Why I’m done with Keto
Quite simply, it didn’t feel good anymore.
I started Keto because I was struggling with excess sugar in my diet (long story involving double rounds of antibiotics and candida overgrowth). I had already been eating paleo for several years so Keto seemed like a no brainer. I had just finished my nutrition training and was looking for a specialization so I dove into medical keto studies, took a bunch of extra courses and even attended the biggest keto conference in the world. I was hooked!
To be honest, I enjoyed Keto for a long time. It was interesting to learn about how my body reacted/didn’t react to hunger, glucose, carbs, fat, etc. I found that it really encouraged my curiosity about food and how my body reacts to it. I was so happy with it that I started and ran a very successful Keto baking company for two years. I met hundreds of keto keeners and, for the most part, it was great.
Until it wasn’t.
For me, things started to get weird when I introduced fasting. It was incredibly easy for me, perhaps a bit too easy to essentially stop eating. I become a little too eager to test my ability to not eat. Pretty quickly, I lost my period and my interest in exercise; I then started having panic attacks in the middle of the night (I had never had panic attacks before in my life and thought they were heart attacks). And yet, I continued to fast and severely limit my foods allowances.
The turning point came when I turned to exercise to combat my increasing anxiety (exercise has always been my go-to for mental health) and realized that I had lost my strength and fitness. Now, if you know me at all, you know that being strong is my favourite. It’s even in the name of my business! I not only lost my ability to lift heavy shit but I was TIRED! I tried a few workouts fasted and realized there was no way I could sustain my energy. I had to decide what was more important to me, my weird relationship with keto and fasting or my passion for movement.
I obviously chose movement and it was 100% the right decision. I am still really careful about the amount of sugar I eat (hyperglycaemia is an issue for me) and grains are still iffy (they make my guts sad) but I am no longer restricting carbs, I am no longer fasting, I am getting strong AF and I am perfectly happy with my food choices!
Looking back on my two year plus keto journey, I have to admit that what started off as a curious nutritional experiment ended up as disordered eating and a devotion to diet culture. Being a nutritionist, this was really hard for me to admit (or even recognize). I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge because if someone like me, who’s whole life revolves around studying food and nutrition, and I have the training to recognize disordered food relationships, can fall into disordered eating, then anyone can.
We all want to do what’s best for our body and if for you, right now, that’s trying out Keto or veganism or paleo or whatever, that’s okay. But, I want to encourage you to pay close attention to how it feels and if it stops feeling good or if you realize you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, it’s okay to stop. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it only means you’ve shifted.
We are allowed to shift.
The work I do is for her.
It’s for the hope that she will grow up in a world that celebrates her strength and tenacity and doesn’t dull her spark because it can’t handle her brilliance.
It’s for her friends who watch their bodies grow with fear rather than celebration.
It’s for ten year old me, who had already learned how to perpetually suck in her stomach, stand so her thighs didn’t touch and hold our her head to avoid a double chin.
It’s for the women who send their daughters, nieces, sisters out into the world and pray that they come out unscathed.
It’s for my friends who fiercely battle against the society that values their appearance more than their incredible minds and hearts.
It’s for my great grandma who was the first woman in her town to wear pants in public and sunbathed in her front yard in her giant beige bra.
It’s for my mom who has spent her life championing women and taught me to never lose my voice.
It’s for my community who holds each other up, above all of the patriarchal bullshit, with their fists raised stating, “enough is enough”.
And it is for you who is powerful and resilient and made of magic.
Gwyneth Paltrow is getting a lot of heat this week for her latest book plug, called Intuitive Fasting. I haven’t read this book so I can’t say for sure but I suspect it is not great. Fasting is an excellent tool to help give your digestive system a rest. It is something that we all do every single day, well, night actually. We are in a fasted state when we are asleep, assuming you stop eating at around 7pm and you are not eating breakfast until 7am, you have fasted for twelve hours. Yay! You’re an intuitive faster! No need to read the book, I just saved you $30, you’re welcome.
There is a place for fasting, I truly believe that it can be used as a tool to giving the digestive system a break. It can be done in a safe and responsible way, with the guidance of a nutrition professional. This book is not that. The real issue with fasting becoming a mainstream trend is that it has been coopted to be a sort of competition with yourself to see how long you can go without eating. Now, I am all for people pushing themselves and challenging their bodies but ONLY when said people are emotionally, physically and mentally stable when it comes to their relationship with their food and their body. Unfortunately, this is not the majority of the population and double unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the majority of Gwyneth’s readership.
Disordered eating is RAMPANT, especially right now with all of the garbage rhetoric around eating your pandemic feelings and the Covid 15. People are terrified of reintegrating into society, especially as we enter into tank top season. Resources, support systems and finances have been limited for most people so countless people aren’t getting the support that they need. And then here’s GOOP with a book bout how to starve yourself. Yes, this is an oversimplification but to many people this is what it will perpetuate. Also, using the work intuitive in her book title is extra weird since it is (intentional or not) a nod to the intuitive eating movement, which is the exact opposite of intentional starvation.
