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Low Carb Diet FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is an introduction to the concepts of low-carbohydrate diets. Since this runs counter to the low calorie, high-carb, low-fat diets recommended by government and the media, very little is discussed of low-carb diets.

However, this seems to be changing as people are becoming aware that low calorie is not actually healthy for the body


  • Section 1. What are Hyperinsulinemia, Syndrome X and Hypoglycaemia?
    • 1.1. What is the Glycemic Index?
    • 1.2. What is a trigger?
  • Section 2. Overview of the methods of Low Carb living
  • Section 3. All about Dr Atkins NDR
    • 3.1. What is Ketosis?
    • 3.2 What is Dr Atkins’ “Fat Fast”?
  • Section 4. All about Protein Power
  • Section 5 All about CAD
  • Section 6. General FAQ’s
    • 6.1 How fast will I lose weight?
    • 6.2 Won’t I be hungry?
    • 6.3 It frightens me that there’s so much fat in this diet!
    • 6.4 Can I do this diet and be vegetarian?
    • 6.5 Can I do this diet low-fat?
    • 6.6 How do I deal with questions/comments about Low-carbing from nosy relatives and/or friends?
    • 6.7 What can I eat for breakfast now I can’t have Cereal, Toast or pancakes?
    • 6.8 Starting out? Watch for these!
  • Section 7. Bibliography

What are Hyperinsulinemia, Syndrome X and Hypoglycaemia?


When you eat carbohydrates your body produces insulin which carries the sugar (carbs) out of your blood stream into your cells. A person who has a hyper response produces too much insulin has this action to the extreme. They will be left with too little sugar in the blood stream and too much stored in cells (i.e. fat). This leaves you with two problems: weight gain and hypoglycaemia.

The reasons that the popular high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet doesn’t work for some people is because of this response. Every time you eat carbohydrates your body produces more insulin. Also, your body produces insulin based on the carbohydrates you have had in the recent past. So you may be producing insulin without even eating carbohydrates.

Hyperinsulinemia is not a new disease and “Metabolic Syndrome” was first coined as a term in the late 50’s and entered common usage in the late 70’s but the syndrome has been largely ignored by the medical community until very recently, as they tend to treat symptomatically rather than holistically.

Syndrome X/Metabolic Syndrome

This is a collection of symptoms including:

  • Morbid Obesity, with a preponderance of abdominal fat (apple shape)
  • Inability to lose weight on low fat, low calorie diets
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Low “good” HDL cholesterol levels
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • High blood pressure

This set of conditions has been treated with very positive results on low-carbohydrate diets.


Hypoglycaemia is a condition when you have too little sugar in your blood to fuel your body. The results can be mildly annoying  to very scary, in extreme conditions it could cause death.

Possible Symptoms:

  • Confusion,
  • inability to concentrate,
  • irritability,
  • sleepiness,
  • anxiety,
  • palpitations,
  • shaking,
  • claustrophobia,
  • intense hunger,
  • rapid heartbeat,
  • dizziness,
  • coldness,
  • sweating,
  • loss of coordination.

It’s important to note the “intense hunger”. Quite often people will find themselves very hungry 1-3 hours after eating a high-carbohydrate meal, like pasta, bread, or bagels. This is the normal reaction to eating a concentrated source of carbohydrates without much protein or fat. Some people even experience carbohydrates making them “un-full”. After eating a satisfying meal and feeling full, a sugary dessert can make you feel hungry again.

Much of what people blame on their lack of will-power is simply their bodies physical reaction to the types of foods they eat. When you eat a diet high in carbohydrates your body prompts you to continue eating that way.

Often dieticians and doctors prescribe frequent high-carb meals. For a hyperinsulimic person this is terrible since the continual insulin releases just make the cycle worse and causes weight-gain. Eventually it may lead to very serious medical conditions.

How can I tell if I have hyperinsulinemia?

