the high-fat diet caused has not corrected itself.

So Where Do I Go From Here?

There are so many different low-carb camps today. The low-carb community has severely fractured into many different tribes, with each group standing opposed to the others, and screaming, “We have the truth. We will lead you to salvation.” But I don’t believe that anymore. I have come to realize that no one has the truth. Especially me. The world that existed when Dr. Atkins first started his low-carb revolution no longer exists.

Our food is more genetically altered, contaminated with chemicals, drenched in pesticides, and lacking in nutritional density than it was in 1972. Our meat is full of antibiotics and hormones that have messed with our gut flora and intestinal health. We live in a sterilized, fear-of-germs world.

At the moment, I don’t have any answers other than to continue eating a nutrient-dense diet. That’s quite a bit easier these days because we have moved further north to where my husband currently works. Healthy foods are easy to get here, but those nutrient-dense foods haven’t affected my weight at all. But my right knee and neurological issues are acting up again under the excess weight.


I just don’t know what. Maybe a more gentle, backdoor approach that doesn’t trigger the famine response would be best.

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