6 Ways to Overcome the Sadness of Low Carb Diets

Carbohydrates have become something of a health controversy in the last decade or so.
They have regularly been passed back and forth as scientists sometimes declare them to be ‘bad’ for our health, and at other times ‘good’. Of course, as with all things scientific, the truth is a lot more complicated than that.


What can be agreed upon is the health of the US is not improving. Obesity is rising, as is the consumption of high carb, high fat, and calorie-dense but nutritionally poor foods. At the same time, low carb diets are still hugely popular amongst people watching their weight and taking care of their health. The Atkins diet, the Ketogenic diet, and the Paleo diet are all popular low carb diets. These diets have also become a popular way to treat obesity-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Low Carb Diets and Building Muscle Mass

Going low carb does not mean that you cannot still build muscle mass.  

In fact, research indicates that when the body is in a state where it does not follow a normal biochemical process, it adapts and makes the necessary changes in order to compensate. For low carb dieters, the body increases its muscle glycogen along with other enzymes in the body in order to maintain 10.  

Simply put, low carb dieters who are cognizant of the amount of carbs they eat often experience great success in sculpting their bodies.  The trick is to do a low carb diet in moderation.  You cannot remain on restricted carbs for months on end, but if you are looking to switch up your eating regime, you can experiment with a low carb diet and still increase your muscle mass.  Here’s how:

  1. Make the most of what you can eat.

In terms of food you can’t eat on a low-carb diet, you really aren’t restricting very many ingredients.

What you are doing is restricting a huge proportion of manufactured and convenience foods, as they are often high in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are great for manufacturers as they’re cheap and can be used to bulk out a meal. As a result many convenience foods are based around pasta, bread, rice and potatoes.

If all you do is eliminate the carb rich foods from your diet and subsist on what’s left, then you’re going to struggle.  Such a restrictive diet has been shown to result in cravings for the food you’re avoiding. To battle your biological responses, you’re going to need to use your imagination. Take a long hard look at what you can eat, and eat as wide a variety as possible. If you haven’t eaten broccoli since your mother stopped telling you to, then now is the time to give it another go. Go outside your comfort zone and try new foods. There is a huge variety of new, exotic, food produce available. Traditional health foods are now making it to the mainstream, including many seeds. Seeds are a great way to find low carb foods which can substitute for grains like breakfast cereal. Of course, how effective they are in curbing cravings depends on how palatable you find them. If you’re a fussy eater it may be difficult to make changes. But even the lowly breakfast cereal has new and exciting possibilities. Flax seed meal and chia seeds are often used as low carb substitutes for cereal. Milk isn’t allowed on a low carb diet, but unsweetened almond milk can come to your rescue.

Often it’s the variety rather than the actual food which people get bored with. Low carb dieters have often been heard to complain about getting tired of eggs and bacon for breakfast. Compare this with a dieter in the 1980’s who was tired of forcing down their high fiber cereal. They would have killed for a breakfast of eggs and bacon. But you don’t have to suffer in a low carb rut. There are a wide range of cook books available for low carb meals (often called Ketogenic or Paleo) which use the foods you normally walk past in the supermarket as you head for the frozen fries.  There really is no real reason you should be bored eating low carb meals.

low carb diets

Simply put, low carb dieters who are cognizant of the amount of carbs they eat often experience great success in sculpting their bodies.

2. Get smart and substitute

As already noted, studies have shown depriving yourself of your favorite foods can make the compulsion to eat them stronger.

But who sent out the edict saying foods have to be made a certain way? The Internet is awash with interesting low carb takes on traditionally high carb foods.

  • The humble lettuce or cabbage leaf is a fantastic bread or tortilla replacement for a burger or a burrito.
  • Instead of sheets of lasagna, layer strips of zucchini or eggplant between the bolognaise sauce, and try zoodles or spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti.
  • If you really can’t live without flour, almond flour or coconut flour are a lower carb option. If you’re craving pancakes, you can (occasionally) make them low carb with almond or coconut flour.
  • Cauliflower can do more than you could possibly imagine. Use cauliflower rice as a rice substitute for curries and there’s also a trend to use it as a pizza base for when you’re really craving a takeout. Even mashed cauliflower can be substituted for mashed potato.
  • Roast strips of butternut squash instead of eating French fries.

You never have to forego a take-out or any of your favorite meals, all you need to do is make some simple swaps. The only limit is your imagination, and just how open minded you are about making low carb work for you.  

3. Recognize It’s Not Boredom

Stress and anxiety causes the body to produce cortisol.

This, in turn, creates cravings for sugary foods and induces stress related eating. When anxious or stressed, people crave ‘reward’ foods such as chocolate, cookies or candy – all high carb foods.