Here is a very short test:

  1. Tired and/or hungry in the mid afternoon?
  2. Want more dessert an hour after a big meal with desserts?
  3. Does eating breakfast make it harder “to stay on that diet”?
  4. Is it easier not to eat than to cut down?
  5. Have difficulty cutting out sweets and starches short term?
  6. Sweets or a starchy meal improve your mood?
  7. You skip the veggies in favour of the spuds?
  8. Sleepy ‘drugged’ feeling after a large starchy meal?
  9. Hard time going to sleep without a snack?
  10. Nocturnal eater?

If you find yourself saying “That’s ME!!!!” to some or all of these questions, then you really should find out what Low-Carb plans are all about.

What is the Glycemic Index?

It’s not necessary to understand the Glycemic index to be successful on a Low-Carb diet. However, it is very helpful to understanding what the concept of ‘triggers’ is all about. A high carb food that is absorbed quickly causes the blood sugar to spike, hyper-release of insulin and the a quick plummet into  Hypoglycaemia. It is this “high and crash” that causes hunger. Potatoes are a good example of a High Glycemic index food, in fact the humble spud has a higher glycemic index than Sugar!!! In practical use, within Atkins or Protein Power’s Maintenance you learn what triggers you into eating more, and you have chosen the CAD way of low-carb dieting, you learn to balance the desserts of the reward meal with proteins and fats to slow down absorption and blood sugar spikes.

What is a trigger?

A trigger is a food, drug, vitamin or biological event that causes you to increase your insulin production, or causes a drop in blood sugar. Some triggers are obvious such as a high carbohydrate food! Some are very subtle: Many drugs, prescription or not, can be triggers.Others are simply triggers because they are starch based or stimulate insulin production in other ways. The best way to take drugs and vitamins is with your meals. You need to do this as the stomach needs food in there as well to process the pills.

Other triggers are PMS for women, stress, illness and so on. These you have less control over. Some people report excellent success on controlling PMS with Evening Primrose or Borage (Starflower) Oil or with vitamin B supplements.

If you do find yourself with severe symptoms of low-blood sugar because of a trigger, there is varying action that you take, dependant on the Plan you are going to follow. On Atkins or Protein Power, eat some Fatty Protein, i.e. an egg, a lump of cheese or some meat with mayonnaise. If you are CADing, you should take 2 Fl Oz of Full Fat milk to try to get it back under control, or consider eating a small complementary meal.

Don’t consume a high carbohydrate food (as you used to!) to counteract the problem. This will just lead to a worse rebound later on.

Overview of the methods of Low Carb living

There are a number of plans, some new, some old, that are being used to control the hyperinsulinemia response.

One of the oldest is Dr. Atkins who, in the 1970’s, wrote a diet book prescribing a Ketogenic very low carbohydrate diet. He modified this into the ninties, putting in more veggies and fruits and his “New Diet Revolution” is one of the more popular of the Low-carb regimes out there.

Dr.s’ Richard and Rachel Heller have published several books that describe diets which are moderate in carbohydrate intake. “Healthy for Life” (often abbrev. to HFL) and “The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet” (abbrev. to CAD) are designed to control the amount of insulin the body releases. To summarize, their diet consists of 2 “complementary meals” very low in starchy carbohydrates but rich in low-carbohydrate veggies, protein and fat, and one “reward meal” consisting of two cups of salad, followed by a meal with equal amount of Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates, from any source you fancy. This reward meal MUST be finished within 60 minutes of commencement.

Dr.s’ Michael and Mary Dan Eades have published “Protein Power” which emphasizes getting sufficient protein and limiting carbohydrates. This Diet is similar to the Atkins regime, but is focused more on adequate protein consumption (at least 60g per day), and the health benefits of low-carb, rather than weight loss.

There are other plans, such as Sugarbusters, the Zone, GO-diet and Neanderthin. I don’t know anything about these plans, so I cannot write on them! If someone wishes to give me these sections for inclusion, please feel free! 🙂

Back in the 70’s, there were manufactured liquid diets based on high protein, no fat, no carb, no fibre and no vitamins/minerals. Because these was so nutritionally unbalanced (“natural” protein sources have Vits and Minerals included), people got sick, and some even died. This was proved later to be due to lack of potassium, and not due to Protein overdose, but the damage was done, and it gave all Low Carb diets a bad name.

