When people are trying to diet or lose weight, they often ask me what I do, how I stay in shape, and what I think about the latest diet trends.
Over the past year, I have been asked about the Keto diet. Even though I have read quite a bit—and it’s hard not to with Instagram, FB, and Twitter spoon feeding this new diet trend to us in “fat is your friend” hashtags—I have never actually tried it. I don’t do “diets” because I don’t need to lose weight, and when I hear the word diet, I think restriction and self inflicted punishment. However, I do try to attain and promote a healthy lifestyle. The word lifestyle encompasses a combination of common sense, mindfulness, and whole body health.
However, you can’t knock it till you try it, and for the benefit of my readership and sheer curiosity, I thought I’d give it a go.
Before I stepped on to that Keto train, I spent some time reading and researching. Thanks to the internet, I was able to find an abundance of resources to help me on this “fat” journey. Does anyone see the irony in this? To lose fat we have to eat fat. But haven’t the dietitians or doctors or whoevers are in charge of the food pyramid been telling us to avoid fat?
Ketosis is defined as, “a normal metabolic process.” When the body does not have enough glucose for energy, it burns stored fats instead. This results in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body.
So the Ketogenic diet is founded on the idea that one can eat in such a way or in some cases not eat to produce this natural metabolic state. The key is to go low carb and high fat. Sounds easy right?
The first week I decided to restrict all carbs in the forms of grains and fruits. I held on to veggies and upped my healthy fat intake. To be clear, healthy fat is coconut oil, avocado oil, avocados, grass fed butter, cheese, and organic heavy whipping cream, along with nuts and seeds. I also forsake my glass of wine at night. There were too many differing opinions about whether you can partake in alcohol or not. Poo!
Result: I immediately lost 3 pounds in the first week. I learned carbs like to hold water. I can only assume those 3 pounds were water weight. I also noticed that any bloating I was feeling before the diet went away—another indication that water was the primary loss—a major bonus in my book, plus I felt less fatigue mid-afternoon.
The second week, after reading this article from Popular Science about how hard it is to achieve Ketosis, I went a little more hard-core. Just eating more healthy fat and eliminating carbs was not enough. I had to do some testing.
I bought some urine strips at Rite Aid and started testing my urine to see if I was actually in Ketosis. Guess what? Nope! I had only trace amounts in my urine. There are other ways to test, like the Breath Keto Meter and Blood Ketone meter, but the urine strips were cheap and easy.
I also started reading labels to count my carbs. I had to keep my net cards lower than 20g. Just to give you an idea of how many carbs can be consumed, there are 19g of carbs in a Starbuck’s double shot espresso latte. I had to keep making sure fat was the primary ingredient in all my foods. Each of my meals had to be 60-75% fat and only 15-30% protein. Is your head spinning yet?
Result: Urine strips say I have trace amounts of ketones. Total pounds lost: 5.
The third week: I felt I was getting the hang of it. I was having an easier time with foods because there was so much support online and I found plenty of recipes to try. My morning consisted of bulletproof coffee. I drank lots of water with electrolytes and I kept my net carbs under 20g. I felt trim and still not bloated. My sleep was great and I was under no fatigue. But, and this is a big but, I had to work hard to keep all this up and I missed eating fruit. It wasn’t just craving fruit, it was grabbing an apple or a banana on the go. I found it hard to find snacks other than cheese, avocados or nuts. I could go to my local health food store to get some Keto bars, but I am also on a food budget and a $3+ dollar Keto bar adds up. I looked forward to my cheat nights (because I love Dwayne Johnson and even Mr. Giant biceps gives himself a day off).
Result: Urine strips indicated moderate amounts. I felt like I hit the jackpot. Who knew a urine strip could make me so happy! If anything, I think this diet was testing my discipline.
Week Four: I was on the home stretch. I was pretty sure my kids thought I was a bit crazy as they watched me prepare separate meals each night. They enjoyed the creamy chicken and omelets, but our regular pizza, popcorn and a movie night gets tricky for mom. I found a Keto friendly chicken crust pizza dough recipe. Yes, the crust is made from chicken and cheese … I told you that you can find anything on the internet. So as the boys worked their flour carb-loaded dough, I threw chicken pieces into my Vitamix and pulverized them until they looked like something you would spoon-feed a baby.
Result: I was consistently between small to moderate amounts of ketones in my urine … until it just stops. None, zero, zilch.
What happened? I followed all the rules. Why did my levels go down? After more investigation, I found a little known thing called Keto Adaptation. It turns out my body is a burning fat machine….uh, I think?
According to an article in HMVM, “Once you are keto-adapted (or fat-adapted), you may get a negative test result on your urine ketone strips, even though blood ketone levels may indicate that you are in ketosis. Over time, urine testing is less accurate than blood testing.”
So, without pricking my finger, I had to assume that this is the state I achieved. Plus, I had come to the end of this experiment….
What have I learned? To start, it isn’t easy, and I am still not sure if my small to moderate amounts of Ketones were really enough to put me into a state of Ketosis. I found a lot of great and yummy recipes online. Eating more than my usual amounts of fat made me feel more satisfied after meals. It curbed cravings and increased my energy. I slept better and woke up easier. I usually get some kind of indigestion or bloating weekly, which hardly occurred the whole time I was on the diet.
The set backs were that I couldn’t eat on the run easily. I had to read more labels than I wanted. I had to make sure I prepared all of my meals, as eating out was difficult. I had to say “no” to a lot of options just because it didn’t fit in with the program. I spent a lot of time thinking about my meals and peeing on urine strips. This does not fit in with my lifestyle criteria. I prefer intermittent fasting, which is the not eating other side to this whole thing, as a more long term lifestyle solution.
In conclusion, I believe there are parts of the Keto diet that can be adapted to a person’s current regime. I like to think of the Keto diet as the new “cleanse”—something you do to get back on track, but not a long term eating solution. In the end, it’s about making healthy choices that you can follow and still enjoy life. Dieting shouldn’t make your miserable, it should make you feel good about what you are doing for your health.
Now, I am going to go eat a banana!
For those of you who want to try it, these are the sites that I found most helpful: