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"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It's not."
— Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
There are three levels to successful weight loss. The first two are fairly obvious — nutrition
and exercise. But the third level is that much overlooked piece of the puzzle: the psychology of
weight loss. And that's what I want to talk about in this article.
As I begin, I start with a warning: This is going to be brutally frank and I'm not going to
"soften things up" as I speak. Because the psychological component I want to talk about is
personal complicity. How much of what happens to us and our success or failures are of our
One of our missions here at Low Carb Luxury has always been to care about and oversee the industry
as a whole. When companies falsely report their carb counts, we tell you. When product claims are
misleading, we report that. We try to keep manufacturers and merchants accountable to you, the
But the truth is, we can't be there to hold your hand every day. We can't shop with you, and advise
you to think again before putting that item in the cart. There's a strong personal responsibility
element that must come into play here.
With that in mind, I thought for the longest time that the main goal then, was to educate the
public as much as possible in reading labels — both nutritional panels and ingredient lists.
Because once you really understood what it all meant, the rest would be easy. Right?
Well... maybe not. There's an element I'd forgotten. An element I overlooked even in my own
Sometimes we want to be lied to; to be misled. Usually not on a conscious level. But it's there.
It's very comforting to pick up a package of Sara Lea baked goods and see that label proclaiming
its reduced carb status. "Ooooo... I can have that on my low carb diet!"
We walk into a health food store and spot a line of "zero carb breads." Never mind that the first
ingredient is "enriched wheat flour" (this means plain white high-carb flour.) They've somehow
magically eliminated the carbs. It says so on the label. It must be right. A part of us knows
better, of course. But we tuck that part away for now. That rational, sensible, analytical part
of our brain will get in the way of our need for comfort and security at that moment. It's so
much easier... so much more comfortable to allow ourselves to be lied to.
As we continue through our local grocery store, we head down that once forbidden cereal aisle.
We find the Kellogg's new Special K "for a low carb lifestyle." It's a brand we've known for
years. We tell ourselves, "This is for me! I'm a low carber and they've made a cereal that
I can have too!" The front of the soothing blue package proclaims 9g Net Carbs.
Hmmm.. a little high maybe, but do-able. Now don't read any further. Don't! If you do,
you'll see that it contains both sugar and high fructose corn syrup... in a low carb cereal.
No problem. We haven't read the ingredients. (And if we do, we can dismiss them on the
rationalization that there couldn't be much of those ingredients in there... it's low
When you get that box home, feel free to sit down in front of the television, watch a rerun of
Friends, and have a bowl — or two — of cereal. Don't think too much about it. Just feel the
comfort. Oh, and make sure you don't measure. That 9 grams of net carbs is for a mere 1 ounce
of cereal. Of course each of your two bowls of cereal are at least 2 ounces — probably much
more. But assuming it's the 2 ounces, you've just downed 36 "net" carbs not counting the milk
(even if it was low carb milk.) But not to worry... we didn't think that out. We were comforted
by the fact that we were eating only foods appropriate for our low carb diets. Right?
We want to be lied to. We say we don't. But sales figures for these products say we do. When
it's pointed out to us, we each become incensed and scream about being deceived and lied to.
And we mean it. We really are angry. But we're just as angry with ourselves. Because we're
smart people... smart enough to choose this diet in the first place. Smart enough to seek out
information. To read up on it.
In short, we know better. So why do we allow this to happen? Why do we play our part in the
big lie? Why are we complicit in our own failure?
When I have all the answers, I'll be wealthy (and thin for life, I might add...) But I do have
a few answers. So let's explore a bit, shall we?
There's always been a part of human behavior that gains comfort from putting our heads in the
sand. If we don't see it, it isn't real. If we don't acknowledge it, we don't have to deal with
it. It's all about fear... and comfort. We avoid fear and opt for comfort. We don't live lives
of perfection and harmony... for many of us, the day ahead can hold a lot of unknowns. We face a
lot of stress. It might be financial (Will the mortgage company be calling today?); it might be
family (a visit from the mother-in-law coming up, or the kids who won't stop fighting); it might
be relationship (worry that a husband or boyfriend might be cheating, or wondering if he loves
you); it might be worse. It might be abuse, or severe worry over a loved one. There are a
myriad of things in our every day lives that we "deal with" and rarely speak of. We find the
strength... somewhere. We survive. But it takes a toll. We pay a price for this stress. And
to fill ourselves back up (or to ignore it altogether), we lose ourselves in something comforting.
When we're in a good place, mentally, we deal with it by releasing that stress in a healthy way.
We might exercise to burn some of it off. We might throw ourselves into a hobby. We might be
fortunate enough to be able to "get away" for a time and recharge. But for many, we find that
comfort in the familiar. In the same comfortable friend that got us to a need for weight loss
in the first place — food. It's just so comforting. And it's always there. Never judging us
or mocking us.
Low carb is a special diet. It actually allows for more food than most other diets. It allows
for some pretty amazing foods at that. But to get that lovely "high" that truly removes us from
our fears and stress, we turn to carbohydrates — and lots of them. They make us feel better in
the short run, and since finding comfort is about living in the moment, not the consequences of
the future, they're a perfect fit. But we have committed to a low carb diet. We don't want to
cheat. We want to feel we're doing it right...
The perfect answer is the low carb product that isn't. The one that gives us the mental reassurance
that we're doing the right thing. But that secretly hands us the carb-fix we crave. We know
better, but we pretend we don't.
Does this sound like a newbie trap? Something you'd learn your way past? I assure you it isn't.
I've been doing this for 5 ? years. I write articles, do research, am educated in nutrition. I
know low carb inside and out. I live it and breathe it. I understand the mechanics and real-world
nature of labeling. I know the industry. I am, as they say, an expert. And I still find that I
allow myself to be lied to when I want to believe.
They say that understanding a problem is a first step in getting past it. I hope and believe that's
true. And every day I'll fight to stay honest and know that there will be days when I participate
in the big lie. I'll keep fighting the companies that do it, and I'll keep fighting with myself.
But while I'm worried about that mortgage payment, and the squeak the brakes are making, and I'm
dealing with divorce fallout and relationship issues, I'll still have moments of purposeful ignorance.
It's okay. I've decided perfection isn't on the table. The best I can do is to never give up and
never stop fighting. And I'm gonna keep telling it like it is. Step up to the plate and take your
own share of the responsibility. Are you part of your big lie?
Copyright © October 2005 Lora Ruffner and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2005 Neil Beaty for Low Carb Luxury