We all know that carbs and sugar are bad. We all know that we shouldn’t eat it. However, in our modern diet, carbs, sugar or variations of sugar are everywhere! Even things that aren’t intended to taste sweet often have added sugars, which fall under all kinds of names that aren’t readily recognizable. Companies must list all ingredients, so you’d think that identifying sugar would be easy. However, there are at least sixty different names for various types of sugar that all affect our bodies the same way! Sugar masquerades under names such as maltodextrin, maltose, dextrose, sucrose and various types of syrups just to name a few!
Sugar stimulates pleasure centers in the brain and give us instant energy that our body can easily use. Our body craves these things when we don’t properly fuel it with other useable sources of energy. When you give your body a steady supply of carbs and sugar, it will constantly crave more and won’t be able to access fat stores making weight loss difficult, although not impossible through general calorie restriction. Following a low carb or Ketogenic Diet allows your body to adapt, becoming efficient at burning fat instead of glucose. But with sugar in everything, kicking the carb habit is hard. But you CAN do it and be successful long term in giving up all things sugary! And while it is difficult in the beginning, the long term benefits are worth it!
Carb/sugar withdrawal is a real thing. For me it lasted about a month. The first month I spent eating Keto was very difficult. My reason for starting Keto was to support my Husband. He had a lot of weight to lose, both his cholesterol and blood pressure were high and he knew some variation of a low carb diet was the only way he could successfully lower all of those things. But he very seriously came to me, laid his cards on the table and asked me for help. As the primary shopper and meal prepper in the family, I knew he wouldn’t be successful without my help. While supporting him wasn’t my only reason (I also had weight to lose), having someone else relying on me, helped keep me on track. I began researching low carb diets and came across the Ketogenic Diet and our lives changed forever.
So my first month of Keto was rough. I was drained both mentally and physically. My body was attempting to run on little to no fuel for that first month. It took me about 30 days to become fat adapted. Meaning for the first 30 days, my body was still looking for glucose to burn for energy, which meant that my blood sugars were up and down and I was moody! I remember questioning why I was doing this to myself in the first place. “Being skinny isn’t worth this hell!” I remember shouting at my Husband across the kitchen island. I was also mentally drained. Changing not only your entire diet, but the way you view food, is exhausting! You have to change your whole mindset about food and that takes time! Little did I know that being skinny wouldn’t be my primary reason for continuing on with the Ketogenic Diet (although, weight management is a huge bonus).
So, if giving up carbs and sugar is so hard…why do it? Long term, the benefits are amazing. Weight loss, mental clarity, stabilized blood sugars, level moods, better sleep, high energy, better endurance during exercise, and a raised level of immunity are just some of the amazing benefits that go along with it! The key is to get started. I get asked all the time, what is the best way to start the Ketogenic Diet. The answer is to jump in with both feet. Don’t try to lower your carbs gradually…just rip that band-aid off and go. It’ll be rough in the beginning, but I always tell everyone to commit to themselves for at least 30 days. It takes 30 days to build new habits, but you’ll also begin feeling some of those amazing Keto benefits within the first 30 days!
Tips for Kicking Sugar for Good:
Everyone has heard the phrase; Failing to plan is planning to fail. (credit for that quote goes to every Middle School teacher/coach out there). As cliché as it is, it is very true. Prepare yourself. Sit down and do some research, print out some Keto food lists (you can find my version here) , and make a meal plan (look back, I have plenty of those posted on my blog too!). Do your grocery shopping and have all of your low carb, Keto friendly foods handy so when carb cravings hit (and they will) you have tasty low carb options! You can find some of my great low carb, Keto Recipes here!
Make a decision on sweeteners:
Many Keto purists will tell you to ditch artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols altogether. However, I think each individual needs to make that decision on their own. But everyone should be aware of how they “react” to sweeteners. For some, sweeteners may trigger additional sugar cravings (both physical cravings or mental) and make Keto that much harder. But for others, allowing themselves a “Keto treat” now and again may help keep them away from sugar. So you really need to experiment and decide for yourself what will trigger your carvings and what won’t. Just do your research on sweeteners because not all are created equal and some can wreak havoc on your digestive system, so try them out at your own risk!
Clean up your kitchen:
If all the members of your household will be following a Ketogenic Diet, than this one is easy. Box up all the “carbage” and get rid of it (food pantry is a great option)! If it’s not there taunting you from the cupboard, you can’t be tempted by it. However, if not everyone in your household is Keto, than this gets a little tougher. But there are some things that you can still do to help yourself. Our kids do not follow a Keto diet. Although they often choose Keto foods over non-Keto foods, they are teenagers and I allow them to make their own decisions on what they put in their bodies. So they still eat Mac-n-cheese, cereal, etc. To make it easier on myself, I tried to buy them things that they would like, but I wouldn’t be tempted by. For example, I love blue box mac-n-cheese but don’t like shells & cheese…so I bought them shells & cheese. These little things helped out a lot in the beginning when I was still tempted by carbs. The good news is, the longer you are on a Keto Diet, the less you want these things!
Everything you read about Keto talks about supplements. But there are so many different opinions on what and how to supplement. You really have to experiment and see what works for you. It took me awhile to figure out what would work for me, but eventually, it all came together! The reason supplementing is so important is because when you are missing essentials in your diet, you begin to crave things. Often missing electrolytes can lead to lower energy which in turn leads to carb cravings…I’ve experienced this one myself and it’s rough! So keeping your electrolytes, vitamins & minerals in balance, you keep your body happy! Do some research and see what supplements and products would work for you! Personally, I take a multivitamin and supplement an electrolyte powder (called Ultima Replenisher) which contains Selenium, Zinc, Phosphorus, Calcium, Potassium, Choride, Sodium and Magnesium. This seems to have the right balance for me, but may not be for everyone! Experiment and see what works!
They are gonna happen. In the beginning, they will happen often. Having a plan in place for when cravings hit can be a life saver. It sounds silly, but having an activity to fall back on can help. When cravings hit you can take a walk, do some scrapbooking, knitting etc. Whatever it is that you like to do, do it! It’ll take your mind off of your cravings and help get you through the rough times! For me, I started an Instagram account, just strictly for my Keto diet posts. It allowed me the freedom to post all my Keto meals without having to subject my family and friends to a constant barrage of food posts. But I also began following other Keto accounts (and there are A LOT to choose from). When I had cravings, I would often log on to my Keto Instagram account and look for inspiration from others. It helped immensely. First off, you learn your not alone in craving carbs at the beginning and second, it’s a great reminder of all the amazing things you CAN eat!
Most importantly, Give it Time:
When you commit to Keto, you are really making a commitment to yourself. Promise yourself 30 days. If you fall of the wagon for a moment, hop right back on. In the beginning, it’s not all or nothing! By the end of your 30 day Keto commitment, you’ll feel amazing and you won’t want to go back. You’ll have a new outlook on your relationship with food and dare I say a new outlook on life.