I shared my findings to date on my keto journey with some colleagues who share an interest in personal transformation and growth.
So I am sharing a portion of that below since it would be relevant here…
I had been learning about this diet off and on for quite some time but it took time to separate the hype from fact, and understand what I needed to change, etc. I have to say it seems much harder from the outside looking in than actually doing it.
I won’t go into much on what a ketogenic diet is, but the main points are:
* Reduce/Eliminate carbs (goal is to keep under 20g a day) and starchy veggies
* Eliminate sugar and various unhealthy sweeteners
* Focus on high quality whole foods (learn to make things vs choose processed)
* Increase healthy fats (bulk of calories come from fat)
* increase non-starchy veggies (leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, asparagus).
* protein moderation
There is plenty out there for those who want more details. This would be a good start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR6TnC1RY_8
I started this less about weight loss and more since I was finding the more I learned about food and how the body processes it, that many things I thought were correct were actually wrong and often counter to my objectives. I had been eating A LOT of oatmeal daily for example, and that was not a good thing due to how it processes in the body. My healthy bread option, while vastly better than white bread, was still too many carbs. Carbs in general – per the American food pyramid is not great, and the villainization of fat which more current studies refute has been an eye opener. It was a very frustrating year for me as I tried to sort this all out and wonder what the heck I can eat.
I chose a keto diet for now since 1) it was a good way to press a hard reset button with my diet 2) it had a lot of science-backed studies 3) it seemed to align with much of what I was re-learning about food and the body and 4) there were cognitive benefits besides the other health benefits.
Intermittent fasting (for me being 2 meals a day) was another goal I had wanted but could not seem to handle. Turned out to be about the carbs and how they promote hunger. I had planned to ease into intermittent fasting AFTER I adjusted to the keto diet but within 2-3 weeks I realized I did not need breakfast at all, nor did I need to snack between meals (usually, I did find a good keto cookie so,,,). I would have my habit make me wonder if I should have these things and it dawned on me I was not really needing it at all. I just thought I did since that was what I was habituated to. I would literally stop and ask myself “wait, am I really hungry?” and then realize, no, or my stomach was just empty and a little water did the trick. Very interesting shift to observe happen so quickly. So I have been having 2 meals a day for a few weeks, even hiking and exercising while fasted and it’s just fine. Very surreal for me given my Hobbit approach to meals. I used to get a headache if I skipped breakfast or my morning tea.
Anyway, I think it has been enough time to see past some of the placebo effect to report in.
* I lost 10 lbs without counting calories (it kicked in more when I began the intermittent fasting) .
* I feel much more clear headed/focused. Hard to explain. I am reading more, missing less study time, doing housework more frequently (gasp), and just seem to have more time in the day suddenly.
* I have more energy in general and it is rather level. I don’t get drowsy after meals any more. I sense it as a slow, even burn.
* I have been calmer, less stressed. There are changes at work that were really stressing me out to the point I was worried it would impact my health. This is no longer a concern, tho I do plan to see how these changes go before I decide if I will stick around. I am cautiously optimistic, tho it will be a bumpy ride thru to summer.
* I walk slower? I need more city time to confirm this but I and a few others noted I am not walking as fast. Not sure if this is the slow burn things or the calm mind. My hiking is definitely slower. I was only in the city once since this change but I was definitely walking slower and it was noted by a friend who usually gasps to keep up.
* (TMI) Increased sex drive and just seems to feel better? I thought this was just me but I looked around and see a few people wondering about the same. Not complaining. Several theories on this and it is probably an emergent property of the mix.
* Not the most forgiving for prolonged cheating (like while on a vacation) – perk tho is I really have little interest/need to cheat outside of when I want to try new foods like while traveling. I already chose not to worry about this as long as it is a rare treat vs a weekly habit.
* Easy to get fixated on worrying if I am in ketosis – reality is if you eat properly the body handles the rest
* Groceries cost more (but I eat less so perhaps it evens out?)
* Reading labels on food is very annoying – so much deception and so, so much needless crap in food. You seriously can’t trust what is on the box – organic, all natural, hear healthy, fat free. Seriously very annoying.
* It’s harder to do it right sometimes. I still think I eat too much protein and still trying to sort out the right amount of fat without getting anal about counting calories. Getting there tho.
* Constipation at times which hints I am not always getting it right, plus body needed time to adapt.
* I have to make my own things like keto versions of bread and treats. This is a perk as well but I am lazy. I tend to keep meals simple for this reason, which is not a bad thing.
* Easier to get dehydrated, more need for electrolytes since they can be flushed from system faster.
* “Keto flu” first week – for me I was just irritable and very fatigued by end of day. I remember going to bed much earlier a few times. I think since I had already been shifting into a better diet in general the transition was not as bad. No need to go cold turkey into this or any diet – change a meal at a time.
Is this sustainable? Not sure. I may eventually rotate between keto and very low carb diets with similar whole food bias. Some studies show that is a good way to keep the body able to transition from fat to carb burning as needed. Generally speaking, now that I see all the crap out there I WANT to read food labels and refuse to spend money on junk. Since I am home and not eating out much this has been very easy.
Do I recommend it? Maybe. I think what I recommend is doing a radical shift in your diet (after some adequate research) as a sort of reset. It forces you to become more mindful of what you are eating and gives your body time to adapt so you can see what happens. I would definitely say cutting our sugar in general is a very wise move, as would be cutting down on carbs and processed foods. The quality of the ingredients is key to any diet option out there. There are overweight vegetarians out there eating a very unhealthy diet despite being vegetarian, for example. It really comes down to learning about what you choose to put into your body, regardless of the diet. Keto can also be dangerously unhealthy if done without that mindfulness, and losing weight is only a good thing if you are still getting the proper nutrients to support the body and maintain health. I am finding the better diets are the ones that educate so that we can make healthy decisions. I also don;t think weight loss is a good primary motivator. I am much more motivated seeing how my mind and body are performing better. The weight loss is simply a natural byproduct of eating healthy.