It may sound counterintuitive, but splurging with great intention can be a key part of maintaining a low-carb, low-sugar lifestyle over the long run. Intentional splurges are not the moments when we accidentally fall off the wagon with our diets. In my case, such unplanned departures usually occur when I’m light-headed and have limited food options and I’m willing to eat anything I can get my hands on. Right after this happens, though, I get back on the diet track with my next snack or meal and, if possible, focus immediately on a physical activity like a walk or push-ups. Whatever method works for you, it’s important not to dwell on random carb overloads which are especially disconcerting when we don’t even enjoy what we’ve consumed because we weren’t actually in the mood to indulge to begin with: what a let down!

In contrast, the intentional splurge is an art worth mastering and one that involves some trial and error. As we leave sugar behind, our tastes and tummies shift in accordance: we crave fewer sweets as well as less-sugary sweets, and our splurges reflect this. Because excessive sugar blocks flavor, you’ll probably notice many sweets eventually lose their appeal, and will even become disappointingly, unsatisfyingly sweet! Sometimes tasting overly-sweet items can be as unpleasant as licking a salt tab. And eating a large quantity of carbs will often make you feel bloated and sluggish. I’ve found these effects are sometimes immediate now and boy are they a deterrent.

Honing in on what actually satisfies, and when, takes some practice. Apparently, a similar decision-making element exists for people who crave a shopping spurge: they seek an experience through which they exercise control by deciding what to buy or not to buy (even if they buy nothing in the end). Over time, your intentional splurges often don’t do the extreme damage you imagine they will. For example, my splurges are usually fried dough: think hot Peruvian churro or a funnel-cake straight from the fryer (which incidentally are not necessarily as bad for blood sugar as eating a dense bagel) with only a light dusting of sugar. My other splurges include dark chocolate molten cake, eggy breads or plain white rice. Still, I save these treats for last-ish, and I normally only end up eating about half of what I would’ve eaten in my past, pre low-carb life, even when I think ‘I could eat that whole cake!’ In reality, you really can’t anymore, and you don’t even want to because you know by now you won’t feel very good after. And that’s a good reason to enjoy carbs vicariously. I never understood my grandmother’s fascination with watching me eat something that she said would give her heartburn until I went low carb. Now I get it. I’m so glad to see others enjoy the things I no longer eat, and I always keep in mind how I’ll feel physically if I overindulge. And whatever amount I eat, I enjoy every last crumb or spoonful.