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Three years of keto

·1007 words·5 mins·

I’ve written about keto before on the blog, but as we approach the end of 2022 and many people are making resolutions for the new year, I get a lot of questions about it. Hopefully I can answer most of those here!

What is keto? #

Ketogenic diets often sound complicated. The TL;DR is:

  1. Reduce your intake of carbohydrates to a very low level (less than 30g/day for most people)
  2. Increase your fat and protein intake to make up the difference

Seriously. That’s it.

But before we go any further:

🩺 Don’t start (or stop) a ketogenic diet without talking to a trusted medical professional. There are certain health conditions that require modifications to the common ketogenic diet.

In my experience, adopting a keto lifestyle helped me to:

  1. Maintain a steady blood glucose all day long (about 100 mg/dL)
  2. Reduce my weight (about 210 down to 170-175)
  3. Sleep better
  4. Exercise longer1
  5. Balance my cholesterol levels
  6. Lower my triglycerides and A1C
  7. Avoid diabetes

Top three things you should know #

I’ve boiled down all of the questions I’ve answered via email, social media, and in person at various dinner parties when people question my unusual eating habits. 🤭

If you have questions that aren’t answered here, click one of the links on my profile page and send me your question!

What do I need to buy? #

This is an easy one. Nothing.

You’ll find tons of products online and at your local store with “keto” on the label. If you flip them over and read the ingredients, they’re chock full of artificial sweeteners, flour substitutes, and chemicals. Although many of these won’t spike your blood sugar, many of them will! Some artificial sweeteners, like malitol, have the same effect as raw sugar, just on a smaller scale.

All of these artificial foods push your keto progress backwards.

You do not need keto shakes, keto fat bombs, or keto vitamins. You do not need gluten-free foods as they’re packed with carbohydrates.

You need whole foods. You need high quality fats, proteins, and lower-carb vegetables and fruits.

The only exception I’ll give here is that you need some high quality electrolytes, especially as you start on keto. As your body transitions from burning easily accessible glucose in your blood to burning fat, you’ll find that your salt intake will be woefully insufficient. You can make your own keto electrolytes really easily (tons of recipes available online) or find electrolyte tables/mixes without sugar.

How do I handle going out to eat? #

Here’s a big challenge. Your friends invite you to dinner or the holidays have arrived. How do you handle it?

My strategy involves the following:

  1. Get a look at the menu ahead of time. Look through the menu and find items that fit your diet goals. If you find a menu item that fits all of your requirements, that’s awesome! In those situations where the main item is perfect but the sides aren’t right (fries, potatoes, rice), look for alternative side dishes that you can ask about when you get there. Worst case scenario, just ask them to skip the side dish so that you’re not tempted to eat it.
  2. Have an answer ready if people ask about your menu choices. It’s inevitable that someone will say “oh, you don’t like potatoes” or “why are you just getting a salad?” Have your answer ready and be honest.
  3. Never say that you “can’t have” something. This makes it sound like you’re denying yourself something and it makes it difficult to stick to the diet. I remind myself that some foods look and taste delicious, but they don’t line up with my health goals, so I skip them. I tell others the same thing. Often times, I’ll say “Oh, that looks delicious, but it doesn’t fit in my diet.” You don’t want to offend anyone but you also need to be honest with yourself.
  4. Save up your carbs. Going out to eat for dinner? Try to eat only fat and protein all day long and save all of your carbs for dinner. You won’t be able to go wild with your carb intake, but you can enjoy a little more then you would otherwise.

Key takeaway: Your diet is your choice. It’s the same situation with someone who doesn’t drink but their friends keep offering them alcohol. Don’t let anyone pressure you into changing your goals.

What happens if I eat something I shouldn’t? #

The holidays are coming! 😱

First off, admit that mistakes happen. That’s okay!

When I’ve eaten tons of carbs, I make a mental plan for the next day to get back on track. Some argue that starting the next day with a fast makes the most sense. I prefer to get back to my high fat and moderate protein foods the next day as I normally would.

Keep in mind, though, that once you’ve done keto for a good while (usually 1-2 months for me), your digestive system has adapted to the new diet. Lots of the bacteria you used to have on a high carbohydrate diet are gone. Flooding the digestive system with lots of high carb food will make your intestines confused. Confused intestines are not comfortable. 🚽

Remind yourself of why you started the keto diet, get back to eating right, and take it as a learning lesson.

Sometimes I see a delicious high carb food, like pizza, and I think:

“That looks so good. But if I eat that, I’m going to have belly problems for two days. Is it worth it?

I make myself think through the consequences before I eat it. Do I still eat it sometimes? I do. 🤷‍♂️

Wrapping up #

Going keto delivered tons of benefits for me, but it certainly is not easy. However, the diet is fully open source and nobody needs to buy anything special to get started. You can still go out to eat with friends and recover from dieting errors easily.

  1. At first, exercise will feel more difficult. Be patient and take it slow as you start. ↩︎