There are certain topics that elicit frequent questions from people who have embarked on or are merely contemplating the ketogenic diet. Common subjects of concern or inquiry include questions regarding impacts on cholesterol, losing hair, gaining skin folds, or how to replace a favorite aunt’s recipe for strudel. Another recurring question is one that came to me recently from a reader of this blog. She put things very succinctly:
I just don’t understand how to stop the cravings?? It’s such a daily struggle!! How long did it take you to conquer this feeling??
The idea that we have - and are sometimes powerless against - cravings (a notion that food manufacturers are pleased to reinforce) is so entrenched in our psyches that we don’t question it. It’s a given: I crave, ergo, I must consume. Those who haven’t incorporated this notion into their daily lives are singular souls indeed. And I was not one of those rare folks.
That was, at least, until becoming ‘food sober’ gave me a different and, dare I write, clearer mind about some of our assumptions regarding where food has ranked in our lives as compared to where it should rank. Let’s face it, food has led us around as if we were little cockapoos and it was our haughty owner.
The question posed above led to a couple of immediate thoughts in my mind. One is that no one ever died from a food craving. Really, REALLY wanting a particular food is not fatal, nor an actual emergency. (Sorry but, “get me a danish and nobody gets hurt” has lost its humor when Type 2 Diabetes is a growth industry for pharmaceutical companies and many of us can barely squeeze behind the steering wheel of our cars.) The good news is, we can break out from the yoke of cravings and they need no longer be in the driver seat.
First and foremost, we need to recognize that sometimes when we ‘crave’ a food, it might be that we are habituated to eat it. If every day after work there is a ritual of putting down the house keys, placing the briefcase or purse on the table, heading for the fishbowl of cookies on the counter, grabbing a couple to eat (mindlessly) whilst sorting through the mail, we may think we are craving cookies if that schedule is disrupted and we’re not at home but caught in traffic. “Man, I really want a cookie!”, percolates up into our thoughts as we sit in the car. That’s more like a circadian rhythm. You always have a couple of cookies right about now. But let’s be logical about it, cookies aren’t going to do us any good, no matter when or why we usually eat them.
Second, we don’t crave what we don’t eat. Those of us who didn’t grow up on a steady diet of squid probably aren’t pining for it on a regular basis. So the trick is to stop eating the foods we tend to crave.
One of the aspects of a well-formulated ketogenic diet is that, when carbohydrate intake is reduced sufficiently, our hunger and appetite are naturally suppressed. (It really is true, I promise) Thus, we eat less. And we don’t crave what we don’t eat. It may take a few days, but it works. Physiologically, that is. If we are bound and determined to allow some foodstuff to lord over us, then that’s a conversation one needs to have with oneself. And part of that conversation needs to include advice to ‘get a grip’. A craving is not directly connected to our central nervous system. There’s no involuntary reflex of lifting a hand to mouth in response the ‘I want some fries’ craving stimulus. Eating is still a behavior. One which we can control. It’s just so much easier to do so when one is burning fat for fuel rather than burning glucose.
In short, keeping carbohydrate intake to 20g/day or fewer (total carbs, not net), eating fatty sources of protein, not eating if not hungry and stopping when satiated will get you where you want to be, craving-wise, in short order.
There may still be work to be done in the behavior department, but even that is easier to face when not having to swat away intrusive thoughts of food.
The protocol is legit. It is simple. It is safe. And you’re stronger than a cookie.
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical doctor, researcher or PhD but rather a I’ve been fortunate to have had the time and resources to research the ketogenic diet, also known as LCHF (low carb/high fat). The information I share is based solely on my understanding of that research. We are all responsible for our own choices, including what we put in our mouths and there’s no substitute for each of us checking things out ourselves. And I’m not a medical professional in any way. Go Keto With Casey is not a medical site. “Duh,” you might say. But best to make it clear to all. I welcome questions, comments and even civil criticism. I’m still learning. So, if you have something to add, go for it. Links in this post and all others may direct you to affiliate links, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through those links. Thanks!