Small steps or radical changes?


When seeking to improve health or weight, should we do this in small steps or radical changes? Should we, for example, go on a strict LCHF diet or start out by just making a minor dietary change?

My tip is to start small with one big change.

For example, I advise patients who want to lose weight or improve their diabetes to start out by going on a strict LCHF diet. This in order to get an immediate strong positive effect on weight, blood sugar, digestive issues, sugar cravings etc. This positive effect will then strengthen the will to continue, and to make the change a habit.

However, I do NOT recommend making several changes at the same time. For example, you can start exercising later on, when the new diet has become a habit that is self-propelled.

Attempting to change your diet and exercise habits at the same time as you quit smoking and are being nicer to your in-laws is a recipe for failure. It’s unlikely that anyone has this amount of self-discipline. Therefore, it’s usually smarter to take one change at a time. Make it a habit, which takes at least three weeks. Then you can tackle the next issue.

What works best for you? Small steps or radical changes?


  1. Marianne
    I really think that going on step by step is much better, or even more prudent. That's how it works for me! As the Doc. sad: "It’s unlikely that anyone has this amount of self-discipline".
  2. Bill
    I've always been all or nothing, so I'll end a boozy, fattening stint and do a no-booze, healthy eating, mad exercise phase. And always lose at least a stone within a month (which is enough). Perhaps not the healthiest approach, but it works for me!
  3. Melanie
    I used to try and do radical big changes too quickly and too intensely and end up 'failing' miserably, which would deter me from trying anything else again for months (along with subsequent months of crap eating in the failure/give up mindset). Recently however, I've taken things a bit slower but still made significant changes - after quitting sugar about 6 weeks ago, I've now for 1 week been practicing LCHF which I believe has been easier to do than quitting sugar and carbs all at once.
    So far so good, but we'll see!
  4. tess
    I'm with Andreas! If people make changes that are "too small," they won't appreciate the BIG possibilities in how they can feel! If they don't notice a significant improvement, where's the incentive to keep up the efforts?

    Also, I've always found that it's much easier to be "perfect" than "moderate." One has to be disciplined in either case, and the former provides far better results!

  5. Marla Hilliard
    I am being successful with small steps....if you call jumping straight in to the LCHF lifestyle as a small step--lol. Excercise will come later. My glocose numbers have been effected amazingly with a drop from the 290's to the 120's with a quarter of the meds. These "small steps" are working just fine.
  6. tz
    It required a big change to get under 20g/day of carbs - with all the other foods I had to add that I normally didn't eat (e.g. pork rinds, shiritake noodles). And beef or chicken bullion or something salty to mitigate the carb flu. Many times before, I dropped, but my body was still burning glucose, not ketones/fat, so Iwas still starving internally and had the cravings. In sum, I did one change -

    1. No sugars or starches - read every label, make sure my kitchen didn't have anything that could blow the Atkins' induction as I would eat it (e.g. tomatoes have just a little).
    2. Everything else was fair game: eggs, butter, meats, (some) cheeses, green veggies, and any spices or salty foods and when I was hungry, didn't resist, but eat the permitted stuff until the hunger or craving went away. (Continue) drinking lots of water.

    I didn't exercise or do anything else and I dropped weight rapidly and haven't put it back on. The cravings went away, and I'm never hungry and have lots of energy.

    The addiction term is "cold turkey", and it is the only thing that works. If you try to cut back, but don't switch into ketosis, you will suffer and not lose.

    The hardest part are things like the free breakfast at hotels and such. Sugar loaded "light yogurt" that has more than half my daily carb limit. Breads and cereals. Make your own waffles. I don't eat fish and it is like being in a sushi bar. But there usually are boiled eggs or a meat or something. Going out is easier - sandwich, no bun, sub veggies for fries or other starch.

    Hardest thing is drinks. RipIt has an inexpensive no-sugar energy drink, ultra-lite beers work, though I wish there was a no-alcohol version (no-alcohol tend to have lots of carbs). I like coffee (especially with lots of cream), but can only do so much of that or tea (those often have free refills). Sometimes I just do water.

  7. Galina L.
    I started a LC diet as a radical change, but it was then not a very healthy diet with a lot of mayo and processed meat. My diet then, actually, became more industrialized - I switched from organic whole grains , chicken breasts, bananas, fruits , vegetables, tofu, olive oil to eggs with bacon, green salads with a lot of mayonnaise, sausages, fried chicken and fatty pork. It worked great anyway, immediately turning me into a more alive human being. I also drastically cut the insane amount of exercise I did - from 10 hours a week to 3 (I don't think that walking is an exercise).
  8. FrankG
    I suspect the best approach may vary between individuals and I agree with Dr Andreas that trying to take on too many changes at one time, would very likely overwhelm the best of intentions.

