In working with clients and patients on a low carb and ketogenic diet approach, Dr. Tro, Amy, and I talk a lot about carb and fat creep. These are two things we often see as roadblocks to those of us eating a low carb diet — especially if we have been doing it for a while.

Life can get stressful, busy or we just get somewhat complacent and without even realizing it can allow higher fat foods such as dairy, nuts, and nut butters to sneak back into our everyday eating and snacking. These things, along with fruits and other ultra-processed prepackaged and homemade keto items, can add up quickly, and the next thing you know your weight has stalled or crept back up. It has happened to me many times over my years! While these foods are all low carb and “legal” keto foods, they are highly palatable and when life happens it’s easy to lose track of them.

But there is another thing that can creep up on us. Something I’ve noticed in quite a lot of people lately is negative lifestyle creep.

I’m sure negative lifestyle creep has affected just about everyone who is reading this. I personally had my own battle with it over the last few years. Early in 2019, I decided I was going to take a leap of faith to get certified as a health coach. Because I had no previous prerequisites that qualified me to be able to just jump into the certification program, I had to become a personal trainer first. This was out of my comfort zone, even though I like to exercise I was not an expert in the field and it was challenging for me. I spent most of 2019 buried in the personal trainer program and put my own exercise on hold. How crazy is that? In late 2019 I passed the PT exam and went straight into the health coaching certification. I really went hard at health coaching, but a couple of months later, I got a back injury that put me on the shelf. The exercise continued to be put on hold as I tried to heal and continued to study for the health coaching certification. After I passed that exam, I was incredibly relieved (and proud!) and the stress finally starting to lift off my shoulders. I passed both my certifications, got my training done with Dr. Tro, and was looking forward to starting this new path in 2020. Then COVID happened…

Early 2020 I was still recovering from back issues and as we all know it wasn’t very long until just about everything got shut down, and for the most part, it has continued that way. As I write this blog things are just now slowly opening back up, but it appears new outbreaks are happening and everything we thought was behind us may be happening again. So this post is very important for me to get out there. While recovering I had built-in excuses: my back hurts, everything is closed, I deserve a break from studying for over a year, I’m starting a new job.  I neglected to exercise for the second year in a row. I am just now getting back to exercise thanks to the recent exercise challenges we started as a team in the office. This has caused me to look back and realize my entire lifestyle had been negatively affected, and for two years without even really noticing I had neglected taking care of myself. I stayed on track with low carb and my weight didn’t fluctuate too much. However, the combination of a bad back, work-from-home job, shutdowns, fear of the virus, etc. made it easy for me to not exercise, not go to doctors and dentist appointments, visit family and friends,  and daily mindless snacking and eating takeout became normal. Luckily my back issues are getting better, I have settled into the job, I have tightened up the meals and frequency and I’m not avoiding family and friends and going places I enjoy. I can tell you, I’m, in a much better place than I’ve been in the past couple of years.

Unfortunately, I still see people going through what I experienced…and worse. Most of us have had our gyms and other stress-relieving outlets taken from us, along with other things we did for enjoyment. Our lives have been turned upside down and we all have had a lot of change, but now that things are starting to loosen up we are once again faced with readjusting to a new normal that is still drastically different. People are afraid of going out even though things are opening up, and gyms that survived are still low in attendance because of the fear and mandates. On top of that, people are scared to visit friends and family because they may have gained weight and don’t want anyone to see them. And still others have just gotten comfortable and complacent with the isolation. What to do?

Well, we can only control what we can control, so develop a plan for exercise just in case gyms and other outlets close again. As for equipment, buy what you can afford and what you have room for.  However, some cheap and free things: buy some books on workouts from home such as Dr. Ben’s 15 Minutes to Fitness, and make a YouTube exercise playlist of routines you enjoy, buy some quality exercise bands if low on space in your home, and schedule time in your day to walk, jog or run. If you do have room in your home or apartment, slowly build up some free weights and benches. Things like spin bikes, rowers, and treadmills are great if you have the money and space. All of these things were very expensive and hard to come by during early days of COVID, and I highly suggest getting some of these things once prices come down just in case this happens again. There are other things besides COVID that can keep us at home. If you can get yourself a nice workout area with the equipment, you will not need to rely on a gym or the time to get there, and you will probably even save some money in the long run over a membership.

When it comes to your mental health and everyday life? Write down all the struggles you had during this time and then reflect on what you did in those situations. Note what worked and what didn’t, and analyze what you could have done better. Then make a list of all of these and keep it somewhere handy (maybe in your phone?). If for any reason these things happen in the future, you can easily see what you did and how you need to plan for that situation next time to make it less stressful. Try and carve some relaxation time for yourself daily, preferably, if you know of a certain problem time each day that causes you stress or hunger I would plan on doing something relaxing during that time to avoid it. Maybe this is when you exercise or meditate, read a book,  listen to your favorite music or podcast, or do a hobby or something else you enjoy. If you can do something you enjoy for 30-60 minutes or so it often alleviates the stressful situation. This is also a great strategy to avoid snacking before or after meals.

Putting just a few of these things in place can help you stay aware of the situations and keep you from becoming a victim of negative lifestyle creep.

Article by Brian Wiley

Brian Wiley is a Certified Health Coach who struggled to lose weight for most of his life. He attempted most of the mainstream approaches, along with the standard advice to “eat, less move more.” This advice resulted in minimal short-term success, or no success at all. Brian then adopted a low-carb lifestyle in 2009, and succeeded in losing 100 pounds. He has maintained that weight loss ever since using a low-carb ketogenic IF lifestyle. "I see people every day, both in real life and on social media, struggling, going through the same cycles of unsuccessful dieting like I did. I want to serve as an example that this approach can be successful, is not a fad, and is a healthy long-term lifestyle solution." Brian is also an ACE certified personal trainer.