That is a 'dirty word' and one I choose to remove from my vocabulary after years of disordered relationships with food and my body.
My journey with 'keto' is 100% rooted in an overall health and well-being perspective. I have never FELT better in my life. And this is the most important aspect of a nutrition philosophy for ME.
What is Keto?
Ketosis or 'Keto' is a normal (and perfectly healthy) metabolic state where your body uses fats from your cells to burn energy in the absence of carbohydrates. NOT to be confused with 'ketoacidosis' - a dangerous state that typically occurs within type 1 diabetics that do not produce insulin. Read more on the distinctive differences between the two from Dr. Anthony Gustin here.
Keto-eating comprises of mostly healthy fats, very little carbohydrates and moderate protein. Fats, contrary to the fear tactics dating back to the 1980's, have a MULTITUDE of health benefits from a better cholesterol ratio to better brain function to improved digestion and even weight loss.
The metabolic state of ketosis and a ketogenic diet have been shown to be beneficial for:
Type II Diabetes
Epilepsy and other Neurological Disorders
People seeking more energy, vitality, better digestion, better sleep and overall better health
Weigh loss or maintenance
As a bit of background, as a holistic-focused nutritionist, I have been focused on eating 'whole foods' found in nature and avoiding processed foods of all types. I don't regularly consume grains, gluten, sugar, anything in a box, and most dairy (with the exception of organic half and half and some aged grassfed cheese). This is by CHOICE because of my knowledge of foods affects on the body and health.
This is also by choice because of how these foods make me FEEL. Which should be THE reason behind your nutritional choices.
My Nutritional Journey
I was overweight most of my life until my mid-20's when I decided to get healthy. I began by changing the way I was eating with 'healthier substitutions.' My passion for nutrition developed from here and I began studying, researching and obtaining my certifications in fitness and nutrition. But back then, I was still eating masked 'health foods' that were nothing more than processed foods in a health-food-marketed wrapper. I suffered from digestive issues, fatigue, skin issues, hormonal imbalances, and more.
A few years later when I decided to get involved in fitness competitions. I thought I was eating 'clean' and healthy consuming my oats, canned tuna, brown rice, commercially raised meats, crummy-sourced egg-whites and frozen veggies. This was the era that my poor body image and disordered relationship with food really came to fruition and the excruciating low calories and over-exercise (2+ hours cardio a day) were taking hold of my body. On top of those two 'aggressors', I wasn't eating foods that would support my immune system or my hormonal function.
And I was sick. Very sick.
Constant digestive distress
Poor Immune health (I was sick constantly)
No menses for 5 years followed by extremely debilitating cycles once it came back
Insomnia (which increased my cortisol and affected my adrenals and thyroid)
As I sought out emotional/mental healing via therapy and other avenues for my disordered relationship with food and body image, I also sought out healing foods that would support my body in it's journey to getting healthy again. The more I researched and absorbed the more I realized that some of the very things I thought (and preached) were healthy, were in fact causing my body a LOT of distress.
In 2015, I began going down a 'real-foods' based lifestyle (aka: paleo, primal, whole-food, natural, etc.) I started focusing on the source of my animal protein and researched the farms, the way the animals are raised, treated, etc. Why? Because animals that are raised in commercial feedlots and poor conditions are full of STRESS. Stress that cause toxic responses in their bodies. Toxins that you DIGEST. Not to mention, the other chemicals and hormones that the animals are injected with that you are ALSO consuming.
I began sourcing and purchasing:
Pastured eggs, chicken and pork
Grassfed, organic beef
Wild-Caught fish and shellfish
Organic vegetables and fruits
Organic, well-sourced fats like oils, nuts, nut butter and ghee
Fermented foods (naturally probiotic-rich foods)
And I began to notice some incredible things in only WEEKS:
Improved sleep (from less than 7 hours to 7-9 a night uninterrupted)
Improved menses (less days and less heavy)
Less sick days
FALLING in to keto
When focusing on real, whole foods found in nature, naturally you will eat more fats. This is a GOOD thing for overall health and healing. Why?
When I started tracking my daily intake, I realized I was basically following a keto lifestyle with high fats, low carbohydrate intake mostly from veggies and moderate protein intake. So I dove in and began to journal how I felt, slept, acted, worked and yes, even the physical changes. I started my %'s somewhere around 80% fats, 15% protein and 5% carbohydrates (though I have since adjusted these based on how I felt).
And I was truly amazed. Because I have never felt BETTER!
Here is a snapshot of my journal:
First 3 days:
A little foggy brained
Bouts of Nausea
After 1 week:
Total satiation between meals (can go 4-5 hours and don't feel hungry often)
ZERO cravings for anything (though this is normal since starting 'real food' living)
Intense mental focus (I'm talking a productivity powerhouse!)
ZERO lethargy or energy dips during the day
ZERO digestive distress
NO interrupted sleep (previously woke up 2-3x a night)
Slept deeply and soundly with an average of 8.15 hours
ZERO need for a nap during the day
Increased energy in the gym
Skin clearing and glowing
After 1 month:
Same benefits as above plus:
Strength and endurance improvements
Hair and nail growth (I can't keep my nails short enough!)
More elasticity to skin and overall youthful appearance
Less water retention
Improved moods consistently
After 6 months
Same benefits as above plus:
Significantly reduced monthly-cycle volume
Hormone balancing indicative by tracking cycles
Significant strength and stamina improvements in the gym (Hello PR's!)
More productivity for work, personal projects and home than ever
Mood enhancing +++ (always happy!)
Reduced body fat:
My measurements have completely changed with Keto as well as my muscle mass:
Hips: 38 inches -> 34 inches
Chest: 38 inches -> 34 inches
Waist: 30 inches -> 28 inches
Body-fat loss was not even a GOAL in my keto journey - but has been a result of my keto journey.
The absolute BEST part about the High-Fat-Low-Carb (HFLC) lifestyle a-la Keto has been how incredible I FEEL andthe undeniable health improvements I have experienced. The body mass changes have been just icing on the high-fat cake.
I can't make any nutritional lifestyle choice for you, but if any of the above health benefits strike a chord with you or if you are struggling with health issues that could benefit from a HFLC lifestyle, you might want to consider giving it a try!
Here are some great resources for Keto 'How-To's and percentages to follow: