Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Why I Quit The Ketogenic Diet.

I first started the Ketogenic diet in August. I've been on a health kick since May, and had been hearing about the Ketogenic diet (Keto) for years. After cutting down massively on refined and processed sugars for a month in June, I was keen to take it to the next level and cut down on my carb intake. Keto is supposedly the magic lifestyle change that involves eating around 20g of carbs a day, and your body using fats for fuel instead of carbs. Keto lowers your appetite, helps you lose body fat, and can even control certain medical conditions such as epilepsy. 

I stuck to the diet successfully throughout August, and had a couple of weekends off in September as I went on holiday - but didn't stray off course massively even on those weekends. I found Keto Flu wasn't too bad on me, as I made sure to keep my electrolyte intake up throughout. I was back on it fully through October and November, and made the decision to quit last week. Let me explain why...

Photo from Unsplash


Lack of Nutrition in the Diet


My main concern with going Keto was the lack of nutrition in the diet. I missed vegetables and fruit SO much. I know there's the whole 'fruit has too much sugar' thing, but I eat fruit in moderation anyway. Vegetables however, I missed a lot. On Keto I stuck to broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, spinach, and sometimes a couple of mushrooms, as you can only eat very high fibre vegetables on Keto as the fibre cancels out any carbs in the vegetable. But I desperately missed lower-fibre and high-carb veggies like carrots, tomatoes, sweet potato, courgettes/zucchini, red peppers/capsicum etc. Last week when I finally called it quits, I had four nights where all I had for dinner was roasted vegetables, and it was pure bliss.

The huge amount of fats you have to eat to make sure your macros are perfect made me feeling pretty concerned to be honest. I really struggled to keep my fat macros higher than my protein as things like eggs have pretty much equal fats/protein. Even with fat bombs I still struggled to keep my fat intake up. I found myself sick of coconut oil, so was eating spoonfuls of heavy cream just to get my fats up, and honestly, I'm just not OK with eating tubs of heavy cream each week.


The Restrictiveness


Similar to what I've said above, I struggled with how restrictive the Keto diet is. You're only allowed a maximum of 30g of net carbs a day (preferably 20g though), and it's honestly amazing how many foods contain carbs. Did you know a carrot contains like 8g? And a banana is 23g? That's your entire daily allowance in ONE banana!

Not just veggies, but even Greek Yoghurt has carbs. The only things that really have zero carbs are coconut oil, and meat. Before I went on Keto I actually mainly ate a veggie diet, and very little dairy (just greek yoghurt and feta cheese), and only had meat or fish maybe once a week. Going from being mainly veggie to suddenly eating cheese at every meal and meat every single day just didn't really sit well with me. I have a thing where I hate preparing chicken and meat etc, so I only tend to eat it when I eat out, so having to prepare and cook meat was a struggle for me as it just grosses me out.

Boredom


I found Keto SO boring. I looked up recipes online, I tried heaps of the recipes I found online (including Keto pizza which tasted good, but made me feel like vomming after one slice from how rich it was), but ultimately I just struggled with the boredom. I mainly stuck to eating roughly the same things every day because it meant it was easier to track my macros and I knew exactly how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat there were in every meal I ate instead of having to check it all first on an app. Ultimately I just didn't want the whole 'Keto' thing enough to put up with the food boredom.

Too Much Dairy


So. Much. Dairy. Because I ended up getting sick of the taste of coconut oil, I had to turn to dairy to get all my fat intake. Adding butter, heavy cream, and cheese to absolutely every meal was SO HARD. The thing is at first it sounds amazing, like omg I can eat spoonfuls of whipped cream and it fits in with my diet?! But after a few weeks I felt like vomming every time I even saw a tub of cream or pack of cheese.

It Made Eating Out A Nightmare


I've barely eaten out over the past few months because I actually found it SUPER difficult. It was frustrating and more expensive. I tended to stick to steak, caesar salad, or fish. But everything in restaurants comes with carbs, so whenever I would ask restaurants to swap the chips or potatoes for a serving of halloumi, they would charge me up to an extra $6 for this tiny portion of halloumi! It all adds up, and I found just a work lunch was costing me $25 instead of the usual $10 every Friday because at some pubs the steak or salad was never on the '$10 special' menu that we always eat from. 

I Found Weighing and Calculating Everything Super Stressful


I love food, like, really love food. But weighing every single thing I ate and calculating macros made me HATE food. 

Not A Great Diet For GERD


I don't have full blown GERD, usually I just have silent reflex that causes me to get a sore throat regularly and heartburn every so often. However, while doing Keto I had heartburn constantly and I'm pretty sure it was due to the huge amount of dairy and fats I was consuming as fatty food is known to make GERD worse.