Note that a Low Carb diet should not be started by people with kidney diseases without strict medical supervision as Proteinurea is a possibility. However there are several anecdotal Low Carb Kidney Patient success stories out there.

All about Dr Atkins NDR

The principle behind Dr Atkin’s diet is a very simple one. The “modern diet” contains too much refinement. Specifically, it contains large amounts of refined sugars, refined starches striped of nutrient value, and food additives. Our Bodies are not designed to cope with the amount of “junk” we chuck into them, (as detailed above) and so, getting rid of these over-refined products from your life is a paramount requirement. Getting rid of the sugar and additive filled junk foods will also bring health benefits as well. For the “diet stages” of the Atkins plan, it is necessary to rid yourself of the “standard carbohydrate foods” i.e. bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals, cakes, sweets and biscuits. Also, the low use of natural sugars is required, i.e. no milk, and only low sugar fruits such as the berries are advisable.

So, the principles: There are four stages to the plan, Induction, Ongoing weight loss (OWL) Pre-Maintenance and Maintenance.

Induction involves a “strict” regime that lasts for two weeks. It consists of as much protein and fat as you want to eat, as much water as you can drink (at least 2ltrs a day!) and under 20g of Carbohydrate a day, derived from non-starchy green veggies, either salads or cooked.

This induces Benign Dietary Ketosis (Sec Section 3.1) which suppresses hunger and makes your body burn body fat in the absence of available carbs to use as energy.

Making sure you eat enough Protein and Fat is important, as Protein ensures that your body is functioning properly, and building muscle, rather than using it as energy, as with a “standard” Low-Fat/High Carb diet. The Fat helps you get into Ketosis, keep your joints mobile, skin smooth and hydrated, it will drop your LDL cholesterol, raise your HDL cholesterol, and satiate your appetite! From now on, Fat is your Friend. You ignore it at your peril!

However, the term “As much as you want” does not mean camp out in front of the fridge and eat everything in sight. It means as much as your body wants to not be hungry. This distinction is very important. After a meal you should feel satisfied, not stuffed to the gunwales!!!

After induction, you move into OWL. The principles here are to vary your diet, so you don’t get bored, introducing Carbs from other sources such as nuts and seeds. You are also looking to find out your “Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing Weight” (CCLLW) by adding into your diet an extra 5g of Carbs per day per week, ie 25g carbs a day for week 3, 30g for week 4 etc etc. At some point your weight loss will stall, this means that your CCLLW is 5g below this point. Some people can never get away from induction levels, others can go as high as 70g of Carbs per day! It is all individual, and you have to find out these points for yourself.

OWL is undoubtedly the phase of the diet you will stay in for the longest, but when you are nearing your “goal weight” you then slip up another gear into Pre-Maintenance. This involved raising your Carbohydrate intake again, using small amounts of foods such as *unrefined* grains, *unpolished* rice and *whole wheat* pasta, until your weight loss is just crawling along. This is for two reasons. You are physiologically preparing yourself for the maintenance program, and you are trying to make sure that your body knows where your goal weight is going to be, and getting it used to increased carbs. Plan to do this Pre-Maintenance over a couple of months.

Then, of course, you hit your goal. This is not a licence to think, “Oh, the diet is over, where’s that big cake I have been looking forward to!” If you do that, and pick up the metabolic poison again, then all the work you have put in will be for nothing. Remember, your body is not designed to cope with the junk, so staying away from it is still a good idea.
Just because you are now thin, doesn’t mean that the way your body chemistry works is any different. Feed it sugar, and you *will* get fat again! Dr Atkins says that even if you add the Starches back into your life on a regular basis, to add White Refined Sugar back in would be foolhardy in the extreme.

So what is the point of Maintenance. Well, two goals, To live life, and not to get outside an induction periods loss of your goal weight.

So, You need to find out your CCLMW and CCLGW, your Critical Carb levels for maintaining and gaining weight. Knowing these levels give you the power to never have to get Fat again! You will know that if you eat more than Xg of Carbs per day you will gain weight. So, you control your life! And of course, because life is for living, and the Cake situations are there, you never let your weight get above a two week induction period away from your goal, usually around half a stone or so.

