When I started I cut back my net carbs to under 20g; this was hard, it required a complete change in my life and overhaul everything about myself. As my body readjusted to this new regime I suffered only marginally from ‘carb flu’. I felt ill for two days, maybe three, but after that I was just dizzy – a sign that my blood sugar was changing. After having restricted yourself for a couple of weeks to such a limited net carb intake, you get used to it.
“So what is ‘carb flu’ really? It sounds horrible!”
“Don’t worry, it’s not that bad!”
Carb flu is essentially carb withdrawal, your body is getting used to having to run off of ketones. It’s a big deal, you’ve changed the fuel supply! You might experience dizziness, nausea, a slight flux in tempreture, and headaches. It’s all normal – if it goes on and on and on for more than a couple of weeks, or if you feel like something is seriously wrong: seek medical advice. If you think it’s not serious, but you’re struggling for more than two weeks, up your carb intake; some people are more sensitive to the loss of carbs than others, and that’s okay, just go slowly, this doesn’t have to happen overnight.
In these first weeks you need to stay positive, determined and above all patient. Drink lots of water – if you can’t stomach still water, get some unflavoured sparkling water, it tends to be easier to drink on an upset stomach than still stuff. Eat simple things, and slowly lower your net carb count until you’re below your mark. I’ve managed to go as low as 15g, but that in itself was hard and I wouldn’t advise it unless you’ve had a good run already.
Also something to keep in mind: every time you build in a cheat day – which, lets face it, we all end up doing at some point or another – you’re might have to go through a mini carb withdrawal when you start up again, the longer you’ve cheated the worse it’ll be. I started my diet in November 2013, which meant I had to persevere through Christmas and New Years. I did alright with Christmas, forgoing on the alcohol and the sweets and stuffing myself with turkey and salads. New Years was a different story, I’d been on this diet for two months and it was already making a difference so I decided I deserved a treat. I had sweets and wine and was stalled for two weeks before I started losing weight again. So just remember that you’re in control and if you do decide to have a cheat day – for whatever reason! – there are consequences to deal with.
That said, sometimes you do need a cheat day, and that’s okay. You’re not meant to be going insane: if you really need to have a day where you have to eat something not entirely in your schematics, that’s fine. Do it. This isn’t just about your physical health, it’s also about your mental health and the last thing any of us need is to become distressed or depressed because we can’t eat certain things.
It’s not an easy road, but we’ve chosen it because it works and it works fast. If you’re doing it right, you’ll see returns straight away. I lost 8kg in the first month, and between 2-3kg the months after that; I’ve gone from weighing 82kg in November last year to nearly 62kg now (July). The difference between this and other things I’ve tried is, I’m keeping it off by regulating myself and a little bit of exercise.
It’s important to be honest with yourself, so when you’re keeping your food diary be honest! No one else has to know, but you will and you’re the one fighting here, so fight fairly and give yourself the best chance you can by understanding what it is that your body is doing, why it’s doing it, and what affects it’s going to have on you, physically and mentally. It won’t happen overnight, but I promise you, this is for real.