I have been on a caloric deficit for six weeks now. Getting shredded again. I follow a ketogenic warrior diet with one large high-fat, very-low-carb meal a day and fasting for 23 hours. Yesterday, as I was on my way back home from the forest, already deep into my fast, I passed by a grocery store and, oh, the carb cravings hit me—hit me hard!
Usually, I do not crave foods. With ketones keeping my hunger at bay, I live in blissful ketogenic freedom—able to eat when I want to, not when feelings coerce me to. However, when I stay hypocaloric for too long, my bodymind starts to rebel. Suddenly, all I want is to eat pastries: apple pie, cinnamon buns, carrot cake, nut nougat croissants, and all those malicious fat-sugar combos I grew up with as a child. This is my impulsive will rising, “I want to eat some goddamn carbs.” But is this really what I want, or is it the bitch called temptation wearing the mask of my Will?
Temptation is not always just a feeling we need to resist. The promise of pleasure can bring along an insidious change in the mind and will. The will becomes impulsive and heats up the mind. In yesterday’s situation, my impulsive will changed my entire mindset from “Sugar is the devil” to “Carbs can be good.” I could stay strong and resist buying a probably preposterous amount of pastries only because I realized that my mind was hot at that moment, not thinking straight. A hot mind is affected by fleeting feelings. It cannot be trusted.
Further, a hot mind’s failure-encouraging excuses are not always simple and false. They are often complex and true in many regards. For example, the most prevalent thought in my mind while I was having those intense carb cravings was this:
If my body craves carbs so much (even though I am long over my sugar addiction), then I would probably benefit from a quick energy boost to stay healthy and function optimally. Also, I still have a lot of demanding work ahead of me; the carbs could increase my performance and thus support me to do my True Will. And do I really care so much about a fucking diet that I would prioritize it over my work? Work is my number one priority. I must do everything it takes to do a great job, even if this means cheating on my diet.
This common line of thought turns people into caffeine addicts, too. Their impulsive will, rooted in their lack of energy, convinces them that drinking yet another cup of black coffee is the right thing to do if they want to give a better presentation, participate more actively in the business meeting, impress their date with more energetic vibes, or just stick to their diet while working in the office.
I know many successful dieters who substituted for their lack of energy by cranking up their caffeine intake. They lost a ton of weight, but as soon as they could not keep up their increasing coffee consumption any longer because their tolerance level had gotten too high, all their fat bounced back when they rediscovered overeating as an alternative way to have more energy. Stimulants are a trap. But now back to my carb cravings.
Yesterday, I told myself that I should have some carbs to perform better that day and even to give my calorie-starved body extra energy for improving its health and recovery such that I could perform better all week. Thus, my challenge was not just to resist pleasure and delay gratification, but also to expose the temporary beliefs of my wavering, heated mind as what they were—excuses and shameful rationalizations of my impulsive will.
Even if my excuses were perfectly valid, I would never prioritize truth over my True Will! If my goal is to stay true to my diet plan and if I have set it in a state of mindcoolness, then this goal is part of my current True Will. I must always act according to my plan, that is, to the Will I had before my impulsive will interfered with its hot-minded excuses and petty feelings. I will even go so far as to actively disregard a potential truth if it is practically harmful (you may call this “deliberate delusion;” I call it “radical pragmatism”).
Certainly, it is imperative that I make wise decisions that will not severely harm my body. I must craft intelligent, well-researched plans that are based on as much truth as possible and that I can realistically stick to one-hundred percent. But once I have built such a plan, my Will of total commitment must be my highest priority, for self-discipline is my True Will. (Side note: If I lack the experience to design a good or good enough plan, I must do self-experiments to gain practical knowledge; here, too, discipline is key because once I start changing variables out of weakness, my experiment fails.)
Again, beware of temptation pretending to be your Will! This is how you stay committed to a low-carb diet. It is how you stay committed to any resolution. You do not do what you want to do in the moment (your impulsive will), but what you truly want to do (your True Will), which is what you have decided upon earlier, back when your mind was cool, maybe learning about scientific evidence for the many benefits of ketogenic diets.
That is what I realized when I had those carb cravings yesterday. Thus, I went my way home without entering the grocery store, without buying carbohydrates, without gulping down sugar-coated pastries. My work performance was as good as always. Later, I fell asleep with joy in my soul and awoke with a powerful sense of Will. Then I lifted some weights and had two big fat steaks with eight eggs, two avocados, and spinach. Life is good.
To learn more about how to strengthen your Will, read my book Willpower Condensed: