Question from a Reader:
In the morning I get up with all good intentions to eat Low Carb all day long. I can’t actually pinpoint a specific time of day, or particular event that does it, but at some point during the day, the “wheels fall off the wagon” and I end up blowing it all. Does anyone else ever do this? I want to eat LC. I feel better when I do manage to make a day of it (multiple days are a miracle and I feel great!). Any strategies for staying on track? ~Lisa
I can give you some pointers, Lisa, but I don’t know if you’re gonna like them. However, you did ask. So here’s what I got to say on the subject, anyway.
Please know that it’s delivered with love, because it is. Also know it’s coming from a place of understanding. There’s a reason I can call folks out sometimes-because I’ve been there. So, with that having been said…
To really feel the benefit of low carb and get in the zone, you have to DO it. And more than sometimes, for a few hours, on most days. It generally takes 3 or 4 days for our bodies to switch to full-on Ketosis, fat burning mode, when the real gifts of Low Carb show up: decreased appetite, increased energy, changes in tastes, bye-bye cravings, etc.
Since you have noted that you feel great after doing low carb for a few days in a row, you’re probably already aware of this. The first few days in, however, are a struggle for many people! Myself included. People often feel yucky on top of the normal discomfort that comes from changing habits. You have to want it enough to ride through the initial resistance. But there are certainly ways to make it easier.
- Planning! It’s much easier to stay on course if we have plenty of on-plan options and especially, easy options. If we have a choice between an easy, off-plan choice and a much-more-work on-plan choice, we’re usually inclined to reach for the easy. So make being on plan easier by preparing food in advance and having some very quick, appealing options ready to go. Have something always at the ready that works with your plan and is accessible and appealing.
- Get rid of the junk in your house and surroundings. You cannot eat what’s not there. If you live with someone else who is not low carb and wants off-plan food, ask for a short break while you adjust or at least get variations, flavors, etc. of their food that are least appealing to you. Put that food out of your direct line of sight in the fridge or pantry, but keep your plan-friendly food front and center.
- Remember why you’re doing this. Whatever prompted you to start this path is probably still in force, no? So take time regularly to remind yourself of why it’s important.
- Enforce a 15-minute grace period for cravings. When feeling the urge to jump ship, make a deal with yourself that you’ll revisit the issue in 15 minutes. The vast majority of the time, after a few minutes have passed the cravings will have disappeared. I wouldn’t set an alarm to remind myself of this, either. Because you don’t want an eat-off-plan alarm. Just start realizing how often you actually forget all about it if you don’t give in immediately.
- Are there specific foods or types of food you crave? Sometimes there is a physical basis for that, such as people who need magnesium craving chocolate. So that’s something to look at if it’s true for you. And even if it doesn’t point to a specific need, you can tailor your replacement menu to what you tend to grab when you go off course.
- Figure out triggers. You say there isn’t’ a particular event or time of day. Okay! But something is prompting the decision to get up and go to the fridge. Are there particular types of foods you tend to reach for? Activities that prompt eating? Are you hungry, even? Do you like a little something with your coffee or do you grab what you see others eating? Is it more in social situations or when you’re alone? Are there mood-triggered episodes? Is it when you smell certain foods? Maybe you have 50 triggers and if so, you can start to knock them down, one at a time. If you can pin down some of the circumstances surrounding this, you get creative to either replace the snacks or change the routine, depending on what’s up. Even go day-by-day and take notes for a week to discover patterns if you need to. But if you intend to eat on plan when you start each day and you’re not eating on plan by the time you end the day, there are almost certainly patterns in the thoughts, feelings and activities going down when you veer.
- Once you do eat off-plan? Get back on track, RIGHT THAT MINUTE. Immediately-immediately, as in, not waiting until in the morning, or the next meal, or after the workday, or after the donuts are gone or any other arbitrary, do-over-timeframe distinction. This is important! Because otherwise, that “I’ll try again tomorrow” habit is just a fancy form of procrastination. If you let the “Oops, it fell into my mouth” scenario win you time off until the next magic restart period, you’re essentially rewarding yourself with immediate gratification for being out of control at the expense of your long term gratification for staying on track. Not to mention, you’re compounding the issue by giving yourself that much more off-track eating to overcome.
- Come up with alternative activities. I crochet, because it keeps my hands busy and it’s hard to snack with yarn and a crochet hook in my hands. But you know, whatever works for you.
- Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry. It clouds judgment. Make sure you have plenty of healthy, natural fats–butter in your coffee?–so you aren’t swimming against the tide by feeling very hungry but surrounded by poor choices.
- Take good care of yourself in other ways. People who get enough sleep, are active, drink plenty of water and get adequate emotional support have a much easier time staying on track than those who don’t take solid care of themselves in every way possible. Eating well becomes just another way you take good care of yourself.
- Change your language. People who tell me, “I cannot do this,” I totally believe. As long as you’re saying that and your subconscious is hearing it, that’s the reality you’re conspiring to create. Work on stepping from there to where you actually want to be, a little bit at at time. So you go from that to, “I’m not sure I can do this.” Then move it up to, “I think I can do this.” Which becomes, “I probably can do this.” Keep reaching for one step up, a little better place, until you’re confidently saying, “I know I can do this!”
- Commit. Not just sort of hope or intend loosely plan, but actually COMMIT. If you have not had any extended period of on-plan eating, I recommend starting with a full, two-week induction or the equivalent. And commit for the whole time, no exceptions, no matter how much you don’t really feel like it. You will very likely find that it becomes easy long before the two weeks are up. So you have to decide, is it worth it to you to invest that long in yourself? Getting in the groove can be tough. Staying in that groove is much easier.
- Do you really WANT to do this? And do you want it more than the cookies (or whatever)? Because nobody else can do it for you. There’s not a right or wrong answer to that question, by the way. If you don’t, fair enough. It’s a choice. But if DO want to, then you kind of have to actually start doing it. I’m not being judgemental, either. I know the draw of wanting results without wanting to make the requisite changes to get them. But it’s kind of a “let’s get real” issue at some point. To me, it’s akin to the person who apologizes for a particular behavior but continues the same behavior, over and over. Eventually, you have to question the sincerity of the apology. While I don’t question the sincerity of your question in the least, I feel it’s important to point out the discrepancy. Maybe you can ask yourself this question, when you begin to reach for something that is not on your plan. The wanting to do it has to be more than the wanting of immediate gratification, or there’s no point.
Basically, it all boils down to taking your power back. You take your power back by planning instead of relying on chance to deliver the circumstances to support your decisions. You take you power back by consciously making decisions and sticking to them instead of saying, “Oh well, I don’t have any idea why I did that.” You take power back by getting RIGHT BACK on course any time you do slide even the least little bit. You take your power back by living your life by decision instead of by default.
You take your power back by no longer claiming not to have any power.
Hope that’s helpful–I know bits may sting but truly, I have mad respect you’re brave enough to ask the question to begin with and nothing but the best wishes for you.
Feel free to chime in with your other tips or tricks in the comments.