Temporary low-carb diets (for weight loss, mostly)

Continuing the discussion from Burned out of low carb:

I followed a low-carb diet for a couple of years, but eventually stopped last summer. You can read the linked thread for details on that.

Over that summer and early fall, I gained about 30 pounds. It’s hard for me to tell whether this was because of the change in diet, because of the fact my Graves’ disease unexpectedly went into remission and I spent five or six months with a high TSH and low free T4, or the fact that I had several other health issues going on at the time that caused extreme fatigue.

I continue to think a lot about a low-carb diet, because it definitely had benefits for me. I would very much like to lose weight (I have a lot more than 30 pounds to lose) and I think I would be willing to follow a low-carb diet for that purpose. But following such a diet is difficult for me (see linked thread) and so I’m fairly sure I’d want to stop it eventually rather than sticking with it for the rest of my life. My question is whether losing weight with a low-carb diet and then stopping it is likely to result in the weight coming back?

You’re asking a good question yet I’m wishing the reality was not so harsh.

In an article published in 2015 in Slate, one paragraph pulls no punches.

In reality, 97 percent of dieters regain everything they lost and then some within three years. Obesity research fails to reflect this truth because it rarely follows people for more than 18 months. This makes most weight-loss studies disingenuous at best and downright deceptive at worst.

Using a low carb way of eating going back to 2012, I lost 25 pounds (14% of my weight) and kept most of it off. I did regain 10 of those pounds but have gone on to lose those 10 and a few more. More significantly, I eliminated all grains from my diet.

Initially, I limited my daily carbs to about 30 grams but then eased off to about 100 grams. It was during this 100 gram phase that I regained the 10 pounds. Last fall I re-established a 30 gram per day limit and lost that 10 pounds.

When I attended a low carb conference last March, one of the proponents of using a low carb way of eating to place people with type 2 diabetes into remission remarked about how most weight loss diets suffer from weight regain, including the low-carb diet. He said that if people return to a carb-heavy way of eating following a weight loss, the weight and the T2D will return.

I think the answer to your question is that weight loss due to short-term adherence to a low-carb diet will likely lead to weight regain.

Sorry I can’t offer anything more hopeful. I realize with your food allergies and professional work demands, losing weight is a particularly tricky proposition. I wonder if an organization like Virta Health could help you? While they do target people with T2D, I think we T1Ds share many of the same challenges. Just a thought.

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What you report is what I suspected. I wonder what is meant by “short-term”, though? I followed a very low-carb diet for about a year and followed a fairly low-carb diet (around 80 grams of carbs per day) for two or three years prior to that. In those years, I lost perhaps 20 pounds, but in the end it was a negative weight loss because I gained 25 pounds after I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. I guess this is why I’m wondering whether my thyroid levels played a role, since both times my thyroid levels have plummeted (to about 50% of their value) I’ve gained a significant amount of weight, even when they were just “plummeting” from high to normal.

I’m planning on taking this summer off and dedicating it to my health. I’d like to re-build my repertoire of recipes that work for me, so maybe I’ll try to incorporate reduced carbs into those, if I can. I’m starting a cardiac rehab program at a hospital next week. I’m looking forward to that because I think they will push me harder in exercise than I push myself. I guarantee they will not be preaching low-carb eating, though. But if I could combine that exercise (and building a daily exercise habit) with some method of diet that allows for weight loss, that could be a good start for me. From all the research I’ve done, it does seem low-carb is the best method of weight loss. Or maybe plant-based, but that seems equally restrictive to me on top of severe food allergies.

Maybe I can save up and hire a chef. :slight_smile: My main problem isn’t actually food, it’s more the time it takes to prepare, store, transport, and shop for food on top of all of life’s other tasks. Plus, the very rare times I do get to eat out (after corresponding extensively with the kitchen) it almost always ends up involving rice as that’s one of the few foods cooked in a way that’s safe from cross-contamination. So eating low-carb would be giving that up, and I think that’s a big part of why I wouldn’t feel like I could psychologically commit to it for the rest of my life. And never being able to eat convenience products…low-carb companies seem to be the worst in getting back to me with answers to allergen questions, because I guess I’m not their “market”.

At least now I have far more energy than I did six months ago. So I’m far more motivated to try and make some changes.

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Just a thought I have not seen mentioned in your recent or previous thread posts. Have you considered skipping one or more of your daily meals? Especially when you are doing low carb, if you eat low carb with relatively high fat content it tends to curb your appetite. For me carbs beget carbs and I am highly carb intolerant. My I:C is 1:3 and sometimes down to 1:2.5.

