Okay, so you fell off the wagon with a resounding thud. Maybe it was a one-time indiscretion and you just cheated a little, or maybe you’ve been off the wagon for days or weeks. Or even months. But you’ve picked yourself up and you want to clamber back on as soon as possible. You’re covered in dust from your fall, you ache all over, but that wagon is sitting there waiting for you, ready to welcome you back with open arms. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.
Sounds easy but sometimes it can seem absolutely monumental. I get it. I am writing this because I had a little fall of my own recently. It was only a meal’s worth of cheating but it made me feel absolutely awful the next day. Shaky, bloated, exhausted, tummy issues, the works. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, I knew I had to get back on track right away. My health is too important to me to let things go any further. But I know I will fall again and so I thought it might be helpful to talk about those little tips and tricks that help you get back to your healthy diet a little more easily.
1. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up! If you read nothing else but this one tip, that’s fine. But please take this advice to heart, because it is far and away the most important tip I am going to share. I am part of a lot of forums for low carb and Keto diets and there is always someone flagellating themselves for cheating, for failing, for not having the willpower to stick it out. Well guess what? We ALL fail at this sometimes. Let’s face it, we live in a sugar and gluten-filled world. Unless we are hermits that don’t ever leave the house, we are faced with temptation daily – at work, at social functions, on television, on the internet. It’s all around us and the wonder of it is that we don’t give in more often!
I find it heartbreaking sometimes, the way people who slip beat themselves up. Just think about it for a second. You wouldn’t talk to a friend or a loved one that way when they’d slipped, would you? Then why on earth do you talk to yourself that way? And let’s be honest, some of that self-loathing might be part of what brought you here in the first place. So take a deep breath and repeat after me. “I am human. I had a moment of failure. And I will probably fail again. That’s okay. What’s important is that I keep on trying”. In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, shake it off!
2. Don’t excuse your behaviour. Own it. So I said we all fail sometimes, and we do. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold yourself accountable. It isn’t someone else’s fault that you scarfed down that pizza or dove head first into a plate of Oreos. Be an adult and recognize that you did this to yourself and the consequences suck. And then ask yourself why. Did you forget to eat before you went to the party and arrived so hungry you monopolized the buffet? Were you running errands all day, taking kids to soccer and not stashing a low carb high fat snack for yourself? Or was emotional eating? Or boredom eating (which I am very prone to!)? Or did you do the old “oh one bite won’t hurt. Okay maybe three or four bites won’t hurt. Oh hey…somehow I ate the whole thing!” Then make note of the situations in which you are more likely to succumb to temptation and do your damnedest to avoid them. Preparation is key!
3. Take notes or keep a journal. You feel pretty bad, don’t you? Beyond the guilt and anger at yourself, you probably don’t feel very well physically either. Going off the rails and eating carbs and sugar with abandon might seem pretty fun at the time, but most of us experience some serious discomfort the next day. Tummy aches, head aches, inflammation if we have dietary sensitivities. It isn’t pretty, but it can also be good motivation for getting back on track. Sadly, however, it’s quite easy to forget how awful certain foods make us feel once we are feeling better. Writing it down can help a great deal. Remember how you used to re-copy your notes in high school, in order to better remember them for a test? Same thing here. The simple act of putting it in writing makes it all the more real and vivid. But be sure to write down how much better you feel when you stick to the plan too. A great comparison for future reference!
4. Eat Salad for Breakfast. Or don’t eat any breakfast at all. For me, eating a whole plate of low carb vegetables is like hitting the reset button. It feels clean, it tastes clean, and I swear it cleans out my head a little too. A large part of that may be mental, like feeling as if I am eating the antidote to a poison I consumed the day before, but it hardly matters. If it helps reset my palate, it’s a good thing.
But it’s okay to skip breakfast too, as long as you don’t see it as a punishment for the prior day’s indiscretions. Intermittent fasting is widely recognized as a healthy practice, and it’s also a great way to hit the reset button. And just giving your body a chance to work through all the junk you ate before you eat anything else is helpful. Wait until you truly feel hunger again before sitting down to another meal is crucial. Then be sure to your next meal is solidly low carb or keto. Be sure to savour it and enjoy it, to remind yourself of why this way of eating is worth sticking to.
5. Get Moving! My husband taught me that the best cure for a hangover is a 5k run. No, I am not kidding, it works. And it works for food hangovers too. You aren’t going to feel great when you get out there. In fact, you will probably feel a little like dog poo. Or a lot like dog poo. It won’t be your best athletic performance ever. It may even hurt a little at the beginning and you will wonder why the heck you are doing it. But afterwards, you will feel so much better and you will be that much further along to ridding your body of the junk you ate. It doesn’t have to be a run or anything super high intensity. But you do want to raise your heart rate a little and it helps to break a sweat. It helps your body digest a little better, it clears your head, and it helps your cells uptake the extra insulin and glucose that might be floating around in your blood stream. And, if I can be frank, it helps get your bowels moving too. Which we all know makes us feel better after a binge!
6. Sip water and other clear, low carb liquids. A bit cliche, perhaps, but I find this to be crucial in flushing out my system. Don’t go overboard and drink gallons upon gallons or you will dilute the critical salts your body requires. But simply sipping at a cool, clear liquid can make you feel a little more on track. If you’re sick of the taste of water, herbal teas (hot or cold, with or without sweetener) can help. And if you’re prone to boredom eating, as I am, sipping something with a little flavour can help ease the urge to stuff your mouth.
