Ten Things I’ve Learned by Following a Ketogenic Diet

This morning, while showering, I ruminated on how nutrition is like religion. We are taught early on in school and at home about healthy eating—the food pyramid, Go, Glow, and Grow, too much fat causes heart attacks, among other things—and we believe everything because we’re young and still impressionable, so who better to believe than adults? I wondered if my willingness to try unconventional ways of eating is due, in part, to the same openness I have towards matters involving sexuality (it’s fluid) and spirituality (I’m agnostic-atheist and I don’t care what your religion is as long as it does no harm to others, e.g. discriminating against certain groups of people).

What frustrates me the most sometimes as a teacher is my inability to teach students to think critically and keep an open mind. This exasperation sometimes extends to life outside work. Many people, especially adults, are dead set on their ways and reject new ideas that contradict their beliefs without caring to examine them at all. How is one able to repudiate something with so much certainty when they did not bother to even learn about it? This baffles me.

Anyway, this entry was supposed to be just a short post on Facebook, but I started writing more than I intended to, so I decided to just dump it here. Initially, I was going to list just a few things without expounding too much, but here we are. 😆

While I have only been consistently on keto for a little over six weeks, I’ve been reading about it since October last year. Here’s what I’ve learned so far by following this controversial way of eating:

1. A lot of health and nutrition experts refuse to acknowledge the existence of studies on low-carb diets. They still insist on preaching that the body, including, of course, the brain, cannot run properly without carbohydrates. I even read one article on Pop Sugar where a registered dietitian talks about the negative effects of keto.

According to her, keto works like starvation as starving oneself causes one’s body to enter the state of ketosis. This is not wrong. After a period without glucose, the body switches to ketones for energy—something which occurs during a fasted state. This is a natural process that happens when we don’t eat for a while. Consider this: You have dinner early at 6PM, finish eating before seven, and don’t consume anything other than water afterwards. You wake up the next day at around 9AM. This means that you haven’t eaten anything in fourteen hours. You decide to eat brunch at eleven, which means your body has been in a fasted state for sixteen hours. This is what people on the 16:8 method of intermittent fasting do on a daily basis.

But you don’t starve yourself on keto. All you do is limit your carbohydrate intake so your body doesn’t depend on glucose for energy, but on ketones. So, no, keto is not as extreme nor as dangerous as some of these experts claim. If it were, might they also explain the improvements we followers of the keto diet see in our bodies? Just read the comments on the article I linked to above. And it’s not like these personal accounts are fairy tales: people present evidence like results of medical tests.

Also, what does it take for one to be considered an expert? A degree, surely? One you get by studying and finishing a course in an institution, which typically involves a lot of reading. And where do these readings come from? Books. Academic journals. And more recently, websites, including blogs.

In college, I did a lot of research for papers and for my undergraduate thesis. Many of the books and journal articles I used for my studies I found online. Of course, I am not at all undermining the significance of formal education (like I would ever!). All I’m trying to point out is that one does not need to be considered a professional to learn and know things. A title does not guarantee absolute knowledge and expertise, after all.

What we all can benefit from instead is an open mind, because new discoveries are being made every day, so limiting ourselves to the things we already know and believe to be true is counterproductive. After all, the willingness to question and be critical of what we already know is what ultimately leads to discovery and innovation. It’s worth pointing out, of course, that we also need to be discerning of our sources and make sure they’re reputable.

2. Some experts also claim that low-carb diets make one sluggish and unable to function properly—something which a lot of low-carb eaters can easily debunk. I myself learned from experience that the initial fatigue and brain fog associated with ketosis only lasts for a few days and can easily be resolved by replenishing electrolytes. Keto breath is also temporary.

3. The healthy section in most supermarkets sell a lot of low-fat food rich in sugar and carbohydrates. Something I miss every now and then is yogurt, and greek yogurt is actually acceptable in keto as long as it doesn’t contain a lot of carbs and sugar. However, pretty much all the greek yogurt I find is low-fat.

I remember how I used to replace breakfast with a mug of Nesvita, thinking that was a healthier option. One sachet of original Nesvita contains 21g of carbohydrates, 10g of which are sugar, while only 3g are fiber.

