Today, July 1, 2018, I am celebrating 365 days of being in dietary ketosis! Here’s a thorough rundown of my experience.
Ketosis? What’s That?
A “Keto Diet” is defined as any diet designed to keep your body in a state of dietary ketosis. On the most basic level, ketosis is a metabolic state that causes your body to become a fat burning machine in lieu of a sugar/glucose burning machine. There are many ways to adapt a Keto diet to your own individual lifestyle, but it may be especially helpful if you are looking to incorporate a low-inflammation way of eating and/or are interested in losing weight.
The basic premise is to intake minimal carbohydrate, adequate amounts of protein, and enough fat to reach satiety. My personal Keto plan is strict adherence to 20 grams of carbohydrate or less, between 60-80 grams of protein, and as much fat as it takes in order for me to feel full, which can range anywhere from 50 grams per day to up to 120 grams per day.
Why Did You Do It?
I started my keto journey in July of 2017 in an attempt to gain some semblance of control in my life. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and all its accompanying maladies in late 2015, and had already spent the entirety of 2016 trying (unsuccessfully) to find the right combination of medications that would allow me to live like the 20-something I am instead of the 80-something I felt like. Somewhere within all the commotion of the initial diagnosis and finding the right combinations of medications, I became someone whom I no longer recognized:
For those of you residing outside the Autoimmune Disease Club, count your blessings and count them often. Autoimmune medications can take anywhere from three to six months just to start working (not that they’re guaranteed to work at all), and during the search for the Unicorn Cocktail, the disease runs rampant; wreaking havoc and furthering damage to an already tired and broken system. Even on my very best of days, I felt like I had devolved into a depressed shell of a human being. I was constantly in an incredible amount of pain. My joints were swollen from head to toe, I was mentally and physically exhausted all the time, and at my lowest point in January of 2017, I had unwittingly ballooned up to my heaviest weight ever at 187 pounds.
I was following all the medical advice from my team of doctors, but after enduring more than two years of poking and prodding and medication after medication with zero progress, I decided to start some research of my own. I happened to come across a few posts from different websites claiming “weight loss without exercise!” which seemed right up my alley given my extremely limited mobility, but also WAYYY too good to be true. I figured dropping weight would help reduce the load on my joints, which might make things seem relatively less shitty while we find a suitable cocktail of NSAIDs and immunosuppressants.
Ultimately, I felt as though I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by attempting a Low Carb High/Healthy Fat (LCHF) diet. After copious, copious amounts of research, I decided that Keto was the way I wanted to go. Given that it cuts out one of the largest sources of dietary inflammation, carbohydrates, I believed that a Keto lifestyle could potentially, and in conjunction with the right medications, give my body a fighting chance for remission of my disease.
Perhaps the second most appealing aspect of Keto was the potential for significant weight loss without exercise. Keep in mind that at this point, my joints were so inflamed and in such bad shape that everyday kinds of activities like getting dressed, taking a shower, and even going to the bathroom were extremely difficult. Like I mentioned earlier: 20-something in an 80-something’s body.
So, What Was Your Experience Like?
Overall, I am completely overjoyed with keto and have had great success. In the past 365 days, here are some of my empirical results:
Okay, Okay – SHOW ME THE MONEY!
In addition to the numerical data, here’s a list of some of the anecdotal effects I’ve noticed over the past year, most of which specifically relate to the improvement of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms:
- Weight Loss*
- Improved Mental Clarity* – Less “Brain Fog” overall
- Reduced Body Fatigue* – Less “Body Fog” overall
- Absolute Control of Appetite – I no longer eat out of boredom or because I feel so bad that food is the only thing that can make the situation better.
- Less Frequent RA Flares* – Before I started Keto, it felt like my body was just one giant uncontrolled flare. Now I can tell the difference between soreness from overuse (expected) vs random soreness that just “sometimes happens” vs a period of prolonged soreness that requires a round of steroids.
- Fewer Joints Affected During Flares*
- Reduced Dosage of Daily NSAID*
- Reduced Need for Pain Killers/Tylenol*
*Denotes an RA-specific improvement. Note: improvement ≠ cure and/or elimination of symptom.
My story is unique to me, but the results that I have achieved are in no way unique to those familiar with the Keto lifestyle. LCHF diets are on the rise, and have even been incorporated into comprehensive treatment plans for chronic diseases such as epilepsy and Type II diabetes. While Keto may not be for everyone, it can help mitigate symptoms associated with chronic inflammatory disease and may be extremely helpful for those affected by said diseases. This post’s purpose is to provide anecdotal evidence of the potential for a ketogenic diet to positively affect the lives of people like me, people who are at their wit’s end and searching for anything that may help. Keto has not and will not cure my disease, but it sure makes day-to-day life a lot more tolerable than it was before.
