Tips & Advice

How to get back on track with keto

How do you get back on track with keto if you’ve had a setback? There are several reasons why people on the keto diet “fall off the wagon” and go back to their old ways of eating. They could be doing really well then one day, for whatever reason, they binge on carbs or sugar, fall out of ketosis and – sadly – for many that is the end of their keto journey. Some may even say “I tried keto and it didn’t work” which is clearly not the case.

So, why  do people quit keto? There can be a few reasons:

  1. A period of emotional high-stress in their life. Perhaps you’re going through a challenging period in your life and you reach for the emotional eating coping mechanism you’re familiar with. You’re eating to relieve some kind of stress.
  2. Keto is “too high maintenance” (it’s not) – and people become tired with the constant meal planning and counting their macros
  3. This is quite common. You eat/snack because your “mouth gets bored”! You start to eat for pleasure – especially sweets such as cookies and cakes.
  4. Some people find the keto diet too expensive. Again, it can be if you’re eating organic ribeye and tuna steaks every night. But there are many effective, budget keto diets out there.
  5. Convincing yourself to believe a mistruth, e.g. “keto is not sustainable” as a get-out clause for quitting.
  6. You miss alcohol. This can be a big reason. (You can still have alcohol on keto but you need to avoid certain types.)

We deal with some of these reasons for coming off keto in greater detail elsewhere on the site. For the purpose of this post, we want to look at how to get back on the keto diet if you come off it, for whatever reason.

Get back on track with keto #1: It’s a mental thing

When you’re trying to get back on track with keto it’s important to realise that, as with most things in life, it’s entirely mental. Whatever you’re going through has nothing to do with food. Food is just the symptom. The reason why people quit keto is entirely mental. It’s never physical. The keto diet gives you everything you need to survive and thrive physically so there’s no irresistible biological motive (e.g. calorie deprivation) that is forcing you to quit keto. It’s all psychological.

One of the things you need to address to improve your chance of staying on a keto diet are the psychological reasons you quit keto. If you suffer from low self-esteem or anxiety or stress – or whatever it may be – you need to learn coping mechanisms for these that does not rely on food.

Learning to meditate, having meaningful goals, having projects to work on – these help build a more balanced, rewarding life that does not rely on comfort eating.

Get back on track with keto #2: Keep a food journal

A food journal records what you eat and drink, what was the trigger for eating/drinking and how you felt afterwards. The purpose in this case is to keep you in the present. You should write in your food journal what you are about to eat/drink before you do so – this is so that it’s an added protective barrier against psychological eating/bingeing.

One reason why you might fall off the keto diet is because of “mindless eating”. This is what it sounds like – eating without really know why you’re eating, because you’re bored or because you’re listening to some small voice in your head that leads you to eat really when you don’t want to or need to. A food journal keeps you in the present and prevents mindless eating.

When you’re more aware of what you’re consuming and why, you’re more likely to be aware of the consequences. If you’re going to be upset afterwards because you’re eating out of stress or boredom, for example, then you’re less likely to do it.

Get back on track with keto #3: Change your coping mechanisms

Good reasons to eat would be to eat for health, to get nutrients, to fulfil hunger. Bad reasons to eat would be stress, boredom, sadness, surrendering to cravings. You need ways to manage these negative states without resorting to food.

If you’re faced with bad reasons to eat, you can:

  • Go out for a walk. Go out and notice the world – the trees, the streets you walk down, the sights, sounds and smells. When you’re static, it’s very easy to give into temptation. So if you feel and urge to eat something non-keto, or to binge on carbs or sugar, walk around the block.
  • Eat a pinch of salt (or add a pinch to your water). This is very effective for eliminating carb cravings. Cravings are often nothing more than your body telling you it’s low on electrolytes. This is why people talk about bacon so much on the keto diet! It provides you with the sodium you need, it’s satiating and it’s easy.
  • Find alternatives. For example, while beer is more or less off the menu, you can drink wine or spirits. Whilst you can’t eat desserts, there are keto-friendly alternatives like full-fat yoghurts and a few berries. Or eat an avocado to help with the cravings.
  • You’re not going to die! This is a helpful mantra. No matter how unpleasant or difficult the craving is, you’re not going to die if you resist it. Imagine being stranded at sea where you don’t have the option of indulging the craving. Cravings are often a result of habit. If you’re eating at a certain time each day or a certain food at a particular time – that craving will become a habit. Like all habits, they can be broken.