So, with these tools, you are set for a life of thinness!

What is ketosis?

Ketosis is a central tenant to the NDR plan, so it gets a section all to itself!

Ketones are chemicals that your body produces as a by product of combusting fat. They are excreted through your urine and breath. You can buy “ketostix” which, when passed through urine, can tell you whether or not you are in ketosis. Ketosis happens during fasting, low carbohydrate diets, and pregnancy. Most people are in a mild ketosis state ever morning, it is the Ketones that cause “Morning Breath!”

Ketosis (What Dr Atkins called Benign Dietary Ketosis) should not be confused with Ketoacidosis. Ketosis is a healthy state caused by using ketones for fuel and having “Normal” blood sugar levels, brought about by eating a Low-carb diet.

Ketoacidosis is a dangerous state in which you are using ketones for fuel, but have very high blood sugar. This cause the blood to turn acidic and harmful. Diabetics on a standard High-carb, low-fat diet can suffer from Ketoacidosis, as they are recommended to eat complex carbohydrates to keep their blood sugar stable, and this is what the “ketostix” were designed to flag up for them.

On Dr. Atkins diet BKD is the goal. By cutting carbs to a level below 20g per day, your body used up your stores of glycogen (blood sugar) and then your body has no alternative but to go into “fat(ketone)burning mode” instead of “sugar(glucose) burning mode” to fuel your bodily functions.

However there seems to be very little recent research other than what Dr Atkins is doing on whether or not being in ketosis is harmful in any way for you. All of Dr Atkins evidence points to the conclusion that there are no long-term harmful effects of ketosis at all.

However, *if* it is bad, is it worse for you than being overweight? Many diet gurus of the low-fat persuasion accuse ketosis for all kinds of things such as destroying muscle tissue, causing kidney disease and more. But so far, none of this has been proved, and it looks like that is just unscientific diet-bashing.

What is Dr Atkins’ “Fat Fast”?

You may hear people talking about the Fat Fast, simply because it is kind of a difficult and dramatic thing to do. If you feel you are stuck on a plateau, or metabolically resistant to weight loss, you can do a Fat Fast for 3 days. It cannot be sustained as a diet for more than 3 days at a time, as being a 1000 calorie per day diet, more than this may be harmful to the body. This is paraphrased from Dr. Atkins’ book “The New Diet Revolution”.

The background of Fat Fast:

There was a study done by Dr Frederick Benoit and his associates at the Oakland Naval Hospital in the 1960’s. They compare “the 1000-calorie, 10-gm-carbohydrate, high-fat diet with fasting in seven men weighing between 230 and 290 pounds. On the 10-day fast, they lost 21 pounds on average, but most of that was lean body weight; only 7.5 pounds was body fat. But on the ketogenic diet, 14 of the 14.5 pounds lost was body fat.” (NDR, p. 61)

Who should do fat fast?

People who are metabolically resistant, meaning people who can’t lose weight on the Induction diet, or a low-fat diet of under 900 calories, and those who don’t even get into a ketosis/lipolysis metabolism under any circumstances. (NDR, p.183)

What is the Fat Fast diet?

Designed for the hard core metabolically resistant people using the body’s reaction to fasting, it is not supposed to help you lose fat quickly!  Rather it pushes your metabolism to go into ketosis (the fat burning mode).

It is a 1000-calorie a day, 90% fat diet. You divide the food into small portions, and have them at different times of the day. Dr. Atkins suggested dividing 1000 calories into five 200-calorie portions, and have it at 7am, 11am, 3pm, 7pm, and before bedtime.
(NDR, p.186-87)

Some suggestions for 200-calorie portions are:

  • 50g of sour cream, containing 1 tablespoon of caviar, served on three or four crisply fried pork rinds.
  • 2 deviled egg halves, served not in the whites, but on pork rinds or on a thin slice of a soya bread recipe
  • 25g of mayonnaise with 10g of chicken, ham, egg, or fish
  • Half of the above mix in a half avocado.
  • 70g of whipped double cream, artificially sweetened, and with ground vanilla beans.
  • 25g of macadamia nuts (Or walnuts, or other nuts that fits the 90% fat criteria.)
  • 50g of cream cheese.
  • Any other recipe or food choices that fits the 200-calorie and 90% fat criteria.

