Yes, it happens to the best of us and even to the most dedicated. I often tell family and friends not to worry about what I’ll eat at a party or event. Most of the time there is a satisfactory number of primal keto friendly food options and even if there isn’t, I’ve been on this journey long enough where I’m calorically efficient and not easily swayed by sweets or treats.
The problem mostly lies with my clients who are newly keto or primal. The temptations run high when you’ve just started your keto transition. This is because your body still has strong psychological attachments to food—and not only that, there’s a HUGE chemical component too that is almost impossible to escape by pure will alone.
You see our bodies function and react based on the signals it receives from stimuli like sights, sounds, environmental triggers and yes, food! The food we eat trigger hormonal cascades throughout our bodies influencing how we react. For example, eating large amount of carbs and sugars will signal an insulin cascade as the body reacts to remove excess sugar from our bloodstream. When insulin does its job too well, your insulin levels plummet and you get the all to familiar hangry which forces you to gorge on some more pizza, snacks, etc. The glucose also bonds to similar “happy” receptors in our brain and stimulates the brain to release dopamine and opioids; essentially eliciting a “high” similar to what you get from the use of recreational drugs. And just like with addictive substances, when these happy hormone levels plummet, your brain will crave more. Are you seeing a pattern?
Your body will react to what you put in it. People that claim they are “addicted” to sugar, quite literally are because their bodies are stuck in the ebbs and flows of hormones that are too strong for our bodies to ignore. Now do you see why our society’s notion of “will power” on any diet is doomed from the beginning? You may be able to get by the first few days, maybe even the first few weeks on will alone, but eventually as your body puts more and more pressure for you to desire these foods, your will power will falter.
So what happens when it does? Is your diet ruined? Have you just failed? The short answer is NO. Here’s a few things to remember when your choices were less than perfect:
How much did you side step?
Be honest with yourself and hold yourself accountable. How large was your treat? Was it a part if a single meal, like an ingredient? An entire meal? An added meal, like a dessert? Or was it a full day (or days) of indulgences? Depending on how large you side-stepped, what you need to do will vary. Also, if you are fat-adapted and metabolically flexible, your body may be able to “bounce” back quickly and you actually don’t need to do *anything* (HINT…This is the ultimate goal…metabolic flexibility. Pretty much a superman model where your body is so optimally tuned, a cheat meal or dessert doesn’t register a blip on your metabolic map.)
Get back on track and push forward.
First I like to remind my students to take a deep breath. NO you haven’t ruined your diet forever. An NO, you are not a failure. You simply made a side step and all you need to do is step forward again the next day. Have your treat meal/snack/item and then the next meal go back to primal. What if you made several side steps? Yes, it happens. Know that it may be harder to step forward with several side steps or backward steps. You entered that hormone cascade loop again so breaking it might be that much harder—but you can do it!
Don’t dwell on your error.
The worst thing for you to do is beat yourself up for your indulgence. Remember our hormone cascades we talked about above? Dwelling on your error and being uber critical on yourself raises your cortisol levels which make you…..eat! Yikes, so don’t dwell, move forward. Try this: Look at your upcoming week and identify areas that you may be less than perfect. Decide before the event how you want to approach the situation. Look at the menu, plan ahead and if all else fails, be ok with your situation and be confident that you can step forward tomorrow.
Ride the stored fuel!
Chances are a majority of your treat meals will be converted to glycogen (stored form of glucose) and stored in your liver and muscle tissues. When those coffers a full, the excess glucose converts to fat and is stored around our body under our skin (subcutaneous, soft and squishy) or around our vital organs (visceral, the dangerous fat). So what do I mean about riding the stored fuel? Well you want to force your body to burn the fat it just created. Chances are you won’t be full the next day—ever have that happen? Yup, it’s because you have stored fat and your fat cells are sending leptin hormones out that tells your brain, “We have energy. We are full.” The problem when we eat based on schedule—“It’s noon so I have to eat lunch”, vs waiting until our body sends us true signals. So begin to listen to your hunger cues and eat a bit less each meal the next day or wait an hour to have your breakfast.
Burn the stored fuel!
Another way to deal with your extra stored energy is to use it. Go on a morning walk and another after dinner. Exercise is a great way to burn extra energy (aka fat), but be cautious not to over do it. Excessive exercise and exercise too strenuous for your fitness level will only make you tired, run down and EXTRA hungry at the end.
Depending on your fat adaptation and where you are with primal nutrition level, you can try to intermittent fast the day following a treat meal or a larger side-step. Similar to riding your stored fuel above, intermittent fasting is a safe practice that switches on the repair and recovery mode of our bodies and will use stored fuel (aka fat) for energy! If you’ve never IFed before, I suggest you do not jump to this option. You have to work up your fasting muscle slowly so jumping in cold turkey may be doing more bad than good.
Even if you do nothing special after a treat meal/side-step, the key is to step forward the next day. Get back to eating keto or primal. Get back to basics and trust that your body will level itself out within a day or two. So one treat meal here or there isn’t going derail you too much. As long as you don’t make it a habit you don’t sweat the small hiccups.
The ideas, concepts and opinions expressed herein are intended to be used for EDUCATION PURPOSES ONLY. These documents are published and distributed with the understanding that Arlene Santos and This Keto Family are not rendering medical advice of any kind, nor is intending to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe or treat any disease, condition, illness or injury. It is imperative that before beginning any diet or exercise program, including any aspect of the ketogenic program, you receive full medical clearance from a licensed physician.
Arlene Santos is a Certified Health & Nutrition Coach and works with women and families to implement achievable nutrition plans centered around primal, nutrient dense foods that are easy to prepare, kid-friendly and delicious. She believes that every woman and mother deserves to feel energized, focused, healthy, lean, happy and confident. As purveyors of nutrition within our own households, mothers have a unique opportunity to change the definition of "healthy foods" in their families. Arlene empowers women to take back their own health, fill and strengthen their cups, so they can advocate for wellness in their families.