August 28, 2017. Almost 2 years ago… I decided (for the millionth time) to try and lose some weight. And it’s funny, because at the beginning of that same August, I cleaned out my wardrobe and ditched all my “slim” clothing. I had somehow told myself that I was going to get old, fat. I had given up apparently. Then my daughter took a picture of me in my happy place, at the beach, and I simply hated what I saw. I have always been fat, but the face that stared back at me was bloated, my neck was MIA and I almost didn’t recognize myself. I decided to give it a go again. I knew from past experience that cutting carbs was the way for me to lose weight (I simply functioned better and it had worked in the past). A 30-day trial was in order. Here’s what happened next…
Yes, We Lost Weight on Keto. Yay!
My then 14 year old son was waging his own battle with fat and I invited him (he says I informed him!) to do this 30 day keto trial with me. We started on a Thursday, August 31. And here we are almost 2 years later, that 30 days trial having been extended into what is now simply how we live. We’re both many pounds lighter and other members of our immediate and extended family have converted to varying degrees and lost weight too.
Losing weight has been fantastic! The only thing I’ll say about my now skinny, tall 16 year old son, is that I’ve seen him become more confident (he was always and opinionated, sharp kid) and assertive and outgoing. The day he tried on brand new, slim fitting school uniforms then quietly found me and simply said: “Thanks, Mummy. Thank you.” I bawled. He may or may not share his whole story one day. That’s up to him. Back to me and weight loss… It has been fantastic! I like how I look again. I revel in my increased mobility, the ease with which I move around and the pleasure I take in doing so. I love shimmying into sizes I haven’t worn since the age of 14, and I’m almost 51! Catching a glimpse of my new body as I walk past a mirror or window is always, always a pleasant shock! Is that really me? But there is something else that has changed since I’ve been on this journey that is incredible and wonderful and awesome to me, and this is what I want to talk about. Nope, it’s not my now resolved acid reflux, painful ankle, increased energy levels, better moods, increased mental clarity, resolved sleep apnea, improved (not totally resolved) acne, no asthma issues in the last 24 months and reduced PCOS symptoms. Yes, all of the above happened (how wonderful is that!) but something else has changed: my relationship with food.
“I am the Captain now!” Thanks, Keto
I think recovering addicts can identify with how momentous this shift in the balance of power is. Anything that has control over you has you at its mercy. Powerlessness is akin to hopelessness. I now have the upper hand where food is concerned and I’d like to be specific as to what I mean when I say I have the upper hand where food is concerned.
All things in Moderation?
Moderation where food was concerned was an alien concept. It simply never worked for me. I’d start a meal with good intentions of never having seconds and eating only what was in reasonable proportion on my plate. It never ended like that. Seconds and thirds were the order of the day. I could never have enough rice! The result? I’d feel so uncomfortable when I was finally done. Can you eat just half a bag of chips? Can you eat 3 cookies and put up the rest for tomorrow? Can you take just a bite of that chocolate cake and say that’s enough or do you have to have the whole wedge? There’s a reason why I couldn’t say no, why I was like a bottomless pit almost. I wasn’t weak or greedy. I can and do stop now. I am in control. There’s a reason, and it’s grounded in physiology
1. I can now hear what my body is telling me.
I heard people say: eat until you’re just full. What did that feel like? I never really felt full. I was either hungry or totally bloated and uncomfortable. My son once described it as “his off-button doesn’t work”. I’m no longer like that. I can “hear” what my body is saying now. Feelings of satiety are normal now. There is no background noise or distortions that prevent me from feeling when I’m full. Know why? I’ll explain it all in a minute…science, not magic.
2. I Choose WHEN I eat!
Reducing carbs allowed me to transition to Intermittent Fasting. At first, the thought of going without food terrified me! I wanted no part of any such arrangement. But once I read up on the benefits of defining a narrow eating window, I knew that fasting had to become a part of my new healthy reality. There is an immense feeling of control and power that comes with fasting. I’ve moved from being someone who felt helpless in the face of my (enormous) appetite to someone who routinely eats within a defined 6-8 hour window. I can say no to food and follow through without pain or effort. I am in control. Fasting comes naturally to the fat adapted. And on a low-carb diet such as keto, one becomes fat-adapted. I’ll explain shortly.
3. I Choose WHAT to eat without feeling deprived or miserable
There are many who have deep reserves of will-power which allows them to say No Thanks to that cake or that rice or that bread. I myself had periods where I was able to do this. But for one, it wasn’t sustainable. On a bad day or in a moment of weakness, I’d revert and have the foods that I wanted to say No Thanks to. And in many cases, where I was able to say No Thanks, I was miserable. I was bummed that I had to say No Thanks and secretly longed for that forbidden fruit. I no longer have these feelings! I choose what I eat, and I don’t even think about the foods I no longer choose to eat. Will-power? Nah. Science. I’ll soon explain it. Suffice it to say, this is HUGE for me! I do a fair bit of work in coffee shops, surrounded by gorgeous looking cakes and pastry. At first the sight and aroma had me stressed. But today, I see them, I smell them and they do nothing for me. I have the power. And it’s a quiet strength that requires no recitation of mantras to “keep me strong”. I simply don’t even want them. Something changed. Hold on…explanation coming.