When should I do Fat Fast?

It is a good idea to try Fat Fast for two days right after an Induction phase, just to prove that you don’t feel hungry. However, it is not
recommended to continue for over 3 days because it has not been tested for long term use. It should be interspersed with Induction phases or some other strict level of the Atkins diet to make sure that FMS production is not suppressed by the interposed carbohydrate. The strategy should be to lose on the Fat Fast and to use the regular Atkins diet to maintain that loss. (NDR, p187-88)

All about Protein Power

Protein Power is a similar plan to NDR. So similar in fact it is recommended highly that everyone using the Atkins plan should read it–not necessarily to switch, but to get the added information. (It will help defend your eating plan, for those who want more ammo!)

The Protein Power plan is summarized below, and then there is a description of how it differs from Atkins.


PP revolves around figuring out your %Body fat and %lean meat, and then working out how much protein you need to enable your body to change its %lean meat upwards and its %bodyfat downwards! To do this PP has two plans, Intervention and Maintenance.

What most people embarking on a Low-Carb plan want is either weight loss and/or metabolic control. i.e. controlling cholesterol, blood pressure or type II diabetes. This is taken care of with the Intervention stage.

Intervention has two “phases,” aptly named Phase I (for people who have more than 20% bodyfat to lose or have the afore mentioned conditions) and Phase II (for people with none of the afore mentioned conditions and have less than 20% bodyfat to lose).

Both Phases have a Minimum protein requirement. There is rather a big deal made of minimum protein requirements in PP. This is because Protein is used to build muscle, and a Low-carb plan helps your body do this very well, so you have to give your body the building blocks to do it!

Phase I: 30g carbs (or less) per day

Phase II: 55g carbs per day (basically the same as Phase I but allows slightly more carbs)

Once you have reached your ideal bodyfat percentage, or you’re within 5% of your ideal weight, or you’ve achieved metabolic control and stability, you move from Phase II to Maintenance. You slowly add carbs until you stop losing weight. You are aiming for your carbs to equal your protein. Depending on the person, you can increase your carbs as much as 30% more of your protein.
And because life is life, when you’ve taken a “nutritional vacation” (love that phrase!), you return to Phase I for 3 days, or until you’ve lost the weight, finish the week on Phase II, then return to your regular maintenance.

DIFFERENCES from Atkins:

  • You figure out your minimum protein requirement and make sure you get it
    (more accurately, you plan your meals around it.)
  • Carbs are split fairly equally among meals and snacks (7-10g: 7 if you’re
    snacking, 10 if you’re not)
  • No one meal or snack should exceed 12g carbs.
  • Aim for 25g minimum fibre per day
  • US only – Grams of fiber are subtracted from carbs for an Effective Carb Count or
    “ECC.” (The theory is that, although fiber is carb, it doesn’t metabolize.) Atkins included this concept as well in the 1992 edition of NDR.
    NB: UK/EU labelling counts fibre separately to carbohydrate. We do not need to subtract fibre from carbs in food labelling, this has already been done for us!
  • Drink till you float (good advice for Atkins too.)
  • The Eades dare to mention that evil “E” word: exercise.
  • PP doesn’t dwell on ketosis, but does mention that if you have a lot of fat to lose, you will be in ketosis and you can monitor that with Ketostix if you wish.
  • A glass of wine with dinner is encouraged (though he doesn’t say why exactly, Atkins is very pro-wine, but anti-alcohol in general.)

All about CAD, CALP and HFL

The Biological Principles

“The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet” is a diet that aims to control the amount of insulin the body releases. The theory is that Carbo-addicted people release too much insulin when a Carbohydrate is consumed. Insulin is responsible for making and storing fat in the form of triglycerides, in addition to working with glycogen to regulate blood-sugar. When the body produces too much insulin not only is too much energy stored as fat, it causes drops in blood sugar which can cause fatigue and symptoms like shakiness, difficulty concentrating, cold sweats, and intense hunger, as covered above.

