Most health authorities have started to acknowledge the health benefits of low-carb diets.
However, it doesn't seem like they're about to reach the mainstream anytime soon.
Despite the proven health benefits, many nutrition professionals are still reluctant to recommend them. They believe low-carb diets are too hard to stick to.
I want to debunk that myth now, once and for all.
Many randomized controlled trials (RCT) have compared low-carb diets to the standard weight loss strategy — a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet.
When you look at these studies, you see that low-carb diets aren't harder to stick to at all. It's a misconception.
Most of these studies show that more people in the low-carb groups make it to the end.
I looked at 19 RCTs that compared LC and LF diets (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ).
I included each study that had data on how many people made it to the end. Then, I calculated the average percentage of those who finished:
- Average for low-carb diets: 79.51%
- Average for low-fat diets: 77.72%
The results are clear. Low-carb diets are easier to stick to.
The difference isn't huge, but it is very clear that low-carb diets are at least NOT harder to stick to than low-fat diets.
Summary Most studies show that low-carb diets are no harder to follow than conventional calorie-restricted, low-fat diets.
There is one main reason low-carb diets are easy to stick to: they circumvent the main side effect of dieting — hunger.
That's because restricting carbohydrates leads to a reduction in appetite.
This is partly because low-carb diets are high in protein, which suppresses appetite more than carbs or fat ().
Studies also indicate this may be due to higher levels of peptide YY (PYY) on a low-carb diet, compared to a low-fat diet. PYY is a hormone that reduces appetite ().
The exact mechanism doesn't matter in my opinion, just the fact that low-carb diets lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake.
When going low-carb you get to eat good food until you feel full — and still lose weight.
Summary People on low-carb diets experience a lower appetite than those on high-carb diets. This makes a low-carb plan easier to stick to.
Simplicity is another reason low-carb diets are easy to stick to.
While cutting most sugar and carbs is a drastic change for many people, low-carb diets don’t have to be complex.
In fact, you can easily start a low-carb diet by following just a few simple rules:
- Avoid processed food
- Eat protein, fat and veggies with every meal
- Avoid sweet fruit and starchy vegetables, such as potatoes
By skipping all processed food, you automatically cut most of the carbs from your diet.
There is also no need for you to count calories or keep a food diary. After starting a low-carb routine, people can often eat as much as they want and still lose excess pounds.
Summary Low-carb diets are simple to follow. Just a few basic rules, like avoiding all processed foods, will cut most carbs from your diet.
Although I’ve pretty much debunked the idea that low-carb diets are hard to stick to, there are still a few things to keep in mind.
Most diets worth following take dedication and resilience. Let’s face it, sugar is addictive for many people and staying sober can be a challenge, especially in social situations.
The first couple of weeks on a low-carb diet are probably the worst.
Once your body has adjusted and you’ve managed to get into a low-carb routine, you’ll start feeling good. So staying on the diet shouldn’t be painful.
But that doesn’t mean high-carb foods won’t tempt you. In fact, chances are you will deviate from the diet every now and then.
That said, the same applies to all diets that require you to change your dietary pattern drastically.
Just keep in mind that if you go off track, it’s always worth starting anew.
Summary Although low-carb diets are easy and simple, you still have to resist temptations and peer pressure.
There is no secret formula on how to stick to a low-carb diet.
It largely depends on your own dedication and willpower, but here are a few tips that could reduce your risk of failure:
- Know which foods are low-carb. Confidence when grocery shopping is essential. Read this article for a detailed list of low-carb foods.
- Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry and always bring a shopping list to follow. It will reduce the risk of impulse buying.
- Make a meal plan. Be prepared and know what you are going to eat beforehand. For an excellent meal plan and menu, visit this page.
- Stock up on low-carb foods you enjoy eating.
- Make sure to always keep low-carb snack options close at hand.
- Do some research on low-carb recipes you would like to try. Variety is important in the long run.
- Tell your friends and family about your diet and ask for their support. You could even invite them for a low-carb dinner at some point.
- A low-carb diet is not totally carb-free. Make sure to include plenty of whole non-starch plant foods in your diet.
There are many other ways to improve your chances of success. For some general advice, read this article on 14 simple ways to stick to a healthy diet.
Summary To successfully start a low-carb routine and stick to it, you need to develop the appropriate mindset. The right strategies can make it both easy and fun.
Low-carb diets are fairly easy to follow, at least when you’ve gotten through the first couple of weeks.
They suppress appetite more than the standard low-fat diet and you only need to follow a few basic rules.
However, you’ll still have to show resilience and avoid giving in to carb cravings and social pressure.
Yet, once you’ve gotten into the routine, life will start to get easier and chances are you’ll feel healthier than ever before.
Don’t let misconceptions discourage you from trying a healthy low-carb diet.