Every day, we get different messages about health – and often they are conflicting. Proponents of the Keto diet often disseminate misinformation about carbohydrates. Carbs are not all bad or, in huge quantities or when consumed with excessive fat, all good. However, we would argue, especially for individuals with antidepressant weight gain and emotional overeating, carbs are a necessary part of one’s daily food consumption, both for nutritional reasons and for helping to create a greater sense of calm.
A recent client, let’s call him Al, has gained 40 pounds in the past two years due overeating at times of stress, and shared this: “When I’m stressed, I eat potato chips, pizza, and cookies. My wife is concerned about my health, and I’m having trouble keeping up with our 3 young kids. I need to find a solution. Should I go on a keto diet to keep from overeating the carbs that are making me gain weight?”
We told him, “it’s not the carbs that are making you gain weight: it’s your appetite. Carbs are actually the key to controlling your cravings and helping you to manage your stress.”
That sounded like good news. But he was confused. Wouldn’t the keto diet be the answer?
Can Keto Help Manage Stress?
The keto (or ketogenic) diet, is designed to stop the body from utilizing carbs for energy, as it typically would do. The goal in this particular diet is to create a state of ketosis in the body, which uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates by eliminating or greatly restricting carb intake. Any amount of carbs consumed would take him out of ketosis so Al would have to be really careful about avoiding this nutrient.
Furthermore, if Al tried the keto diet, how would he handle stress? Would he lose weight, but also become stressed, overwhelmed and less able to cope with this stage in his life as a parent? How could he find ways to calm himself?
The Many Benefits Of Eating Carbs
Carbohydrates offer us a source of energy and many carbs, such as grains, potatoes and rice, provide us with essential vitamins and fiber. However, when consumed, carbs also trigger physiological occurrences that result in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain.
It is widely known by many now that serotonin helps us to maintain emotional stability. Serotonin also helps to restore us with a sense of calm when our mood is thrown off by a variety of stressors. Serotonin also helps us to feel full, making us feel satiated.
Managing Stress on Keto
While our bodies can switch from utilizing carbs to using fat as a source of energy, if Al started the keto diet, his brain would not be able to obtain tryptophan, the specific amino acid necessary to produce serotonin. Why not? Tryptophan can only enter the brain after carbs are consumed and protein prevents it from happening. Mother Nature provided us with a way of coping with feelings of stress by enjoying carbohydrates. The Keto diet, unfortunately, prevents that from happening. It also comes with some side effects, but that’s for another blog.
In a perfect world, Al’s children would behave like angels and he and his wife would successfully execute all of the strategies offered in parenting books on preventing witching hour struggles. Since that scenario isn’t likely to happen, Al needed to decide whether to go on the keto diet and discover other ways of managing stress – maybe meditation? – or eat a specific amount of carbs roughly 30 minutes prior to the typical late afternoon stress zone.
Choosing The Serotonin Power Diet To Help Manage Cravings & Reduce Stress
So what did Al choose? He decided to try the Serotonin Power Diet and to eat 25-30 grams of carbs, less than 1 or two grams of fat and protein about a half hour prior to arriving at home each day. He did this so his serotonin levels would increase, ultimately creating a sense of calm and increasing his ability to cope with any stress that comes up. After this, he would feel satiated so he didn’t need to continue snacking and could enjoy a balanced meal at dinner time. Al turned to pretzels, rice crackers, instant oatmeal, English muffins or most breakfast cereals for his late afternoon snack. The calories in the snack, roughly 125-150, wouldn’t hinder his weight loss because he would actually be eating less at dinner and would be consuming significantly fewer carbs prior to dinner.
Al’s Serotonin Power Diet Review
“It worked,” he admitted the next time I saw him. “I didn’t think it would, but I was much more relaxed when I arrived home. And I really did eat less at dinner. But isn’t it wrong to give in to my emotions and eat? I almost feel guilty about feeling better.”
I told him that we should avoid giving into our emotions by overeating, if possible, to prevent feeling out of control or gaining weight. However, self-medicating with a balanced amount of carbohydrates isn’t giving into your emotions. It’s actually eating as nature intended and making your life a little calmer.
Clearing Up Carb Confusion
Carbs are a necessary part of a balanced diet and a uniquely efficient tool for individuals trying to manage their appetite naturally and improve their mood. Of course, it’s important to pay attention to how and when they are consumed. Learn more about the Serotonin Power Diet.