Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body confirms that dieting is not “easy”. He clarifies that the 4-Hour Body Diet is “simple”, with simple, straightforward rules, but that does not make it “easy”.
I personally lost 30 pounds on the slow carb diet and have maintained that weight loss over the past 10 years.
Many others have found long-term success following a slow-carb lifestyle, but some common mistakes listed below can slow you down on your fat-loss journey.
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Why is the Slow Carb Diet so Popular?
There is more than one answer to this question, but in my opinion, it has become popular because it has a set of simple rules that are easy to understand (and because of cheat day of course!).
I have personally tried other diets in the past, but many of them were hard to follow.
Some of them required unusual ingredients, others precise combinations, and others were simply unbearably boring.
The Slow Carb Diet uses the principles of the 80/20 Rule to focus on the few things that cause the highest impact.
For example the slow carb diet recommends having a high protein “first meal” that avoids sugar, flour, and dairy. That is a relatively small change that can have a huge impact on weight loss.
16 Most Common Mistakes on the Slow Carb Diet
Below is a list of the most common mistakes I have seen as a slow carb diet coach (most apply to keto diets also).
If you are stalled or not losing weight, check to see if any of these mistakes apply to you.
#1 Having Carbs for Breakfast Rather than Protein and Fat
It is not uncommon for people to think they can have “healthy oatmeal” or fruit and not pay the price. This is particularly true with habitual bagel & cereal eaters.
Eat a high-protein-no-carb breakfast – it makes a BIG difference.
#2 Not Eating Beans/Legumes
This is a very common mistake. When you switch from a high-carb diet to a high-protein-low-carb diet, you can easily become deficient in calories.
Often this will lead to fatigue and hunger and you will quit.
Did you know? Legumes have a lot of fiber and protein and because of this, they are a “slow carb” that can offer a form of energy that will not spike your insulin levels like a refined carb.
You don’t need beans with every meal, in fact too many beans can stall your diet, as they are fairly dense in calories.
I’ve found about a cup per day to be optimal for most. Monitor yourself and if you end up getting fatigued, increase the quantity of beans in your day.
#3 Not Paying Attention to Domino Foods
Keep Domino Foods under control (foods that may easily lead to overeating) by deciding on the size of each portion in advance.
There is nothing wrong with occasional snacks of compliant foods, just keep a close eye on the size of the portions.
Domino foods include nuts, peanut butter, chickpeas, olives, etc. Nuts are a particularly common culprit in weight loss stalls.
Tip: You can keep a list of allowed and compliant slow-carb foods handy to help you pay attention throughout the day.
#4 Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can lead to gaining weight because of the hormonal imbalance it causes.
The hormones leptin and ghrelin regulate your hunger, and lack of sleep can play havoc with these hormones.
In addition, lack of sleep leads to emotional instability which often leads to bad decisions regarding food.
#5 Not Drinking Enough Water
“Enough” water is based on the individual; how much you sweat, how much protein you’re eating, how much you exercise, etc.
The common number cited is eight glasses a day, but that is fairly arbitrary.
A more compelling guidepost would be five clear urinations a day. (Sorry for the TMI).
#6 Getting Off on the Wrong Foot
You don’t have to take a college class to understand low-carb eating, but you do need to understand where hidden carbs are lurking.
Learn to read labels, focusing on two things: grams of sugar and grams of carbs.
#7 Giving Up Too Quickly
There are lots of different approaches to low-carb or slow-carb eating, and there are often missteps at first, as you try to find one that works for you or to modify an existing one.
There is a tendency to overreact a bit when everything doesn’t go quickly or perfectly, and give up. Don’t give up.
At a minimum, you need 6 weeks of being totally compliant before throwing up your hands and say it doesn’t work.
#8 Not Enough Vegetables
I have been a diet coach for years for a large range of people. Many have told me they get fatigued eating a diet lower in carbs, and it turns out they are eating almost no vegetables or beans.
Slow carb is not an “all-protein” diet. You need the micronutrients that come from vegetables.
#9 Not Enough Fat
This can be a real problem also. Despite efforts to get out the word about healthy fats, the unscientific myths regarding the negative aspects of fat just won’t die.
This leads some to attempt a low-fat version of a low-carb diet.
Low fat and low carb together does not work. Nothing will sabotage a diet faster than hunger and you will get hungry without some good fats.