The Impact On My Mental Health


My mental health in general is pretty good, sure I'm an emotional and overly-sensitive person who feels way to much empathy for people she's never even met before, but in general it's ok. However, while on Keto I found it steadily going down the drain. I was even more over-emotional than usual, I was constantly stressing about what I'd eaten that day, what I could eat the rest of the day, and 'Omg what if I got the weight of that broccoli wrong and I've kicked myself out of ketosis!'. I found I was obsessing over it all and it was causing me so much stress and upset.

I've always loved food and NEVER saw myself as someone who would look at nutritional content on packets and freak out at the amount of carbs in something. While on Keto I would legit be like "I'm having a shit day and really want a square of my fave Lindt white chocolate, but having that square will push me into 30g of carbs today, so I guess I'll have to have a square of the bitter 80% dark chocolate instead to make sure I stay in the 20g zone".

Seriously, WTF. It got to the point where I realized I was obsessing so much over this stuff that it was getting dangerous. Like, eating disorder dangerous. IT'S ONE SMALL SQUARE OF CHOCOLATE. NOT EVEN A WHOLE BAR OR EVEN A WHOLE PORTION (a portion of Lindt is two squares).

It Made Shopping For Food Miserable


It wasn't just the weighing things out that made me stressed and miserable, but food shopping did too. Walking past all that beautiful fresh fruit and veg and having to pick up only the asparagus, spinach, and broccoli made me sad every time. Just having to be faced with all these foods I 'couldn't have' made me really resent the whole diet.

Like I said above, I also became that nutcase who looked on the back of packets for the nutritional content of every single item I picked up. Oh, this greek yoghurt has 1.5g more carbs than my favourite one? I guess I'll have to have the one I don't like as much. WHO DOES THAT. IT'S NOT EVEN TWO GRAMS MORE. JUST EAT YOUR FAVE ONE AND BE HAPPY.

I Was Constantly Sick


And I still am sick. Keto is supposed to help you body fight disease and all this other stuff, but ever since I started Keto I've been sick non-stop. And I'm not talking about Keto flu, I'm talking about full blown chest infections, actual proper snotty colds, and constant issues with my asthma where I've needed steroids in tablet form. Not to mention I had a virus in October that made me nauseous for weeks and vomiting every day, and Keto just made it way worse because of the high fat content. The doctor warned me to stop eating a high fat diet and eat plain carbs, and boy was I wishing I'd listened to her while I had my head down the toilet every hour of every night and after lunch at work.


It's An Entire Lifestyle Change


Keto isn't really just a short-term diet, which I knew when I started. I started it with the hope I could actually adopt this whole lifestyle change and be a long-term Keto-er. But actually, after three months, HELL NO. The thing is, I could do it if I had to, if I had epilepsy or another medical issue where it was Ketosis or medication, I would choose Ketosis and I would suck it up and do it.

But I don't need to do it. I'm lucky in that yes, carbs make my body a bit more bloated, but actually I'm much happier with a little bit of bloat and all the veggies and fruit I want. And if I've had a shit day, instead of munching on one square of 80% Lindt dark chocolate, I can have the bloody white chocolate or extra creamy bar of Lindt instead. Keto definitely isn't for the faint hearted, or those who love their food a lot.


Did I See Any Benefits of Keto?


Yup. I lost weight quicker as the fattier foods were filling me up so much I struggled to even eat 1,500 calories a day (most days it would be around 1,000). I also found my stomach to be far less bloated, and my mental clarity was much clearer. When eating carbs I typically need to eat every hour or two to stay concentrated and to stop myself from feeling dizzy, but on Keto I could go without snacking and just have my main meals and a hard boiled egg before a gym workout. It was great, but honestly I'd rather sacrifice all that and feel like myself again and lose weight more slowly and in a healthier more sustainable way.

What Have I Learnt From Keto?


I workout around 4 days a week, so my plan going forwards is to carb-cycle. This means I'll eat Low-GI carbs on my workout days, and stick to a lower carb diet on the non-workout days. I will likely not go as low as 20g a day however and will probably try and stick to a more reasonable 50g and under. I'm also not gonna worry about eating whatever fruit and vegetables I want, if I want carrots, I'll eat the f*****g carrots.

So that's my Keto story! I know Keto works really well for millions of people, but it just wasn't for me. If I HAD to do it for medical reasons then I know I could do it, but right now I'm choosing not to as I don't need to and I feel much happier and healthier not doing Keto. Sometimes, your mental health and happiness is worth more than losing a few extra pounds.

Anyone want the five different types of cheese I still have in my fridge?


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