It’s been over a year since the hubs and I changed our lifestyles to attain and maintain ketosis. I say that because “keto” isn’t just a diet. It’s a complete change in the way that you consume and process energy. Over the past year, I’ve had a lot of friends and acquaintances that have noticed some of the apparent advantages of the lifestyle change (weight loss, better skin, better hair, etc.,) and have asked “how do I do this keto thing?”. There is a lot of information out there, but it’s mostly confusing. In hopes of helping those of you that might be considering trying keto, I’m going to start a little sticky post to share what has worked for me!
This is the hub’s favorite part of the conversation. He’s always quick to say “humans have been around for 600 thousand years and they ate ‘keto’ for the first 500 thousand”. We watched the Netflix show “The Magic Pill” and it really nailed that point home (highly recommend, BTW). In a very short time, humans have completely changed their diets. Commercial agriculture produces carbohydrate-rich foods at unbelievable rates. When you combine that with the marketing campaigns that assert that things that are good for you are “low fat”/”reduced fat”/”non-fat”, it’s no surprise that we tend to err on the side of a very high carbohydrate diet. It’s also not a surprise that we see a steep increase in diet-based diseases like adult-onset diabetes, obesity, and grain allergies. If you’re considering keto, our personal experience is that we’ve lost a significant amount of body weight without sacrificing muscle mass, our skin and hair is significantly improved, we sleep better, have more energy, and there have been a host of health advantages above and beyond. The CRAZIEST ones have been for my husband (sorry babe…).
Right before we started this change in eating habits, he went to the doctor for a physical. He’d had a swollen lymph node on the back of his neck since high school and the doctor said that it was calcified and would just be there for the rest of his life, NBD. Within 6 weeks of eating a low-carb diet, it was gone! Totally gone!!! After over 20 years, it just shrunk back down and was no longer visible! Apparently there are some healing advantages when the body is in ketosis and this one a really apparent one. Another example (sorry again, husband) was his skin. About 4 months into keto, my husband started to notice that rocks and grit and sand were being pushed out of two specific places on his back. Turns out, that’s where the ceramic plates from his body armor would have ridden when he was in the Army. Over time, the pressure of the plates on his back must have ground grit and dirt into his pores. The increased healing side-effect of ketosis had to have helped purge his pores of all of that junk. CRAZY!!!!! Alright, enough embarrassing the hubs. I’ll add more stories over time (like our friend that no longer has to take medicine for diabetes!!!!!!).
Anyway, “why keto?”… speaking just from our experience (and certainly not as a medical professional), it’s been really great for us for a lot reasons. If you are going to give it a shot, you should probably chat up your doc first, just to be safe. 😉
How Does Keto Work?
Ketosis is pretty much putting your body in starvation mode. Depriving yourself of foods that are easy to convert into energy (starch, sugar, carbs, etc.,) forces your body to start looking for other energy sources. In this case, that energy source is fat (or ketones). A keto diet is a diet in which the bulk of your calories come from naturally fatty foods. Like what, you say?!?! Like BACON and BUTTER and AVOCADO and CHEESE and EGGS and 80/20 GROUND BEEF and RIBEYE STEAKS. That’s right, people, cram that goodness in because those are excellent keto-friendly foods. What do you sacrifice? This is where it gets tough: bread (pizza crust, bagels), sugar (candy, desserts, sweet drinks), root vegetables (carrots, potatoes), rice, and anything else with tons of carbs is OFF LIMITS. It’s a gut check, and if you can’t avoid those types of foods, you’re going to be in trouble. If you can stomach completely eliminating those foods from your life, then you have a shot at livin’ la vida low-carb!
We started out using an app called “Carb Manager”. It let’s you input your meals on a per-ingredient basis to see how your intake of carbs, protein, and fat lines up against your dietary goals. Right away, we struggled to get enough fat and to dial back our protein intake. That’s the big difference between keto and Atkins; you have a limit to the amount of protein that you can eat (the hubs ((again, OMG)) found out the hard way during All You Can Eat Rib Night at The Buckhorn ….. we’ll come back to that). My biggest struggle was with menus. We were so comfortable and reliant on carb-heavy dishes that it was tough to come up with a completely new menu at home. My advice; keep it simple, people. Breakfast: bullet coffee (I’ll explain) or bacon and eggs with 1/2 of an avocado. Lunch: you’re probably not going to be hungry, but maybe some salami and cheese and some cucumber with ranch dressing. Dinner: taco salad with all the fixings made with 80/20 ground beef and topped with ranch dressing. About three weeks in, I was about to throw in the towel. Today, we have recipes for things like cauliflower-based bacon fried rice and “fathead dough” for amazing pizzas, bagels and “90-second bread” for SANDWICHES!! It’s totally attainable, and we’ve found keto-friendly recipes for pretty much everything that we were missing, including cheesecake.
Early on, it’s hard to tell if you’re doing things right. Carb Manager helps, but we had a couple other little tricks that helped us feel on track. We used little pee strips that helped us understand how much fat we were consuming. When you’re first getting started, your body still isn’t processing those ketones so they get passed through. This only really works early on because eventually you start burning those bad dudes for energy. We also bought a cheap breathalyzer from Amazon. Once you start burning ketones, your body produces acetone as a byproduct which is released from your body through your lungs. If you’ve ever heard of “keto breath”, this is where that comes from. With a cheap (law-enforcement grade devices aren’t fooled) breathalyzer, you’ll find yourself blowing a consistent .02 -.04 when you are in ketosis. At one point, I blew a .12!!!! It’s a handy way to know that you’re on track.
Finally, when you are starting out (and just in general peeps) DRINK A TON OF WATER. If you don’t YOU WILL GET SICK. It’s called the keto flu. You should be drinking around half of your body weight (in pounds) of water (in ounces) every day. A high-salt diet (particularly Himalayan pink salt) is also a MUST for the beginning. Seriously, don’t miss this part.
Alright, so that’s a lot of info. I’m going to stop, for now. If this is helpful LET ME KNOW!! Better yet, please SHARE!!
What’s next? Help me decide! I think I might consider putting together:
-A couple of “getting started” weekly meal plans
-Our experiences coming out of keto (ugh)
-A top 10 list of our favorite carb replacements (fathead dough)
-My favorite keto cocktails (oh yeah, you can still have a bev)
Please let me know if you have any questions and, as always, I appreciate any and all feedback!!
I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday!!