Mistakes you can make doing Low Carb/Paleo

The Atkins folks sent around an Email newsletter listing the “top ten mistakes” people make doing Atkins.  While some members of some Paleo Tribes might squawk with disdain, there is like not a nickel’s worth of difference between most Paleo diets and properly done Atkins.  So how can you screw up?

20140409_061109_scaleArgh! Hobbit Feet? Quick, we need a PaleoPodiatrist…

The Atkins list:

1.  Counting total carbs instead of net carbs. Fiber doesn’t usually turn into blood glucose and so it doesn’t stimulate an insulin response. Prepared food boxes should show total carbs, fiber, and sugar grams; subtract fiber from total to get “net carbs.”

2.  Skimping on vegies.  They are filling, delicious, and don’t hurt you. They have lots of good nutrition. But if you are truly in early Low Carb Atkins or going for any other kind of ketogenic, watch out for things like beets, potatoes, etc. I rather like Cronometer if you like to track stuff.  But be like The Paleo Mom (who is by the way a fellow PaleoPhD) and eat “more vegies than a vegetarian.” And take a look at the Wahls’ diets…9 cups of greens/colors/sulfurs per day.

3.  Not enough water. Drink lots and stay hydrated.

4.  Going salt free. We’ve all had “low sodium” drummed into our heads and if you eat a lot of prepared crap er foods maybe that’s true. But when you go lower carb your kidneys start to excrete more salt and you will be eating less presalted stuff. PaleoPathologist drinks a cup or two of Knorr chicken broth during the day and the “carb flu” goes bye bye.

5.  “not eating enough protein” on Atkins, “eating too much protein” on other sites. PaleoPathologist has a previous post with links on this one.

6.  Being afraid of fat. PaleoPathologist made this mistake himself. It is related to a couple of other mistakes, thinking that fat causes heart disease and thinking that fat is so calorie dense that I won’t lose weight. In my case when fat intake went up, weight went down. Go figure.

7 and 8 hidden carbs etc. Look at the labels, look at food composition, and in PaleoPathologist’s opinion if it has a wrapper it’s probably not a good idea! Yes, food bars are convenient and sometimes there is a big “Low Carb” sticker on them. PaleoPathologistMate doesn’t lose weight if she eats the bars and does lose weight if she eats real food.

If you are in a restaurant, I can almost guarantee there will be hidden sugar. It’s everywhere!  PaleoPathologist asks for vinegar and oil.

Look out for “sugar alcohols” in these products like Maltitol, Xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol. The -ol suffix is organic chemistry speak for alcohol. PaleoPathologist has a seismic/volcanic gastrointestinal response as his gut bacteria yell “whoopee,” ferment the living goodness out of the maltitol, and make half-vast to vast quantities of methane. (soon followed by another kind of whoopee.) It takes MINUTES.  Watch out!

9 and 10.  Becoming a slave to the scale, and not recording your progress. PaleoPathologist puts his ugly Hobbit feet on the scale most mornings (see above) just to be sure he is not backsliding but he does not get too exercised about a few pounds. Others have to hold it to once a week. There is a study, somewhere, that showed that weighing  yourself daily vs less often was not particularly helpful in weight loss, but WAS helpful in weight maintenance.  PaleoBrain has lost the link but will add it back if found.


P1.  Focusing on deprivation thinking.  “I could never give up bread.” “Give up dessert? Are you kidding?” PaleoPathologist did four years of premed, seven years of “evil medical school”, and four years of pathology residency; he probably has pretty good will power. But he has found that if he looks at a chocolate cake, mentally (or physically!) screams NOOOOOOO and puts up the sign of the cross, that eventually will power will go away and the cake will go down the gullet.

Instead, try two things.   First, unload the emotion. Say to yourself in a neutral tone, “Gee, that cake looks really good. Must be delicious. Ah well.” and let the thought just float through your mind. It’s like meditation.  Second, focus on the positives!  PaleoPathologist thinks about elk steak; breakfast frittata’s with sausage, vegies, eggs, and cream; broccoli with butter dripping off it, salads with lots of olive oil and vinegar; pressure cooked bone broth; and his new cookbooks, NomNomPaleo and Practical Paleo. And the Android Magic Stone Tablet can instantly find so many recipes by uttering the mystical word “paleo” with recipe searches that there is no excuse, really. Focus on deliciousness, not on deprivation.

P2. Another mistake: spending a microsecond worrying about calories. Yes, in theory, you need to burn more calories than you take in. Of course.  However…

1.  Nobody can accurately count calories IN. You’d be lucky to be within 10% and over a year’s time that’s many pounds.

2.  Nobody can accurately count calories out, either, short of living on a metabolic ward. Those counters on the treadmill are a joke. Most calories are “basal metabolic”, repair, brain fuel, maintaining body temperature, etc. Forget about trying to count calories–that way lies madness.

So calories matter but big deal if you can’t quantify it.

P3. Thinking that lots of aerobic exercise is the absolute key to losing weight.  Exercise is good, PaleoPathologist loves his bike and his weightlifting, but you just can’t burn that many calories and keep your wife and life.

P4.  Thinking you don’t need to do any reading.  Buy the book or go on line and get a real plan. If you just stop eating sugar and grains but don’t change anything else, you might be wasting your time. I personally like The New Atkins for a New You but there are lots of other possibilities.

So how about you? What pitfalls have you encountered? Let’s talk!


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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