4. A lot of people can’t live without rice. When I tell people I’m on keto, they say, “But I can’t live without rice!” Let me tell you something about myself: I loved rice. Not only that, I also loved pizza and noodles. I used to eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One cup of rice was usually not enough, so I ate two. I could eat a 14″ pizza by myself. When I ate ramen, I always asked for extra noodles. I used to eat pancit canton with rice. Heck, I ate cup noodles with rice. After eating lunch at 12PM, I would get hungry by 3PM and would run to McDonald’s to get a burger and large fries.

I wish I were exaggerating. In fact, I wish I were lying and this wasn’t how I used to eat. I didn’t just eat; I binged. I relied on food not for sustenance but for joy and comfort, and most of that food was carbs. So, you see, I was also that person who believed she cannot live without rice. But I’m living now, aren’t I?

5. Sugar is hiding everywhere and goes by many different namesThis article lists 56 of the most common names for sugar, so just because you don’t see sugar listed in the ingredients of that box of healthy cereal doesn’t mean it’s not there.

6. It’s important to design your environment for success if you want to lose weight. This means clearing your fridge and pantry of food that should be avoided. If you live with a carb-eater, ask them to hide the carbs. Out of sight, out of mind, right? I practically begged my fiancé to do keto with me just so sticking to it would be easier.

7. Psychological hunger is (still) a bitch. Six weeks into keto and I still struggle with the desire to eat even when I’m not actually hungry. However, keto is teaching me to pay attention to physical signs of hunger and eat only when I need to. Obviously, I have a problematic relationship with food. And much like a toxic relationship with a person, walking away is easier said than done, but is definitely doable.

8. Not everyone goes through the same experience with keto. Some succeed, some don’t. Some lose quickly (usually, men), some don’t. The first commandment of weight loss should be Though shall not covet your neighbor’s progress (I can already hear A saying: You thought of that just now? Are you proud of yourself?).  I live with A, who’s been losing more consistently and a lot faster than me, and it does frustrate me sometimes. However, he reminds me to trust the process and remember what someone on r/keto once told me: that “keto is kinda sexist in that respect where your male stat twin will just see better results within the same timeframe.”

I’m still working on undoing my obsession with weight loss and focusing instead on the progress I’m making off the scale. It also helps to measure your stats and keep track of the inches you lose rather than the pounds. I personally have not been doing this regularly. What I do is try on clothes that are a tad too small and see if they fit better yet. I also have a pair of shorts from AOE that I bought four years ago but have never worn because they were a size smaller. I try them on every now and then to see if they fit yet. No luck, so far! 😂

9. Low-carb diets confuse a lot of people. I went to Starbucks this morning and got a venti cold brew with four ounces of heavy cream, no sugar. I used to add a pump of sugar-free vanilla syrup, but recently decided I’m better off without artificial sweeteners. The barista asked, “Is this your regular drink? Don’t you like sweet things?” to which I replied, “I can’t have sugar.”

Late last year, I had bulletproof coffee almost daily and whenever I requested for butter to be added to my order, cashiers would give me a blank stare. Understandable. Who the hell adds butter to their coffee anyway, right?

This basically just leads back to what I’ve already touched on above. Anything unorthodox will more often than not be met with bewilderment, or worse, dismissal.

10. People will annoy you more than usual. If you’re nice, this probably won’t apply. I’m usually nice, but I’m not always patient. Because a lot of people don’t understand why I willingly left Carbville and Sugartown, they keep trying to convince me to cheat by offering me chips, cake, donuts, or inviting me to eat at a ramen shop. It’s okay when they don’t know I’m on keto, but when they do, yet badger me anyway, that’s when I reach my wit’s end.

How do I deal? Sometimes I ignore them. Other times, I snap and tell them outright not to sabotage my efforts to reverse PCOS because I want kids. It’s a mouthful, but the latter always works. 😠

Well, this turned out to be much longer than I thought it would be. I find other people’s stories immensely encouraging so I thought I’d share my own journey. If you’re reading this, I assume you’re interested in doing keto and I hope it was helpful, even a little. There are countless articles online that discredit keto, but there are just as many that prove otherwise. If you want to keep consuming carbs, please, go ahead, especially if it’s not causing you any problems. I’m not here to champion keto as the one diet to rule them all, because it’s not. After all, many people have succeeded in bettering themselves, whether in terms of weight loss or just their general health, by following other ways of eating.

At present, I’m considering removing plant-based foods from my diet and going completely carnivorous, but I’m still learning more about it and how it affected different people. I’d like to see how my body would adapt to a diet consisting only of fatty meat, egg, and maybe some dairy, depending on how it makes me feel. Until then, KCKO!

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