health

I Ate A Low-Carb Diet For 30 Days Straight. Here’s What Happened To My Body

by Ana Luisa Suarez
Ana is an Associate Editor who loves animals and food. A good taco and a snuggle with her dogs is all she needs.

For 30 days, I did the unthinkable: I ate a low-carb diet.

Before I even begin discussing this diet, I feel it’s essential to say how much I love carbs. If I could eat a loaf of French bread for breakfast every day, I’d be the happiest girl ever.

Prior to this diet, I had no clue how many carbs were hiding in healthy foods like apples, bananas, and a head of cauliflower. In my mind, these were great diet foods! Of course, they can be — but in moderation.

I’d always heard about the benefits of a low-carb diet and figured it was time to see if they are real.

To get started, as a true carboholic, I spent over two weeks researching how to do a low-carb diet and “not die in the process.” I knew it would be hard for me, so I wanted all the facts.

The first thing came down to determining why I was going low-carb. There are many reasons you can follow this diet for your health, like losing weight, lowering your blood pressure, and helping with diseases like diabetes. My goal was to lose a little weight and maybe get to a place where I could tone down my carb intake moving forward.

I looked at the Mayo Clinic’s suggestions and determined I should have 50 to 75 grams of carbs a day on this diet. To put that in perspective, an order of large fries at a fast-food restaurant has around 66 grams. The average carb consumption per day is 250 grams of carbs.

With that in mind, I created my low-carb diet plan. Scroll down to see more of my plan — and my results!

What Is A Low-Carb Diet?

<u> What Is A Low-Carb Diet? </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

With a low-carb diet, you may assume that you can’t eat bread, pasta, or French fries. And you’d be correct — well, sort of.

Aside from meat, there are carbs in just about everything. Like I said, many of the healthy foods I thought were great for me turned out to be packed with carbs. Before picking a low-carb diet plan, you will need to determine how many carbs you need each day.

According to The Mayo Clinic, a low-carb diet “limits carbohydrates — such as those found in grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit — and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat. Many types of low-carb diets exist. Each diet has varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates you can eat.”

There are good carbs and then there are bad carbs. Carbs are the body’s primary energy source, so I didn’t want to eliminate all carbs from my diet. Instead, my goal was to cut out the bad carbs I ate on a daily basis.

The “good carbs” can be found in the typical healthy, fiber-rich meal: whole grains, vegetables, and certain fruits (raspberries, grapefruit, strawberries). According to WebMD, these carbs are good because they are slowly entered into our systems.

“Bad carbs,” on the other hand, are starch-heavy and/or contain a lot processed sugar. They can be found in pasta, bread, potatoes, and candy. These carbs are deemed bad because they are released quickly into our systems and can rapidly spike our blood sugar.

My Low-Carb Diet Plan

<u> My Low-Carb Diet Plan </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

According to DietDoctor, there are three levels of low-carb diets.

  1. Ketogenic: very strict, gives you 0 to 20 grams of carbs each day.
  2. Moderate: between 20 to 50 grams.
  3. Liberal: between 50 to 100 grams.

After looking at low-carb recipes, snacks, and downloading a few apps in the process, I determined that my low-carb diet would be going the liberal route with 50 grams daily and 75 on a tougher day (as I did plan to do this in the middle of the summer).

I got a little notebook to log all of my meals and snacks, and to keep track of how I was feeling each week. I even created a cheat sheet. I found myself using Google on a daily basis to search “how many carbs are in X food.”

Some of the results were pretty shocking. Can you believe all-purpose flour has 95 grams of carbs? Then, I’d write down all of the foods I was searching to keep track of it for later.

I asked my doctor if she thought a low-carb diet was a good plan for me, and she was excited for me to try it.

She was not a fan of how I used to eat in college, so the idea that I was banning bad carbs was A-OK in her book. (She once yelled at me when she heard I regularly ate “Fat Sandwiches” at Rutgers. Those have varying ingredients, but my favorite had a cheeseburger, French fries, and mozzarella sticks inside.)

For this low-carb diet, however, she did stress the importance of eating a higher protein diet at the same time.

Low-Carb Diet: Week 1 Results

<u> Low-Carb Diet: Week 1 Results </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

Week 1 started off with a bang. I got home very late Sunday night and didn’t have time to prep a meal. Instead, I did it first thing on Monday morning, planning to eat some eggs while I cooked.

Unfortunately, it turned out that I didn’t have any eggs, so I just made my meals and left for work. I forgot my lunch and healthy snacks, but still managed to stay under 50 grams of carbs on Day 1.

One of the first things I noticed within a day of dieting was that if I didn’t have enough protein, my decreased carb intake had obvious effects in two areas in particular: my energy and my headaches. During that first week, I think I went to bed between 10 and 11 each night, which is early for me. If I hadn’t eaten enough protein for lunch, by the time I boarded my train at 8 p.m., my head was pounding.

I made almost all of my work lunches ahead of time, which mainly consisted of ground turkey (which I love) and spaghetti squash (which, two weeks into my diet, I realized I don’t particularly like).

I only made it to the gym once that week because I was so tired, but I managed to go in the morning and actually felt amazing after my workout. I did it on a day after having a high-protein dinner, which was almost always steak, tuna, or salmon. When I woke up, I felt recharged and ready to tackle the day.

Low-Carb Diet: Week 2 Results

<u> Low-Carb Diet: Week 2 Results </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

Week 2 fell on a challenging time for me: Fourth of July! I had BBQs and pool clubs to hang out at — and a bridal shower on top of everything else. How on earth was I going to stay within my carb budget?

Well, I wasn’t. But I did stay between 50 and 75 carbs for two days, back-to-back. As for the other days that week, I got back into my 50-carb-a-day limit and stayed on track.

