Anyone who has ever followed any kind of diet, keto or otherwise, wonders at some point if it’s ok to cheat every so often. All sorts of things tempt us to cheat – feeling deprived (especially if you’re surrounded by people who are eating all the high-carb foods you’re no longer eating), the holidays, when there is a ton of food everywhere you look, going out to eat or having dinner at someone else’s home, your feelings (anyone out there an “emotional eater”?), or maybe even occasionally because you’re more than a little frustrated with trying to lose weight. I totally get it. I’ve experienced all those things myself, and still do sometimes. It feels really hard some days not to just throw my hands up in the air and say “The heck with it – lemme at that (insert name of tempting food here)!” In that moment, you want nothing more than to just give in to the temptation.
Will You Still Respect Me In The Morning?
The problem is, when we do give in to temptation, we pay for it in more ways than one. For starters, overloading on carbs or sugar will totally throw you out of ketosis (that is, your body’s production of ketones), and depending on the extent of the damage, it could take days or even weeks to get back into it. That means kind of starting all over again – going through the initial period of cravings, feelings of hunger and fatigue and brain fog that a lot of people experience when they first start following a keto diet. Guilt is another factor. How many times do we eat something we know we shouldn’t have, and while it was delicious at the time, we’re kicking ourselves afterwards?
Years ago I remember reading a book by Tony Robbins, an author, public speaker and personal performance coach, called “Unlimited Power”. At one point he was talking about being successful at losing weight, and he suggested the use of a little mantra you could use in the face of temptation – it was simply “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” All these years later I still remember that. I find it to be a great reminder to stop and look at the bigger picture, not just the weak moment that I am faced with. Sure, I could give in and eat that big bowl of pasta or that double fudge brownie, but how am I going to feel about myself later for having done it, knowing I’ve only hindered my journey toward my long-term goals for a moment’s pleasure?
I still have cravings sometimes. I’ve heard some people say that once they got into ketosis their cravings disappeared. I can say that mine are definitely a lot less, but I do still have them. And I still feel a little sorry for myself now and then, because I tell myself I’m being deprived of something I’d really like to have. I get frustrated when I want my excess weight to come off faster than it is. But if I allow myself to dwell on self-defeating thoughts like these, I will surely cave. They rob me of my power to choose and to be in control of what I eat, because instead I’m shifting that power to external things that I can’t control. I have to remind myself, sometimes daily, that I am worth it, and that I’m making the choices I am out of love for myself and my desire to be the healthiest me I can be. I want to continue to be around for my son and (someday, I hope) my grandchildren. I try to focus on the foods that I CAN have, and I actively look for new recipes and new ways of preparing them. I celebrate even my small accomplishments, because they are very motivating and empowering. I remind myself of all the reasons I chose to follow the keto lifestyle to begin with, and of all the benefits of doing so.
Never Say Never
So does this mean we can never cheat? Does it mean we have to go through the whole rest of our lives never eating some of the things we miss?
No, I don’t believe it does necessarily. If you are choosing keto in order to lose weight or because you are facing a particular health challenge that you are trying to manage or overcome, then you will definitely want to be a bit more strict with yourself. Your body needs time to start burning fat for its fuel, and then more time still to drop any excess weight and begin the process of repairing itself.
Once you have reached your goals for those things, you can certainly move into more of a maintenance mode, adding back in some of the things you’ve missed in moderation. Staying in a constant state of ketosis actually has some negative consequences, so even before that you’ll want to begin adjusting your day-to-day diet to allow yourself to cycle in and out of it (more on that in another article, coming soon). Still, there are things you’ll want to continue to avoid, because the havoc they wreak just isn’t worth it.
So my advice to you (and my reminder to myself) is to take things one day at a time. Focus on sticking to your meal plan today – you’ll have plenty of time to think about tomorrow tomorrow. Remember to be kind and gentle with yourself; I always say don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend if she were in your position. We all make mistakes and experience occasional bumps in the road, but that’s ok. Learn from the experience, and then keep going. Remind yourself why you chose this path to begin with. Good health is a journey, not a destination, so commit to being on it for the long haul. Celebrate your successes and encourage yourself along the way. You CAN do this!