I eat, dose and exercise to my CGM meter and digital scale. When I put on an extra 1-1 1/2 lbs., I go to one meal a day for 1-2 days to come back to my target weight. Having a fairly accurate digital scale that shows weight in .1 lbs. has been very helpful in my weight management. I am on MDI but use a digital pen with 0.1U increments allowing me to dose very accurately from my CGM.


This would be an ultimate luxury!

I’m sorry if I’ve missed any troubles you’ve had with your heart. My coronary artery disease is what motivates most of my health efforts. I’m changing tactics to treat my hypothyroid and I strongly suspect I have small intestine bacteria overgrowth. I just finished an at-home breath test this week. No results yet.

I’m glad to read this. Good luck with your “healthy summer!”

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I don’t have any heart disease, for which I’m thankful. Then again, I’m in my 30s, so that doesn’t really mean much. I do have inappropriate sinus tachycardia, which basically means a fast heart rate with no known cause (I’ve read that some research suggests it may have an autoimmune cause). I’m on a beta blocker for it, but I need to get off that because of my severe allergies. My cardiologist is hoping the program will give me more energy and lower my heart rate. (I feel a bit like I don’t belong compared to most others in that program, but I do meet their criteria so figured I’d give it my best and see if it has benefits.)

Well, aside from the occasional forgotten dose, I haven’t. But weight gain is not a listed side effect of any of the medications I’m on. I firmly believe my weight gain came mostly from being told I could “eat whatever I wanted” when I started pumping in my early 20s. I, of course, went out and did just that, and gained a ton of weight. Then I realized it wasn’t working and stopped, and my weight remained stable for several years. Then I developed Graves’ disease and, as mentioned above, that has caused 25-30 pounds of weight gain each time my thyroid shifts downwards by 50% or more.

I’d have to talk to my doctors before discontinuing medications. A lot of them are treating conditions that have landed me in the hospital.

Yes, this is one of the big advantages of low-carb eating.

My main challenge (as mentioned in the other thread) is eating low-carb without dairy, eggs, almost all processed foods (due to cross-contamination risks), no nuts (when I’m in schools), rarely to never eating out, and doing so in a way that allows me to take all my food with me when I’m out and about for work (with no car for storage) and/or travelling for several days to a week by plane and staying in hotels for work and conferences. That’s where it just got too stressful and overwhelming for me and caused burnout.

Wow, I wish my weight were that stable! My weight can change by three to five pounds just from monthly hormones and fluid retention. :no_mouth: I do have a scale that measures to 0.1 pounds (or kilograms), but I’d like to get one that can measure body fat and the like, as that may help me focus on goals other than weight.

I have actually gained weight on a low carb diet although it is pretty great for BG control so that’s why I stay fairly low carb. The diet that caused me to have a lot of weight loss was a vegan one but my body doesn’t seem to agree with unlimited vegetables and I was always hungry since I wasn’t processing the food very well. If you are a fan of copious amounts of fruits and vegetables along with some grains and legumes to achieve satiety then a vegan diet just might work great for you.

I think if I had your food allergies and work considerations then a vegan diet might be easier to maintain and since you have a CGM adequate pre-bolusing should take care of most spikes from the fruits and starches.

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That is great your grave’s is in remission. I think too low carb is not natural for most people. My brother has done that and he always gains back. He has metabolic syndrome as well. I am gaining weight on thyroid meds and just eating one tiny meal extra per day because I wasn’t eating enough.

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I’m not totally sure on this. My control was quite a bit better eating low-carb than it is eating carbs… I’ve never been one to achieve super-tight control, but I liked my A1c better when it was 6.0-6.2% compared to its current 6.8%. If I could figure out how to get down to the low 6% range without too many lows while eating more carbs, then I think I’d be happy.

I do like the idea of vegan in that I’m already partway there, but it would essentially make eating out impossible for me, I think. At least with low-carb I could eat salmon and rice when eating out. Also, canned tuna and salmon make really good travel foods. So those are the things that have stopped me from trying it thus far.

It is good overall. Although I have mixed feelings because Graves’ was simple to manage and I was feeling good and was stable on medication. When it went into remission very unexpectedly (my endocrinologist had pretty much told me I’d be on medication for life) it resulted in feeling terrible for months while my TSH was out of range. I still have detectable antibodies, so my endocrinologist is continuing to monitor my TSH every three months (which is the same amount it was being checked on medication) and said there’s a high chance it will come back. So I’m not complaining, but in a sense going into remission means more uncertainty about what the future holds compared to before. The one good thing is that it does confirm active Graves’ definitely has a major detrimental impact on my blood sugar. Since going into remission my blood sugar has generally been much more stable, except for the past month where I’ve had more unexpected and stubborn highs.

