“How long have you had that shirt?” I tried to ask casually, but he saw through me.
“I don’t know but it’s still in good shape. Good enough to wear.” My husband’s shirt had to be at least about 1990. He had it before we met, of that much I was certain. Why couldn’t I remember to purge those old shirts when I was doing laundry?
As I considered various strategies to get him to change clothes, our daughter walked in. “Uhm… Dad, what are you wearing?”
“This nice shirt. I’m wearing THIS nice shirt.” He folded his arms.
I knew that tone. I worried that he might have to be buried in THAT shirt because there was no getting him to change out of it now.
“Mom, are you going to let him wear that?” asked our daughter. My children obviously overestimate me if they think I let him wear any particular clothing. Trying to be diplomatic, I said, “Well… I was just wondering whether that was a good choice for him.”
He was not hearing my feigned diplomacy. “This is a GREAT choice, and I’m wearing THIS shirt, and you two can just get over it.” Yep, I might never get to wash and hide it.
My husband is one of those people who believes that clothing lasts as long as it comfortably fits. His criteria for discarding clothing is vague. If it is threadbare or has holes, then he saves it for yard work. If it has paint, then he shall save it for the next painting project. Grease stains? It will do for puttering about the house. If he has one pair of pants for every day of the week, then he has plenty of pants. He is a creature of habit.
Creating low-carb habits
Many of us are also creatures of habit, and those habits serve us well to do things quickly and efficiently. When parts of our lives become automatic, then we can focus on other things that do require more attention, like that project due at work or the leaking toilet. Many of us have developed food habits over the years. We eat at a certain time of the day or we eat certain foods for specific meals or we tend to eat certain foods with certain people or certain foods for certain occasions. Certainly, those habits are not all good.
When we switch to a low-carb lifestyle, many of those habits are challenged directly. Because high-fat foods are satiating, we find ourselves not hungry, but faced with the custom of breakfast before work or school or dinner with others in the evening. We might even eat lunch mid-day because that is simply what we do, but should we eat just because the clock? Nearly every low-carb physician I’ve read or spoken to seems to agree that we should eat to hunger. It is a habit that still catches me at times, especially because I look forward to sitting down to dinner with my family most evenings.
Another habit that folks new to low carb often struggle with is the habit of associating high-carb foods with some meals. For example, a standard breakfast is often a bagel, cereal, oatmeal, muffin, or toast. None of those is low carb, but each is quick. Often folks will tell me that they don’t have time to fix breakfast, and they will look for a low-carb “protein bar” or smoothie or some other quick fix that typically isn’t ideal in terms of ingredients or doesn’t offer high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates.When we first began eating a ketogenic diet, I spent Sunday evenings making frittatas for the week. Using whole eggs and various proteins, vegetables, and cheeses, I baked them in 9″ by 13″ dishes and then sliced them into servings. Those could be warmed faster than a bagel and kept us on plan. We also began eating pre-cooked bacon that we prepared on the weekend and then just warmed as we headed out the door to work. The key to not falling into “easy” and “quick” habits of eating high-carb foods was in replacing those foods with “easy” and “quick” keto-friendly foods.
A third habit to kick is that of social habits. I used to have that favorite shopping buddy who always wanted to take a break at the mall food court so that we could share a cinnamon roll. Those rolls were the size of a dinner plate! The first time that we went shopping together after I started eating low carb, I worried about hurting her feelings when I chose to not eat the cinnamon roll. The situation became awkward when she really wanted a cinnamon roll, and she really wanted me to have one too.
Somehow my not eating that roll became her guilt. Moreover, it became me rejecting her. That shared cinnamon roll somehow bonded us. I did not want to reject her, but I knew that I could not enjoy the cinnamon roll. Unfortunately, she could not enjoy it without me. We decided that coffee was a better option and then got distracted by a shoe sale. Shoe shopping is a much better way to bond! While it took time, I had to think about who those “eating friends” were, and I had to be intentional about suggesting things that we could do that did not involve high-carb foods.
Like comfortable old clothing, we tend to hold on to habits, especially when we are stressed or when we don’t know what else to do. When there’s nothing else in our closet, then we wear the old shirt with the bright stripes that fell out of fashion a few decades ago.
To be successful in exchanging those habits that didn’t serve us well for new habits that do, we must be intentional. We must clean out the closet and the dresser drawers, and then we replace those items with pieces that match the new lifestyle. We need comfortable clothing that slips on easily, like a meal well-prepped that keeps us out of the drive-thru. We need satisfying meals that keep us from diving face-first in a sugary treat.
I’ve heard it said that most people can build a wardrobe on a few essential pieces. Similarly, most people can build a ketogenic lifestyle on a few “essential” meals. Start with identifying five of your favorite keto meals. Next week, add one or two more favorites.
Keep adding week after week and a month later you will have a dozen or more new favorite meals to keep you on plan and to keep you feeling great. Before long, you won’t even consider what to eat because your new habits become old habits. The good news is that unlike my husband’s wardrobe, delicious low-carb meals never go out of style!
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