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Should You Allow Yourself a Big Cheat on Low Carb Occasionally?

Posted Sep 22 2012 7:55am

[Quick update 09/22/12: still in induction after 10 days. Still writing. Still hoping to turn the experience into a nifty book on what it really feels like to do Atkins Induction, with oodles of tricks and ideas and some sciency stuff thrown in. Still giving it away for a limited time on Kindle (which you can read on your computer - if you can read this, you can read a Kindle book). Still hoping I can get all this done before the end of the year. Still hoping I don't abandon it - or reread it after I'm finished only to find I have written 80+ pages of stuff that ain't just good enough.]

Lee Kirsten is another blogger who writes about low carb. I read her blog, she reads mine, and we trade comments when the mood strikes us. One of her posts really struck a chord with me: the notion of her having a big high-carb cheat for her birthday.

You can read the post here , but her question at the end asked if it was a good idea. I commented: go for it. She replied:

I see the logic in your position, but I also see that by eating those foods again, for a day, and especially if I don’t see a weight gain 2 days later, it will say to my mind, ‘See, you can eat carbs- nothing bad happened’, and thus the slow process of rationalization, bit by bit, could ensue. I could gain five pounds, and say, “five pounds is not a big deal. I still look and feel good’. Then eight pounds. “Well, I just need to go back to counting my carbs more strictly- it will come right off after Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s/Valentine’s Day. You see the slippery slope theory is one I have lived many times. How do you think I ever got off Atkins in the first place? The complacent stage sets in. A lot of people say that while low-carb really works, it is the hardest plan to live by long term .I would like to prove that theory wrong. What scares me is that I still consider being able to eat those types of foods at all as some kind of ‘reward’, and I think that is part of the problem. Why couldn’t my reward for a birthday be based on something completely NOT to do with food? I need to think about this. Why not get myself a massage, for example?

She has a really, really, REALLY important point.

This is the ‘moment of truth’ in nearly every dieter’s existence. You’ve come this far. Do you play it safe or pull the tiger by the tail? Do you pick curtain number 1 or curtain number 2? Do you feel lucky, punk?

After 9 years on low carb, here was my reply:

But the current you is not the you you once were. (Read that twice.)

Before I went on low carb for the first time I was a beer fiend. Typical guy. I gave it up completely. Fast forward two years later: I was at a Japanese hibachi place for a birthday 65 pounds lighter. I decided to splurge because it was *my* birthday. I always had a particular fondness for Asahi beer, an obscure Japanese brand that they served there. I said: “what the hell”, and ordered one.

The experience was like meeting an old friend, and after a bit, wondering why you were ever friends in the first place. There was no connection, no spark, no pleasure – nothing. Before that moment, ‘beer’ was a thing I held at bay. I separated myself from it because I could not drink beer on a low carb diet. But it always lurked at the periphery, something forbidden.

After that, beer held no sway over me. I could fill my house with it – shape full cases of the stuff into furniture, cover with blankets and throw pillows and lounge on it. I can watch other people drink it. There is ZERO reaction. It’s power over me disappeared. The fear that it might cause me to get fat again vanished – not because I was avoiding it – I was indifferent to it.

It’s a great experience. It’s also tricky – I won’t deny that. Pizza is my kryptonite. I still can find myself hoovering up half a pie moments after saying: “I’ll just have a taste.”

But you will need to face your food demons one day – they’ll never disappear completely until you confront each, one-by-one. You KNOW the slippery slope is there now. You KNOW how your mind might rationalize this. You are not the you you once were. You are stronger now and can defend against this – but you haven’t tested your strength yet, and you hesitate.

It’s true you might not be ready yet. My confrontation with beer came 2 years after I started my low carb diet. I have also pulled this trick with other items (like pizza) and ended up being out-of-control and then having to regain lost ground. But that’s always the risk when you attempt to conquer your inner demons rather than just keeping them at bay.

What do *you* think? (shy folks – send me an email on this one).

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