Hey all – this is my second post about going Keto. If you’re just tuning in, maybe go check out the first post. It gives a little more background on how I got into this and the basic overview of what a Ketogenic diet is.
Done? Great. Let’s get into this.
Before I get into how to start a keto diet plan, I want to talk about who this diet is for. Again, kind of cringing at the word “diet” because diets aren’t long-term, but that’s the common vernacular so we’ll keep going with that.
So who is this for? To be quite honest, it’s hard to say because it depends on who you talk to. I’m no scientist but I did read through some other people’s experiences with Keto as well as what the medical community is saying about it. And there are a lot of mixed feelings. So I’ll go through what I read and also my take on those things.
Who should try keto?
Most common answer: Those looking to lose weight.
After reading through a bunch of articles, it is clear that people have very strong feelings about this from all spectrums. On the one hand, you have the success stories – people who have used a ketogenic diet to lose weight. They are living proof that it works. They are very passionate that this is “the one true way” (I’m being hyperbolic) and that all other diets are just not worthy.
Then, you have those who are also success stories but take it a bit further “This is how humans were meant to eat. It’s in our DNA.” I heard this a lot with Paleo a couple of years ago. Again, I’m no scientist so I can’t back this up, but again, just showing you that some people are super passionate about this.
Then you have those in the medical community with mixed reactions. There are a few sources that will say, “I’ve done the research and this is by far the best way to lose weight.” But then you have the vast majority of the medical community saying, “There is no LONG TERM research on this. And honestly, if you’re looking to lose weight this is a bit extreme. Focus on a balanced diet with a good amount of exercise and you’ll achieve the same thing.”
Then you have the naysayers who have certain beliefs about the diet that may be misguided – “You can’t eat fat to lose fat.” or “Not all carbs are bad carbs.” or “What is this doing to your cholesterol?”
First off – a ketogenic diet is not the only way to lose weight. However, it is a low carb diet, so you will lose weight. But it is a lot more strict than other low carb diets. So if you don’t have any other dietary issues or health problems or predispositions, then you’ll likely also lose weight through other means.
Also, if you’re looking to JUST lose weight, I would definitely not start with a ketogenic diet. I think your first line of defense is to take small, manageable steps that don’t feel so restrictive.
- Maybe start drinking more water in place of other sugary beverages.
- Take a look at what you’re eating and track where your calories are coming from.
- Start incorporating more whole foods and less processed items.
- Then start incorporating some exercise that feels fun and not forced.
If you’re beyond this and looking for a stricter approach with more results…then look into a program like Whole 30 or Paleo or heck even Weight Watchers or Atkins. These are good steps, and maybe that’s all you’ll need. If you’re past this or still not finding something that works for you to see results, then sure, try a ketogenic diet. What’s the harm in trying, right?
But what I am saying is, jumping into keto would be really tough if up until this point you’ve been doing nothing at all. And that would likely set you up for failure. You would see more immediate results, but the amount of time and will power needed to maintain this effort would probably seem like a crazy amount if you’ve never even tracked your calories before.
Second most common answer: Those with gluten/glucose/sugar intolerances
This is where I definitely put up a caution sign so you know that I’m NOT an expert on these issues, just trying to paraphrase what I’ve read.
Those with certain dietary sensitivities find a lot of success with the ketogenic diet because it is very restrictive when it comes to any kinds of carbs which includes…
- Sugar…processed (think table sugar) or natural (sugars found in vegetables like sweet potatoes or the majority of fruits)
- Gluten…many processed foods and wheat-based foods (this is super over-simplifying this category so don’t take this as a complete listing of what gluten really is)
Now, you could still technically have processed sugar or gluten on a ketogenic diet, but because your daily carb count is so low, this is typically viewed as a waste of carbs because these are not parts of foods that are filling…they’re just empty calories. A lot of people on this diet try to stick to unprocessed foods and only allow natural sugars (but even then, a very small amount them) in order to stay under their carb count for the day.
And what does the medical community say? Because this is considered a more niche category of people on Keto, there’s not a lot of commentary, but what I’ve found is that doctors are definitely for a “low carb/low sugar diet” when you do have these certain dietary issues.
My take: I don’t know if I have sensitivities to either sugar or gluten. I mean, it’s likely because a couple people in my family do. But it’s not like I break out in a rash or anything. And I’ve never done any tests on this. So from that standpoint, I don’t know…but I suspect I might have slight sensitivities. But if this describes you, then you should definitely consider going keto. It’s one of the few plans that could really help with those sensitivities.
Even more niche: Those with certain types of diabetes, prone to epilepsy/seizures or issues with nerve damage.
I know I’m really lumping together some serious issues that probably should be broken out, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that only a small percentage of people on keto actually experience any of these things. Why? Because it’s really hard to find people reporting their experiences with keto from any of these perspectives. Which is kind of why I wanted to start documenting my experiences – because I fall into the category of “issues with nerve damage”.
