Hi, guys! Today I’ll talk about my keto diet experience.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of articles in well-known online publications from people who have tried or are trying the Ketogenic diet. The problem is, some of these reviewers only tried this diet for a couple of weeks or shorter. I’ve even read one where the writer quit even before her keto flu subsided. This is disappointing as this lifestyle deserves a more in-depth look.
I’m loathe to call myself an expert but having been on the keto diet for several months now (for this latest run, at least), I want to share with you how I stumbled upon it, why I decided to take it on, what happened to my body while I was on it, and finally, why I’m still on the ketogenic diet.
Just a disclaimer that all of the below are not medical references. They are based purely from my experiences and observations.
Five Years Ago
The Ketogenic Diet has blown up this year. But before you think that I merely jumped on the bandwagon, let me tell you that I first started doing a form of keto waaaaay back in 2013. We didn’t call it a diet then. At the time, it was just a food challenge from my health guru.
2013 was a difficult year for me. That year, I got retrenched from a company and job I thoroughly loved. I had climbed up the corporate ladder but as a result, my body was a wreck. I was sad to part ways but the reality was that I was looking forward to my forced break from the world.
In perfect synchronicity, I was led to a person who would be a turning point in my life. After a month’s rest, I accepted my first consultancy job with a client who turned out to be a health guru. We became fast friends and told me that the first thing in order was a detox. This article isn’t about my health journey so I’ll skip on ahead to when she challenged me to a month of “no grain and no bread”.
At the time, she had got me off pharma and processed food too. So when the challenge was issued, I was quite incredulous. What? No bread and no pasta? No rice, even? When she said no bread, she also meant no flour. So what was left?
Vegetables, fruits, meats, and seafood.
When I think about it now, doesn’t it sound like a precursor to the ketogenic diet? I was also on ITF too, or intermittent fasting. The only difference I could recall was that I was allowed any fruit and vegetable.
It was a 30-day challenge and having a light load at home at the time, it wasn’t impossible to do. I finished the challenge successfully while on moderate exercise.
The result? I remember one particular moment vividly. I was running in the park on the last day of the challenge and I realized that my body had undergone a reset. My chronic pain from arthritis and whatnot was gone. The annoying skin problems I had had cleared up too. I felt very awake. The words “reset” seemed to reverberate in my skull. I was just that amazed.
The only down side to the whole thing, apart from the difficulty, was how fast I lost weight. When I get to a certain weight, I start feeling weak. (It’s a confusing toss-up because I feel even weaker when I gain extra weight.)
I tell ya, this is the only diet I’ve ever done where I can actually weigh myself everyday and see differences. I was losing weight so fast, it actually freaked me out.
Fast Forward to 2017
Building from that experience, I stayed on a “clean-eating” diet with moderate to high exercise. Sadly, the latter was stricken from me when I suddenly developed Plantar Fasciitis. I was in major pain and couldn’t walk. I was using my granny’s walker get around! How I got better is a story for another day but I’ll just say that it took close to two months to get back to almost normal.
Unfortunately, by that time, I had also gained a huge amount of weight as a result of no exercise and lost food control. Around 90% of my clothes didn’t fit me anymore!
One day, I just couldn’t take it anymore and decided to take matters into my hands. I had watched a YouTube video of a doctor with serious health problems who cured himself on a ketogenic diet. You can bet my partner called it all ‘hippy hogwash’ but hey, I didn’t have such severe problems. I just wanted to lose weight. And because I actually enjoyed doing experiments, I went on a Strict Keto diet.
And what a journey!
Challenges of Strict Keto
Here are the most difficult things I experienced on a Strict Ketogenic Diet. I will emphasize that these were things I experienced.
- No support group. I was the only person at home and in our circle of friends doing keto. Not only did I suffer from seeing friends and relatives eating food I wanted to eat, there were also raised eyebrows about my “extreme” dieting.
- Cravings. I love love love freshly-baked warm bread. And sweet fruits. And pasta.
- Preparation. You might not have noticed it but the most easily accessible food is made of carbs. To be able to eat keto, you need to be prepared for each day.
