I am not a doctor, a health professional, or anything associated with the medical field. This post is not meant to be medical advice but merely my personal experience and opinions.
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Ok, so in Part 1 I talked about the mindset that I was in to get to the place where I was ready to jump in to Keto and now I’m going to tell you what a ketogenic diet is and how I am fitting that into my life.
What is Keto?
The ketogenic diet was developed over 100 years ago in order to control epilepsy and seizures in children and diabetes (type 1 and 2) in people before the invention of medical insulin. It forces the body to produce and run off of ketones instead of glucose (sugar).
A ketogenic diet (keto) is essentially a very very low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet. Those who practice a Keto diet eat a ratio of 5-10% carbohydrates, 20-30% protein, and 60-80% fat every day. What does this do? This forces our bodies into a state called ketosis (not ketoacidosis. That’s something different and only a concern if you are Type 1 diabetic). Ketosis is a state in which your body switches from burning glucose (carbs) for energy to a state where it is burning fat (ketones) for energy.
In order to do this, you have to deplete your liver of stored glucose by eating no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day (and not too much protein because your liver will turn excess protein into glucose too). Thats total carbs. That means you even count the carbs in vegetables. That also means that you eat a lot of fat. Good fat like avocados, olive oil, butter, ghee, lard, bacon fat, coconut oil, and nuts. Not man-made unnatural fat like vegetable oil, Crisco, shortening, etc. That kind of fat is very unhealthy and can cause major harm to your body.
Now I can hear some of you freaking out a little about ALL THAT FAT! I eat 100-130 grams of fat every day. After the low-fat mantras we have been hounded with for the last 40 years, I can understand why that is a scary thing. After all, a high fat diet means that our arteries are going to clog, our cholesterol will skyrocket, we will get even fatter! Right? WRONG. There are much more qualified people in the world than me to tell you why that’s not true and you can find them here, here and here.
What do you eat on Keto?
Like I said above, I eat a lot of fat. My typical day goes something like this:
Breakfast: 2 eggs fried in butter, 3 slices of bacon, 1/2 avocado
Lunch: Some kind of meat and broccoli with butter or ,if I forgot my lunch and I’m stuck at work, 2 ounces of brie cheese, 1/4 cup marcona almonds and a 1/4 cup of kalamata olives (we have a cheese pairing at work so these things are always there).
Dinner: I like to get creative here. I’ll do a roast chicken, beef shanks, pot roast, or taco meat and pair it up with something green (zucchini, green beans, broccoli, spinach, swiss chard, asparagus, lettuce, etc.) and lots of cheese and/or butter. Because my family isn’t keto I usually make them a potato or rice or whatever to go with dinner (I don’t eat that).
Dessert: The funny thing about keto is that your sweet tooth almost disappears and you really don’t want cookies or ice creams all that much. That being said, it does happen and I have really fallen in love with these Cookie Dough Fat Bombs from Paleo Mom Noms.
Usually, I end up with 20-30 grams of carbs, 50-80 grams of protein and 100-130 grams of fat. Notice how I didn’t mention calories? Yeah, I did that on purpose. There’s no counting calories on Keto (and here’s why counting calories doesn’t work)
Notice that there’s no bread, rice, pasta, sodas, sugar, potatoes, etc. Also, no fruit (a few berries are ok). That’s the hard part. I love all of those things, but except for bread and fruit, I don’t really miss them that much.
So, after one month keto, what’s the good part? Well, first of all I’m down 8 pounds. That may not sound like much. Some people who start this diet lose 10 pounds within the first week, but I’m not going to compare myself to others (and you shouldn’t either). What I know is that I just lost 8 pounds in less than 30 days and, for me, that’s amazing. I once did the Body For Life diet for over 3 months and that was my total weight loss then. And it’s not muscle I’m losing y’all, it’s fat. I’ve checked.
There have been some other pretty amazing things happen in the last month:
First of all, my skin has cleared up. After getting off birth control a few years ago (sorry if that’s TMI) my face reverted back to adolescence and I have had terrible cystic acne on my jawline ever since. And I can’t say for certain, but all of the chin hairs (read: damn near a beard) that I have been struggling with seem to be thinning out as well.
I have tons of energy. Tons. For most of my life I have been a half-a- pot-of-coffee-in-the-morning kind of girl. Kids, work, life – it’s exhausting. But running off ketones is like running on caffeine all day but without the jitters or the 3pm crash. I also seem to be a little more clear headed and generally motivated to do things.
