What I Learned By Trying Keto For 90 Days
I’m a high-functioning creative in the indie author world. I cannot afford to sit around and do nothing for long periods of time. What I need is high energy through the greatest portion of the day so I can remain focused and productive.
Before keto, I was sluggish through most of the day, with a particularly low point between 1p.m. – 4p.m. every afternoon. I was a nervous wreck and was highly prone to depression. And I suffered from chronic pain that was so bad, I didn’t even realize I was feeling it. I ate a lot of wheat, sugar, crabs, and was on a low-fat, moderate protein regime. I already knew my body worked best on protein, but I can’t afford to eat as much of it as my brain said it needed.
After watching my sister turn her health around with keto, and watching my sister-in-law drop over thirty pounds in a matter of months, I decided it was time to try keto… for real this time.
Keto and Living With Others
The hardest part about keto is the restrictions.
It’s a psychological issue to be sure. There are so few joys in this world, and we derive pleasure from what we eat. So, when you take that away, all of a sudden, you’re pleasure responses aren’t getting answered.
This is also how addiction works. We’re addicted to comfort food, sugar, junk food, etc.
With the keto diet, though, there are answers to this. You want sugar? Eat a boiled egg instead. You want ice cream? Grab a keto ice cream bar. Need something sweet? Make yourself a steamer with sugar free syrup.
But what about the psychology of living with people who don’t support keto—because eating that much fat is disastrous to your heart—or who have allergies to all the things that make eating your diet enjoyable—dairy and nuts?
That one’s harder.
First, you can sit down and try to explain to the people who don’t believe in the keto diet, but here’s the thing. They’re not going to listen to you. Point blank. You are going to have this discussion on repeat until you finally back down and relent that this whole “keto thing” was just a terrible idea and that they were right, and “OMG. Thank you for saving my life. I am eternally grateful—” that you’re completely unsupportive of my attempt to figuring out how my body works and how to make it work better for me.
Find other ways to experiment, though. You're on a path of discovery to see how to get your body to work smarter not harder.
Second, you can call it the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Because… that’s what it is.
I didn’t even realize how inflamed I was until I went on the keto diet. My joints hurt all the time. I couldn’t walk without limping because my hips were so stiff. I’m not old yet, but my body certainly was! By stripping my diet of sugars, a lot of carbs, and anything else that typically induces inflammation, I was able to live without pain for the first time in decades. I was able to run up a flight of stairs. I was able to walk as soon as I got up out of a chair without having to let my hips adjust. It was amazing.
My headaches went away. I went from going through one of those Costco bottles of ibuprofen and another one of Tylenol every three to four months, to...well, I still half a bottle of each. I actually went out the other day and didn't bring a travel bottle with me. Something I'd been eating regularly was really messing up my body and this was the only diet that let me figure out what the culprit was by first, getting it out of my system for a prolonged period of time and then, second, adding things back into my diet one at a time.
Dealing with other people’s allergies is an issue.
We live in a big house. It’s me, my husband, his brother-twin, his wife, and their two kids. In the summer, we’ve got my husband’s two kids. During the week, we typically have at least one extra kid, if not more.
And each of us, it seems, has our own allergy list.
One of us is allergic to dairy (which I had been as well, but that’s cured!). One of us is allergic to legumes (nuts and peas) and avocados. One of us can taste food that’s been in plastic. One of us can’t have sugar. Two of us can’t have sugar substitutes. One of us can’t have wheat or even American-processed oats. One of us can’t have pork. And one of us has slight reactions to fish. Or he doesn’t like it. I don’t know which.
Going keto is already super restrictive, but when you sit down for family meals every night, doing keto and meeting the needs of this list of “no-go” foods makes cooking an extreme challenge that puts a lot of strain on an already stressed family.
Energy Levels, Emotional Stability, and Keto
But what I learned most about doing the keto diet for 90 days is that my brain needs higher fats and lower carbs, and I really, really, really can’t do wheat or oats.
When I added wheat back into my diet, my lactose intolerance came back, and I was inflamed for weeks. Also, my headaches returned.
When I added sugar back in, my anxiety skyrocketed.
When I took fats out, my energy and ability to focus plummeted.
My energy soars when I bring fats—good fats—into my diet and keep my carbs low. Eating foods that are listed for keto—good luck finding that in Alaska—helps because their ratio of fat to carbs to proteins means that the energy you’re fueling your body with will last longer and burn slower.
I hadn’t realized how my emotions—namely depression and anxiety—were tied to the foods I ate, particularly… processed sugar. When I removed processed sugar from my diet, I was less depressed, less anxious, and was able to actually focus.
I was able to fuel my body sustainably to produce at a higher, more qualitative state sustainably on the keto diet.
I just wasn’t able to sustain that as a life choice in the real world.
Even though I decided that it’s not practical for me to remain on the keto diet, there are aspects of it that I intend to carry over with me for the rest of my life.
No wheat or oats except on special occasions and to just know that I will be in pain for weeks afterward, so it’d better be damn near orgasmic.
Very little processed sugar.
Keep higher fats in my diet.
Start the day with fats, proteins, and fewer carbs.
Drink more water.
When my energy goes low, reach for a snack that will be slower to digest and provide time-released energy versus something that gives instant energy with a massive crash. Also, drink a full glass of water with it.
So, even though this was a failed experiment as far as “finding solutions for healthy living” goes, I learned highly valuable information I intend to take with me through the rest of my life. And I've found what this body needs to be a high producing creative in a challenging and highly competitive field.