Ladies and gentlemen, I am 5 days from my official end of my “3 month keto challenge”. Note, this is something I sort of came up with myself, there is no official ice bucket challenge for this shit, I just sort of figured I’d do it for 3 months non-stop, no cheat meals, and see how it went. As a back story, I did Atkins twice before, but I was much, much younger and my food choices sucked. As an “adult” my keto journey involved a lot more variety in food, and with this, I liked my experienced on keto far better than anything I ever did on Atkins.
To be clear, there are some slight differences with the two. While both are low carb, there is also a subtle difference within this. Keto tried to keep you in ketosis permanently, while Atkins eventually increases carbs until you hit a lifelong number where you don’t gain/lose. Additionally, keto emphasizes “high fat” and “moderate protein” where Atkins addresses neither – this means on Atkins, you can potentially be high protein and low fat – the variety which I tried. Tons of protein can also cause some kidney issues, and some of the protein can be converted to carbs through an expensive process called gluconeogenesis. I once read that 300 calories of excess protein can convert to 100 calories of carbs. So, not all calories are calories.
What strikes me mostly about this diet is how I’ve owned my hunger. I have to tell you something – when you reduce your carbs down to next to nothing, your body really learns about hunger control. I eat lots of fats and protein and this creates satiety.
I ask you, what is the MOST important thing about choosing a diet or lifestyle? I can tell you from my perspective, it’s controlling hunger. I have been reading “The Calorie Myth” by Jonathan Bailor – it’s incredibly insightful, as the myth of calorie counting has seemed to contribute to getting us to this point in our lives. I must have “dieted” 50 times in my life. I’ve lost a LOT of weight multiple times – but ultimately, the weight found its way back on. Sometimes I did really bad. Other times I didn’t. And yet people looked at me in shame, as if the scarlet letter of “F” for fat was placed on my forehead for eternity.
I don’t think the general public has any clue of how hungry obese people are, day in and day out, and the amount of will power they need to deal with 24×7. This has been because we cannot control hunger – it’s present a LOT of times, to the extent where you literally have significant problems avoiding a McDonald’s drive thru. You become almost hyper focused on a meal, a craving – and until you get that sweet craving fulfilled, your body gets in a way. This is the problem with the “traditional American diet” where additives, preservatives, MSGs, GMOS – all of this stuff trigger hunger/cravings and manipulate our gut biome into craving foods, almost to a point we cannot resist.
With keto/atkins, what it does is remove cravings, hunger, and allows you to really take control of your food once again. Ultimately, I feel this might be removing all of the processed foods/sugars which allow the control once again, but keto does have the satiety effect going for it.
But I don’t feel this is a diet. Maybe it is? Maybe it’s another fad diet that will fade within a few years, like Atkins did. The problem with that logic is that this is really kind of how our ancestors ate. Carbs were NOT plentiful until the last few thousand years with agriculture. Our bodies have developed over millions of years to mostly be without carbs, and when we do hit a patch of them, we eat – and our bodies are then designed to use insulin to store away this energy for later usage because we may not see another berry patch for 30 miles. I believe items like green leafy veggies were plentiful and abundant and people ate this in droves.
But I laugh at this as a diet when last night I had keto connect’s cheese cake. This is NOT your Splenda cheese cake of 2 decades ago. When I ate this, I went back to the swerve package to double check that it wasn’t sugar. I just was scared I completely blew my diet by getting the wrong sweetener. I literally cannot tell the difference right now between the cheesecake I made and something you might get at a diner. My wife made a face when she ate it (she normally does this at anything I make, mind you) – as she is an avid sugar consumer. To her, this might have tasted odd. To me, this is the best damn sweet thing I ever ate, sugar or not.
The list goes on.
- I make green beans. Put them in the microwave bag for 4 minutes then fry them up in 1-2 TBSP of Kerry Gold butter. I eat the whole bag (100 calories). This is pretty guilt free.
- Kerry Gold grass fed butter – it’s really good. I used it for everything. Simply put, they tell you to not use olive oil for cooking anymore, as doing that may turn it into some trans fats/omega 6s. I use this for zucchini, onions, steaks, coffee. Saturated fats are not the enemy anymore, just as they realized eggs aren’t bad for you with cholesterol anymore.
- Cheese. I love cheese. I don’t go crazy overboard, but you get the full fat cheeses, and damn…it’s amazing. Just recently I did the full fat ricotta with full fat mozz for my zucchini lasagna, WOW. Flavor pops out at you. After 3 decades of low fat/part skim/non fat cheeses, the flavor is to die for
- Steaks – I’m eating the ribeye/NY strip steaks with the fat. Satiety is amazing.
- Chicken thighs/drumsticks/wings – for years, I only bought the chicken breasts. Now, these other cuts are really delicious and provide satiety.
- Sauces – I use Rao’s (ridiculously low in carbs) and add onions, grass fed ground beef, cheese – and top this on my zoodles.
- Bacon/sausage/eggs – I don’t eat a pound of bacon, but the point here is you can eat things like this and they are delicious!
So last night I also made up keto connect chocolate (used swerve this time) and love it – also dropped some almond butter in these and crackled some pink salt on top of it. Again – 100% swap for me for “regular” peanut butter cups.
What I have done is removed all refined sugars (ALL) from my diet. This has allowed me to not only lose a lot of weight, but it got me down to “one meal a day” or OMAD. Do I have to do this? No. In fact, if I continue to eat lower calories, it could reduce my metabolism somewhat. On the weekends I eat two meals a day. But on the OMAD, I have a hard time getting 1600 calories in a day. I have about 350 with my morning coffee and my dinner time is really hard to get 1300 in a meal with what I eat. The keto chocolate/fat bombs/cheesecake can add some calories towards the end of the meal to keep me up around 2,000 calories. I don’t NEED this, mind you. It’s nice for me to have once in awhile.
