Earlier in the year I’d returned from Europe like a lot of us do, carrying a few extra kgs. Whilst my wallet was a whole lot lighter, I certainly wasn’t. I’d just spent the best part of twelve months indulging in Spanish tortilla, buttery croissants and I’d fast become a red wine aficionado – which, obviously, wasn’t too great for my waist line. In the grand scheme of life and living, it was a minor cost for a year’s worth of shameless indulgence.
Also, like a lot of us, I turned to the Internet to find a quick-fix diet change that would whip me back into pre-Europe shape. I scoured numerous blogs, websites and Pinterest tiles that all boasted the benefits of the keto diet. According to this mysterious food plan, I could go ahead and indulge in brie cheese and deli ham and still slim down? Well, sign me the heck up I thought. And that I did.
So What’s Keto?
Without going all scientific on you, the ketogenic diet is essentially a low-carb, high-fat food plan that encourages the body to break down fat into ‘ketones’ in a process called ketosis. With only 5% of your daily intake composing of carbs, the body enters a constant state of ketosis – effective for a quick shred and an easy slim down. In theory, very effective. In practice, pretty simple but god-awful for your heart health and overall wellbeing.
After a bit of sussing, and a few discussions with friends, I quickly fell into the trap of keto-ing my way through life. I’d made enemies with bread and I soon became that full-blown keto girl who would reluctantly pass up a perfectly nutritious meal for a cheesy, keto-friendly omelette. Admittedly, not really something I really want to stomach at 6:50am.
But it didn’t stop there. The drawback list was long and detailed and I wish I’d known these before signing up for what turned out to be one heck of a life lesson.
The macro breakdown of keto is 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs. Now, how does a regular working girl like myself integrate such a complex breakdown of macros into her diet? She doesn’t. The major drawback with the keto diet is that you’re expected to constantly count and discount calories and macros. Every. Single. Meal.
I soon defaulted to a diet that simply integrated keto-friendly foods and I kind of just portion controlled/consciously ate depending on what I thought was ‘healthy’. This was pretty ineffective, considering I have no real self control when it comes to grated cheddar cheese and a salted nut mix with the odd dark chocolate button thrown in. Relatively indulgent foods involved oily tuna, sour cream-topped cauliflower and god forbid, bacon? This was confusing and kind of anxiety-inducing for me.
Fruit Is NOT The Enemy
Yes, whilst the keto diet is designed to send the body into a fat-burning state of ketosis, it is by no means representative of what you should be consuming as a sustainable diet. My food plan allowed for 1/3 of a cup of berries as my daily intake of fruit and I was not ok with this.
Firstly, I’d rather skip this shameful excuse for a fruit portion all together. Secondly, it felt almost heinous to be passing up on fresh fruits every time I wanted a snack. This isn’t sustainable and consuming an essentially fruit-free diet is honestly just sad for my soul.
My Body Can’t Handle Dairy Like It Used To
Keto-friendly foods involve a pretty decent and generous serving of cheese, sour cream and other good stuff like cream and milk. For a girl wanting to slim down her waist, it seems like it’s too good to be true. But, be warned. Obviously a change in diet prompts a few, often unexpected, digestion changes too – think bloating, gas and faint whale sounds as you lie awake at night – from your stomach, of course.
My Social Life Was Compromised
This is a pretty standard consequence of any food-restricting diet but I have to say, the keto diet ushered in a new kind of social anxiety for me. I’m not one to reveal my dieting choices, as often it results in a conversation I don’t particularly want to be the subject of. So, of the many times I did choose to eat out with friends, it was difficult. I would take a few bites of cheese from an antipasto plate, and even order a bread-less burger but it would be confusing for both me and my company.
Despite the relative freedom I had, it was the times that friends offered dessert or a few post-work drinks that I had to make up quick excuses for why I had to decline.
There’s a lot of talk on keto being a golden ticket to higher cholesterol and compromised heart health. One would normally think high fat foods, like meat and butter, and be quick to associate them with clogged arteries and other scary stuff.
Whilst there’s science both for and against the consequences, it was the overall feeling I gained from the diet that was telling enough for me. I often felt sluggish, a bit heavy and pretty much like any normal person would feel after eating a meal of rolled up deli ham stuffed with cheese.
Would I Recommend?
Taking all this into account, I did in fact slim down. It may have been down to the mysterious fatty-food induced ketosis, but it also could be due to reduced portion sizes and increased exercise. Regardless, and despite a slim down, I think whatever way we intend to maintain a healthy lifestyle it should include a balanced diet of food groups that make us feel happy and generally ‘good’.
All in all, I fell into the fad and whilst I emerged a little lighter, I’ve learned a whole lot of lessons about what constitutes a ‘healthy’ and ‘effective’ diet. Essentially, eat what makes you feel good. Reach for that full-fat milk chocolate sometimes and for goodness sake, eat the damn apple if you feel like it.
Life’s too short to be counting macros and forcing yourself to eat cheesy omelettes at 6:50am in the morning.
Sources: Giphy, Unsplash.