How to Cope With Carb Loss

Grieving and Moving Forward

Woman tempted by cake
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Grieving the loss of carbohydrates in your diet can be an important step. For many people, their low-carb journey includes many stops, starts, and relapses. How can you get off the merry-go-round and cut carbs for good? Acknowledging the loss and going through the grieving process may help.

Grieving the Loss

A typical story may be realizing that high-carb foods have to go. This can result in real grief, being depressed and upset at this change in your life. You have to throw out much of the food in your pantry and learn new cooking techniques. Tricky social situations keep coming up. Your family and friends didn't know what to serve at gatherings. It can be, by turns, upsetting, irritating, embarrassing, and sad.

This reaction can be both healthy and helpful. In time, you will be able to move through these feelings to a low-carb life without feelings of deprivation.

If you are feeling some of these feelings, they are normal. If you find yourself hopping on and off the low-carb bandwagon, maybe you never really faced the loss. Here are some steps to help you move through this process.

Wake-up Call

If your body does not process carbohydrates well, you need to adopt a permanent change in the way you eat rather than a temporary diet. If you are sensitive to carbohydrates (sugars and starches), are insulin resistant, have metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, or diabetes, you have a greater risk of living a shortened and less happy life if you do not do something about it. If you take measures early in the progression, you can avoid a lot of damage to your body. By the time diabetes is diagnosed, the pancreas is really failing, and the risk of damage throughout the body rises dramatically. However, the damage begins long before reaching that point. So don't wait.

The Loss is Real

Changing the way you eat involves real loss. You are probably losing some of our favorite foods—comfort foods, celebration foods, and just plain tasty foods. There are also social adjustments, as many social situations revolve around food. Some people can even become a little hostile. Who wouldn't be bummed out about this? It's perfectly normal. Some believe that if you allow yourself these feelings, you'll get through them faster, and they will be less likely to sabotage your new healthy way of eating.

A Variety of Reactions

Although the "stage theory of grief" (that the process has an orderly progression) has been disproved, the most common reactions tend to begin with shock/denial and progress (hopefully) to (at first wavering) acceptance. Examples:

  • Denial: "Carbohydrates aren't that bad; it's the calories that really count."
  • Bargaining: "If I stay low-carb all day, I can eat what I want in the evening." "The carbs in fruit/nuts/cheese/tomatoes don't really count."
  • Anger: "I'm not giving control over my life to this problem I'll eat what I darned well please." "There are no low-carb convenience foods—eating has turned into such a hassle."
  • Sadness: "What kind of a life is life without doughnuts?"
  • Irritability: "Oh, go eat your cake and leave me alone."

All of these are perfectly normal reactions to loss. Unless you get stuck in them for a long period of time, don't worry, they will pass.

Be Good to Yourself

Give yourself a lot of credit for doing something hard. You deserve to be treated well. Think of things you like to do and make a list. Reward yourself for getting through this difficult time.

Get Support

As much as we don't like to admit it, it's nearly impossible to make a major change in your life without support. When you successfully get through a restaurant meal with carb-eating friends, give yourself a pat on the back. Better yet, tell someone who understands what you're going through so they can celebrate with you. 

See the Silver Lining

It is unpleasant to have to give up some of your favorite foods. But there are good things about your new low-carb life, and it's always a good idea to look at the bright side whenever you can.

  • You have a treatable condition: Lifestyle changes can largely make a difference for a body that has trouble processing carbohydrate, especially if you catch it early in the process.
  • Low-carb foods are healthy: Giving up high-carb foods​ is, for the most part, giving up processed foods and sugary foods. Ideally, everyone would be doing this—but you have added incentive.
  • Low-carb foods are tasty: No longer do you have to worry about eating bacon and other high-fat foods.
  • No cravings: Many people find it a great relief to be free of cravings for sugar and other foods. Whew!

Have Patience With Yourself

Coping with any loss is a process, but it can be done. Be good to yourself, get support, and give yourself lots of credit for taking the healthy path. Your future self will thank you again and again.

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