Article by Wendy McCance
*Note: I am not a doctor and in this article I am only describing my own personal experience with the Keto diet. If you are interested in trying this diet, please check with your doctor before beginning this plan as different diets can affect people in unique ways based on health problems, allergies, pregnancy and medications being prescribed.
I’ve heard about the Ketogenic diet (Keto diet) for a while now. It was first brought to my attention because it is supposed to be a healthy diet for people who have cancer. The idea being that cancer feeds off of sugar and when you eliminate sugar and carbs (which turn into sugar) you essentially starve cancer and stop it in its tracks.
What I then learned as I read more about the diet is that it was originally created for the Navy Seals (click the link to hear why). It was then found to work very well for epilepsy patients who after being on the diet either had fewer seizures or were able to stop using their medication all together (once again, you must talk with your doctor before attempting to use this diet to control seizures). This diet is also (supposedly) a good diet to use if you have diabetes, gluten issues, other allergies and is good for those who have low immune systems.
I was looking for a lifestyle change. I don’t believe in diets, but I do believe in a lifestyle where you eat differently. I knew going in, that if I wanted to make this work, I needed the mindset that I would be making changes that I would stick with for a lifetime.
The reason I began looking into this diet was because I was unhappy with how I was looking and feeling. At 48 years old, I really felt my age and I didn’t like it. I have autoimmune problems (hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia) and so I get sore, feel fatigued, get constipated, bloated and sluggish. Recently I have been gaining weight that made me look like I was pregnant. You know it’s time to consider some lifestyle changes when you look for clothes that will hide the way your body looks instead of flattering it.
Because of my health problems, I get tired and sore after very little exercise. The way I stay active is by walking, biking and swimming. Since I live in a cold climate and these are activities geared toward a warmer climate, winters are brutal on my body. Sure I can use a treadmill, but I don’t have the same ambition as when I can walk outside on a beautiful sunny day.
Growing up I was thin, really, way to thin. At 5’6, I was 115 lbs. all through high school. In my 20’s, I averaged 123 lbs. and in my 30’s I hovered around 130 lbs. then, my 40’s hit and it was like my system ran out of power to burn calories. I was so used to eating anything I wanted without gaining much weight and now I began packing on the pounds.
Now, I know I sound ridiculous to some. It sounds like an average weight for many. But, I’ve always been smaller and so the additional weight felt uncomfortable. At 48, I got to an all time high of 151 lbs. I officially weighted 1 lb. more than when I was pregnant with my first child. What was worse was that I had been watching the scale creep up and no matter what I did, I continued to gain more weight. Each month I was adding a pound or two and I felt like I couldn’t make the scale stop increasing each time I stepped on it.
So, with the additional incentive that the Keto diet would not only help me maintain a healthy weight, but could also possibly starve my cancer, I decided to try it out.
The short version is that I love the Keto diet and could see maintaining it for a lifetime. As I researched the plan, I realized it is similar to the first two phases of the Atkins diet. It also has similarities to a Paleo diet. So, this is nothing new, it’s just a little different than some of the other plans out there.
I did compare other diet plans to see what would be the best fit for me. I also decided not to go as hard-core as the Keto diet can be because I wanted to be able to maintain this as a lifetime lifestyle and counting every carb and gram of sugar is not of interest to me. It would honestly stress me out.
What is interesting about the Keto diet is that carbs and sugar are counted in everything. That means fruit has carbs and sugar and must be counted (for instance). Your carbohydrate limit is 20 carbs per day. When you see how many carbs can be in fruit and vegetables, dairy and meat, it seems overwhelming and even a little impossible that you could figure out how to stay under a 20 gram limit.
The reason to keep carbohydrates low is so your body will go into ketosis once it hits 20 grams of carbohydrates or less. This means that instead of the body burning carbohydrates (because there aren’t enough to burn) it burns fat instead. This will help you to lose weight, feel full quicker and maintain muscle. Learn about ketosis here. Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page for all of the information.
In my 20’s I was a horrible eater. I was always on the go and hated cooking. I ate a lot of processed foods and drank a lot of soda. At 27 I was pregnant with my first child and began changing the foods I ate. I was eating for two now and needed to eat better. Having kids to cook for and thinking about what they should be eating is what made my own eating habits permanently evolve.
As I have gotten older, I have continued to work on improving my diet. Soda has been gone since the end of my 20’s. Processed, salty and greasy foods were nearly gone too. I got stuck on sugar and carbs. Especially carbs. I love bread and pasta is my favorite dish.
So here I was about to embark on a new eating plan where I wouldn’t eat pasta or bread again? I decided to make rules I could live with and maintain for a lifetime.
Here are the rules I live by:
- I don’t count carbs.
- I do however look at how many grams of carbs and sugar are present in any item I eat that has a label. If there is more than a few grams of sugar or carbs, I don’t eat it.
