Hi folks, in this week’s Ask a Health Coach post, Erin is answering your questions about the “keto flu”, what to do when you’re hungry all the time, and how to fulfill your need for human connection during the pandemic. Keep your questions coming here in the comments or over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group.
“I’ve been doing Mark’s Keto Reset for a few days. At first, I felt great, but now I’m achy and all I want to do is sleep. What happened to all that energy people talk about with Keto?”
Ah yes, the keto flu. There’s no mistaking it. Well, at least to those of us who have been through it and safely made our way to the metabolically flexible side (which you will Jared, trust me). As you might have read, eating lower-carb — especially if you’re transitioning from a Standard American Diet can cause all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms. Everything from headaches and fatigue to nausea. But don’t let that keep you from sticking with it.
When you’re faced with a challenge, it’s easy to give up. And even easier to convince yourself that whatever it is you’re attempting to do isn’t right for you. So, when the going gets tough you jump ship. No shame, that’s just how it rolls sometimes.
On the flip side, a lot of people decide that punishing themselves is their only course of action. They put on a brave face and decide that they must deserve every ounce of discomfort they have coming their way. That’s the price they have to pay to “get healthy.” As crazy as it sounds, they’ve actually done studies about this. In this one, researchers asked undergraduate students to remember a time when they felt guilty, sad, or (in contrast) did something boring and non-emotionally driven like grocery shopping. Then, they gave participants six mild electrical shocks (stay with me here), with the option to increase the voltage for each subsequent shock.
The students who recalled feeling guilty, chose to raise the voltage well into the mildly painful zone, while the other groups didn’t. The use of self-punishment to reduce feelings of guilt are, unfortunately, well-documented in research.
Now, let me offer you a third perspective. What if you took this opportunity to give your body what it needed — without guilt, shame, or judgement? It may sound simple, but if you’re extra tired, why not take a midday nap or go to bed earlier? If you’re feeling achy, how about taking a few rest days or doing more gentle workouts?
Also, think about positive steps you can take to make you transition more pleasant. Most of the time the low-carb flu is caused by an electrolyte imbalance. So, drink some bone broth, eat more leafy greens, or try this homemade electrolyte drink that Mark swears by. Hang in there Jared, your symptoms won’t last long and if you can get through this preliminary phase, you’ll be home free.
“As a natural extrovert, I find that I actually require human connection. Not being able to give my friends a hug might just kill me. Am I the only one who feels this way?”
First of all, you’re not alone. In addition to things like love, understanding, and growth, the desire for connection is a fundamental human need. After six months of doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID, even introverts like me are missing a good hug.
Whether it’s hugging old friends or shaking hands with new ones, most of us are used to some level of physical connection on a daily basis. And while health officials are concerned with controlling the virus (as they should be), another major issue is becoming more prevalent — and that’s the quality of our mental health due to lack of physical touch.
According to Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, touch deprivation can impact people on a psychological and physical level. He says “positive touch activates nerves in the body that improve your immune system, regulate digestion, and helps you sleep well. It also activates parts of your brain that help you empathize.”
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University agree, citing that hugging is proven to make people less susceptible to the virus that causes the common cold. In the study, 404 healthy adults answered questions about their perceived daily social support and how often they received hugs. Then they were intentionally exposed to the cold virus. The participants who reported having more hugs (and more social support), were less likely to get sick.
But here we are in the middle of the pandemic. And although nothing beats a loving embrace – or even a platonic one, there are some things you can do to feel more connected:
Be of service. Helping others reminds us that we’re all connected in some way. You might consider checking in on a neighbor, volunteering at a food bank, or donating to a cause you care about.
Carve out one-on-one time. Whether it’s over a video call or in-person with social distancing parameters in place, engaging one-on-one creates an emotional connection that increases levels of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin.
Take an online yoga class. Yoga studios might still be closed, but plenty offer live classes that create the feeling of being together. Watching others do the same movements and poses as you’re doing gives your brain a sense of connection, even though you’re apart.
And rest assured, we will get past this. It may be awhile, but there will be a time when we’re all hugging again like crazy.
“No matter what I try (Primal Blueprint, LCHF, intermittent fasting) I’m always starving! Aside from taping my mouth shut, what advice do you have for not shoving food in my face 24/7?”
Helping my clients achieve an effortless relationship with food is my specialty, so I’m glad I can answer this one for you. It’s different for everyone, but I find that a lot of people have become tuned out to their own hunger signals.
You might be so focused on what you can’t have that that’s all you can think about! Or maybe you were raised in the “clean plates club” where hunger had nothing to do with whether or not you took another bite.
My guess is though, that like most of today’s society, you’ve gotten so used to using food as a crutch — a way to cope with stress, boredom, sadness, happiness, or fill-in-the-blank emotion that you’ve forgotten how to listen to your own body.
Our bodies are miraculous, and they will give us the clear signs that they need fuel. That is, if you really listen. Be aware of things like:
A growling stomach
Some of these signs can be subtle, especially if you’re avoiding foods like breakfast cereals, chips, cookies, and other processed foods that cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash. But there’s a great strategy you can use to determine if you’re physically hungry or just looking for something to quench your emotional hunger. To do this exercise, get in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and take a couple of slow deep breaths in and out, bringing your attention down to your stomach.
Imagine a scale from zero to ten, with zero being absolutely famished and ten being painfully full. Without judgement or deciding what number you should be, think about where on the scale describes how hungry or how full you are.
If you’re anywhere in the zero to four camp, you’re showing signs that you’re physically hungry. Five and up is an indicator that you’re not actually hungry, but instead craving something to self-soothe.
Did any of these tips resonate with you? Do you take time to listen to your body? Share your experience 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.