But I have found some documentation, so this is what I’ve found – mostly from the medical community.
A ketogenic diet has actually been used for over 100 years to help patients with epilepsy/seizures. For diabetics, I’m not sure how long it’s been recommended, but a lot of the same thinking from the low sugar/gluten group also applies to diabetics who have a hard time processing sugar…but in addition there’s more to do with insulin things (I hardly understand the science of that so I’m not even going to try to explain it here). There have been studies on ketogenic diets in rats and small animals to test nerve damage issues, and then evidence from actual diabetics and those who have issues with epilepsy. So basically, for me, outside of testing with rats, there’s not a lot information on how exactly keto helps nerve damage in humans, it just does. And I know…because I’m living proof.
My take: If you fall into this category, then this sort of diet may have already been recommended to you by your doctor, but also, it’s definitely worth considering. A ketogenic diet has “neuroprotective” properties so for anyone who falls in this category, it’s definitely worth trying out. Also keep in mind – this is not a replacement for any prescriptions your doctor recommends. However, I will say, this type of diet has allowed me to be prescription-drug free. And for some diabetics, it has allowed them to reverse their diagnosis and live a life without fear (SOME…don’t mistake that I’m saying this is a fix all for diabetics).
So that’s who keto is for…in a nutshell. I’m sure there are other groups of people who would benefit from this, but you get the point.
Now let’s talk about the next hurdle to get over when considering this diet.
To be really blunt…do you have what it takes?
This is where I try to dissuade you from doing this. First, have you yo-yo’ed in the past with other diets? Are you prone to temptation? Do you have a limited amount of time to spend planning and preparing each week? Are you trying this because you think it sounds interesting, but you don’t really have any super concrete goals you’re trying to achieve?
If any of those sound like you…then don’t. I’m not saying this because I think it’s this super exclusive club thing and you can’t sit with us. No, no, no. Come. Sit with us! No skin off my back! But I’m trying to prepare you for how hard this is. And I think if your reasons for doing this are even the slightest bit wishy-washy, this might not be for you.
If I wasn’t super heavily invested in figuring out nerve damage issues, I would definitely not be doing much with my nutrition. Sure, I might keep doing lower-carb things, but only to a certain extent. I love carbs. I love sugar. I don’t like to deprive myself of good food if I feel like I can sort of balance things out with exercise. You know that shirt “Run all the miles, eat all the donuts”…up until a couple of months ago, that was my personal mantra. I ran to eat whatever I want.
So for me, it took a really REALLY good reason to fully commit to this. If I can run pain-free by giving up some delicious carbs, then that’s something I want to be well-informed about. Can I sustain it long-term? I don’t know. So let’s just aim for three months and see where I’m at after that.
As for your reason? I’m not saying you need to have a serious reason like mine to jump into this way of eating, but there has to be a really good motivator to get you through the long road ahead.
Still not dissuaded?
Here are some of the unpleasant things about this diet (just in case you’re like, yeah this is all still good with me).
- On average I spend about 8-10 hours each weekend just planning meals for the week and prepping some foods I’ll need for lunches and night when I know I’ll be too busy to cook.
- Speaking of cooking, get ready to do a lot more of it. I used to cook a couple of nights a week…maybe one real good one, and most from a box or some combo of pasta and protein. Now I cook 90% of our meals from scratch – some of it I can do on the weekends, others I have to do in the morning or after work.
- I spend about an hour a day tallying up/figuring out what I actually ate and weighing portions out for the future. Some days are not so hard when I actually stick to the plan I made, but most days I have to continue to reconfigure the plan as I continue to change my mind about what I want to eat or am presented with options that were previously unaccounted for (all with the goal of hitting no more than 24 grams of carbs a day).
- Speaking of carbs, do you know they’re a huge staple of a midwestern diet? Yeah, it’s not the easiest thing to just stay away from carbs. They’re everywhere.
- That restaurant you love? The friends you always go out with? Prepare to be that person with the dietary restrictions.
- And what about your family? Are they going to support you? Further more, are they going keto? Chances are, they probably aren’t going keto. Even if they’re supportive, they’re still eating whatever they want. Which means you have to look at temptation every day and make a choice.
Sounds fun, huh? Okay, it’s not all drudgery.
Here are some of the benefits of going keto…
Benefits that most people experience…
- Better brain function
- A decrease in inflammation
- An increase in energy
- Improved body composition
As alluded to above (and expanded here), it can also help those with the following health issues…
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic Inflammation
- High Blood Sugar Levels
- Heart Disease
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Fatty Liver Disease
Alright, still interested in giving this a go? Great! The next few posts will be for you. I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to know to get started as well as some very important tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.