What is the big takeaway here? I don’t feel like I’m dieting. When you make up cheesecake with full fat everything and have the right sweetener to replace sugar, WOW it’s amazing. You don’t feel like you are eating artificial sweetener. I know there are a LOT of diets out there. But when you are sitting down and eating home made wings made in your oven, with franks red hot and Kerry gold butter, it’s something delicious and most definitely not diet-like. And you wake up the next day weighing less. It’s silly.
Where to go from here?
I plan on doing another 3 month challenge, which will take me up until July 4th – every year, I go to Long Island with the wife to visit her family. I go for 4 days, she goes for 10. I took my car last year and had my bike rack and bike with me. So, I will bike a lot up there. More on that in a few.
For now – I’m going to start introducing some berries on days where I do a lot of activity. I keep my carbs usually around 15-30 every day. The higher days are the zucchini pasta days, the lower days are the steaks/green bean days. On days where I am not doing anything, I will keep my carbs around 20 or less, on highly active days I go to 30 without a sweat. What I will be looking at mostly is to add some more berries and not worry so much about the “30” on those days, possibly getting to 40-50. I feel with the level of activity I have, some berries then walking the dog for 40 minutes is not going to kick me out of ketosis. I figured some berries on those cheese cakes would be amazing! I LOVE raspberries and strawberries. So as spring is coming, I will be adding them and closely monitoring their effect on me.
When summer happens, I will be 6 months in. I’m going to test a theory by Mark Sisson. He’s got his own “primal” product he pitches, but the overall concept is once you’ve been “adapted” for so long, your body has “metabolic flexibility” so it can burn carbs OR fat easily. He is more in the “paleosphere” if you will on the low carb spectrum, but there is overlap with the keto community. Essentially, when I go to long island, I’m going to have a few days where I have carbs – I want to see how it affects me. His claim is that HE can go from 30g of carbs a day up to 150 and back down with NO effect on him. Now, I don’t plan on eating a bag of sugar, but I would like a real goddamn slice of pizza for once. But, it’s a trigger food, so I have to be careful. The idea is to have pizza, count the carbs, and monitor how I feel. I plan on biking with this, to potentially burn a lot of this off to minimize the effects anyway. When in Long Island, there’s a few “traps” I have up there:
- Pizza. Sorry, when there, this will happen. Period.
- TJs. Again – the hoagie (sorry, hero) is amazing. Thick bread, great fillings.
- Mrs. B’s famous ribs. BBQ sauce is amazing – so is the cheeseburgers on the grill with it, with the bun.
- Carvel – going with Mr. B to Carvel is one of the highlights of my trip 🙂 Carvel has some damn fine soft ice cream. This is NOT low carb.
Now – any of you who have gone off of atkins, know that this will trigger immediate thirst, 5-8 pounds of water gain, kick you out of ketosis. But you also know that you can go back into ketosis and all of this weight is taken back off after 5 days. The “keto flu” apparently is avoided though when you are fat adapted to this level. This is part of what I want to see. For me, I can live 95% of my life low carb – but you have the holidays, the vacations – these things that you might not have your trusty food prep for – I’d like to see if Sisson’s theory holds true. Can I have one slice of pizza and not really have any effect?
Sisson also proclaims with his “primal” method that we all want to eat – as much as we can “get away with”. I don’t think he’s too off with that.
Of interest, I just don’t feel like I’m on a diet when I have such an amazing array of foods to eat. Except the Long Island trip. And Christmas. And vacation. So ultimately, we have to determine how a keto lifestyle can be compatible with….”life”. And, when can we deviate? What price is there to pay?
Ultimately, one big takeaway is that for someone like Sisson who is in incredible shape in his 60s, ketosis isn’t important for him. Low carb is for health. Remember – we care a lot about ketosis to burn fat from our midsections. If you are close to a maintenance weight, maybe you adapt a low carb/paleo lifestyle? The real danger is “flipping back” full time to a sugar burner, but not having enough sugars to get by – which is when you will feel run down and tired all the time, and want to eat more. THAT’s the trap.
Anyone out there been on keto for more than 6 months and done a “cheat meal” or “cheat day”? What effects did you suffer?
To conclude – I answer – is keto a diet?
The way I see it, it’s a primal way of eating – comparable to paleo in trying to have some sort of time-based sense with it. My artificial sweetener is not paleo. And no, people 30,000 years ago did not have swerve confectioners sweetener. I get this. But more importantly, I would consider how everyone currently eats based off of the food pyramid as:
- Grain/based dieting
- High sugar dieting
- High insulin dieting
- Processed food dieting
With “keto” dieting, the objective is to stay in ketosis and burn fat as a fuel. Interestingly enough, this seems to be the body’s DEFAULT way of eating. Our “western diet” has added more sugars than we can possibly process, leading to fatty liver disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancers, alzheimers, obesity, etc.
This leads me to feel like I’m eating “normal”, and all of you are “dieting” on a diet that is not meant for our bodies.
What you have not seen in some of my pictures is that I eat MASSIVE salads every day prior to my “dinner”. I get 4-7 cups of greens a day, if not more. I feel this is also a very important aspect of ANY diet on the planet. Ignore the croutons in the pic below, this is an older picture – and a dinner I eat 2-3 nights a week. So, the big difference? No croutons. SHAME!!