There is no one ‘keto diet’. It has many variants that appear more or less the same to the outsider but are very different to someone deep in the thick of it – like Protestantism.
And like Protestantism, each of these variants interpret the same documents that underlie the practice, apply them differently, then follow, or try to follow a certain high-level dogma that results.
Like any set of competing belief systems, there is a necessary infighting between the variants about details. Just one of the many differences is the use of ‘exogenous ketones’. This is a product that most often contains beta-hydroxybutyric acid, which is the ketone fuel your body creates and runs on when on a keto diet. Some people have put this into a supplement and sell it.
Some variants of the keto diet think this is fine. Others will remove your post from their Facebook group if you even mention them.
Another controversy is: how much protein? Some groups recommend a lot less than others – and both scoff at the other’s interpretations of the documents that support their position.
The same goes for fat. All the groups want you to moderate it, but some make this central to their belief system – others seem to pay lip-service.
Lastly (though by no means the last), there is what I would call the position on what I would call ‘Keto food porn’. To me, this is the intricate and tortured attempt to create keto meals that resemble their high-carb inspiration, or inventions like a bacon-weave taco shell, or a round meatloaf with cheese in the center, wrapped in bacon.
Keto is very trendy right now (which will probably pass as it did before) and people are bringing enormous creativity to foods and recipes.
Some people love this. Some people think this encourages consuming extra calories, and the first group replies: who cares about calories? Just eat to satiety.
On this 2018 version of a keto diet, as usual, I came up with my own road to follow. While this time I have immersed myself in the most current thinking, joining over a half-dozen Facebook groups and listening to at least 50 hours of keto podcasts to learn what the current state of keto is.
One thing it does NOT seem to be is ‘Atkins’. While I believe that none of these people would be talking about keto if it wasn’t for Dr. Robert Atkins, who died in 2003, few people discuss him, and the current products the company he started are not held in high regard.
While you might be forgiven for using these products, you would not be applauded.
Another worrisome thing is just how dangerous this diet can be if you do it wrong – and most of these people climbing aboard the keto bandwagon do not understand the seriousness involved in altering your body fuel source and the serious medical problems it can cause. I will leave the authoritative research to others – and to you to dig up – again, I have nothing to sell and nothing to convince you to believe. These are the things I’m concerned might happen to people who achieve nutritional ketosis but are ill-informed about the pact with the devil you sign:
- Alcohol. If you are deep in ketosis, too much alcohol can lower that threshold for alcohol poisoning. Having a ready supply of carbs in your body can help mitigate a bout of binge drinking that ketones cannot, apparently.
- Pancreatitis. If you are unknowingly predisposed to this, a massive cheat can push you into this condition
- Gallstones. I had read that fat is necessary for the prevention of gallstones. Fat-phobic people predisposed to gallstones who try a high protein and lower fat version of keto might set themselves up for this. There could be other reasons as well.
- You can get dehydrated easily and your relationship to water needs to be watched. Too little OR too much can be bad
- Electrolytes. One thing normies eating a standard diet don’t tend to worry about is their electrolytes. People doing a keto diet do need to be careful about this because your need for sodium, magnesium, and potassium change. This can screw up the electrical system in your body – and you know what your electrical system does? It controls the beating of your heart! OK they say, I’ll just take supplements. Not so fast. TOO MUCH can be as bad as TOO LITTLE. People are messing with system not only they don’t understand, but that their doctors don’t understand.
It is for these reasons I DO NOT RECOMMEND A KETO DIET! The science surrounding this diet has been my primary hobby for more than a dozen years. To the regular person who comes along with no interest in learning the intricate details, I would not recommend this to them unless they had medical supervision by a doctor who knew the ins and outs of a ketogenic diet – and good luck finding one!
Stop reading yet? No? Ok – the rest of you left, let’s continue.
So what am I doing differently this time?
The first thing is that I have simplified my diet considerably. I have given up almost all artificial sweeteners (except sugar-free ketchup – not ready yet), dairy, nuts, cheese – and of course all grains and carby foods like potatoes. I now drink black coffee and plain water.
A partial list of what I’ve been eating for the most part?
- Ground beef (moving toward New Zealand raised grass-fed beef)
- Chicken thighs (moving toward organic – and I’d love to find pastured but haven’t yet)
- Pork belly
- Fire-roasted tomatoes and green chilies (for my chili)
- Red and green bell peppers
- Organic chicken broth
- Lettuce (iceberg for now until people stop getting sick off of romaine which is a ‘thing’ as I write this)
- Beefsteak tomatoes
- Organic celery
- Eggs (organic and pasture-raised when possible)
- Olive oil
- Coconut Oil
- Coconut milk
- Coconut flour
- Organic hot dogs from grass-fed cows
- Psyllium husks
And I am planning to try experimenting with adding:
- Ghee (aka clarified butter – considered OK in a dairy-free diet by people not eliminating dairy for religious or ethical reasons)
- Broccoli florets
- Nutritional yeast (a powder that sorta kinda of tastes cheesy, is full of nutrients, and might be good sprinkled on my broccoli)
I did not start here 40 day ago. It took a while to convert from my diet prior to April 2 where my primary food group was McDonald’s. What prompted the change was a sudden, worrisome trend in my blood glucose. I was seeing numbers up to 140 in the AM and they would stay elevated – even with taking metformin.
