Four months ago, my husband Paul and I decided to try to follow the Keto Diet. We had heard about it from so many (including Brian Johnson from the Optimize Podcast) and we were intrigued. Both of us have struggled with following a nutrition plan that works for us for varying reasons. He struggles with gut and digestive issues that are triggered by many foods and food combinations. I struggle with over-eating, emotional eating and diet mentality (ranging from deprivation to binging).
Keto seemed appealing because we were allowed to eat many foods we had previously resisted (such as cheese!) and it claimed to be a nutrition plan that kept you feeling full and satisfied longer. I had followed low-carb plans of all sorts for over 20 years (Atkins, South Beach Diet, etc.) and didn’t worry about the lack of carbohydrates in the Keto diet. The biggest change for me was having to eliminate most fruits and some vegetables (such as carrots), but I wasn’t deterred.
We wanted to do it the right way so we did our homework. Keto is not an excuse to eat McDonald’s! I think Keto gets a bad rap due to uneducated people justifying highly processed, but low-carb foods and saying they are Keto friendly. Paul spent a good amount of time reading The Art & Science of Low Carbohydrate Living and I read websites, blogs, talked to friends who had followed it, etc.
We were prepared for the Keto-flu (which we never experienced) and we tracked our food diligently to stay within our macros (we use My Fitness Pal). We also made sure we had recent blood work done with our cholesterol numbers accurate before we started and that we would try it for 3 months and then get our lipid panels re-checked.
It took a bit of adjusting to what kinds of meals we could make and also what we enjoyed. We were also aware that we did not want our kids to follow Keto* so we had to consider that when planning dinners. We were ready to take on the challenge and see how it made our bodies feel.
Here are our findings (up to this point):
- We started eating WAY cleaner! Because we were tracking our macros and paying much more attention to what we were eating, we started really looking at packaging and what goes into the foods we nourish our bodies with.
- We started buying more organic produce and meats. We realized that there IS a difference when it comes to certain vegetables and meats and we want to honor our bodies in that way. One example is switching to only pasture-raised eggs, hormone-free chicken and grass-fed beef.
- We could do intermittent fasting more easily due to the longevity of nourishment from following a high-fat diet. This was especially beneficial for me to help with emotional eating/over-eating. If I can only eat during a shorter window in the day I am less likely to snack and mindlessly eat.
- Our bodies felt great! Keto is an anti-inflammatory diet and a lot of our aches and pains from inflammation went away. Paul also found that many of his stomach/intestinal ailments went away. Our energy increased and we found ourselves sleeping better.
- Paul lost about 10-15 pounds of fat. I stayed pretty much the same, but felt leaner and I could see more muscle definition.
- We still struggle with wanting sugar or processed carbs and feeling a bit deprived. To date, we haven’t really worked in a “carb day”, although that is recommended for people following Keto long term.
- When we got our cholesterol re-checked after 3 months it increased. For Paul, his numbers went up a bit more than we would have liked. My cholesterol was very low to start with and only increased slightly.
The cholesterol was a big concern. Because heart health is so important and we both want to live forever (LOL), we didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize our overall wellness. After being in shock for a couple of days about the increased cholesterol, we took a short break from Keto and decided to try to follow a “balanced nutrition” plan. Unfortunately, that didn’t go so well. We found ourselves constantly hungry, lacking energy, experiencing intestinal discomfort and increased sugar cravings. (NOTE: even though we went back to a non-keto nutrition plan we were still eating very healthy with little to no processed foods, etc. )
So now what? We decided to go back on Keto, but modify it to make sure our heart-health is our top priority. We are limiting the amount of red meat consumption. We are also using olive oil whenever possible versus butter. Butter is amazing, but certainly higher in saturated fats. We had also been making snacks called Keto Fat Bombs that used cocoa butter. While they are a tasty, high-fat snack, the cocoa butter is probably more than we need to be consuming. We also reduced our consumption of bacon (remember: a Ketogenic diet is not an OK to eat all the bacon you like!).
We will continue to check-in and share our Keto journey with you so that you have some insight into how it works for us. We are not doctors, dietitians, nutritionists and we don’t make any claims that any particular nutrition plan is the answer for everyone. We believe strongly in doing your research and homework when following any plan and also checking in with your body and lifestyle to see what will work for you.
Feel free to ask us any questions or leave any comments.
NOTE: we know that this can be a very emotional topic for some people, please be courteous of others in the comments, Thank you!
*We felt that they should continue to eat a balanced nutrition plan since they are still developing and growing. While we are OK experimenting on ourselves in a safe and controlled way we don’t like to experiment on our kids.