By Day 9, I began to realize that my regular carb consumption had been well over that of the “average” person. I chanced a Google search to see how many carbs were in my favorite ice cream treat and almost passed out. A dessert I used to have at least three times a month has 126 carbs. For comparison, soft serve ice cream only has 19 grams! Moving forward, I will officially be making the swap.

It was during this week that I also realized I wanted some of my dietary changes to become permanent. I can’t maintain this exact lifestyle forever, but there are simple swaps (like eating a lot more veggies at every meal and not nearly as many dinner rolls) that can drastically cut down my carb intake. I told myself that cookies needed to become an occasional treat.

Added bonus: Even though I wasn’t being as diligent about going to the gym, I began to notice a change in my tummy I had been waiting months to see. In March and April, I’d gone to the gym nearly five times a week and never felt like it made much of a difference. Yet two weeks into this diet, I could already notice a difference in my body.

Low-Carb Diet: Week 3 Results

<u> Low-Carb Diet: Week 3 Results </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

By Week 3, I finally managed to balance my protein and carb intake enough that I was no longer getting headaches. My energy levels were back up, high enough that I even managed to go to the gym several times that week — in the morning!

Another big difference I began noticing was that I wasn’t as hungry as I used to be. I still wanted snacks if I saw them, but I no longer felt like I “needed” to eat them.

I also discovered a great lunch hack: I started eating “fake” chicken tenders, which used a variety of seasonings like paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, and Parmesan cheese instead of bread crumbs. If I didn’t have time to make my lunches early, I’d grab a protein-packed salad with egg and chicken in it or a low-carb turkey chili from my favorite lunch place.

I knew before going into this diet that eating out would limit my options, but I hadn’t realized just how limited my options would be until I walked into a mall’s food court and couldn’t find any dinner options. However, I also found that any restaurant that serves steak or meals with a lot of protein is a perfect place to eat at on a low-carb diet (so long as you don’t eat a baked potato with that steak)!

Low-Carb Diet: Week 4 Results

<u> Low-Carb Diet: Week 4 Results </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

The biggest challenge during this diet came toward the beginning of Week 4, when I went to my cousin’s wedding.

I did some research ahead of time, and it turned out that I could drink — but only white wine. (And not Moscato, which is my favorite.)

Armed with a few glasses of pinot grigio (5 carbs, each), a steak for dinner, and a chicken kebab on the side, I stayed well within my budget. I spent the entire night dancing and felt energized enough to make it to the after-party!

The real temptation came the following morning when we got to eat breakfast at the resort. Pancakes were everywhere, with croissants and bagels galore. And these just so happen to be three of my all-time favorite foods.

But I didn’t even have a bite! I’d felt so great the night before in my “flawless” dress from Francesca’s, I didn’t want to stray from my diet. I loaded my plate with eggs and bacon and I was good to go.

Afterthoughts

<u> Afterthoughts </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

The hardest part about this diet was finding healthy low-carb snacks that fit into my diet. I couldn’t eat a banana because that was 29 grams of carbs and I’d only have 21 left for the rest of the day. The same went for apples, which used to be my number-one diet snack.

When I first began this journey, Pinterest was a world of “diet snacks and hacks.” I had total faith in it — but that was a mistake. If you look up “low-carb recipes” and “low-carb snacks,” you will get a ton of recipes that are healthy but often not very low-carb. I had been so excited to make roasted chickpeas… until I took a look at the can and realized that they have nearly 30 grams of carbs!

My favorite snacking combo while on this diet was strawberries and mozzarella cheese. When sliced, a cup of strawberries has under 10 grams of carbs, and the cheese came in at less than 5.

I also found out how protein-packed cottage cheese is. With just a sprinkle of salt, I was getting nearly 20 grams of protein from a tiny cup of cottage cheese!

Can I Keep Up A Low-Carb Diet?

<u> Can I Keep Up A Low-Carb Diet? </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

Short Answer: No.

Long Answer: I can drastically change my carb intake while still enjoying the few “bad” carbs on an occasional basis. In fact, I need to do this for my own health and wellness purposes. Diabetes runs in my family and my mom has told me for years to watch what I eat unless I want to take insulin like she does.

Will I be saying goodbye to cookies forever? Never. But I will not eat them as often as I used to. The same goes for things like pasta, French fries, and pizza. They’re not good for you, but that’s where moderation is key.

After making it through these last 30 days, I’ve gotten into the habit of checking every product label, as well as quickly searching carb and protein counts. My plan moving forward is to try and limit my carb intake during the week, and stick to vegetables with carbs instead of chips that are full of bad carbs.

This diet was a big eye-opener. I never realized just how bad for me some of my favorite treats are. After closely watching every single thing I ate for 30 days, I know I can keep a careful eye on what I choose to eat moving forward.

Low-Carb Diet: Before And After Results

<u> Low-Carb Diet: Before And After Results </u>
Ana Luisa Suarez for LittleThings

Weight Lost: 10.5 pounds

Inches Lost: two inches off my waist

To some, two inches and a few pounds might seem minuscule, but to me, it feels like a milestone!

I have struggled with losing weight for the last few years, and I can now say that nothing has proven successful other than going low-carb. I didn’t feel deprived on this diet. In fact, I often felt full for much longer than usual. One day, I hadn’t even realized it had been 13 hours between dinner and breakfast.

Even so, the best thing I found out after this diet wasn’t that I’d lost weight. Instead, it was feeling confident in a dress again and seeing myself in pictures and thinking “wow, I look great.” It had been so long since I’d had that kind of moment — I forgot what it felt like!

Please SHARE this with any of your friends who are interested in trying out a low-carb diet!

Before starting your own low-carb diet plan, consult with your doctor on what options will work best for you.