Planning to cheat is planning to fail.
There was a reason, or many reasons, why you decided to start Banting in the first place – it could have been for health, weight loss, improved quality of life, or simply to make yourself feel better. Cheating will not help you achieve any of your goals.
How badly cheating affects your body depends on how sick you are, your level of insulin resistance, and your carb/sugar addiction.
Because you have to eat, you have to make a decision about what to put into your mouth, every single day! That’s approximately 1095 choices in a year – that’s a lot of decisions just on how to fuel your body, never mind all of the other decisions you have to make on a daily basis.
Your mind is your most powerful tool. It is your first line of defence when it comes to fuelling your body for good or bad. Dr. Mark Hyman says, “Food doesn’t just contain calories; it contains information. Every bite of food you eat broadcasts a set of coded instructions to your body—instructions that can create either health or disease.” When it’s put like that – there’s a lot of pressure on making the right decision.
We are however still human, and cheating might occur.
Understanding why you cheat:
It’s important to figure out the reason why you cheated, so as to prevent it from happening in the future.
Stress: Cortisol stimulates your appetite and can change your eating patterns. In times of struggle, your body automatically craves high-calorie foods for protection and to make you feel better.
Bad day/wanting to feel good: When you are not in a good space, you will habitually want to go back to what you know. In the past, you may have used chocolate to soothe or reward and being in a similar situation could bring back old habits.
Lack of preparation: Sometimes this can’t be helped – but by planning your week on the Sunday before the start of a new week, it will be less likely for you to be caught off guard.
Eating out: Adjusting to a lifestyle can be tough, as can deciding what to eat on the spur of the moment. Rather check the menu before you go out or phone ahead and ask them to accommodate your needs – usually, this can be done quite simply.
Invitation for dinner and not wanting to be a bother or make a scene: If it’s not easy to explain your situation, rather have a fatty meal before you go or take some snacks along with you so that you will not be tempted to overeat.
Making the best of a bad situation:
What you cheat on can make a difference. Wheat, for example, will not only raise your blood sugar levels, but it is also highly inflammatory and is responsible for a number of autoimmune diseases. It also causes damage to the gut, bloating, brain fog, and bad skin.
If you have the choice, rather choose a high-carb vegetable or something from the orange list.
Ten things that can happen when you cheat:
It can trigger an addiction.
The hard reality is that our brains are programmed to desire high-calorie foods. It’s a survival mechanism, which dates back to the days of hunter-gatherers – when food was not as plentiful as it is today, and the amount of energy exerted when finding food far outweighed the drive to the nearest take-away joint or supermarket that we experience today.
The fact is, our brains have not evolved as quickly as our food environment has.
The change of the dietary guidelines in 1977 caused a trigger effect of disaster, which ultimately created a society filled with food addicts.
There are many reasons why a person can become addicted to food and these include:
A family history of substance abuse
Imbalances in the neurotransmitters in the brain
Food allergies and intolerances
Metabolic diseases like diabetes
Digestive problems such as Candida and IBS
Food scientists and corporations have preyed on our brain’s need for high-calorie foods and our ability to become quickly addicted to highly processed, sugar-laden foods – in order to sell more and make money.
“The more refined or processed a food is, the more habit-forming it can become. As with any addictive substance, increased amounts are needed over time to satisfy cravings and avoid symptoms of withdrawal.”
“Processed junk foods override the body’s ability to become nutritionally satisfied, causing hunger to set in soon after eating them. These foods can become chemically addicting due to their effect on the neuropathways in the brain. The sophisticated marketing of candy, sweetened cereal and soda targeting children, shows us how our current food environment drives food addiction starting early in life.”
Addiction starts off with normal thoughts, which become repetitive over time and create a pattern of thinking and association in the brain. As much work needs to be done to reverse these thoughts as was done to create them in the first place.
It has been discovered that people with sugar addictions, compulsive eating behaviour and obesity have an imbalance in their feel good receptors – they have fewer D2 dopamine receptors and therefore need extra stimulation to get the same effect.
One of the reasons for cutting carbs to 25g a day is to ensure that you are eliminating the addictive nature of carbs. You can tell if you are addicted to food if you can eat a block of chocolate, for example, and not want to devour the whole slab. This can also apply to crisps/a bottle of wine/box of cigarettes, etc.