I agree that everyone has a different diet that works for their body. I felt really good physically on low-carb (as far as energy goes and such), but it was just the work in keeping it up (with food allergies) in conjunction with travel that caused me burnout. Now I have ever more stuff to lug with me when I travel, and I’m trying to figure that out so I can go on short trips without having to bring four bags with me. Low-carb or not doesn’t have much impact on that, though, since I’d have to bring food either way.

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I would not say that low carb, by itself, isn’t gonna make you gain or loose weight all by itself. Its only one factor. You probably know that I don’t do the low carb thing. My weight fluctuates about 20 lbs seasonally. It has my whole life. I think its natural to have some fluctuation, especially if you live in a cold environment where lifestyle changes with the seasons. You might be peaking now, in part, because its Spring. Thats the natural rhythm.

Now that its summer, I’m interested in doing some swimming. I’ve been on the computer too much in grad school. Thats not helping matters. My ideal weight is about 150. I’m sitting at around 175. I can tell that I’m super out of shape. Could you get over to the YMCA and do swimming exercises with the old lady’s class in the morning? That’s kinda fun. Old people can be charming. If you did that three times a week, for a month, you would loose weight.

Find something fun to do for exercise. Maybe something kinda social. Thats the only way it works. Gotta be fun. I know your super busy, though. That makes it hard.

Doing something physical makes me feel better. Dieting makes me feel worse.

I sleep better when I do physical labor jobs and walk 10 miles a day. Its hard to find a job with a good balance of physical and mental tasks, though. Yesterday I went walking around at a public event and got really tired.

On walking…takes too long. I walk my dog around a mile a day, but do not find that has any affect on my weight. It takes about 40 min. I walked 6 miles the other week and thought I was going to die. It took 2 hours.

Do you have some kinda physical activity that you enjoy? I’m fishing for ideas about new stuff to try…


Jen, as you know, I am eating plant based along with low fat. I couldn’t eat so much fruit if I was eating much fat. I lost 10 lbs when I moved from a 30 carbs a day diet to an almost 300 carb diet. It took me awhile to be able to eat as much fruit as I do. Your body has to adjust. I also eat rice almost daily and potatoes almost daily, but my glucose levels would shoot up when I first tried to eat those foods. As your body adjusts you become much less insulin resistant.

Being retired and married to a good cook, I rarely go out to eat. If I did I would either order a salad and have them hold the cheese, and dressing, or a plain potato and steamed vegetables. Steamed rice would work too. I realize that this doesn’t sound wonderful, but your taste buds really do adapt. In some restaurants you can get legumes, but they are harder to find without fat. Now eating something full of fat holds no appeal to me and believe me it did before. I loved having cream and sweetner in my coffee. I adored eating nut butters and cheese.

I eat legumes everyday and my protein levels test higher than when eating low carb.

I am hypothyroid, and struggled for years to balance out my T3 and T4. Now they are quite stable. I don’t know if my diet helps or if I finally am taking enough thyroid medicine.
Exercise is very important. I try to ride my exercise bike 7 miles a day. If I don’t feel like it then I dance or walk as much as I can.

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Yeah, I definitely need to increase my exercise. That is another goal of mine that I’ll especially work on this summer. I’d really fallen off the wagon with even exercise that was part of my daily routine such as commuting to work. For a while I couldn’t even walk a quarter block or up a few stairs without having to rest, and was sleeping 12-14 hours a day and still exhausted. It was terrible. I was super close to taking a medical leave from work. That has improved a lot and I’m back to walking to work every day as part of my regular commute (it’s about 2 km each way, plus a bus).

When I lost 25 pounds about fourteen years ago I wasn’t eating low-carb but I was exercising (walking and stationary bike) for two to three hours every day. I think it will probably take that type of similar commitment. Except it’ll be harder this time around because I have feet issues (bunions, flat feet, etc.) that cause pain when walking and I’m 75 pounds heavier than I was back then. I’m sure those things are at least partially related.

I love the idea of early-morning swimming, and your post reminds me that before my health went downhill I was actually planning on getting out the door at 6:00 AM so I could stop by the YMCA and swim before going to work. That never ended up happening, but I’d like to do it this week. :slight_smile: I used to be a swimmer before I became overweight, so that by far is my favourite form of exercise.

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This is pretty much what I eat if I eat out, anyway. Salads are a bit risky for me and they have caused mild allergic reactions in the past even with very simple ingredients, but sometimes a modified salad is the only thing I can eat. The most recent meal I ate out was steamed rice, steamed veggies, and pan fried salmon. I need to avoid anything that touches grills, ovens, is deep-fried, or at high-risk of cross-contamination with potatoes or likely to have someone unthinkingly add butter (which a shocking number of kitchen staff do not realize is dairy!). I also avoid all processed foods because allergens can be hidden in them. Any of those could send me to the hospital. So that’s why I don’t eat out very often even when I’m travelling.

