One month of Keto

shrimp alfredo

Like pretty much everyone, I overindulged during the holidays. Plus, December is my birthday month. By January 1, I had reached my heaviest weight yet. I decided, like so many, to go on a diet. I started with a 3-day juice cleanse from Nekter because I had liked it the last time I did it and I kind of wanted to shrink my stomach in readiness for dieting. Then I started Keto.

To jump directly to why and how I'm doing, you can scroll down. 

When U.S. News & World Report came out with their 2018 ranking of diets, Keto came in tie for last place. That hasn't stopped the huge increase of interest in it as well as the number of success stories regarding it. So what is Keto?

I'm not going to get too technical here because there are plenty of other Keto bloggers (linked below) that can do a much better job than I. So just some basics. The goal of the keto diet is to adapt the body to utilize fat as its primary fuel source instead of sugar

Your body uses two types of fuel - glucose and fat. Glucose (sugars) get used immediately in the body because they are the easiest to access and use. To use an example, if you were a runner, the quick burst of energy you would need for a sprint would be from glucose. Whatever glucose is leftover is then stored as fat for the future. We get fat because we eat too many sugary and carb laden foods. Carby foods turn into sugars during the digestion process and then into fat, so on a keto diet, carbs and sugars are OUT! 

Running a marathon would be attune to using fat for energy. You have a large gas tank of fat that the body can use to keep fueling itself for the long run. In order to access that fat and turn it into the energy, you need ketones. Ketone bodies are molecules that are produced by the liver from fatty acids during periods of low food intake. When your body has no more glucose it goes into starvation mode and turns to the fat in your body for fuel.

The idea of the keto diet is that you eliminate your body's access to glucose forcing it to use fat for energy instead. 

A keto diet means that you eat lots of protein, a good amount of non-starchy/carby vegetables, and a high level of healthy fats. People on keto primarily count their carbs first and calories second. Keto folk want to try to eat no more than 20 grams of carbs a day. A mini fun-size Snickers bar has 10.5 grams and a McDonald's small fries has 29. Even a cup of zucchini, which is a nice vegetable, has 6, so keeping to just 20 for a day is hard.

This post is gonna get long if I get into too much explanation. The real reason for this post is why am I doing it and how is it going. 

While weight loss was my initial reason, I've actually got multiple reasons now, especially as I've researched more.

Lose weight - People constantly say "where do you plan on losing weight from?" or "why do YOU need to lose weight?"  Same as everyone, I look at photos and I look pudgy in them!  So now I'm down 6 pounds in the month, but want to lose another 6. Keep in mind that larger people can drop 15 pounds in a month, everyone is different. Also know that the first drop in weight will be water weight as glucose = more water storage and as your body starts to switch to fat burning, it stores less water.  Drink more!

Gluten sensitivity - I've been wondering for a while if I'm gluten sensitive. I love bread and pasta, but they make me sleepy and anyone who knows me knows that I have to take a nap every day because I get so tired by midday. Tiredness can be a sign of gluten sensitivity. After my 6 weeks are up, I plan to eat a pizza and then see how my body reacts. 

Energy levels - As stated above, I'm falling asleep by noon and have to take a nap every day. I can't figure out why and feel diet could be a big part of it. Keto talks a lot about increased energy as your body learns to use fat to sustain you. Instead of the up and down swings of your body sugars, you have a constant fuel keeping you going. 

Cholesterol - It seems counter intuitive to think eating a lot of fat is going to help your cholesterol, but many people and a few studies have indicated that as your body makes adjustments, it actually switches to producing more of the good cholesterol and less of the bad. "For HDL cholesterol, or "goodcholesterol, higher levels are better. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the "goodcholesterol because it helps remove other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream."

Inflammation - More and more these days we hear about how inflammation is stressful to your body and contributes to many diseases. In my case, I have been having a tendonitis issue for years and would love to be rid of it.

What does keto eating look like?

almond flour pancakes
Most people do a Bulletproof Coffee or Cocoa in the morning because the high fat from the grassfed butter and coconut oil helps fuel you for the morning. But other typical breakfasts are bacon and eggs, fritatas, avocado/coconut milk smoothies, and even scones or pancakes that are made with almond and/or coconut flour instead.

Lunch for me is often a salad or celery with guacamole or a cheese dip. I'm thrilled that Chando's has lettuce wrap tacos and Quesatacos where they make the taco shell from a cheese skirt. Very greasy, but keto perfection!

Dinner is often meat and veggies such as cauliflower (riced, mashed, roasted) or kale sauteed in bacon grease. I also love making shrimp pesto alfredo and I put it over either no-carb shirataki noodles or spiralized zucchini.

Yes, there is dessert. Like sugar-free cheesecake! Stevia is your friend on Keto and so I blend cream cheese with whipped cream and stevia. The only keto approved fruits are berries, so cheesecake with berries! Or last night I made chocolate avocado truffles. There are many baked desserts too, as long as you use almond or coconut flour.

Takeaways so far

After the first week of getting used to it (and be warned there is a thing called keto flu), I found that my cravings had all but disappeared. I used to be munching all day long at work, constantly thinking of food, and looking for the nearest Panera. Not anymore. I rarely nibble and saying 'no' to sweets has been easy now. This from someone with a notorious sweet tooth!

I do feel my energy levels are better through the day. I'm not falling asleep at noon and if I skip my nap, I'm not as dead feeling the rest of the day as I used to be. 

I'm sleeping more soundly. I'm still waking up a few times a night, but my sleep is much deeper than before.

What now? Will I stay with it? Can you cheat? Can I really go without fruit in the summer?

These are all questions I will be dealing with. Yes, you can cheat, but only a meal at a time and it has to be good carbs like sweet potatoes, not pastries! There are also people who will cycle and do keto for a few months, then paleo, then back to keto. I think this could work for me so I could enjoy summer fruit season.

I seem to have plateaued on the weight loss and so I'm going to tweak things a bit the next two weeks. I think I'll start fasting. Many people on keto do intermittent fasting. You fast 16 hours, eat for 8, for example. My plan is two more weeks of this (6 total) and then go get my blood work done. I'm a bit nervous that the cholesterol will be high and my doctor will frantically call me about it. (He's been bugging me about it.) They say keto adjusting your body can take months, so six weeks might not be enough. 

The reality is that living keto is about making a lifestyle change versus a temporary diet. So far I have found it pretty easy, so I plan to continue as best I can with a cheat meal every now and then. The plan is to save my special foodie events for those cheat days. 

Stay tuned. I'll update in the future.

Healthful Pursuit - has great podcasts and Youtube videos too
Siim Land - great info videos on Youtube
Dr. Jockers