I recently wrote a post about the the keto lifestyle and it’s impact on our family, specifically our son, Bean. You can find that here, if you are are considering keto and you have children. Today, I’d like to delve into a bit more detail about this lifestyle and why it’s not as hard as everyone seems to think it is. (And that is saying something as I am a breadaholic).
The ketogenic diet consists of a high fat, moderate protein, low carb way of eating. One of the most common criticisms I hear from others is that this is a “fad” diet and is completely unhealthy because “you’re cutting out a whole macro!!” Eating keto does not mean you are excluding an entire macronutrient as many like to claim, but that you eat it less often than you do the other two. It is no different in concept than those who say to limit the fat content of your diet. Weird, how nobody complains about how that’s restrictive. This lifestyle is completely at odds with how we have been raised to view weight gain/loss. Instead of a focus on calories in/calories out (CICO), calories are not restricted. In fact, we don’t even count them. Instead, we focus on how sugar/carbs cause an insulin increase and avoid or limit those foods.
Many people practice this diet with differing guidelines, but the standard rule of thumb is to eat less than 20 total net carbs per day. Net carbs consist of your total carbohydrate count minus the fiber (and sometimes the sugar alcohols, depending on the type). For example, if your total carb count is 23 and the fiber is 14, your total net carbs for that item is 9. If this item also has 6 sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, the total net carbs are only 3. (Side note: this is only for some sugar alcohols as each person responds differently to sugar alcohols. You can subtract the ones that do not cause an insulin response.)
We have found great success in practicing this way of life in our little family, not only with weight management, but with improved quality of life. I want to share with you the benefits this diet has had on our family, along with some of the side effects we do not appreciate. Before that, however, please understand that I am not a dietitian or medical doctor, nor am I advising you to make drastic changes in your diet. If you are interested in the keto diet, please discuss your options with your healthcare provider.
So, let’s start with the benefits, shall we?
I began this diet to improve inflammation markers in my blood as I was diagnosed with arthritis shortly after the birth of Bean. I had back pain that began during my second trimester that continued to worsen, even after my son was born. About 4 months postpartum, my hands started aching as well and I decided it was time to see a doctor. Low and behold, I was told I had contracted arthritis, likely due to the intense hormonal fluctuations. Since I was breastfeeding, medication was not an option. So, I opted to suffer through it and try to manage it with diet. About 3-4 weeks into keto, my back pain significantly decreased. I struggled with my hands for about 2 more months before those pains reduced as well. Don’t get me wrong, I still have days in which I struggle, but unless I binge out on carbs (which has happened, I won’t lie) my pain is pretty minimal. My x-rays show minimal damage to the joints for now, but I’m still waiting to get labs back to see if there’s been any reduction in the blood markers over the last 4 months. I’ll keep you posted.
As an added side effect, I have dropped about 30 pounds of excess weight in the last 6 months. This would have probably been greater, but I’ve not been very strict in the last 2 months or so and have slowed down quite a bit. That being said, I still continue to lose weight and I eat until I’m full, I don’t count calories, and I am generous with the fat (i.e. butter, mayo, creamy dressings, etc). Not only does my food taste fabulous, it’s satisfying and I’m never hungry. I don’t know about you, but when my diet was a majority of carbs, I was hungry constantly. It’s amazing to me that I no longer have to suffer with “dieting.”
I’ve always enjoyed salad and veggies, but if given an option to have fries or onion rings, why on Earth would I ever choose the broccoli? Now that those things are pretty much off limits, I eat tons of veggies. The difference here is that I get to eat them with loads of butter or covered in ranch, or roasted with garlic and olive oil (one of my favorites). My veggie counts and healthy protein counts go up, my processed junk food and sugars go down. This also helps us save a few bucks as eating out is really less appealing when we can make steak dinners or have *gasp* chicken THIGHS instead of the breast.
Now, I was pretty skeptical about this claim when I started this diet and to be frank, I didn’t get this until I was about 2-3 months in. However, I cannot describe how much clearer my thinking has been since I started this diet. There has never been a diet in which I have experienced more mental clarity. To be frank, I didn’t really notice how foggy everything really was until it wasn’t. It’s a fantastic feeling and I have so much more energy than I ever thought I would. No more ‘hangry’ for me.
Of course, there are some negative side effects that we have also experienced.
The Keto Flu Sucks
During the first few weeks of transitioning, we went through what is so fondly referred to as the keto flu. This is basically your body feeling like total garbage, complete with fatigue, headaches, and mood fluctuations. (aka I was a cranky beotch). This was mostly due to the effects of sugar detoxing, the liver not producing ketones efficiently, and the flushing of all of the retained water (carbs make you retain TONS of water). As our bodies figured this out, those things passed, but while we suffered through, we drank tons of water and consumed large amounts of salt. Salt allows for better regulation of electrolytes and many find a need to consume more of it than they used to eat. (We can talk more about the, likely unfounded, fears of salt in another post). Once our bodies figured out how to make ketones efficiently, we had tons of stored body fat that could be used for fuel instead of relying on sugar.
We Spend More Time in the Kitchen
For our family, we wasted massive amounts of money by letting fresh foods expire and eating out all the time. With keto, it’s a bit more difficult to eat out. Many places don’t serve low carb foods, though there are options and substitutions you can make to do so. However, we have found that it ends up just not being worth it anymore. When both Lino and I were working, we did a whole week of meal prep for every Sunday. Now that he is staying home mostly with Bean, he does
most all of the cooking (I really suck at cooking anyway). This means more dirty dishes, and more time spent hanging out cooking when sometimes it would be nice to just kick back. Combined with the added stressors of a small, constantly hungry, growing, mini me and it’s like you never really leave the kitchen at all. For all those aspiring chefs, maybe this is your calling, but for me, yeah, it’s a thumbs down vote.
You’re One Of “Those” People
Yeah, there’s nothing like going to a party or get together and having to decline the snacks because your
vegan keto. For some people, this may not even be something they worry about, but for me, I hate having to special order things, or decline party treats. I’ve always considered it rude not to partake of what you’re offered as they went to lots of trouble to provide it in the first place. Also, it’s one of those thing that people like to poke at, and it just gets old having to explain “why would you ever want to be on a diet like that?” On top of that, people don’t really care for the explanation anyway and most people don’t believe the science behind it, either, as it goes against what we’ve been told for about 50ish years. So, yeah, I just avoid talking about it.
All in all, I have to say the benefits of keto have been far superior than the negatives I’ve experienced. I won’t lie and say that every day is easy, because it isn’t. I’m a recovering breadaholic and some days all I want to do is eat a large loaf of garlic bread…and popcorn…and chips…and french fries…*sigh.* However, MOST days are pretty easy and I don’t even enjoy some of the sweet things I used to eat. In fact, most things now taste overly sweet to me.
What has your experience been with keto? Is there any benefits you have experienced? Let me know in the comments below!