You might not think I'm a great person to talk about carb cravings, because I don't really have them very often, or at least I don't seem to.
But here's the thing, the reason I don't give in to carb cravings is not that I don’t have them. It’s that I try to pay more attention to what I can have than what I can't.
I used to really enjoy doughnuts. A lot of doughnuts. If there were doughnuts available, I would absolutely be having one ...two, maybe three or more.
But I haven't had a doughnut since I started Keto and it hasn't bothered me one bit.
There are two kinds of cravings: physical and psychological/emotional.
When you’re talking about food, the physical craving is hunger.
It's created by the interaction of hormones, mostly leptin, ghrelin and insulin.
When you first start a low carb ketogenic diet, or intermittent fasting, you will experience physical carb cravings.
If you’re a sugar burner, and your muscle cells run out of energy, the first thing your body does is release ghrelin - the hunger hormone - and it makes you hungry for carbs.
But if you resist that hunger and don’t eat for a few hours the hunger will go away. This is because your body will start looking for other energy sources. The only two left are protein and fat.
At that point, your body prefers to burn fat.
It is a little more complicated, and it varies from person to person, but generally that's how physical carb cravings work.
If you’re a fat burner (i.e. in Ketosis) and your muscles need energy, your body releases leptin which tells your liver to start making ketones out of fat.
And as a special bonus, leptin tells your stomach that you're okay not eating so you don’t get hungry.
Psychological Carb Cravings
Most carb cravings, especially for low carb/Keto people are of the psychological or emotional variety.
Seriously, who on earth doesn’t feel a little better when they bake homemade cookies?
So when we have an emotional need to feel better, it's no wonder that we turn to cookies.
We remedy the bad break-up with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.
After natural disasters, people don’t reach for a salad; they want pop tarts and ramen.
Comfort food is no joke.
There is another part of psychological cravings that can’t be ignored. Humans are evolved to crave sweets.
A psychological problem requires a psychological solution.
So let's break it down.
At Castle in the Mountains our most popular recipes are breads and desserts.
I'm sure that you can see that these are carb replacements - so you can pretend you're eating carbs.
This is how most people take care of the carb cravings and stay Keto. They replace high carb breads and treats with "Keto-friendly" versions.
And I have to say that I am among the many practitioners of this technique.
Most of the first sweets on our blog were created for my sweet tooth - the two minute chocolate mug cake is still one of my favorites.
This replacement technique works well to an extent, but there’s a couple things to watch out for.
First, the sweeteners: some of them are bad for you and others are not well tolerated.
Sugar alcohols like erythritol can really upset your stomach if you eat too much of it.
Second, even no carb sweeteners can kick you out of ketosis.
This may sound strange, but when you taste sweetness, your body thinks it is getting sugar and it releases insulin which can block fat burning.
This affects some people more than others.
Some people experience almost no effect, but some people increase insulin just by thinking of sugar.
This works for some people and if you're one of those people ... well, more power to ya.
For most of us, too much reliance on willpower is a set-up for failure, and the reason that most "diets" fail.
The problem is the focus. If you concentrate on not eating carbs you're still concentrating on carbs.
And the more you concentrate on the carbs, the more you want them.
Eventually you cheat - you eat the carbs, and that makes you feel like a failure. After that you want comfort food (see above), and it's a downward spiral from there.
Maybe every time it happens you wait until "Monday" to start Keto again. This can turn into a lot of days out of ketosis burning nothing but sugar.
The Best of Both Worlds
You're grown-up. You have chosen a Keto lifestyle so you can take control of your health.
And you are here for information so you can choose what, when and how much to eat to make the best of your low-carb lifestyle.
So, concentrate your will power on enjoying all of the delicious things you should be eating.
And if you crave some sweets try some low carb desserts.
But remember that these are your choices, you really can eat whatever you want.
Having cake at a birthday is probably worth it, but eating five doughnuts because they are free-food at work ...not so much.
Free food used to ALWAYS get me. Now, it's only an occasional goof.
You're going to have cravings. It's part of being human and carb cravings are part of our evolutionary make-up.
You may not have a choice about whether you have carb cravings, but you do have a choice about what you do with them.
Make the best choices you can and remember that the only way to fail is to give up and stop trying to make your best choices.
If you give in to carbs, own it and let it go. Do better next time.
That's all for now.
Celebrate Stay Safe & Keto On