One of the hardest things about starting the KETO plan in the summer of 2018 was seeing and watching everyone else eat the abundance of juicy, sweet, fresh and delicious local summer fruits and even vegetables that did not have a place on my plate. Where usually I’d be indulging in grilled corncobs with salt, ground pepper and lime juice. Or the sweetest of summer berries that I hand picked at the local berry farm. Or juicy watermelon that’s so filled with good tasting sticky sweet pink juice that streams down your arms when you bite into it… No, I was left carefully weighing out my “low-carb” vegetable options instead!
Missing out on all the amazing summer produce made me think that the plan would be much better suited to the cooler months of the year, the “hibernation” months of the year here in Canada. But sadly, those months are also the months when I’m craving comfort foods such as starchy vegetables roasted until sweet and tender, warm bowls of steamy noodle soup and spicy curries over soft, fluffy steamed rice… all of which are also NOT included on my KETO-eat-this list.
Before we continue, a word on extreme diets. Restrictive eating plans can severely limit your nutritional options and leave you lacking needed vitamins and minerals. They can also lead to negative eating patterns, eating too few calories and an “all or none” mentality. Luckily you don’t have to worry about me not eating; I just like food too much to not eat it! But for people with a history of eating disorders, I would not recommend trialing this type of plan without the supervision of your doctor.
The Keto plan is very restrictive compared to the average North American style of eating and in an effort to keep things simple and stay on track in the easiest possible way, I kept my meals to a fairly basic rotation of spinach salads with various low-carbohydrate toppings or steamed vegetables with a lean protein. It’s a sad day when you start to feel like an extra stalk of broccoli is a treat!
Fast-forward to today, it’s almost a year since I embarked on this journey. It’s been the ultimate self-experiment I’ve conducted to date. Coming up, I’ll outline my basic (trust me it’s basic) daily meal plan and list the most common low-carb foods that I’ve stuck with.
I’ll also run through a few pros and cons that I’ve experienced thus far and give you the honest run-down on to-KETO or Not-to-KETO!
There’s really SO much I could say about this experiment, but in trying to keep it short for you all (we only have so much time in a day, right!) I’m going to give you the brief version. I wanted to try this because I had heard that people experienced increased energy and no afternoon slumps eating this way. I wanted more energy, I always felt tired and flat, especially in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. I’ve also read that it can potentially be a cancer-prevention diet; help with Type 2 Diabetes and also prevention of Alzheimer’s.
It was a steep learning curve in the beginning but now I’m fat-adapted, it’s actually easy to get the required amount of fat into my day. When I first thought of eating 80% of my daily calories from fat, I laughed to myself and thought it never would be possible without constantly feeling sick to the stomach. I was absolutely fat-phobic!
You see as a classically trained fitness trainer and nutrition counselor, I had always tried to keep my total daily fat intake to 30g or less… nowadays I’m eating upwards of 130g. That’s a 400% increase!
Let’s cut to the chase first with the KETO Pros I experienced:
- Increased energy
- Decreased brain-fog
- Balanced insulin levels, no more “hanger” and I was crazy when I was hungry
- Eating less frequent meals
- Not always thinking about food or my next meal, less time in the kitchen and a lesser weekly grocery bill
- Reduced cravings for sugar and carbohydrate foods
- Weight re-distribution (I had no body weight to lose but my fat mass has changed) I don’t have a little “pooch” right below my belly button anymore and you can see my abs
- Consumption of less meat products, which is better for global sustainability
- Reintroduction of full-fat foods such as dairy (I absolutely love cheese, whipped cream and butter)
- Reintroduction of coffee (helps with ketosis)
- Increased awareness of food sources and processing
- Better understanding of food labels, ingredients and nutrition labels
Here are the not-so-desirable effects I experienced:
- Initial constipation (it did go away once I learned to balance my fiber intake)
- Bad breath
- Always being thirsty
- Occasional upset gastrointestinal system (diarrhea) or generally not digesting meals well
- Hard time falling asleep (feeling wired, racing mind or upset stomach)
Since I started eating this way I can say “we” because my husband has also joined me on this keto diet journey and his success has been amazing with over 12lbs body fat lost to date! He is by no means a large person either… he went from 164lbs - 152lbs and still counting down on the scale! My direct family (in-laws) also directly cut down on refined and processed carbohydrate foods immensely.
