Apparently, the only time I’m able to muster enough motivation and energy to write is in the middle of the night when the Universe has jarred me awake in some unpleasant manner. And while I’d rather be asleep, here I am at 2:00 am, eyes swollen from hives and stomach churning in nausea, feeling just a wee bit worse for wear. What better time to write about my newest adventure – my foray into the ketogenic diet world.
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I Love Carbs
First of all, let me just preface this by saying, I am a girl who loves carbs. By “loves,” I mean, draw hearts around, daydream about, if I could I would marry it, LOVE. Bread and pasta and donuts and pizza…these are a few of my favorite things (sung in my head in Julie Andrews’ sing-song voice). So two+ months ago, after reading about it, pfffting it, and tossing the book, Primal Endurance, across the room in disgust a few times, thinking there’s NO WAY I’D EVER etc, etc, here I am, smack in the middle of low carb-ary with nary a glance back at my old running pals – carbohydrates and sugar.
The Turning Point
Now, I could go into the blah, blah science of it all, but why? (Also, I didn’t actually pay attention to most of the science jabber – mitochondria, insulin resistance and a few other words I remembered that I forgot from high school biology (chemistry?)) Since I’m more of a jump in/we’ll figure it out as we go along and see what happens type of a person, I did just that. I remember the exact moment I decided to try this keto thing. I was in a horrible little porta potty (and trust me, it was worse than most because it was a porta potty after a marathon and those are a special kind of hell) and I was sick. Very sick. My stomach was in knots, my body and mind and spirit were all broken and all the sugary, carby, caffeine-y things a runner fuels with during a race was churning in my stomach, shooting stabbing pains in my gut and looking to exit quickly in whatever way it could. You get the picture.
I had just completed the worst marathon I’d ever run (read about that fiasco here) due to pretty much everything going wrong- from overtraining to injury to my arch nemesis – nutrition.
I always had the blessing-curse of being skinny fat. I’ve been fortunate enough all my life to look pretty skinny and hide fat well. (Now, don’t get all pissy at me; just because I looked skinny, didn’t mean I was healthy). Anyway, earlier this year, I was running 50-60 miles a week to train for the aforementioned disaster marathon, and so I used that as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. I paid for it not only in the race, but I was always bloated, tired, grumpy, and hangry. I’d often get allergic reactions in the form of hives on my eyes, stomach cramps, random nausea, and rashes on my arms after eating too many toxic foods.
So, after my post marathon porta potty nightmare, I picked up the Primal Endurance book where I last hid it, after it dared to mention of giving up carbs.
Oh, I could NEVER give up carbs or sugar. NEVER. Well, you know what they say about never. Just stick yourself in a post-marathon porta potty and you’ll get your ‘Come to Jesus’ moment.
What Is The Ketogenic Diet, Briefly
You may have heard of the weirdos that put butter in their coffee (ew, I mean who does that??! Well, me, I guess). But in a nutshell, the ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet with moderate protein where you teach your body to burn fat (which we all have lots to spare) instead of carbs (which has to be replenished every few hours). You can read more about it here or check out this easy-to-understand infographic here from people who can explain science-y stuff better than I. It’s a diet of healthy fats, whole foods, no sugar, industrial oils or grains. And bacon. The end.
I started it because my tired and run down, overtrained body needed refuge from the inflammatory foods, drinks, and habits I’d subjected it to for 40 years. Plus I needed a fuel source that didn’t involve little Gu packets of poisonous sugar and caffeine bombs while I ran because the aftermath…well, you know.
Also, did I mention bacon?
Two Months Later On The Ketogenic Diet
Here I am 2.5 months later fully on the ketogenic diet train. It was scary to start. I didn’t want to let go of my favorite foods and I didn’t know how it would feel to detox my body from the sugar it was completely enamored with. But you know what? It actually wasn’t that bad. I had a brain fog for a few days but then, after that, it was gone. And in its place, mental clarity. Hm. So that’s what it feels like when all synapses are firing. But what I noticed first was that I wasn’t hangry at 2:00 pm anymore. Before the ketogenic diet, I would have to eat every two hours. If I didn’t eat something sugary or bready, I’d get irritated and felt like I would DIE of starvation or just fall asleep under my desk at work. I carried snacks with me everywhere and would panic if I didn’t have some sort of food source close by at all times.
But suddenly a few days into this keto thing, I had energy. I was eating lots bacon and butter and cheese. I realized that somehow, miracle of miracles, I didn’t crave anything. Not the sugar or the bread or the donuts. I didn’t touch the snacks in my desk drawer. I didn’t even think about them. Food no longer had any power over me.
I quickly found a low carb alternative to pizza and desserts. My biggest fear was missing my comfort foods, but I was surprised to be so satiated on my new diet of healthy fats, that I hardly thought about my old staples. The biggest challenge was dealing with some emotional ties to food, but to my amazement, I didn’t actually crave the food, just the idea of the food.
The best part of the diet is that there has been very little hardship. From summer BBQ’s to Happy Hours to Disneyland even, I haven’t missed carbs. I don’t feel deprived. I have switched a lot of my food to grass-fed, organic foods that are delicious and nutritious. I feel so good and I’m beginning to look pretty good, too. The perpetual bloat around my tummy is fading and I can see more muscle definition while doing minimal and inconsistent exercise. I am sleeping better, looking and feeling better, and my body is no longer sending distress signals.
Every morning, I drink a cup of “Bulletproof” tea (most people use coffee, but I don’t like coffee). It is which is made up of whatever tea I have on hand, blended with grass-fed butter, MCT oil, collagen, and stevia and it keeps me satisfied until lunch. I never have the 2:00 slump and recently, I ran a Spartan Race (the shorter sprint distance) with boundless energy, after having fasted 18 hours and fueled only by my Bulletproof tea.
Why Are You Up At 2:00 AM With Hives Then?
So, you’re probably wondering why I’ve been rambling on for so long about how great I feel and I just told you I couldn’t sleep and I had hives. Well, it’s because I tried a new vitamin after having a cocktail and some fried food (something I haven’t touched in months) and the toxin overload was enough to send my liver in a tizzy. This just reiterates why I started this keto diet in the first place. My stomach hurts, I feel like crap, my body is itching, and my eyes are swollen like Igor. This is how I used to feel all the time.
So, I just spent 1200 words basically saying that I’m totally sold on the ketogenic diet because it makes me feel good and, at least for a shorter race, I felt amazing. If you want to debate the science of it, yes, I’ve done my research and no, I don’t want to go back and forth about it being a fad or a myth, voodoo or witchcraft. I’m not going to die of a heart attack eating grass-fed butter and coconut oil, no matter what those money-grubbing American Heart Association people try to sell you (and if I do, at least I died happy, energetic, and feeling really healthy for a while instead of crappy and tired for a long time).
I’m a firm believer that every body is different and responds to different things, so do your own research, find out what works for you and do that. This is just my journey and my experience. I’m happy to share what I know (though I am still learning), and all the yummy dessert recipes I’ve found and tried, like these to-die-for flourless double chocolate chip cookies.
Here are two of the books I read:
I took the major concepts from both and found something that works for me. If you’re interested in feeling great and energetic, getting off the sugar dependency train and losing some weight while you’re at it, I encourage you to read up on the ketogenic diet yourself.
Mark Sisson also just released a book called The Keto Reset Diet which looks amazing. It helps gently ease you into the keto diet with a 21-day process.
And also, did I mention bacon?