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I have been guilty over the years of being a "purist" in both food selection and food rules. Being an accountant by trade, I wanted the weight loss formulas to have predictable weight loss results. I eventually learned that eating-by-the-numbers was futile and frustrating. My forbidden food list was long and changed as frequently as reading about a certain food having a negative impact on health. I ended up spending more time trying to eliminate foods and perfect an eating regimen instead of developing a balanced approach. I was dieting, not living.

To permanently manage weight and to attain the best possible nutritional health, it is important to make low carb a lifestyle rather than a diet. This is accomplished through many stages. Closer attention to detail is imperative at the start. Understanding the consequences of choices is another step. Getting in tune with one's own body and the reactions it may have, is another. Learning when to make allowances and when to curb intake is perhaps the most important during a lifelong maintenance plan. It all goes hand in hand and can shift and change as you progress through your personal journey towards a normal weight and better health.

Throughout my own journey, the hardest lesson of all to learn was that the stricter and more disciplined I forced myself to be, the easier it was to fail. The more I obsessed over low carb purity I became, the more I lost touch with the joy of everyday life. Balancing low carb with our lives takes practice. Taking on a do-or- die approach hinders progress. Flexibility is an art that brings new meaning to low carb.

I know that for myself, there are times I need to be more aware of my eating and food choices, especially when under a great deal of stress. There are times I know that eating at a restaurant may be more of a challenge than at other times. Staying in tune with what my vulnerabilities are helps me make better choices. I have learned which foods to permanently let go of, because of the problems they cause me. I know which ones I can have occasionally, but not everyday. I know which ones to use as a special treat on a special holiday. This was the result of moving from low carb as a diet to a lifestyle. My recommendation is always keep an open mind and learn everything you can about low carb. Then apply it so that it becomes your life, not your diet. Enjoy!

By Elisa H.

The premise of all weight loss diets is to remove some type or some amount of food from the normal diet. If we eat too much and gain weight, then it makes logical sense to reduce the amount of food we eat to lose weight. It doesn't take long to figure out just how ambiguous that can be. Reducing over all food in-take is a guess at best. So we seek something more specific, something that will tell us exactly how much to eat so we can lose weight. For many years, calorie counting was the scientific approach to weight control. This formula for figuring out how much to eat was considered the only necessary piece of information needed to control weight. However, most people do not like to mix math and eating. It is much easier to eliminate the most fattening of foods rather than count calories, again a seemingly logical conclusion. People preferred simple lists of do's and don'ts, good and bad foods and this of course led to the concept of forbidden foods.

While it seems easier to eliminate certain foods rather than count calories, it can also turn the tables on nutrition. Eliminating food because it has fat or carbohydrates (or whatever the current popular diet gurus are claiming is the cause of obesity or health decline) can create terrible eating disorder type behaviors. We end up living in a black and white world of food choices. We set up too many food rules and too many restrictions. It soon becomes joyless experience and filled with frustration over what to eat and what to avoid.

Just how do we figure out which foods are "fattening" or unhealthy? For a long time it was the food that had the highest calories per unit. Of course this was food with high fat. So the premise was that it was easiest to eliminate as much fat as possible and the calories would be reduced enough to cause a weight loss. Soon foods with fat became taboo on diets. There was no need to have such a fat phobia, healthy fats are critical to good nutrition. However this same kind of thinking happened with low carb too. Foods were being eliminated simply because of the carb content. Instead of taking a holistic approach to carb reduction, many fall into the trap of restricted eating and massive forbidden food lists. Actually, it is no different than the low fat craze's mentality.

All Diets Have Forbidden Foods:

Pick up any diet book and the most likely first page turned to, is the forbidden foods list. Most people actually chose a diet depending on what they think they can live without, at least short term. Diet clubs hand out sheets of good foods and bad foods and rules. For many, a diet is a diet and all about restriction. We were indulgent, ate too much and now we must be punished by near starvation. We can easily recount all the foods forbidden on many different types of diet plans. Are dieting rules and restrictions necessary? Are they a formula for success or failure?

All diets have something forbidden. Moderation is the best diet of all but nearly impossible to manage without developing skills in discipline. It is far easier for the majority of people to follow a specific plan with specific rules. This however can set up a dependency on the diet to do the work for us, rather than learning how to change our lifestyle to incorporating what works best for our individual needs.

