I am a keto & weight loss coach. It has been my absolute honour to work with people who have decided that a low-carb way of eating is their chosen route to weight-loss and wellness. Many of my clients have lost weight and come off meds for conditions like bursitis, diabetes type 2 and high blood pressure. As much as they say I’ve helped them, I’ve gotta say, they have taught me so much. We are all different, and as I’ve guided and advised them on their own journey, I have had to adopt an open mind and listening ear and heart, in order to make my advice and recommendations meaningful to their specific circumstances. Back in December I had 2 clients who had 2 different approaches to the matter of cheating while keto. What follows are their stories, their choices and the consequences. Read for yourself and extract any learnings applicable.
Cheating on Keto: Bad idea or nah?
The issue of cheating on keto comes up all the time. In June 2019 I did a post on cheating on keto: is it a bad idea or not? In that post I explored some of the reasons why people cheat, I spoke about my own personal stance on cheating and why I don’t cheat and the tools I use to stay compliant, I looked at what happens when you cheat, poked around why some people feel the need to cheat, and how to get back on track if and when you do cheat.
One Size Does Not Fit All!
I’m very clear about my personal stance on cheating: I don’t. I treat carbs like a recovering alcoholic treats alcohol: zero tolerance. Why? I know myself. I know that one carby meal or slice of cake won’t make me regain the more than 60 lbs I’ve lost. But I fear it opening the flood gates of craving more and more carbs. This is the nature of carbohydrates, you know. They are addictive. Sugar lights up the same reward pathways that cocaine does. I’ve found substitute foods that allow me to navigate this way of eating that don’t have me feeling deprived and I simply don’t feel the need to cheat.
But there are others who have achieved great levels of success on this way of eating who have cheated. They claim that creating “breathing” room by allowing themselves some of their favourite high-carb foods keeps them compliant and that building in cheats actually makes eating low-carb most of the time a sustainable way of eating for them.
Bottom line: You’ve got to know yourself and be honest with yourself.
Cheater #1: “NO CHEATING FOR ME THIS CHRISTMAS”
Lady 1 had been doing well in her quest to lose weight by eating low-carb. She was more than 60 days in and had been successfully making her food choices and sticking to the plan. She had lost weight and was wearing clothes that she hadn’t worn in years. And she was feeling great! I asked her what her plans were for Christmas. Christmas in the Caribbean is one of the most significant food events on the calendar: big family gatherings, feasts complete with gungo rice and peas, macaroni and cheese pies, black fruit cakes, lots of sorrel drink laced with loads of sugar and rum, non-stop eating and merriment.
“I am not cheating at all this Christmas, Kelly! I don’t want a hint of anything sweet, not even sweet from a low-carb sweetener. I don’t want to reawaken that tiger called cravings that I’ve tamed.”
I listened. I admired her resolve. But I suggested to her that being so adamant at a time when so much temptation is around may be a Herculean task at this stage of her journey. I suggested how she could make sorrel for herself and sweeten with an approved low-carb sweetener. We spoke about alcohol and how to make choices that wouldn’t take her off-course. I sent her recipes for easy to make DELICIOUS foods that would not have her feeling deprived and that would keep her on-track: keto rum butter cake and cheesy vegetable casserole. But she remained adamant.
I noticed that she went silent in the days after Christmas. I reached out, but she wasn’t her normal enthusiastic, forthcoming self, sharing pics of her food. I knew what had happened. And sure enough, she finally admitted to me that she had given in on Christmas day, then on New Years day when her family had created a high carb spread in celebration of her birthday and that despite her desperate desire to get back on track, she simply couldn’t.
There was always a valid reason to push back getting back on track: I’ll start once the cake is finished…there’s still sorrel in the ‘fridge…they went through all this trouble to make this spread for me…
Then the despair and guilt and self loathing set in: I’ve done so much damage…Here I go again….Maybe I’m just destined to be fat forever…. I knew it was too good to be true…
So we spoke. As her coach, I reminded her that if she did it before, she could do it again. I told her that the fact that food that didn’t honour her goals was still in the house was not a valid reason to actually eat it. Dump it or give it away. Simple. Be ruthless with your own goals.
We spoke about the learnings coming out of this experience: create appropriate food alternatives. Bring your allies on board so they don’t sabotage you. Be adamant. And most importantly, falling down doesn’t mean you’ve got to stay down. If your cell phone drops and the screen cracks, do you then take a hammer to the phone and finish the job by smashing it? Ridiculous.
Yes, Life Interrupts. But you still have choices. And you have the power.
She’s now back on track. Her next meal after we spoke was low-carb. And we spoke about life interrupting. She had received some bad news around the time when she came off-plan with her eating and eating carbs was a way of self-soothing. Listen: Life will ALWAYS happen. There’s never a perfect time to change your way of eating. I encouraged her to take some time to pray about her worries, to drive out to the beach and to control those things she actually could control, her own food choices. She’s back in the saddle and once again choosing food that honours her goals. Will she slip again? Perhaps. But she knows now how to limit the chances of this happening and she knows that she can get back up. The choice, the power is hers and hers alone.
Cheater #2: I will come off plan Christmas Day.
Lady 2 had also been doing well. She too was more than 60 days into her journey and had lost weight. We had been speaking at length about cheating. I armed her with information: what happens when you cheat, alternatives to cheating, how to get back on track after cheating and reminded her that she had to decide for herself how to navigate. I am not the coach that stands over you with a whip or with commands. I am not your parent or master. I guide, I may even say what I’d do in the situation, I recommend, and I arm you with information. My ideal client listens, considers and decides. And she told me up-front what she was going to do. She asked me if I wanted her to send pics of her non-compliant meals. LOL! I told her NO. Told her to enjoy the occasion in full, with no reference to me or feeling guilty. That she had made her decision. And guess what? She enjoyed her Christmas dinner with cake and sorrel and rice n peas, and mac n cheese. And after the festivities, she fasted some, went back to eating low-carb and continues on her journey.
What I learned from my Cheating Clients
- Be honest with your desires
- Create alternatives if you really decide that you don’t want to come off plan. Don’t underestimate the power of temptation
- Make sure your allies don’t sabotage you. Be clear and direct with them ahead of time about your food desires at special celebrations.
- Be unapologetic about your goals
- If you decide to cheat, cheat intentionally. This means that you have a re-start date set ahead of time. When you have this, you eliminate the back and forth in your own mind about starting again. You side-step the negative, self-loathing dialogue that keeps you down. YOU RETAIN CONTROL in your relationship with food and you’ve decided how you navigate this journey you’re on. Bravo!
- And if you need support, GET IT! Will-power is over- rated. Sometimes you need encouragement, sometimes guidance, sometimes accountability to get you back on track or to keep you on track. Get a coach, or a keto-buddy or join an online group such as our very own Caribbean Keto Tribe.