My biggest challenge with any diet is travelling. I usually pack 100% of the food I’ll need for a trip, except maybe fresh produce if I know I’ll have easy access to a grocery store. So that can mean packing quite a bit and a day or so of travel without a refrigerator. I find things like canned fish easy to bring on those types of trips. So if I were to give that up, I’d have to find some alternative that didn’t require refrigeration and was easy to prepare by just heating it up. Maybe beans would be a good replacement as I usually just add the fish to a salad or else put it on a cracker or in a sandwich. I did just discover vegan cashew cheese, and love it after missing cheese for five years, so that’s not something I’d give up anytime soon.

Jen, you really are close to eating a vegan diet. The only thing you would have to work on is the amount of fat, but that is only if you want to increase carbs and take less insulin which may not be necessary for you. Oh, but if you want to lose weight then just a vegan diet won’t help.

Yes, you could easily travel with garbanzo or black beans. Other beans too.

Swimming sounds great!

This is what I’m thinking. Right now the only meat I eat is chicken, tuna, and salmon. If I replaced those with beans, I’d be vegan. And that would probably actually be easier when travelling, too. I’m not a huge fan of the taste of beans or lentils, but they aren’t horrible. I think I’d just need to eat the more often and they’d grow on me.

The only fat I eat is olive oil, cashew/almond cheese, vegan dip/mayo, a small amount of vegan butter, and then of course fat included in foods like rice chips that I use as croutons. But I could probably make my own without oil, I just need to find a recipe that works.

I think by far the low fat would be the challenge for me. What do you use as a salad dressing? I use olive oil and balsamic vinegar. How many grams of fat do you eat per day?

Can you eat even foods like cereal without massive spikes? If I could do that, I’d be so happy.

I bet the taste of beans would grow on you. I make a great garbanzo bean cookie. The only cereal I have eaten in 15 yrs is what I am eating now and that is 1/4 cup cooked oat groats. On top of that I have a cup of blueberries, a banana, and a medjool date. I top it with cinnamon, a bit of flax seed and chia seeds for omega 3’s.

I eat about 15% fat. That comes from the few seeds mentioned above and a few pumpkin seeds. The cookies have walnuts and chocolate chips, not vegan, so they also have a bit of fat, so I eat two only after lunch. After dinner I have frozen bananas mixed with cocoa and vanilla.

I don’t use salad dressing. I almost always add garbanzo beans to my salads and try to get the freshest organic vegetables I can find. I don’t miss the dressing. Adding beets would also add some moisture. I also throw a few pumpkin seed kernels on top.

I never eat lentils plain, but my husband uses them in thick soups.

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I like swimming, too.

During grad school I found that I could sit at the pool and read all day. When I got sick of reading, I would go down the water slide, or swim for 15 min. It made a day of reading MUCH better with breaks. I found a community pool that was pretty cheap. I also found a natural spring water pool in the heart of the city. I also went to some old quarries about an hour outside of the city. When I really hated what I was reading, I could jump off the cliffs. It was beautiful.

I’ve always been nervous about water (I think because of the epilepsy). We have a nude beach in town with all the hippies from the U of MN neighborhood. I generally dont swim there (or go nude), but it makes for interesting people watching. Its always good to have adults on a beach…for public safety. I’ve broken up a couple of fights and pulled someone out who was drowning. Swimming can be SUPER exciting.

You gotta keep exercise interesting and fun. Move around to different locations.


Hmmm. I’m allergic to fresh tomatoes and fresh bananas, but cooked/processed may be okay (for example, I can eat tomato sauce, but not fresh tomato). I had sort of eliminated bananas as a fruit I could eat, but your post makes me wonder whether frozen bananas would be OK. I’ll have to get some and see. I would love to be able to have bananas as part of breakfast.

That’s good to know about the percentage of fat. I forgot that I also eat nuts. I’d be nervous eating salad with no dressing at all, just because I get food easily stuck in my throat. I will have to experiment.

When I was a teenager I had an anaphylactic reaction while trying to swim (I was allergic to cold and the water was cold). It involved nearly passing out while in the water, but luckily I was in the shallow end and close to the ladder, and I’d passed out enough in my life that I felt it coming a few seconds before it actually happened. So I managed to climb halfway out of the pool before I collapsed, and someone nearby saw what was happening and ran over to grab me. But that could have had a very bad outcome if I’d been in the middle of the deep end. Now when I swim I wear a bright red sports Medic Alert bracelet just in case I were to go low or pass out or something like that.