As a kid, I was skinny.
In fact, most of my classmates were also. It was rare for a contemporary to be “chunky” and I don’t remember ever seeing a truly obese person. This trend continued through my adolescence. Just about the time that weight started to become an issue for me; after the birth of my first child, the foods on my grocery store shelf started to change – drastically.
Low-fat foods popped up on those shelves in startling numbers. And they promised a slim figure and disease free living. So, imagine my shock when my waistline kept increasing and I was having a hard time keeping up with my children. It felt like all the energy that I used to have somehow got transferred into my little ones.
Wanting to enjoy these children, I started working out “harder”. I’m sure that this wasn’t a bad thing, but as I mentioned in a previous article, exercise is good for a lot of things, but weight loss isn’t one of them. I was frustrated.
Over time, I came to realize that lowering the fat meant that the sugar was increased in these “low-fat” foods.
And that started the quest.
Like many people, I tried lots of different ways of eating.
I tried eliminating carbs for a time. A common mistake with low-carb diets is that people tend to replace carbohydrates with protein. When we consume excessive protein, kidney function is stressed. Research has also shown excess protein in the diet can contribute to higher rates of cancer and heart disease. Moreover, high-protein diets can promote irritability, brain fog, fatigue, depression and insomnia.
How? By increasing the stress hormone cortisol and reducing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Lower than normal levels of this important neurotransmitter are associated with depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. Interestingly, eating high amounts of protein can disrupt blood sugar levels as well, since an overabundance of protein is converted into glucose by the body, though less dramatically than carbohydrates. Gluconeogenesis is the process by which the liver converts the amino acids found in protein into sugar.
I tried reducing protein intake for a time. I tried food combining – only eating fish with rice and never with anything else etc. etc. This became time-consuming and hard to do. My social life suffered because I couldn’t just eat what everyone else was eating.
So now what?
Ketogenic has become the new “thing”. But is it really “all that”? Well, in a word…Yes! Usually known for its success with treating epileptic seizures, researchers are now discovering the diet is effective for deterring cancer, stroke, obesity and insulin resistance. A ketogenic diet has also shown promise with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Additionally, the high-fat diet encourages an increase in muscle mass and fosters longevity.
If you have ever built a fire, you know that you must start with kindling which ignites quickly and is quick to burn (carbohydrates), then you move up to middle-sized branches and then the big, long-burning logs. These are your fats. They help you to not be hungry in between meals and have energy to make it through your day.
To reap the advantages of a ketogenic diet, it’s important to keep the following in mind:
1. Avoid processed vegetable oils like canola, safflower and corn. But do consume plenty of natural, unprocessed fat, like those found in nuts, seeds, grass-fed organic butter or ghee, avocado, as well as olive and coconut oil.
2. Restrict non-fiber carbohydrates. Examples include: sugar, soda, processed grains and flours, pasta, bread, cookies — basically anything that will be converted into glucose by the body.
3. Consume plenty of vegetables — especially leafy greens and low-starch varieties. Even though vegetables contain carbohydrates, they will not negatively influence metabolism and are a crucial part of the diet.
All things considered, when we strike the ideal balance of burning fat for fuel — instead of burning carbohydrates — metabolism improves, energy levels rise, body fat melts away, longevity increases and brain function is strengthened. We also experience heightened mental clarity and enjoy enhanced athletic performance. Not bad for a few simple adjustments to our diet.