In his new book Choose to Lose: The 7-Day Carb Cycle Solution, Chris Powell, transformation specialist from Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, details a weight-loss plan based on the concept of alternating high-carbohydrate meals one day with low-carb meals the next. In this excerpt, he explains how to tell that the changes you’re making are doing you good—even when the scale might not show it.
Along the road to any destination, signs tell us where we are and how far we have to go. On the transformation highway, you can get a lot of encouragement by reading the signs of your progress. One sign, your weight, takes the longest to change, so it’s the last one you should look to when judging your transformation. Several other signs can tell you where you are on your way to success.
Sign #1: Clothing and Inches
Pay attention to how your clothes fit. This is the BEST gauge of your progress. Periodically taking your body measurements can also be useful.
Sign #2: Energy Levels, Mental Clarity and Body Temperature
As your body burns through lots of readily available calories on high-carb days, you’ll notice a nice boost of energy and a rise in your body temperature. At night, you may even find yourself stripping the blankets off the bed because you’re so hot. Low-carb days come with decreased energy levels and body temperature. Don’t be alarmed if you feel a bit lethargic and foggy-minded without all those carbs, especially at first. This is normal, and it’s only temporary, until you switch back to a high-carb day. If you’re having high- and low-energy swings from one day to the next, you’re right on track! Pay attention to this because your body will guide the way. If you find you’re sluggish on low-carb days and need a pick-me-up, green tea is an excellent boost for mental clarity and energy. I’m not opposed to a cup of coffee here and there, either. You’ll find that your sensitivity to caffeine will increase significantly, so enjoy a small or medium cup, and avoid the extra-large triple-shot café Americano!
Sign #3: Appetite and Cravings
Low-carb days typically bring increased appetite and cravings. Oh boy . . . sweet potatoes are 10 times more appetizing on my low-carb days! Conversely, as you load your body with energy on high-carb days, you’ll notice that your appetite and cravings are minimal. When you experience cravings (especially for carbs), one of the best tricks of the trade is to curb those cravings … with a glass of water, mint flavored gum, or a breath mint. If you’re craving a cookie, have a tablespoon of natural peanut butter, a stick of string cheese, a few slices of avocado, or a portion of any of the other acceptable fats on the list instead. Within 15 minutes of eating healthy fat, your appetite will be satisfied, and you won’t want the foods you craved. Easy!
Sign #4: Water Retention and Flushing
It’s one more reason NOT to rely only on the scale: Your body will naturally retain water on high-carb days and flush it on low-carb days. Your weight will fluctuate as a result. When you eat carbs and drink water, the water sticks to you like Velcro®. No need to worry about this. You’ll flush the water on the following low-carb day. What do I mean by flush? Basically, you’re going to urinate a lot, sometimes even a couple times every hour! Whatever you do, don’t scale back on your water. Stay hydrated and appreciate your body’s response to carb cycling. This is a beautiful sign!
Sign #5: Sleep
Carbohydrates often prompt your brain to release a hormone called serotonin, which helps you relax and aids in sleep. Since you won’t be taking in carbohydrates on your low-carb days, you may find it more difficult to fall asleep for the first few nights following those days. Meditate, breathe deeply, take a warm bath or read something relaxing to help you fall asleep. Many people have no problem at all, but if you’re one of the sensitive few, remember that your body will adapt. Hang in there.
Sign #6: Weight
It’s logical that people seeking to lose weight typically try to gauge their success by weighing themselves. A scale can definitely be your friend when measuring weight loss, but weighing yourself daily won’t give you a true or accurate picture of your progress. Your weight fluctuates on a day-to-day basis when you’re going through the 7-Day Carb Cycle, so weighing yourself is valuable only once a week. Make Saturday your weekly weigh-in day, and watch the pounds drop away. If you just have to weigh yourself daily, you’ll notice an increase in your weight after high-carb days and a decrease after low-carb days. This is natural and expected, so if you see these fluctuations, you know you’re on track!
Keep in mind that it will be roughly one to two weeks before you get a truly meaningful reading on the scale. For the first several weeks of the program, you may actually maintain your starting weight but lose inches and clothing sizes. This may be due to recomposition, when your body starts building muscle, burning fat, and shedding water all at the same time. Recomposition takes only a couple of weeks while your body adjusts to your new diet and exercise routine. Soon you’ll notice a drop on the scale as muscle-gain slows and fat-burning increases.
From CHOOSE TO LOSE by Chris Powell. Copyright© 2012 by Chris Powell. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.