So, CAD controls insulin production by allowing you to eat your carbohydrates during one one hour meal each day (Called a “Reward Meal”).The theory is, that by eating in this cycle, the body is primed on how much insulin to release based upon previous meals. So with two meals of low-carbohydrates and one meal of high carbohydrates you body is tricked into releasing less insulin. Therefore you store less fat and have steadier blood sugar levels. Most people find that they can lose weight and that they lose cravings and hunger caused by blood sugar drops.

The Diet Itself

First a comment about the three books written by the Hellers. “The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet”, the first book, clearly lays out the diet along with lists of vegetables and foods you can eat at your low-carbohydrate meals. The “Healthy for Life” book, goes about it much differently. It eases you into what is essentially the “The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet” at the advanced levels. Many people would rather jump right on in with the “The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet”. It’s not difficult to follow. Most of us are unclear why they changed their strategy.

So for the sake of brevity in the FAQ it is suggested you read both books (see the bibliography for details) and decide how you’d like to approach it. In this FAQ the diet from “The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet” is discussed but the biological principles outlined in “Healthy for Life” are discussed. “The Carbohydrates Lifespan Plan” sort of melds the first two together, but is primarily aimed at people over 45.

The diet consists of two “complementary” meals, which are low carbohydrate meals, and a “reward meal” which is can be made up of just about anything you like. Most people choose breakfast and lunch (or breakfast and dinner if they have an unco-operative cafeteria at work!) for their complementary meals. It’s a good idea not to change this too often because you may find your body gets confused and you can end up back on the blood sugar spiral again.

Complementary meals can consist of any of the low carbohydrate vegetables, meat, cheese, eggs, and other low carbohydrate dairy products. You must be very careful in selecting foods for your complementary meals. Be sure to read labels and only choose foods with 4 grams of carbohydrates or less per serving (see warning below).

The “reward” meal: Strictly speaking, start with 2 cups worth of salad, then anything you like in strict thirds, ie a third carb and third fat and a third protein. However, most people find that they can eat anything they want (within healthy boundaries — though admittedly some people go crazy and still lose weight). The important part is that the meal MUST only last 1 hour!!! If you go on too long your body will produce too much insulin. You should try to eat a healthy meal with plenty of carbohydrates. This is a good time to eat potatoes, pasta, bread, all the starchy goodies that you love.

Many people have found that they can’t eat a whole lot when it comes to their RM. They start out thinking that their going to consume the entire agricultural product of a small, developing nation, but find that they can only consume portions that most average-weight people eat. Sometimes they even don’t have room for dessert! The “satiety switch” seems to start functioning like it does in “slim people.” (Some, however, do claim that their “satiety switch” is permanently turned off and they will always have room for dessert).

WARNING: The 4 grams of carbohydrates does not mean you can eat 1/2 a biscuit or small dish of frozen yoghurt or ice-cream. Only consume the foods in the low carbohydrate lists. It’s not actually the number of carbohydrates but the way they are stored in the food. You’ll notice that the low-carbohydrate vegetables in the list are full of fibre and low in sugars. This means that they release their sugars, what little they have, very slowly into your blood stream.

General FAQ’s

How fast will I lose weight?

No one can say for sure. Most people will start with a fast loss, then slowdown to losing between 1/2lb to 2lbs per week. Some people seem to slip right out of their fat, usually men. There will also be times when your weight loss stalls. This is the body marshalling itself for the next loss… you are usually losing inches at this time! It is more important to measure yourself than weigh, as when you weigh you are weighing Fat, Muscle, Bones, Water, and the food you have eaten!! Muscle is denser than Fat, so you can register a “weight gain”, when in fact you have lost body fat and gained muscle through eating protein! This is no bad thing! Muscle is metabolically active, so it will use energy, hence burn calories, even at rest. White Fat cells are metabolically inactive, they just sit there.

Won’t I be hungry?