Let's explore forbidden foods and the ideas behind them.

Typical Foods That Are Forbidden On Low Carb Plans:

It doesn't take long to learn that Low Carb plans are based on reducing the amount of carbohydrate in the diet. There is nothing new about this premise. Never before in history has it been a more timely focus. The standard western diet today is appalling in the excess of sugar and white flour foods. Low Carb is catching on because many of us can see the direct correlation between the massive increase in obesity and diabetes from the direct increase of carbohydrate in the diet. Much of it can be blamed on the popularity of low fat diets that literally reduced fats to save calories and in turn reduced protein foods and increased carbohydrates to the point of imbalance. However, a far greater blame can be placed on the western philosophy of convenience, food industry marketing and the availability of instant meals at fast food restaurants.

Obesity is increasing at alarming rates because the easy access food available today is nearly all carbohydrate and fat. Those same high carbohydrate foods that reduce the fat only increase the carbohydrate even more to replace the missing fat. It creates an imbalance and nutrition suffers.

Nearly all of the low carb plans on the market today encourage a return to more natural foods. By eliminating much of the super refined foods, carbohydrate intake immediately drops to more normal levels. How far to reduce the carbohydrate level is dependent on the plan you chose to follow. Several plans take carbohydrate reduction to scientific levels. Some will have us calculate formulas of protein and carbohydrates intake levels. Some have specific eating rules concerning the timing of meals or the glycemic index of foods. These plans cater to the individuals who feel a correct nutritional formula is the path to thinness. Unfortunately these plans often fail to teach lifestyle changes. Frustration can build from expecting predictable results in weight loss as though the formula is foolproof.

Other plans take a logical or historical approach. Often called Cave Man or Paleo diets, these plans rely on the undisputed fact that mankind lived on meat and fat with the balance in vegetation for some 2 million years. It can therefore be logically deduced that the correct diet for human beings is the one that it lived on the longest and the healthiest. Forbidden foods on these diets therefore consist of modern foods, not eaten by our ancestors. These plans attract those who prefer a natural food approach. Unfortunately, these plans can encourage a "purist" attitude and lead to eliminating foods by theory rather than logic. It can also be difficult and expensive to find many of the foods in its most natural state.

The remaining plans appeal to those that prefer simplicity. These plans give lists of forbidden foods, meal plans and basic rules to follow. While these middle-of-the-road plans appeal to the vast majority, often they fail to provide adequate logic as to why some foods are forbidden. For the most part, the foods forbidden are simply the foods with a high carbohydrate count. This is a good way to introduce the foods low in carbohydrates, but it sets up in the follower's mind a barrier and becomes a negative mindset. Newcomers to low carb often complain about giving up whole groups of foods "forever". This puts a strain on the plan before it has a chance to work effectively.

Logical and Illogical Food Bans:

The moment we consider a food forbidden, it already has increased appeal. We will play mind games about it if we are not convinced there is a good enough reason not to eat it. It is illogical to follow food bans just because someone else says so. I see this happening on email support lists time and time again. Someone will write in that they enjoyed a food item, were mindful of the carb count and had no problems. Soon there are posts admonishing the poster that the food is not low carb and therefore illegal. This kind of thinking is going to backfire sooner or later. Usually the follower that has made the strictest food rules ends up off their plan and bingeing.

A logical approach to food bans is made by deciding for one's self which foods cause the most problems, both physically and emotionally. There may be some high carb foods that simply cause cravings and result in difficulty in controlling the amount eaten. There may be a specific food that induces a physical reaction, such as bloating or gastric distress. Letting go of these types of foods is a successful strategy for creating a working lifestyle in low carb eating. There is a sense of purpose when we understand and accept why we don't eat something rather than rely on other people's experiences, forbidden food lists and putting whole groups of food into permanent bans because of an idealistic theory.

Obsessive Carb Control:

There comes a time when carb control becomes obsessive. Those new to low carb do need to understand all of the how and why of food selection in relation to carb counts. However it can easily swing into full-fledged obsession over micro units of carbohydrates. If you find yourself worried about the carbs in plain tea it's time to relax.

