When I first learned about keto, horror stories about hair falling out and loss of appetite scared me from ever wanting to try it. I learned about people feeling awful on it and women suffering hormonal issues.
Then I learned about doing keto the right way. You see, keto is kind of magical because if done correctly, it can have amazing results, and not just with weight loss (which is what it is most popular for these days). I’ve done keto four times and was truly in ketosis one of those four times. It’s not an easy diet to follow, but boy when you do it right – watch out world!
The history of keto
Many people call keto a fad diet. However, it has actually been around since the 1920s as a therapeutic diet for people with seizures and children with epilepsy. In fact, we could take it waaaay back to the Paleolithic era when our primal ancestors naturally went in and out of ketosis during times when food was scarce. Their bodies naturally flexed between thriving off of stored fat for fuel and carbohydrates and protein when it was available.
Today, our diet is so heavily dependent on carbohydrates (think pastas, breads, rice, oatmeal, cookies and sweets) that we are no longer primed to oscillate back and forth between fat burning (keto) and carb burning.
What is ketosis?
The magic of the keto diet is when our body can switch its fuel source from burning carbs for fuel to burning fats for fuel. Why would we want to burn fats? Fats are a cleaner burning fuel source, meaning that less free radicals are produced as a result. Fats can also make us feel fuller for longer, giving us access to a long-sustaining fuel source. Burning fats also provides a great source of fuel for the brain and heart, which are two organs with a lot of fatty tissue. Ketosis is when we are in that state of fat burning. And it does feel good!
How does one achieve ketosis?
There are a few ways to achieve ketosis – you can fast and that will likely put you into ketosis, or you can follow the ketogenic diet, consuming high fat, low carb and moderate protein. There are targeted supplements that can also carry you into ketosis faster, but I recommend a gradual shift by slowly lowering carb intake so as not to shock the body.
One can get real nitty gritty about the exact amounts of protein, carbs and fat to consume, and what I’ve often found when working with people going keto is that people usually overdo the protein and/or the fat. Too much protein can kick you out of ketosis and too much fat can be unnecessary. I’ve also found that some people tend to fear carbs and won’t eat enough vegetables. That can be a big no-no! Hitting the right amounts of macros is important for keto, but other factors come into play as well – such as the amount and kind of exercise you do, and how you manage stress (Surprise! Stress can kick you out of keto!). Honing in on this as a lifestyle is really important.
Why would someone go keto?
The keto diet has become very popular for weight loss simply because it works (if done correctly and safely!). The body taps into it’s stored fat to burn off for fuel, but you’re also eliminating sugar, high carb foods, and processed foods. Please don’t be fooled by all of the nifty keto ice creams, cookies and snacks out there. In my opinion, the best way to keto is through a whole foods diet, aka vegetables, quality proteins, and healthy fats. (Plus, keto cookies taste really weird and can be very expensive).
There are other benefits of going keto – being in ketosis can support brain health, cardiovascular health, longevity, blood sugar regulation, and even protect against cancer. If done correctly, it can even support women’s hormonal health, especially women with PCOS who suffer from metabolic syndrome.
What did I experience in ketosis?
Like I said, ketosis is hard to achieve. For one, it can feel like a restrictive diet and it’s so easy to do it incorrectly. You do get all the high-fiber veggies you want but have to be very calculated about carbs coming from fruits and processed foods. Some will say you can eat cake on the keto diet, and while technically you could, that’s quite nuanced. You can, if you don’t have blood sugar issues (sharp increase in blood sugar can kick you out of ketosis) and if you don’t eat anything else all day (nah, not for me).
I experienced several great things while on ketosis, and a few not so great things.
The great things:
- Increased energy – I felt like I could take on the world! It was a great high.
- Increased ability to fast – I didn’t have to eat 3 meals a day. While I wouldn’t recommend this long term since we need access to a variety of nutrients, it can be beneficial to fast once in a while.
- Less painful menstruation – the month I was in ketosis, my period was a piece of cake (minus being able to eat the said cake). Usually I need to use a heating pad at least. This time, I barely noticed my period.
- Clearer thinking – I felt I could think more clearly and had better recall.
- Blood sugar regulation – I am prone to low blood sugar and need to eat three meals a day with at least one snack. However, not only did I feel comfortable skipping a meal while on keto, I didn’t experience blood sugar dips. It was freeing in a way!
The not so great things:
- Constipation – it was a struggle getting enough fiber.
- Intense cravings for chocolate – while other cravings went away, I did crave chocolate like nobody’s business. It wasn’t a physical craving (one induced by low blood sugar) but a mental one (I wanted what I couldn’t have).
- Decreased appetite – even for a while after resuming normal eating, food was not appetizing to me for a while. And normally I’m a huge foodie, so I sort of lost a bit of my joy for a while.
I did keto four times and only achieved ketosis once. It is not easy, and if you don’t have the best relationship with food, it can be even harder to do. By the fourth time I did it, I knew it wasn’t sustainable for me so I stopped forcing it. Maybe I’ll try it again in the future, but for now, I like my chocolate too much!
Would I recommend keto? That’s a loaded question. I loved keto for the energy it gave me, but it also felt very unsustainable for me. I’m all for people doing keto and love to talk high fat recipes and keto experiences. I also recommend that people only do keto with the support and guidance of a healthcare practitioner who is well versed in the ketogenic diet. Well versed means they know how to educate on the right foods, targeted supplements, and signs that keto might be causing more harm than good (ex. digestive issues, adrenal issues, sleep issues, hormonal disruptions, etc). I can’t stress enough that if keto is done incorrectly, it can result in some pretty unpleasant and even devastating side effects, such as hair loss, nutrient depletion, thyroid issues, and more. But if done correctly and carefully, it can be extremely rewarding!
Interested in keto? Reach out to me! I’d love to hear your experience or thoughts on it and would be happy to support you on your keto journey!