This week I wrote about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet.
If you’re like, “Huh?” you are where I was three months ago, before my husband, Phil, embarked on the weight-loss regimen.
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb eating plan in which the goal is to get your body into a state of ketosis, when it begins to burn fat because it doesn’t have carbohydrates to burn. It can be tricky to stick to the diet properly. But if, like my husband, you do, the results can be dramatic: He has lost 30 pounds since he began, has more energy and generally just feels great.
He also hasn’t eaten a piece of fruit in three months.
So, yeah, the diet can be extreme, which is why it’s important to do your research before starting it. Phil did, and he’s precise about getting the necessary macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) to make the diet work and remain healthy. No, he doesn’t eat a ton of bacon. It’s all about those good fats: avocados, tuna, olives, nuts. Sometimes, to get the required amount of fat per day, he’ll just pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over his meal. (Or, shudder, take it by the spoonful.)
I thought I’d ask Phil about his specific journey, because he is all in on that keto life.
How did you first hear about the ketogenic diet?
I have a friend who is doing it. He had lost a lot of weight. It sounded like a diet I’d like doing because I prefer savory foods, and it’s a lot of savory foods. It wasn’t calorie restricting. Those diets don’t work for me because, well, I get hungry.
Do you track what you’re eating?
I count carbs and protein and fat in grams. For carbs, I try to eat as little as possible . I’d say six days a week I’m able to hit that goal. As far as tracking macros, you have to get enough fat in your diet, otherwise you throw off your ketosis. And you can’t get too much protein. That’s any type of fat, but I try not to eat saturated fats.
Are there certain numbers of different nutrients you aim to consume each day?
Generally, it’s 1,960 calories per day, 165 grams fat, 105 grams protein, 15 grams carbs. I also have gotten into the habit of thinking about my daily meals in terms of macros. For example, today for lunch I ate 60 grams fat, 45 grams protein and 1 gram carb instead of “tuna, avocado, olive salad.” I’ll treat myself to a keto pizza or a meatloaf from time to time, but mostly, food equals sustenance.
What are the foods you miss most on keto?
Bread. Well, maybe it’s just flour in general. It’s not the sugar I miss, it’s more of those savory carbs. I would love a bagel all the time.
Has your hunger level changed at all?
I’m practically never hungry. And when I do eat, I stay full. When I was eating a bunch of carbs, I would eat something and then be hungry all day. Now I get full after I eat. Sometimes I have to force myself to eat and hit my macros. I could go a whole day without eating and be fine.
And why is that?
I think it’s because the body is breaking down that excess fat, and you’re technically in starvation mode, so you don’t feel hungry.
How about your mood? Lots of people are cranky on diets. You have not seemed that way at all.
Yeah, you could say I feel better on keto. Happier and in a good mood. My friend told me that happened to him, too. Maybe it’s because the brain isn’t receiving that spike in glucose that you get from carbs. Instead there’s a steady stream of ketones.
So, what can you eat?
As with any diet, it’s important to know what you can and can’t eat. My husband builds a lot of grownup Lunchables, assembling plates of cubed meats and cheeses and nuts. Avocados are his new best friend. Olive oil is a good source of healthy fats, and can add flavor to meats and vegetables. Here are some reliably keto-friendly foods.
• Nuts, but especially high-fat macadamia nuts and walnuts
• Low-carb vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower
• Cheese: Brie, blue, mozzarella, cheddar; stay away from sweeter cheeses such as ricotta