Often we find obsessive talk on the low carb lists we may belong to. It is easy to get caught up into the restrictions and forbidden food mentality. As soon as someone says they broke a stall by eliminating a food, many are quick to try it. Some hold so tight to a low carb concept they refuse to learn anything new. Some assume that their personal banned list of foods applies to everyone.

Granted, it can be confusing with all the different sources of low carb information. Each plan has its own theory. For example, let's use taco shells (corn tortillas). According to a few popular low carb plans, corn is:

Atkins: forbidden on induction, allowable after induction according to the CCL. Schwarzbein: forbidden if processed with refined oils, allowable if whole grain. Paleo: forbidden as inedible Sugar Busters: forbidden as too high in sugar Protein Power: allowable if within the allotted carbs according to the phase. CAD: forbidden during 2 meals of the day, allowable as part of the reward meal

It can, in theory, be argued to death whether corn or taco shells can be incorporated into a low carb plan. For some, it is a food that can cause cravings and subsequent overeating impulses. For others it is too high in carbs, sacrificing possible higher vitamin content foods such as fresh vegetables. How high is too high? Only the individual can decide. Follow your plan's course until you are ready to experiment with wider choices. Never believe for a moment that the choice in what you eat isn't yours to make! Make an honest assessment of the results of your experiment and always keep your mind open to possibilities and recognize your limitations.

Food Intolerances:

Food intolerances are real. They are not the same thing as a food allergy. Intolerances are more subtle and have a less defined reaction. Sometimes intolerance develops after a long abstinence from a particular food and then we notice a reaction upon reintroduction, sometimes from having the same food continually every day. Many new low carbers report how shocked they are that, after a significant period following a low carb plan, they had a meal that contained foods they not longer ate and had an immediate weight gain or noticed fluid retention. Some had gastric distress or became lethargic. Some even claim mood swings. These are very real reactions and should be a wake up call. Food intolerances can develop at any time in life. Often increasing intolerances develop as we age. Heed this reaction and let go of the food that causes it.

On the more controversial side, there is the theory that we can indeed create food intolerances in ourselves by purposely avoiding certain foods. It is not healthy to avoid entire groups of food such as dairy in hopes of losing quicker. This can backfire in the long run. Keep your low carb meals full of variety and continually add new foods and switch around favorites periodically. There are thousands of varieties of vegetables available, how many varieties do you incorporate into your diet?

Faux Foods:

In the beginning there was real food. Enriched by the soil and energized by the sun. Animals ate these plants and we ate the animals and plants. It was pretty simple and straight forward. Today we have moved to manufactured foods. There is no way to get around the subject; processing food strips the food of its nutrients in varying degrees. The more processed the food is, the less the nutrition it contains.

In the name of convenience and in public demand, many companies are now producing low carb versions of high carb foods. Faux recipes have long been popular with low carbers. These can be good tools towards creating a workable plan. However, they should never be the foundation to the plan. In a balanced diet, they can be used to provide variety to meals and keep traditional type foods in celebrations and holidays.

Before stocking up on faux foods, consider that the nutritional foundation to low carb eating is meat and vegetables. Build up from this solid foundation to provide variety and balanced nutrition. Be very aware of how emotionally tied you may be to certain foods. If there was an addictive behavior in relation to a high carb food, be ready to address the problem if those same behaviors surface with a faux rendition.

Real Life and Real Carbs:

There is a lot of discussion about good carbs and bad carbs in the media today. In fact some of the newer low carb plans are capitalizing on this theory. The general theory is that good carbs come from a natural source and bad carbs are the refined and processed ones. You will get the benefit of vitamins and minerals from a natural carb, but keep in mind that it's the overall carb intake that is important. Choosing refined carbs brings along with it added chemicals and additives. Choose your carbs in a way that benefits you. Watch for reactions, cravings and other subtle changes when selecting foods with higher carb counts. Let go of the foods that do not benefit you in the course of your journey to better health. The world is in living color; try not to live in the black and white world of food restrictions. Choose your foods wisely to provide your body the nutrition it needs. Develop a balance if you use faux foods and treats. Create your personal low carb lifestyle by using a positive attitude towards food selections rather than living in the diet world of forbidden foods.


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