The Keto Experiment

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February 8, 2018 by 8junebugs

Well, it took 40 years, but I’m finally on trend with something.

I’m in week 3 of a ketogenic diet.

After about a year of being frustrated that the baby weight wasn’t just dropping off like it did after I had Grayson, I had to acknowledge some particular differences:

  • I avoided post-partum depression this time around. Yay! But that meant I was eating more than two peanut butter sandwiches and a McFlurry in a day. And Alex, though just as healthy and growing just as fast, ate half as much as Grayson. It took my breasts a while to adjust to what he needed; meanwhile, I was just as hungry and making less milk, so those calories went somewhere else.
  • I wasn’t as active after Alex was born. With Grayson, I was out walking the dog every day with a baby in a carrier; Alex gets tossed in the car seat so we can get Gray to school on time. Once the big kid’s at school, it’s a race to hand Alex off to Graham and get online for work. The number of “workouts” I managed last year can be counted on one hand.
  • On the flipside, I was 10 times as active before Alex was born than before Gray was born, which my OB thinks may have shot me in the foot. Her theory is that athletic mamas have a harder time losing baby weight because the drastic activity level shift tanks your metabolism until you’re able to get back up to your previous level. (She didn’t cite anything, but it’s logical.) And any faint, remaining hopes of being back on the water last year were crushed by the reality of having to keep two kids alive AT THE SAME TIME.
  • I’m 40. Bodies change. Nothing on me is as easily repaired as it used to be.
  • Apparently, I had cancer living in the place that produces the hormones that regulate weight. All of my bloodwork was normal-ish, but I’m learning that the range of “normal” for thyroid can hide a multitude of issues.
  • We had a big year for bad news and loss. There was too much comfort eating and too much alcohol.
  • I continued to eat like a pregnant rower long after I was neither pregnant nor rowing.

I knew I needed to change some stuff but didn’t know quite where to start. The usual suspects didn’t seem sustainable — I’m hangriness-prone and children press enough buttons that I knew I needed something more provocative than the standard calories-in/calories-out routine. Something that would shake up my status quo enough to keep my attention.

For about a month around the holidays, Graham joked about eating a keto diet. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY — whoever he was mocking wasn’t in the room to hear it. I didn’t even know what it was.

So I looked it up.

You know what happens when you look something up. You find exactly what you want to hear, and when it comes to health and nutrition, there’s no shortage of differing viewpoints to wade through.

But…the science makes sense. I have friends who’ve done it and been happy about it. I toyed with the idea for a few days, then sort of eased into what’s become a full-blown, fat-first, ketogenic diet.

IMPORTANT: I am not an advocate for this or any other “diet.” (As a rule, I’ve always avoided anything that could be called a diet.) I decided to give this a shot to see how my body would feel with different fuel because my body has not been feeling well. I definitely had the goal of losing weight — carrying extra weight hurts. But I was also curious about the anecdotal evidence of clear-headedness, more energy, and less inflammation.

The first week was fun and fraught — fun because I could choose to eat a hunk of cheese for a snack instead of carrots and hummus, fraught because 40 years of anti-fat conditioning takes some time to unwind.

Think about it. It’s not just the proliferation of Snackwells in my teen years — it’s also the shift from butter to margarine because there was too much ZOMG-FAT in butter, from bacon and eggs to carbed-up breakfasts because they linked eggs to heart disease. I’m of the generation of “clean eating” adults, the chicken-and-veggies generation, the dressing-on-the-side generation. It’s not just us, but we were definitely raised on the idea that eating fat was always bad for you.

So week 1 was all about busting through the obstacles in my brain around accepting and adding fat. Lean chicken sausage for breakfast? Cool, Imma fry it in some butter. Coconut milk in my smoothie? Make that coconut CREAM.

By the end of the week I was cooking steak in butter. I was adding chopped avocado or guac to practically everything. I was drinking my coffee with coconut oil and my usual vanilla stevia packet.

(Y’all, I didn’t even know what an avocado was until my teens. I spent so many wasted years not eating guac. #sad)

Also by the end of the week: I’d stopped snacking because I wasn’t hungry between meals. (Let’s not talk about how much I love snacks.) My meals got smaller as I adjusted to feeling fuller faster and longer. My energy level improved, as did the quality of the energy — I felt more balanced through the day, sort of the difference between “strong” and “jittery.” I felt more focused and less foggy. And everything was SO DELICIOUS.

On that first Monday, I said I was flirting with the idea of a keto diet. By Wednesday, I was all in.

(Which is not to say that I’m doing this perfectly. I didn’t track any food the first week. A friend asked where my calories were at and I didn’t know. )

(But, with the exception of a scoop of ice cream, I’m doing this pretty perfectly right now. And I’m tracking to see how I feel on which days and why.)

Stupidly, that first week was also the week before my period. You know. PMS Week. Water Retention And Bloating Week. Stay Off The Scale, You Bloody Fool Week.

But I lost 4 pounds of water weight. Eating fat. Right before my period. (And may I say that I do not enjoy having that back after 20 months off?)

The only negative side effect so far has been a little bit of gastro adjustment — this body isn’t used to digesting a lot of fat. I haven’t gotten the full-blown keto flu and I don’t know if my breath smells funky.

By the end of my second week of this little experiment and there was a bacon-wrapped meatloaf in the oven for dinner (meh–need a different recipe) and I was googling “keto athlete.” Graham recognizes that he is at the mercy of my cooking but has discovered that roasted cauliflower is delicious. I’m back on the erg for about half an hour nearly every day — starting from fitness level zero and HELLA FUCKING SLOW, OMG, but working my form and burning through some intervals. I’m sleeping as well as the kids will let anyone sleep. I’m moving better in general.

And I’m feeling sort of fantastic.

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