Hiya, confetti toss!
I just completed my 30 days of keto.
Well…..more like 5 weeks since I had a couple of re-sets in there. ;) Hey, no one is the perfect dieter, right?!? ;)
SO. It went well. But, missed fruit.....and the massive quantities of veggies that I normally eat. Plus, my organic produce box has still been coming. Thus, my counter is pretty much covered in butternut squash, carrots, and potatoes at this point.
So, I went back to my normal paleo template in the hopes that this experience re-set my appetite signaling. Translation: hoping that it cured my ridiculous postpartum sugar cravings!
The result: success! I lost a total of 9 pounds on keto, and I have now been eating 'normally' for several days. It's a BLACK AND WHITE difference from before keto. I feel completely in control of my appetite and carb intake.
Let me 'splain. What can sometimes happen is something called leptin resistance. In fact, this OFTEN happens among people who struggle to lose weight. Leptin is the hormone that tells our brain we are full (stop eating)! When we over-eat or eat sub-optimal foods, our body constantly puts out leptin...too much. Our brain stops listening. Then, we end up over-eating because we don't get the 'you're full' message. It seems that my month of keto has repaired that leptin resistance; my brain is listening again. It makes sense - your body puts out much less leptin on keto, so my brain became sensitive to it again.
I have a few more pounds to lose, so I'm going back to my normal paleo diet with 'zone' macros, at a mild calorie restriction. I tried that before keto, and it was a miserable failure. However, I'm having good success with it now!
Anyway, I decided to wrap up this ‘month of keto’ with a final article on the topic. It’s a Q&A, and thanks to everyone who sent me a question! Here we go….
Is it hard to eat all that fat?
Um. No. Fat is delicious. But, let’s be clear: I don’t recommend the keto approach that has you eating spoon-fulls of coconut oil or drinking straight MCT oil. That IS disgusting. However, you can easily hit 70% of your calories from fat just by limiting protein to your needs, eating low carb veggies, eating foods that are naturally high in healthy fats, then adding fat to your cooking and as a condiment. Here are a few examples of what that might look like:
Salad with tuna mayo, cheese, olives, avocado, nuts, and dressing made with olive oil and vinegar (did you catch the SIX fat sources there?)
Celery with almond butter
Avocado with eggs
Baked salmon with kale (stir-fried in coconut oil)
Chicken thighs with cabbage (stir-fried in ghee)
Deli chicken rolls filled with cream cheese, olives, and spinach
Scrambled eggs with butter and lox
Etc. etc. So much fat, so nutrient-dense, and so easy to eat. No scoops of mayonnaise needed. ;)
What does a day of keto look like?
See above! Those are pretty typical meals from my month of ‘paleo keto’. Today I had:
Breakfast: spinach sautéed in ghee, then cooked with 2 scrambled eggs and ½ avocado. Keto milkshake on side: 2 oz low carb coconut milk, 1.5 Tbsp collagen hydrosylate, 1.5 Tbsp psyllium husk, 2 drops liquid stevia, and a sprinkle of cocoa powder
Snack: deli chicken rolls with cream cheese and homemade sauerkraut
Lunch: huge salad with mixed lettuce, cooked kale, green olives, shredded cheese, and 1 can of tuna (drained, mixed with mayo and curry powder)
Snack: celery sticks with almond butter plus a handful of blueberries
Dinner: crock pot meal of pulled pork, cabbage, green beans, and celery
Dessert: paleo cheesecake (yum!)
Beverages: water, sparkling water, black coffee, tea, electrolytes, and a couple of times per week a glass of wine or a low-carb cocktail. Note: the one drink every few nights hasn’t interrupted my ketosis at all. The date-night disaster of unplanned, bottomless jug of wine? Different story!
This might seem like a lot of food. Yes. And I still lost weight. :) Remember, though, that I also CrossFit, mother 3 little boys, and am breast feeding. Your needs will depend on your specifics. If you need help determining your macro goals, I really recommend getting it. Just eating ‘low carb food’ and guessing/praying doesn’t work! Get more details from my article on Common Keto Mistakes
Is keto safe for kids?
The only studies of children on a keto diet are for epileptic children. Keto is known to cause weight loss (for most), and it’s really difficult to get enough nutrients on keto. So, it’s not generally a good idea for children. If a child goes on a ketogenic diet, it should be with medical supervision.
I’ve been hearing some scary ideas on social media that children should be keto because cells ‘grow better’ off ketones and, since kids are growing, that is ideal. Just. No. Cells grow really well on carbs. In fact, ketogenic diets are sometimes used to LIMIT cell growth in cancer patients.
Kids need the energy and nutrients from a balanced, nutritious diet that matches the ancestral template. That should include fruit and starchy vegetables for sure. Some gluten-free grains are usually fine for kids as well.
How should I use MCT oil?
MCT oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (hence, MCT). In short, these lipid molecules are more easily converted into ketones than other types of fat molecules. For this reason, there is a lot of hype online around MCT oil. You also get MCTs from other fat sources like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and ghee.
I don’t recommend starting out with MCT oil when first trying out keto. It’s best to figure out how you can get into ketosis using real, nutrient-dense foods. Then, once you’ve become used to the keto lifestyle, you could try some MCT oil either cold (i.e. in a salad dressing) or mixed in a warm beverage. Do NOT cook with MCT oil, as it has a low smoke point (becomes oxidized/inflammatory with heat). A better high-heat oil choice would be ghee, duck fat, goose fat, lard, or coconut oil.
Bottom-line, the benefits of MCT really aren’t much compared to the overall benefits of ketosis. In other words, if you’re keto, you’re already getting the benefits. You don’t need to add special (expensive) MCT oil on top of it. If you’re not in ketosis, just eating MCT oil isn’t the same and won’t yield the same benefits. So, the cost isn’t usually justified in my opinion. If you just LOVE the way it tastes blended in your coffee, that’s fine to have. It’s just not necessary.
How long should I eat keto?
I LOVE this question! I’m seeing people follow keto for way too long. The exact duration depends somewhat on your situation and your goals, but it should NOT be done long-term, especially without the help of an experienced healthcare provider. They can guide/monitor your intake and even run labs to monitor you. It’s really easy to miss critical nutrients on keto, plus it’s very difficult to get enough fiber. Over the long term, this can cause imbalances in the microbiome. Fiber provides the 'food' needed for our gut bacteria to thrive.
On the other hand, keto does fit well within the ancestral template. Ancestral groups went through periods of ketosis when carbs (or just food) were low. So, the best bet is to cycle in and out of keto in a similar fashion. You can read more about the benefits of keto from my article All About Keto.
So, the best way to balance this is to actually cycle in and out of keto. I recommend a baseline protocol of 1 month of keto, twice per year (every 6 months, eat keto for a month). Make it a fall and spring thing!
Remember, also, that keto isn’t appropriate for everyone! A few examples of people who should avoid it are children, pregnancy, breast feeding, history of eating disorder, underweight, and chronic constipation. On the other hand, times to consider LONGER than a month on keto would be epilepsy, cancer, or weight loss. If you think you might need to follow keto for longer than 30 days (i.e. to lose enough weight), get plugged in with someone who can monitor and guide you appropriately, so that you can be safe and successful.
There you go! Have more questions? Send them over by comment to this post or by using the contact form above. If you try keto, I’d love to hear how it goes!
Erin Skinner, MS, RD, IFNCP, CLT, CPT