Last week I shared with you my journey into veganism. It has been amazing, has brought me health, significant weight loss, a connection to nature and so much more spiritual growth that I have a hard time even putting into words. But, it's in my nature to be a curious person, so last December I conducted an experiment. I pissed off every vegan I knew and dove head first into a ketogenic diet for a month.
Go big or go home, that's my motto.
Here's the thing, I believe that there is no one diet that works for everybody. Although I was having success with a plant based diet, I kept hearing about this new low carb/high fat keto craze and my curiosity got the best of me. So, I made the conscious decision to try it for a month and see how I felt. How can I help coach others in their own health journey if I myself don't remain open-minded and ready to learn?
For those of you that don't know, let me just break down what the Ketogenic Diet is at it's core (also called Low Carb High Fat - LCHF). Keto peeps change their metabolic state by switching from glucose as their primary source of energy to ketones. The premise is that ketone bodies are derived from fat and are a much more stable, steady source of energy than glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates. Entering ketosis usually takes anywhere from 3 days to a week. Once you’re in ketosis, you’ll be using fat for energy, instead of carbs. This includes the fat you eat and stored body fat. I was told to get ready to lose weight, be more alert, and less hungry.
So, what does a ketogenic plate look like?
- 65-75% fat
- 20-30% protein (animal protein)
- 5% carbs
5% carbs translates to about 25 g of carbs/day. A sweet potato, for example, has about 27 grams of carbs.
Essentially I went from eating a lot of grains, no animal protein, tons of veg and low to moderate levels of fat to zero grains, a ton of animal protein and a super high amount of healthy fats.
Lots of avocados. Lots of veggies (this part I liked), but I would add a ton of grass fed butter or ghee to everything. Kerrygold butter lined the shelves of my fridge. I even started making Bulletproof coffee, commonly known as butter coffee. I would add a couple tbsp of grass fed butter and a couple tbsp of MCT oil (or coconut oil) to my coffee in the morning.
Needless to say, it was a far cry from my previous, plant-centric diet.
I even reintroduced cheese.
Here's the thing though, to give the keto diet a fair review, I stuck to my core principal that ingredients matter. All of the meat I purchased was grass fed, all the dairy and butter were also grass fed, the chicken and eggs were pastured, no processed foods and all organic veggies. I think this is where a lot of people make a big mistake with keto. Let's be honest, organic, grass fed meat and dairy and pastured chicken and eggs are freaking expensive. Usually what happens is it is just not sustainable financially. I know a few people that follow a keto diet and load up on conventional, hormone, antibiotic and pesticide laden meat and "cheese like" products because it's cheaper. I'm not blaming them, I get it. My first grocery store bill on a keto diet was over $200 dollars, almost double what it had been under a vegan diet.
So, what happened?
At first, I went through a MAJOR carb withdrawal. It was crazy! I literally felt like I was on another planet for 3 days. I remember sitting on my couch and having a conversation with my cleaning lady and as she was talking I kept asking myself within the comforts of my own mind, "Is this real or am I dreaming?" It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I also had a major headache that hit on day 2. I made sure to stay hydrated and kept chugging along.
After that initial cab withdrawal, I did return to my body. After 7 days on a keto diet, I lost almost 10 pounds. I was pretty intrigued. Maybe there was something to this! Something else I also started to notice is that I wasn't as hungry as I used to be. In the morning, I would have my butter coffee and that would keep me full until about 2 in the afternoon. My lunches and dinners were comprised of a piece of meat or fish and a bunch of veggies sauteed in grass fed butter.
To be completely transparent, I do not have a gall bladder. This is a problem when consuming a high fat diet as the gall bladder stores bile, which is necessary to emulsify any dietary fats we consume. If you don't have a gall bladder, the liver releases a constant small stream of bile directly into your intestines, which isn't enough to break down a high amount of fat. I knew that I was going to have problems with this, so I supplemented with ox bile. That stuff is intense. It's quite literally freeze dried bile from an ox. You take it before eating a high fat meal and it mimics that bolus release of bile that would normally come from your gall bladder.
It took a solid week of experimenting with ox bile dosage and to be honest, I don't think I ever found the right dose. If I took to much, you would find me puking my guts up in a fetal position on my bathroom floor, passing a ton of cow farts. It was more painful that being in labor. If I didn't take enough, I would get a similar pain, although slightly less intense (similar to bad acid reflux) because my body was having a hard time digesting the high amounts of fat I was consuming.
To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. About halfway into my experiment, I had to drop the butter coffee. My body just could not handle so much fat. As I am writing this blog pot, I can almost feel that pain starting to develop right at the base of my sternum.
In addition to all these problems with such a high fat consumption, I noticed that after week 2, my energy levels started to drop pretty quickly. When I was eating plant based, I always felt light and happy. Similar to how plants sway in the wind under the morning sun. Hang in there with me, I know it's far out there, but I have a point. When I was doing keto, I started feeling heavy, sluggish and low in energy. Similar to a big ol' cow slowly munching on grass in the middle of the field.
I know, it's kinda weird. I had always heard that we take on the energy of what we eat. And I always thought that people that subscribed to that belief were juuuuust a little out there. But, this was 100% my experience. I could feel myself taking on the energy of a cow when I was eating a lot of beef products. Lazy, heavy, slow, sluggish. When I switched to more chicken, I reminded myself of a chicken, flighty, jumpy, high anxiety, clucking at everyone around me. It was bizarre.
Another thing happened. I became very aware of the souls of the animals I was consuming. To be clear, my journey into veganism had everything to do with my own health and nothing to do with a political statement or animal rights. But, as I was cooking this giant slab of flesh and tasting the blood of the animal in my mouth, I became disgusted.
Before I went plant based, I (like most people) believed that I needed animal meat to survive. After all, where the hell was I going to get my protein??? But now that I had been plant based and knew that I didn't need meat to survive and that plants have tons of protein (and had major muscle gains while consuming a vegan diet), I could no longer justify eating meat. I simply felt unaligned with my own moral and ethical principles that I didn't even know I had.
After four weeks, I put my keto cookbooks back on the shelf. I had had enough. Enough pain, enough misalignment. It was back to plants for this chick. It took my body a good month of being plant based again to recover.
I think keto may work for some people, but I'm definitely not one of those people. But, I'm glad I did it. I became clearer on what fuels my body, what makes me thrive. I also am so incredibly grateful for the deeper insight I gained, the clarity on my own moral principles.
Have you experimented with keto or do you follow a keto diet? I would love to hear about your experience. If you feel so inclined, comment below. I remain open minded, knowing that this diet might work for some more than others. In general, however, my main motto still remains: eat whole foods, mostly plants, most of the time.
Back to plants.
Plants for Life,
Stephanie Misanik, INHC, RYT-200