- Keto flu. Think of the time you had the worst case of the flu. That’s how I felt. I also suffered from keto breath and extreme thirstiness.
How I Survived Strict Keto
Here are the things that helped me cope.
- Immediate results. A week after the keto flu subsided, I already started losing weight and experiencing a boost in mental clarity.
- Changing my relationship with food. I stopped living to eat and started eating to live. This became my mantra. Instead of focusing my desires on food, I shifted my focus onto work instead. As a result, my meals became more “minimalist” and it was fine. Think Buddhist discipline, but applied to food.
- Avocados. A keto diet is a breeze with avocados around. It’s an easy matter of eating meat and fish and pairing it off with a yummy slice of avocado. You get full and you get your fat allotment for the day. I was lucky to start my keto diet when avocados were in season. When my supply petered out though, it became 1000x harder.
- Imagining my body burning ketones. Speaking of kicks, I got a kick of imagining my body burning ketones. When you eat carbs, you burn glucose for energy. When your body can’t get carbs and becomes fat-adapted, it uses up ketones for energy instead. I think that’s so cool.
- Strength of will. If you’re the type who gets insanely competitive, you have a good chance of surviving keto. In keto, you battle with yourself. For me, it was like a game where one false move resulted in failure. Because that’s how strict “strict keto” is and how easily you can get kicked out of it during the day.
“It is a very strict diet. You have to do everything right.” – Rudy Mawer, sports nutritionist
What Strict Keto Did For Me
Succeeding day by day on strict keto feels amazing. It’s like you’re on this amazing high where everything feels so much clearer and you feel 100% awake. Coupled with light exercise, you can watch your weight go down EVERY DAY and feel none of the usual drowsiness we associate with a work day.
Most of all, I once again experienced THE RESET. Do you know how we hit the reset button on our computer when it starts to display errors or gets laggy? It’s exactly the same. Whatever minor health issues I had disappeared. My seborrhic dermatitis – scaling on my eyebrows and face – disappeared (with big help from the Korean Face Care regime I had, I think). My body felt more alkaline even without my usual daily ACV. (In fact, I was able to take a rest from it for awhile.)
What it didn’t do is fix my arthritis and muscle pain. In fact, it worked against me when I ate too much protein and forgot to drink enough water.
I also got a heart scare. I am honestly not sure if it was triggered by stress or by the keto diet. I was not eating enough fats because I was forcing my body to burn fat from my fat stores. The problem was – as I realized when a friend pointed it out – that I was almost underweight by that time. The painful scare got me eating fatty fish, buttery keto bread, and drinking Virgin Coconut Oil.
I also didn’t like being kept away from healthy foods like fruits because they were sugary. My solution was to eat these foods in extreme moderation or to have the very rare cheat day with them.
It’s funny but I didn’t do cheat days with cake or ice cream. Nope, my body can no longer take extreme processed food. I cheated with healthy food that a ketogenic diet would normally not allow like starchy vegetables or sugary fruits.
Lastly, I want to reiterate that the keto diet forces you to turn away from processed food in the process. You might not have noticed it but while it may have banned your favorite meals, it also has been keeping you from unhealthy food choices like fast food takeouts, icecream and cake, and chips and soda.
Some experts say that the keto diet is not meant to be done for the long haul. That it is meant for short periods of time only and for a particular reason (for example, for epilepsy patients, etc.). Surprise, surprise, this keto enthusiast agrees, but for very specific reasons.
When I think of going back to normal people’s diets of carbs and processed food, my body recoils. Don’t get me wrong. I love the taste, but my body and the side effects hate me after. So, sometimes I think I can’t get off the keto diet.
And then thoughts circle back to how difficult it is. In the end, I think it boils down to this: If you can get high quality fats and grass-fed organic meats, you stand a chance of going forever with keto (assuming that you’re an expert in managing your health and your macros). However, if you’re just a beginner who’s just removing your bun from your fast food burger, I’m inclined to give it a nay.
Summing up, listen to your body. No two bodies are alike. Find out what your body likes and what works for you. In my case, after keto, I might simply go Mediterranean.
At the moment though, I’m still holding out for keto and will continue on indefinitely for now. Cheers!