Here is our disclaimer. Emily is a customer of ours, and we found her after she reached out in response to an article we wrote about how the keto diet is an inferior method for fueling athletic performance. We enjoyed hearing about her story, so asked if she would adapt it into a blog post that we could share to a broader audience. We are not anti-keto or anti-diet...we are pro health, whatever that means for you. We fully recognize that this is a hot button topic for many people, and this is just one experience (amongst many others we have been privy to), so take it for what it is worth. Enjoy!
Words by Emily Parkinson
I am a 33 year old woman who has dabbled with many diets over the years, relatively recently, the "keto lifestyle" (honestly still trying to figure out why so many people call it the "keto lifestyle," and who dubbed it that, as it seems pretty marketing-y...but I digress). Here is the short story: after eating keto for about a month or so (closer to 6 weeks), I found that I was able to lose a few pounds as I had intended, but that ultimately the diet was not something that made me feel good long term, nor was it something I felt like I could sustain. This is not the case for some people, but I know others who have felt this way as well. Is it a good short term fix? For me, it did seem to be. But did I want to eat that way for eternity? No, I did not, and I've found other ways to make healthy choices most of the time that make my body feel good, especially given my lifestyle.
As I mentioned, I am a 33 year old woman, work a fairly normal job (as in, on a computer much more than I would like to be), at one point was pretty active, and now do my best to fit in exercise and physical activities around my otherwise crazy lifestyle. I like to go out with friends, enjoy eating at restaurants stress free, drink a glass of wine or two slightly more often than I should, and generally consider myself pretty healthy. I've done my share of 5ks, 10ks, and even a few half marathons. But like many people (and many women), I almost always wouldn't mind losing a few pounds, and can fluctuate with my weight a little bit. Oh, and I guess here is where I should disclose that I am a customer of Field Work Nutrition, and drink their Primo Smoothie regularly (not daily, but almost) as it gets me good nutrition conveniently. As I told them, after I drink a smoothie, it feels like my body's cells are smiling. Did I mention I'm generally a tornado of a mess in the mornings with approximately zero seconds to spare for breakfast? So yes, I do use the product (ed: Primo Smoothie) and it's a good solution for me.
So where did me and keto (and "dieting") go wrong? Well, for one, while I was eating keto, I heard a story on the radio about how dieting is one of the strongest predictors for future weight gain. Hmm...this caught my attention and made me think, at least for a second. I did enough digging to realize that the implications of this research are many and complicated, but it still stuck in my head and made me wonder a few things. Why was I being so restrictive in my eating, and is this how I really wanted to interact with food? But at the end of the day, there were other, more tangible reason that me and keto broke up.
The biggest of which, I found it to be limiting, and just grew tired of it. Constantly worrying about every little thing I put in my mouth, and whether it would pull me out of "ketosis" (fat burning) was exhausting. I also found that with my relatively rigid schedule, eating that way forced me to be really monotonous and boring. My food choices are limited on a daily basis, so I often resorted to the same dozen or so things...and this just ran its course.
I will admit, after a few weeks of eating keto, I did lose a few pounds, but then generally plateaued and stayed around the same weight. To be fair, I only wanted to lose about 5-10 lbs. I'll also say, since going back to eating what I'm calling "modified normal," I've generally stayed in the same spot. So I count that as a "win." Another personal decision for me was that when it came down to it, I generally missed eating whatever fruits and vegetables I wanted, and if I'm being honest with myself, never did believe that they were bad for me (But really, how can an apple be bad for me and berries be good? When you look at them on a gram for gram basis, they have nearly identical carbs and natural sugar content, yet apples are not "allowed" on keto and berries are - says who!?). I also like to eat things like almond butter on whole wheat toast. Just saying.
Aside from feeling deprived and limited, I did, like some other people who I've talked to who have dabbled with low carb or keto, feel pretty sluggish and foggy headed a lot of the time. I know people will tell you that your body adapts and eventually you get over this, but whether it was mental or truly physical, I never did feel like I got over it. I do still jog a few times a week, and will try to go to a group workout (love Bar Method!), and just never got around to feeling "normal" while exercising or going about my business day to day.
So what do I do now? I've got a few guidelines that I follow and they work pretty well for me. Notice I say "guidelines" and not "rules" because guidelines are flexible, and when rules are broken, I feel guilty. The truth is, I generally know when I'm eating unhealthy, and just try to avoid those things! If I slip up, I get back on the horse!
Things I avoid (most of the time!):
1. Refined carbs, sugary sweets, and crap like soda and candy (duh!)
2. Fast food and fried food
3. Alcohol in excess (1 drink during the week days, and keep it moderate on the weekends - you know if you are or not!)
Things I eat
1. As many fresh fruits and veggies as I please, and any other whole foods
2. Lean meats, favoring fish whenever possible
3. Smoothies - loaded with whole foods and protein to get quick, nutrient dense meals in that keep me full!
4. Whole grain carbohydrates in moderation, especially when paired with lean meats or healthy fats.
So there you have it. A study of one, so take it for what it is. If you currently eat keto and it's working for you....great! For those with severe weight loss needs or other medical conditions...it may be great solution. For me and my lifestyle, it was not!
Thanks to Field Work Nutrition for letting me share my personal experience! And now...I'll duck and cover and wait for the barrage on social media! Be nice, kids!