Tips for success and what to watch out for!
Most of us have this idea in our head about what Type 2 Diabetes and/or Prediabetes looks like. And usually it does not involve the person looking back at us from the bathroom mirror, especially if we are normal weight and exercise regularly. The harsh reality is that Diabetes does not discriminate and these old ideas about needing to be overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle in order to get Type 2 Diabetes need to be replaced.
Here is my reality. I am 42 years old, I eat healthy, my weight is normal, and I exercise regularly. Yet, I was faced with the harsh reality that I was Prediabetic. I went through a lot of emotions but none stronger than the desire to make a change to help reverse the disease and put me back on the track to health. Often, the initial path to reverse Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes begins with weight loss (if you have weight to lose), exercise (if you aren’t already), and a change to your eating.
My option was changing my way of eating. I did a ton of research and determined that the Ketogenic way of eating was my best bet to reversing this disease that was knocking at my door.
What is Ketogenic eating?
Ketogenic eating involves eating very high (healthy) fats, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrates. The idea is to switch your body from burning glucose as its primary fuel to burning fat as its primary fuel. You’ve probably heard the terms “Fat Adapted” and “Ketosis”. When you are burning fat consistently instead of glucose then you are generally in a state of ketosis and your body is fat adapted or at least in the process of becoming fat adapted.
It is generally advisable to stay under 35 total carbs or 20 net carbs per day. You can get the net carbs by subtracting off the total grams of fiber. It is not important to count calories. It is more important to track your macronutrients (macros).
Every body is different and will need different macros. To give you a general idea, however, the vanilla macros generally fall somewhere around this range: 5%-10% of your calories from carbohydrates, 60%-70% of your calories from fat, and the remainder from protein. Remember, your body is unique and has unique macronutrient needs.
The transition isn’t the easiest for some and the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t always shining brightly. I can assure you, though, that it is there.
Benefits of Ketogenic eating
Way back in the day there was a battle between sugar and fat. Sugar won and fat lost. The result was an explosion of low or no fat foods that were (and still are) very high in sugar. Additionally, it was recommended to reduce saturated fat without regard to a holistic view. The trend and what followed was an increase in heart disease, mainly due to the fact that fat was being replaced by processed carbohydrates (1).
Let’s start with this: Fat does not make you Fat and saturated fat is not the enemy. This must be the first mental battle that you have to win. We’ve been told this for decades, especially if you are in your 40s and above.
The proven high-level benefits of Ketogenic eating are (2):
- Weight loss
- Positive effects on Cardiovascular Disease
- Remarkable improvements in people with Type 2 Diabetes and insulin resistance
- Treatment for Epilepsy (its original design)
Additionally, there is “emerging evidence” that the Ketogenic way of eating can help with acne, cancer, PCOS, neurological diseases, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and brain trauma.
Transitioning to Ketosis
One of the things that almost everyone will go through when beginning a Ketogenic Lifestyle is often referred to as the Keto Flu. This is a generally a period of a few days when you first start as your body gets into the ketosis state.
In general, the fuel your body uses is glucose. You have a limited amount of reserves in your body and when you decrease your carbs, your body begins using the reserves. Once the reserves are depleted, your body will shift to using fat as its primary fuel. Your body isn’t happy about this transition and it lets you know. Once it transitions though, it will reward you with energy, focus, improved insulin sensitivity, and weight loss!
I did not do anything special during this time, but I have heard that pickle juice and beef or vegetable broth can help. Electrolyte balance is important as you’ll most likely be urinating quite a bit more given the Ketogenic way of eating has a natural diuretic effect.
I practice Intermittent Fasting (IF) in addition to Ketogenic eating. There are many variations of IF, but what it means for me is that I eat my last meal around 6:30pm and I don’t eat again until around 11:30am the next morning. This is a personal choice and not something mandatory. It can even be done just once a week.
The are many benefits of IF. One of which is that is helps with insulin resistance/sensitivity (3).
Our bodies are amazing and smart. Give it the opportunity to do some cleanup now and again, even if its just once a month.
3 Things to watch out for
Here are my top 3 things to be on the lookout for when transitioning to a Ketogenic Lifestyle:
1. Carbohydrates exist outside of bread and pasta!
Many people think if they aren’t eating things like bread, pasta, and sugary desserts that they aren’t eating carbohydrates. That is just one place carbohydrates are found. They can also be found in foods like beans, fruits and vegetables.
2. Vegetables can have a profound effect on blood sugar.
Personally, I have found my body to be very responsive (and not in a good way) to several vegetables, namely broccoli and brussels sprouts. Fruit is not high on the list in a Ketogenic Lifestyle given the amount of natural sugars. However, I do feel that getting some fruit is important so I will have ¼ cup of mixed berries a day mixed into a protein and fat based shake.
