Its a bit long, but here is my answer to the questions about the keto diet.
A ketogenic diet is one that is very low in carbohydrate forcing the body to burn stored fat. You would think that any diet that reduced calories would do that, but it is rather more complex than that, and in reality normal calorie restriction tends to result in lowered metabolism(and permanent lowered metabolism at that), rather than burnt fat.
There are 255 Facebook groups about ‘keto’ diets and each one has a slightly different take on the system. Some are lovely (I’ll list my favourites below) and some moderators are plain nasty, and advocating some seriously dodgy stuff.
MY keto diet consists of minimal carbohydrates – I aim at below 20 grams, and usually end up between 15 and 30 on the days I am counting. To get that low and still eat at least some vegetables that means cutting out all added sugars, all grains, all starchy veg including things like carrots, all fruit except for a few occasional berries. Other things that need to be limited are liquid milk, nuts and seeds and a few other more unusual things. I have been doing a LOT of label reading, but fortunately nowadays most things have nutrient values, and if that fails the net will give the answers.
I eat the normal recommended level of protein (unlike the original Atkins diet which pushed huge amounts of protein). Normal recommended is between .6 and .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For me that works out at 80-110 grams of protein. And egg contains 6 grams of protein and a 4oz steak about 25 grams.
Finally I eat more or less unlimited fat. I don’t eat ‘fat bombs’ (a lump of fat coated in something to make it edible) or drink bulletproof coffee (black coffee with added butter or fats). I do put butter on my low carb vegetables, and thicken sauces with cream. Fat is brilliant at suppressing appetite. It is the precursor of all our hormones. It is NOT bad for you and will not cause heart disease.
Also most keto-ers seem to eat confections with artificial sweeteners and will tell you how it is harmless, I can’t personally see how something quite so synthetic and known to raise insulin levels can be harmless! So I avoid them. No keto cheesecake for me!
How did I get here? Well there are two reasons. The first is that after I dealt with my candida, which was causing sugar and carb cravings, I could. I used to have a killer sugar habit and realised that although I wasn’t diabetic, I was doing myself no good at all. Once I could say no to sugar I did, and then gradually I reduced other carb containing foods. Along the way my research took me to low carb and then keto diet groups.
The second thing is that a year ago a girl posted on, I think, an adrenal fatigue group on facebook. She had before and after pictures, about 2 or 3 stones different. And she said she owed her transformation to among other things a ketogenic diet. She also mentioned the curly girl method, and I started that the next day. It took another 9 months to go keto.
I was undoubtedly motivated to lose weight. But also this girl, Rina, claimed her health was transformed. She is half my age, but I wanted to be like her!!
What have been the benefits? Well to start with there is the weight loss. All 10 kilos of it in 3 months. That is down two (probably 1.5 really) dress sizes, and BMI down from 28 to 25. I need to go clothes shopping, but am reluctant because I may lose more! I’d tried dieting ever since a two month withdrawal of my thyroid meds caused an 8 kilo weight gain, but nothing worked despite the fact I am optimally medicated, and my nutrients are good.
Then there are all the other things. No more headaches or migraines. Not one. I did some reading and it seems that about 90% of migraine sufferers are helped by the ketogenic diet. Why did no-one tell me?
Digestion. No more heartburn, gastritis, IBS, burping or farting and best of all NO MORE CONSTIPATION! I have been constipated all my adult life!
Sleep. I sleep like a log, if I wake to go to the loo I get straight back to sleep. I no longer have night panics.
Anxiety. Its gone. When a crisis happens I deal with it, and then I get on with stuff. It doesn’t cause sleeplessness that night, or repetitive thoughts, it’s just sorted.
Depression. I’m not depressed! No SAD this year. No negative thoughts, no hopelessness. Even when not depressed I have tended to be rather negative. Not this year!
Has this been an easy change? well, yes, and no. It takes a huge shift in perception to a)not be afraid to eat fat and b) just work out what to eat. I was pretty food obsessed for the first couple of months. But one learns, and it turns out that eating out is not that difficult either.
BUT I haven’t been hungry, in fact my appetite has waned. And the psychological changes have made it much easier to stick to the rules.
here are lots of ‘forbidden’ foods. When I started I thought I would just be doing the diet until I hit my target weight. I promised myself that I could, if not go back to my old ways, at least eat normally in company, and have the occasional treat. But when I did that at Christmas I found that a) the food didn’t taste that delicious after all and b)I felt rough, and it really did not seem worth it. So I doubt that I will return to my old ways, although I might eventually eat the odd carrot.
What is certain is that if you use the diet to reduce your weight, and then go back to your old ways, you will also go back to your old weight. It’s a choice. But at least it does work as a diet.
Right, some reading for you.
Jason Fung, my hero. He has written a book ‘The Obesity Code’ about how we get fat. Based on robust science and written with true humility and concern for his patients. He also has a blog intensivedietarymanagement.com. It has the same content as the book, but isn’t as well organised. He is also an advocate of fasting, but I haven’t felt the need.
Gary Taubs – several books on the evils of sugar and big food.
A good, but not free forever website is Dietdoctor.com
Ketogenic diet open discussion
Keto 2nd breakfast
Keto friendly UK
All have pinned posts which include quick start guides.
Top advice from my experience?
Don’t jump straight in. If you drop your carbs from the typical high carb low fat diet you may give your system a bit of a shock and give you ‘keto flu’ transient flu like symptoms that can be quite unpleasant. Instead plan a gentle transition over 2-3 weeks, cutting out a few foods at a time.
And don’t expect to get it 100% right straight away. It’s a big change and it takes time!