Hey folks! In this week’s Ask a Health Coach, Erin is talking all about adaptation – from how long it really takes to become fat adapted to dealing with self-sabotage and how to get off the Standard American Diet rollercoaster for good. Keep sending your questions our way in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group or comments below.
“I’m three weeks into a strict keto diet, and I’ve only lost a few pounds. This seems very slow compared to what everyone else reports. Do you have any tips for expediting fat loss?”
If it were as simple as meticulously monitoring your macros, everyone would be low-carbing their way to a six-pack. Listen, fat loss can be stubborn. And it’s not just reliant on what you eat or how many calories you torch. Every signal your body receives from the environment affect how your genes express themselves.
Not only that, your attitude towards your endeavour matters too. That includes your mindset, your mood, and any expectations you may have. So, if you expect that you should be dropping more weight than you have, you’re already setting yourself up for disappointment.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Expectations vs reality is a challenge that most people (myself included) wrestle with in nearly every aspect of their lives. What makes you think you should be further along in your fat loss journey than you are? Is it because other people have?
You might not even be aware that you’re doing it, but my guess is that you are doing some amount of comparing and judging. Although it’s in our human nature to do so, it’s not a useful way to spend your time and energy.1 And it’s a sure-fire recipe for unhappiness, discouragement, and jealousy. After all, how you measure up to someone else’s success is none of your business.
Keto adaptation, also called fat adaptation is the process your body goes through as it changes its preferred source of fuel. You’ve likely heard that this adaptation period takes about 10 days before you start to see any positive effects, but it can take longer.
In fact, sometimes it takes up to twelve weeks for the body to adapt to using fat for energy. So, my advice is, be patient.2 Probably not what you want to hear, but re-evaluating your expectations – that fat loss may not happen for you within a few weeks – is going to help you in the long run.
While your body is adapting to using this new type of fuel, have some compassion for the rest of you. As you know, keto isn’t a quick fix diet (nor should it be). Set yourself up for success by being kind to yourself, adjusting your habits and expectations, and deciding you’re in it for the long-term – no matter what your friends or people in your online keto groups are reporting.
“Is it true that feeling “hangry” is pretty much low blood sugar for the unadapted? Would love to hear your in-the-know definition.”
Hangry is officially defined as being irritable or angry because of hunger. It’s when you feel so famished that you fly off the handle at even the smallest annoyance. And it has everything to do with blood sugar.
If you’re still eating a Standard American Diet, being hangry sort of comes with the territory, as does Type 2 Diabetes.3 That’s because when you eat highly processed or highly starchy food or regularly grab something snacky, your blood sugar stays up. Then, if you don’t continue to restoke the carb fire with your eat-every-two-hours routine, the level of glucose in your blood drops. When it gets too low, it triggers a cascade of hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone.
That cortisol-adrenaline combo is what causes that hangry feeling in some people.
How to Turn Hangry into Hungry
The good news is that you’re listening to your body. You’re aware of what’s happening. Knowing when that hangry feeling comes on gives you an opportunity to change it. I always recommend answering hunger with a meal, especially for clients who are making the switch from a SAD diet.
Every time you answer your hunger with a food that supports your metabolic health, you’re adapting your response to blood sugar fluctuations. I’m not talking about just forgoing your daily muffin and OJ, I’m talking about choosing high-protein, higher-fat foods that are satiating, tasty, and keep your blood sugar stable.
Hunger Isn’t Something to Be Feared
Eating a paleo-centric diet most of the time is a great way to do that since it eliminates those blood sugar spikes and drops. Plus, it helps reduce your body’s ghrelin levels (aka the hunger hormone), which not only keeps you fuller for longer; it plays a major role in bone metabolism and muscle atrophy.4
Remember that hunger itself isn’t a problem. Getting the signal that you feel hungry is your body’s way of telling you it needs more fuel. Here’s what it’s not:
A reason to deprive yourself more or beat yourself up
A confirmation that your willpower is suffering
The message that staying hungry = losing weight
An excuse to binge on all the snacks and totally ignore your satiation signals
Diet culture has trained us to believe that hunger should be feared. It’s not. Food isn’t meant to be miserable, and hunger isn’t meant to be ignored. If it really is hunger vs “hanger”, consider it a sign that your body is increasing its requirements for optimal function, which is always a good thing.
“I’m seriously failing eating Primally even though it started out well. For some reason, I have started to snack in the evenings, and finding it hard to stick to it. My motivation just doesn’t seem to be there, or I’m sabotaging myself in some way. Got any tips to help me get back on track?”
It’s easy to think that once you have the hang of something – whether it’s a new job, a new routine, or a new way of eating, everything should fall into place. The thing is though, the path to success is often paved with setbacks. And your new-found evening snacking is likely one of many on the horizon.
Changing behaviours for the long-term takes time and patience. It’s never a linear journey either. There’s usually a mix of wins, fails, and moments of self-sabotage.
Self-Sabotage is Part of the Process
It’s also a way to protect yourself. Change is scary, and your brain loves to keep you safe, even if that means keeping you exactly where you are, evening snack and all. When your logical, conscious mind is at odds with your subconscious mind (the side of you that believes you DESERVE a bowl of ice cream before bed), your inner critic tries to protect you by sabotaging your efforts.
The big question to ask yourself is: Why are you self-sabotaging? Take a few minutes to really think about this and jot down whatever comes up for you.
Reasons You Might Be Sabotaging Yourself:
Your inner critic is running the show telling you that you aren’t worthy of success
You tell yourself you’re no good at sticking with things
You think it needs to be perfect (FYI, it doesn’t)
You’ve neglected to set your environment up for success
It’s outside of your current comfort zone (and that’s okay)
You have a fear around what will happen if you succeed
You worry that you can’t handle it
You’ve lost touch with your why
Get Reacquainted with Your Why
Your why is a belief, cause, or purpose that drives your behaviours. I always recommend starting here before embarking on any big change, because when the going gets tough, which it usually does, you’ll need something to remind you of why you embarked on it in the first place.
The concept of why is based in the tenets of the biology of human decision making, and it impacts every action you take.5 Also, it can only come from within you. So, if you’re following a paleo diet because your spouse wants you to or that it’s the trendy thing to do, try a little more self-reflection. You might find that the reasons that really resonate with you go deeper than you think.
Got anything to add? Share your strategies for dealing with adaptation in the comments below.
Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.