I can go a long time without eating. I know some of you guys think that eating all the time is a good thing (and I did too), but it’s really not. Before I even started on keto, I began doing a lot of intermittent fasting (because I suspect I have some insulin resistance). Intermittent fasting is a daily fasting regimen (usually 16-24 hours) that is great for lots of things in the body. I think the fasting is what kept me from gaining more weight in the months before before I started keto. I also think it’s what made for an easier transition to ketosis. By the way, fasting is not starving myself. It’s simply shortening my eating window to a much smaller time frame (which means sometimes I get to sit down to an 1800 calorie meal). When I got going on keto, I realized that I just wasn’t hungry very often. How many people can say that about their diet? I’m just not hungry. I don’t usually eat until 10 or 11am, sometimes I skip lunch all together and sit down to a big dinner. Not because I’m trying to not eat, but because I don’t want to eat.
I haven’t experienced much bad with keto. The first week I began having some problems sleeping as I got into ketosis. After some research I found that adding in more electrolytes (because low-carb tends to dump electrolytes) and especially magnesium was the key for me. And after the first couple weeks, I didn’t have any issues with it.
I would be lying if I said I don’t miss bread and cookies and fruit. The holidays were especially difficult, but not impossible. The hardest part was having people stare at you like you have lost your mind by eating this way. And if you start keto, misinformed people will tell you that it’s unhealthy. It’s not.
Fitting keto around my family has been the hardest part. There are still cookies and chips and bread in my house because the rest of my family eats that stuff. Hopefully one day there will be much less, but for now it’s something I have to deal with.
I wanted to add this here because I wanted to give everyone a word of caution about a ketogenic diet. It’s not for the faint of heart and it’s not something you should jump into without doing a lot of research. This isn’t a fad diet where you can cheat every weekend and then hop back on the wagon on Monday. It won’t work and you will make yourself feel terrible in the process.
This should really be a whole foods approach diet. You should not be living off of meal replacement shakes and protein powder. You need to eat vegetables, healthy fats, and meats every day. You should also take a multi-vitamin because you are cutting a lot of stuff out of your diet here and you are not going to be perfect at it in the beginning. I’ve been doing this for a month and I am not any where close to perfect at it.
Do not count calories. Don’t. Hit your macros and eat until you are satisfied. (I use My Fitness Pal to track my macros). If you don’t eat enough calories every day then your body is not going to like it. Some people experience hair loss and weight loss stalls when they don’t eat enough. (Here’s a great calculator to figure your macros and calorie targets.) Also, do not try to be low-carb and low-fat. That’s not healthy either and you will be super duper hungry.
If you have medical issues such as diabetes, heart conditions, thyroid issues, etc. consult your doctor before you start this diet. Many health professionals know absolutely nothing about the keto diet, so be prepared to catch some adversity to this way of eating.
Some people experience the “Keto Flu” when first starting. It doesn’t last long but you can feel pretty awful. What is it? Sugar withdrawls. No joke. It’s like quitting smoking. You feel tired, maybe a little nauseous, generally lethargic. It passes and you should drink lots of water with electrolytes to get through it.
I’ll be honest when I tell you that I haven’t decided if this is my new way of life yet. I’m not sure that I will be keto forever, but I can say that it has really opened my eyes about what really is healthy and the way I should treat my body and I am certainly keto for now. I have a goal of getting back to that 170 mark (and maybe 160 if I think it’s doable once I get there). I’m pretty happy at that weight and it would be a number and a pants size I haven’t seen in a very long time.
My current way of thinking is that even though I don’t mind eating so strictly most of the time, I would like to transition into more of whole foods/paleo/low carb life after I reach my goal. I believe that would be an easy transition into and out of ketosis should I need it and it’s a less limiting way to eat especially for a girl who grows her own veggies and loves to cook. That thought process may change in the future but I’m not certain yet.
For now, I have made a few changes to this site. I have added nutritional content to some recipes and I am working on adding more every day. These are estimates so enter your own info to make sure. Also, I have added this symbol to some recipes that I deem Keto-Friendly. Which means they are under 12 grams of carbs. It’s a bit of a slow process going through all of the recipes here, but I am trying to update as fast as I can. If you come across a recipe that needs nutritional info just leave a comment on the post and I’ll get to it right away.
Also, if you are going to begin this journey, please find a support group. There are tons of Facebook groups and forums out there where you can ask questions and learn.
And, if you want to do some more research (and you should if you are thinking of starting keto) here are my recommendations on where to start.
Keto on y’all!
The Obesity Code – a great read on how insulin affects weight and it was the first place I ever heard of Ketogenic diets and fasting
The Ketovangelist – I love his podcast and listen to it all the time. He also has a terrific facebook group that you should join.
Keto Clarity by Jimmy More of Livin’ La Vida Low Carb – a living breathing success story and one of the leaders of the keto movement