It’s easy to dismiss keto as just another diet. It might even feel like a craze that will pass in a few years, as diet fads often do. However, there’s more to keto than meets the eye. People are tired of being fat and sick. They’re tired of falling prey to diabetes, cancer, and the metabolic disease machine. They’re clapping back at the obesity epidemic and taking matters into their own hands.
Food Pyramid Failure
We’ve been so brainwashed by the food pyramid that it’s actually scary for a lot of us to begin eating keto. We’ve been following the food pyramid for decades now and have only grown fatter and unhealthier for it.
Obesity and diabetes have risen to epidemic levels. We’re trapped in a paradigm that tells us that in order to lose weight or avoid being fat in the first place, we need to strictly limit calories and do extreme workouts like P90X and CrossFit (not that there’s anything wrong with those). People are making entire careers out of selling us diet after diet while we remain the same or worse off than we started.
Keto is More Lifestyle Change Than Diet
Keto doesn’t just aim to change the things we eat and drink. The spirit of keto is changing our relationship with food and breaking the grip of carbohydrates designed to keep us continually eating. It’s upending the food pyramid and learning about what these foods actually do in the body. It’s about learning to live without constantly eating food or drinking sugary drinks. Rethinking all of that, making new choices, and building new habits is the heart and soul of keto.
The Goal of Keto
To make things ultra-simple, the overarching goal of keto is to control the release of insulin, so your body burns stored fat. In the presence of insulin, your body cannot burn fat. Insulin turns that off, even if you exercise. You don’t want to exercise for no good reason, right?
Think of the standard American diet. Even if we’re not snacking between meals, we’re eating every four to six hours or so while we are awake. While that sounds very practical, the reality is that most of us graze. What happens when we graze all day? Grazing causes the continual release of insulin. Our insulin levels are never allowed to go down after a meal if we are eating again within an hour or two.
Is Insulin Bad?
No, insulin has a very important job and we get very sick with too much or too little of it. That said, we want insulin to do its job after our meals and then recede. When it’s almost constantly circulating, we start having problems. We start getting fat and sick, developing insulin resistance and then diabetes. Once the diabetes arrives, it’s a snowball rolling downhill.
Diabetes sets in motion the metabolic disease machine that clogs our arteries and leads to heart disease and a range of related health problems. Heart disease was once blamed on cholesterol, but we now know that it is insulin that causes the arteries to become occluded. It leads us down the path to accelerated aging, shorter telomeres, and a shorter lifespan.
Keto isn’t just eating from a list of keto-friendly foods. It’s allowing time between meals for periods of no food when we can enter ketosis and burn fat. Planning when to have quality carbs is an integral part of the keto lifestyle. Eating carbs at the wrong time makes them readily available for your body to use as energy instead of burning stored sugar and fat.
Long fasts can be helpful but aren’t required. However, if you fast between meals, rather than grazing all day, you may find you don’t need any additional fasting at all. This is especially true if you only eat two or fewer times a day. Many people are not naturally inclined to eat three meals a day.
Once you’re eating keto, you’re likely to discover that you think about food much less often. It’s common to experience fewer cravings for sweets and other munchies while eating keto. You may also learn that you don’t like three meals a day and perhaps feel best eating only two. For instance, I prefer to eat a meal between 10-11 a.m., then not eat again until my evening meal around 7 p.m. This is perfect for me and allows me to have eight or nine hours where I can be in ketosis between meals.
The Keto Flu
An oft-heard concern of those considering a switch to keto is keto sickness or the keto flu. Keto flu can be described as your body’s response to fewer simple carbohydrates. When your body is accustomed to a certain amount of carbs per day, it acts in anticipation.
For instance, if you always start the day with a sugary coffee and a muffin, your pancreas will spit out the amount of insulin required to handle that job. When you stop eating it, your pancreas will continue to anticipate your sugary breakfast and plan accordingly. This can leave you feeling weak, fatigued, jittery, unable to focus, hungry, and more. There are also bacteria that rely on the sugary breakfast. Deprived of sugar, they starve to death and leave behind debris that your body must flush out. This can also leave you feeling under the weather.
If you experience keto flu, you can feel better by drinking more water and getting some exercise to help things move along. You can increase your fats, so you have more energy. One of the most important things that will help you through is sleep; this is not the time to skimp on shut-eye. It’s important to know that these symptoms are temporary (if you experience them at all) and will pass.
What If I Don’t Need to Lose Weight?
You don’t need to be overweight to benefit from eating keto. This is another thing that distinguishes keto as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. Most people wouldn’t choose to diet if they didn’t need to lose weight because that’s the singular goal of a diet. The difference here is that all kinds of people are eating keto because they want to be healthier, have more energy, and cut their disease risk. They want to put more life in their years by delaying or reversing metabolic syndrome.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you are a person with health conditions, particularly those that require prescription medications, it’s always safest to talk with your doctor before undertaking any significant diet or lifestyle changes. It’s imperative to make sure they’re not harmful for your condition. Another consideration is that it may affect the need or effectiveness of your medications, so your doctor may want to monitor your progress.
There are very good reasons for considering keto. It’s my hope that this article has given you some information and reassurance you need to make a quality decision about whether keto is right for you. What is it that most interests you about keto and what problems are you hoping a keto lifestyle will address? Let me know in the comments and I hope you will share your progress! If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer.