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What is the Carb Flu and How to Survive it

Worried you might have the low carb flu? Dr. Oz and I discuss the symptoms and fast fixes when you're feeling that flu!

All About the “Carb Flu"

I’m an Italian girl, and that means I’m a great believer in enjoying life. That’s why my 10-Day Belly Slimdown and Bone Broth Diet plan are designed to be easy, satisfying, and even funHowever, I’m always straight with you—and that’s why I want you to know that there’s one challenge you may face early on in your diet. It’s called the “carb flu,” and it’s definitely not fun.

In fact, if you’re not ready for it, it can derail your diet. If you’re prepared, however, you’ll breeze right through it. Today, I want to tell you all about this phenomenon and explain why it’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Here’s the story.

What is the "carb flu"?

Right now, your body is used to burning sugar for fuel. On either of my diets, you’re going to teach it to burn fat instead. This will turn you into a fat-burning machine—but it can also trigger the carb flu. While not everyone experiences this phenomenon, it’s very common.

Why do you get the carb flu? Simple. Burning fat is harder than burning sugar, and your cells may initially react by getting crabby. (I like to compare this to the reaction you get when you tell a teenager to get off the couch and go mow the lawn.) Luckily, this hissy fit will be very temporary. Better yet, it’s a signal that your body is flipping the fat-burning switch to “on” and your belly pounds will soon start melting off faster and faster.

What are the carb flu symptoms?

I describe the symptoms of the carb flu as feeling “tired, cranky, wired, and weird.” Here’s what you may experience:

  • You may feel fatigued. It’s natural to run out of steam quickly on carb flu days.
  • You may feel like you have a touch of the flu. You might feel foggy-headed and “blah,” have achy joints or a headache, or even get the sniffles.
  • You may get moody. That’s because your brain is used to a steady diet of sugar, and right now it’s feeling deprived.
  • You may feel “icky.” Digestive upsets, allergies, and even a little acne may appear.

None of this is fun, but none of it needs to throw you off track. The trick here is to spot these symptoms and know that they’re a good sign—not a bad one. Also, remember that they’re temporary.

When does the carb flu start?

Typically, symptoms of the carb flu begin to appear somewhere between Day 2 and Day 7 of your diet. This timing isn’t set in stone, but if you make it to Day 8 without any symptoms, odds are you’re one of those lucky people whose cells happily adapt to burning fat without throwing a tantrum.

How long will the carb flu last?

This varies from person to person. Sometimes carb flu symptoms disappear in as little as a day or two, while other times they may last a week.

How to survive the carb flu.

While you’re experiencing the carb flu, there are steps you can take to ease your discomfort. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Add a tiny dose of fat to your diet. A handful of unsweetened coconut chips, some olives (rinse off the salty brine), or some pieces of avocado can tame your carb flu symptoms.
  • Skip your workouts. I’m big on exercise, but this is one time when it’s okay to forego a strenuous workout. Instead, do some gentle walking.
  • Go to bed early. Indulge yourself with an extra hour or two of sleep. To help you sleep soundly, take a warm Epsom salt bath before you turn in.
  • Journal. Journaling during your diet is a great idea, and it’s especially helpful when the carb flu sets in. Journaling will help you identify the onset and the end of your carb flu, and writing about your reasons for losing weight will keep you focused on your goals during this temporary challenge.
  • Diet with a friend. A “diet buddy” can help you stand firm during a bout of the carb flu, and celebrate with you when it’s done.
  • Treat yourself. If you have a few extra dollars, buy a good book, get a massage, or treat yourself to a mani-pedi. It’ll take your mind off your symptoms and brighten your mood.
  • Distract yourself. If the carb flu causes carvings, remember that the average craving only lasts about three minutes. Play a game on your phone, call a friend, or take a walk, and that craving will vanish before you know it.
  • Do mindful meditation. This simple and powerful technique, which I talk about here, can ease both the physical and the mental symptoms of the carb flu.

Keep your eyes on the prize!

The carb flu is the toughest hurdle you’re likely to face on your diet. If you’re ready for it, however, it won’t trip you up. Instead, you’ll stay on course and head straight for the finish line. If you do wind up battling the carb flu for a few days, keep thinking about the incredible reward you’ll get at the end.

You’re in the process of transforming your body into a lean, mean, fat-burning machine. As a result, you’re going to melt that fat off your belly like crazy. So stay strong. Each day you face down the carb flu and stick to your diet, you’ll be investing in a slimmer, healthier, more gorgeous you—and your payoff will be awesome!

Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!