We all know that sometimes it’s easy to know the health changes we need to make but tough to actually make the changes. The best of intentions can be pushed aside for some cheesy garlic bread, a late night movie, or a few too many drinks (or lack of good lighting when photographing your kid’s blocks late at night *ahem*).
Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to help yourself stick to your health improvements. The great news is that as you do this more often, it will become easier to stick to the health changes and any actual cravings you have will go away.
Say you are new to a healthy lifestyle. You ditched the grains, sugars, processed foods, soda, etc. and two days later you feel like you’ve been drugged, have no energy and are sporting a massive headache. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone and you don’t have the flu…
Why You Might Feel Bad when Eating Healthy
These particular symptoms occur most often when a person goes from a higher carb processed food diet to a real food diet that is naturally lower carb. According to a previous post:
“It is completely normal to experience these symptoms as your body switches from burning glucose to being able to use fat and protein instead. As Mark Sisson explains:
If your body is used to employing easy glucose carbs and now must create glucose from fats and protein (a slightly more complex but entirely natural mode of operation), it can take some time to get up to speed. Rest assured that our bodies can and are doing the job. It simply takes time to work efficiently. The transition actually shifts metabolic related gene expression, increasing fat oxidation pathways and decreasing fat storage pathways. (That’s nothing to shake a stick at!) Within a few weeks, the body should be fairly efficient at converting protein and fat for the liver’s glycogen stores, which provide all the glucose we need for the brain, red blood cells, muscles, etc. under regular circumstances.
If you are interested in understanding more about why the carb flu happens, check out this article at Mark’s Daily Apple and this very detailed explanation from J. Stanton at Gnolls.org.
If you’re not interested in feeling like you have the flu any longer than needed, here are some suggestions for cutting down the amount of time you feel this way:
- Make sure you are actually eating enough, especially of fat. It won’t hurt to eat a few extra tablespoons of coconut oil to make sure you are consuming enough calories and for more energy.
- Drink enough water! The symptoms of carb flu can also be caused by minor dehydration, so make sure you are drinking enough. You naturally lose water weight during this transition period, so you will need to drink to replenish it. Sneak in some herbal teas too if you want to mix up the water, or add a tablespoon of chia seeds to 8 ounces of liquid for some instant hydration.
- As you lose water, you lose sodium and other minerals as well. Make sure you are getting enough sodium, preferably through sea salt. For me, I felt a lot better when I drank a homemade electrolyte drink or a tiny bit of Himalayan salt in water.
- Get enough sleep! In bed by 10 p.m., no excuses!
- Back off the exercise a little, at least for a day or so!
- Read these articles about staring low-carb from Dr. Michael Eades (whose blog I highly recommend!) Tips for Starting Low Carb Part I and Tips for Starting Low Carb Part II
Other Important Factors
Often, feeling bad when you start a new diet is hormone related, and if you are overweight or ill, chances are you have some hormone struggles. During the adjustment period as your body normalizes, keeping on a schedule and routine will help a lot. Meal Planning and knowing what you are cooking ahead of time will help you stick to healthier eating choices, and having a sleeping/waking schedule will really help your hormones adjust.
Here are my printable organization aids to help. I highly recommend making sure you are in bed by 10 p.m., even if you aren’t having any symptoms or trouble, as it is great for your hormones and has no downside. Focus on nourishing your body and try to learn to love and appreciate yourself and not just think of all the things you want to change about yourself.
Realize that change isn’t easy but that it is also much closer than you think and stop letting YOU give yourself excuses (I’m guilty of this one too..) Know what your goals are, clearly define them and make them into workable steps. Then commit and make it a point of honor. You’ve made a decision, a commitment to someone important (yourself) and sticking to it is keeping your word.
Think about the fact that many other people in your life will be positively affected by your effort to get healthier and the extra energy, positive mood and sleep quality you will have because of it.
What is your biggest struggle with health? How will you overcome it today? Share below!
Discussion (12 Comments)
I only wish i had known this information in my teens and in my twenties. I suffered from depression but didn’t want to go on drugs. The way i feel now i am convinced it was due to the diet I consumed and the cycle of eating less going from size 12 to 10 to 8. I also went vegetarian and just couldn’t smell the fat on meat it made me feel ill at that time. Now i crave for a steak, i eat lots of vegetables, heaps of coconut oil, gelatin and have no cravings for sugar. I am gluten free and i feel so happy. I cannot thank you enough Katie as it was your blog that has finally made me take a turn that i now know is permanent.
