We are doing well. Even the newcomer to no-carb dining is doing well. Going from the Western Diet to a no-carb diet cannot be described as ‘One Small Change’. Changing from carbohydrate and fat and protein to fat and protein would better be described as a paradigm shift in living. Nothing that you can do would have a more profound effect on your body chemistry in such a short period of time.
It is very good that we have a newcomer in our group. There are five of us this time, and four of us took this trip last year. Even then, the four of us had experience with radical diet shifts from previous years. Personally, I never took the radical shift of just eating meat until I did it earlier this year. Our new companion is on the meat-only course, the most radical shift of them all.
Her experience is reminding me what my experience was like all those years ago when I first went hard on the Atkins diet, back in 2003. Back then I had the same issues with carb-withdrawl, and to a lesser extent I had carb-withdrawl last April.
Carb-withdrawl is much like any other addiction. There is a knowledge, which is contained in the cells of your body, that you can get a kind of satisfaction by just doing one thing, eating bread, crackers or sweets. When you get this craving you will think you are hungry. It is not the kind of hungry that you get from actually going a day without food, it is the hungry where you think about food all of the time.
At the beginning of the process of giving up carbs, it is like giving up cigarettes. There is the actual chemical addiction to nicotine, where you have to have a cigarette physically. This addiction goes away during the first week away from cigarettes, it is the hardest part to beat, because it is assisted by the physical triggers that occur every waking hour of the day. The times when you would normally have a cigarette are all triggers to your desire to have one, they amplify the physical urges, and make the first days the most critical to get past.
Eating is EXACTLY the same way. In your first days away from carbs there will be loads of habitual triggers to amplify the physical calls of your body to satisfy your craving. I, personally, find my ache for sugar corresponds with an ache for alcohol. When I am not eating any carbs I have a longing for carbs OR liquor. A person that is quitting anything might have a mental propensity to shift that craving to some other ‘benign’ behavior. We are all prone to habitual behavior, and it is easiest to radically change behavior than it is to just shift behavior from habit to habit. Anyone who has quit drugs or alcohol will be familiar with the shift to food or sweets. Some people will use the ensuing weight gain of the new habit as an excuse to resume the old bad habit. The hard work is in resisting all habits. You can do it, I wish I could tell you it will be easy.
I think the most amazing thing about extremely low carb diets (and I mean less than 20g per day of total carbs, not net carbs) is that after a week or more I lose my appetite altogether. Sometimes I will be working along and get really dizzy, I think “When was the last time I ate?” and the answer will often be more than 24 hours!
There are so many rituals in life that surround food. One is the “business lunch”. That is an important part of the casual atmosphere in the business community to strengthen or establish good relationships. If you are eating low carb and meeting a Vegan or someone who is trying to eat low calories/low fat, finding a place in the proper price range, right ambiance, and broad offering to accommodate both parties can become a point of long negotiations. You don’t want to be difficult, but many people are not aware of what “low carb” means. Remember, lunch means you are trying to establish a friendly relationship with a boss, employee or partner. Spending two days trying to figure out where to eat doesn’t say “I am easy to work with”.
Just yesterday I met a business colleague. He invited me to meet him at Starbucks for a “cup of coffee”. How could I say no? I hate Starbucks coffee, I think it is bitter and too powerful, but I LOVE their drinks. Normally, I would order a large Mocha Frappuccino with an extra shot of espresso. That is more sugar than I should consume in a month! I don’t like fancy teas and didn’t want to appear cheap and just get water. I did a lot of research and talked to family experts and ended up getting a medium latte made with half and half (instead of their normal 2% milk). I HATED blowing all my daily carbs on one drink (and maybe even exceeding), but it was business social.
Luckily, people like Dan are making people more aware of carbohydrates and low carb dieters. “Gluten free” helps, but it doesn’t cover the sugar challenge. For now, the rituals surrounding food continue to be my biggest challenge, from the holiday meal to the business lunch.
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Great reply, Jenny. Thanks for sharing.