One Month of Keto: A Few Thoughts on Low-Carb, High-Fat Eating
I've been following the Paleo diet more or less for five years now--much more at first, and a little less over the past 6-12 months. Because I already know this post might turn into a long one, you can read all about that here if you want. So anyway, lately I've been experimenting with keto. Rob and I decided to give it a try at the beginning of the year, and we're both really liking it. I've gotten some questions and wanted to share my experience anyway, so here we go.
I guess we can start by asking, what is keto? Keto, or the ketogenic diet, is a low-carb, high-fat style of eating. You basically get your body into a state of ketosis, which means it runs on fat instead of glucose. It sounds ridiculous, and sometimes way too scientific, and maybe even kind of counterintuitive, but it boasts a bunch of great health benefits and is a super effective way to lose weight.
Before you start to panic about a petite human (me) trying lose weight (someone always does), I guess I feel the need to explain that over the past two years or so, I've gained about 25 pounds. I was stressed out and sad and overwhelmed--even when I didn't realize it--and a lot of that caused me to eat whatever made me feel good in the moment. Then I'd gain a couple more pounds, and then that would make me feel even more stressed out and sad and overwhelmed, so I'd continue to stuff my face. The next thing I know, I'm standing on the scale at a doctor's appointment thinking "you can't be serious" as the nurse tells me my weight.
I spent a lot of time in 2016 experimenting with my gluten and dairy sensitivities, eating a lot of sugar, and drinking local beers (Charlotte has so many of them) on a pretty regular basis. It was super fun but I was feeling physically terrible by the end of it--pretty much the way I had felt before I started Paleo in 2012. So I decided 2017 would be the year where enough was enough, and I promised my body that I'd start taking care of it again. Right now, that means losing some weight (and saying goodbye for good--again--to grains and sugar).
So, after a full month of keto eating, here are my thoughts:
- I had ridiculously vivid (and weird!) dreams for the first week. I would wake up in the middle of the night and still remember them clearly in the morning. This only lasted a few nights but man was it bizarre.
- Having never paid attention to macros before, I think a lot more about the nutritional value of my food now. If I'm going to eat carbs, I want it to be worth it--or I want to be sure I can balance it out the day before or after with less carbs. Do I need more fat? Maybe I can sneak an avocado into this meal or snack. Did I get enough vegetables today? I use MyFitnessPal to track my meals and make sure I'm getting what I need. Here's the Keto Calculator I used to figure out how many grams of fat, protein, and carbs I should be eating every day.
- I'm not using Ketostix or anything to measure my ketones--that's too hardcore for me. I stick to 25 net grams of carbs a day or less and feel fine about it. If I'm not "officially" in ketosis, I don't really care--I'm still enjoying the benefits of a high-fat/low-carb diet.
- I drink a ton of water now. And La Croix tastes like dessert.
- Speaking of dessert, now that I've strictly cut sugar from my diet, ripe raspberries taste like the most decadent, sugar-laden treat in the world. I'm serious. It's ridiculous how your sensitivity to sweetness can change based on your sugar intake.
- I've lost 7-8 pounds and am starting to physically feel like myself again.
- I don't find keto hard to stick to. I'm eating a lot more dairy than usual, which was weird at first, but it's not bothering me the way it used to. I don't drink straight milk, but I'll have some heavy cream in my coffee now and then, and I put cheese in my eggs a couple days a week.
- If I'm out for lunch or dinner I'll always get a Cobb Salad--it's kind of the perfect keto meal.
- Here and there I'll have a cheat meal--maybe it's nachos or Pad Thai or something sweet--but then I get right back to keto and don't 1. beat myself up over it or 2. fall down the slippery slope that I had become so familiar with. You might know it--when you eat something indulgent and then throw your diet out the window because why not? I don't do that anymore and it's great.
- I'm saving the most important (to me) point for last: I still really identify with Paleo, and eat that way minus the extra carbs you get from sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables. But my diet is still predominately eggs, meat, and veggies.
- Also I capitalize Paleo but not keto and I don't know why.
Because in my last update I talked a bit about barre, I'll do the same: I'm happy to report that I'm fully committed to barre 3-5 times a week and am loving it so much that I'm actually thinking about becoming a teacher. I started up again as soon as we moved to the Bay Area (literally the day after we got here), and it's been a really nice routine in my day-to-day life.
Before I end this lengthy post, I wanted to share what a normal day of keto eating looks like, because when I started I was super confused and a little intimidated. I think you'll be surprised by how normal it is.
- Coffee: Every day. Sometimes with a tablespoon of coconut oil or a splash of heavy cream. If I'm out, I'll order a breve cappuccino, which is basically espresso and about 4 ounces of steamed half & half. It's as amazing as it sounds.
- Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled or fried in a little bit of grass-fed butter, 1-2 slices of bacon or 1/2 of an avocado.
- Lunch: A salad--usually spinach or kale with tomatoes, carrots, always avocado, some chicken or turkey or bacon, and Ranch dressing or olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. If it's the weekend I'm having a 3x2 Protein Style from In-N-Out.
- Snack: Sliced veggies or hard-boiled eggs or bone broth or some Trader Joe's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites. Sometimes I'll just have half of an avocado with some salt, pepper, and lime juice.
- Dinner: Chicken or steak or some other protein with a side of veggies and maybe some more salad. And more avocado, always.
- Dessert: A handful of berries or half of one of these fat bombs.
So that's that! Please leave me a comment with any questions, I'll be happy to answer them below. And definitely speak to your doctor if you're thinking of trying keto but have concerns--Rob and I have read extensively about it (I've found the keto subreddit and this post especially helpful) and feel really comfortable with eating this way, but I understand how it could seem overwhelming. Thanks for reading!