Need something a little more satisfying and comforting? Try sipping warm bone broth to fill you up without carbs. Also try adding a little turmeric to your bone broth for both flavour and the anti-inflammatory properties. All the carbs and sugars and such you’ve been eating can aggravate inflammation so anything you can do to mitigate it will make you feel a lot better.
7. Cut out the alcohol. I’m a girl who likes her nightly glass of wine and I am not afraid to admit it. But after succumbing to temptation, I find I am better to skip the wine for a day or two. I am working on flushing the toxins out of my system and there’s no question that alcohol is a toxin. And given its propensity to lower our inhibitions, wine makes me less likely to stick to the plan of getting back on track. So a few days of tee-totalling make me feel more clear-headed and healthy.
8. Find a buddy or a support group. The benefits here are twofold: support and accountability. Sometimes we really suck at making promises to ourselves. They’re only in our head after all, so it’s pretty easy to pretend we never made them in the first place. But when you say it out loud to a friend or a support group, you feel it’s that much harder to break. And in this day and age, there’s simply no excuse for not having someone to make promises to. Even if you don’t have any in-person friends that support this low carb lifestyle, there are numerous groups and forums. And most of the time, people are incredibly supportive and helpful, with amazing ideas to help you stay the course.
9. Don’t deprive or punish yourself. Whatever you do, don’t go nuts and exercise like a fiend while subsisting on salad for days on end. That’s never the way to do it. If you feel deprived, you will almost inevitably succumb to the next round of temptation. I’m the rebellious type myself. When I feel restricted or limited, I tend to lash out in frustration and thumb my nose at the limitations, going overboard in the opposite direction. And a proper low carb diet should be the antithesis of deprivation anyway. So fill up on those good healthy fats to keep your appetite and cravings under control.
10. Search out some new fun recipes. Get excited about cooking and eating this way again! Look here, friends. I’ve got a whole blog filled with hundreds of low carb recipes for your eating pleasure. And there are a number of other wonderful blogs creating amazing recipes to satisfy your hunger. Getting into the kitchen and cooking up some of your favourites, or a few new ones that catch your eye, is the best way to get back on plan. The food is beyond delicious and if you remind yourself of that, you may wonder why you ever fell off the wagon in the first place!
Words of Wisdom from fellow low carb experts!
Maria Emmerich of Keto Adapted: Remember how you feel when you cheat. Maybe journal about how your body and mind feels; but however you record that moment just remember that a moment of that indulgence created a whole day or more of feeling awful. Get your cooking inspiration on and start tomorrow as day one. Plan plan plan equals success!
Lisa MarcAurele of Low Carb Yum: After indulging in off limit foods, it’s important to think about the reasons why you made the change to a low carb lifestyle whether it be weight management or better health. Keeping a record of your progress is often helpful so you can look at how far you’ve come and clearly see why you don’t want to go back. It’s also great to have a low carb support network that you can turn to for encouragement if you need help getting back on track.
Sooze Gibbs of Fluffy Chix Cook: Newsflash! We’ve all hit a roadbump, a snag in the low carb keto river and washed out, landing face down in our favorite “fill-in-your-high-carbage-poison-here.” And reality? We’ve lived to tell about it. What you need to know is that you are a winner as long as you get up one time more than the number of times you fall down. Fall down. Get up. Make the VERY next bite, the best, most true low carb bite you can possibly make it. Get RIGHT back on your gameplan. Don’t wait and don’t use the fall as an excuse to take the day off, the week off, the month off…cuz trust a Fluffy Chix, sometimes Monday never comes. And you do NOT want to become part of the daily news with film of your epic fall-from-low-carb-grace at 11.
Mellissa Sevigny of I Breathe…I’m Hungry: This goes against convention and your natural impulse to stay in denial, but what helps me is to get on the scale IMMEDIATELY. Even if the damage isn’t apparent yet, it will hold you accountable and you’ll see that number going up even if it’s in your head and it will remind you how far you’ve come (and maybe how far you still have to go.) The tendency is to avoid the scale out of guilt and shame, but then the consequences of going off the rails are easier to ignore because they aren’t staring up at you in plain sight. The damage will show on the scale before it shows in your clothes which might not happen for days or even a week, and by then if you’re still binging you could have already gained 5 pounds or more. Getting on the scale right away for me is more likely to stop my cheating in its tracks and get me back on the wagon before any significant damage is done.
Elviira Krebber of Low Carb, So Simple: After cheating, listen to your body and wait until you are truly hungry (drink water first to check that you are not thirsty). Then eat a meal that consists of relatively high amount of protein (I prefer chicken or salmon), high amount of fat (like mayonnaise or butter) and almost no carbs (so a real LCHF meal). Eat until you are satisfied — this is important — but don’t overeat. When you are satisfied with protein and fat, you get back on track easier and it’s less likely that you start craving for something unhealthy. Moreover, after a LCHF meal it takes hours before you feel the need to eat something.
Martina Slajerova of Keto Diet App: What works for me if I eat more carbs than I should is a long walk or some kind of cardio exercise either the same day or the day after. Cardio will help you get rid of excess sugar from your cheat meal. Then for about a week I avoid treats (even healthy low-carb treats) and nuts. I also eat less or no dairy. I just stick with simple foods like eggs, leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables, meat, avocados, lots of olive oil and coconut oil.
Brenda Bennett of Sugar Free Mom: You made a mistake, no one’s perfect, you don’t need to be perfect to make a sustainable sugar free lifestyle that works for you. Intense sweat sessions always make me feel better. Planning ahead and tracking my food for the next meal or next day after a difficult day of poor choices always helps.