Keto Life

Not Today Carbs: Keto Cheat Days Aren’t an Option for Me

I made it through Thanksgiving dinner without dressing, mac and cheese, or hot buttery rolls. In the past, I piled my plate with turkey and collard greens with a smile. Then, I growled at the carbs that taunted me from the other end of the table. Each year got easier to persevere. This year my keto cooking has reached holiday levels. I made cauliflower “mac” and cheese and dressing from low carb keto bread. It was delicious. I also made a keto pecan pie that was so good my carb-eating hubby is asking for an encore.

My keto Thanksgiving success is directly attributed to the reality that I had no cheat days in 2020. I understand how that might seem extreme. I can be “extra” when it comes to achieving my goals. However, my refusal to cheat is less about having disciplined strength and more closely aligned with my emotional weakness. I have a carb addiction. The keto diet is my sobriety.

Addiction is More Than A Bad Habit

I’ve been living a low carb life since 2012. In those early years, I tried to balance the diet with cheat days to reward my good behavior. Just as an alcoholic cannot celebrate sobriety by tossing one back with friends, a keto cheat day doesn’t work for a carb addict. The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction as “a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.”

Addiction usually conjures thoughts of substance abuse; alcohol, opioids, sedatives, tobacco, or caffeine. There is varying research on whether or not carbs actually affect levels of dopamine in the brain. There is debate on whether or not carbs can create addiction. I’ve read many of these studies. My personal experience is that carbs are addictive and satisfying that addiction with “bad” carbs is unhealthy. Therefore, the keto diet was the right answer for me.

Diabetes is pervasive in my family and continuing to eat refined carbs like white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, potatoes, and white rice is a bad decision for me. Too many carbs, good or bad, stimulate my desire for these foods. Not unlike many people who try to quit smoking, I tried to quit carbs in the past but inserting celebratory cheat days into my diet spun me off into months of high carb eating and excuses.

For me, sticking to the keto diet is a spiritual matter as well.

Whenever I am tempted to “cheat” with a spoonful of farina or a few french fries, I am reminded of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 12:43-45. For me, sticking to the keto diet is a spiritual matter as well.

“When an unclean spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before…”

Once you’re clean, stay clean. I’ve tried it the other way and it doesn’t work for me. One slice of red velvet cake on a Sunday ends up being a piece of red velvet cake every day for a week and going to the bakery for red velvet cupcakes soon after that. Jesus’ teaching reminds me not to turn back to an old life that was harmful. Whether it be old relationships, old resentments, or old habits, turning back makes you worse than you were before so I just don’t do it.

If you are struggling to stay consistent with your diet or other life choices you’ve made, ask yourself if your “cheat days” are derailing your progress. One drink, one cookie, one peek, one small behavior might kick you right back into your addiction. Taking a spiritual approach can be helpful for you. Pray. Hold on to Bible verses that stimulate your personal power. Pray again. I know you can do it.

If I can do it, anybody can. Shine on!


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