Before You Start a Low-Carb Diet

Take these steps as you prepare to change your eating pattern

measuring your waist
It's a good idea to do some measuring before starting a new diet. Amanada Rohde/E+/Getty Images

When you're ready to start a low-carb diet, it's important to do two things. First, make sure you're prepared for what's ahead. Second, take measurements before you start, so you can know what changed.

Preparation to Change Your Way of Eating

Changing what you eat can be daunting, and most people don't succeed in making the adjustment to a different way of eating. Without preparation and support, the odds are not in your favor.

Think carefully about whether you are motivated to do this, and make sure you have support.

Things to Measure

You'll want to know your starting measurements so you can tell when you are having success. Ideally, you would get blood tests done as well as measurements you can do at home. For example, if six months from now you find out your cholesterol numbers, you'll want to know if they have changed in a good or bad direction. These are things that commonly change on a low-carb diet:

  • Weight: Weigh yourself on a scale you'll have regular access to, and weigh yourself at the same time of day each time. Also, calculate your BMI, as it can be useful to track this as well.
  • Body Fat Percentage: You may talk about losing weight, but what you really want to lose is fat. Ideally, you'll find out your body fat percentage. This is easy to do by several methods, including buying a scale that will measure it as well as your weight. Note that BMI and body fat percentage are not the same thing.
  • Waist and Hip Circumference: Even more important for your health than overall fat is so-called "visceral fat" or "abdominal fat." This is the fat that is around your organs and in your liver. A rough measure of this can be found by measuring your waist. If your waist is greater than 35 inches (88 cm) for a woman or 40 inches (102 cm) for a man, you probably have excess visceral fat. However, taller people may want to check their waist/hip ratio. Divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference. You are looking for a ratio of 0.7 or less for a woman, and 0.9 or less for a man. Also, for people whose BMI is over 35, waist circumference or waist/hip ratio does not tend to be as reliable a predictor of health problems.
  • Blood Pressure: Blood pressure often responds quickly to a low-carb diet. If your blood pressure is high, you might want to track your blood pressure at home. If you are taking blood pressure medication, be sure to tell your doctor about your diet, as it's very common for the amount of medication you need to change.
  • Blood Glucose: Your blood glucose after meals will be lower if you eat significantly less carbohydrate, and your fasting blood glucose may change as well. If you have diabetes, you will surely want to monitor this. If you are taking medication for blood sugar, inform your doctor of your diet change.
  • Blood Lipids (Cholesterol and Triglycerides): Diet can affect these indicators and it is wise to have them checked before you begin your diet and then periodically monitored.

Symptoms to Track

It's a very good idea to keep track of symptoms you may have that often respond to a reduction in carbohydrate. You might just write a few paragraphs about your symptoms before starting your diet so that you will remember. It's very common for memory to fade about things like this. Also, any gastrointestinal symptoms are good to note More than one person has serendipitously found out about food allergies or sensitivities when changing their diet.

Things to pay attention to include energy level, mood, ability to concentrate, heartburn and other GI symptoms, allergy symptoms, compulsive eating, joint or muscle pain, PMS symptoms, acne and other skin problems, and headaches.

A Word From Verywell

These tactics can help you get started on any new eating plan. The first week is likely to be the hardest as you are changing so many things. Keep your eyes on your goals and look for success.

Sources:

Classification of Overweight and Obesity by BMI, Waist Circumference, and Associated Disease Risks. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmi_dis.htm

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