Maintenance—Let the Testing Begin

A newly at-goal lowcarber wrote:
I don’t want this whole WOE to backfire a few months or years down the road. I am not in the regular habit of “cheating” but I was under the impression that you could have an occasional higher carb item once you were in the later phases. I do not intend to go around eating cake and desserts all the time but will I be able to have the very occasional dessert without causing my body a lot of grief???

I guess my question really is where do I need to draw the line and how do I know where the line is?

Nobody can answer those questions except for you and your body and its reactions, over time, to the tests you decide to give it.  That’s why, in my opinion, the place where you now are in this journey is critical and where the very few people who are lucky enough to get to this wonderful place more often than not end up letting it all slip through their fingers, go down the tubes—overnight or over several years.  (I realize now that I let this happen BOTH ways, once each.)

I think the first caveat of this is to go SLOWLY like a snail!  There is no need to hurry to this.  You likely will not have all your own personal answers even within a year or even two.  I’d say finding my own set of answers took me 5-6 years….and even a few of my food parameters have changed ever so slightly since that time.

In that sense, the gentle testing really never ends.

Knowing what is generally safer to play with, HOW and how OFTEN to test your limits, I think are both important to the learning, and will take some trial and error, but within a fairly careful framework if you want to avoid the biggest pitfalls, especially until you’re sure you really can climb out of the pits if you find you ever have to.

For instance, I think it’s quite safe to experiment with eating almost any vegetable (save white potatoes and corn, which is not a vegetable, it is a grain) in slowly increasing amounts.  It is also fairly safe to play with fruits, especially the lower glycemic ones like berries, especially if you were able to incorporate them into the weight loss part of your journey. If you deal or dealt with yeast/candida or if Gold Standard eating was necessary to your weight loss success, fruit will likely be more problematic.  The same is true of nuts.  Whole grains might be next, assuming you avoided them during the weight loss phase.  Just remember that almost everyone finds that avoiding grains altogether, especially wheat and corn in any form, a critical part of why lowcarb worked so well, and that trying to include these in maintenance doesn’t work well for their bodies.

I believe that in this testing you also have to watch not only for weight gain, but for some subtle emotional/attitude changes after you’ve eaten certain foods a few times over the course of a month or longer.

For instance, I was one who eventually learned, more than a year into maintenance, that I simply do better without fruit (probably due to yeast issues).  I never had drastic weight gain from eating a small piece of fruit every day or so, but over time I noticed that when I was eating fruit, there was a slow creep.  But what was more disturbing was that I slowly started thinking….which moved to obsessing….about that fruit in my day, and I was disproportionately UNhappy about not having fruit in a day; I had fairly strong difficulty executing the decision to skip it for a while.  After being free of food obsessions for 4-5 years of lowcarbing, it eventually dawned on me that I hated just having that yearning, that food-fight, back in my life, and ultimately made the decision for myself that my life is better, much more peaceful, with almost no fruit.

On the minefield/pitfall end of the spectrum, playing with “regular” foods (those that contain sugars and grains and white potatoes) even occasionally is for almost everyone like playing with gasoline and matches; like an alcoholic playing around with cough syrup. SOME of this depends on whether and how seriously your body was physically addicted to these kinds of foods, and a lot of us simply don’t understand or believe quite HOW insidious those addictions can be—and what those foods can do to both our physical and our emotional selves—until we try to eat “just a little” of those kinds of things on a special occasion or two. Is is probably the most common maintenance approach.  I’d also say it’s the approach that is most likely to fail.

Until you cautiously determine which kind of body you have, I recommend that you tread very gently with this.  Lead with a PLAN, and always have a simple, basic lowcarb plan (along with the food to fulfill it) ready to go for several weeks or longer whenever you take a venture like this, in case you find yourself back in the gutter, hiding under the kitchen table with a gallon of ice cream and a spoon.  That just might be your first clue that you have more than physiological issues with foods, or that certain kinds of foods have stronger impacts on your emotions and food choices than you realized or were ready to admit.

I’ve been maintaining at goal (no more than 5 pounds over) since October 1999.  The two mot essential parts of that journey for me have been to weigh daily first thing each morning, and to stay at least one day ahead with my food plans—including making sure I have everything I need for tomorrow or making sure I get it by the end of today).  Never again will I keep my weight a secret from myself.  One foot in front of the other, day after month after year.  I am still leading with the diet.