Susan dropped us a line:
what can one do if one has a sweet tooth, but, needs to lose 40 lbs on this diet?
I know where she’s coming from. Particularly in the first couple of weeks on the slow-carb diet, one can get mugged by some serious cravings for sweets. Here are a couple of things that we’ve found can help stave off the dreaded “sweet tooth”:
#1 – Preparation Is Key
This may seem like a bit of a cop-out, but preparation is key when doing the slow-carb diet. Make sure you’ve got enough 4HB-friendly food in your house to handle big meals (it’s surprising how much you’ll eat on the diet!). If you don’t have enough food, you won’t eat enough, which can make you hungry, which can make you eat sweets (see my next tip).
It’s also really important to make sure you don’t have sweets in the house. Don’t keep a stash in the cupboard. Don’t keep anything hidden “just in case.” Any sweets that you bring into the house on your off-day, make sure you eat them all before the day is done.
Just by reducing the temptation and availability of sweets, it makes it much easier to resist them.
#2 – Make Sure You’re Eating Enough (non-sweets)
When you first start off on this diet, it’s easy to get in a traditional mind set of “I’m going to crush this thing!!” Not only do you faithfully eat your legumes, protein, and veggies, but you also eat LESS of all of them. Then by day 3, you are suddenly ready to mug passers-by for their cupcakes.
The reality is that for most of us, switching to a slow-carb diet results in consuming less calories overall. This obviously results in weight loss, but it can present some issues for sticking with the diet. The body doesn’t like to lose weight, and if there’s sudden, dramatic drop in caloric intake, the body can switch to “starvation mode” where it starts looking to acquire some easy calories. And there are fewer easy calories than sweets!
Particularly when starting out, it’s important to eat enough at your regular meals that you feel downright full. For the first couple of weeks, don’t worry that you might be eating too much. If you’re eating too much of the right stuff, you should still experience weight loss (although maybe at a slower rate than Tim advertises in 4HB). Err on the overfull side. If you’re full and feeling satisfied, you’ll be much less likely to feel a powerful need for the sweets.
#3 – Look For Other Foods That Are A Treat
For most of us, sweets are associated with “treats”, “indulgences”, or “rewards” in our minds. By denying ourselves those kinds of treats, we can often feel neglected. And let’s face it: Humans don’t deal well with neglect!
However, sweets are not the only type of food rewards that we can have. Personally, I love chicken wings. Technically, chicken wings are 4HB friendly: they’re protein, butter, vinegar, and spices (yes, some wings have sugar in the sauce, but Frank’s is the original and it’s sugar-free). Obviously they’re not ideal, but they’re much more on-track than anything with loads of sugar in it. So if I get myself some chicken wings, I can still get a sense of satisfaction or “treating” myself but I stay on the right path. My wife loves crab – having a big crab dinner (with whole crabs and butter) feels like a real treat and is still something we can have on the slow-carb diet.
Think about what kinds of food feel like a reward to you. Is it a big juicy steak? Then have that instead of cake. What about lobster? That’s another one that works. Is sushi your thing? Get a bunch of sashimi. Try to think of foods that feel indulgent that are still on the 4HB plan and treat yourself to them instead.
#4 – Treat Yourself In Other Ways
If your sweet tooth is triggered by needing a treat, it’s possible to substitute non-food rewards and still get the same sense of satisfaction. My wife would sometimes take a nice, hot, long bath — it feels totally indulgent and was ZERO calories. I’ve cut out of work early and seen a movie — it made me feel like I was doing something for ME (and only me) and felt nicely indulgent.
Do you like mani/pedis? Do it. Does going out to dinner feel like a treat? By all means, go out (just stay on-diet). Junk TV? Video games? Trashy novels? TMZ? Sex? I love all these things, and all of them can make you feel downright good.
Making yourself feel pampered can go a long way to preventing cravings in the first place.
#5 – Have a Glass of Wine
Tim advocates a glass of red as part of the slow-carb diet. He even said that white wine wasn’t necessarily bad (although maybe not optimal). A great glass of wine can feel like a big reward. Wine also has alcohol in it, which aside from making you feel better in general also converts to sugar in the body, so it can actually address some of the real sugar cravings you might be experiencing.
A glass of wine will usually fight off any sweet craving I’m having. My only challenge is keeping it to one glass 😉
#6 – Promise Yourself You Can Have It On Saturday
Here’s a confession: I don’t respond well to anybody telling me I can’t do something. This made for entertaining teenage years (“You can’t do that.” “Oh really? Watch me.”) but can be difficult when it comes to self-discipline. If anyone tells me (myself included) that I can’t have something to eat, sure enough that’s the first thing I want to eat.
Here’s the trick: With the slow-carb diet, you can eat ANYTHING you want… on your off day 🙂 So while I’ve found telling myself “You can’t eat that” doesn’t work, telling myself “You can eat that on Saturday” does work. Basically, it removes the knee-jerk “Oh yeah?” reaction because I’m not being denied.
Here’s another confession: I have a strange love of breakfast pastries. About three days after starting this diet, I found myself dreaming of them. Fondly. More fondly than I’ve ever dreamed of food before. But instead of going to the store and picking some up right away, I told myself that I was going to FEAST on them on Saturday. I began plotting like a criminal mastermind. I planned what store I was going to go to. I debated what flavor to get. I toyed with how many packages I was going to buy. I looked forward to Saturday for days. And sure enough, come Saturday morning I put my plan into action. It was glorious: a sugary feast that I savored all morning. But here’s the great part: for 6 days out of the week, I did not eat sweets. When I went to bed after my “off day”, I felt completely satisfied. Even better, I didn’t have any sweet cravings for a couple days following. And the following week when the cravings did come, it was easier for me to wait till Saturday because I knew I was going to get what I wanted.
Promise yourself that you’ll get the sweets you want on your off day. Hold to that promise – during the week it will help you feel like you’re not being denied, and come your off day, it’ll feel like a huge reward. And it will get easier: I promise.
#7 – Go Bananas On Your Off Day
Your off day should be just that. It’s a day to forget about your worries and do whatever you want. This kind of respite is important: people can only be disciplined for so long, and giving yourself the freedom to go wild is very restorative.
Tim says that he almost pushes himself to eat on his off days. I don’t need to push myself – I go wild pretty naturally. At first I was really nervous about doing this, but I figured I would give Tim’s suggestion a test and see whether it really worked (plus there was the issue of the raging pastry craving I was having). Lo and behold, he was right: on Saturday I pigged out; on Sunday my weight spiked up; by Tuesday, my weight had dropped below where it was Saturday morning. This has been consistent every week on the diet. At the end of the day, the spike in weight on Sunday is OK because following the spike you lose more weight than you gained. Your net weight is less every week.
Off days keep your metabolism guessing, so you continue to burn calories at a high rate. Off days satisfy your cravings, allowing you to stick to the diet during the week. Off days give your “discipline” muscles a rest, so you’re strong for the coming week. Off days give you something to look forward to.
Resist the urge to try to “be good” on your off day – it’ll just hurt you in the long run. What will happen is that your off day will feel like a half measure, which will eventually translate to only half measures during the week when it’s really important!
Those are my immediate suggestions for dealing with sweet cravings while on the slow-carb diet. If any of you have additional suggestions, share them in the comments below!
Photo by: bochalla