3. Maltodextrin has a glycemic index of between 85 and 130 (depending on the source)
Definitely be on the lookout for maltodextrin. This little bugger has a glycemic index higher than that of table sugar and white, processed bread. You can expect an immediately spike in blood sugar when consuming this. It hides in many places, one of which is Splenda. This is a sneaky substance and I’d definitely steer clear of it.
6 Tips for Success
So, you’ve decided to make some big changes. You are ready and committed. Day 1 hits and you second guess the whole darn thing.
Here are my top 6 tips for success when transitioning to the Ketogenic way of LIFE.
1. Get into the right mindset
If you have an existing mindset based around dieting, ditch it immediately. I know it is not as easy as it sounds. The Ketogenic way of eating is not a diet in what has come to be the definition of the word (i.e. a restricted calorie plan). Rather, the word Diet here takes on the first definition in the dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, diet means “food and drink regularly provided or consumed”.
Notice that I never talk about the “Ketogenic Diet”, but rather, I talk about the “Ketogenic way of eating” or the “Ketogenic Lifestyle”. I don’t want the word diet used given the definition most of us give it. The fact of the matter is that it is not a traditional diet in terms of the standard weight loss diets. Ketogenic is a lifestyle.
Take some time to consider why you want to transition to the Ketogenic way of eating. What are your pain points? Are you trying to restore your body or reverse disease? Are you trying to lose weight? Think long and hard about your reasons and feel the emotion behind them and get solid in your resolve. If you do not adopt the Ketogenic way of eating as a new lifestyle then several things may happen. You may find yourself cheating more often. You may find yourself going off “the diet” when you achieve your goal only to find out that you are back to square one after a few months. And I could go on and on.
Ketogenic is a lifestyle, not a temporary fix. Believe in the reasons behind the lifestyle and you will have long-term success.
2. Start with Paleo
My amazing doctor (Dr. McMonagle) suggested this to me when I first mentioned moving to Ketogenic and I’ve heard it mentioned several other places. I was already Paleo so I jumped right into Keto.
I would suggest Paleo with one modification. Normal Paleo eating involves removing grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, and processed foods. The modification I would make would be to keep dairy if you want it. Since Paleo is a transition and dairy is acceptable for Ketogenic eating, then there is no need to remove it.
What this will do for you is to ease the transition and not be such a shock on your body. By removing sugar, you can start the process of breaking any sugar addictions that you may not even know you had. You will also inherently decrease your daily carbohydrate intake, thereby making it a more gradual change.
After a week or two, you can them make the transition to full Ketogenic eating.
3. Drink lots of water
One common complaint when transitioning to the Ketogenic Lifestyle is constipation. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the best way to stay on top of this is to drink a lot of water.
Make sure you are always hydrated and that your urine is not dark in color. It is also a good idea to make sure you are getting your leafy greens!
4. Don’t push the boundaries
If you think of the Ketogenic way of eating as a temporary thing then you may find yourself trying to push or test the boundaries. Perhaps you might test the limits for how many carbohydrates you can have or go crazy with low/no calorie sweeteners.
If you allow your body and brain to transition to this new lifestyle fully, then you won’t need to test the boundaries or try to retrofit it into your prior lifestyle.
Rather than pushing limits, plan a cheat day (see tip 5).
5. Incorporate planned cheat days (if you want)
It is not a bad idea to plan a cheat day on occasion. I would not suggest it to be any more than one a month. I plan a cheat day every 2 months. My rationale is that after my cheat day, I feel yucky for a few days as my body tries to get back into ketosis and it just isn’t worth feeling yucky. I’d much rather feel fantastic and have loads of energy!
It can take a few days (or longer) for your body to get into ketosis. If you were to cheat once a week then you may be spending a lot less time enjoying the benefits of ketosis than you might think. Once a month? Sure!
6. Use available resources
- ruled.me and dietdoctor.com are fantastic resources for information on the Ketogenic Lifestyle and they both provide tried and true recipes that are amazing.
- MyFitnessPal is a great resource for tracking your macros, vitamin, and mineral intake. You don’t have to use it all the time, but for the first week or two, this is a good tool to make sure you are falling within the nutrient range for your goals.
- Perfect Keto is a great resource for things like Keto approved pre-workout, collagen protein, etc..
- ME! As a Graduate Student in Holistic Nutrition and a Certified Health Coach, I help people find their own personal path through the journey of health. I focus on sugar, gut health, and my latest addition is Ketogenic eating. Please contact me at [email protected] or contact me here for more information. I have guides, mini classes, and I do one on one work.
Enjoy the journey, reap the benefits, and restore your body!
- DiNicolantonio, J., Lucan, S. & O’Keefe, J. (2016). The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease. Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, 58(5). 464-472. doi 1016/j.pcad.2015.11.006
- Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J., & Grimaldi, K. (2013). Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic diets). European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67 (8). 789-796. doi: 1038/ejcn.2013.116
- Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185 (9). E363-E364. doi: 1503/cmaj.109-4451