In less than 2 weeks I was able to get that number down by 20-40 points. In the mid afternoons I can see numbers in the low 80s – and this is with my stopping the metformin over 2 weeks ago.
Carb withdrawal at first was miserable. I comforted myself with an abundance of American cheese – God, I love the stuff! I also guzzled down seltzer loaded with Orange-Tangerine artificial sweetener in the evenings.
I also had Greek yogurt in work and Kerry Gold butter in my coffee. That was after the coffee and heavy cream I had in my coffee at home. I usually didn’t eat solid foods, though I would grab an Atkins shake and have some chicken broth with extra salt at lunchtime. This seemed to help with the mild headachy feeling I would get – but otherwise I felt good. Here and there was 2 squares of dark chocolate.
I gave up on the Greek yogurt because it seemed to trigger hunger during the first week.
There were some trashy, though low carb choices, along the way. Oscar Mayer bologna as well as bologna’s more refined cousin, Mortadella. Kielbasa. Pork rinds. These didn’t impact my blood ketones, which I measured obsessively. I got as high as 3.5.
I stopped negotiating with myself in the second week. I no longer thought about ordering McDonald’s and not eating the bun. I could watch people in work and at home gobble up carbs – even pizza – and it not bother me. It wasn’t willpower – it was that I had detoxed myself from carby foods and no longer had an interest. While I would not say even now that I don’t miss pizza, I don’t have this terrible craving for it, either.
Besides – I had substituted a bunch of junky keto-friendly foods to take the place of the high-carb junky foods.
To be clear: I started this particular go at the diet primarily for my health. And that worked: I lowered my blood glucose and stopped taking metformin. I also pulled off 10-12 pounds in 2 weeks. That was nice – but not the primary goal.
After the first 2 weeks the scale did not really budge, however, and while I was still committed to the diet for health reasons, I did want the weight loss to be part of it.
Finally, on day 34 I decided I might be strong enough to pull off eliminating all dairy and artificial sweeteners.
Boy oh boy, did this suck!
The cheese got replaced with more calories from meat and tomato slices with my burgers. While I still continue to use sugar-free ketchup, the amount of artificial sweetener is trivial compared with how much of the orange-tangerine stuff I would blast into glass after glass of seltzer on ice.
I started eating avocados more regularly. They can be tricky as they go bad so quickly but I’ve been able to manage. Once almost ripe, they keep in the fridge for a few days. When you take one out, eat it that day. Mostly works well.
I don’t drink the Atkins shakes. I’m drinking my morning coffee with coconut milk – and recently nothing. I no longer put butter in my coffee at work – and find that a little coffee goes way farther than it used to. I sometimes find myself not drinking any coffee at work – and when I do, it’s black. I don’t really drink fats anymore.
While not every day, on some days I find myself only eating one large meal a day. This happened quite by accident, but then I found out it was a ‘thing’ – OMAD (One Meal A DAY) or 23/1 Fasting. It seems there’s this notion called an ‘insulin holiday’. Here’s how I understand it. It is not only sugars that trigger insulin: proteins trigger them almost as well. So while your blood glucose might be low, your insulin might still be high – and as you have insulin resistance if you’re like me, eating nothing for a while gives the body a chance to not have to produce insulin as if you were snacking all day – and this might lessen insulin resistance over the long-term – at least that’s how the thinking goes.
There is a trick to this, however: eat too little and you put your body into ‘Starvation Mode’. Do this and your body can do all sorts of things – like make your hair fall out while holding on to every last calorie like a miser – and make you feel quite crappy – and there are voices on the Internet that don’t think this can be done without putting you into starvation mode.
So what I am doing is counting my macros more closely. I used a calculator I found here, and it gave me these ranges:
Calories: 1200 – 1892
Protein: 94-124 (104 is ideal)
So the lower end is my target – and that ends up being one very satisfying meal per day. I don’t do this on all days – sometimes I have an avocado at work, and/or chicken broth. Sometimes I just have salt in water – depends on how I feel.
But you know the weirdest part of this: my narrowed food choices are liberating!
My diet seems easier. I’m not futzing around with food or thinking about food all the time. Diets can make you obsess about food more than not being on a diet. The simplicity makes things easier to track – and I hate tracking. The overhead of the diet is a lot less. I have more time for other thoughts than what I am going to eat – and amazingly enough – I don’t feel deprived.
That was the last thing I ever expected to say.
I could go on – like about what supplements I am taking – but I’ll stop here for now.