By now we have all heard about the report where Keto was ranked last in safe diets by doctors, so why is someone like me choosing it? I am highly educated, my day job includes not just knowing how to research, but also knowing how to recognize reliable information. Heck, one of my siblings is even a Registered Dietician! So why is this the conclusion I have come to?
Like most things, it is complicated.
I have had some temporary success with more traditional diets. In college, I put my twenty-year old metabolism to work and took up running. After a few of months of working my way up to running a half hour four days a week and eating a low fat diet, I finally lost around forty-five pounds over the course of a year. Then, winter came and I stopped running and the pounds came back and they brought friends. I took up running again at 22yo, and this time nothing budged. My fat can only be fooled once by a diet.
In my mid-twenties, I tried Weight Watchers and worked out religiously. That time, I lost about twenty-five pounds. I stopped Weight Watchers (I am terrible at tracking and counting calories), but kept up my workout routine. Then I got a new job that proved to be very stressful and time-consuming, so I started eating out more and the weight crept back on. A trainer at my gym suggested I was gaining because I was working out too much (45min-hr/5 times a week), so I scaled back and quickly fell back out of the working out habit, too.
(Sorry any guys.) Then in my late thirties, my period started coming with massive cramps the likes of which I had not seen since I was in high school. I had always had some, but these were bad enough for me to leave work sick so I got an IUD. The first few months of the IUD, my hormones were insane. I wanted to eat everything. My cravings were as intense as a pregnant woman’s. All I wanted was sugar and fat. At one point I had the thought that a stick of butter rolled in sugar would really hit the spot (this was one of the few cravings I did not follow through on btw.) By the time my hormones settled, I had gained forty pounds to reach my highest weight ever.
I tried Weight Watchers again. Nothing. My wallet was the only thing that lost weight.
I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. Weight did not budge. The fact that my trainer was also a server at The Cheesecake Factory seemed the perfect metaphor for my lack of progress.
I went hard core and joined a CrossFit gym. My weight still was not moving, but at least I was seeing progress in my strength. Then two years ago, the CrossFit gym had a competition. They like to do the occasional nutrition challenge and this one was a 30 day sugar detox to see who could lose the most weight in one month by cutting all added sugar out of their diet. The rules were no added sugar, only one serving of fruit per day, and we had a Facebook group to record our meals. In thirty days I lost twenty pounds, but sugar is addictive and this junkie reverted to her old habits.
But something was different this time. I did not gain back the weight. I got more consistent in my workouts and did not lose any more weight. This confirmed for me that exercise alone does not help weight loss. I have summers off and the lack of a schedule got me out of my gym schedule and I still did not gain any weight back. More proof that this was more complicated than Calories In, Calories Out.
Once I was back on a schedule, I got better about going to the gym consistently, but the lack of movement on the scale was wearing on me. Also, my blood pressure and blood sugar were still borderline high and I was still pre-diabetic. So about a year ago I decided the obvious solution was no sugar again.
Nope. My body will only fall for a diet once, so I needed to take things to the next level.
I had heard of the ketogenic diet very briefly in relation to treating epilepsy. I think that is the big reason I have never bought the whole “keto is dangerous” narrative. Then Joe Rogan started talking about it on his podcast (I swear I do not base all my life choices on Joe Rogan, it is just a coincidence he has came up two posts in a row.) What he was saying made sense to me, so I started poking around the internet. From there I found The Ketovangelist Podcast with Brian Williamson and started listening to him which led to Jimmy Moore’s Podcast Keto Talk. Brian added the Ketovangelist Kitchen segment to his show, which turned into its own show with Carrie Brown. Jimmy had Shawn Mynar as a guest, so I added The Keto for Women Show to my podcast rotation.
Let’s just say, I was researching this to death to avoid the truth that it was time to give up sugar and grains for good. I had already reached the conclusion on my own that weight gain was more complicated than the “a calorie is a calorie” model, so the hormone (namely insulin) explanation made a lot of sense to me. My family history makes me a hormonal time-bomb. Both my grandmothers were diabetic, both my grandfathers died of heart disease, my dad is diabetic and had two heart attacks before the age of sixty, and my grandma and one sister have hypothyroidism. The more I listened to and read about ketosis, the more I was convinced my weight was a symptom, not the disease. I had high blood pressure, high blood sugar, my cholesterol ratio was troublesome, and prediabetes.
But still, I wavered because my addiction to sugar is strong. I decided the best course of action for me was to join Shawn Mynar’s Fat Burning Female Project. What I liked was for one it is geared toward women.
History lesson: years ago, a drug was approved in the UK that ended up causing devastating birth defects. In the aftermath to try to prevent this from ever happening again, drug trials were made as homogeneous as possible. This meant that many drugs were only tested on men, because a woman’s monthly cycle meant more variables to account for in studies. Recently, scientists discovered how dangerous this could be based on how many women reacted to a sleep drug because the dosing sizes were based on only men, so women were sleep walking or even sleep driving! So drug trials are starting to get a bit more diverse, but still a lot of tests, protocols, medications, and recommendations are based on how men’s bodies react. Since I have deduced my problem is hormonal, it does not make sense to base my solution on what works for a man. If there is one way everyone can agree men and women are different, it is our hormones.
So Monday, I will join the new round of the Fat Burning Female Project. Besides being based on women’s bodies, I also like that it has a simplified and more importantly, temporary tracking system that is used to make us intuitive eaters instead of requiring me to keep a lifelong list of my macros. Several tries with Weight Watchers taught me tracking food is not my forte. I also like that we are eased into ketosis (no or mild keto flu) and that Shawn’s focus is healing the hormones. Heal the hormones and the symptoms will disappear.
The last reason I am choosing keto is that I have been doing keto-lite and even that has been helping. I have not seen weight loss (which is a hard metric of health to let go of because you can see it on the scale and feel your clothes fitting differently), but I have seen other improvements already. My blood pressure has normalized even under the new stricter guidelines, my cholesterol ratio is spot on, and my resting blood sugar is dropping. None of these metrics healed when I tried low fat/exercise. As a matter of fact, that is when some started. How is the lifestyle that has started to show real healing the unhealthy option?
There is progress, but not visual progress. That is why I am doing this blog, to keep me on track so I can be patient while my body heals from decades of hormonal hijinks.
I can do this.
I have to do this.