Health and wellness touch everyone’s life differently. This is one person’s story.

The old adage “everything in moderation” is sound advice, but it’s wisdom I wasn’t always capable of following.

My dysfunctional approach to diet and nutrition — formed in childhood and deeply ingrained since — had left me overweight and unhappy. I was generally falling asleep around 2 p.m., when my body would experience its daily sugar crash.

I grew up seeing food as a reward instead of being occasional indulgences. Things like fast food, candy, and pastries were a regular part of my diet, contributing to weight gain and thus my risk for conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and more.

Clearly, things couldn’t continue like that much longer.

It was in 2014 when I discovered the ketogenic diet. Put simply, eating keto involves high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbs. The idea is that once your body is in ketosis, it’ll start burning fat for fuel rather than carbs. (To be clear, this isn’t the same as ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening complication of type 1 diabetes.)

People on keto stick to fewer than 20 grams net carbohydrates per day. This means no fries, no candy, no pizza, no brownies. Most carbs on the keto diet come from vegetables.

Following this approach helped me shed about 50 pounds, but the journey eventually felt really restrictive. I got tired of not being able to go out to eat with my friends or enjoy some (properly sugary) cake on my birthday.

Not only did I maintain the weight loss I achieved while following keto, I continued to lose weight at a steady, albeit slightly slower, pace.

I knew I wanted to add some more complex carbs — and the occasional simple carb — back into my diet. But I also wanted to be smart about doing it.

While following the strict keto diet, I’d done a bit of intermittent fasting, eating all my meals within a six-hour period each day and spending the other 18 hours without food. I thought I might be able to modify this a bit while I started eating carbs again.

Is it better to eat carb-heavy in the morning?

While there’s conflicting research about whether or not it’s better to eat carb-heavy foods earlier in the day and how doing so (or failing to do so) affects energy levels, weight loss, and body composition, I also know several people who’ve had great success in all the above areas by cutting afternoon carbs.

I’m actually way more productive now in the afternoons than I ever was, so that can only be a good thing.

As for why it worked for me, my theory lies in how carbs affect blood sugar levels and the body’s ability to retain water. Because refined carbs can lead to higher blood sugar and insulin levels, which causes your kidneys to reabsorb sodium, eating carbs throughout the day could lead to more water retention.

But keeping most of your carbs to earlier in the day? This could give your body a chance to burn them off, particularly if you exercise in the afternoon or evenings.

And given that the body retains 3 grams of water for every gram of glycogen (stored and converted carbohydrate), it really does make sense to give my body as many hours as possible before bed to shed the water weight and carbs I’ve eaten.

With this in mind, I decided to experiment a bit by indulging in carbs before 12 p.m. and keeping it low carb in the afternoon and evening. For dinner, I mostly stuck to lean proteins and lots of green veggies — leaving the bread, potatoes, and other starchy foods for the next morning.

I also still tend to follow the intermittent fasting practice of keeping all of my food intake within an eight-hour window, often having my final meal by 4 or 4:30 p.m. at the latest.

In essence, this meant that within reason, no carb-heavy food was off-limits anymore so long as I ate it before noon (and in proper portions, of course).

I’ve been doing this for six months, and it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying croissants and tartine every morning for breakfast when I was in Paris. I didn’t feel guilty for having a crepe for lunch, either.

By dinner, I found I was rarely starving and felt fine having either a salad with something like salmon or ham in it, or something like a poached chicken breast with steamed vegetables.

Once back home, I occasionally had an everything bagel for breakfast or made some sweet potato hash to go with my scrambled eggs.

The change felt freeing and delicious and was made even better by the fact that my weight loss efforts weren’t at all derailed by the re-addition of carbs to my daily diet.

If you discover that cutting off carbs after 12 p.m. isn’t for you, adjust it so you only have complex, “slow” carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, and oats from noon onward.

Not only did I maintain the weight loss I achieved while following keto, I continued to lose weight at a steady, albeit slightly slower, pace.

The other huge benefit I particularly enjoyed was not having afternoon slumps and energy crashes. I’m actually way more productive now in the afternoons than I ever was, so that can only be a good thing.

Of course, it hasn’t been a total free-for-all.

While I do now enjoy foods like pasta, bread, potatoes, and even chocolate in moderation, I’m still cognizant of the old CICO (calories in, calories out) principle.

I still track what I eat in MyFitnessPal daily to ensure I’m not going too far overboard with calories, and I do try to ensure that most of the carbs I do eat are of the “slow” variety, like oats, whole-grain breads, or brown rice.

In addition, my afternoon diet consists of light, healthy foods like grilled chicken, shrimp, leafy greens, and other roasted vegetables. I also still tend to follow the intermittent fasting practice of keeping all of my food intake within an eight-hour window, often having my final meal by 4 or 4:30 p.m. at the latest.

This approach isn’t for everyone. I wouldn’t even be so brazen as to claim it’s the only way to successfully incorporate carbs without making you gain weight (if you’re blessed with the slow metabolism and insulin sensitivity that I seem to be). I’m sure that’s not the case, especially since every body is different.

Try cutting out carbs after 12 p.m. — you might be pleasantly surprised with the results

From more energy to healthy weight loss, cutting out carbs by midday may be worth a try for you. I’ve been doing this for almost six months now, and these results alone have been worth it for me.

If you discover that cutting off carbs after 12 p.m. isn’t for you, adjust it so you only have complex, “slow” carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, and oats from noon onward. Try to keep the simple, white processed carbs (if you must) to the morning.

It might not end up working for you long term, but it could be worth a shot. After all, being able to fully embrace the American tradition of dessert-like foods for breakfast can’t be a bad thing, right?

Just make sure you cut those carbs after 12 p.m.!


Jennifer Still is an editor and writer with bylines in Vanity Fair, Glamour, Bon Appetit, Business Insider, and more. She writes about food and culture. Follow her on Twitter.