High fat and high carb doesn’t work either by the way.
Slow carb is a “high-protein-moderate-fat-low-carb” diet.
#10 Not Enough Fiber
Eating enough vegetables will go a long way towards ensuring you are getting enough fiber in your diet.
Seasonal fresh veggies are the way to go if possible, but there is nothing wrong with quick frozen veggies either.
In fact frozen vegetables frequently have more nutrients preserved than fresh vegetables that have been exposed for too long at the grocery store.
If you really want to go the fresh route, try a small vegetable garden. This Italian kitchen garden design is the way I started adding daily veggies to my meals.
#11 Eating Too Much
Indeed, you don’t have to count calories on a slow-carb diet. But that doesn’t mean calories don’t count.
The great thing about slow-carb eating is that protein and fat are satiating and you don’t get as hungry as quickly as you do when eating high-carb.
Some people make the mistake, however, of thinking they can just keep eating and eating and still lose weight as long as the food is slow-carb.
Listen to your body – eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are comfortable.
It takes about 20 minutes for your body to register “full”, so push yourself away from the table when 80% full, wait a bit and then if you are still hungry later come back for more. Chances are you won’t be.
# 12 Lack of Planning
When you first start on a new way of eating, you’ll run into old “habits” that need to be changed to new healthier ones.
No longer can you mindlessly hit the drive-thru or snack on chips and dip while watching TV. This is a good thing.
Pausing to reconsider our habits is a constructive step towards making improvements in our lives (*note: read Gretchen Rubin’s “Better Than Before” book for strategies to change habits).
In the case of eating, it’s important to plan ahead for a while, until our new habits come naturally.
Nothing will sabotage your goals more quickly than realizing that you’re hungry but you don’t know what to eat.
You’ll reach for the most convenient thing you can find, and that is often a readily available, high-carb snack.
Instead, plan ahead by having slow-carb snacks available in the kitchen and even in your car or at work.
#13 Getting into a Rut
Tim Ferriss talks about eating the same thing over and over as a strategy (actually it’s one of his 5 rules) for “weight loss”. This works well for a while, but eventually, people get bored and start looking for variety.
Slow carb should be viewed as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. Eating the same things over and over can help you achieve your weight loss goals initially, but you may not be able to sustain the weight loss over time unless you add variety to your diet.
A varied diet is also better nutritionally. Basically, what helps here the most is learning to cook. Most dishes can be modified to decrease carbs.
Tip: Many delicious slow-carb recipes are available right here on my “Farm to Jar” site.
#14 Problem Ingredients in “Low-Carb” Packaged Foods
Many protein bars and many “health drinks” are loaded with sugar and carbs.
Learn to read labels and give a cautious look towards products that talk about “net carbs” or “impact carbs”.
Be wary of “sugar-free” products if they have things like maltitol in them (a sugar replacement that is just as bad as sugar).
#15 Carb Creep: Paying Attention
Set a personal weight gain limit that works for you and if the scale starts to creep up more than 3 pounds, pay attention.
Pay attention to the candy jar at work, to the “just a little sugar in my coffee”, to the “well, just this little bit can’t hurt” self-talk.
Carb creep is subtle and can become a vicious cycle. If you notice carb creep, start over for a few days to a week with the strict protocol.
#16 No Exercise
While you don’t need to exercise to lose weight at the beginning of the diet, at some point you will need to build some muscle to keep your metabolism high and maintain the weight loss.
Resistance training of some sort, coupled with some high-intensity interval training is the quickest way to build muscle and lose weight.
There are many different forms of this type of exercise. Choose something that fits your lifestyle and that you can stick with in the long run – just make sure a part of your regime includes some resistance or strength exercises.
If you have a YMCA near you, they offer a huge range of resistance, cardio, and mobility classes. What I like about their classes is that many of them have been standardized by long-term professionals and then given to the various instructors to learn and incorporate.
You don’t have to rely on the whims or belief systems of the different trainers (they tend to vary a lot and can be quite dogmatic).
Slow Carb vs Keto vs Low Carb
Many of these mistakes on the slow-carb diet apply to most of the low-carb approaches that are currently popular. If you are not sure which type of diet approach is best for you, check out this summary of keto vs slow-carb vs low-carb to help you decide.
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