This shockingly easy plan allowed wine AND cheese.
The low-carb diet goes by many names. Chances are you’ve heard people refer to it as Atkins, South Beach, or Keto (short for “ketogenic”). For the purposes of this experiment, I followed the rules laid out by Susan Kleiner, Ph.D, R.D, author of Power Eating, in this article. Since I work out moderately at least three times a week, I should consume 100 grams of carbohydrates per day on the plan—and that was the only rule. Considering cheese is naturally low in carbs (and was the hardest thing to give up during my bouts of Paleo and Whole30), I figured I’d finally met my weight-loss match. So, armed with no further restrictions than capping my carb count, I kicked off two full weeks on the diet. Here’s what I learned and how much I lost.
I’ve heard people preach about the wonders of food journals and how helpful they can be, but I always found the idea of writing down every last bite of food I consumed to be overkill. After all, I’m pretty aware of what I’m putting in my body, thankyouverymuch. But during my first day of counting carbs, I realized how helpful it really was to keep track of what I was eating. I kept my daily journal on a Google doc and updated it throughout my day. Not only did it help me keep a daily tally of how many carbs I’d eaten, but it was also a great reference for looking up the number of carbs in foods I eat regularly.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge advocate of meal prepping. And planning my low-carb meals ahead of time made sense since I wanted to reduce temptation. However, when I got tired of my meals by day three and checked out the menus of a few restaurants online, I was pleasantly surprised to find it’s easy to eat out on the low-carb diet. As a rule of thumb, I stuck to grabbing food from places I could accurately record the nutrition of my meal. And if that wasn’t available, I’d use my best judgement to order as low-carb as possible. (Read: No bun or fries with my burger, please.)
Just as not all diets are created equal, neither are your favorite happy hour drinks. I quickly got into the habit of looking up the carbs per serving of foods online before (and sometimes after) I consumed them, and when doing a quick search for drinks I learned that most red wine and spirits are actually safe options. I got into the habit of ordering a glass of Pinot Noir (3.4 grams of carbs for five ounces) or a gin and soda (no carbs!), which was a totally welcome change from Paleo, which discourages all alcohol.
Sure, you can trust nutrition labels on foods you buy at the grocery store, but if you’re cooking from a recipe you found online (or even if you’re relying on MyFitnessPal), it’s best to double check how many carbs are in your ingredients. I found when I was grocery shopping that different brands of certain products (i.e. marinara sauce) can have insanely different carb counts per serving. During my first week of prep, I followed a blogger’s low-carb recipe for a veggie lasagna and found that my version actually had more carbs per serving than hers (thanks to the sauce).
Listen up, cheese lovers, because this diet could potentially be a good fix for you. I know how hard it is to part ways with cheese and cream, but since dairy is naturally low in carbs it’s actually a great source of healthy fats (which you’ll consume a lot of on this plan). Since the whole point of a low-carb diet is to train your body to burn fat and not sugar as a source of energy, full-fat dairy is encouraged. Score! (Hit the reset button—and burn fat like crazy with The Body Clock Diet!)
My parents are in the super-serious Atkins induction phase, which only allows them 20 grams of carbs per day (about the amount in a small apple). My mom constantly preached to me about keeping snacks handy for when my body suddenly goes into ketosis, but I actually never felt any symptoms of weakness or deprivation. In fact, since I was filling up on protein and healthy fats, I was able to consistently stay full. Sorry, mom!
Even though I was only committed to this diet for two weeks, I couldn’t help but weigh myself after my first week. I wasn’t feeling hungry or deprived, so I worried that I was doing something wrong. Despite my concerns I’d dropped 1.8 pounds after one week on the diet. After my second week, I’d lost 3.4 pounds and started to notice my frame thin out a bit. So yes, I did get to eat dairy, drink wine, and drop a few pounds. Needless to say, I think this is a plan I could happily stick with. But first I need a slice of pizza.