Every year there is a new “diet” and inevitably it gets picked apart, as it should. The Ketogenic diet was no different for me. Before diving into it personally I had been seriously skeptical and down right turned off by this approach to eating. Although I already knew the benefits of healthy fats in the diet; improved heart health, brain function, joint pain reduction, and overall cholesterol lowering, to name a few. Still, how could a diet so high in fat, even up to 85%, be a healthy or sustainable way of eating? The Ketogenic diet is definitely a way of life- It takes knowledge, persistence and a strong mental approach to how you want to feel long term. It’s not a quick fix or simple approach to shedding the weight, although that definitely can happen. For those of you who don’t think this way of eating could ever work, like I did, here is what I can tell you first hand. Never ever, and I mean ever, was I able to follow a low carb diet. I would make it to mid day and be famished. I’d end up falling off sometime before dinner out of pure “hanger”, intense cravings and the undeniable brain fog that left me begging for the day to be over. My body wanted carbohydrates (sugar) and kept telling me it couldn’t live without it. So, I gave up and would continue on eating what I called a mostly “clean and healthy diet”. For the most part I stayed away from gluten, and dairy because I just never felt right when I ate it; I’d have intense GI issues, gas, bloating, cramps, etc. I always assumed it was an allergy, but it wasn’t… it was carbohydrates, and I’d learn that down the road.
After much deliberation I decided instead of trusting the ridicule and bashing of the Ketogenic food approach from the perspective of others I’d give it my 100% effort- “just to test it out.”
I began by reading the book ‘Keto Clarity’ by Jimmy Moore and Eric Westman, MD. I didn’t find this book on my own though, I had reached out to a good friend, a keto guru, and started asking the questions on my list. The questions would have to be asked, and the answers that would have to add up before I would ever set out on the keto journey myself. Carolyn isn’t just an average lady, in addition to being on top of her keto game, both in practice and in knowledge, she is quite the decorated athlete. Carolyn is a competitor in a class high above most. A champion mountain biker, and endurance athlete. A 100 mile bike race in the mountains of Colorado is the normal for her. She had been following a Ketogenic diet for many years, and I should mention, she’s 66 years old, and in the best health of her life.
So I began the relentless questions: is a Ketogenic diet healthy? Is it ok and healthy to sustain this diet long term? What is an efficient macro breakdown? What about cholesterol and overall heart health? Does it increase risk of cancer and disease? What are the best and most bioavailable dietary fats? How will I perform as an athlete? Will I lose energy? How do I test for ketones? Do I have to test? What can I expect? What do I eat?
These are just a few of the questions that filled my mind and begged for answers. I was certainly open to making changes in my overall diet and knew I was not running or feeling my best, but was a Ketogenic diet going to be the answer?
Day 1…. now what? I continued to read the book, ‘Keto Clarity’ every second I had available so I could learn more and answer questions. I was knee deep into the book. Slowly I began to find the answers to the most pondering of questions, and I made it through the day… not just until lunch or dinner but all the way through, and I felt good. Truly. I felt GOOD.
Day 2 and 3 came and went, and I continued to search for the answers and stay true to my nutrition plan 100%, but to my my surprise day 2 and 3 also felt good. I was so skeptical I almost insisted that in no time I would fail and be back to square one. But, because I was getting a large amount of dietary fat I wasn’t hungry, in fact, I was the opposite, I was satiated. No cravings, no foggy brain, no mid day brick wall. I was feeling really good.
Week one was a breeze- I logged all of my food throughout the day and double checked my macros making note of how I felt to the correlating macronutrient numbers that accompanied my sense of satisfaction.
Week 1 turned into 2 which rolled over into 3 and weekly I watched as my overall sense of health and well being had improved, my energy increased and my body began to run more efficiently than it had ever before. No cravings, no low energy, no ‘hangry’ day’s waiting for my next meal. I felt wonderful, and still feel wonderful heading into week 4.
So about those dawniting questions, that begged for suitable answers, here is what I found:
A high fat, low carbohydrate diet can work, and won’t leave you feeling foggy. If your macros are adjusted right, specifically for YOUR needs. You should feel and overall sense of satisfaction and satiety. It’s important to remember though, everyone is different and those who may be more glucose sensitive will likely need to start with a lower total carbohydrate level than another person. There is no magic formula here, and trial and error will likely be your guide on finding these numbers. A keto blood test kit can be very helpful here in allowing you to see a real number, and telling you just how your body is responding. *Don’t be discouraged here if your beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB- blood ketone) levels show that you aren’t into ketosis yet, it can take days sometimes weeks to get into ketosis.
Incorporating healthy fats into your diet does not necessarily increase the risk of heart disease and overall cholesterol or triglyceride levels, in fact, it can very well do the opposite. It will help increase HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL (bad cholesterol), along with normalizing triglycerides, and even improving thyroid function and efficiency.
Once the body converts to burning fat and not sugar (carbohydrates) burning you will start to normalize your insulin sensitivity and downregulate your overall metabolic function, making your body run more efficiently while increasing your overall metabolic pathways. Fat is the superior fuel source. In fact, our brains and muscles prefer it.
What about the C word? Will this lifestyle promote or increase cancer cells to grow and flourish? Sugar is the preferred fuel source for these invasive cells. In fact, starving the cells of glucose (sugar, from carbohydrates) and feeding it high fat, moderate protein can reduce the growth and replication of these cells and promote healthy DNA repair.
Is the Ketogenic lifestyle right for everyone? No, there are some people that keto may not work for. Just as if I were to hand you a pair of shoes from my closet, it doesn’t mean they will fit you or be comfortable- we are all very different. It is imperative to remember that while we may see someone find success in something we can’t assume it will work for us the same. We are all unique, and require different things to be our healthiest. But I can say, I’ve never felt better than I do today and will continue to live the keto lifestyle.
I hope this blog entices you to reconsider your lifestyle and prioritize your health. We have one shot at it, and I don’t know about you, but I want to enjoy it the best I can. So, whether it is finally taking charge of a new healthy habit, diet or lifestyle change, remember you CAN accomplish anything you put your mind to.
Let knowledge, a clear goal and a well planned out attack be your guide.