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Cheating the diet

Last time I started with my story of the beginning of my weight loss journey (Click here if you missed it!). I put together a blog plan for how the story of my weightloss will flow, through the posts, but then last weekend happened, and I thought that this topic ‘Cheating the diet’ which we all struggle with would be the ideal one to talk about next.

Socializing is tough. Its particularly tough as an overweight person, and I can say this from personal experience. It is tough because your opinions are discounted as a girl, and occasionally as a person, with valid points of view because of your size. So, when I started keto, I worried about how I would do this. Also, because as someone who doesn’t naturally seek out opportunities to be among people, new people in particular, I worried that I would use keto as an excuse to hibernate and the eventual boredom from that would be a great excuse to eat things that I wasn’t supposed to.

The Keto plan

And it was really easy. Keto is based on counting amounts of protein, fats and carbohydrates one consumes. Of the three, the most important thing to focus on is getting in your quota of protein a day. So I did my research and figured out that most non veg options have on average 25 gms of protein per 100 gms and paneer and cheese provide an average of 20 gms of protein for the same amount. So I was sorted. At home I made a list of a few things that I could make and eat that met my requirements, outside, I decided I would have barbequed/roasted/tandoori items. Usually my meals out are dinner, so 1 portion of anything should be good to meet my protein macro. And for the first 3-4 months I was very strict.

But then boredom struck and I started cheating on my diet.

What tempted me were sugary drinks and dessert. I would eat off keto for a meal or a day and come back and the weight would spike a kilo or so and settle back down to what it was pre-cheat. But then, for the first time since getting on keto, I had to go out of town for a weekend a couple of weeks ago. I left on Friday afternoon and was planning to come back on Monday morning. Which meant, 3 dinners, lunches and breakfasts out.

Cheat diet or cheating the diet

Now, luckily, I was already on keto for over a year, disciplined for the most part, so I was over the carb addiction – the wanting to eat all the time, craving all things potato/fried/sweet. So, I thought it would be fine. I was also regularly doing intermittent fasting, which meant I ate only in a 4-6 hour window on any particular day. That would make it super easy I thought. I just have to be careful to not eat off keto for that window.

But life, as we know, doesn’t always work the way we want to. I was in Mumbai for a workshop that weekend. That meant spending 2 days with a group of 10 or so people, catered meals, socializing post workshop etc. Keto allows for consumption of any amount of black coffee/tea, green tea and water. No milk, no sugar. So my problem started first thing in the morning on the first day of the workshop – I came to the location where they very sweetly provided morning tea/coffee. But, both with milk, both with sugar. Yes, there was an option of green tea, but when faced with proper desi tea/coffee, with both, milk and sugar, the way I used to love them, the green tea didn’t look appealing at all. So I said, ok, fine, I’ll have the tea and/or coffee and be careful with the food.

The food junk

Before the workshop started, they asked us what we wanted for lunch out of several Indian food options, all of them my favorites – dosa/wada/pav bhaji/various types of rice. I thought I would be good and try to not eat anything through out the day. But then, in speaking with the instructor, I heard that occasionally the meditations and exercises we would be doing would cause the participants to become very hungry. And that fasting wasn’t advisable. So now I had a valid reason to cheat. Even though I knew that the person was telling me this from the perspective of someone who follows the standard Indian diet. Someone on keto isn’t really starving themselves when they fast because the food they consume is digested slower and therefore keeps them energized. But of course, I silenced that part of my brain and happily ate my super yum dal khichdi. Evenings were dinners out. Most folks in the group were vegetarian and so they were also loaded with carb rich food because we were eating in typical Mumbai fast food places.

Aftermath of the weekend!!

On Monday I came back to Pune, had my last carb meal of the trip. On Tuesday I gingerly stepped on the scale, knowing that the number is going to be an increase from before I went to Mumbai. Now, I have eaten off keto occasionally in the past year, but never for so long and never so consistently unhealthily. So, of course the number was up. But unlike on past occasions, it was up about 3 kilos instead of just half or 1 kg. Also, my body was at peace again – no bloating/burping.

I was devastated. Because it felt that I had undone all my hard work. But after a few hours of wallowing in misery, I took stock – did I feel different? Yes, there was the bloating and gases. Did I look different? Not really, except maybe my cheeks looks a little chubbier than a few days ago. So I said, fine, I can deal with this. No regrets and no recriminations, I got back to eating right and weight lifting thrice a week. Its been just over a week since this as of today, and I’m already down two kilos and my cheekbones are back!

The Marathon of Weight loss

The point I’m trying to highlight with this post is that weightloss is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a way of life not a means to get to a point. Weightloss is 90% diet and 10% exercise. And what we really care about is how we look (inch loss) rather than that number on the scale (weightloss).

So, stuff will happen – there will be professional/personal events or situations where you might find yourself without keto options or wanting to eat something carby. And that’s just fine. Keto/low carb is not a punishment. It’s a tool to help you reach your health goals.

Follow the discipline

So, the key is to be strict about your intake in terms of the proportions of your macros the first three months you’re on keto, because your body and your mind is getting used to a way of eating that is contrary to what you’ve been taught is the right way all your life. Also, staying on any diet, particularly a low carb one, is a mental game – you will make all sorts of deals, bargains with yourself to allow yourself to eat an old favourite. That is the classic symptom of addiction. That;s the second reason for no cheats in the first three months.

Thereafter, your body will be used to consuming fat for energy, instead of carbohydrates. So, you can have the occasional non keto meal and be fine. Now, doing this will mess with the body – going off and on keto is like changing what fuel you put in your car – just like a petrol car will splutter and malfunction if you fuel it with diesel, your body will react to changing the diet from carb rich to fat rich. So do a cheat meal, not a cheat day.  And give yourself a month or two of clean eating before you do it again.

Also and most importantly forgive yourself for “falling off the wagon”. Like I said earlier, it’s a marathon not a sprint, so be good, to yourself, by eating healthy 80% of the time and space your cheat meals out.

Falling off the wagon

When you do cheat, enjoy the meal/drink thoroughly and guiltfree. And once you’re satisfied, get back on the wagon. Weigh yourself to see the amount of weight the cheat meal caused you to put back on. Not to punish yourself, but just to acknowledge where you are. And then get back to eating within your macros and exercising. A cheat meal, or several, on keto, will cause you to put on the kilos, but not as many as on a calorie restricted diet and they will come right back off once you’re back on track for reasons I will explain in subsequent posts.

I can tell you from personal experience, that as I continue on keto my craving for old favourites and enjoyment of them is decreasing. So, I’m increasingly less likely to cheat as time goes on. I’m more forgiving of myself when I do and I can see myself staying consistent with my diet and exercise, unlike my many, many past attempts to loose the inches.

So keep reading about what feels like an amazing journey of self discovery and achievement. Not because I’ve lost an amazing amount of weight or number of inches, because many others have lost much more of both in the same amount of time, but because I’m not even remotely tempted to give up. And that, to me, is the most crucial thing keto has given me.

Happy dieting!

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