On a personal note, I spent the past year experimenting with fasting (and a lot or other dietary restrictions) because I was curious about it. I can say that while I learned a lot about my digestion and hunger cycles, it didn’t take long before I fell into the competitive trap of trying to see how long I could go without eating. Before I knew it, I wasn’t eating until 2 or 3pm and while I wasn’t ravenous or hangry, because when I was eating, I was fuelling appropriately, but I was uncoordinated, spaced out and way undernourished. I just couldn’t get enough calories into my body in such a short feeding window.
It has taken a few months but I am finally getting getting back into a rhythm of eating when my body tells me to, listening to my hunger cues. Now, this is an experience had by a nutritionist, I spend my life listening, researching and investigating digestion and food relationships and even I fell into the trap of undernourishing my body. I can’t imagine the effect it would have on someone who is already eating in a disordered way. Actually I can and it’s not pretty.
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
A little tiptoe into the world of body positivity and body neutrality and how there is a place for all of us in this spectrum. I love this topic so much and am so grateful to Boulevard for creating space for these new ideas around how we treat ourselves and our body.
Check out the full article here: https://issuu.com/boulevardlifestylesinc/docs/2021_02_blvdvictoria_lr/24
Rant alert: I was in Costco this week and I walked past a woman who was talking to her (I assume) husband in a very focused way, trying to figuring out how many points half of a can Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup had. I assume that by points, she is referring to Weight Watchers. I have been thinking of this woman all week and how much effort she was expending, simply trying to figure out what she was “allowed” to eat. Why does this woman need a point system to tell her how to fuel her body?
We are so completely out of touch with and afraid of food that we have lost the ability to feed ourselves. The curiosity and excitement that surrounds food has been sucked out of us. We, as women have been shamed out of our interest in food. Even eating a bag of freaking celery sticks will be followed by a statement explaining why we are allowing ourselves to eat at all, like eating anything is a privilege that we shouldn’t be afforded because we don’t look like a super model. Or maybe we do and it wouldn’t even matter!
I was at a birthday party recently and this highly educated, intelligent and beautiful woman was sitting across from me. She told me about her various degrees and her high profile job. When dessert came though, she started talking about how she was going back to Weight Watchers soon because she HAD to lose weight. No matter how beautiful or smart of successful we are, it is always there.
But what if we just said ENOUGH! What if the only relationship food had in your life was with our digestive tract? What if we started buying food the way we buy socks, does it have a pleasing texture? Is it nice to look at? Does it make me feel good? What if we spent our time and energy, instead of calculating or explaining the importance of “points” we started running the damn world!?
I wrote this piece because I think that there is a necessity for us to take a hard look at our favourite “indulgence”. Our sugar consumption has gotten completely out of hand. We have gotten so accustomed to our sugar saturated diets that we need to take a step back and reevaluate the effects this overconsumption is having on our physical and mental health.
The full article can be found here: https://issuu.com/boulevardlifestylesinc/docs/2020_12_blvdvic_lr
I haven’t eaten sugar since 2018. I don’t talk about this very often because people tend to freak out a bit when I do. Typically people proclaim that they could never stop eating sugar. This is of course not true, people can stop doing all sorts of things but the role sugar plays in our every day life is huge so I get it.
For me, removing sugar from my diet was a necessity. I had the choice to either cut it out or watch my health plummet. I have always struggled with blood sugar imbalances, it runs in my family. About eight years ago, I started to drastically reduce my refined sugar intake and saw an improvement in my health, energy levels and digestion. This was working well for me, even throughout the pregnancy and birth of my son in 2013.
In the summer of 2018, however, I was finishing up my nutrition training and found myself with my first ever UTI. As a result I was put on two rounds of very intense and very different antibiotics. My gut flora was decimated and I felt like garbage. I was devastated because, after studying nutrition for a year, I was acutely aware of the importance of a healthy gut microbiome.
After a month of antibiotics, I was finally able to start rebuilding my digestive health but despite eating well and taking copious amounts of recovery probiotics, I felt awful. My energy was tapped, my brain was foggy, and I was mentally overwhelmed. But the strangest reaction was that I started gaining weight rapidly and I was obsessed with sugar, I craved it constantly.
It didn’t take long to acknowledge that I had yeast overgrowth in my system. I had always struggled with candida but this was excessive and came on quickly. Now, if you have ever made bread or kombucha, you know that what yeast loves more than anything is sugar. Well, this is what was happening in my digestive system, I was craving sugar because the abundant yeast colonies had a direct line to my brain. They were hungry.
So, I did what anyone would do to remove a prolific invader, I starved them out. I quit all sugar and cut out all fruit and starchy vegetables. This may sound extreme but consuming any glucose producing food would immediately disconnect me form my digestive system, causing irregular hunger cues, energy cycles, and increasing inflammation. When I abstained from glucose producing foods, I felt better, a lot better.
Immediately, my brain fog started to clear and my mood increased. Pretty soon, my sleep improved, my skin cleared up, I had increased energy, I no longer binged or craved junk food/sugar, and I felt really proud of myself for doing the work to improve my health. This last part was the biggest and ultimately what keeps me committed to remaining sugar-free.
We all know that sugar is bad for our health but few know how harmful it can actually be and how unnecessary it is to have in our diet.
More to come on that later.