No, you should not be hungry. In a Ketogenic diet, the Ketones suppress the appetite reflex, and on Ketogenic and a CAD style diet the Protein and Fats you are eating act as appetite satiators. However, you should be eating aiming to eat something every 5 hours or so.

If you are eating a high carbohydrate diet now much of the hunger you experience will be because your blood sugar levels soar and plummet with each dose of carbohydrates you take. And with each dose of carbs you produce more and more insulin causing the hunger to get worse as time goes by.

Some people have had “low blood sugar problems” on their first few days, which can definitely cause huge hunger. Just eat more Fat and Protein. It is also very likely that you will suffer from “Sugar Withdrawal” symptoms, such as headache, restlessness, lethargy, pains and other nasties. This makes people think the diet is unhealthy, when in fact their bodies are complaining that one of its favourite drugs is being removed. (You get similar symptoms from a caffeine withdrawal!) See the section on Starting Out.

It frightens me that there is so much fat in this diet.

Many of us came to a low-carb lifestyle after unsuccessfully trying to eat a VLF diet and exercising. Some of us gained weight after strictly following diets of the sort recommended by Dr. Dean Ornish, “Eat More. Weigh Less”, or John McDougall, MD, “The McDougall Program”. We are told that fat is the cause of heart disease, cancer, and obesity and it seems like, to the layperson, that every
expert is laying the blame at fat’s doorstep.

The “Low-carb Doctors” lay the blame on insulin. They say that high fat consumption does not causes heart disease or high cholesterol but that it is over production of insulin, or the bodies resistance to insulin, causing “Sugars” to be laid down as Fats (triglycerides) before the body has a chance to act on them and convert them into Energy. The arguments are very compelling and certainly should be taken into consideration.

If this is something that really concerns you, read any of the Plan’s books. They have sections devoted to why Natural Fats are good for us!

The anecdotal cholesterol testing reported by people on mailing lists, and by the Doctors in their medical centre’s have shown that total blood cholesterol goes down, the good (HDL) cholesterols have increased and the bad ones (LDL, VLDL and Lipoprotein a) have decreased. In cases where triglycerides have been a problem in the past, these are shown to be no longer in the troublesome range.

Can I do this diet and be a vegetarian?

You can, but it is hard. An Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian  should be able to vary their diet enough to get enough complete proteins and natural fats as well as being able to stave of boredom, but a Vegan will have huge amounts of trouble. However you look at it, the Primate “Homo sapien sapien” (i.e Humans) evolved eating meat as part of their diet.

If you take the choice not to do so, then I respect that, but it will make adopting a low-carb lifestyle tricky. There are support mailing lists out there for vegetarian low-carbers, and a couple of articles on this site that will offer much more information than this short FAQ could hope to provide.

Can I do this diet low-fat?

Well, you can, but it is really not recommended! You will almost certainly get sick. On a low-carb diet, Fat is where you derive the energy to function from, as getting energy from Protein is non-desirable to the body (Protein has more important jobs to do, like building muscles, skin, cell walls, veins and arteries etc. etc.). Also bear in mind that Fat satiates appetite, so without the fats, you will be more hungry, and more likely to fall off of the wagon, and reach for a high carb “cheat food”.

You could substitute low-fat products for high-fat ones if you really really want to do so, just be sure to check the carbohydrate grams listed on the package. However, please be aware that most low-fat products substitute sugars and starch filler ingredients for the fat, and also tend to be packed with e-numbers to get them to behave in the same way as their fat-laden counterparts.

Low-carb is about getting rid of this unnatural additive filled way of eating, and no sensible plan out there will advocate a low-fat & low carb approach. Think about it a great deal before you choose to go it Low-fat as well as Low-carb.

How do I deal with questions about Low-carbing from nosy relatives and/or friends?

There’s several schools of thought on the subject. First is, if you are wishing to avoid conflict with people who have strong opinions on your diet and feel that you should eat the way THEY want you to eat, avoidance is the best method.