I am struggling with the idea of cutting out grains, I recently started all of this and just cutting out sugar, fast food, ect has been a huge battle. Is it ok to get a good routine with all my fresh fruits and veggies before I throw another wrench in? I don’t want to overwhelm myself and then feel like I need to binge….
Thanks for this post. I think my biggest struggle is trying to stay on track and not feeling like I have to defend my choices when the people around me smirk at my food choices. I guess it just takes time to develop strong habits that won’t be effected by other’s choices.
I have been suffering from facial pain, fatigue, headaches and migraines for over 3 months now. I take magnesium, Vitamins C&D, fish oil, raspberry leaf and a probiotic daily. I sleep 9-10 hours most nights in a deep sleep (I used to sleep lightly and hear the slightest noise). My doctor has put me on endep 10mg which did help for about two weeks. After seeing her again today she has doubled the dose and is questioning depression. I don’t feel depressed but frustrated at the pain which no tests can find results for. I don’t eat any grains and have been completely dairy free for over a week now. Do you have any suggestions or what may also be of benefit?
What is your normal diet like? There are probably some nutritional tweaks that would help and cold water therapy might be really beneficial. Dr. Terri Wahls was able to reverse her MS symptoms with diet and her suggestions have helped people with pain and fatigue. Google her you tube video… good luck!
oh and cooking. i cook maybe 95% of my food and still hate doing it. i do all of my cooking on sat and sun for the week and now i dread weekends because of this. i’m trying to find the most simplest recipes that involve the least amount of cooking.
the hardest thing for me is to not be bored with food. i cut so many things out because of how they affect me that i’m not left with much. i’m struggling with how to make veggies taste good without some type of sauce or seasoning.
glad you posted this article. since i have been slowly switching off processed foods i’m just DRAGGING! i thought i was getting sick : glad to know that its normal when switching over to real food 🙂 i found some new cranberry pomegranate green tea for a little boost in the morning, hopefully it helps!
OK, two questions. I have been gluten-free primarily grain-free for 18 days now, all through the second half of my cycle. I haven’t had nearly the usual PMS cravings, except TODAY. Cycle started yesterday and today I’d love a pint of Karamel Sutra or something similarly “bad”. How do you get through the really super intense cravings?
And secondly, I know I should go to sleep earlier but am truly not sleepy at 10 PM. Once in a while, yes, but not usually. I know I have had some adrenal issues in the past and took supplements for that last year , after which it seemed greatly improved. Sometimes I just lay there and toss and turn but often I’ll get up and do something but then end up getting to sleep quite late. We have a cool room with blackout shades, I’m trying not to eat after dinner (mostly successful), I don’t do stressful stuff near bedtime (pay bills, etc…), all the usual sleep better stuff.
Taking some magnesium might help the sugar cravings, or drinking some Raspberry Leaf tea if you have any. It might take another month or so for the cravings and PMS to completely go away but that is great that it is already better this soon! Some natural progesterone cream in the second half of your cycle might also help. If you need something sweet, would some homemade fruit cobbler or ice cream work? Or a homemade chai latte?
It can definitely take a while to get sleepy at 10 pm. What time do you wake up? Are you exercising? Taking magnesium? For me, I have to be up by 7, work out during the day, take magnesium at lunch time and avoid blue light (computers, TV, etc after 8pm (or use f.lux on your computer after 8) to be able to be in bed by 10. A cup of chamomile tea or some lavender essential oil might also help. Good luck!
Thanks for answering. I take magnesium regularly, as well as a multi
high in B vitamins (take this in divided doses at breakfast and lunch).
I’ve used progesterone cream in the past but not recently…might need
to try again. I am exercising and have been for almost 9 weeks now
(mainly weight training). Usually wake up by 6:30, rarely watch TV,
etc… . I know I had f.lux on my other computer but it may not be on
this one; will check that.
So far my biggest struggle is kind of the food. You know those crazy cravings you get because your body is used to JUNK! I’m having a hard time kicking the JUNK! And secretly and mot looking forward to a couple parties tonight and ALL day tomorrow. Meh. Who said eating healthy was easy? 😉