- I don’t create fake meals of meals I once loved. I’m afraid if I make the fake version of brownies (with the stevia or the fake pizza with the cauliflower crust) I will miss the real food even more and break my diet.
- I have always been more of a snacker than someone who eats big meals. I graze throughout the day, so it is important for me to have a huge list of go to snacks.
- I won’t beat myself up if I have a cheat item or two every now and then. I went out with friends the other day and had 1 beer and a plate of fried pickles I split with my husband (the fried part of the pickle and the beer isn’t allowed on the diet). I also went out to dinner with my husband recently and had a glass of wine and we shared some dessert.
I noticed that the longer I am on this plan, the more my body dislikes carbs and when I say carbs, I mean pasta, bread, potatoes and rice type carbs. These are the carbs I have taken completely out of my diet unless I have a cheat moment. The carbs make me feel awful like I have the stomach flu. It influences me to stick with the plan even more.
In making the changes to a (mostly) Keto diet, I learned a lot about myself.
Here’s what I’ve learned and what about my body has changed:
- Eating carbs and sugar and then eliminating it gives you what is known as the Keto Flu. I got headaches, nausea, I wanted to sleep all the time, I had brain fog and my bathroom habits were all over the place. It felt the same way as when I stopped smoking a few years back.
- It’s scary to think that getting rid of carbs and sugar could have such an effect on your body. My body was addicted to this junk and fought hard when I wanted to cut it out of my diet. It just further confirmed to me that these foods weren’t good for my body.
- I’m not 100% on the traditional Keto diet only becuase I don’t count the carbs in non-gluten items. At the same time, I have experienced either ketosis or something similar to it.
- It really is a terrific way to lose weight. I started out at 151 lbs and a week later was already at 146 lbs. The numbers are still decreasing and I am excited to get to my goal weight of 130 lbs.
- Socializing, holidays, parties, favorite restaurants, there will aways be excuses to cheat. At the same time, any person would be miserable if they couldn’t enjoy some good food with some good company. I will always accept a glass of wine, but I won’t have several glasses. I will also have one cheat food if I really, really want it.
- Yesterday I had some tea with almond milk (no sugar), a little later I had a bottle of vitamin water. I didn’t feel like eating until the afternoon. When I did eat it was 2 eggs I made into deviled eggs (4 halves) and 3 figs. I felt stuffed (which even as I write this sounds insane). I didn’t want to eat again until dinner.
- You get full very easily and feel satisfied. I don’t have the intense sweet cravings I used to get or mindlessly snack like I once did. My stomach feels lighter. It used to feel heavy all the time almost like when you are done eating Thanksgiving dinner, but at the time, I didn’t notice.
- The bloating is completely gone and I can wear form-fitting clothes again.
- Overall, I feel terrific and am happy I made the changes. I feel like it is a healthier way of eating for me and I think I can definitely manage this way of eating for a lifetime.
I love snacks and in the beginning of this diet, stressed about what to eat when I was hungry. I knew if I didn’t have some ready to eat items, I would fall off the wagon.
Here is what I have available at all times:
- Fruits and veggies for smoothies. Smoothies don’t have to be complicated. Here are 11 easy 3 ingredient smoothie recipes.
- Celery and almond butter.
- Cottage cheeses and berries.
- Cashews, pistachios and cocoa dusted almonds.
- Dips (ranch, buffalo, hummus, guacomole) for veggies (red and green peppers, carrots).
- Artichokes and butter for dipping.
- Cheese (string cheese, swiss, cheddar) or soft cheese (boursin, brie, ricotta, cream cheese) that you can dip fruit like strawberries of veggies in).
- Dark chocolate 90% cocoa.
- Beef jerky.
- Turkey rolled up with cheese or a pickle inside.
- Baked apple
- Homemade applesauce
- Fried cheese
- Sunflower seeds
- Pork rinds
- Yogurt (watch the sugar content)
- Almond butter and banana
- Strawberries and heavy whipping cream
- Deviled eggs
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Figs wrapped in bacon
- Roasted chickpeas
- Chicken Salad
- Fattoush also known as peasant salad
- Bananas or strawberries dipped in dark chocolate 90% cocoa
In addition, here are some more of the delicious food you get to eat:
Chili dog minus the bun
Chicken or beef kabobs
Hamburgers minus the bun
Fajitas (and you can get very low carb tortillas to use)
Bacon and eggs
Just think, the weather is getting warmer and a Keto diet is the perfect eating plan for grilling and picnics!!!
If you have ever tried the Keto diet, are thinking about the diet, know someone on the diet or are on it right now, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.
Read my 3 week update of how I’m doing on the Keto Diet at: http://www.searchingforthehappiness.com/ketogenic-diet-week-3/
More info on the Ketogenic Diet:
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]