My previous post, “Why I started eating a ketogenic diet“, touched on how the transition from a low fat, high carb diet to a high fat, low carb diet can be a bit of a shock. After scouring the supermarket aisles for products branded “low fat” for years, the thought of using saturated fats as condiments rather than exclusively as cooking oils seemed rather daunting.
Carbohydrates had done an excellent job of training my brain to ensure I was dependant on them; they were both the stimulus and the cure of cravings and sugar-crashes. Until this cycle had been broken it was difficult to acknowledge just how potent an effect they could hold over a person. I remember feeling anxious and almost scared about not being able to eat my then favourite foods: bread, pasta and the occasional “rewarding” cake but nowadays, when I think of these foods, I no longer wish them to be a part of my diet. I remember that, yes, they tasted good but my craving has vanished.
Once you’re sensitised to the negative effects of unhealthy choices it gets easier to turn down what used to seem impossible to resist.
– Mark Sisson
This diet is not restrictive. It is still possible to enjoy foods you love by making just a few changes. Instead of eating a carb-laden rice dish, use cauliflower to create the popular “cauli-rice“. An alternative to that sugary chocolate bar could be a couple of squares of 100% dark chocolate with some coconut butter on top. Or, if you think your desires cannot be satisfied by anything but some stodgy comfort food, try my Paleo Shepherd’s pie (recipe soon to be on the blog).
“Keto-flu” is something many people experience whilst their body is switching over to using ketones as its primary source of fuel. Common complaints include fatigue, headaches, brain fog and nausea. Not a barrel of laughs. The intensity and duration of these symptoms vary from person to person; fortunately, I only experienced mild symptoms and these weren’t for very long.
Tips for transitioning:
- Make sure you eat enough, particularly fat.
A ketogenic diet can be an effective tool for weight loss as satiation is easily achieved due to the fat consumed. No longer do you have to battle aching hunger. If you feel tired and foggy in the beginning, I would recommend eating more fat. Once you have gauged which amounts of protein and carbohydrates suit you best, experiment with different levels of fat depending on hunger. Once you are keto-adapted you are likely to feel less hungry as your body taps into some of your excess fat cells. How will you know when you are keto-adapted? Personally, I recognise unbounded energy, mental clarity and reduced cravings as signs of being in ketosis. Some people like to use blood glucose/ketone meters as confirmation of ketosis but they are not something I rely on.
- Add fat to each meal
This can take some getting used to but once you start feeling the effects, you won’t look back. An example meal might be a fillet of sockeye salmon with lemon and thyme, some Brussels sprouts with a tablespoon of ghee (or butter / coconut oil) and a pinch of sea salt, accompanied by half an avocado. Or how about my sardine and black olive fish cakes?
- Stick with it!
Trust me, it is worth it. You might be lucky and only feel under the weather for a week whilst transitioning, it might be something you struggle with for a month but know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is the easiest diet to stick to once you are keto-adapted because you feel great, the food is delicious and it can be a very economical way of eating.