By now you have surely heard all the rage and excitement that is Keto. It seemed to come out of nowhere and before I knew it, everyone was doing it, recommending it, or thinking about it. I know because I was one of them. At the beginning of 2019 I found myself in my doctors office being told I was diabetic and the best thing for me would basically be to go on a Keto diet. So, I started researching and doing exactly what my doctor ordered. Within five months I lost 17 pounds and I swore I was the Keto ambassador. I told everyone who would listen that this was the next best thing since the last next best thing. Yep, I just did that.
Keto focuses on higher fat and very low carbohydrates which forces your body to burn the extra fat versus the carbs you are no longer consuming and now your body is in what's called ketosis. The majority of the recipes you will find online are meat and veggie friendly with as much bacon, cheese, butter and fat as you desire. Sounds amazing right? When I found out I could put cheese on nearly everything I was in heaven and most of my dishes were covered in butter and cheese. I had to be doing something right because my clothes started to fit differently, so yey me! But what was that smell??? I heard stories of people saying their breath started smelling 'different' after they started Keto and once I noticed the same I truly thought the culprit was the reduction in carbs. I added a few extra carbs here and there but I didn't change the amount of cheese I was eating and the smell of my breath remained the same, so I decided to cut out dairy completely. It took me about a month and half to realize the added dairy was causing my breath to become a tad bit offensive. Within a week and a half my breath was back to normal. Problems solved right? Not quite...
At my 6 month check up, my doctor was blown away with my progress. I dropped nearly 20 pounds and my A1C (a blood test that measures your blood glucose levels over the past 3 months) went from 6.7 to 5.8, however my cholesterol was slightly elevated. This was a first as I never had problems with my numbers in the past. The problem is when higher fat and lower carbs become a constant part of your diet your cholesterol should be closely monitored as the added fat can sometimes cause your overall numbers to sky rocket. Always keep in mind that for some high cholesterol is hereditary, despite your diet and lifestyle choices.
WebMD states that an LDL (bad cholesterol) of 190 or more is considered very high. As for HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) a higher number means a lower risk. The reason for this is because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the 'bad' cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries. Triglycerides are the form in which most fat exists in food and the body. A high triglyceride level has been linked to higher risk of coronary artery disease. For more details on understanding cholesterol numbers visit WebMD.
When you reduce what your body is typically used to consuming you will notice a change almost immediately and you begin to reprogram your body to react differently to the foods you are putting into it. For people who suffer with diabetes, a carb heavy diet is your worst enemy. Carbohydrates turn into sugar which can send your numbers through the roof. It's also a known fact that carbs are just so amazingly delicious! Giving up my favorites like potatoes, rice, bread and pasta seemed unimaginable until I had to do it. I found tons of recipes online and started to improvise and get creative in the kitchen. I learned to replace potatoes with cauliflower and pasta with spaghetti squash. Fresh vegetables and items that have lower saturated fat have also become my staples in the kitchen. I'm careful with the amount and type of fruit I eat as well. Some fruits are higher in sugar and carbs than others. I typically stick with raspberries and blackberries and an occasional apple or two here and there. The key is learning to eat to live and not live to eat.
Water and exercise play a huge part in your overall health and well-being. Water helps to flush toxins from your body and it keeps your metabolism flowing. You will start to notice that you have more energy and you feel rejuvenated. With exercise, you don't have to run a 5K or enter the local triathlon, but get up and move! Walk around your neighborhood, find exercises that are easy to do and work your way up to challenging yourself. There are so many exercises you can do right inside your home. If it helps to get a workout partner then do that as well. Start a journal and record your milestones. Before you notice how your body is changing, others will, so take before and after pictures to see it for yourself. Setting small goals eventually turn into bigger goals and before you know it, a habit has formed. A good one at that!
Ultimately you will need to do what works best for you and your body type. I would say for the most part I am no longer doing a traditional Keto diet. I eat bread, pasta and dairy, just not as much as I used to. When I have those things I consider it a treat and trust that I enjoy every single moment of it. Falling off the wagon is an understatement, but I'm never discouraged. If I have a bad day or a bad week, I just pick myself up and get back on target for my health goals.
At the end of the day Keto treated my body well. It was a true lifestyle change however the added fat did not agree with my numbers, so I made changes as needed. There are pros and cons in anything, the key is if you are starting a new regimen, the good should always outweigh the bad.
So the choice is yours! Treat your body well and it will thank you for years to come.
*AJ's Diary is not a licensed physician or dietary consultant. Discuss health concerns and dietary changes with your physician.
"This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard." -Neil Gaiman