Confessions of an Ideal Protein Coach: Day 6 --ALCOHOL?

It's really hitting home that there is NO GOOD TIME to start Ideal Protein Phase 1.  I have many clients who wrestle with when to start because of upcoming events, trips, holidays, etc. But I'm seeing that there are no significant stretches of time devoid of food-focused events! They are sprinkled throughout the year every 4-6 weeks.

With that said, I got through two social events this weekend, totally on track, despite the fact that it was only Days 3 & 4 and I was still in the hunger and craving phase. I felt buoyed by the support and encouragement from so many of you that it felt relatively easy. It didn't hurt that everyone who knew me at the events I went to knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing. :)  I wouldn't have been able to slip in a drink or an off-protocol snack without them knowing I was cheating. I'd love to say it never entered my mind to cheat, but it did. Especially with alcohol.

I have serious food addictions but I (thankfully) don't have a problem with alcohol. Alcoholism ran rampant in my family and in my social sphere for many years so I am very grateful to have been spared that particular misery. But I do love the sensation of being tipsy among good friends when they are also partaking.

Many people argue that if you drink hard alcohol, especially some types of vodka, you can get away with drinking during Phase 1 and not interrupt ketosis. I KNOW BETTER! I know the actual biology of alcohol ingestion during ketosis and I know that it's negatively impactful in numerous ways, even if it's not technically absorbed as a sugar.  Alcohol can cause hypoglycemia and a subsequent glycogen release --both of which interrupt stable ketosis. Even moderate amounts can stall you for several days, just like sugar can.  And hypoglycemia can actually be dangerous. So I really do know better than to cheat with alcohol during Phase 1.  But it still occurred to me.

Almost everyone was enjoying alcohol at both events and I was one of maybe two or three who were sober.  One of the events was karaoke! Who does karaoke sober???  (Actually, I did pretty well :)   The next one was a Halloween party at the home of a chef!  Fortunately he's done Phase 1 before and knew I was coming, so he had some wonderful veggies available…   But the food wasn't the problem really.  Even the tempting snacks were easier to pass up than the alcohol because I ate before I went to the event - a substantial and hearty meal. I also brought extra IP food knowing I'd be up later than usual and might need a bit more sustenance. The food was easy.

 Halloween:  I went as the Magic Mirror in a Snow White themed group. 

Halloween:  I went as the Magic Mirror in a Snow White themed group. 

But I have mild social anxiety around groups.  I see now that alcohol has become somewhat of a crutch for me for this issue. I may have missed the fact that I was leaning on it because I haven't had a strict mandate not to drink for a couple of years. And when I was in Phase 1 the first time, my life was much quieter than it is now.  So this is the first time I've had to actively restrict drinking while socializing a lot. 

I kept having the impulse to "taste" my boyfriend's drinks. I thought about ordering or pouring myself one (or three) when I was by myself and no one would know. I immediately saw that this kind of thinking was a dangerous, slippery slope and realized I needed to find a different way to de-escalate my anxiety so I could stay on track. 

Here are a couple things I tried that actually helped.   I stepped out of the room a few times to go sit by myself. While alone, I took some deep breaths, and let them out slowly - letting my mind tune in to my body and where the feelings of anxiousness were coming from.  I placed my hands over my abdomen and pictured golden, warm, soothing light flowing from my hands into my body - illuminating and relaxing each part of me it touched.   I prayed, using instructions from my 12-step group to reach out to my higher power. I asked for help understanding how I could be helpful and loving to those around me, rather than focused on my own wants, needs, fears… I asked for help.  Over and over again.  After a few minutes of this, I'd start to feel better and venture back out to be with people.  Until I felt anxious again and then I'd find another quiet place to repeat the above actions.

A few times during both evenings, this thought occurred to me:  "I picked a bad time to start… I'll have a drink or two tonight, and start over on Monday. Everyone will understand."  But that's been my strategy for TWO YEARS. Countless Monday starts have been followed by countless Friday or Saturday spin-outs, with endless vows to begin again the following Monday. I'm wise to my own game now. There is NEVER a good time to start this. There is never a time when I'll be free from temptation. I'm glad that is the case, actually, because it means I'm living a fun, active life! But it also means that this will never be perfectly easy and I'll probably always need to lean on healthy coping strategies to soothe myself without alcohol or food.  So I guess it's good I'm developing and practicing them now.

It's what they mean when they call this a lifestyle, not a diet. I'm on the most obvious phase of the diet right now, but the structure and accountability of Phase 1 make it easy to stay on track.  I need to also be thinking about Maintenance and what I'll do when I'm on my own recognizance; making choices that will keep me stable or send me back into the danger zone again. I need long-term solutions, not just temporary ones. I'm not sure I fully understood this on my first Phase stint, but I do see it now.