The only way to break a food addiction is to go cold-turkey. By keeping the addictive foods in your life, you are leaving the door open to a possible relapse. You may not even really like the foods anymore, but because of the association you have with them and the thoughts and feelings that you have created for yourself surrounding these foods you may find it impossible to stop eating them if you are placed in a compromising situation.
Depending on the state of your appestat, one cheat may be all it takes to send you on a binging spree that could undo all of the hard work you have done.
It can play havoc with your gut.
Your body will have stopped producing the specific enzymes needed to digest complex starches and sugars, which will mean that it will need to start producing them again. This can take days and during that time, you might experience constipation, bloating and other digestive issues.
You can put on weight.
Each gram of glycogen is bound to four grams of water. That’s why when you first started your Banting journey you lost weight and inches in the first week or so – this was water weight. By starving your body of the carbs, it caused your liver and muscles to quickly empty their glycogen stores and squeeze out all of the liquid. The opposite happens when you cheat – your muscles and liver fill up on glycogen again, and the four grams of water reunite with each gram of glycogen – which makes you put back on all of the weight you lost in your first week of Banting.
Depending on your body and how it responds to carbs it could take as little as 70g of carbs to start replenishing the stores, which equates to a slab of chocolate, a plate of sushi or medium fries and a coke. Carbs can add up surprisingly quickly!
You can experience increased hunger.
Because of the high carb content of your cheat meal, your insulin will spike more than you are used to. The insulin will block the hormone leptin, which is the appetite control hormone, so you won’t get the signal that you are full, and you’ll want to carry on eating. The phrase “empty carbs” is really applicable here.
It can cause cravings.
Depending on how many carbs you ate, and for how long, the amount of insulin in your blood could cause abnormal sugar cravings, especially if you go back to eating a low-carb diet as this insulin will struggle to find the carbs to convert into glycogen. It’s important not to give into your body’s cravings – rather eat foods rich in fats, such as cheese and avo to ease the cravings. It can take a few days for your body to adapt again.
It can cause carb-flu.
Depending on the number of carbs you cheated with, and how severe the cheat, you can experience all of the symptoms of carb-flu again as your body tries to adapt to fat burning again. Symptoms can include headaches, muscle cramps, aching joints, irritability, fatigue, constant thirst, and constipation.
It can mess with your hormones.
The body adjusts certain hormones to be able to make use of fat as the primary use of fuel. When carbs are introduced into the diet, these hormones get confused, which can have a poor effect on the body. For women, weight gain or weight loss can have an impact on the production of certain hormones like oestrogen. Your hormones are highly sensitive, so any stress, or drastic change to the body can have an impact on your hormones.
It can lead to self-loathing.
It is possible that you become angry at yourself for cheating. You may see it as a sign of weakness, or you might find it impossible to forgive yourself. None of these negative feelings towards yourself will serve any positive purpose and maybe lead you back to binge eating and feeling worthless. It’s important to pick yourself up after a cheat and carry on Banting right away. Everyone is human, and you are no exception.
It can disrupt your sleep.
Highly processed foods are known to make people fall asleep quickly, but can have a detrimental effect on the quality of sleep and can cause restless sleep. This can also be due to disruptions in the gut from cheating. Lack of sleep increases cravings due to the effect it has on hunger hormones and metabolism, in particular, insulin, cortisol, and leptin.
Not fully adapting to Banting.
Constant cheating can prevent the necessary metabolic adaptations necessary for your body to burn fat, from fully completing. The see-saw back and forth from carb-burning to fat-burning can leave you permanently exhausted and dejected.
Tools to help you deal with cheating and sticking to your goals.
Dr. Mercola has developed a technique called tapping, which has had many positive results. It is an acupressure technique that uses the energy meridian and voicing positive affirmations to clear emotional blocks and restore balance to the mind and body.
https://youtu.be/L92oOPJlfyg – tapping to fight cravings
https://youtu.be/3wPFDAVpmz0 – tapping for sticking to your goals
Intermittent fasting, drinking lots of water and exercise can help you get back into fat burning faster.
The length of time it takes you to return to a fat-burning state depends on how full your glycogen stores were when you cheated and how many carbs you ate. The fewer carbs you eat after cheating and the more active you are, determines how quickly your glycogen stores will be depleted.
We are often faced with tempting situations, sometimes on a daily basis. It’s easy to give in to these situations and cheat, but even one cheat can have a detrimental impact on our health and wellbeing. If you can, take a step back from the situation and consider your choice carefully, before you undo all of the good work you have done.