Could Keto Be For Me?
It could be! I would encourage anyone interested in learning more information to visit one of the popular ketogenic websites like The Keto Subreddit or the Ketogenic Forums. These resources are full of Keto veterans and tools to help you get started.
Alternatively, one of my favorite weekly podcasts is 2 Keto Dudes. You can click here to scroll through their archives, where you’ll find plenty of interviews with medical professionals and nutritionists as well as helpful guides for those of you just starting out or wanting more information. Because the shows are both educational and entertaining, I highly recommend giving Carl and Richard a slice of your time!
It’s also VERY important to talk things over with a doctor, especially if you are on any medications or have any chronic health conditions.
Do You Have Any Keto Tips?
Yes, I’m chock full of ’em! I’m planning on writing a more comprehensive list here in the near future, but until that time arrives, here’s a Top 5 drive-by:
Get Started Already!
Calculate Your Macros and hit your protein goal every single day. Fat is not a goal, but a limit – you need to eat enough to feel comfortably full, but you don’t need to be eating your full fat macros every day if you’re trying to lose weight. Your body already has all the stored fat it needs; it’s time to put your body into a metabolic state where it can burn off its reserves. In contrast to both protein and fat, the carbohydrate macros is a hard limit for those first starting out. 20 grams per day, that’s it. FULL STOP. Do this for a month, and then you can renegotiate your relationship with carbs and maybe, MAYBE increase your intake without kicking yourself our of ketosis. Increasing your carbs while maintaining ketosis is not a move for rookies. It takes time, experience, and a giant heap of self-knowledge to properly evaluate your personal limitations regarding carbohydrate intake. “It’s easier to cage a tiger than to walk one on a leash.” Better to cut them out completely than run the risk of having to start all over. TRACK EVERYTHING YOU PUT IN YOUR MOUTH.
Ditch the Scale
Track your progress with a measuring tape. The number on the scale is not the only way to measure your progress, and for lots of people, the scale becomes a huge source of anxiety. Don’t fall into the, “The number isn’t moving, I must be doing something wrong! But I’ve been following my macros to the T…UGH I’m not making progress FAST enough! KETO IS BULLSHIT!!!” trap. Just Keep Calm and Keto On!
- Take a look at my weight loss graph above; notice that I had a weight loss plateau or “stall” from late February/early March through mid-May this year (indicated by the nearly horizontal red line during this time, about point B to point C). Look how the blue line goes all over the place, yet my weekly average weight did not budge for nearly THREE months despite me remaining 100% faithful to my macros. However, the difference between pictures B and C is striking. I’m nearly the same weight, but my body is slowly but surely changing. I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE. As much as I hate using blanket statements, this happens to everyone in the process of losing significant amounts of weight. Be patient, but more importantly be kind to yourself and Trust the [Keto] Process™.
Be a Goal Setter
Set big goals, small goals, as many goals as you can wrap your head around! Setting goals has helped keep me motivated and on-target. Once you know what you want, you can make a plan to get there. Want to fit into those jeans from college? Well first you have to fit into the jeans you wore two years ago. Want to run a mile? First you have to be able to bend over to tie your shoes without feeling faint. Then you have to walk. Then jog. Then run. Baby steps!
- Research proves that keeping your goals private makes you more likely to achieve them, so it is truly in your best interest to resist the overwhelming urge to become the World’s #1 Keto Evangelist™. You’ll soon find that there are far more people out there who want to shred you and your game plan to pieces by sowing seeds of misinformation and doubt than there are those who will provide unquestioning love and support. Keep to yourself and let your results do the talking. People will notice.
Avoid “keto-fying” Things
…at least when you’re first starting out. This shifts the focus of using Keto to become a happier, healthier person to, “How can I make these bomb ass muffins keto-friendly because I simply cannot and will not live without them.” To be blunt: you don’t NEED carbs. You WANT carbs. You don’t need that delicious muffin, you want that delicious muffin. Many peoples’ relationship with food is unhealthy, often confusing “needs” with “wants”. Tough love, people. Your body is dying for it.
Your mental game is going to be one of your biggest assets, so invest in it. Actively put yourself in situations that will help guarantee your success. Use those few extra minutes before you go to sleep at night to plan what you’re going to eat the next day. Know you have an
addictionundying fondness for Mrs. Baird’s Powdered Sugar Donuts? Don’t keep them in the house. Enjoy mindless snacking a little too much? Pre-portion out acceptable servings ahead of time instead of hauling the whole bag to the couch. Meal prepping – it’s a Thing, get into it. Planning for success is the key to achieving it! And for the love of God, don’t “reward” yourself for staying on track by cheating, even “just this once.”
I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, I AM NOT OFFERING MEDICAL ADVICE.