*It is important to note that we eat “clean-keto” so we don’t consume junk food or traditional take-out type foods, no meat-heavy or greasy gross meals that might ordinarily be associated with Keto. We eat out a couple of times a month but we do really stick with the plan and don’t consume fried foods or carbohydrate in excess. If we eat potatoes at breakfast, we account for the extra carbohydrate and eat less during the rest of the day. Almost always keeping total net-carbs below 25g per day. We use an app on our phones to track our food intake so we can hit that magic ratio of Fat/ Carbs/ Protein that keeps us in ketosis. Mainly consuming choice vegetables, healthy fats and a small amount of animal protein. You can see a sample day below:
Breakfast: Vegetable smoothie made with frozen cauliflower, zucchini, ice, coconut milk and collagen protein powder.
Lunch: Spinach salad with cucumber, tomato, cheese (goat cheese, feta or cheddar), one or two eggs, avocado. Olive Oil, homemade mayo, salt and pepper
Dinner: Steamed veggie bowl with lean protein – base of broccoli stem shreds, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower. Topped with lean chicken, turkey, beef or lamb. Olive Oil, chilli oil and homemade mayo, salt and pepper.
Snacks or treats: Pork rinds, coconut fat chocolate, fat bombs, keto cookies.
Even though we went all-in at 100% changing the way we eat to a ketogenic diet, we knew it would take time and we didn’t expect to see any huge changes overnight. My increased energy took around 2 weeks and I suspect that was about the time it took for my body to convert to Ketosis (fat-burning metabolism) rather than the body’s traditional carbohydrate metabolism.
When embarking on this lifestyle change, what is important to realize is that your body will resist the change! It is human nature to want to stay on carbohydrate metabolism mechanisms. Genetically we are wired for it! It’s easier for fast fat storage and survival and our bodies want us to be addicted to sugar because it’s easily converted to fat that can be stored for times of need.
Would you believe me if I told you that it’s our genes making us fat! Well they are! But ultimately WE are in control, WE can dictate how we eat, live and thrive in this life! I truly believe that there is no ONE perfect way for everyone to eat, and sadly there is no diet trick or quick fix. What I can tell you is that you should at least try it. If it resonates with you and the way you like to live then you will be able to sustain that lifestyle and you will have results. But by no means should you feel that you HAVE to, you don’t have to do anything. If you’re happy and the way you eat works for you, then great!
Do YOU Babe!
Don’t worry about what others say, it’s how YOU feel and if YOU love it, then do it!
But if you are looking for a change, try clean keto with an open mind. Research the heck out of it for your self or find a coach that can tell you everything you need to know and hold your hand on your journey. Whether you keep going or you move on to something else, (there are SO many choices out there) it doesn’t matter to me or anyone else for that matter. It’s how YOU feel and if YOU love it, then do it!
My journey was not without skeptics, haters and naysayers. I had plenty that I originally would contest with and try to justify my choices to. In fact I didn’t tell that many people I changed the way I was eating. My reality was, I’d done the research, the reading, looked into the clinical papers and findings; I had seen the positive results that others were enjoying and I wanted to really try it for myself.
So at the end of the day, you’ve got to take it into your own hands, look out for what’s best for you and make your own health a priority! Don’t listen to anyone else, listen to yourself; what’s that saying, “You do you babe!” and “I’ll do me!”
In attesting to that notion, if anyone asks me these days I’m certainly not shy to say I am fat-fueled no longer fat-phobic and I’m happy with all my newfound energy too!