We often complain of being ‘bored’ of food, when that isn’t the root of the problem. For example, Boredom may stem from how low carb is restricting your social life. This is especially true if you view eating out or a night out drinking alcohol as a social activity. The chances are you aren’t bored of the food choices available to you at all, you’re just craving high reward foods to deal with negative emotions. There are two ways of dealing with this problem: either find a sweet, low carb solution, or work through your emotions. Both are better than settling down with a 200g bar of chocolate. If you choose to find a low carb solution, it’s not going to be the healthiest of choices. You can, if you choose to, try vegan chocolate by mixing coconut oil, cacao, and a sweetener like stevia and putting it in the freezer to harden. Alternatively, you could try the route with the long term benefit, and deal with your emotions. Meditation, exercise, and reaching out to your family or friends for support have been proven to help with stress, anxiety. Yes, they work on boredom too. Exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous- a brisk walk can make you feel better, and distract you from your cravings. You don’t have to become a burden to your support network either. A normal, fun conversation with someone you care about can improve your mood. You don’t have to bare your soul or complain about how miserable your diet is making you.

low carb diets

Mixing up herbs and spices can turn a boring dish into something altogether more appetizing or exotic, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming.

4. Learn How to Use Herbs and Spices

Research published by the Nutrition Journal found Americans are eating out more and more.

Even when they are eating at home, they are cooking less. Convenience foods, fast foods, or take-outs are increasingly being eaten at home.

Only around half of all households cook at any time during the day. A busy lifestyle and a reliance on convenience foods means that, as a nation, we’re losing our cooking skills. A great first step in any cooking lesson is how to use herbs and spices to vary flavors. The spice mixes found in supermarkets are often a poor substitute as they can be loaded with salt and sugar. We all have some herbs or spices in the back of our cupboards we could use. Be warned though dried herbs and spices don’t last forever and flavor is lost over time. So you may have to buy new. Mixing up herbs and spices can turn a boring dish into something altogether more appetizing or exotic, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming:

  • Adding cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or vanilla beans to foods can help to ‘sweeten’ them or, more accurately, distract your taste buds from the lack of sugar.
  • In savory dishes, use a mixture of finely chopped or smashed fresh herbs with some oil to marinade meats or roast vegetables in. You can also use it as a stir in sauce for spiralized vegetables.
  • Curry and Mexican sauces can easily be made low carb using chopped tomatoes as a base mixed with spices.

5. Get meal prepping

A great many of our food choices are driven by convenience.

Fast food intake has increased to 18% of food spend in the last 50 years and soft drink consumption has increased 3 ½ times.  The main reason people reach for convenience food is a perceived lack of time.

We’re busy people and it’s much easier and quicker to reach for a ready meal or a take-out than cook a meal from scratch. Unfortunately, a great many convenience foods are carb loaded. The dough base on the pizza, the burger bun, the rice with the curry, the noodles with the Chinese food, pasta in Italian food, etc. Not only are there a lot of other additives like added salt and sugar to these foods, but they are all high carb. If you’re getting bored with food choices, your willpower will wane. You’ll opt for the quickest, most convenient food you can find – a carb based meal. There is a way round this: meal prepping. By setting aside an hour or two a week to cook and prepare healthy meals for the rest of the week, convenience can never be an excuse again. Search ‘low carb meal prepping’ on the Internet to find interesting meal plans for the week which can keep you on the right track. If you have plenty of space in your freezer, and a crockpot, your meal prepping options will be much wider than you can imagine. You’ll be amazed how into meal prepping people can get.

6. Identify a range of low carb snacks

Americans are increasingly relying on snacks to get them through the day.

In 2006, 24% of calories consumed came from snacks. Snacking is not easy on a low carb diet as many snack foods are restricted.

Healthy snacks like fruit and yogurt, and unhealthy snacks like chocolate and potato chips, are almost always banned. To ‘help’ you keep to the regime, a number of manufactured snack foods are now available that are low carb. But these are ultra-processed and, in this instance, low carb doesn’t equal healthy. This is where nuts and seeds come in. You can eat most on a low carb diet in their natural state. Be warned, though, some nuts are deemed high carb and may be limited. Check to make sure they aren’t salted or processed in any other way. If you’ve embraced home cooking as we’ve already suggested you can even make your own grain-free protein bars. Another favorite of the Internet, you can do a search to find some great recipes.

low carb diets

This looks damn tasty, doesn’t it?

No more boring low carb

Fighting the boredom of a restrictive diet, like low carb, can be difficult but isn’t impossible.

There are many tactics you can employ to overcome the impulse to lapse back into your usual habits. It may take some effort on your part if you are going to be successful, especially if you can’t cook, won’t cook and have no interest in cooking. Understanding the effect of food on your emotions and having a range of diversionary tactics at your disposal – a simple walk, or a chat to your friend – can keep you on track. There are a range of new and exciting flavors out there, which your carb fetish is preventing you from exploring. By going low carb you can enjoy a new, more varied, and healthier diet. Be prepared by planning your meals and your snacks and you will never be bored again.

About the Author

Phil SlaterPhil Slater is a fitness expert and contributor to Predator Nutrition Supplements UK. Over the years, Phil has helped many of his personal clients live healthier and happier lives by helping them achieve their fitness goals.

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