7 - What to expect as your body adjusts
- Be realistic about how long you will take to lose your excess weight. A loss of anything from five to ten pounds is common in the first two weeks, but after that you may only lose a pound or two a week. Low carb diets are not crash diets, and if you try to make your body lose any faster, the 'starvation mode' syndrome will probably kick in. (See 'About low carb diets'). Losing slowly is also best for avoiding the baggy and haggard look - your skin can't keep up with a sudden reduction in girth. How quickly and completely your skin contracts back depends on its collagen levels, and this ability tends to decline with age.
- Some people experience 'jumpy' legs and leg cramps, a common symptom of the electrolyte depletion that can result from water loss at the start of any diet. To replace these nutrients, use salt in your cooking and take a mineral supplement that includes calcium, magnesium and potassium.
- A surprising number of people complain of tenderness over their hip and thigh bones or their coccyx which makes lying down on their side or sitting uncomfortable. This is thought to be related to the loss of the fat deposits protecting these bony places rather than to the use of any particular diet. This discomfort seems to settle down in time.
- Menstrual cycles are often disrupted as weight is lost. This is the body's normal response to a loss of fat and is not considered to be related to any particular diet.
- There will probably be weeks when you don't appear to be losing, or you may even gain a pound or two on the scales, even though your tape measure may tell you that you are still losing. When your cells lose some of their fat content, they usually want to fill up with something else and so they inflate themselves with water. Even though you have lost fat it may take your body some time, possibly a month or two, to adjust and release this water. It is also possible, if you have been doing resistance exercise, that you may have been replacing fat with muscle - and muscle, being denser, weighs heavier.
- Low carbers often find to their surprise that they have slimmed down to a different shape than they were when they were last at that particular weight. This is attributed to the fact that low carbing tends to result in loss of fat stores alone, whilst the calorie/low fat diets the low carber may have previously followed are more likely to have produced a mixture of lean muscle and limited fat loss. The consequence of this is that low carbers often fit comfortably into their 'thin' clothes and look leaner at a higher weight than they expected.
- Minor skin rashes can appear temporarily. These are generally believed to be the result of the detoxifying affects of low carbing (or any other detoxifying diet). The body likes to deal with toxins it cannot excrete immediately by storing them where they can do least damage, ie in your fat cells. But when you lose fat, these toxins are released and may cause rashes etc before your body finally manages to excrete them.
- Cholesterol, blood pressure and other indicators usually improve significantly after adopting a low or controlled carbohydrate way of eating. But do not be unduly worried if cholesterol levels go up before they come down - this is usually temporary and is generally believed to reflect the fact that the body is still dealing with the cholesterol which is released when you start breaking down your fat stores.
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