Get back on track with keto #4: Remember why you started keto

Many discover keto because they want to lose weight. Despite what the “body positive movement” would have you believe, many people are unhappy being fat and struggle with self-esteem, happiness and confidence. Your reasons are personal to you but keep them at the forefront of your mind when you’re on your keto journey.

If you have a strong enough reason why you want to do something, you’ll find a way to do it. Same with keto. If you have a strong enough reason to do it, it will be easier to stick with.

If you’re tired of starting over, stop quitting. It’s not the keto diet – it’s you. The keto diet works – you just have to follow the steps. The alternative is to chalk it up to another failed diet and move onto something else until that fails.

So, give keto a serious go. Commit to it for several months – as long as you can. You’re training your body to a new way of eating. Just like going to a gym after years or decades of no exercise, it’s not going to happen overnight. It will be uncomfortable and painful – but if you give it enough time, you’re body will adapt and will become your new normal.

#5: Remove temptation or remove yourself from temptation

If you know you’re prone to binge on alcohol, stop going to the bar. If you’re liable to succumb to a sugar craving, stop visiting the sweets aisle in the supermarket. Carbs and sugar are an addiction and like anyone who is addicted, your success is completely bound to your environment. You have to learn to avoid temptation and even avoid being around those who will entice you back to old ways of eating.

If you can’t completely remove yourself from the environment, have alternatives ready. Have a go-to alcoholic drink or a go-to sweet or some keto snacks. Don’t be caught unprepared.

Be particularly wary of hanging around in groups if they’re likely to get you off keto. Peer pressure is real and it’s powerful. You could be on keto for months then one night with a bunch of friends, too much drink and before you know it you’re chowing down pizza, burgers and fries. All that hard work undone.

#6: Discipline is a muscle

Most of us live lives of instant-gratification and abundance. For most of us, most of our lives, whenever we have a craving we just satisfy it without second thought. We’ve become a little soft. Suddenly, when we can no longer have exactly what we want, rather than it being a minor inconvenience it’s becomes a long, hard battle or mental anguish, stress and soul-searching! Keep it in perspective. You can’t eat X but there are still thousands of other options. Life is good!

The more you can exercise this discipline, the easier it will become until eventually you will reach a point that you don’t even crave these things anymore and if they were offered to you, you would happily refuse them.

One thing you can do to make keto easier is to only eat when you’re hungry. Forget about eating to any schedule and, instead, only eat when you’re hungry. You will find that eating like this will eliminate many cravings.

#7: Every day is a fresh start

If you’re trying to get back on track with keto, it’s important you keep things in perspective. You may fail, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you’ve fallen off the keto wagon, you can always get back on. Don’t get trapped in the past thinking that because you came off keto it’s over for you. The past is past, let it go: for a wise person, every day is a new beginning. 

Ask yourself these accountability questions:

  • What went wrong?
  • Why did you do it?
  • Where were you when it happened?
  • What was the trigger or the thoughts leading up to falling off the wagon?
  • What were you thinking?
  • What was going on in your life?
  • What did you tell yourself to convince yourself it was OK?

If you know what the warning signs are in future, if you know what temptations pushed you over the edge, you will know what to avoid. It’s OK to make mistakes. It’s not OK to make the same mistake twice.

Aim for progress not perfection. Success is not a straight line but it’s a series of ups and downs, progress and setbacks. So long as you’re headed in the right direction, that’s what matters.

So, you binged on carbs and sugar and that throws you out of ketosis. Brush yourself off, ask yourself the above accountability questions, then try again.

One setback is not total failure. In the words of Thomas Beckett, “Ever tried, ever failed? No matter. Try again, fail again, fail better”. A failure is only really a failure if you quit. It’s OK to make mistakes, it’s not OK to let those mistakes stop you from going after something you want.

A lot of these are mind games and some of them may feel silly – but they work. Anything you can do or tell yourself to make you stick to keto is good. If it works, it’s not stupid!


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