One of the beautiful things about keto, or any clean diet that supports healthy, whole food nutrition, is the clarity it gives your body. It sets you up for success because it develops a baseline healthiness that becomes your new default state. Once you reach that point after a few weeks of clean eating, your habits/cravings/tendencies start to shift towards healthy, without much physical effort or cognitive load. Healthy is your new automatic. The key is to leverage this new state and move to hands-off, to trust this new healthy baseline and give your body the reins—biological cruise control. You can now let your body steer what you do because it’s clear of toxic preservatives, mind-fogging sugars, nutrient deficiencies, and unbalanced macros. It’ll tell you what’s best for it because it now knows what healthy is and it wants to maintain that state.
I find the cravings shift most interesting because of how useful it can be for informing what and when to eat. For a while when getting started on keto, I tracked my foods to get a sense of what to eat to get the right macronutrient percentages I wanted. It was a fairly big diet shift for me so my body didn’t know what it needed to maintain it yet. If I just listened to my cravings, I’d be running to the nearest restaurant serving chocolate lava cake, the Salt and Straw in Hayes, or the farmers market for fresh juicy fruit. There was a period of applying cognitive effort to ignore cravings and assign what I would eat in a day. I had to rely on my research-driven brain to tell me what to eat to get the most out of this new diet. My body was a useless, carb-hungry machine that I had to reluctantly ignore for a bit.
Once I reached ketosis and my body developed its new baseline, I started to internalize what foods to eat in a day and no longer needed to bother going into MyFitnessPal after every meal—I didn’t need to track foods to know what to eat. I no longer had to ignore my body and rely on my brain to tell me what to eat. My cravings were shifted to those that would support the new baseline—to healthy fats, nutrient-rich greens, and good proteins. My steadfast sweet tooth that had been around since my first lollipop had virtually evaporated. The thought of rich chocolate or carb-heavy fruits wasn’t remotely appealing if you can believe it. Coconut oil-doused sautéed spinach, salted ripe avocados, and pan-seared fatty salmon, however, were all suddenly mouth-watering.
I now always rely on my body to tell me what to eat next. I do this by thinking through the list of keto foods and meals I cycle through and whichever appeals to me most, whichever sparks a craving, I make. I’ve found I feel so much better doing this. Your body knows what it needs, we just need to give it the clarity to do so by developing the right healthy baseline via a clean diet. If I’m low on potassium, I crave avocado. If I’m down on electrolytes, I want dill pickles or salt-covered anchovies. If I need more protein, I crave a big piece of salmon or peanut butter. If my fat is low, I reach for coconut oil or bulletproof coffee.
Getting to this state is useful in almost every way. Our brains only have so much mental capacity in a 24-hour period. The less time you spend on frivolous, minute decisions the better. It’s why Steve Jobs wore the same turtleneck every day and Tony Robbins eats the same breakfast every morning. Save your cognitive capacity for the more important decisions and tasks that fill your day. Plus, no one likes to constantly think about food and tracking macros and nutrients. It can lead to an anxiety-filled black hole that diverts your attention and distracts you. Of course, it’s important to live and eat clean and at first this is much easier said than done. It won’t start out as automatic but applying the initial effort to build up these habits and put your body in a state from which it can take these decisions off your mental load, will get you there.