    That said, my personal feeling when starting LCHF is to go "cold turkey"... I simply cut out anything which listed more than 1g of carbs per serving -- this made choices binary (yes or no) and very simple. At the same time I did not need to go hungry and could eat (for example) bacon and eggs at any time of the day.

    It was only later, once this way of eating became established, that I started to gradually and carefully add some carbohydrates back -- although few made the list.

    For me this early "induction phase" was important: to make a clean break and also I think to retrain the body to utilise fat as the major energy source I am now convinced it is meant to be.

    Physical activity (for me) also followed naturally: as I found I became motivated to get out at least for daily walks... whereas previously it had always been a struggle to find the energy and motivation to drag my sorry butt down to the gym :-)

    That initial start where I was shocked to finally realise what it was like to live without constant hunger and the initial rapid reduction in weight (even allowing for water loss with the reduced glycogen stores) was an huge morale booster.

  9. Ruth
    I agree with FrankG. I think some individuals do better with the a dramatic, cold turkey change, while others need to incorporate one change into their lifestyles at a time, slowly but surely getting it right. I think the changes tend to be lifelong changes when they are made gradually, and a gradual change also helps you avoid carb flu.

    I actually wrote a guidebook - Step By Step Paleo - for people who want to make a very gradual change to a paleo diet, changing one aspect of the diet every week for 3 months.

    But either way, the important thing is to make the change.

  10. Graham_LCHF
    I agree - make one big change at a time.

    In my case I changed to the LCHF diet first. This was much easier to do than start a crazy exercise protocol.

    Only after a few months of LCHF (with very good results) am I now very slowly introducing more elements.

    Again, in my case, two days of fasting per week then after seeing what effects extended IF has (if any) I will introduce a mix of HIIT exercise and moderate weight training to my life.

    The really big change is to diet - learn to love fat and restrict carbohydrates!

    I feel pretty great on this new lifestyle.

  11. Carol
    I went cold turkey LCHF as an experiment to see what the diet might do for my blood lipids. Only a complete reversal of diet could answer that question unequivocally. When the results were dramatic and positive, I continued. I did not suffer the withdrawal symptoms that so many others report, nor did I feel better after the transition. But the numbers don't lie, so I am convinced that it was the right change for me.
  12. Lori Miller
    It's important to do the change right. It's a popular myth that a low-carb diet is a no-carb diet; I'm not sure why people confuse "low" with "no." Then there are people who try to combine low-carb with low-fat and low-salt.

    From my own experience and what I've read from others, GI problems in particular seem to respond better to cutting out some entire group of food instead of cutting back on one thing, then another, then another.

  13. samy
    hey i have been doing exercise at gym for past 15 days and was about to start LCHF....should i continue with the exercise or just go on LCHF and quit exercise for time being and resume it after few weeks.
    Reply: #16
  14. Frances Lilian Wellington
    I (49 y/o woman) jumped into LCHF (50g per day carb gave me range between 0.1 to 0.3 ketones depending on physical exertion) in August 2012, shed 16 kg (110>94) over 7 weeks. At that time my only exercise was 2 days per week of moderate physical work and occasional 40 min walk. LCHF turned my "turtle" body into a "racehorse" overnight, carb craving disappeared instantly. Plateau at 94kg maintained for one year whilst I am toning and building muscle. During this 15 months I have gradually increased physical exertion to exercise 6 days/week (rebound tennis 4 x 30 mins, brisk bushwalking 2 x 40 mins, 2 x 8 hr days physical work) to allow me to increase my carb intake for 3 months (added 3kg = 97kg). My intent is to increase exercise further with 1 swimming session and 1 kayaking session per week for further variety. Currently reducing carbs again, so shedding weight also (96.25kg). Now I know the "formula" I can alter my body shape as I see fit (up/plateau/down), and I am teaching my diabetic friend to do the same.
  15. Tony Nguyen
    One step at a time is always better than doing all at a time. If we do so many things at a time, we may not focus on anything and the result will not be good.
  16. Galina L.
    Why to stop? Start the change in your diet and observe how your body reacts. We are all individual cases. Exercise have important health benefits, however, it is not enough for most people to loose weight.
  17. Eric Anderson
    The articles of those who have lost and kept the weight off are the best guide and best sales of the HFLC style.

    hat do those who lose over 40 kilos have in common? 100 kilos? And the former morbid obese with 200 kilo weight loss?

    How is the success the sameand different from those very few who lost and kept weight off with the old calorie and exercise options? Health and biomarker differences?

    Please Sir; some more butter please!