4. I ENJOY food without guilt
I’ve always enjoyed food. My whole family loves food. We talk about food. We discuss cooking methods. We read cookbooks and watch cooking shows. We lived from one meal to the next. I still do all of the above (except living from one meal to the next). But I’m no longer beset by feelings of guilt after a delicious, satisfying meal like I was in the past. You see, I knew that those mega helpings of rice and whatever else was in my plate were only weighing me down literally, and despite the momentary pleasure I experienced while eating (and I did enjoy the food) the inevitable guilt in the aftermath would follow, exacerbated as my trousers grew tighter and shorter. Self-loathing accompanied the guilt. How dysfunctional is that! Now I enjoy eating with none of the guilt. I know that I am eating food that optimizes my health and weight, I eat until I am satisfied, and mentally and emotionally I am free to move on to whatever else I choose to post meals because I know that I’m not gaining weight that I don’t want to gain. I am literally free to enjoy food again: all of the pleasure and none of the guilt. Priceless.
5. My Food Provides Pleasure & Functionality
And my love affair with food continues. One of the promises I made to myself when I started this journey 2 years ago is that I must never feel deprived, and that the food I eat must serve my needs AND be delicious. Promise made, promise kept. I cook and enjoy the most delicious low-carb/keto foods: all the meats and fish and green veggies done in innovative ways using full fat dairy and virgin coconut and olive oils. I’ve done my best to find new ways to prepare old favourites and I’m constantly on the look out for ways to make typical favourites low-carb: desserts, pizza and cauliflower instead of rice. I got the ultimate validation from H when he remarked about a year ago, that ever since I went low-carb, dinner every night is like eating out at a great restaurant! I suppose that I put more effort into preparing the foods that I’ve chosen to eat since there are no more carb-rich sides to compensate for flavour and texture. I enjoy the challenge and adventure of creating meals that are low-carb AND delicious.
Why is this all possible with Keto? The Explanation
So I can now hear my body clearly, I know when I’m full, I have control over my food choices, I voluntarily go without food with little effort, I have no more guilt when I eat and I love the adventure of creating low-carb meals that are awesome. How is all of this possible with keto?
Carbs are MY enemy: bread, rice, flour, pasta, crackers, cookies, cake, sugars, yams, potatoes and fruits. Yes, fruit. Fruits are sugar. Sugar makes ME fat. Did you know that carbs are the one and only non-essential micronutrient? We don’t need them provided that fats and proteins are in sufficient amounts. And we get (good) stuff from fats and proteins that we can’t get from carbs.
Insulin Resistance, Obesity and Food Choices
Contrary to what we’ve been taught, weight loss isn’t simply calories in versus calories out. Our bodies are way more complex than that and weight loss and gain are a function of hormones and body chemistry. When we eat carbs, our bodies secrete a hormone called insulin. This hormone metabolizes the starch to provide energy. For some of us though, our insulin is not very efficient. The result is high blood sugar levels when we consume starches and sugars AND high insulin levels because our insulin just is working as it should and our bodies compensate by secreting more and more insulin. High blood sugar levels and high insulin levels are a double whammy to our bodies! The result is is inflammation and inflammation is linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and some auto immune diseases like lupus. Guess what else…insulin interferes with our feeling of fullness also called satiety. That’s why when you snack on high-carb stuff like chips or crackers it is literally impossible to stop until you finish the entire bag! And you still feel hungry afterwards! Insulin also encourages our body to hold on to fat. THIS is why so-called “balanced meals” and “everything in moderation” haven’t worked for me. I have not been able sustain this approach and lose weight.
Eating meat, fish, eggs, full fat dairy, nuts, seeds and other healthy fats keeps my blood sugar and insulin levels low and steady. I become fat-adapted, meaning I burn fat instead of sugar for energy. The result is weight loss and improved health in addition to a complete change in how I relate to food…science, NOT magic!
Weight-loss, Improved health AND Control on Keto? Priceless
It feels absolutely great to be in control of my eating without the need for painful and difficult and tedious will-power. That I can listen to my body and hear what it is telling me without all the distortion and back-ground noise that comes when body chemistry is messed up is simply priceless. The weight loss and improved health are pretty good too. And it all comes down to eating in a way that honours my own physiology and leverages how my body works best.
I can help.
Have you caught glimpses of yourself in my story? Might this approach work for you? Do you need guidance? Reach out here if you think I can help you in your own quest to lose weight, improve your health and jump into the driver’s seat where your relationship with food is concerned.