AND PEOPLE SAY CHEATING IS BAD FOR YOU…
Last month I wrote about how the ketogenic diet changed the way my brain thought about food and how that shift finally gave me a real chance at losing weight. However, people aren’t perfect. I can fall off the wagon and sabotage my own ketogenic diet with ease. I’m not having disastrous failures like I would in past diets where I’d climb into a pint of ice cream every night like some kind of dairy-based vampire. Failing on the ketogenic diet is still a pain but I’m learning every day. These are my most common ketogenic fails and how I avoid them:
GETTING A LITTLE TOO SAUCY
I pretty much know I’m not eating healthy if I’m ever at a drive-through window ordering chunks of artificial sponge meat like a garbage monster. What took me awhile to get my head around was that almost every sauce we put on meat is loaded with carbs. The problem I had was that I would look at a label and go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, 6 carbs per serving, psssssh, whatever, that’s nothing.” and slather it all over a pile ground beef like I was trying to hide it from the Predator. I kept ignoring that the serving size on this stuff is like one tablespoon. Have you ever used one tablespoon of sauce for your entire meal? Uhh… maybe if you grew up during the dust bowl and Great Depression. That’s not a lot of sauce. Also, if you’re eating out, they often put that liquid crack on your food for you. A place that serves you a cheap, plastic, movie tie-in, toy robot with a cheeseburger and fries doesn’t care that you’re on a ketogenic diet. These “sauce carbs” add up quick and can throw you out of ketosis even quicker.
My way around this pitfall was to make my own sauces at home. I would bust out the liquid stevia and mix up Sriracha with Buffalo sauce and butter and cackle like a mad scientist, “It’s working! It’s working!”. There are a ton of low-carb sauce recipes online and most of them are great. Many just take a little experimenting to get the taste right and then, bam, you’re cheating the system and going steady with keto. Now I never need to use any sugary sauce on my food. If I accidentally do, I say thirty Hail Marys on a rosary I made out of avocado stones.
TOO MUCH PROTEIN WITHOUT FIBER OR FAT
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet. I grew up with the idea that dietary fat makes you fat so the very idea of a ketogenic diet seemed counter-intuitive to me. I noticed that I would subconsciously trim the fat out of my diet even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to. When I would eat plain chicken breast, with maybe even a little BBQ sauce on it so it wouldn’t taste like cardboard, I would pat myself on the back for my “healthy” low carb meal. The problem with this meal was it wasn’t ketogenic for me at all. I had no fiber from vegetables to slow down the digestion of my low-fat protein and on top of that I was basically pouring “meat syrup” all over it. No wonder I would feel insanely hungry after a meal like that. I was spiking my insulin and setting myself up to have cravings. For me, low-fat leads to cravings, cravings lead to carb binges, carb binges lead to the fat side.
Now, I make sure I’ve got some delicious, butter soaked veggies and some fatty meat on my plate. I’ve found it’s much easier to stay in ketosis if I include a large portion of low-carb, high fiber veggies with every meal. I also make sure to add some extra fat to my food. It’s very easy to let my fat count slip and come up short. I drizzle some macadamia nut oil or some extra grass fed butter over my food. It keeps me all up in that ketosis and, of course, tastes awesome.
NOT ENOUGH ELECTROLYTES / NOT ENOUGH WATER
The ketogenic diet has a pretty strong diuretic effect on me. When I wasn’t on the diet I had a fair amount of fluid retention which I would shed immediately during the first few days of keto. If I don’t watch myself I can easily get dehydrated and feel like crap at this stage. My high carb diet stored more electrolytes via excess water weight. This is one of the reasons I felt crappy when I first got on a ketogenic diet. I suffered pretty severely from “keto flu” but now, if I fall off the wagon I suffer a lot less when I get back into keto.
First, I make sure to consume more water. It just makes me feel better, period. Second, I replenish my electrolytes by eating foods like avocados, nuts and putting salt on my meals. A lot of people supplement things like potassium and magnesium on keto but I’ve had success just making sure to eat keto foods that are high in these nutrients. Plus salt makes food taste awesome. This all becomes even more important for me when I’m working out while on keto. I want to be at my strongest and most energetic so I treat my electrolytes and hydration as a top priority. The positive reinforcement from feeling healthy and energized as opposed to run down really helps my mental game and keeps me locked in on the diet.
Perhaps my biggest pitfall was my incorrect assumption that the ketogenic diet had to be inconvenient. Sandwiches, tacos, and syrupy soda have their own billboards. They might as well put a cheeseburger in a thong and have it blow you kisses. You can pull your car over anywhere and get a cheap, high carb meal. Conversely, I was cooking all my meals at home, so I felt like my diet was a huge inconvenience making cheating more tempting.
I was always kind of hoping I’d be “forced” into eating carbs somehow. That way it wouldn’t be “my fault”. Instead of bemoaning the fact that fast food is awful for the ketogenic diet I just don’t eat fast food. I started bringing snacks with me: macadamia nuts, jerky, smoked sausage, whatever. I didn’t have to spend the extra money and I get to pull a “snack MacGuyver” when I’m stuck in traffic.
Instead of ordering a sandwich and fries at a restaurant, I’ll hook myself up with Buffalo wings. Also, almost every single place to eat offers some kind of salad. Lastly, when my back is against the wall, I just order a cheeseburger and toss the bun. They don’t check at the window and ask if you’re sure you’re not gonna just throw the bun away. Buns are just napkins that raccoons get to eat.
Those are some of my most common pitfalls on the ketogenic diet and honestly, I’m glad I fell into them. By knowing what my pitfalls are, I’ve been able to plan ahead and outwit myself. I don’t really mind playing diet chess against the subconscious me who wants to stay fat, tired and mainline cookie dough. That dude sucks and he’s pretty easy to win against because he spends all day fat, tired and mainlining cookie dough. Now, I just plan ahead. An ounce of keto prevention is worth a pound of adipose tissue.