  18. François
    I'm a bit of an extremist and once I find something good, I jump aboard. I'm the all or nothing type. Where it got difficult was the practical aspect of "what to eat", My wife was ready to jump on board with me (which makes it much easier) and the kids are grown up, but my wife wanted some kind of breakfast cereal in the morning (no grain cereal does not exist as far as I know, so we had to invent it) and some form of a "bread-like" substance. Trial and error, looking for palatable recipes was the toughest part. We found chiritaki noodles (no carbs) but they are based on soy. Finally, I got myself a rotator knife and I make zucchini noodles. Perfect for me. We use chia seeds and water to make remarkably good dry cookies to support meat and cheese and make either a modified "peanut butter bread" (we make it with home made almond butter). We also make a coconut flour bread that is quite good AND low carb. Texture is more cake like, but it works for us. Not quite like bread, but close enough. Finally, we make a cauliflower and cheese pizza crust that is out of this world. (makes a change from the meetza).

    There are many siteswith recipes calling themselves LCHF or paleo, but there is a very wide interpretation of what is either LCHF or paleo. Recipes vary in quality, both in terms of carb levels and of taste.

    A suggestion: why not have a "best recipes" section on this site? Recipes could be submitted for approval before being published. This could be combined to the practical section. It would make things much easier to get smore people on board of a healthier lifestyle if they have something to replace their bread and pasta and feel part of the world and not some kind of weird aliens.

    Just a suggestion. What do you think?

  19. samy
    a great suggestion indeed,it will like getting everything under one roof and you dont have to surf the internet for more recipes..:)
  20. Eric Anderson
    In te same direction as wight loss in a pill is this article onwha might be a new weight loss and blood sugar medicine. HUMMM I still think HFLC is a better answer Eric

  21. Bucer
    I do have a question though. Do I really have to keep the skaldeman for every single meal? I find that extremely difficult.. Can't it work if I'm under 25g carbs a day and in the sum at the end of the day the skaldeman is good? I would find that so much easier.
    Reply: #23
  22. Paul Meijer
    I am on a LCHF diet since 3 months. Only max 30gr carbs/day, abt 60% fat.
    1st month losing 2,5kg, second 1,5kg, after that no one gram lost! I do not eat more than 2000kCla per day.
    Anyone an idea how this is possible?
    Thanks, Paul
    Reply: #24
  23. Zepp
    What works for you is whats work for you!

    Skaldeman Index is only a sugestion.. and how to think.. and for moste people the most important is how you eats over a longer period!

    He altso suggest that one can eat the moste fats in the first meal of the day.. for prolonged fat oxidation!

    Its trix and tips.. to try!

    Skaldeman did experimenting on him self.. but he was/is very insulin resistante!

  24. Zepp
    Its common.. first you lose a lot of water.. then you start to lose fat.. and some of the water comes back.. it could look like you dont lose any fat anymore.. but that we dont know befor some more months!

    Some even reports that they stall, but there belly getting smaller.. there body is reboulding.. probably to somthing healtyer!

    And thats often better then som numbers on a scale!

  25. Bucer
    Hello Zepp, thanks for the comment on the skaldeman index. It was making it very hard for me. I am not very insulin resistant and keeping it for each individuall meal was very hard. Keeping it overall in the day is not so difficult I find. That will make life easier. Thanks!
  26. Marijke
    For me going slowly, taking small steps, is the best way. When my body became healtier because of the better diet, it started shedding built up toxins. This makes me feel very bad. Maybe that is what is called the carb flu here. When I go too fast, I just have to stop and take a step back as I feel overwhelmed by the toxins. So it is better for me to go slowly. This way I keep moving steadily in the right direction.
  27. Galina L.
    Most people appreciate the simplicity of eating a very LCHF diet, it shouldn't be difficult and require calculations. I believe it is important to cut all snacks and eat within 6 - 8 hours window 2 meals day.
  28. peter
    The wife and I are both on LCHF and for her its a dream and she has lost heaps - more than ever sh e did with other ways of eating but me - 110 k down to 97 k quick time then I drifted back to 100 k it seems forever.
    We both eat the same and the wife is now down to 79 k from 100 k and I am still floating between 100 and 98 kilos - started to fast for two days per week but no change.

    Have noticed that carbs are the most important thing and if I stay under 20 carbs per day I move down but over 20 and up she goes.

    Have started to walk for 30 minutes each day and am desperate to see any change in measurements at all but I have lost 12 kilo but measure the same - and I check each Sunday
    Feel very well so that counts as well
    kind regards

  29. Donnell
    My father is type 2 and has Parkinson disease his sugar was high. So his crazy girlfriend told him to go on grapefruit and 1800 caliores a day he barely eats 800 a day he feels better now first few days but worry to death. He is 80 and afraid he will bottom out and I will lose him. Should I step in?. He does not have all his mental faculties.

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