  1. Blind them with medical terminology. Explain you have hyperinsulinemia which requires some modifications to your diet. Leave it at that. If they continue to question you, make a frightened face and tell them there’s a spider crawling up their neck.
  2. Lie, lie, lie! If they offer you a carbohydrate laden food, just tell them “no thanks” and either offer them no explanation or say, “I just don’t want any right now” or say, “my stomach is feeling a little rough, could I have some of that for later?” Pretend you are just a picky eater, no one ever questions picky eaters!
  3. Offer explanation-lite: Say that you’ve decided to change your eating habits so that you don’t eat anything with carbohydrates during the day, because you have found they make you sleepy. Don’t even allude to the fact it’s also a weight loss diet with a real name.

Secondly, you could tell the truth. That you are eating a natural food based diet, with no sugar or junk in it.  Some people can handle it with grace and interest.

Realize that even when people ask, not everyone really cares about what diet you are on. Also note that some will always try to sabotage you, especially if you are showing great success using a Low Carb eating plan, and they are hungry and failing on a Low Fat one.

What can I eat for breakfast now that cereal, toast and pancakes are out?

What could be better than Bacon and eggs! But even this can be boring after a while. But, remember that what you eat for breakfast doesn’t have to be traditional breakfast food, it is just a matter of reprogramming your brain away from the very successful marketing job that has been done to society.

Some people eat a packet of Nuts, others left overs from last night supper. Personally, I eat an Omelette, scrambled eggs or a Chicken or Prawn Salad, and have a bowl of Yoghurt with Flaked Almonds if I miss a bowl of “breakfast food”

Other people give up on eating breakfast altogether and choose to have an early lunch then a smaller meal in the late afternoon. Bear in mind though that Breakfast is the most vital energy meal of the day. You need the energy to function, “Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Lord, and Dine like a Pauper” is not a bad adage when applied to low-carb!

Starting Out: Watch for these!

A few people have a difficult time starting this diet. Often they will experience extreme symptoms of hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar during the first 2 days to week. The collective advice for those folks is:

  • If you are female don’t start the diet until after your period but well before you ovulate. Insulin production seems to be higher during the “PMS” window and that can make blood sugar swings very bad.
  • Be very careful about taking any over-the-counter medication. It’s not mentioned in the books but the “Carbohydrate Gram Counter” lists things like aspirin, decongestants and so on as triggers for insulin production.
  • Eat lots of salad and green veggies and lots of fat your first week. The vegetables have lots of fibre which help your brain and mouth think you are eating “big” meals. Fat will help you feel full, and drop you into Ketosis if you have chosen a Ketogenic style diet.
  • Take Vitamin supplements. Read the Chapters in the books about Vitamin supplementation, Dr Atkins’ is at Chapter 22. Aim to be taking a broad spectrum Multivitamin, some extra Chromium if you are having hunger problems, Fish oil, Flaxseed oil and Starflower (borage)oils. Potassium will help stop leg cramps, get this from “lo-salt” products, and use on your food as you would normal salt.


  • “Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet”, Dr. Richard Heller, Dr. Rachel Heller.
  • “Healthy for Life”, Dr. Richard Heller, Dr. Rachel Heller.
  • “Carbohydrate Gram Counter”, Corinne T. Netzer, Dell Books, 1994, New York,
    New York.
  • “Carbohydrate Diet”, Success Publications, Inc. 1972, North Miami Beach,
  • “Calories and Carbohydrates”, Barbara Kraus, Signet Books, 1993, New York,
    New York.
  • “Total Nutrition Guide”, Jean Carper, Bantam Books, 1989, New York, New York.
  • “Low Carbohydrate Gourmet” by Harriet Brownlee. Written in 1975.
  • “Thin Tastes Better: Control Your Trigger Foods and Lose Weight Without
    Feeling Deprived”, Gullos.
  • “Dr. Atkins’ Health Revolution: How Complementary Medicine can Extend
    Your Life”, Robert C. Atkins, M.D.
  • “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Cookbook”, Robert C. Atkins, MD and Fran Gare, MS.,
    M. Evans and Company, ISBN: 0-87131-755-9
  • “The New Diet Revolution”, Robert C. Atkins, M.D.
  • “Protein Power”, Michael R. Eades, M.D. and Mary Dan Eades, M.D.
    Bantam Books, ISBN: 0-553-10183-8


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